#1. April 29 - Message to readers. We are now in Phase 2 of all this, when we hope to be (or become) "normal". I am scaling back my "Still here" covid pages. I shall put up an entry maybe 2-3 times a week instead of once a day so I can put in a few other articles. I wasn't sure what to call it: Phase2 (terrible!), "Slowing Down with the Times" (ok, but too long)...ah-HAH!) ...similar, short and plays on a familiar expression: "We're not out of the the woods yet".
So this is Still in the Woods 1. If you want to see the earlier "Still Here" entries, you can do that. There are 45 of them. They are here. Easy to navigate — a single long scroll with the most recent one (yesterday, April 28) at the top). You can also scroll down to March 14 and read up, if you want.
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Finding the Big N
#2. April 30 - I'm back already. Apparently, I can't do this cold turkey (Meleagris frigus!). There are so many different things going on as we wend our way out of the woods (image, right) into the bleak world of the good old days. I shall comment on some of them. Some are amusing, unless you are involved, such as the bus incident (below).
The seekers after Normalcy seen here are from the Opus Continuum artists' collective. They are "in the woods," too. As they explained to me, they are still planning on their next art exhibit sometime a bit later when things are normal or at least "proximate to a parallel convergence of less than non-normals."On the bus yesterday. Riding in a bus in Naples before the crisis was like in Japan where "pushers" mash passengers into the subway cars so the doors will close. In Naples, however, the passengers, the people themselves (!) are the pushers and mashers. (To paraphrase Arthur O'Shaughnessy from his Ode ("We are the music makers.") — "We are the pushers and mashers of the world forever, it seems.") It says something about our democratic values! Now, phase 2 (recovery) means everybody wears a mask, you cannot sit adjacent to another passenger and a few people can stand. There can be no more than 20 passengers in the bus. Yesterday there were already about 30 in the vehicle when the video I saw was taken. A man, standing and duly masked, starts yelling at the driver: "Hey! What are you doing? There are too many people in here! Where's the spacing?! You can't pick up any more people!" The driver says, "Shut up or get off the bus" ..."Oh, yeah?! I'll report this to the authorities! Don't you dare pick up any more people!!"... The driver makes a quick decision and decides the guy is right, so he drives right by the next bus stop without stopping for the dozen persons waiting to board. They start screaming at him, too: "Hey, come back here! What about us?! You bastard!" That is only a taste of what is in store for us as we get back to normal.
There is some poignant human interest about opening the schools. Most education systems I know of divide schooling into three
parts: elementary, middle, and senior, for a total of 12 or 13 years. My experience was of 6, 3, and 4 years. The first two are important here; the elementary kids bond with one another for 6 years, and on the last day say their good-byes to friends. That repeats itself then for the middle-schoolers. The last day is important; you say good-bye to good friends and to teachers, who, in many cases, have been your mentors, even surrogate parents. It's a rite of passage on that one day. A group of parents has petitioned the Campania Region to let the students of the last elementary year and the last middle-school year attend school for that one last day. It's in June. I think it's a good idea in spite of the risk. It is not clear yet how the Region — in this case, the president of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca will respond. I'm hoping he says yes. He got a cheap shot from the head of the Lega Nord (Northern League) yesterday. The complete name of that political party is still Lega Nord per l'Indipendenza della Padania /Northern League for the Independence of Padania. Their leader, Matteo Salvini, said about De Luca, "Everything that guy says sounds great. On TV talk-shows."
Mundane but not unimportant matters include what to do with the beaches, which is important to many people in the summer. The idea of maintaining artificial social distance by plexi-glass barriers was a bizarre non-starter from the outset. They are expensive, heavy, and difficult to set up and move around. Some college kids had a better idea: wood and fabric or plastic, inexpensive and easy to move. They have submitted their designs (image shown).
Tomorrow is May Day, when a lot of grouchy Marxists exchange their own cheap shots.
