• 2020 notes from a small town

Dear Millennials, Gen X,Z and Alpha,

I apologize for the world we are leaving you. It sucks.

These are dangerous times. You don't have to read the news to see the warning signs. All you need to do is follow his Twitter feed. People supporting Donald Trump's reelection are simply watching  a reality TV show....another season of the Apprentice. Only this one is for real. They do not seem to realize the dire consequences of another four years with him in the White House. If the presidential election in November happens without interference from domestic and foreign sources and if the Democrat candidate should win, it will have to be by a substantial margin. Anything less will be contested and labelled as illegitimate by this administration. I’m not even sure a new POTUS can handle what lies ahead. Look at what happened with Barack Obama during his first term cleaning up the financial catastrophe that unregulated financial derivatives created during eight years of a Republican president. In the 2010 midterm elections Republicans picked up seven Senate seats, 63 seats in the House of Representatives, won a net gain of six gubernatorial seats and flipped control of twenty state legislative chambers, giving them a substantial advantage in the redistricting that occurred following the 2010 census.

In the mid 1980’s Jack Vitek and I would meet at Flanagan’s Pub on Monday nights and drink a couple of beers. One of our regular topics for discussion was the impact the peace/love movement had on our country. In the 60's and 70's we thought we were really changing society1. We were passionate about what we believed in; no more war. You too will need passion and commitment to face the challenges ahead. Your American dream will not be the same as mine was. The burden of student loans and stagnant wages has put home ownership out of reach for many. Just 35% of households headed by someone younger than 35 owned a home in 2017. This epidemic will worsen economic worries for you.
And then there is global warming.

The progress made between 2008-2016 toward stemming the steady rise of domestic carbon emissions has been undone in three short years. The US has left the Paris Climate Agreement and federal standards created to regulate our country’s carbon emissions have been rolled back. If this shortsightedness is not addressed soon, your grandchildren’s world will be very different from this one.

You cannot afford to be complacent. Our American democracy is being destroyed before our eyes. Our leaders have abandoned their oath to serve the people. The nation is more divided than it has ever been: rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal, black versus white, Christians versus Muslims, rich versus poor. People who have led productive lives find themselves homeless while there are hundreds of vacant luxury apartments in cities. This pandemic will only widen those divisions. I hope you are better custodians of this world than we have been.

Brevard NC, April 3, 2020,

  • The forest is unaware that mankind is at war with a deadly, highly contagious virus.
    The forest continues its cycle of seasons as it has since the beginning of time.

    It looks the same, ever beautiful.

I am happy. I live in a forest.But the world outside is different now.

Brevard, NC, April 11, 2020

Brevard, NC, May 16, 2020

Brevard, NC, April 18, 2020

Brevard, May 23, 2020

Brevard, May 23, 2020

Brevard, May 23, 2020

1) Most of us eventually sold out to the corporate world, begat you, and enabled the disintegration of our society. Greed.

Easter, April 12
Here it all seems so distant. Is this really happening? When I read the news in the morning I am confronted by reality. Although we probably could not have kept the virus out of our country, denial of the potential catastrophe kept officials from acting to mitigate the pandemic earlier. The news depresses me and although I keep telling myself to not read it, my depraved curiosity draws me to it like a car wreck on the side of the road.

This is a tight-knit community. Although we have gathered a few friends outside on the deck once or twice, we miss seeing them as we did, in our homes over a good meal and a glass of wine. I worry that the warmth we feel toward each other will be diminished going forward. Will we look at each other with suspicion, wondering if the person facing us is a vector for the virus?

  • The glorious light in the morning reveals the trails as something new, glinting off of damp
    rocks and leaves.Logs, covered in green velvet, glow as if plugged into an unseen power source
    fueling the production of chlorophyll. It's everywhere and it's abundance restores me
    and makes me feel one with the gentle, nurturing forest.

Monday, April 20
The only remaining relative from my parent's generation is my aunt. Her home is in Pelham, NY, about two miles away from the New Rochelle synagogue attended by one of the first reported US coronavirus cases. She lives alone in an early 20th century home in need of maintenance. I went to visit her the first weekend in February. It was her 93rd birthday. She has not been out of the house or seen anybody since mid-March, although her neighbor has been by a few times to wave at her through the kitchen door. A friend does some grocery shopping for her. We have been sending packages of soup, boxed milk and granola bars. Early on we sent her bath tissue. She is not tech savvy and has no online access which further isolates her. Before the pandemic she still drove and was able to do her own grocery shopping. I don't know if that will be possible after the quarantine is lifted. Although the virus seems far away from our corner of North Carolina, it is very close when viewed through the lens of my aunt.

