COVID Affect: Up a creek without a paddle
Stuck inside a pandemic at a moment when the monolith south of the border is dominated by a fascist, it is sometimes hard to focus on the view up close – the provincial politics that undermine our well-being, the city politics that juggle a budget vulnerable to COVID effects, and a vengeful governing provincial party that hates our progressive voting patterns.
Life here at latitude 53 during a pandemic sometimes feels like being up a creek without a paddle. The provincial government is managed by the high school classmates in the back row who slummed it through their lessons. Cruel ideologues, they are devoid of ideas as they latch onto outmoded economic models. While the province convulses in a second wave of the virus, Jason Kenney’s UCP fire 11,000 workers from hospitals and schools, feed the gluttonous corporations billions who give little in return. (I won’t flesh this out with statistics about how almost half the doctors in the province want to leave because the government likes to alienate the experts. Not to mention teachers and professors whose institutional lives have been flattened by the UCP. Meanwhile, the UCP appears to be cultivating an unemployed lumpen proletariat and attacking anyone who knows anything about anything.
Sometimes it is hard to sleep.
Our dreams sometimes clarify. A recent reverie suggests that I’m in need of a makeover beginning with my ears. In the middle of the night, I awaken in the middle of a nocturnal novel. I am in the hospital with a respiratory illness where I decide to leave Alberta because Jason Kenney’s regime will kill me.
And as though providing me with a punk talisman of support, the facebook ad that pops up as peer at my screen in the 4am dark tries to sell me this: “Sterling silver piercing with tiny bee – cartilage earring – helix piercing – helix earring – tragus – conch – rook – 20g, 18g or 16g.”
It is getting worser and worser. At the November 3 twice-weekly COVID morning update Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam outlined how our masks should now be 3-ply including a fabric with fibres that will trap COVID when we are together inside this winter. Cotton fibres are regular and something but she recommends ironing on interface familiar to those of us who sew. The fibres are less regular and the third layer will catch more of the tiny droplets and aerosol generated COVID baddies. I found my iron buried in the bottom of the basement cupboard. Ironing is my lost art.
Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, is social isolating because the federal COVID ALERT app alerted her that she had been near someone with COVID-19. That doesn’t happen here in Alberta. The alert or the app. We are restricted to a faulty provincial app that doesn’t guarantee privacy like the federal one. So the public is undersubscribing. Why is the federal COVID ALERT app forbidden in Alberta — because Jason Kenney’s UCP doesn’t like Justin Trudeau. Calgary Mayor Nenshi objects to the “politicization of public health.” Will Jason Kenney’s party and a personal vendetta cost Albertans their health and well-being?
I can barely write about politics without spitting. (But still smiling.)
Meanwhile the COVID-19 stats are rising in Edmonton, my hometown. Disastrous Alberta COVID numbers are accelerating at 500 a day. We are competing with Ontario at per capita numbers. And the province does very little about it. The health measures are inadequate. No mandatory indoor masks province-wide. No strictly restricted social gatherings. No effective diminuation of “bubbles.” No uniform compliance with mandatory masks in stores. No closure of bars or indoor restaurants.
Our poor maligned mild-mannered Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Doom Hinshaw mouths niceties and doesn’t challenge the status quo. And perhaps that soothes. She doesn’t assert herself or object to the provincial policies established by Jason Kenney’s UPC. I am reminded she is a government employee and is at their beck and call of Kenney. But a friend asks, when does her medical commitment to DO NO HARM, her commitment to the Hippocratic oath, make her job untenable from time to time. …Should she resign?
When an Alberta organization of ultra-right Harperites challenge public health pandemic measures on the bases of Canada’s Charter of Rights, the narcissism demonstrates how COVID-19 spreads. MY individual rights matter more than the collective good.
Rather than Premier Kenney responding to this, he leaves it to Dr. Hinshaw.
Globe & Mail columnist Gary Mason describes the scenario:
“It wasn’t long after Alberta’s chief medical officer introduced new restrictions in response to an alarming rise in COVID-19 case numbers that freedom fighters in the province were protesting the terrible infringement on their liberties.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said that Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s directive to keep gatherings to 15 people or less was another violation of the public’s Charter-protected freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.
“This order is not properly grounded in relevant considerations such as deaths, hospitalizations and ICU capacity,” said a news release from the centre, “and is therefore not a justifiable violation of fundamental Charter freedoms.”
Of course, the fine people at the justice centre would know much more about the trajectory of the virus and what it could mean to the capacity of hospitals to handle a massive second wave of the virus than, say, Dr. Hinshaw, who has years of experience in public health. How dare she attempt to fulfil her mandate to protect the health of people living in Alberta!
The fact is, Dr. Hinshaw had every right to issue the order she did. Alberta is facing a surge in cases, which has forced hospitals to shut down elective services because of the number of COVID-19 cases they are handling. The community spread of the virus has also affected health care workers; they’ve become infected, and that has had a corollary effect on staffing levels at many of these same hospitals.
The statement from Alberta’s justice centre is so irresponsible – so terribly blinkered – that it’s hard to believe. But then, maybe it isn’t. It certainly reflects an attitude that exists in our society. While I believe it lives among a minority of people, that’s all it takes to create many of the problems we are witnessing today.”
