The other day a Washington Post writer wrote a a modern history of epidemic/pandemic events in the US and wove into it how the economy was hit and handled by the government. She invoked the term Hoovervilles, the name people gave to their small and medium towns that became ghost towns during the Great Depression because of Hoover’s lack of understanding and ability to handle what was happening around the world and around the country.
Switch with me now to my hometown, Boca Raton, Fl. One of the wealthiest communities in Florida and in fact in the country, “Boca” as it is known, will never be Hooverville. But appearances can be deceiving. I broke our self-imposed stay at home yesterday because we needed food. It was Tuesday and typically roads would be crammed enough to cause frequent cursing and head-shaking at the snow-birds by us who live here. There was so little traffic that the cars seemed to be self-distancing.
So it was at the store. We hear so much about panic-buying. This supermarket had been panic-bought. While I was wearing gloves and prepared to calculate my distances, I found the store, at 11 am, sparsely populated. Maybe that’s because the shelves were too. The night before I heard a plea by a trucker. She said, “Don’t panic people! Buy just what you need. The trucks are coming. The trucks are coming.” Well probably so, but not yesterday. Forget toilet paper but I had no expectations. Someone posted on Facebook, “If you need 14 rolls of toilet paper for two weeks then you needed a doctor anyway.” A whole, very long aisle of empty shelves sat below the sign that said, “paper goods.” There were however no goods made of paper at all unless the paper was a box holding something. Paper towels, even napkins–gone.
The area for cereal looked like whole patches had been swept clean. The cereal section had been raped. What remained was one box of this over here, three boxes of that over there, and so on. Even the more expensive organic brands and upscale granolas–gone. Oddly enough there were plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and more surprisingly no one was buying wine, those shelves were straight as marching soldiers. Beer? A totally different story. There was almost as little beer as there was bottled water.
With let’s say within 15 miles of Boca, there are countless supermarkets, a fistful of big box stores, and scores of 7-ll’s and their cousins. If one has patience and gasoline enough sustenance will be found. And since I bought gas for $1.98 the other day, gas is not much of a problem. So what’s the problem, other than that this is a pain in the neck? The problem is there are more places less like Boca Raton than there are like it.
If you are foolish and decided that the scientists and poopy pessimists are a pain and you’d rather listen to Dr. Donald Trump, you can stop here. If not, then you know, or should know that the virus is in every state. It has infected Nantucket Island, 30 miles out in the North Atlantic from the coast of Boston. Nantucket has one hospital with 12 beds and three respirators. You also know that the virus is right on the heels of those people who are fleeing to the small towns in the mountains of those states that have mountains and the small towns that dot much of our landscape in New England, the Mid-West, the Southwest, and the Northwest. Some have only regional hospitals, all have too few doctors, none have enough critical care equipment. The virus, like some unstoppable zombie is coming–on people’s clothing, in the air, on the supply trucks, attached to sneezed-on and sloppily disposed of tissues. It’s even looking up at you from the cement on which you are walking. Very Stephen King-like, no?
Now we come to Trump-towns. In thirty miles they have maybe one or two grocery stores in town. Most probably they have ole Doc Smith who went to medical school in the 1930’s and has delivered almost all the people who live in town but not dealt with too much else. Ventilators? You mean fans? “We got those. Table and Ceilin’ too” These towns, with all the businesses shut except pharmacies, if they have one in town, and grocery stores (in fact Walmart some 10=15 miles away has put the end to most all the “mom and pops,” will either whither on the vine and die, or just die–literally. But it’s to the disproportionally elderly of country and farming towns we should salute Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of Texas who said flip the economic switch, let folks go work (the President said we can find ways to social distance at the office), and die with me because if my choice is the economy or me, I’m giving myself up for the sake of the country. My mother, she of salty tongue, called people like that “horses’ patoots” except she didn’t use the word patoot.”
Gov. Cuomo who citizens are beginning to drop like flies said in a rage, “My grandmother is not expendable!” Why do Asian cultures, first nation people’s cultures, Mediterranean cultures revere and protect their elderly? Because they are the vital highways that transport the oral history of the family, the race, the tribe, the culture to the next generation. Without them we’re an emotionless people linked to our past and future by Ancestry.Com. That’s why Gov. Cuomo is right-at least from my perspective.
Not yet sick or batty, Bill Gralnick is still holding forth most Sundays right here with his perspective, sometimes warped, on persons, places, and things. Because all his speaking engagements are canceled and Zoom is a great learning tool but lousy sales tool, he appeals to all to pick a copy of his most recent book, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn.” It is a humorous, memory provoking memoir and wonderful to be cooped up with. E-book or paperback. His website williamgralnickauthor.com will get you what you want plus a lot of neat “extras.”
Try it. You’ll like it.