Family Time During Isolation

7:30 PM

“Dear Billy, Tony, and Becky,

Well, it’s day one of CV (CoronaVirus) Isolation and just wanted to let you know the dog and I are fine. We went for a walk and said hi to the neighbors and a few strangers in the neighborhood, even though the strangers looked a bit suspect. They were wearing masks, kind of like the bad guys in westerns. But I figured they probably were probably OK –  just weren’t that good-looking and knew it. You know how I feel about the less – attractive. I let the dog growl at them though, just in case they were bad guys.”



8:01 PM 

Billy: “Hey Dad!  They were wearing face masks to protect from the coronavirus.” 

8:02 PM 

Becky: “Do you have a face mask? You should.”

8:03 PM 

Tony: “Let’s text instead of emailing. It’s quicker.”


8:10 PM 

“Dear Billy, Tony, and Becky, 

No I don’t have a face mask. Maybe I’ll get an eye mask, like the Lone Ranger. And no I won’t text. I’d rather type with my fingers than with my thumbs the way you guys do. When I try to text, ‘I’m all thumbs!’ Dad”


8:15 PM 

Billy: ‘Ok, That was a Dad joke. “

8:16 PM

Becky: “I laughed, Dad.”

8:17 PM

Tony: “You laugh at all his jokes, Becky. It’s a family embarrassment.” 


8:20 PM: 

“Dear Billy, Tony, and Becky, 

OK. No more Dad jokes. Anyway, I walked by Sally, my neighbor, the other day. She had broken the rules of isolation and was talking to another neighbor. But they were only 4 feet apart. 

I called the cops.”


8:21 PM 

Tony: “What?!”

8:21 PM 

Billy: “What?!”

8:21 PM 

Becky: “What?!”


8:22 PM

“Dear Billy, Tony, and Becky, 

Just kidding.” 


8:23 PM 

Billy: “Hey! That was another Dad joke!”

8:24 PM

Tony: “Yeah!”

8:24 PM

Becky: “Good one, Dad!”


8:25 PM 

“Dear Billy, Tony, and Becky, 

Thanks, Becky. I’m putting you in my will.

They were talking politics!  Did you know Sally actually likes Trump! I had no idea! Sure she wears a MAGA sweatshirt, but she told me it was just to get along with all the stupid Trump fans in the neighborhood. It’s not. She actually likes that idiot! ” 


8:45 PM

Becky: “Are you wearing a real face mask when you go out, Dad?  Hope so.”

8:46 PM

Tony: “As you always said, ‘there’s more to life than politics’, Dad.”

8:47 PM

Billy: “I sent 3 face masks to you the other day, Dad.” 


8:49 PM

“Dear Billy, Tony, and Becky,  

OK, you’re in my will now, too, Billy. How are you guys dealing with this isolation?”


9:00 PM

Billy: “I’m thinking of taking a shower this week.”

9:01 PM 

Tony: “I saw a great looking girl across the street the other morning. I waved at her and guess what? She waved back! So, I went back to the same spot at the same time for the next three days. Zilch. ”

9:05 PM

Becky: “Must have been the way you waved. You never did wave well. It’s a family embarrassment.”


9:10 PM

“Dear Tony, Billy, and Becky, 

I’ve been watching a lot of TV shows I never saw when you were kids, because we let you kids control the TV.  I think MASH is going to be a real ratings hit.”


9:11 PM 

Billy: “We can’t stop him. He is a pandemic of bad jokes.”

9:12 PM

Tony: “He means well. Just pretend you’re laughing.”

9:13 PM

Becky: “Well I AM laughing. I think he is funny.”


9:30 PM

“Dear Tony, Billy, and Becky, 

Well, this has been fun, but the dog needs to go out and if I don’t go with him, I’ll have to clean Sally’s lawn. So ’til next time…”


9:31 PM

Billy: “Hey I have an idea. Let’s do a zoom meeting tomorrow. The four of us.”

