Podcast-What If Passover and Easter Happened During A Pandemic

PassoverEasterOK…what would have happened if there were stay-at-home orders during Biblical times when the Jews were trying to escape from Egypt and the Resurrection was about to happen? Yeah…I was wondering that too and here’s what I found out.

 

Don’t have 5:27 to listen? Here’s the basic script:

Hope you’ve all had a happy Easter or Passover. We celebrate both in our house….PEaster!  I got to thinking about what would have happened on both occasions had there been the kind of pandemic we’re all going through right now, especially with the stay-at-home orders.

leavingegyptsignLet’s start with Passover since it happened first. Of course Passover celebrates the Jews exodus from Egypt after years and years of being under brutal servitude to the despotic Pharaoh. They couldn’t make the big escape without some major assistance from the deity calling the shots in the universe. The way the story goes, the Jews were told to get moving stat before all sorts of bad things were laid on the Egyptians in the form of plagues. So they hightailed it to the desert before their bread could rise which left them with constipating unleavened substance we call matzoh. It didn’t matter because by walking miles and miles to escape, it would keep things moving–no problem.

redseaOK..here’s where the pandemic comes in. Say word got around a really contagious and deadly virus was out there and the only way to control was social distancing of Biblical proportions. Sure enough, as the Jews were about to skip through the parted Red Sea, a voice from above stopped them in their tracks.

“Just hold your matzoh balls and turn around. No one’s going anywhere!” the squeaky voice ordered.

“Who the hell are Thou? inquired Moses.

faucihands“I art Fauci, Saint of Infectious Diseases and other plagues involving bacteria and future orange-colored political hacks!” came the  reply. “The only way we’re gonna beat this thing is if everybody stays home and lets their bread rise and the pandemic settle!”

“I’m not buying it,” said Moses while the other Jews kvetched they’d be late for the falling of the manna from heaven and the start of the Mah Jong Canaan Finals.

“Look,” replied St. Fauci, “Just stick it in as an extra Commandment and when this is all over you can get a chisel and whack it out of the tablets. Can you do that?”

“Feh,” said Moses. “We were all booked on a cruise down the Jordan River and got a deal on outboard cabins. After wandering in the desert for 40 years we were entitled to an all-inclusive vacation. And they’ll never make a movie called “The ELEVEN Commandments.”

“Everybody wants to play God!” a frustrated St. Fauci declared. “I have a feeling I’m gonna be stuck dealing with people like you forever.”

empty-tomb-clipart-13Move ahead to the New Testament and the resurrection of Jesus. We all know how that went. Three days after he’s crucified and buried in a cave the cave was suddenly found to be empty. Where’d he go? Well..to heaven.

But again, imagining a pandemic interfered with history and things may have been very different.

Just as the miracle of resurrection was about to happen, there he was again.

“OK…I hate to do this but no one’s going anywhere…especially to heaven,” ordered St. Fauci. “We’ve got a serious ‘stay at home, stay in tomb’ order to try to stop this seriously dangerous virus. And I don’t wanna hear any whining from the Romans who already have their togas in an uproar. Once we get this under control everyone can ascend, descend or disperse as they wish.”faucifinger

This caused an immediate protest from Triteness Hallmarkus who had sunk much of his savings into starting a company that created a new form of wishy-washy communication called “greeting tablets.”

“Look…you can’t stop what was already in the works,” he said. “My slaves and I had already called this thing ‘Easter’ and we banged out a ton of tablets with bland bromides, bunnies and eggs and other stuff that has nothing to do with the day but look cute in order to make people want to buy them to send to other people.”

Hallmarkus was backed up by Julius Peepus who had conjured a tasty, but lethal treat in the form of little sticky chickens shrouded in sugar. “Surely, St. Fauci, you would not deprive the disciples of the pleasure of celebrating a miracle by chewing on a treat that is both delicious and dentally debilitating! No miracle, no Peeps!”

trumppoutIndeed, even the Emperor Trumpus Dickheadius chimed in, dismissing St. Fauci as “some guy from the Bible…I think the Book of Paranoia. I gotta IX a.m. tee time and a Caesar Salad waiting for me.”

