Friday, March 06, 2020

Corona Virus: Not for the faint-hearted or Germaphobes

Melinda Palacio

Carefree in the Big Easy

This year, I decided to sit out the big writers love fest that is AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs), a conference for writers and academic types. At its the best, the conference is a great place to meet up with other writers, promote your book, learn about new books, learn new tricks of the trade and craft, and exhaust yourself trying to make the events of everyone you know. One of the highlights of AWP is the Book fair, where presses small and large hold signings and readings. If you have a manuscript that is looking for a home, the book fair can help make that personal contact. For various reasons, I have't been to the conference since it was held in Los Angeles four years ago and I was still working on my poetry manuscript for Bird Forgiveness. I missed the conference in Portland the year my book was published. At this year's conference in San Antonio, I was supposed to have a reading and be on a panel titled, Writing the Difficult with Fabulist Elements in Women's Poetry, along with other contributors to the Anthology Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry. I bowed out of all that opportunity, but so did a whole lot of other AWP registered people who chose not to attend due to the Mayor of San Antonio declaring a public health emergency over the Corona or Covid-19 Virus. AWP decided to go ahead with the conference, but urged attendees not to shake hands or hug. Is this the end of hugs and hand shakes? I look forward to seeing videos of the creative ways in which writers will greet each other. AWP will honor refunds and credits towards next year's conference in Kansas City.

Footsie for starters instead of a hug?

The virus seems to be heralding the End Times with whole cities around the world shutting down schools, not to mention the stock markets plunging everyday. I was slightly on the germaphobe spectrum before this panic and pandemic. Now, I don't want to leave the house and I am somewhat envious of friends who have their groceries delivered to them. I'm trying not to buy into the fear and panic. There's basic hygiene and there's those of us who take extra precautions. I know I've seen plenty of people in public bathrooms at gas stations and restaurants emerge from a toilet stall and put their hand on the door knob and leave facility without washing their hands. Some look around to see if they are being watched and no amount of pointing to the sink that keep them from slinking away. Others simply dart out quickly and I wonder why they feel they don't have to wash their hands. So I have become that person that uses the towel I've dried my hands with to touch the doorknob before exiting the ladies' room.
jazz hands for greeting new people

What I find frightening about Covid-19 is the dormant quality to the virus. This is a deadly virus that some people might not know they have for over a week. In Italy, not only are school children being kept home, but sporting events are being played with no audience, no fans, no cheering section, only the players.

The trusty fist bump

Living in two port cities means big cruise ships stop and let hundreds of people in town. Santa Barbara is all in a panic as the cruise ship Amadea, carrying 600 passengers and 280 crew, anchored. California reported its first death associated with a cruise ship on Wednesday. Cruise ships always seem like a hot bed for disaster, disease, and tons of waste and pollution. I may have made a decision not to attend a conference that might endanger my health by spreading disease, but how do I control things when a potential disease harborer, such as a cruise ship comes to me? I suppose I have to trust that the precautions being made will be met with professionalism and genuine care that will not be met with shortcuts. In the meantime, I choose to lean more on love and less on fear. I may not go to a large conference or amusement park, but I still plan on attending local events. If you are in Santa Barbara, Sunday, March 8 at 2:30, Juan Felipe Herrera visits the Museum of Art and will discuss Writing Love in the Face of Disaster.
Try the elbow greet instead of shaking hands
Over in New Orleans, another port city with even bigger cruise ships on the Mississippi than the Amadea in Santa Barbara, panic over Covid-19 has yet to reach the Big Easy. The city just ended the biggest party and although Mardi Gras seemed cursed with two deaths and injuries to float riders, the city continues to host big festivals. And there hasn't been a suggested ban on public handshakes or hugs yet. Will see how the big spring festivals fare, especially Jazz Fest in April, which draws large international crowds over two weeks. Yesterday, I was writing this blog post at the Starbucks on Magazine in New Orleans and I saw two friends hug and three men end a meeting with handshakes all around. However, the barista at Starbucks would not take my favorite cup, citing it is no longer refilling reusable cups due to the virus; thus more waste and (we hope) recyclables.

To show that I'm not holed up, waiting for End Times, I went out to see Walter Wolfman Washington.

I can only hope that the world is able to get a handle on this virus and allow us to get back to life. In the meantime, the New York Times featured a woman, Lynx Vilden, who is teaching people how to return to the time of Stone Age. Let’s hope we are not going that far backwards. Wash your hands. Live long and prosper (a popular handsfree Vulcan greeting), but don't shake my hand, hug me, or dare kiss me.

Anthony demonstrates the handsfree Vulcan greeting.

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