No Holds Barred: Fear and Loathing, continued …

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Let’s stop talking about “getting back” or in some cases the final announcement of “We’re Back” — or how about the selfish mantra of “I want my life back.” Back to what exactly? This isn’t the “new normal” anymore. No one can predict this landscape or choreography with or without a mask.

Looking for escape? Sports has become far too political for those of us exhausted by continually “taking sides.”  The Tokyo Olympics is making us all feel more fearful and cautious, not jubilant — which is a slight improvement from last summer’s “fear and loathing” (thank you Hunter Thompson for giving us that famous line. Where are you now that we need you?).

There is no real old “normal” distraction that works. Movie theaters are not cutting it, shopping (other than online explosion) is now flatlining from the stimulus surge of May and June. Post-vax celebration spending is stalling along with the vax movement.

Taking off with a giant back pack no less!

Actually, I am fascinated by the giant rise of all the brazen shoplifting. Have you seen the footage of California’s T.J. Maxx and Neiman’s getting hit with gangs of guys sashaying in and out of storefront doors with armloads of jeans and tons of handbags in huge over-the-shoulder bags? Now this is spreading to other cities to the tune of $453,000 in steals per billion in sales. Maybe designers should make a whole “shoplift line” since it is fast becoming the biggest and only retail trend.

And frankly, though dining out in all those cute street “Covid cabanas” has filled the time and given us hope, how much foodie togetherness can we stand? Dining out isn’t a “great escape.” It just gets us all “out of the house” which seems to be the remedy for everyone at the moment.

But the backstory on the return of restaurants is that now food supplies are costly, staffing is down, and customer rudeness is high.  Servers are busting their butts while customers feel the pandemic is over and service should be back to normal … with a smile. Why should they be? In spite of all the wages and supply shortages, many of the “my life is back” patrons are hideously less patient (everyone should be over tipping in a time like this … not many are).

Hotels are getting hit with the same problem. Higher daily rates, no service (or it’s an extra charge) and room service as abandoned as a haunted house. Welcome to the new hospitality business. And it may be here to stay. Housekeeping and wait staff just don’t want to return.

I have a stewardess friend who told me she just flew (and quarantined) to Sydney, Australia. Flights are cut back, lines are longer, and inflight sanitation is now back to pre-Covid levels. Of course, travelers are rude and wearing a mask for 26 hours is a bitch! What is “new” or “normal” here??

In fact, short tempers and entitlement is higher now than in pre-Covid. Wouldn’t you think after being isolated for 18 months we would return kinder and gentler?

It seems there is more anxiety with people now struggling with “cave syndrome.” A lot of people don’t feel all that free about jumping back into a social whirl, even fully vaccinated at a Bruce Springsteen concert or Shakespeare in the Park performance. The mixed mask messaging has plunged us back into a new edginess about indoor? Outdoor? Delta Variants? On and on …

Some of us don’t feel the FOMO anymore. Instagram photos of people arm in arm with others on yachts, barbecues, or Karaoke bars reeks of a giant “ick” factor. Socializing now is all about getting the vaccine.

Back to this!!

Personally, if I hear one more person tell me, “but you are Pfizer vaccinated! You are immune and will not end up on a ventilator or dead in a hospital.” True, but here’s what I can end up with; long-haul heart symptoms and severe neurological heart problems, not to mention brain fog that can be permanent! Covid and Delta and Lambda and all the other “morph” viruses are NOT THE COMMON FLU!

And though most scientists have been helpful, in the end nobody knows for sure what lies ahead. Even Dr. Fauci is struggling in a wobbling fall from grace lately. Who knows, maybe he will take one for the team and leave his post to become a talking head on CNN?  Nothing is sacred of late!

But one thing is for sure, viruses seem to be here to stay, so let’s talk about “bubbles.” Nowadays, everyone is living in their own bubble — whether it’s on a deluxe RV trip to the Rockies, a Hampton charity party circuit, Palm beach art openings, or in your own modest living room with your dog!!  Just remember, bubbles were meant to burst!!  Maybe the kids going back to school will reform the “bubble headed” syndrome once and for all.

Lately I have started to stock up on Lysol wipes and toilet paper again. I even had a minor freak-out at my gas pump (now $3.40 a gallon) when I forgot to sanitize my hands. Remember that old heart stopper? It might be making a big lifestyle return visit.

In fact, some pundits have suggested we should have a TV virus network that reports daily hotspots and infection rates; the way we have weather and traffic services. Perhaps weather could be our happy escape? It’s coming.

Last week my state of Arizona went from the Summer of the Big Scorch (June and July — 115 degrees) to the Monsoon’s Big Sog. We experienced a 10-day run of late afternoon monsoon storms, and then four days of non-stop rain mixed with off and on deluges (1.4 inches/day). In my 32 years of living in Scottsdale, I’ve never experienced so much lightning and thunder during the day. Golfers (many who would play in 118-degree heat) were drowned out as were all the normally happily dehydrated hikers and bikers. Many poor dogs had to deal with taking Trazodone or wearing thunder jackets for the first time.

My backyard mountain before deluge.
My backyard mountain in the deluge.
Torrential rain puddle.

But let’s get one thing straight — our summers are notoriously hot and fired up. This one is no different. We did all pray for a decent monsoon season since we haven’t had a real one in many years. Our prayers were answered. Climate change? Sure. But no one is actually feeling sorrowful or complaining here, in spite of the flood damage. We were saved with this torrent. Our reservoirs needed it! Fires have subsided.

So, let’s stop thinking “it’s over.” It isn’t. It may not be for a long time. I remember the t-shirts of a year ago “Covid free in ’23.” Then last week I saw “Covid no more in ’24.”

Let’s cut to the chase: the reality is “Masks are a Given for Livin’.”


COVID piñata morphing to Delta in the rain.

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