Aunt Jacquelyn
Pelham NY, January 31, 2020

The Calm Before the Storm
Grand Central, January 30, 2020

News about the virus developing in China was just breaking that first weekend of February. Social distancing wasn't even in a New Yorker's vocabulary at the time.  Life went on as usual. I saw a pair of women wearing face masks near Bryant Park, but they were Asian. For some Asians face masks are a fashion statement, so I thought nothing of it until my flight home. Not many situations unnerve me but the TSA line at Newark International Airport was high on my anxiety threshold. The people in line, dressed in  sombre winter grays and browns, shuffled forward slowly as each person passed through the metal detector. Some wore face masks and I wondered, was that to protect them from me or me from them? The low ceiling and fluorescent lighting created a jaundiced look to the whole scene. Hell, I thought.

New York, January 30, 2020

Brevard, April 18, 2020

Thursday, April 23
It didn't take long for people around here to accept the new normal. Most, but not all, people wear a face covering in public. There is no clear demographic defining those that do and those that don't. But those that don't are different from me. I wonder if they are just reckless or so-called "patriots" who view any government regulation as an infringement on their civil liberties. In the same way they see any discussion of the Second Amendment, — A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed — our rightful civil liberties can be interpreted to suit one's needs. Owning an AR-15 has nothing to do with having a well regulated militia, i.e. the National Guard. Regardless of the reason behind their defiance there are now two camps of people: those who mask and those who don't, giving us  another reason to be suspicious of people who are not like us.
Brevard, May 16, 2020

Lines everywhere. Lines on the pavement to keep us six feet apart. Lines at restaurant takeout. Lines in the list of covid cases and deaths.I have been keeping track of the numbers. I record and tally them every morning. It gives me a clear, data driven picture of where the US stands with the pandemic. I cannot grasp what it is like to be a family member or health care worker having to deal with a sick person or their death. I try hard to see the numbers as people's lives. I feel guilty because I cannot.

Wilson Jerman ☆ Otilia Levi ☆ Jose Mardoqueo Reyes ☆ Allen Y. Lew ☆ Yu Lihua ☆ Alyce Gullattee ☆ Valentina Blackhorse ☆ James “Charlie” Mahoney ☆ Patricia Weissenborn ☆ Annie Glenn ☆ Judy Wilson-Griffin ☆ Horace Saunders ☆ Violet Saunders ☆ Peter Bainum ☆ Anna Levine ☆ Joel Kupperman ☆ Hermán G. Carrillo ☆ Edna Adams ☆ Freda Ocran ☆ Philip Kahn ☆ Nicky Leake ☆ John Leake Jr. ☆ Leslie Leake ☆ Paul Cary ☆ Wogene Debele ☆ Landon Spradlin ☆ Steve Dalkowski ☆ Carlos DeLeon Chianti “Tiki” Harpool ☆ Richard F. Fenno Jr. ☆ Theodore Gaffney ☆ Sean Boynes ☆ Tommie Brown ☆ Doris Brown ☆ Gil Bailey ☆ Donald Kennedy ☆ Zoao Makumbi ☆ Nathel Burtley ☆ Marylou Armer ☆ Bob Barnum ☆ Jerry Givens ☆ April Dunn ☆ Bishop James N. Flowers Jr. ☆ Margit Buchhalter ☆ Feldman Brian R. Miller ☆ Wallace Roney ☆ Jennifer Arnold ☆ Keith Redding ☆ Dar’Yana Dyson ☆ Frank Gabrin ☆ Dez-Ann Romain

Friday, May 22
An hour from now North Carolina enters Phase 2 of the state lockdown. That means I will be able to get a haircut or go to a restaurant for a limited seating meal. While I welcome the lifting of restrictions I wonder how this will all end up. The daily new cases of COVID-19 are staying the same, between 20-25,000 and daily deaths are down slightly. Our county now has 11 cases, up from 7. We know so little about this disease. All scientists can do is err on the side of caution..

May 25, 2020.
Today is Memorial Day in the US, a day when we honor those who died defending our democracy.
Today the US death toll from COVID-19 will surpass 100,000 people.
We should also honor those who have died from this virus and those who have cared for the sick.
  • And the forest continues its progression through the seasons.
    Summer is just around the corner.

