Is life as we knew it over? Second week in lockdown.

We are now into week two of our Bavarian Corona lockdown.  One can easily get used to the silent streets, clean air, quiet neighbors, and boredom. But eventually we get comfortable in our day wear (pajamas) while days roll by like an old rolodex.  I now know how hamsters feel.  Lock them up, spin that wheel long enough, and they will eventually look forward to it.  It is an insidious situation of wanting to leave the house but our butts won’t budge because it is too much of an effort.  We are now conditioned. I don’t leave the house without carrying latex gloves like a pervert. When this blows over (pardon the pun) I would still be walking six feet away from everybody else just in case.

We are now in the pre-corona remembrance state.  Do any of us recall what life was like when we could be obnoxious without having to think about catching anything?  The joy of being jostled on a busy street, bus, or subway? Businesses are out of business.  Whether a brothel or a jewelry store, we are all up the same creek. The joy of working from home.

I understand the trepidation in Europe, because borders were nonexistent and travel across EU states was virtually unhindered. Which is why the virus spread so rapidly.  Italy took the brunt. Started in the North, in Milan, where fashion designers and brand name houses wheel, deal, and flourish. They are the ones who do the most business with China.  From fabric to leather, China provides high end brands with lower priced resources and labor.

 Milan is “China Town” to name brands like Prada, Gucci, Armani, and many others.  In 2007, Gucci, D & G, and Prada were investigated by investigative journalists from one of Italy’s national television stations, RAI-3.  The journalists discovered that the expensive “stuff” might have been “made in Italy”,  but by Chinese immigrants often in slave labor conditions. In 2008, The Los Angeles Times wrote a piece called “Slaving in the Lap of Luxury”. Another expose on fashion houses in Tuscany and other parts of Northern Italy. Large manufacturing factories of high end goods were little more than sweatshops with poor sanitary conditions, and extreme low wages.  Most of the Chinese were from the Wenzhou region in China.  According to EU labor laws, a manufacturer can claim the country where the product is manufactured or assembled as the country of origin. A subtle legal loophole that brought myriad of Chinese workers into Northern Italy.  The perfect connection from China to Italy to corona.  Greed knows no bounds.

We are now living in the epicenter of the Chinese Virus, except that we can’t call it that because it is considered racist, or so we are told.  We had no problem calling a flu Spanish although it never originated in Spain.  No problem calling a flu African either.  But this is the dawning of the age of politically correctness where stupid is raised to another level.  In the meantime, our lives as we knew them, have changed forever.  Akin to 9/11, we will never travel the same way again, interact with people the same way again, or even leave our homes the same way again.  If this continues through the summer, we would have conditioned ourselves to never shake hands, hug, or touch anyone again.  Are we anticipating a science fiction pod type of life in the corona aftermath?

I for one am taking the entire experience as a work in progress. Each day I brace myself like a trooper. My eyebrows are still plucked, and I will hopefully manage to hide the grey from my hair long enough to psych myself into believing that grey is the new blond.  I might even wear my grey as a badge honor like those “I survived” goofy t-shirts college kids wear.  My nails remain trimmed and even if I have to venture into the grocery store, stand at my pre-conditioned social distance, watching the masked latexed cashier run my groceries; my make-up remains impeccably applicated.

Gas is now at its lowest price I can remember in probably a decade. With no one on the streets, gas stations are lowering prices from one masked breath to the next.  The price I drive by in the morning changes south by mid afternoon.  No complaints here.  But I can also envision the prices going up the minute we are told that we are free to continue our lives sans corona.

The virus has replaced all other world angst.  Heard anyone talking about Climate Change lately?  Where is our teenage climate change ninja; Greta? She must be going through some serious withdrawals. Her face contorts as she realizes that we are experiencing the cleanest climate in decades. China has stopped producing toxic crap and instead went into biological zoolonic crap.  Oh for a whiff of carbon emissions at this moment. Will Greta and other banshee activist morons ever realize that they barked up the wrong tree?  That the West is not the main culprit of climate degradation?  I wonder what convulsions Ms Greta would experience if she realizes that the “climate friendly” boat she sailed on was probably made in China, and contributed more to the world’s pollution than my emission guilty roadster ever will.  Well, the oomph has gone out of that balloon with a swipe of a contaminated hand and a cough.