Of course, there was no pandemic, both Biblical events did happen and we get to celebrate the holiday of our beliefs. But poor, poor St. Fauci. He’s still fighting off an orange imbecile trying to play God. trumpfauci

Masking in the Spotlight

facemaskmontage2Got a mask? A lot of people do and that’s a good thing. It’s all about being safe. Who wants to breathe in someone else’s viral voom?

I like these two kids in love using their masks like kissin’ condoms. No tongue, no problem. That’s real social distancing.safemasking

I thought I was ahead of the game when I found a couple of old face masks in my garage that I use when I’m spray painting something or the pollen gets to me when I mow my lawn. But I quickly discovered a boring white, pre-made mask is almost a fashion faux pas during this terrible pandemic.

Stuck at home with so much free time, people are getting creative, using whatever materials they happen to have on hand to stick over their noses and mouths.

EdMaskMy wife, being a master crafter, quickly created this one for me out of one of my old, discarded dress shirts. Despite being semi-retired for almost four years, I can still smell the stench of corporate meeting rooms on the material and, while wearing the mask, often have hallucinations of being trapped in an endless Power Point presentation.

I call the mask this guy is wearing “The Shmotah.” That’s Yiddish for rag and that’s pretty much what this gentleman has decided will do the trick for him. Personally, it looks more like something you’d use to chloroform someone attempting to steal the toilet paper from your shopping cart.shmotamask

Which brings me to a masked marauder I discovered in a supermarket. That shopper decided to emulate Jesse James by affixing a bandana around her nose and mouth. Was she there to stock up on soup and crackers, or awaiting the arrival of the next Wells Fargo stagecoach in order to stick it up? Regardless, I gave her wide berth, and removed my watch.jessejamesrobbingstagecoachmask

lettucemaskI don’t know what this person was thinking by slapping a lettuce leaf over most of her face. If she had done this here in Michigan, the poor thing would have been immediately doused with ranch dressing.

I found this photo of a guy who seems to be protecting himself from coronavirus while also launching a campaign promoting electrolysis for anyone suffering from a new affliction I hear the CDC is calling “Hirsute Blue.”bluefurcolorfulbandanamask

jokermaskThere are some Jokers out there combining prophylaxis with paranoia.

pooohmaskThis little girl found a way to stick out her tongue while keeping it in.

minimousemaskMinnie Mouse doing her part to provide maximum facial cover.

mardigrasmaskOoops…Mardi Gras’s over. No masking this couple’s cluelessness. All they needed to do was look to their left to realize, “we made a boux boux, chere.”

facemaskmontageSo whether your mask is of the pre-fab, store bought variety, a shmotah, bandana, home crafted or creatively improvised, don’t forget to slap it on because right now, the last thing you wanna do…is go viral.

My Father’s Day With Mr. Tiger

kaline

It was June 19, 1966. Father’s Day. We lived in Queens. That’s where the shiny new Shea Stadium was. It’s where the New York Mets played. Oh, the Met’s were OK, but we were Yankee fans. Shea Stadium was a 15-minute drive from our house. Yankee Stadium was a schlep at least three times that length of time. But it was Father’s Day and my father wanted to go to the game. You see the Tigers were in town. He wanted to see Mr. Tiger–Al Kaline.

We’d seen him before–in 1961. In that game Roger Maris hit two of his 61 homers. The Tigers lost. But my father kept telling me to watch right field when the Yankees were up. Mr. Al Kaline was playing there for the Tigers. I was 9 years old. Never heard of him. But before the game was over, I’d heard plenty. My father went on and on about how graceful Kaline was in the field, and man, what a great hitter.

So here it was, five years later and Mr. Tiger was in town again. For Father’s Day at Yankee Stadium it was also Bat Day. They gave out real bats back then. It was before the renovation that downsized the capacity at the stadium, so there were 72,000 of us in the sold out house banging our bats on the concrete decks shakin’ the place. I still have the program. Yeah…I wrote all over it.