9:32 PM

Becky: “Absolutely. I’m down with that.”


9:33 PM

“Dear Tony, Billy, and Becky, 

What’s zoom? If it’s anything like texting, I’m out.”

9:34 PM

Tony: “Zoom! No way! That’s all I do all day at work. I’m out too, Dad. I have an idea. Let’s have a 4 way phone call.”

9:35 PM

“Dear Tony, Billy, and Becky, 

 OK Tony. You’re in my will.”

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

The View From 2050

Class!  Class! Let’s settle down!  Kelly! Not now, please!… I’ve told you all week…. One more giggle and I’ll have to revoke your Zoom passwords… You know there is no laughing in school.

OK… this week we’re going to look at when your parents or grandparents were high school seniors like you and the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 on the American culture. 

We’ve already discussed the book by Thomas Brokaw’s grandson, “The Weirdest Generation” and Dorothy Goodwin, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s granddaughter, “Empty Streets, Jumbled Minds”, which you read the week before. 

Today, I thought we’d look at a few artifacts of that era.

On the screen is a picture of something you may find mystifying. Any ideas? Hilary?… No, that is not a group of teenage prisoners… It’s a group of students in something called a “Class Room”. I’ve included it and the other new terms for you in your virtual notebooks.

A “Class Room” was a big room, 5 or even 10 times the size of a living room. There were in large buildings – sometimes groups of buildings called “Schools”  – in which dozens of students gathered in dozens of “Class Rooms” for the sole purpose of learning. 

Students sat next to each other, sometimes just a few feet apart. No, Becky, I’m not kidding. And they only wore face masks at Halloween.

They would meet in these “Class Rooms” instead of on a Zoom screen. There was a human teacher – someone something like me – who would talk to students and explain subject matter, much as I am doing now – only not as well we robots do, of course. 

And while they were in “Schools”, guess where their parents were? In these buildings. They were called “Offices” or “Office Buildings”, and like their kids, parents would spend all day sitting a foot or two apart, doing the same thing parents do now from home. It was called “Office Work”… 

Molly? …. Yes, you’re absolutely right. It was a very much more expensive, far more dangerous from a health standpoint, as well as inefficient time-wise, because they all had to get there and later go home. But in addition, think about the amount of energy they used compared to the tele-learning and tele-work of today. The efficiency in that era was very, very low.  

There was no such thing as tele-college either. Colleges were actual places, as big as small towns. There were far more “Class Rooms” than in a high school, but also “Dormitories” – actual buildings where students lived, two or three to a room. No. I’m not kidding. In the same room… No laughing, Haydn!

What’s that, Tommy? Yes, but lots of things our grandparents did seem stupid now. That’s progress.

OK… Anyone recognize this?

Korwin? Yes. That is a “Mall” or “Shopping Center”.  

Think of it as a small, Amazon-like thing. There were thousands of these around the country.

You know that apartment complex in King of Prussia? That was a “Mall” once.  And inside were places called “Stores”.

What were “Stores”, Katie? Well, think of really mini-mini-mini-Amazons. One might sell clothes, another candy, another car parts, another  furniture, another groceries.

Sometimes these “Shoppers” would also stop at a restaurant for lunch or dinner…

Oh, I forgot… Yes, thank you, Katie. A “Restaurant” was a place where people would go to eat meals, which they…  OK, hold on…I know this can be confusing… let me review. 

“Malls” were simply tiny Amazons containing lots of “Stores”. Surrounding the “Malls” were spaces called “Parking Lots”. “Shoppers” would leave their cars in the “Parking Lots” while they went into the “Mall” and then into “Stores”. Sometimes, if they were hungry, they would go to “Restaurants” which were next to “Stores” inside the “Malls”.

After the Covid19 Pandemic closed all the “Malls”, the “Parking Lots” were turned into the vegetable gardens where we now grow our organic produce. 

Any questions, comments? You’re right, Harrison, it’s a lot to digest all at once… No laughing, Haydn!