    This summer will be unlike any other I have experienced.

May 25, 2020.
Today, sometime around 8:30pm this evening, George Floyd, a 46yr old black man, died in Minneapolis while in police custody. Police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with a knee to his neck for more than eight minutes. A bystander's video has been widely circulated on the Internet. Protests have continued for a week across the country. Some have been violent. This changes everything.

Racism has never gone away in the USA. And under the current administration it has been tacitly endorsed. Take thousands of young Americans who have little future and have been quarantined since the beginning of March...it's going to be a long summer. When people have nothing to lose they are capable of doing things they normally wouldn't. And bad actors intent on inciting violence are infiltrating otherwise peaceful demonstrations. #boogaloobois.
This project of mine now seems trite.

Saturday, June 6, 2020
Asheville is a progessive city. Isolated from the metropoles of the east by the Appalachians it has forged its own artsy identity. "Keep Asheville Weird" is a popular saying seen on t-shirts. There was no doubt there would be BLM demonstrations. The weekend after George Floyd's murder saw two nights of protests that ended in violence. Instigators among the protestors vandalized business and the Vance monument. There were reports of gunshots and police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Demonstrations continued all week culminating in an all-day event on Saturday, June 6 that included a noon march of about 1,000 people ending at the police station where police chief David Zack addressed the crowd. A fitting peace offering from the establishment..

Asheville NC, Saturday, June 6, 2020

Asheville NC, Saturday, June 6, 2020

Asheville NC, Saturday, June 6, 2020

Asheville NC, Saturday, June 6, 2020

Asheville NC, Saturday, June 6, 2020

Asheville NC, Saturday, June 6, 2020

Sunday, June 14, 2020
4,163 days ago. It was a cold, crisp January day in West Palm Beach but the sun was shining brilliantly and the day was filled with hope. There were babies and seniors, black and white, the healthy and the sick among the hundreds of people at Centennial Square that afternoon. We came together to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama. Although we could only see him on a large screen television, the feeling in the air was not unlike the promise of Bobby Kennedy. We witnessed the oath of office taken by America's first African American president.

How different things are today. How did we end up here? Were we not ready, was it a mistake to elect a black president? Did it only bring out the viciousness of certain groups of people?

West Palm Beach FL, January 20, 2009

West Palm Beach FL, January 20, 2009

West Palm Beach FL, January 20, 2009

West Palm Beach FL, January 20, 2009

West Palm Beach FL, January 20, 2009

West Palm Beach FL, January 20, 2009

Daily cases since April 3

Data from worldOmeter

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
The coronavirus isn't going away. We have been dipping our toes in the pool of normalacy, but our lives are anything but normal. As much as we want this thing gone from our lives we continue to, mostly, practice a way of life that involves wearing face masks, rigorous hand washing and social distancing. Anything less would be plain foolish. If I were a religious person I might believe that a higher power is cleansing the earth of its destroyers in preparation for a new and smarter race.

Some states, counties and cities began easing stay-at-home restrictions in May. Coastal towns reopened beaches while some large cities like Houston and Atlanta stated allowing limited capacity seated dining and bar patronage. In June mores states followed including North Carolina. There are rules business must follow regarding how many people can enter at one time and most locales require regular sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces.The "opening up" of much of the country has been an attempt to curtail the economic consequences of the virus. With 20-plus million Americans without a job, vast sectors of the economy are facing extinction. Established bricks-and-mortar retailers are filing for bankruptcy and the hospitality industry may never recover. Some retailers are completely closing all stores and shifting to online sales only.Has the modest return to normal helped the people most affected by the COVID-19 economic free fall? Probably not. But for sure, the virus has resumed its upward trajectory in the US. The last week of June saw multiple days with new cases exceeding 40,000, reaching new highs since pandemic records began here in early March.

A friend, whose opinion I greatly respect, suggested that I tone down my political remarks here. But how can I record this time in our lives without mentioning politics? We have had more cases and more deaths from COVID-19 than any other place on earth. It is obvious why the US is fumbling the pandemic while other developed nations are managing to contain it. State governors and city mayors are battling the crisis on their own. Politics should not be part of a dealing  with this crisis but they very much are. Our president has washed his hands of the matter and assumes no responsibility for the outcome and in an attempt to curry favor with him, Republican governors and mayors follow the party line.

July 2, 2020
50,000 new cases were recorded in 24 hours.

