Pathogen Picnic Days

March 13. Covid-19 “pandemic”. People are nuts. You can’t get a roll of toilet tissue in this town now. Shelves are empty. What the hell do they plan to do with it? Eat it?

March 16. I’d say most people are looking forward to this pandemic dealy being over soon but no expert can be found who will predict that. It’s like the world is learning to ride some weird new bicycle. It’s never been done by the world so it’s something new that it’s learning. There’ll be a mishap or two before the world gets up on that bike and rides.
We scored two 12 roll packs of toilet tissue at the Shopper’s Drug Mart on Dunbar Street. We’re living large. We’ve defeated the hoarders and closed all the borders. I feel a song coming on.

March 18. Things keep getting stupider. What’s closing next? Booze stores? What an unimaginable catastrophe that would be for the drinking classes. I’m telling you, friend, this whole thing is unprecedented in my long event filled life. Something like this happens and you feel pretty small.

March 19. Businesses are closed, banks. We can take out at coffee shops but can’t lounge around inside. We’re all right. I drove out for an hour late morning on deserted streets. Things have a small town feel to them. Let’s work together and keep it that way. Danger equals opportunity, I just don’t know how. Things are decidedly “in an abundance of caution.” International travel is shutting down. We’re not shutting down. We’re open for business. Fly with us. It all comes back to we’re human. We’re vulnerable. We’re living organisms subject to the whims of pathogens. Pathogens. They make a cool sound. Ladies and gentleman—The Pathogens!
The provincial Health Minister and Provincial Health Officer are giving daily briefings at 3 p.m. So for today there are 40 new confirmed cases in British Columbia to bring the total to 271 with one additional death to bring the total to 10. 22 cases are on Vancouver Island.

March 21, 2020. BC cases are at 424. More testing is being done so the number spikes. Track down and shoot the Pathogens on sight. It’s the strange general uncertainty we feel and a kind of bewildered, but not overly bewildered, we’ll save that for later, but amazed, thoroughly amazed feeling at how amazingly fast, how quickly this strange situation has hit. It’s all come down in one week. This is science fiction year. I predicted it, right? Not right. I’ve just spent the entire afternoon scanning newspaper sites. Shame on me. It’s 5 p.m.IMG_6092

March 22. “We are seeing some unsettling images in our corridor in regards to the lack of social distancing and measures to #FlattenTheCurve of COVID-19. We can only watch with extensive concern for our communities health and safety,” the RCMP tweeted along with photos of packed parking lots at Stawamus Chief Park.” Vancouver Sun.

March 23. We straggle on. “Self-isolating” today. New concept. “Social distancing.” Tomorrow, we go out. We’ll meet any challenge. But today we self-isolate. It’s fun to cooperate. This is the second time in four days we’ve done this so we’re doing our part as the prime minister has requested I think it was yesterday? Time blurs in self isolation. I mean all the time.
I just want to reassure people out there that Santa Claus will pull through. ICU is just a way station to a better life upstairs in the chapel on the second floor. Says “Hi.”

March 24. Day after dreary day of this Covid thing. And all we hear is it’s only the beginning. It can’t be because a great number of people are in process of going broke fast. Not us, fortunately, just yet, but many are feeling the financial squeeze starting. It’s not good. Not pleasant. Been there done that. Overrated as to an experience.
The provincial health officer doing her daily 3 p.m. (except Sundays) briefing. 145 new cases in the last 24 hours to bring the total to 617. The number for the country is around 2500, three times what it was four days ago. This is the bizarre-ist thing.
I look at people askance now as to whether or not they might have the plague. I’m far from the only one. There’s vastly fewer people about and plenty of parking on usually heavily car-ed main streets. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing during this outbreak and wasting a lot less time looking for parking. So that’s good.IMG_3328

March 25. I’m not even writing grocery lists on my hand anymore. I’ve gone to paper. Things feel a bit cuckoo. That’s a euphemism for another word that can’t be here because it’s been quarantined. Like those cruise ships. “It’s Pathogen Picnic Days brought to you by Carnival®. Today’s major events include our “Haven’t a Hope or a Prayer” barbecue starting at high noon right after the coffin races.”

March 26, 2020. Covid capers past half a million as of today with the mighty United States coming out of nowhere to rocket into the country lead at something over 80,000 cases, surpassing former top dog the People’s Republic of China. Our country has cruised into the 4300 range and showing no signs of not going higher. There’s just no quit in us.
There were very few people on the False Creek seawall in wet conditions as I proceeded further east. What would happen if False creek turned out actually to be true? And all these years everybody was wrong?  That there’s nothing false about it.  Strangers were dutifully keeping their interval and there was plenty of room to give almost everybody passing by me a wide berth as per the prescription.

March 27. The world is heading for 600,000 confirmed cases and Canada is at 4700 or so. 5:30 p.m. Rain and the wetness rain brings. Things are quiet. Nice and quiet. We think our rat or rats have finally exterminated themselves on our service providers tasty poison in the black plastic lockable box. We had to get him back because the initial stuff didn’t taste good enough, I guess. It’s good to see them gone. They were digging up and devouring the spring bulbs my roof deck gardener had planted, some of them last winter. Disgraceful little pests. Shame on them. They paid a heavy price for their misdeeds.