U.S. turmoil too early to call! Biden 220 / Trump 213
(11:26 MST, 3 Nov – 12:11 MST 4 Nov)
Meanwhile I’m freaking out. Trump in the U.S. — How to survive the U.S. election? Altered state of consciousness required. Take an excellent walk along the river for lunch with a friend. Drink from a gifted bottle of excellent rose. (From my friend at the wonderful neighbourhood wine store Color de Vino.) Solo. Although I planned to spend the evening with a friend, I am too freaked out to be good company. I am hoping for a Biden/Harris win but the excruciating complications and close calls are hair-raising. (And I don’t imagine that a win will necessarily be resolved in the next few hours or that winning will resolve the deadly divisions in the U.S. The sad fact of Trumpism and all that informs it will endure. And the future of a Biden presidency should it emerge is not clear. How will he and Kamala Harris tack?
12:30 -12:45 Nov 4: Biden 206 / Trump 136
1:03 Nov 4 Biden 220 / Trump 213
While the news station breaks in to Trump’s announcement that he has won the election including Pennsylvania and other statesand there is a gigantic fraud that is plotting to steal his victory, the New York Times publishes their front page that announces suspenseful uncertainty about the outcome. (Meanwhile MSNBC and the Democrats imagine they have a very good opportunity of winning this election. For instance, two million ballots in Pennsylvania have not been counted yet and they are disproportionately mail-in ballots that tend to be Democrat. And legal journalist Ari Melber announces it is “completely horrific for democracy” when the president of the United States announces that the votes must be stopped in the midst of counting them as happened during Trump’s speech.
Everyday Walking as Pilgrimage
So I go for long walks. Last week we walked 9.5k …over to the Muttart from Mill Creek Ravine, then east along a rough trail at the edge of the North Saskatchewan to the Dawson Bridge, then a walk west in Riverdale towards the outdoor dining area of the Little Brick Cafe for a delicious grilled cheese (garlic aioli and three cheeses including ricotta) along with a latte with a dash of Bailey’s added to it. We were so stunned to be out dining in the chill sunshine that the thought of a mid-afternoon hot toddy of sorts was too good to resist. Then the relaxed gait of a hike home across the low level bridge over the North Saskatchewan River. That is a great walk with or without the snack and drink, though the latter helped.
Another day I walk along the north side of the river past the hoodoos with Helen. And the weather is so unseasonably warm (following a week of deep freeze), everyone we encounter is giddy with good cheer. People call out how beautiful the day is, their smiles a welcome balm.
And on a three-times a week morning walk across the river or around the ravine, I look forward to the 1955 blue door of the No. 2 Pumping Station – an entrance into somewhere I will never go.
One day on a regular afternoon walk in Mill Creek with my neighbour Maarten and his poodle Annie, we meet a man with a metal detector sleuthing through the bush in the deep V of the ravine. Eager to talk about his discoveries over the last week, he gestures in a forearm’s arc that he is thrilled to have found a sprinkling of 1910 and 1915 silver coins. He wonders if they fell from the pockets of people watching the steam train that once chugged up the ridge. My imagination turns novelistic and I wonder whether the coins Or were there lovers secreting themselves in the woods who lost their fare in the undergrowth hidden until now?
Walking during COVID is a kind of pilgrimage. I leave the house in a state of mental somnambulism, anticipating nothing. By the time I cross the river, my reflections have soared from the depths to something approaching anticipation – a sensation that imagines a future not sunk in COVID tedium or despair. Mid-walk something new emerges. A Ted Blodget poem on a river promenade lamppost. A cafe with tables scatters around the lawn amid grateful strangers and gas heaters and fires.
This morning on my walk with Carla along the river, we headed straight across the river and back – eight kilometres and the equivalent of twenty-nine floors climbed. Those steps and hills are steep. At the apex of the longest, I bend across the handrail my head between my hands. Not dead yet! A beautiful balmy day. Temperature same as Barcelona! What a fabulous gift after a week of very wintery weather.
A man at the next table with a sticker reading “Visitor” – a fact that makes me imagine I’m in an asylum not The Brick Cafe. Or maybe a tubercular clinic as in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. Mann writes: “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”
Aside from walking during the day with my poodle and friends, and a friendly vibrator at night, what gives me pleasure these days is food glorious food. Cooking and reading about food. Watching excellent cooks cook in the videos that proliferate in private kitchens on my digital screen. I find myself swooning over short lessons in small feasts that give me a sense of what it is to share a proliferation of communal meals. A possible world that escapes me at this time.
But I do meet up with a few people. Several weeks ago, I made dinner for two dear friends who are in my “companionate collective” – my alternative phrase for “the bubble.” We dined on salmon and Arctic char and a hearty coconut cauliflower chick pea yellow curry and rice. Kim brought a sublime bottle of wine and excellent ice cream. Nathalie, the birthday girl brought a bottle of French bubbly crement from the Loire Valley near where she grew up.
Warm Potato Salad au Jacques Pepin
Though my daughter lives over the Rocky Mountains, I made her lunch one day and imagined I shared it with her – at a distance. This is a rehearsal of the day in the future when she can visit for a meal.
- Potatoes (3 large or the equivalent small)
- Fresh coriander
- Maiyongrette (see below)
Shake in a jar:
- 2 tablespoons mayonaisse
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons / 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
Boil potatoes (3 large or the equivalent small) – 30 minutes for large and less for small. When a knife easily pierces them through, cut into chunks. You may peel them first if you like. While the potatoes are cooking, coarsely chop watercress and coriander and scallions — a good handful of each.