The Distance Between Us

There are, as of yesterday, 39 Wuhan Coronavirus deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.  Twenty-two were in a single nursing home in Kirkland, WA.   The median age of victims: 80.  Most had correlated health problems. But now you can’t buy canned soup or bottled water in Van Nuys.  There is no rice left at 99 Ranch market.  Our answer to the long odds of infection is consumer-driven scarcity.

Since Wednesday:
-Broadway
-Disneyland
-MLB spring training
-and the NCAA tournament have gone on hiatus.
On Monday, LA Unified is joining them, setting the table for an unprecedented child care crisis among hourly wage earners.

We are in the grip of maximal measures.  We won’t be using any more toilet paper should the virus reach the San Fernando Valley than if it didn’t, yet we buy out every roll in the store anyway because it feels like we are doing something.  We are under the sway of cable news, where catastrophism prevails, everyone is a Fake Expert for Five Minutes, and all roads lead to the Oval Office, as though there was a special button underneath a desk called Pandemic Wing Attack Plan R, press here to release whup-ass.  

Wash your hands.  Cover your cough. Stop touching your face.  Settle in for some binge-watching.   First principles, from actual epidemiologists, now arouse scorn. That’s all?  There has to be more to it than that!   Don’t tell me about washing!  What’s happening? Who do we blame?  

Mrs. UpintheValley just poked her head in the door, greatly agitated, to announce the LA Public Library system will be closed for the rest of the month.  She gathered the books on the coffee table into her arms like Diego Rivera’s flower girl, assessing by touch if they were sufficient to last the duration.

This just in: MacLeod is no longer serving peanuts.   Social distancing has officially begun in earnest.

That looks to be about six feet apart.  Like contented canines let us disappear inside our homes…for the places we normally gather for solace are now off-limits. Let us use this crowded fortnight, after the diversions of wine, fornication and Netflix are exhausted, to consider how isolated we have become from one another. Maybe this contagion can be repurposed.

Last Lobster at 99 Ranch

What is it like to be last crustacean in the tank on Sunday night?  Do you roll on your back, pincers tied, to feign death,  or has death already spared you, the redheaded stepchild of the batch, from the agony of the steam pot?

To prowl the fish market on an empty stomach is know the brutal beauty at the top of food chain, and enjoy it.  No scuttling beneath silent seas for me. I am Neptune and I get to pick my dinner tonight.

The 99 Ranch clientele skews heavily toward buyers of whole fish. They generally ignore the filet and chops under the glass.

This woman explained her criteria as she plucked through the pile, filling her pail.  One, you don’t want cloudy eyes on the fish.  Two, the scales shouldn’t flake when you scratch it with the tongs.

Three, the gills should be slightly bloody. I pried the operculum back to discover the entire oxygen transfer apparatus underneath.  The filament had a slightly greyish cast, but the concavity around it was pink. She shrugged, implying I could do better.

What a fantastic organ was this dense mustache of capillaries, one of Natures more clever miracles. To run my thumb across the lamellae was to touch the Pleistocene era and wish for a cleaver in the same breath.

I did the middle-class thing and bought a pre-packaged salmon filet and thought myself slightly noble for not reaching for the lobster.