Life Viewed From COVID California: Travel, Local & National Updates

Who would have thought after almost 10 months we’d still be wondering what daily local COVID-19 ordinance twists the day would bring?

Madrid (Spain) is re-entering lock-down and flagging what might be expected as the pandemic keeps on giving.

Since a New Years visit to Time Square to start 2020, I have been on 3 additional domestic trips, just recently returning from Alaska.

The crucial Alaskan mid-year tourist season was destroyed by COVID-related restrictions. Visitor numbers were down severely. The sparse crowds were great for guests but underscore the harsh economic realities in play for Alaskans.

My own late-season September visit still panned-out well and we shipped a freezer full of Salmon and Halibut fillets back to CA. The clear views of Denali, scenic flights, landings on glaciers, biking, fishing, dining and sightseeing were as spectacular as advertised, perhaps more than envisioned.

We spoke with many locals and countless immigrants who have found their home in the State. They came, they saw and they stayed.

And then the return to California…

Locally, the reinstated masked fishing trips are more sparsely attended in the touristy areas, though things have become busier in the Northern Areas of San Francisco Bay.

Dine-outside-only arrangements keep many local restaurants afloat using parking-space conversions for seating. Inside seating never received general approval. As the Fall comes on temperatures will decline and this whole al fresco approach will become increasingly less viable.

Journeys to less sternly COVID-restricted States and towns can be joy. Only the deflation of an imminent return to your own neighborhood can diminish the experience.

Air travel itself is not too painful: Keep masks on, expect diminished (but less crowded) services at layovers and then on-board; just keep washing your hands. The constant avoidance of touching and nearing, well, everything, increases the dehumanization.

Air traffic is light. Industry layoffs are looming. Temporary work for those furloughed will be harder to find as so many facilities are shuttered and closed. Small, regional airports will not survive unharmed.

We are all more isolated. Even bike-rides, days sailing, simple walks, dining out and short daytrips have become more solitary pursuits. Social activities are generally stalled or sputter along.

Many folks appear to make an effort, but the isolation and small groupings of people outdoors amplifies the separation between us all.

I know of a group of young adults, friends who simply mix completely mask-less regardless of the consequences. Some got COVID, did their sick-time and the group continues. I have no idea how or if the virus spread between the participants propagated elsewhere, if at all; it is unclear how they manage their subsequent interactions with outsiders.

Families, older citizens and those with compromised health are generally far more cautious.

There are less people out and about. The sustained Summer throngs never really materialized along the Coast and local Ordinances seemed to appear to minimize any looming gatherings tied to traditional Holidays and breaks.

It’s easier to get around on less crowded streets but parking problems are often exacerbated when restaurants have commandeered parking spots with temporary seating arrangements.

Occasionally there seem almost normal clusters of traffic on Freeways, but now they disperse, move and flow. Only occasional accidents and breakdowns impede travelers with temporary delays. The police appear mostly uninterested in enforcing speed restrictions, perhaps risking currently difficult encounters.

A BART train rides past above a homeless encampment on 5th Street between Bush and Castro streets in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Homeless people increasingly encroach upon the busier road systems and interchanges. New structures constantly appear: Tents, rows of small Manufactured Sheds, Porta-Potties and dirt-stained Tarps cover acres of seemingly quiet encampments.

The nightly rampage of violent demonstrations has either slowed in the 40+ States affected, or the reveling media outlets have tempered their coverage in the wake of strong public opinion denigrating the MSM role and the events themselves.

Life seems stalled. Everyone waits: The Presidential debates, the SCOTUS appointment and the Election. Everything is staged for the next phase of bad behavior and debilitating action.

Those tied to areas with family, homes and work must wonder what will happen next. Will destruction and unwanted division consume their world more directly?

Folks in neighborhoods previously harmed and degraded must wonder if, when and how the misery will return, perhaps even amplified.

And for those still amongst the daily and nightly turmoil, tomorrow looms large. When will it end?

I live in a quiet suburban pocket with its own temperate climate and moderate ways, distinct and separate from the still over-heated turmoil of Silicon Valley just 40 miles away.

The flow of humanity that spills over the Santa Cruz mountains into this area seems somehow more subdued. It is as if people arriving tread lightly, needing and wanting to be accepted to this more tranquil clime; often visitors appear reluctant to mention they are not locals.

The multi-State Western Fires have now faded in the news. They dumped thick ash on we to their South and Bad Air Days blew Eastwards, reaching the Midwest. Occasional columns of fire-fighting vehicles fill lanes on the Freeways as they return to SoCal.

And now Napa (CA) has tens of thousands of acres consumed in uncontained flames. Stained air has begun to pour into this area, again; the sun looms orange from midday on and can be viewed with the naked eye, hanging like a giant, reddening moon. Perhaps those tired firefighters from the South will be required to return?

There is a nightly hang-out I visit in the picturesque Santa Cruz Harbor following a bike ride. It attracts locals, people from the Valley and some displaced from the burned, surrounding hills. Many are eager to talk and interact with others.

Everyone who engages seems to yearn for a return to their norms. They do not want to settle for a NEW NORMAL; that is unwanted by all I meet.

People seem to be holding their breath, waiting for an Election among fools to free them from their impositions.

The same appears to be true in several European Countries. Yet they must be praying some different National trigger will set them free.

And now the US President and FLOTUS have become the third National Leaders to fall victim of COVID-19. They began a quarantine reportedly A-symptomatic.

The hope surrounding vaccine availabilities is now under attack: “Can they be trusted,” “Are they safe,” are questions hung over us like a sword of Damocles by compliant media agents.

The facts surrounding COVID infection and resulting restrictions have become irrelevant. Where I live the controls are disproportionate to the disease.

In this County I am 4X more likely to contract and die from influenza than COVID-19; medical professionals hereabouts warn that we overinflate numbers for the few (COVID) deaths that have occurred.

And yet the global CA restrictions and controls live on here, locally.

Most people are searching for a silver lining.  Will the elections mitigate societal unrest or facilitate essential, reasoned change? Likely not.

Conservatives win and the immediate unrest will probably grow. Democrats win and their internal factions will quickly split in search of greater gains. Either path brings increased unrest. We will likely have an unappetizing immediate outcome no matter what.

The vast majority of people living in this and other countries are being fed a meal they do not want.

The puzzle is this: How many more triggers and escalations will there be before enough is enough?

How bad does food have to be before it is returned?

Perhaps we only become passionate and active when the meal is in front of us, personally?

It will be a lot easier to send this swill back to the kitchens while restaurants remain open. So, cast a vote. Then hope a strong accepted majority halts the rot, stabilizes unwanted unrest and smooths any agreed and desired transitions.

Ian R. Mackintosh is the author of Empower Your Inner Manager Twitter@ianrmackintosh.

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