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#3. May 2 -
After May Day
- very few positives ...21 out of the last 3832 tests;
- the mayor says "It cost me blood to save this region";
- no deaths in the last 24 hours;
- The mayor has sworn out a complaint against the journalists who "defamed" southerners (refers to this); the complaint is for "defamation in the press [or media], aggravated by intent to instigate racial hatred";
- Barbershops will open soon, but so far some people are using non-barbers who make house-calls. You call, they sneak over and cut your hair. A couple of barbers (shown) in face-masks and pull-down plastic face guards were cutting hair for free in front of the Chamber of commerce (Piazza Bovio) the other day. Their sign said: "Get you hair cut safely, not by someone who might be infected."Traditionally the "Monuments in May" program is when everything is open; that is, all the museums and monuments you might possibly want to visit should be open. (No, that is not always the case. Naples has too much stuff to keep it all open all the time!) This year is an exception, obviously. A lot people who typically don't spend too much time browsing on the internet have learned a lot in the last few weeks, including how to set up Distance Learning programs for their kids, not always an easy thing to do. That skill is directly applicable to finding out about the places that you want to visit, almost all of which have websites, some of which are good (typically university sites and those run by large museums). Others will get better, we hope. The long view —and one that is not good, in my view— is that we are preparing to become an anti-social society. Maybe not this time —covid-19 will pass— but if you listen to epidemiologists, they are not too optimistic about the future.
OK, they changed it, but good grief. There were no assemblies or large gatherings permitted of the kind generally associated with May Day —the world-wide day of the working class, with parades, music, and placards of Karl Marx and choruses of the Internazionale. Some good-hearted (no doubt young) bureaucrats came up with a poster they could at least place around town. It said "Solo il lavoro rende liberi"/ ("Only work will set you free"). (That phrase is at the bottom of the image on the right. The portion above it says: "Art. 1 of the Constitution - Italy is a democratic Republic founded on work. 1 May 2020")
Top 2 of the 3 images in this entry are from la Repubblica. #3 is anon.
After the posters were up, some other good-hearted bureaucrat (who remembered his or her high school history) said, "Uh-oh, we have to take those things down... huh?... because they are exactly like the German phrase 'Arbeit macht freit' signs in Nazi death camps... huh? ... WWII ...right, the one after WWI..." So they went around and changed it to "Solo il lavoro rende la dignità"/only work will give you dignity". Too late. A lot of people had seen it and complained. A letter from The Jewish Community in Naples expressed exasperation: "This is unacceptably ignorant! ... Well, it's important to us." They got a note of apology from city hall. "Sorry. I guess we've been busy these last few weeks. We were distracted. It slipped by. Sorry."
This long May Day weekend is really messing things up. No one seems to know what's open or not, so people just wander out to see for themselves and then just stay out all morning. Some things are open, pharmacies or markets, and some are closed because the whole weekend is a long weekend and has nothing to do with the quarantine. V-E Day (Victory in Europe) is coming up (May 8). I anticipate a bit by citing an expression from that war. SNAFU! —Situation Naples All Fouled Up.* [*'fouled' is a euphemism]
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#4. May 5 -
Crocus, Rosebud, etc.It wasn't exactly State Fair.* That is, I didn't see "a crocus or a rosebud, or a robin on the wing," but I did see a hamburger (ok, leave it —I really meant 'harbinger') of things to come on this too-warm and sunny, glorious Virus morning. I saw my first skate boarder! He was out at 7.a.m. the other morning, not a car or person in sight and was winging down the street, not a care in the world, and he looked happy! No helmet, goggles, or knee-pads, and no doubt wondering why it has taken so long to get all these people off of his street. He doesn't read much. OK, he can't read at all, but come on, he was having a good time!
*(Rodgers & Hammerstein, the 1945 20th Century Fox film)
- The latest stats I have seen on the virus look good. There were 14 cases of contagion out of 4,000 tests in the entire region of Campania. That is statistically almost insignificant, but that's still 14 families worried to death.
(both characters are © DC comics). image from la Repubblica
- It's a clever idea to enlist our favorite superheroes in the cause. Thus the on-line version of the paper la Repubblica is running a series of illustrations of DC comics, Disney, hanna & barbera, and others. I chose this one because it's a great illustration, and I applaud showing doctors and nurses as superheroes —with masks! One of them, however, doesn't need a mask. He already has one. Batman! I'm sure the illustrator, Pasquale Qualano, meant well, but given what we know about the role of the vile and disgusting bat in this mess ... (I know, I know, it keeps the mosquitoes under control. Well, goody, goody and kumbayah for you, it and Bruce Wayne!)... I feel, well, uneasy about the presence of the Caped (vile and disgusting) Crusader lurking behind and towering over my main Man of Steel, Superman.
- Thank you with music. Down in Potenza, still in Campania, cellist Vito Stano, on behalf of the Lions Club and other groups in the town, who wanted to thank doctors, nurses and staff at the San Carlo di Potenza hospital, pulled up his chair and cello and played for them right in front of the hospital. The staff came out and listened and thanked him. A spokesman said "This is a profound health and social crisis. We have to think about our values and about what inspires us as individuals and as a society."