20200406_193257

Poor Mickey Mantle was on his last legs back then. He hit one in the monuments in deep right center. Al Kaline, playing center that day, ran like hell to catch up with it but the monuments were in play and despite his grace, you can’t win against slabs of stone on the field of play. Still, he grabbed the horsehide as quickly as he could and fired it in. The combination of Kaline’s quick actions and Mantle’s lame knees held him to a triple. My father noted this and noted if Mantle was younger he would have had an inside the park homer, but then thought about it and added, “if the monuments weren’t there, Kaline might have thrown ’em out.”

Al didn’t have the best of days at the plate, however. You can see by my amateurish attempt to keep score. Hard to see. Kaline batted cleanup. He was 1-4, hitting into a double play, popping out twice (that’s what the PO’s mean. I was a kid) and salvaged a double at the end of the game. But the Tigers won on the back of Dick McAuliffe’s bat. The third bagger hit two homers.

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It’s OK. It was a great day at the House That Ruth Built. A ballgame with dad on Father’s Day, a free Bobby Richardson bat and a chance for my father to pay tribute to the guy on the opposing team he’d admired for years.

I had to ask him, though..

“I thought you were a Yankee fan” I said.

“I’m a baseball fan,” he answered. “And Al Kaline is a great baseball player.

RIP Mr. Tiger.

Coronavirus is Bad Enough–Don’t Let Cabin Fever Shut You Down

cabinfeverNo. I don’t have cabin fever. Thank goodness I don’t have any fever and neither do any of my immediate family members….now. One did a week or so ago. That’s done. Again. Very thankful. But cabin fever? Not at all. You shouldn’t have it either, or at least submit to it.

Think about what cabin fever really is. You’re tired of being stuck in the house and can’t go out because of some condition. Unless you’re sick, you shouldn’t have it and I hope you’re not.

You don’t need to succumb to cabin fever because if you’re not sick, there’s no excuse for staying in. You can go outside. Take a walk, take a ride, hop on your bike if you have one..or a boat of some sort. I have a kayak. It’s easy to be socially distant when you’re in the middle of a lake. I doubt I’d be in danger of infecting, or being infected by, a bluegill. Those are all safe things to do if you don’t do them in groups where people are close to each other.

lindenWe’ve started discovering and re-discovering parts of our state by taking rides from 1-3 hours buzzing through localities, cities and towns, sometimes getting out to walk a little if it’s not too crowded. Just yesterday we visited the tiny town of Linden, Mich. Seen it on the map but never in person. On our way into town we happened on a great little loop of a trail at park overlooking a lake. There were  a few people walking, maybe half a dozen. But the trail was long enough for us to space ourselves sufficiently.

In downtown Linden, such as it was, we were able to pull into a small lot close enough to see the water from the Shiawassee River flow over a little dam without getting out of the car.  lindendam

From there we headed east to Fenton. It’s larger than Linden with new restaurants and stores, and it also featured a small park and walkway with a view of Shiawassee River water flowing over a small dam, creating as much of a waterfall as we needed to justify a quick photo and this little video.

It was a little more popular than we thought comfortable so we found refuge in the car and began the 45 minute ride home, going through the historic burg of Holly and assorted scenic rural townships. Holly is best known for the Holly Hotel located in Battle Alley. According to legend, the hotel is haunted and that lore has many firm believers to this day.

HollyHotelProhibitionist Carrie Nation also called Holly home for about six years to wail on the evils of alcohol.

battlealleyantiquesWe visit Holly about once a year even during the best of times. We especially enjoy the Battle Alley antique arcade which is in a rambling old house with wonderful creaking wood floors, three levels of any kind of old stuff you either need, don’t need or just want. Oh, you can always count on a plate of fresh cookies sitting on a shelf along the main, cobblestone aisle..there for the grabbing. The windmill cookies are especially tasty.

