Letter from the Vineyard 09 17 2020 Running off a cliff?

Letter from the Vineyard

09/17/2020

Running off a cliff…

Last Thursday the ground greedily drank an afternoon torrent, so loud I wondered what machine was at work outside my door, looking up, saw slating rain pound the small deck outside. 

On Friday, 9/11, the 19th anniversary of 9/11, the island huddled under more grey skies.

Back then, on a sun kissed extraordinary morning, sky Virgin Mary blue, I lived in SoHo, two blocks north of Canal, later the demarcation line for evacuation, a day scoured into me, memories still sear; I can be back there in a moment, standing at the corner of Spring, West Broadway, witnessing the unbelievable smoking gash in the first building hit.

“Kids” who work for me at the bookstore not yet born that day, a historical event spoken of by their parents, listened to them, I am sure, in the manner I listened to my parents describe Pearl Harbor; in other words, not very closely.

As gratefully happens, time slides on, another day, not feeling seared or scared, just lucky, a hazy golden afternoon light floating across the field out my window, the first leaves yellowing, jazz playing, a day away from the bookstore, doing some errands, including a flu shot, a prophylactic against flu, winter, coronavirus, that I am older — something I experience but do not feel, quite, in my soul.

The American West burns, fires in every state.  California’s Governor Newsom and L.A.’s mayor point the finger at climate change, which is a factor, deny it if you want.  The earth is changing, does all the time; we’re doing our best to make it worse.

To look at headlines is to invite the goddess Miseria to visit, she who gave us the word misery. 

Fires in the west, a pandemic across the world, locusts eating Africa’s harvest, racial and religious strife everywhere, novichok Russia’s poison of choice for political foes, triple digits in Colorado one day, snow the next, Michael Caputo, a top HHS official accusing scientists of sedition while warning “leftists” are planning an armed uprising if Trump wins [he’s now on a “leave of absence”], the air in Portland, Oregon worse than Delhi, an uncertain economy, a divided Congress, Britain possibly blowing Brexit, Beirut in ruins.  The list could go on ad infinitum.

The stress of life right now shakes us all; experiencing a pandemic, a financial crisis, political instability, racial unrest, all squeezed into six months.  No wonder we have sold so many “beach reads.” We seek summer bliss.

Who would have thought the “Civil Rights” section would become so huge? “White Fragility;” Isabel Wilkerson’s marvelous “Caste” have been as popular as most beach reads.  

If last September you had told me I’d be selling books, wearing a mask, vinyl gloves, behind plexiglass [feeling a shade pawn broker-ish], I would have asked you what dystopian dream you were having?  Now it is our dystopian reality.  

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced 25 years of advances have been wiped away in 25 weeks.  The enormity of what is happening has not sunk in; a whole new world is emerging, change driven by an airborne virus we don’t yet understand, touching some lightly, others with a heavy hit, killing or leaving them debilitated for god knows how long? Children, according to Trump are “basically immune.” Eli Lipman, nine, is a “long hauler,” fighting Covid-19 for six months. A six- year-old died in Florida, youngest in that state.

We are fighting for our lives.  Still people refuse to wear masks. Not just here; other places in the world, also. We have politicized the virus, the financial crisis, politicized everything.  The Trump campaign just released an ad exhorting us to support the troops, except if you look carefully, the jets flying above are Russian jets, the soldiers are Russian models; a badly chosen piece of clip art.

Hurricane Sally is inundating the Gulf Coast, smoke from the western fires have reached the Vineyard, Europe, too. Yelp data shows 60% of Covid closed businesses will not reopen. And, gosh, we’re down to about 38,000 new coronavirus cases a day.

Any wonder we feel we’re running off a cliff?

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