- Here's a high-school science teacher on the island of Ischia. He's in a hospital bed with covid-19 and he's teaching his kids on-line! He says, "They feel worse about this than I do." Then, "Mario, thank you for your sympathy. I really mean that. I'd feel even better if you could send me that homework of yours by tomorrow."
- So the word is out ... if you run and you want to run without a mask, that's ok. "But," says regional president, Vincenzo De Luca, "Do it between 0600 and 08.30 and keep your distance. "And I don't want old geezers like me out there staggering along bumping into people in the middle of the day. You we will arrest! You want to walk side by side with your family members? That's fine. Wear masks."
- Oh, my little bar will be open today (May 5th), outdoor tables and all. They took the picture I used (shown) on March 14 when all this started. I have to get another one today. Corona, of course.
- added May 8: Happy V-E Day. As far as I know, it has nothing to do with V-8 Juice Day, but celebrate that, too. Those ingredients (for those playing at home) are beets, celery, carrots, lettuce, parsley, watercress, spinach, and tomato. My little bar finally opened yesterday. You couldn't go in, but you could wait your turn outside, masked and socially spaced along the horizon for a take-out order. Not what I expected. No tables. I forwent the Corona. That left me with two choices. One is called Peroni. Good beer, but since viruses latch on to brand names, as in Corona virus, Corona beer (mutatis mutandis), the name Peroni sounds too much like 'peritonitis'. I settled for Nastro Azzurro. It means Blue Ribbon, but we call it Nasty Blue. I mounted up, and as I rode off, I heard someone say, "Who was that masked man?" The barkeep said, "What are you mean? We're all masked."
Almost There ?
#5. May 14 - If these were normal times, we would be in Motor Yacht season. There would be a lot of "Luxury" yachts in the bay, ranging from 50 to 100 meters in length — even longer. If I check my yachtometer, I see, right now — wait... carry the 2 ... hold on --uh... not one. There was one a few days ago (image shown). It was the first one of the season, so far the only one and, all things not being normal, I don't know about this summer. This is the Ocean Paradise. I don't know why she was here. If there were people on board, I hope they had a good time. Ocean Paradise is 55m/180'5ft long, built in 2013 by Benetti at their Viareggio shipyards on the Tyrrhenian coast in northern Tuscany. (That's the only coast that Tuscany has, so you can't get confused.) She was flying a UK flag but generally runs only in the Mediterranean. She was here for four days and then left for Rijeka, Croatia, in the upper Adriatic (same latitude as Venice) and should dock there today, the 14th. Rijeka is the main seaport city in Croatia and sheltered way back behind Istria, the largest peninsula in the Adriatic. I didn't see persons disembark in quarantined (but almost normal) Naples --none of the 12 crew or 12 passengers, but maybe they did —face masks and all, but I don't know why. Why not stay aboard and enjoy the "Asian inspired interior design and the relaxing zen garden!" The charter rates per person vary from high season to low season to quarantine season. I just checked again. Still lonely out there.
- How far are we from being normal? Hard to tell, last weekend was sort of trial run. You could go out and run, or walk with your family (even without dragging a damned fake dog behind you!). Kids could stand around and "hang out", so much so that when a group of teenagers just hanging out "normally" were asked by a cop to spread out a bit and put on their masks, they beat him bloody. It took eight quite normal stitches to fix his head. And there was some trash strewn quite normally along the beach front. But the covid numbers are way down, so that's good.
- Next Monday it's supposed to be open full-throttle, including restaurants, barbershops, and churches. About the churches, you should be able to go to church on Sunday the 17th for a Roman Catholic mass, if you don't mind taking your communion wafer from a priest wearing a mask and wearing gloves. It seems to bother some of the faithful, but I don't know why.
- Restaurants? Sidewalk cafes? The region said weeks ago that May 18 is full-throttle day, but yesterday a bunch of restaurant and cafe owners —including those with outdoor tables and seating— complained that have not received any of that in writing, and they don't want to risk being fined for this, that and the other thing. There are 20,000 of these owners in the region of Campania — about half of them might open and take their chances.
- The normalization process includes opening traffic to and from the islands Ischia, Capri and Procida. That has started and will proceed cautiously with safeguards in place — masks, distancing, temperature check! That happened to me yesterday. A lady bank guard zapped with me a handheld temperature pistol — right to my brow. (I thought of clutching my chest the minute she pulled the trigger and yelling, 'No! No!' falling to the ground and then jumping up and yelling "Hah! Gotcha!" But I didn't.)
