Shutting down the world: the COVID-19 pandemic

I have not really addressed the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. When the countermeasures to address the pandemic started in March, it  blindsided the vast majority of people in the US and around the world. Just a small list of things that have happened in the last couple of weeks, in no particular order:

  • Early on, grocery stores have sold out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, some cleaning supplies, and more recently, some food items. (The supply chains have since stabilized, of course, but various other items would sell out temporarily in the meantime.)
  • Just about every type of social event has been cancelled or postponed, and other spaces such as museums closed temporarily as well. Here is a partial list of just what I have observed:
    • Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park (first postponed, then effectively cancelled with efforts redirected to the downtown event in October, which was eventually pivoted to a virtual/online event)
    • Woodlands Waterway Art Festival (postponed, then pivoted to a virtual/online event in October)
    • WordCamp Houston 2020 (postponed until 2021 March)
    • Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (last two weeks cancelled; first time in over 80 years)
    • Many performing arts organizations, including but not limited to the Houston Ballet;Alley Theater; Theater under the Stars; They, Who Sound
    • FotoFest biennial (postponed, including a temporary closure of the exhibits, which at first had been kept open)
    • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (closed, after first cancelling public programming, since reopened)
    • Houston Museum of Natural Science, all campuses (complete closure, since reopened)
    • Texas Pinball Festival (cancelled/postpond to 2021, including associated tournaments)
    • IFPA has suspended endorsing/ranking tournaments, originally until March 31, now indefinitely (prior to this announcement Space City Pinball League announced they would “take this week [March 16-22] off, and see where to go from there” and Bayou City Pinball League pushed back its inaugural tournament from early April to originally sometime in May, now possibly December or early 2021)
    • Professional sports: NHL, MLS, MLB, XFL, NASCAR, NFL have all either postponed games or cancelled large portions of the season, with MLB finally agreeing to a shortened season with the players’ union
    • All Sofar Sounds shows
    • Dine-in closed at all restaurants in Harris County by order of the health department (with neighboring counties likely to follow suit), then all non-essential businesses closed for at least two weeks (since reopened, with bars closed once again due to a spike in cases)
    • Houston city parks have cancelled programming
    • Discovery Green has cancelled programming and closed the roller rink for the season
    • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations to be pivoted to virutal events

To say the least, I’ve never seen anything like this, and I sincerely hope this is the last time in my lifetime something like this happens.

With that out of the way, this crisis has highlighted several issues with our previous way of life. A lot of stuff that could have been done online just wasn’t, because it didn’t have to be. It’s amazing how all of a sudden so many people can work from home when previously that was just not an option according to company management. Restaurants either adapted to a primarily take-out model or went out of business. Even the Chuck E. Cheese near me was offering takeout for a time, but there is speculation the chain might become yet another victim of the pandemic. We have already lost (here in Houston): Barry’s Pizza, Bernie’s Burger Bus (which may make a comeback later), Sweet Tomatoes, five restaurants owned by the Pappas group, and the Boomers amusement center near Willowbrook Mall (which I can’t confirm is specifically from the pandemic but it can’t have helped). Elsewhere, Laser Quest has ceased operations in North America in 2020 September (both remaining Houston centers had been closed for a while, with the rest of Texas following suit prior to corporate calling it quits for the rest of the country). The water amusement parks (both the one in Spring now owned by Six Flags once again as well as Typhoon Texas in Katy) lost the 2020 summer season; it remains to be seen just what that will do for their future viability.

I first started writing this article in the early stages of the pandemic, revising it here and there as time allowed. I know parts of it are a bit dated now and believe me, I would have liked to get it up sooner, but like a lot of people, I am readjusting my way of life (including my finances and income-producing activities) in light of the new situation.

Perhaps the saddest part of this is what has become of the entertainment industry. It was barely two summers ago that I took my first real face painting class (in Las Vegas, as part of a larger trip) and started my face painting business, which I had hoped to expand into something bigger later this year. To say the least, that’s on hold right now, as I’m looking at possibly repurchasing supplies that are past their rated shelf life.

A lot of the blame for the current state of the pandemic has to fall at the feet of our idiot in chief, the guy that ran for president to lose and make money off of the book deal, the one I previously referred to by just his initials. (Now, I’m just going to call him “***”.) The administration of Barack Obama, the last true president this country had, prepared an actual “playbook” (hey, that’s what they called it) for exactly this situation. The first thing *** does? He decides this pandemic response team is not worth spending money on in the unlikely event that The Shit Hits The Fan. Also, there’s probably a racist motive as well as a motive to just trample on Obama’s legacy as much as possible. (Way too much of what the Republican-majority leadership has done in recent years has come back to selfishly undoing “things Obama did”, which is a very sad thing in and of itself. But that’s not really what this post is about.)

Well, needless to say, we have indeed had exactly that excrement-ventilator collision and in quite a big way. And we as a country weren’t ready for it. We’re long past the point of trying to contain what we now call COVID-19 inside China. We now have to wear masks to go to most businesses–including the bank (it’s quite the irony of not being allowed inside a bank with a mask, when usually it’s only the bank robbers wearing them and in the past instructions have specifically stated to remove masks, hoods, and sunglasses).

Why am I adding a political portion to this post? Certainly now with COVID-19, we are past the point where politics is something that can be ignored. Politics affects everyone, whether you participate (follow the issues and vote, at the minimum) or not. Some people are turned off by the mention of a political issue. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t change the world we’re in; politics will continue to affect you.

I am disappointed that we were left with a choice between *** and Joe Biden (and that is the choice; more on this later). I was disappointed in 2016 that we had to choose between *** and Hillary Clinton. I thought Hillary was going to win easily. To say the least I’ve not been so unhappy about being wrong in at least 20 years.

It’s really unfortunate we have a system that is pretty much designed to screw over third party candidates. The Electoral College, as most states participate in it, is an all-or-nothing proposition. If you are in a red state, voting third party is more than likely the same as voting for *** (or, more accurately, voting against Joe Biden). Same thing the other way around for blue states. Either way it’s going to screw over a candidate who otherwise could have won (Ross Perot showed us that back in 1992, and arguably, it was Mr. Perot who helped pave the way for *** to win in 2016).

While all the votes have been cast if not counted, I remain hopeful that whoever our leader is, we will get back to normal sooner rather than later. I would like to get back to going into the various establishments I patronize on a regular basis without having to put on a mask or check if dine-in seating has been re-opened yet. It was only earlier this week that I finally played pinball in an arcade for the first time in months (and mini-golf for the first time in years). That gives me some hope things are on the way back to normal.

Given the massive disruption COVID-19 has caused, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to figure out how it started, and remain ready from a medical and governmental standpoint from having a future disease of this sort get this far out of control going forward.