OK. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about your grandparents’ social lives. 

We’ll see pictures of people actually sitting next to each other and cheering at football games and other sports events, as well as going to concerts, political speeches, even religious services. It was a very, very different time.

We’ll learn about how they would actually touch each other, about “Shaking Hands”, “Holding Hands”, “Kissing”, “Hugging”, something called “Dancing” and how they used sex to make any old kind of babies, instead of just calling Amazon’s sperm bank and specifying the kind they wanted.

No laughing, Haydn!

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Venturing Out From Isolation

He decides to go for a walk. It is sunny and warm, with a slight breeze, the kind of day nature promises all winter and then, just when we’ve given up hope, delivers. 

The trees show off new leaves, shrubs sparkle with bright blossoms, and white daffodils celebrate the green in newly awakened lawns. Birds sing a wide variety of songs, each unique, each melodious, and all, somehow, blending together in perfect harmony.

He passes under a blue jay sitting high up on a wire. Suddenly, it screeches and darts down at him like a fighter jet. He ducks and the blue jay misses by inches. There must be a hidden nest. 

He strolls along a sidewalk, alone. Cars and trucks, which normally streak by in a noisy hurry, are nowhere to be seen or heard.

50 yards ahead he sees a lone pedestrian coming toward him. When they are a few yards apart the pedestrian veers into the middle of the empty street and offers a distant, “Good Morning”, without stopping or looking at him.  

He passes a park with a “Closed” sign. It blocks a playground usually packed with laughter and shrieks of joy. The swing sets and slides are now wrapped in a bright orange plastic lace, the kind that is used to fence off snow in the winter. Today it fences off children.

Empty benches face the play area. An older woman sits on one of them, looking off into the distance.  He waves to her, but she doesn’t notice.

He’s reminded of a line in Kris Kristofferson’s song, Sunday Morning, Coming Down,  “a small kid cussin’ at a can, that he was kickin’”. There are no kids here today, no cans and no cussin’. 

The only cussin’ is from grownups arguing about how we got here and when we’re going to get back there. 

The leaders in past national traumas, like WWII, the Polio Epidemic, or 9/11 didn’t bully or threaten; they calmed, united, and inspired us.  Now, we don’t just have a corona virus to face; we have a red/blue virus, this one exacerbated, not by nature, but by a petulant bully. Our petulant bully.

Which one is scarier? Yes.

The sidewalk bends slightly away from the street toward the river, which glistens and slaps against the banks, oblivious of the empty sidewalk. As he walks by a flock of seagulls pecking the grass, they startle and rush up into the sky, effortlessly arcing away from him.

He passes a young man in dirty clothes sitting at a picnic table, alone, motionless, head on his hands. Is he sleeping or passed out? Is he homeless, hopeless, or both? 

Three, not two, mallard ducks waddle and quack past the table and the man, unhurried, toward the water.

We have to halt our lives to survive the coronavirus, thinks the man, but flowers and shrubs and grass don’t. Pigeons and seagulls and ducks just go about their day.

He passes an older man, portly, on a bench under a WWII statue, reading a tattered paperback. A rusty grocery cart is by his side, overflowing with a sleeping bag, groundcloth, clothes, and more books. A half-dozen pigeons compete for crumbs near his feet.  

He offers the man a $5 bill.


“You’re welcome.”

“Can I ask you a question?”


“They close the park so homeless have nowhere to go. Do they ever wonder what the homeless will do now? Do they wonder when the homeless will start robbing people?”

“I guess… I don’t know.”

He thinks about the national divide, not red/blue, but rich and poor. Is it survival of the fittest or the greediest? He thinks about the man vs nature conflict, which, as the planet heats up, is generating new threats, including the coronavirus. Is that about survival of the fittest? If so, nature isn’t isolating; humans are. 

An older couple, holding hands, comes toward him. They laugh gently. He steps into the street and they actually look at him and smile as they pass.  

He stops and turns to watch them.