Saturday, July 4, 2020
Something is troubling me this Independence Day. Although I have never shown displays of patriotism, I do think a sense of pride is part of being an American. But today it feels like our flag belongs to Donald Trump and his supporters. They describe themselves as protectors of the liberties and history of the USA, while the rest of us are an "angry mob of far-left fascists seeking to unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities and end America." That in itself is an odd concept because most liberals that I know are pacifists and unlikely to even own a gun. I see homes in our community with flags out front and I wonder if that is what they think of me. If I should choose to display our colors would that align me with their self righteous brand of patriotism?

The far right groups online claim they are the true patriots but they are not. They see themselves as warriors defending the country while in reality, they only want to preserve the status quo of white supremacy. They want the same life their fathers and grandfathers had in the 1950's. Now, it is a far different world and in this divided nation we are now in a battle for our flag.

Daily deaths since April 3

July 7, 2020
A new US coronavirus record:
More than 3,000,000 cases recorded.

"I think they're taking over this country,but I told Robert Unanue that if he'd help me get the Latino vote I'd do something good for him, something very, very good. He didn't believe me when I told him. Because I'm not gonna lose, I'm not a loser. Am I full of beans? Yeah, I'm full of Goya Beans. Viva la beano!"2

The following message is brought to you by Goya Foods, proud sponsor of the President of the United States of America.

2) Parody

July 17, 2020
A new US coronavirus record was broken yesterday.
75,600 cases were recorded for the day.

Friday, July 17
In a historic decision, the Asheville City Council has apologized for its role in slavery and discrimination and voted to provide reparations. "It is simply not enough to remove statues. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature," Councilman Keith Young said. The reparations will not be individual payments but will include efforts to increase minority home ownership, access to affordable housing and minority business ownership. The resolution also mentions strategies to close the gaps in health care, education and pay. Read full article in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Our Town

Friday, July 19
Brevard is a cute little city. The 2018 census recorded just under 8,000 residents. Being at the edge of the Pisgah National Forest, that number swells during the summer. We are within an hour or two of several medium sized cities, two hours from Charlotte and three hours from Atlanta, both of which have international airports. We have everything we need here. We have several grocery stores to choose from, a Lowes home improvement center, a wonderful library, some great restaurants and a small liberal arts college. Oh, and several breweries. A summertime music festival draws students from across the country. The county population is around 34.000, predominantly white and being rural, politically conservative. Because of the large number of retirees, Brevard itself tends more toward liberal politics.

At the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, outdoor activities are popular. Hiking, kayaking and annual bike races are a fixture of this predominantly rural area. People here are passionate about the environment and dedicated to protecting it.

Like Punxsutawney,PA has its groundhog and Menlo Park,NJ has everything Edison, Brevard has white squirrels. They're plentiful, both real and fake. Legend has it that the original breeding pair escaped from an overturned carnival truck in 1949. Numerous local business have adopted the white squirrel as their symbol and namesake.

Our small town will survive intact if toward the end of the year, there are signs of the pandemic resolving. There is a strong sense of "shop local" here. During full lockdown in the spring restaurants were offering curbside pickup of takeout meals. Residents supported them. Business look for creative ways to serve their customers. So far there have been no closings and actually, one or two new openings.

Saturday, July 18
Walking back to my car after shopping at the Saturday farmers' market, I heard unmistakably live music so I walked up the street to find the source. A group of five musicians had set up in front of a vacant drive-through business and were providing an entertaining musical lift for passersby. It was purely spontaneous and not organized by the city. I love this place.

Monday, July 23
For some time now, residents of this small town have been gathering every Monday evening on the courthouse lawn for a peaceful demonstration. The group observe 8:46 seconds of silence (in memory of George Floyd) and chants names of victims of racial injustice and police brutality. These “Moral Mondays” are sponsored by the local chapter of the NAACP and are usually well attended. Cars passing by honk their horns in support and civility is the norm.

Brevard NC, Monday, July 20, 2020

Brevard NC, Monday, July 20, 2020

Brevard NC, Monday, July 20, 2020

Brevard NC, Monday, July 20, 2020

  • Summer, my favorite season.

Friday, July 30, 2020

Hiking the trails at this time of year is such a pleasure. You can hike the same trail every day and you will notice something different each time. The spring flowering season ends in early July with the blooming of the native rhododendrons. A few native orchids (Crane fly orchid, Yellow fringed orchid, Ladies' tresses) flower in summer and even into the fall. Summer is also the time to find unusual mushrooms in the forest. They begin appearing in June and reach peak fruiting in July and August. If you practice care, a few are edible. There are also a few that can kill you.

