Opinion: Musings on the Coast

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A Personal Virus and Fire Report

My three adult children are spread around the country: NYC, L.A. and D.C.  What is happening to each offers a snapshot of what is happening around the country.

My oldest, Elizabeth, lives on the upper West Side of NYC, only a half block from Central Park in a great apartment (by NYC standards) she snagged on the second floor of a brownstone—lucky her.

She had been working for a small “sustainable” technology company, but temporarily moved to my place in Palm Springs when the virus was out of control in NYC. She was there for about three months, returned when the virus was under control, and now calls me stating, “Ha, Ha, we locked down tight and now it is almost normal, Ha, Ha.” 

When she first returned to NYC in August, she told me, “All the white people are gone.”

“You mean the rich people.”

“Well, then, all white people must be rich.”   

This changed after Labor Day. Many of the midtown skyscrapers reopened and the young (white) people slowly are resuming in-person work. The older white folks still are quarantining outside the city; and yes, I know this seems racist, and it is, but the NYC snapshot is accurate.

In the meantime, she and her friends are worried about cold weather. Their lives will go indoors again, and into high virus risk.  When will it hit again? November? January?    

My L.A. daughter, Gabby, lives in Highland Park.  It is a suburb halfway between downtown L.A. and Pasadena. It had been gentrifying rather quickly, but the virus wrecked most of the new small retail businesses on the main drags. Many never will reopen.

Her house is medium sized with many people living there—all social distancing and masking like crazy because so many of their friends and relatives have caught the virus, and several have died.

Lately, the L.A. skies have been blood red-brown and the air filthy from the firestorms destroying the west coast. It looks like Armageddon. The hills behind Highland Park are covered in brush and other combustibles and are less than a half-mile away. This scares her. She told me it reminds her of the hillsides of Laguna. If you look at them, you see houses,  yes, but mostly you see trees, brush and other combustibles that could fuel a firestorm right here—just like the giant fire of 1993 when in one day, 366 homes and 17,000 acres of Laguna Beach burned to the ground. 

My son, Harrison, lives in D.C. with his girlfriend, Oscher, who is a med student at Georgetown. In March, they both caught COVID-19 and went down hard. Oscher lost her sense of taste and smell and it lingered long after she recovered. At med school, she now is in the part of her education where she follows doctors around on Grand Rounds, and it is a social-distancing nightmare. 

Harrison works for a company that fact-checks TV news broadcasts. His specific job is fact-checking (for total accuracy) the fact checkers. This means during his eight-hour workday, he fast-forwards about 15 hours of news shows, stopping where the first fact-checker had indicated, and double checks for accuracy. He says it is not as boring as it would seem, but also depressing: TV news is inundated with so many lies no one can keep up. 

Outside, he says it seems normal. The business of the town goes on remotely. The local restaurants are open. People are friendly. But DC is a nervous spot right now. 

He too, is worried about cold weather and another outbreak. When?

There it is, a fact check from around the country. None of it is pretty.

Michael is a Co-Founder of Orange County School of The Arts and The Discovery Cube.

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