He remembers a dream from last night. Whoever she was, she had held his hand the same way and lightly kissed him. It has lingered all day.

On the way home, he passes silent streets, closed stores, and very few people, but plenty of trees, flowers, shrubs, pigeons, seagulls, and ducks. The blue jay is still on the wire, guarding the nest.  

He crosses to the other side of the street and continues on alone.  

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Stupid vs Smart

In 1793, shortly after the Revolution and millions of years after T-Rex faded into history, the US had its first pandemic. Our population was a little over 3.9 million. Philadelphia, the nation’s capital, lost 5000 people, one tenth of its population. 

The illness caused high fevers. It turned people’s skin yellow and their vomit dark with blood. All who could, including George Washington, fled the cities. Whole families died. All they could do was cover their faces with cloth (sometimes dipped in camphor or vinegar) and stay away from each other.

Their reasoning was as sound then as it is now: there was no treatment and no way to prevent the “Yellow Fever”. The only thing they could do was isolate from each other. 


Oh, and the cause was similar too: a virus, which was identified in 1900 by army physician Walter Reed (yes, that one). He called it an “ultra-microscopic” organism.

So, let’s review: the country was swept by a mysterious, deadly, and painful disease, there is no cure and no preventative, so people isolated and covered their faces. And saved lives. 


There have been numerous world pandemics since, including the Spanish Flu of 1918 (which actually originated in Kansas, but that’s another story). Then, as now and many times in between, when there is no cure and no preventative, the only solution has been to isolate and cover your face. Which saved lives.


(Actually, I think it was a pandemic of asteroids that sent T-Rex and his buddies packing. I guess they didn’t know about self-isolating or covering their faces.)

For the last few months, as the coronavirus pandemic started sweeping the globe, our leaders chose a different solution: isolate the truth and cover your ass.


T-Rump people were briefed about pandemic protocols by Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice before the 2016 inauguration. Two years later, they dissolved the pandemic committee that the Obama Administration had set up.


T-Rump was informed of the pandemic in January. Soon after he told the country, “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for.”

Rather than order tests, ventilators, PPE’s, and other supplies, he told us, “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

While South Korea and Germany took the same information and acted on it, saving thousands of lives, T-Rump said. “But we have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.”


Going along with him in one way or another have been governors from southern and western states including Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, and South Carolina. Incredibly, Georgia re-opened beaches just the other day.

Part of their reasoning was that local jurisdictions should decide.  That would work if, say, you could put a moat around a county, city, or town, keeping out all of those with the virus. But we don’t have moats! 


Several pastors across the country have defied governors’ orders and invited everyone to church. I’m sure they’ll have good explanations for all of their faithful who die as a result.

Governor Kemp of Georgia learned – just the other day, which everyone else knew two months ago – that people without symptoms can pass the virus. 

And Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards just had no idea – no idea! – that Mardi Gras crowds in New Orleans could trigger a city-wide coronavirus outbreak.


Fox viewers say that Democrats trumped up the pandemic (full disclosure: I chose the word “trumped” deliberately). 

Despite CDC warnings, T-Rump is not just touting an unproven treatment for the Coronavirus, he stopped his own Coronavirus expert from cautioning about its deadly cardiovascular side-effects. 


T-Rump and supporters parroted his desire to re-open the economy early, thereby insuring even more dead people.

It’s all stupid, especially when compared with how earlier leaders all the way back to Washington reacted. 

But you know what’s even more stupid? 

We elected this stupid, narcissistic, failed businessman (6 bankruptcies, over 3500 lawsuits in the last three decades), with zero government experience (beyond whom to pay off), and a reality show punchline.

When we need “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” or “The buck stops here”, we get “I don’t take responsibility at all”, and “You’re fired!”

And thousands of unnecessary deaths. 


But you know what’s smart?  Self-isolating and covering your mouth. Saving your life and those of others. Washington and the first Americans did it. We can, too.

And let T-Rump go the way of T-Rex.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)