I have refined my hiking camera kit down to a small, cross-shoulder bag that holds a 16mp Olympus E-P5 camera, two lenses, a slide-in electronic viewfinder, a closeup filter and various comfort items such as a water bottle, trail map, eye drops, reading glasses and so on. The 30 miles of trails in our community are well maintained by volunteers and other than late fall when they are covered with leaf litter, a compass is not needed. I try to hike as often as I can.

On the trails, the outside world is forgotten.

Ladies' tresses

Scaly pholiota

Painted suillus

Yellow fringed orchid

Saturday, August 22, 2020

I have been spending more time outside and less time at the computer and will continue for at least another month.

Although we are still occasionally gathering with friends outdoors on our decks, Covid has certainly put a damper on most activities. Tonight musician and story teller Michael Reno Harrell would have been performing in Robin Hood Barn for the last performance of the summer.  Last year's Summer Series was a big hit capped off by a Moonshine Cabaret. Technology has enabled some programs in the community. It is better than nothing but lacks the warmth of in-person gatherings. With the total lack of a coordinated federal plan to fight the pandemic, I don't expect things to improve  in the coming autumn or winter.

August 30, 2020.
Early on in the pandemic we thought, "hey this isn't so bad. We can finally accomplish all those around-the-house chores we haven't had time for." That lasted a couple months before it turned into "who cares what the place looks like, nobody is coming over anyway."
This ancient Greek word describes the feeling; Acedia.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020
We are two months away from what will be the most important presidential election of my lifetime and perhaps, of our country's history. I have not written much about the months-long prelude. This project was not intended to be a political rant by a crazy man living in the mountains. But what has been going on in US politics is hard to ignore. The destiny of America is at stake in this election. Will we continues as that land of promise I grew up with or will our democracy become an autocracy, or worse.

I wouldn’t claim — not yet, at least — that Trump is presiding over a fascist government, but he is very clearly using fascist techniques to excite his base and erode liberal democratic institutions, and that’s very troubling. But the blame there is as much on the Republican Party as it is on Trump, because none of this would matter if they were willing to check Trump. So far, they’ve chosen loyalty to Trump over loyalty to rule of law.

For months the president has been sowing doubt about the integrity of mail-in ballots despite some states having a long history with voting by mail. The trump appointed US postmaster, Louis DeJoy, has been "streamlining" operations in the name of cost cutting. Roadside drop boxes have undergone a wholesales removal, particularly in urban areas. Mail delivery has become painfully slow because of postal workers' overtime being eliminated. Now, mail that does not get delivered today becomes part of tomorrow's mail. These actions have undermined consumer confidence in the postal service.

Someday, 2020
Trump, “they (the Democrats) want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Yet he has increased defense spending by xxxx since in office.

Drain the swamp.
And fill it with family and loyalists whether or not they are qualified for the job. Sounds like organized crime.

The law and order candidate.
Law? He himself has broken laws while in office (emoluments) from campaigning from the White House to xxxxx. A long string of presidential, appointees, associates and officials have been indicted for crimes and misdemeanors, including his appointed attorney general. So much for following the law. As for creating order, sending federal troops into cities is how dictators do it.

Climate change: California fires
“When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick,” Mr. Trump said. “And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.” The president insisted on attributing the crisis solely to poor forest management, not climate change.
But Mr. Newsom noted that only 3 percent of land in California is under state control while 57 percent is federal forest land, meaning under the president’s management as governed by federal law.
Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for natural resources, pressed Mr. Trump more bluntly. “If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” he told the president.
This time, Mr. Trump rejected the premise. “It’ll start getting cooler,” he insisted. “You just watch.” “I wish science agreed with you,” Mr. Crowfoot replied. “Well, I don’t think science knows, actually,” Mr. Trump retorted, maintaining a tense grin.

Wants to abolish Obamacare.
Where is the Republican plan to replace the ACA? Nearly four years in office, the Trump administration has produced no viable healthcare plan for Americans. Like the West Wing, healthcare is a partially dismantled, chaotic mess of temporary solutions.

Trump: no political or leadership experience.
A history of failed business deals, broken contracts and litigation. Crude behavior. Unable to show compassion for COVID victims. Ridicules the military heroes and those less fortunate than himself. Mocks science. Is this the kind of role model you want for your children?