March 28. The world has bucketed up past 660,000 confirmed cases and Canada, no slouch, is pushing up towards 6000. The United States is comfortably in the country lead with near 123,000 confirmed cases. Their sad president disgraces himself every day but it seems not a lot can be done about that. He’s a true sociopath although I’m not an expert. He’s telling state governors they better speak nice to him or no help from DC with the efforts they’re making. He’s such a hateful goof-ball. May the Lord God Goofy strike him down in his iniquity.

March 29. World cases 716,000, U.S. 137,000, Canada 6200. Nice day around here, Sunday now. Cool, and a few clouds but mainly sunny. March is staggering to an end. It seems like a very long month. But it does that anyway.

March 30. The world’s at 784,000. The States at 163,000 is expanding its league over Italy who’s at 101,700. Canada’s doing her beaver-ish part and is at 7400. It’s sobering. Waiter! Dos cervezas muy frio y una poquito bourbon doble. Muchas gracias! I think my Spanish is getting worse.
It’s depressing to read most of the comments on stories in the press, if the particular site is doing comments, some papers have stopped, that are obviously composed by bots or individuals, and if individuals obviously individuals drooling in ecstasy as they compose their paranoid, sadistic, negative conspiracy theory riddled comments unless they’re in someone’s pay to do that. Those ones go home and drool. It’s a sick world sometimes. Downtown stores have boarded up their windows because there’s been some smash and grabs and break and enters. Who are these sick pricks? Oh sorry, I forgot. We’re not supposed to use foul language around here. Fuck I hate some people and don’t get me started on bots. There I go again. Let’s see. Ten cents per infraction adds up to twenty cents in the language piggy. Just like that I’m down twenty. I hope this Covid thing winds up soon or I will be going broke.

March 31. 857,000 World cases across. United States in the lead with 188,000 with Canada creeping up to 8500. 43 new cases for British Columbia bring us up a little over 1000. More tests are being delivered so as night follows day more pathogens are being outed. If only it was just about the numbers. Unfortunately, the numbers represent individual people. We’ve heard from someone on southern Vancouver Island who had this thing and her comments mirror accounts people elsewhere have reported in news sources what it’s been like for them. This thing really does the nasty. Worse. I hope to be around in April. Right now I have to check my duplicate bridge scores.

Daffodil courtesy CS Nicol


The General

“A 336,000 word memoir written in one year. By the time I’m done the cancerous growth on the side of my neck is the size of a baseball. And baseball hasn’t even been invented yet. I die. But my beloved bride Julia and my family are well provided for. I was flat broke. I was busted out by a swindler and it didn’t matter that I’d just spent eight years as president of the United States. Or that as top general of the army I’d won the war for the union. I was toast. Finished.

I was decisively brilliant in some areas of my brain and fantastically naïve as to certain conniving individuals in another. It happened more than once. My brain was divided into two halves like everybody else’s. So it’s complicated.

A guy named Mark Twain thought I should write my memoirs to restore my finances and him and Webster published the book and it’s still in print 135 years later. My widow, who outlived me by seventeen years, holding the copyright, realized $650,000 in U.S. dollars and the family’s fortunes were restored. Not every memoirist can say that.”

Graduated West Point 1843 at twenty-one. Fine horseman. Served in Mexico and at Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory. Resigned the army 1854. Hardscrabble existence. Returned to the army 1861. Reduced Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chattanooga, Appomattox. Never lost a battle. Made general of the army, the first to hold that rank since George Washington. While I was reading the book I couldn’t stop myself from wondering who was George Washington? I love history so that was my problem to solve, not somebody else’s. Grant kind of reminded me of myself.

Ron Chernow. Never heard of him until his big bio of the general. And I’ve hungered for the general since I read his memoirs about a hundred years ago. Grant was also a literary marksman of the first order. Luv big books. I remember my Daddy telling me just before he packed it, “If it’s the right book you often wish it was longer.” I hated my Daddy but that don’t mean he was wrong.

Chernow’s a good read. Ulys had a problem with booze and the author is about the first to really bring that forward. Other biographers have alluded to it slightly and some have ignored it altogether. The problem as with all problem boozers is that he became a totally different person when gooned and drank to the point of insensibility exclusively. A long serving adjutant and his wife greatly influenced his staying away from alcohol, doing their part to save the union.

America hasn’t changed much. Then as now it was a glowing fireball of rabid partisanship except in Grant’s time the mad, drooling partisanship came from the Democrat side while the Republican party was the voice of reason, compromise and unity. The south was Democrat and still thought slavery was cool even after losing the war. A lot of bad actors wanted to overcome that result, sowing terror and murdering black people. Grant spent a lot of time as president using federal troops to round up and prosecute the Klan because the states down there couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.

