White Noise: Greetings From Sector Seven 

Greetings from Sector 7. Things have been pretty quiet around here. Too quiet. Sometimes at night all I can hear is the ticking of the grandfather clock. At times it seems so loud it makes my ears ring. I could relax if I could only stop that infernal ticking. Wait. I remember. We don't have a grandfather clock. Then it must be a heartbeat. I'm not the only one in this house with a bass drum for a heart. Which one is doing this incessant pounding? I get it. It's not them. It's me. It's just the blood pulsing in my inner ear, through the cochlea and on to the cranium. Maybe it's time to remove the bandana. 

Have I slipped into an Edgar Allan Poe story? Let me think. Oh, yes. This is more like the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo, when a chemical spill from a railroad car created "The Airborne Toxic Event," which forces the evacuation of a college town. Time is measured as before and after the "Event." An experimental drug called "Dylar" is used to treat the widespread fear of dying, but it has unpredictable side effects. If all this sounds familiar, it is yet another example of life imitating art. DeLillo's novel was published in 1985. Who knew 35 years later we would be living it?

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We're making the best of our quarantine, induced by the rampant spread of COVID-19 — or as Donald Trump called it for weeks, the flu. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee didn't help matters by waiting about three weeks later than other states to issue stay-at-home orders. My Nashville pals tell me that Lower Broadway was still packed with partiers long after other cities had taken the health warnings to heart. When the bars finally did close, the only saloon owner determined to keep his place open was Trump devotee, Kid Rock. As a result, Nashville is now a "hot spot" for the virus. Memphis would be in better shape if the virus wasn't being trucked in by our neighbors from Mississippi and Arkansas, whose governors have done little to nothing to encourage stopping the spread.

Do you think there might be a connection between viral outbreaks in states with Republican governors who ignored the experts' warnings and a president who called it "the new Democratic hoax," with the legitimate press "in hysteria mode," designed to hurt his re-election chances? Fox News echoed the malignant disinformation for several weeks, so now the virus has been confirmed in all 50 states and shelter-in-place orders have been issued by governors nationwide while Trump is still issuing "travel guidelines." The "fake-news" New York Times reported that the president was warned of an impending pandemic in early January, but he played down the crisis, not wishing to disturb the stock market and because of his suspicions over the motives of the "Deep State."

All that's left to do is to make the best of an unprecedented disaster and practice social distancing until, or if, a vaccine is found. Actually, this isn't too much of a stretch for me. I'd make a great candidate for house arrest. Other than occasionally visiting with friends, eating at a restaurant, or going to hear live music, we didn't leave the house that much before the pandemic. I have FaceTimed with more friends and relatives in the past month than I have in the previous year. Facebook has been a great tool to keep up with the other shut-ins, if they would only stop sending me videos on Facebook Messenger. Some of my relatively elderly acquaintances were unaware of the many food delivery services. OK, BOOMER! Download apps from Postmates, Grubhub, DoorDash, or Bite Squad and they'll deliver meals from your favorite restaurants right to your door. In fact, they'll leave it so no human contact is involved. But then again, some of my technically challenged friends don't know what an app is. Such is the generational divide. Also remember, you're not trapped in your house. You can still go for walks. If not for you, do it for the dog.

We've begun a walking routine after I passed by a mirror naked and saw a beer belly that suddenly appeared out of nowhere — and I don't even drink beer. People are really friendly out there. If you see someone coming, this is the only time you can cross to the other side of the street without offending anyone. We even stopped to talk with a couple sitting on their front porch. I don't recall that happening, ever.

Now I understand how people passed the time during the 19th century. After the plague is over, there could be a renaissance of front porches. We've also been watching a whole lot of television. We got a smart TV, but we're too dumb to figure out how to use it properly. The news reminds us that the real heroes of this scourge are the front-line medical workers who risk their lives in ill-equipped hospitals to treat the afflicted. But we've also realized which jobs are also truly "essential."

They are the grocery store employees — folks who stock the shelves, mop the floors, and mostly make minimum wage. Then there are the drivers who bring you your food, chefs and cooks who prepare it, and restaurant workers, many who have been furloughed, who pack it up and send it out.

My heart goes out to the club owners and all the great musicians who have lost their venues but are posting "virtual" concerts online, because we need them now more than ever.

This virus won't last forever. Perhaps with the arrival of hot weather, we'll get a respite. But come November, I will crawl through an infected field of dead Chinese bats just to cast a vote against this evil, bloviating bastard who sits in the White House. I can stand unlimited quarantine for the coronavirus, but I can't take four more years of this man-made horror show.

Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog.

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