Every day is a moment in time when we attempt to establish some norm in this crazy.  I find myself timing my day between writing, eating, studying, working, and Netflix.  What to do first?  I am sleeping later because the quiet is surreal. Not a sound of tires, footsteps, or dogs.  The mail person is the highlight of the day. If at all possible, he or she would throw the mail through the mail box.  Last week I had the first package delivered at the established corona distance.  The DHL man did not want my signature on the receipt.  If he could have thrown it through the front door he would have.  So I gingerly balanced myself to grab it as he tailed it out of dodge.  I was compelled to yell: “Hey, I’m not sick!” Skid marks are still on the asphalt. Oy Vey.

I heard that distilleries are going to start manufacturing sanitizers.   Adding a little bit of this and that to their original product.  I intend to use the sanitizer on both hands, lick them, then settle down with a good cigar!  Car manufacturers will be going into respiratory equipment; let’s hope that we have no recalls. I can stand behind a BMW, Mercedes, or Volvo respirator; but I have a problem with a Ford.

Every cloud has a silver lining.  This exercise in regimental regulated living should sit well with the young socialist voters.  We are going through a quick drill in socialist living.  Nothing to buy, nowhere to go, nothing to do, and miserable.  This is life under government regulations.  A government that dictates what is good for you, when, and how.  Which brings me to the young college morons at Spring Break in Miami.  The  intellectual elite who want us, taxpayers, to pay for their education because they think they deserve it.  After their blatant refusal to abide by the restrictions imposed by the government, I submit that they would not fare very well in a Socialist “Amerika.”  Good luck with that dream.

As I walk past my neighbors’ front doors I realize that I have not seen them for almost two weeks.  They have vanished. Swallowed by brick , mortar and fear.  I stop as I get this sudden strong urge to yell, “Is anyone still in there?” But I hesitate , as I conjure up third eyes, two heads, and long fangs creeping behind dark walls. I slowly tiptoe past a front door and suddenly catch a familiar hand waving through the laced curtains of a closed window.  A sigh of relief. I am safe. I can now return to my corona life of tranquility and day wear (pyjamas)!

So what’s with toilet paper?

It is the epidemic of the century, or so they say, and what is getting people mostly hyped about is the possibility of their life without toilet paper.  It’s a phenomenon worth looking into.  Shelves and shelves of toilet paper disappeared overnight like the “rapture” in a Hallmark movie.  The eighth locust plague was a doddle compared to the insidious snatching of rolls on our supermarket shelves.  The panic and the angst of a life sans toilet paper would have given Sigmund Freud a new purpose in life.  So why the compulsion?

I can understand older Europeans in their 80’s and 90’s being concerned with food and staple shortages.  They lived through the devastation of WWII Europe, where toilet paper would have been considered a luxury.  I remember my own mother who went  into a hoarding frenzy every time the news mentioned “war”.  It could have been in South America, but the buzz word was enough to send her to the local store and buy enough toilet paper to last her through several life times.  That I can possibly wrap my mind around.  But the younger generation is an enigma to me.  Are they so utterly unprepared for any kind of hardship that they cannot imagine or have a plan B for ass wiping sans Charmin?  One can’t help being crude because it does involve that part of our body that is taboo in polite company but fair game in a supermarket.

The penchant for hoarding is not new.  If a heat wave is predicted; stores run out of ice, fans, and air conditioners.  If the weatherman predicts cold; then oil prices rise, we run out of heaters, snow shovels, and salt.  The panic of today’s society is beyond any other that our parents or grandparents ever exhibited.  They were told to suck it up.  That gave them a sense of perspective of what should be considered a catastrophe. Life and death was a panic situation, not having enough paper to wipe your ass was not.  But we are talking about the current “trophy” generation ;  conditioned to think that they are God’s gift to mankind and anything short of complete comfort is Armageddon.  They are sans grit, sans gravitas.

The virus panic has crossed ethnicity, gender, time zones, and social standing.  “Doctors” opine on cable news and put their two cents in promising us that their truth is the truth.  Which should make us ask; if we do not have a reasonable vaccine or a cure, doesn’t logic dictate that we really don’t know shit about it? Why speculate?  Because it sells ratings.  In the meantime mainstream media’s over the top call to arms has raised everyone’s blood pressure and urged some of us to become rabid and raid supermarkets out of toilet paper.  

To put everything in perspective. The world population is approximately 8 billion. According to the latest WHO statistics, the current number of Corona infected individuals worldwide is 101,000; .00128% of the world population.  Influenza infects approximately 1 billion individuals worldwide each year.  Killing annually between 291,000 – 646,000 people worldwide. Approximately 45 million are infected by influenza each year in the US.  According to the CDC approximately 56,000 die of it. Currently, the US corona cases have numbered to approximately 2,000 with 56 deaths; mostly elderly and those suffering with immune systems. The current population of the US is approximately 333 million. 56 deaths is .00000017% of the population.  Catch my drift? But the frenzy trumpet sounded, and the unmitigated rush to the toilet paper aisle took off.

