A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 120

Testing, testing. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congrexs.

Friday, July 24

Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.

In a rational society, Trump would be institutionalized (maybe at Mar-a-Lago) and treated by a therapist for his excruciating, incapacitating insecurity–as shown in his need to assert, despite all evidence, that he does well on tests. 

For it is tests that come up time and again: the mental acuity test that he’s now trumpeting, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and…COVID testing, as if that too were some kind of exam aimed at humiliating Trump. If not for COVID testing, the infection rate would be much lower, he says. 

The very word “test” sets him off.

I suspect his father baited him, that Donald was ill-at-ease among his peers, was scorned by teachers, and finally, fearing failure, paid a substitute to take his SAT, as his neice asserts in a recent, much-discussed book. (He is still paying in the sense that he feels he would have flunked.) Getting into Wharton was no big deal—it was clear that daddy would cover the costs. 

Amid the raving, it seems increasingly possible that Donald will have to be put away come November.

Or, like Woodrow Wilson who suffered a stroke during his second term, Don will hang out in the White House while somebody else handles the actual “work” of being President.

During the last presidential election, a portion of the electorate was in the mood to break windows and scrawl graffiti on the Washington Monument. Trump’s election was an act of political vandalism. There’s less of that now—unless such anger is resurfacing in the ranks of a very different cause, that of the Black Lives Matter protesters.

The “deplorables” who make up Trump’s most vocal base have likely gravitated to other activities. On my walks around this neighborhood, I have frequently passed an isolated corner house with a flagpole bearing a large, blue flag reading, “Trump: No More Bullshit.”

But nowadays, there’s no flag in evidence. Bullshit walks.

I also see many fewer pickup trucks bearing Trump bumper stickers. Once, such stickers were like a neck tattoo or a prominently displayed Confederate flag: a statement that “I’m a rebel!” 

Today, the rebels are all headed for the marble-icon graveyard. No one seems to care very much.

Dinner: leftover frittata with mushrooms, corn muffins, and lettuce salad with avocado and grape tomatoes.

Entertainment: Episodes of the French drama The Forest.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 53

A gray catbird: Pavarotti of the backyard.

Thursday, April 30

Last night brought torrential rain, some of the hardest I can remember. Plus the cathedral ceilings in this bedroom and in the front room amplify the sound. Rural life remains a bit unnerving: All night long there was a non-melodic, metronomic cry from one bird—coming every two or three seconds. He seems to have the night shift, while a gray catbird talks constantly during the day. We hear no sirens—although a couple of times while we have been here, ambulances have paid visits to houses on this block. One could only cringe and wonder what was going on…a heart attack or a wife-beating? A case of COVID-19?

Right now, I can hear the catbird—tweet, tweet, tWeet, tweet…..Other than the muffling whoosh of the furnace coming on, there are no other sounds to compete with him.

Suffolk County, which includes the East End, is close to reaching the limits that would allow a “reopening,” according to County Executive Steve Bellone. Since April 20, hospitalizations have been declining, and The East Hampton Star says, the county is approaching the limit of 70% capacity in both regular hospital and intensive care unit beds. (I guess that means 30% of beds are unoccupied.) These are the markers set by New York State. Testing must also be readily accessible—and that’s still just a goal, Bellone admitted.

Our Westchester-based friend fears that she has got it. She has to make an appointment for a test, then with luck, go to a drive-through facility to get tested. At last report, her blood oxygen level was OK but her pulse was elevated. Little wonder.

The BBC reports that, strangely enough, many U.S. medical workers are idle at home and drawing no salaries during this frantic period. That’s largely because elective surgeries have been canceled—sometimes since potential patients are afraid to go into hospitals.

“American healthcare companies are looking to cut costs as they struggle to generate revenue during the coronavirus crisis,” the report asserts. “As some parts of the US are talking of desperate shortages in nursing staff, elsewhere in the country many nurses are being told to stay at home without pay.”

Here, a momentary break in the rain may be followed by more pelting rainfall and thunderstorms tonight. Emily announces that online, many people are invoking the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day to describe their weirdly repetitive and predictable day-after-day lives; she thinks it’s more like The Twilight Zone, “because it seems so surreal and dystopian.”

Nordic noir writer Maj Sjowall, a co-author of the classic Martin Beck series of Stockholm-based policiers, has died after a long illness, aged 84. The series remains one of my all-time favorites, and I read the books again and again, each time finding something new, surprising, weirdly humorous, and upsetting.

“They went beyond crime fiction, breaking new ground by carrying out a forensic examination of the failings of Swedish society,” says The Guardian, as they tackled such themes as  pedophilia, serial killings, the sex industry, and suicide.

I would say the duo seemed to regard the sex crime—depicted in such books as Roseanna—as the defining misdeed of our time. Quite in contrast to the socially benevolent sleuths of British classics, the Maj Sjowall-Per Wahloo police squad is marked by both cleverness and stupidity, brutality and revulsion at their own social role. It’s not unusual for them to solve crimes quite by accident.

Dinner: leftover pasta and meatballs, green salad.

Entertainment: episodes five and six of Occupied, the highly topical and expensively produced political thriller that ran for three seasons in Norway. Themes: climate change, corporate power, the political clash between traditionalists and environmentalists, and ethical compromises excused as accommodations to necessity.