- The so-called "green lungs" of the city --grassy spaces large and small are still iffy. You might get lucky, depending on which one it is. Athletic fields, large and small, might be open or might not. There are a few swimming pools in the Naples area. Some of them were closed months ago for reasons not related to covid-19, typically because there's not enough money to pay for maintenance. Don't wait for them to be open next week.
- The old Bourbon Royal Palace grounds at Portici should be open as should the Royal Palace at Caserta.
- Photographer for la Repubblica, Ciro Fusco, took this great photo of the supermoon we had some days ago:
© la Repubblica, photo by Ciro Fusco
- And the president of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca (image), and Matteo Salvini, federal secretary of the Northern League (who has had various positions in the Milanese city administration) got in their ritual nasty potshots at each other:
Salvini: Hi, sheriff. Stop everything and everybody. Big man.
De Luca: You know why Milan still has 500 reports of covid-19 per DAY!? Because until a few weeks ago you let 45% of the population walk around as if none of this existed — no masks, no social distancing, nothing. The difference is, we put on the brakes and you didn't. We just ran 4,000 tests and had a handful of positives, 5 or 6. We will open again completely when it is completely safe to do so. Oh, I see you got a new pair of glasses. You look good. Nice color. Looks like you're wearing baby-diapers.
#6. May 19 -"Mill Aoouunnd, March!"
Yesterday, Monday, was essentially half-open day. Thursday should be all-open. Yesterday shops were open, and Thursday it'll be the turn of restaurants. Quarantine restrictions such as masks and social distancing will be with us for the foreseeable future, and that is hard to foresee. The situation has a quasi-humorous aspect because of the constant sniping between north and south. Here, the president of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, has cast himself as Mr. Tough Law-and-Order (unusual for the south). The north has wound up as the greed-mongers anxious to open everything at any cost, although that cost might prove dreadful and deadly if many epidemiologists are correct. They say, "Look, there is still no way to know where this is going. It might even turn endemic — with another one on the way."
Currently, the covid-19 numbers are down to such an extent that there are empty beds in hospitals that were meant for covid-19 care. De Luca said, smugly, the other day, "We'll need those beds in the autumn. We'll just tell the virus, 'Sorry. So long, it's been bad to know you'." He used a funny expression for his tough-guy act. "It's up to us to keep things going smoothly. Sure, it's tough. People are tired, letting their guard down -- it's natural. But we have to stick with it" and then, "Al Nord ammuina." That is a southern dialect expression for which I have chosen an old U.S. army stand-by "Mill around, march!" That is, "If you're up here, go down there; if you're on that side, go to the other side..." etc. etc. (Maybe you had to be there.) The expression has no basis in fact, although tourists are often told that it was a real order used in the navy of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples. That is nonsense (indeed, it sounds like a northern plot to discredit the south!) but everyone knows what it means: jerk around aimlessly and helplessly like chickens with your heads cut off until you bleed out and fall over.
Journalists have taken to comparing the situation to a 1959 film with the comic, Totò, (film poster, shown above) in which too many families are trying to share a building that used to be a brothel. Towards the end of the film, the comic utters the title line, "Arrangiatevi!" to calm everyone down. It means, roughly "Save yourselves!" or "Every man for himself!" Again, Maybe you had to be there.
So it's a waiting game. The big question? When will the things that were put on hold a few months ago when "the ship hit the sand" ever happen? Not the businesses, or restaurants, or just going to the beach -- those things are happening — or will be — but some of the amenities that mark our culture. I hate to say "pleasantries" because they are much more than that. At the very least, they are "Things that make life pleasantries" —museums, art galleries, archaeological sites, cinemas, theaters, concerts. Places where we social humans go to mingle and be social.
For example, my friends from Opus Continuum, the Artists' Collective (link above on this page, here) have been planning their IMMAGINARIA 2020 exhibit for many months. In February they visited the highest point in the Flegrean Fields, Mt. Gauro (complete description at that link). The panorama is... well...
It used to look like this (1770)
and you still see this to the southeast...
Port of Pozzuoli (center ); isle of Nisida (left of
center); Sorrento peninsula & Capri (bckgrnd)
..and this to the west.
Island of Ischia ( bckgrnd cntr); Baia (cntr):
M. Nuovo (cntr); Lake Averno (cntr rght)
When is that exhibit going to happen? My guess is late summer. I hope so. You can't do this from home.