Cans of soup, sauces, and sundry still remain gently resting on our supermarket shelves in Germany.  However, one does notice shopping carts filled to the brim with beer and wurst.  After all next to “ass” comforts,  to a true Bavarian, a beer and a wurst makes the prospect of quarantine more bearable.  In Bavaria, the angst is less apparent. Less pronounced.  Schools have closed for an extended spring break and Gast Hauser are taking a sabbatical.  But other than that, the tranquil life of Bavaria is still moving along at its usual slow pace.  At least for now. Frau Merkel did crease her Arian brown in constrained Corona concern, but not to the extent that we have seen in other parts of the world. Germany has a population of approximately 81 million. Up to date: 3,795 cases have been identified and 26 deaths reported. More than 26 Germans have died on the autobahn this year. Perspective?

I will not predict what unprecedented angst will suddenly arise tomorrow. Toilet paper at a neighborhood Lidl  left the building as quickly as Elvis left a Vegas stage.  A young German couple were lately interviewed on a local television station at an attempt to explain the toilet paper corona caper.  They divulged that their next door neighbors made three separate trips to the supermarket to buy the much coveted toilet paper.  They each bought three large packets of 24 rolls.  By the time the young interviewed couple decided to get their quota of toilet paper; the local store had none .  When the reporter asked what they intended to do, they stoically, quietly, and without missing a beat replied; “go next door”.

According to Mary Alvord, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine; toilet paper represents an almost “infantile” primal desire to be clean.  It’s inherent. It is a product that we associate with cleanliness, good living, and beautiful people.  It’s a desperate urge to remain unsoiled.   It’s a psychological drive that compels us to keep our asses clean. A behavior attributed to our upbringing and social expectations.  Just for the hell of it I Googled “hoarding toilet paper” and a long list of possibilities dropped down like manna.  From Time to the media guru The Washington Post; psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and all genre of “experts” opined on a myriad of mental possibilities and conditions that compel us to go out in droves and clean supermarkets of ass wipes. I’m sure some Ivy League university has a “study” on “toilet paper compulsion in the world today.”

Bavaria’s roads are reasonably quiet, the weather is getting warmer, and spring is around the corner. As I contemplate what other panic-button restrictions I might have to endure in the next few days, I quickly jump out of my chair on a mission of great import. I must  check on my staple storage room in the basement.  I open the door, turn on quickly the light, and a sigh of utmost relief escapes my puckered lips.  Toilet Paper is safely tucked on the top shelf.  What a wonderful feeling of contentment. The world is as it should be.

Why I love National Geographic…

I have never yearned or had the compelling urge to visit third world countries, eat monkey brains, bat wings, snake innards, worm soup, or other bizarre shit of that ilk.  Any place that I would have to forage for unmentionables as a source of food was off my list.  My bucket list is obviously short.  Which brings me to China and the Corona Virus.  Has anyone noticed that these viruses and diseases always seem to take root in developing countries?  I have never heard of a virus from Finland, Sweden, Norway, or Iceland.  Their taste of exotic food stops at fermented fish; disgusting yes, but causing viruses no.

Fried Cockroaches

I am a closet Netflix watcher and an avid “cooking show” junkie.  Whatever they are cooking I watch.  I got hooked on a new series called Restaurants on the Edge.  Started watching it when the first episode featured a restaurant in Malta.  Much of the same reality premise just rehashed: three personalities from the US descend upon a restaurant that needs help.  An interior designer, a chef, and a social guru, visit the restaurant than decide on how to give it a facelift, new menu, and the push needed to stay in business.  On one of these episodes, they travelled to Hong Kong, China. 

The Chef whose mantra is local produce and local flavors, was taken to a street market which also doubled as “street” food.  He oohed and aahed as he watched little Chinese old ladies cook snakes, cow innards, and other unmentionables in spices and sauces.  He supped, licked, and drooled over flavors that tasted like “chicken”.  And we wonder how diseases get transferred from China to an apartment in NYC! A short note of interest: when the Chef returned to the restaurant to upgrade the menu, it was sans snakes, innards, or other creepy crawlies that tasted like “chicken” a few hours prior.  Go figure.