We’ve done the route between Holly and home many times before only now we took closer notice since the ride wasn’t the route to an activity, but our activity. 

As you can see, or not see, I haven’t provided any photos of my own except for the Fenton dam. That’s because I was driving most of the time and snapping photos while driving with my knees would probably be more dangerous than the virus. You would think this predicament might spark faster development of autonomous cars. But the real deal is I just wanted to enjoy the ride and sights and talk about them with my family,  taking notice of places we might want to return when it’s safer to get out of the car and explore more thoroughly.

It doesn’t really matter how far you go. A little ride to some place that’s not your driveway or parking space is just the mental break you need to try to maintain some sort of sanity. Besides, gas is cheap right now. Go ahead…filler ‘er up, hit the road, and give your brain a little something more to chew on than a TV or computer screen. Yes..get out of your cabin…and break the fever.

The New “Have a Nice Day”

BATMANNICEDAY“Take it easy!,” “Take Care!,” “Take it Light!,” “Be Well!,” “Rock On!” We love to kind of wish people well at the end of a communication while at the same ordering them to do so. Sometimes people add these little phrases of mandatory good wishes about our health and general well being because they just nice, sincere people. Others just can’t think of more creative ways to end it. I guess it’s better than just stopping short, or writing, “shit, I’m outta bullets…later!”

Earlier today, just passing the time to socially distance myself from doing actual work, I watched an old George Carlin bit on the Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. During his short set Carlin ruminated about people telling him to “have a nice day!” It kind of pissed him off in only the way it could to Carlin. He suggested that perhaps he’d had enough nice days and would be selfish to have any more. Y’know..to leave some nice days for other people.

It got me thinking….

During this awful time we’re in right now almost every communication I’ve received–emails, texts, actual conversations–has ended with “stay safe!” No one bid me to have a nice day, or to take it easy or light or on the chin. One good person wished good health to me and my family…but couldn’t stop there. So..so hard to resist. Yes…the whole thing read, “Health to you and your family my friend……and STAY SAFE!” 

It’s actually an appreciated imperative because, I have to admit, I get careless at times and touch my face or forget to wash my hands as thoroughly as I should, or get tempted to sneeze on the person in the produce section of the supermarket who decided it would be a good thing to squeeze every freaking cantaloupe leaving his viral detritus for the rest of us to host…then die..or at least feel really crappy.

Of course, being a native neurotic New Yorker, 55 years removed from my Bar Mitzvah, I must, must think of the down side. Hmm..that well-meaning person bid me to stay safe. What if I wasn’t safe in the first place? That would make the whole thing irrelevant, or at least presumptuous. Should the proper order of safety admonition be, “Get safe!” then the next time you communicate with the person, you give him or her the benefit of the doubt that they did so, then offer some support with “Stay safe!” 

What if the person you choose to help survive the pandemic is a safety scofflaw? Ending things with “stay safe!” is a waste of effort since you know they’re gonna blow you off and act like a contagious schmuck. But realistically, you can’t get into a whole give-and-take about whether the person is, or wants to be, safe since you’re just trying to end the damn email so you can move on to binging Ozark.

Still, I like that we’re at least showing concern for our fellow human beings as we all try to avoid being infected with, or spreading, coronavirus.

Well..that’s all I have to say on subject, for now. Can’t think of a snappy ending. So..um…”Get Safe, Stay there… and then HAVE A NICE DAY!”

The Coronavirus Kick in the Ass

man in yellow protective suit holding a newspaper

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It may not seem so right now, but on the other side of this pandemic some things will have changed that perhaps should have happened long ago. I conveniently created a short list:

1-The necessity of “going to the office” has been severely challenged. I’ve always looked at offices as petri dishes of cultural bacteria, fomenting time-wasting meetings, gossip, jealousies, clock-watching and commutes that contribute to harmful emissions, wasteful and costly fuel consumption and misuse of valuable time.