It goes without saying that schools —the most socially important institutions we have if we want to raise normal, responsible children— must reopen. But in Italy they have already gone over to large-scale distance learning programs for the kids, where mom and dad learn what the kids already know about computers, ("just for now, you understand, till all this is over.") Archaeological sites? Museums? You can already take good guided on-line tours of many of them ("just for now, you understand, till this is all over.") Movies? Heck, stream those ("just for now..." etc.) Concerts? I have already seen orchestra and choir concerts by sequestered musicians, each one playing or singing alone in a room and joined electronically with the others into a single group. They sound good, too. This sure has "long haul" writ large all over it. Pianist Glenn Gould once told violinist Yehudi Menuhin what a pleasure it was to record music bit by bit, track by track, to get the perfect sound. "Listen to that!" he said. "You don't get that kind of perfection in an auditorium in front of a live audience!" Menuhin replied, "So what! That's not what music is all about." So, isolation? Sequestration? That's not what life is all about, either.
#7. May 27 -
The Good, the Bad, and the Normal
The most recent Coronavirus test results report 6 positives out of 6,000 tests. That is negligible unless someone you love is one of the six. Let's not forget them.
I probably need a Venn diagram for the Good, the Bad, and the Normal, but let me present this as a word problem: If something is good, can it also be bad, at least partially? If yes, can that state then be called normal? Or do we need a third state called "normal". If yes, then is it possible for something to be good and bad and normal...no, wait ... do we need a state that is all three at the same time but to different degrees?
But I quibble. More important is this: as Italy and other countries begin to roll back their lockdowns and prepare for a "normal" June, full of festivals, museums and money-laden tourists, how much of that optimism will go straight to hell if what many epidemiologists fear really does happen — that is, a second and deadlier wave of deaths and infections that will force governments to clamp back down? How much? The answer? All of it. So here is, as it now stands, what has already taken place in late May, and what is going to happen in June and even later, as we march into the UV-lit sunlamps glowing with uncertainty (yes, both us and the lamps). If you can march with your fingers crossed, do it. If you are playing at home, you can fill in your own Venn diagram as we go. Or use mine (image, above).
- As part of a new series of postage stamps, Excellence in Italian Theater, Italy has issued a €1.20 stamp with the likeness of Eduardo De Filippo on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of Eduardo's birth (image left).
- —There were a few sailboats out on Saturday. Not many. There was one parasail surfer cruising along, pulled by his high-flying parasail. There were no luxury motor yachts. They are hiding out somewhere on the high seas. There were a few powerboats too close to shore. Unfortunately, they did not collide.
- Later that evening there were bad traffic jams at a number of spots, such as along the sea-side public park, the Villa Comunale. It's called Post-Lockdown Frenzy (PLF). Many of the motorists were wearing masks, conveniently pushed aside to allow for frequent jolts of tobacco and alcoholic self-medication. They had escaped the locked loony bin and were now free, stuck in the parking lot.
"Welcome to the museum. Please wear your mask, sir.
Look, I can take your temperature or fry you to a cinder.
Your choice. Thank you, sir... Welcome to the museum..."
- Good news for archaeology nuts: the sites at Herculaneum and Pompeii will open the first week in June. Anything that opens will enforce masks and social distancing. Your temperature will be taken by Gort, the 8-foot robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still with that beam in his head (or maybe a nice young guard, but the ray-gun will be real).
- The island of Ischia announces that it expects to hold its film festival in July. There, you will be checked as you get off the boat from Naples or off your private boat. You pig.
- On Saturday, 5 September, the Capri-Naples 36 km/22 mi swimming marathon will take place. It's for pro swimmers. A second race for amateur swimmers will be held a week later. I tried it once. I did OK, too, except for the last 36 km.
- The large "A" league soccer stadium, San Paolo, has ended its 79-day lockdown. Today they will open the grounds and let about 40 track and field athletes run around and train a bit. No matches or meets — just run around and train.
- Disputes between labor and management have returned to the large Jabil manufacturing plant of electronic components in the Campania region in the town of Marcianise, near Naples. It's as if the disputes had never left. And they never really did. It's just that the virus crisis gave them a breather. It's about constant lay-offs (bad) versus outright firing of employees (worse). Jabil Inc. is an American worldwide company with headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- The National Archaeological Museum (MANN) will reopen on Tuesday, June 2, with an exhibit dedicated to the Etruscans. The usual sanitary safeguards will be in force. Gort will be there.