Wet Market in China

Eating street food in Calcutta or “nowhere” China is a far cry from selling and eating food in Los Angeles or New York.  What goes in those huge woks is as mysterious as what comes out of a bad magician’s hat. Africa is no better.  Aids and Ebola come to mind.  The Corona virus which is normally animal specific spread to humans through a “wet” market place in Wuhan, China. The market happened to be in close proximity to a research lab home to approximately 600 bats.  At least this is what the Chinese government allowed us to know.  But some Chinese scientists in Beijing are now suspecting that someone from the Wuhan science lab, inadvertently caught the virus through a bat encounter, and then spread it through the neighboring “wet” market. The virus is categorized as zoolonic , but when transferred to humans it changes composition and mutates attacking our respiratory system. Which is why it is more dangerous in older folk. By the way, for those of you who are not sure what “wet” markets are; live stock and other animals are slaughtered and sold at open air markets generally under very unsanitary conditions.

Swine Fever in China

In 2019, China lost over 100 million pigs to African Swine Fever.  Notice; it was not called German Swine Fever, or Swedish Swine Fever, or even California Swine Fever.  Diseases and epidemics continue to spread because developing countries remain unhygienic, with little or no government sanitary oversight, and traditional eating habits which include animal species carrying intrinsic viruses and often plagues.  Which brings me to the point of why I love National Geographic. 

National Geographic does the travelling, eating, and contaminating on my behalf without detriment to my well being.  I can sit comfortably in the comfort of my couch sipping a glass of wine while watching presumptuous yahoos eat monkey brains in the Congo.  At the same time I can wonder and marvel at how a seemingly intelligent individual can bring himself to eat snake tripe, scorpion soup, and beetle fricassee just because he can.  The National Geographic “journalist-explorer” will look at the camera while eagerly chewing on fried cockroaches.  I’m sure they too taste like chicken. Yes, spare me the pain but still give me the adventure.

Enters exotic world travel that sends morons to nether regions of the world to have an “awesome” experience. We then compound the situation by the sick crap they bring back. And as we relax with a Starbucks somewhere on Main Street USA, we are unaware of the garbage that will soon hit the proverbial health fan.  The double and triple digit tonnage of a floating Petri dish with 5,000 or more souls on board, eating food that has been exposed to the elements for days, and who disembark in ports that are less sanitary than a New York City public toilet; further adds to the incoming plethora of unknown viruses and diseases. 

The penchant to travel to countries not best known for hygiene has become an obsession among this generation.  In my youth, only medical doctors, nurses, archeologists, and missionaries ever ventured out into an “awesome” experience.  On their return they were immediately put in quarantine.   But I digress.  Some might call me a bigot but once again I must remind you that serious diseases have never originated in western countries.  Even the European plagues were brought to Europe by ships carrying vermin from “exotic” places.  Again I digress.

Cruise ships are not the only travelling Petri dishes.  Airlines are the ultimate toilets in the skies.  Crammed like sardines and breathing each other’s arm pits, the air that circulates comes from the breath of the 300 cramped transatlantic zombies strapped to their seats.  Add the fact that airline travelers  have morphed from the sophisticated 60’s Pan Am passenger to the unwashed masses that board a plane in their pajamas; they are the proverbial incubators for anything and everything they catch in some remote “must see” market in Timbuktu.

China, India, South America, and Africa create havoc in our world and we ignore it, because “racist” “bigot” and “insensitive” gets thrown in our faces like confetti on the 4th of July.  They are the worst polluters in the world, and they are the primary source of microbiological viruses and epidemics that spread like wildfire.  There was a short pleasant world reprieve; in the past few weeks NASA satellites noticed a sharp drop in pollutants over China.   The Coronavirus closed down lithium, coal, and other toxic factories for a few weeks.  I wonder if the 15-year old angry teenage twit in Sweden noticed.  Hey Greta, it’s not us who pollute!

The EU and US are at a crossroads on developing countries. They need to get a grip and start taking serious action against nations that take our money but refuse to clean up their acts.  I would not wish any economy to go South, but western governments throw money at these nations like a croupier in Vegas, yet they still spread AIDS, SARS, Swine flu, Ebola, and now Corona. Western religious organizations have spent billions on assistance, as have Doctors without Borders, UNESCO, and the WHO; to no avail. The global community must insist on a change in dangerous traditional eating habits, hygiene, and safety.  Stop the aid until they clean up their act. Stop the cruises, flights, and commerce until governments become serious enough to educate and change. If you want our hard earned dollars then make an effort to protect us when we visit you. Join the 21st century already.

In the meantime, I will wash my hands 20+ seconds, then position myself with a glass of wine as I turn on Netflix and National Geographic.  I heard that tonight the show features a special cooking show from the exotic jungles and rainforests of the Congo. Someone mentioned Gordon Ramsey’s famous Beef Wellington with a twist: African striped weasel en croute….YUM! I’m sure it will taste like chicken!