Oh sure, there’s the notion of team camaraderie and collaboration, but that can be accomplished much more efficiently and conveniently without forcing employees to spend their days tied to an assigned workspace where they’re sitting ducks for all manner of productivity-sucking distractions. Scheduling regular in-person meet-ups may be sufficient to satisfy the need for a little person-to-person contact and relationship/team building. Working remotely doesn’t mean permanent exile!

Telecommuting isn’t new, of course, however, many companies offer this option as a favor or reward to precious few employees. The fact is, given today’s technology, you can perform almost any task, conduct meetings that include graphics and video and collaborate on projects from any place on Earth with decent web or mobile connectivity.

Now that so many office workers have been forced to do their jobs remotely, a lot of them are finding they’re more productive, less stressed, can manage their time better, saving money on gas and are enjoying a better quality of life. I’m betting that once this crisis is over, bosses should be ready to field a ton of requests to keep working from home, or Starbucks at least most of the time, and it’s about time more office inmates had that option.

Of course…some folks love going to the office to either get away from the house for awhile or just to be with other adults or for the free coffee or whatever. That’s great if it works for you. Here’s hoping businesses that did not previously offer the option of telecommuting will see positive outcomes during this time and make it more available to appreciative employees.

2-Car dealers that rely so much on showroom foot traffic have been forced to rethink its importance as we practice social distancing to help kill off the spread of coronavirus. Who doesn’t dread spending 2,3,4 hours at a dealership from the time you choose your new ride to sitting at the sales person’s little desk, haggling over the price, then pivoting to the finance person’s star chamber where they try to foist extended warrantees, safety and security plans or a dizzying number of finance options. My wife and I excel at this process. We walk in and tell the person, “we’ll make it easy on you. No to everything.” The last guy we did that too just sagged his shoulders while he surrendered saying, “it’s just not gonna be my day.” That was some time into our third or fourth hour.

But now dealers have learned that online vehicle marketplaces are catering to exactly what many consumers want. Do it all online, quickly. To deal with the need to socially distance, a lot of brick and mortar dealers are offering home or office vehicle deliveries, online document signing and even virtual test drives where a “concierge” will give you a tour of the vehicle via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WebEx, etc. My friends at DriveShift.comwill even have the concierge start the engine so the customer can give it a listen. It’s true, nothing beats a physical test drive and the chance to literally kick the tires, but for some customers, expediency carries the day.

Yes, many dealers have had a long time online presence but not all have made it possible to complete the entire process without a showroom visit. As George Augustaitis, one of my trusted sources of prescient auto industry analysis at CarGurus.com told me the other day for my Forbes.com story, “To me, dealers should be thinking about relationship building, where if you’re online and you have a staff that can answer emails, text messages. I think a lot of this is about producing content. People can watch at home, answering questions online. When people feel like they’re ready to buy their car they’re going to reflect upon the fact that over these many weeks the dealer is always answering my questions, sending me videos, doing these things so I can do my research.”

So that’s just one example. The pandemic has spurred scores of other businesses that have never been involved in e-commerce to jump in and are offering the convenience of remote ordering and delivery which are especially helpful for shut-ins, disabled folks and others who are just really busy or don’t have personal transportation.

3-The whole concept of “social distancing” is one we should have been practicing to some extent anyway. Giving others some space–enough space so whatever nasty stuff is in your cough or sneeze is deprived a landing pad on someone else’s epidermis, is not only smart, but considerate. Honestly, I hate it when I’m in line at the supermarket checkout and the person behind me insists on getting close enough to read the fine print on the booze bottles in my cart to the point where they comment, “Oh yeah..Makers Mark..love the stuff. Just had it for breakfast!” Back off! That’s my lunch you’re talking about..achoo! Got ya.

4-Much of the world has given up on using cash for even the smallest transactions and because of the danger of touching bills that may have been handled by hundreds or thousands of others, the use of credit and debit cards for in-person purchases has increased. That way, you’re the only one who has to handle your method of payment. For those of us codgers who still carry folding money and change, that’s something going into the memory bank as we make the transition. I was dragging my feet. The virus helped me pick up the pace. Perhaps it will do the same for the more of us who still like the feel of cold cash but not the bacterial loot it harbors.