Ron Chernow has a thing for biographies of major American figures. He’s covered off George W. and Alexander Hamilton. The hugely successful play “Hamilton”, at least it was before the pathogen showed up, was largely based on his biography. Movie rights to “Grant” have been sold. The book is good, all 958 pages of it plus notes.

Find if you can the deluxe edition with the stars in Grant’s eyes to match the ones on his shoulder bars. Don’t bother. I put those stars there myself because I didn’t want Grant’s eyes following me around the room and giving me the creeps every time I put the tome down. If you’ve got any gold stars lying around you can do the same.

In these interesting times don’t forget your prayers…

Thou shall not be afraid for any terror by night
Nor for the arrow that flieth by day
For the pestilence that walketh in darkness
Nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day
A thousand shall fall beside thee
And ten thousand at they right hand
But it shall not come nigh thee

Excerpt Psalm 91 Church of England Book of Common Prayer

Slightly different version in the King James version of the good book


Down In The Highlands

“A bedraggled paratrooper came stumbling out of the trees at the far side of the clearing. The man had been wounded in the previous days action but had evaded the NVA. As a medic treated his wounds Bodine asked him where the rest of Bravo was.

“Just a little way down the trail,” the youngster said in a quivering voice.

Bodine took his platoon forward. A short distance beyond the clump of trees he spotted the mass of bodies. Bodine, ignoring the carnage, moved beyond the site and set up a protective line. Then he radioed to Captain Leonard to come forward.

A few minutes later, Captain Leonard brought the rest of the company down.

No one could comprehend the horrible scene. Dozens upon dozens of American bodies laid sprawled in death’s grotesque grip. A heavy veil of black flies swarmed over the swollen corpses and the thick pools of blood and gore. The smell of death hung so heavily in the jungle that many of Charlie’s paratroopers were unable to control their stomachs. They staggered behind trees to vomit.

It was immediately apparent to Lieutenant Harrison that many of Alpha’s men had been executed; a large number of their bodies bore ghastly exit wounds in their faces. Other corpses had been mutilated, their features destroyed, rings fingers cut off, and ears removed.

The scene was almost too much for Harrison to handle. He’d never expected to encounter something like this on his third day in the field. He couldn’t deal with it on a human scale. His mind and body began functioning solely on their five years of extensive military training. Oblivious to the carnage, Harrison started searching for his classmates, Judd and Hood. He found their bodies within minutes.

Helicopters brought in stacks of body bags. Charlie Company’s grunts began the gruesome task of filling the rubberized green canvas bags with the remains of their comrades.

Three members of Alpha’s decimated platoon had survived the slaughter. One was the man Specialist Patterson had witnessed changing his M60 barrel with his bare hands. Another man had been shot three times in the back but survived. Lieutenant Harrison found a man who, while he played dead, had had his ring finger cut off by a machete-wielding NVA. After the NVA left the battlefield, the man in his delirium, tried to reattach the severed digit to its stump with the tape that wraps around a smoke grenade’s cardboard canister. Then he stuck his injured hand in an abandoned canteen cover.

Bravo company finally arrived at the site at about 1500. They immediately pitched in to finish policing up the ground. Within minutes of his arrival, Lieutenant McDevitt heard the news about his friend Don Judd. It didn’t seem possible; just two weeks earlier they’d been making plans for R and R. How could Judd be dead?

Back at Dak To, Captain Milton began the grim task of positively identifying the dead. The NVA had been known to switch dog tags on American corpses, causing untold agony for family members when the deception was uncovered. Assisted by 1st Sergeant Deeb and Sergeant Nichols, who knew the members of 2nd platoon, Milton spent the next two days positively identifying his men.

The final toll for Alpha Company was shocking. Out of 137 men in Alpha on 22 June, 1967, 76 were killed. Another 23 were wounded. Of the dead 43 suffered fatal, close range head wounds.

Captain Grosso, the brigade surgeon, signed all the death certificates. Those for the executed Sky Soldiers listed the cause of death as “fragmentations wounds to the head.” A few weeks after the incident Grosso was given a statement, prepared by an unknown source at brigade headquarters, which confirmed the executions. However, Grosso never read it. He was so disgusted by the brutal realities of war he simply scrawled his signature on the document.

On 0845 on November 15 the NVA dumped a dozen mortar rounds on the airstrip. This time they were much luckier. Three C-130s received direct hits. One was slightly damaged but the other two erupted in huge balls of flame. The nearly full fuel tanks on the two transports burned furiously for hours, the intense heat driving off several attempts to douse the fire. Finally somebody decided to just let them burn.

Just across from him, not more than ten feet away, Sergeant Sandstrom writhed in agony. Both his legs were gone. Next to him lay the mangled corpse of a paratrooper. A third man had been blown about ten feet away. One of his legs was gone.

Mescan crawled on all fours to Sandstrom. While he applied tourniquets to the torn stumps, Sandstrom grabbed his arm. Between gasps he asked, “Will I walk? Will I walk?”
“Sure,” Mescan lied.

Dak To: America’s Sky Soldiers in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands
Edward S. Murphy. 1988.

Men in War Series   Why do they do it?  Because they love it.  Let’s take a break.

It’s coffee time.