5-This final one is probably the most important. I see more concern between human beings about each other’s welfare. Not just friends and family, but co-workers, acquaintances, even those with whom you have casual contact asking how we’re feeling, and parting with the words, “be safe,” or “stay safe.” I see a degree of unselfishness that’s so heartening. If you browse posts on the Nextdoor app, you will see quite a number of posts where folks volunteer to go to the store, do a little yard work or perform other errands and services for those in tough spots…for free, in many cases. We’ve gotta keep this going even after the worst is over.

So those are just a very few examples of how this terrible time we’re in right now has kickstarted some positive actions and behaviors that should have been in wider practice all along. I bet you can think of others. I’d love to hear about them. 

Why You May Never Want To Return To The Office

eddesk0321It’s been almost four years since I walked out of my last full-time job a free man into what’s become semi-retirement and a life of doing what little work I do, in my home office.

I want to warn many of you who are now working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic…you may not want to return to your offices.

Before I retired in 2016 I worked from my own glass-enclosed, private office. I didn’t like it, but in the idiotic way some corporations operate, your workspace reflected your “band level” AKA, if you’re standing in the payroll/title hierarchy. When I got promoted to a level that “awarded” you an enclosed office, I asked to remain in my spacious, but open, workspace because such perks seemed stupid and also cut me off from my team. I asked if I had committed a felony, warranting my confinement to a 12×12 cell. HR said if I didn’t move it would “send the wrong message.” Company politics being what it is, several people were actually jealous of me and said nasty stuff about me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I spent my final three years before retirement in that office and hated every minute of it. So I would constantly get up, walk around, touch base in person with my teammates. When another glass office denizen would pop by congratulating me on “finally getting the glass office you deserve,” I thanked them and expressed my anticipation of one day being paroled, which in all their shallowness, they did not understand at all.

Now that I’ve been working from home in my very comfortable workspace..I don’t call it an office..I get more done in a day than what I accomplished in my old office in a week. For one, there are none of the dreaded “got a minute” drop-bys. You know how that goes. “Got a minute,” really means I’m bored and I’d like to waste as much of your time as possible to avoid going back to my desk and doing actual work. Many minutes later your plan for the day is blown so you may as well get up, get some coffee, take a walk, or retreat into a zen state in order to purge yourself of thoughts of committing that felony.

One day, in answer to “got a minute?” I replied that I didn’t. No problem. The annoying inquirer had his rejoinder locked and loaded. “Oh..it’ll take less than that!” Bullshit. Sigh.

Other aspects of the office life I don’t miss are random comments you can’t unhear even  with a closed door. Examples include: “This fuckin’ printer doesn’t work!,” “This coffee tastes like burnt jerky!” “Bob sucks!” “Just like you,” “The boss has his head up his ass,” “I wish 5 o’clock came at noon.”

Then there are the endless meeting invites. When you work remotely, you can call in, put your phone on mute, do other, more productive, things while someone blathers and then chime in when appropriate or called upon. You can also make faces as an immature, but satisfying demonstration of your opinion of the proceedings.

I do enjoy popping into the office about once a week for an hour or two at one of my fun freelance gigs. Great people who are fun, smart and talented. We see enough of each other to cement our bonds, I appreciate the chance to get to know the staff on a more personal level and they quickly understand I have what I would describe as a “very limited” wardrobe with some items probably older than many of my colleagues. 

Then I hit the freeway for the 25 mile drive home, and retreat to my cozy, personal workspace where the only ambient conversations I may hear are “Dinner’s burning!” or “The Jones’s schnauzer shit on our lawn again!” It’s so suburban. So natural. Then I get back to work, unimpeded, un-interrupted until my wife ventures down to my subterranean refuge, stops at the door and asks, “got a minute?”