Monthly Archives: April 2020
Life (still) interrupted
Last weekend was supposed to be the first weekend of the 51st New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The second weekend of Jazz Fest was supposed to begin Thursday and run through Sunday.
This Monday is supposed to be the 50th anniversary commemoration of the shooting at Kent State University, which cost Sandy Scheurer, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause their lives, and forever changed the life of an 18 1/2-year old West Virginia native named Nicholas Lou Saban, who was then wrapping up his freshman year at the Ohio school.
Major League Baseball should be entering its second month. The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League playoffs should be in full gear. National Football League draft choices and undrafted free agnets should be preparing for orientation and mini-camp this weekend.
It’s just after 13:00 on Tuesday, which means I should be wrapping up another week of writing for all the Main Street Media newspapers which are my responsibility.
I have an appointment at 14:00 with Crista, which means I should be leaving RIGHT now and heading for Hays. See you later!
Not so fast.
I have my appointment with Crista, but that will be done via Zoom. That means I’ll be sitting at my desk in Russell.
All the rest? Not happening.
Thank you, COVID-19.
General William Tecumseh Sherman, who led the Union Army as it burned Atlanta, said “war is hell”. I doubt he, nor any other Civil War soldier, Union or Confederate, could imagine a disease such as COVID-19 bringing the world to its knees.
Among Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first words as President of the United States were “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I’m guessing FDR would much rather have battled the Great Depression of the 1930s than the Great Depression which could be coming if this country stays on lockdown much longer.
George W. Bush probably thinks the War on Terror was a far easier opponent. Bill Clinton will take the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals any day over this.
There’s just no way to know what the new normal post-COVID-19 will be.
After September 11, 2001, it was increased security. Then again, Al-Qaeda, no matter how deeply buried in caves in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was far easier to combat than a virus which seems to be immune to the ways of combating other viruses.
I did the math. If an average seat width in a college or professional sports facility is 18 inches, it will require FIVE empty seats between patrons to maintain six feet (72 inches) social distancing. Not only that, but rows will have to be skipped.
I don’t see any way that happens, since it would force massive stadium renovations and cost teams millions in revenue.
Therefore, the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA and all other leagues are going to have to introduce indemnity clauses stating they cannot be held responsible if patrons become ill from attending an event, the same way MLB tickets carry a disclaimer about foul balls and bats possibly flying into the stands.
Kauffman Stadium, home to the Royals, would go from about 38,000 capacity to less than 14,000. Arrowhead Stadium, across the parking lot, would go from 76,000 to 24,000.
The Bundesliga, German’s top football league, is going to have a serious problem, since all of its top stadia, including those in Berlin, Dortmund, Leipzig and Munich, have massive standing areas, and you can be sure people are not six inches apart, much less six feet.
I don’t mind wearing a mask in public. I was more vigilant about doing it last week than before. However, keeping things locked down is not the answer. We’re going to have to face COVID-19 head on sooner or later. People are going to die. It’s sad, but it has to happen if we’re to avoid a repeat of 90 years ago.
It has just been reported the United States now has more than a million diagnosed cases of COVID-19. Deaths have surpassed the more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.
Louisiana’s death toll is at 1,758, inching closer to the 1,836 who died during Hurricane Katrina, and more than three times the number of deaths during Hurricane Audrey in 1957. Nearly 28,000 cases have been diagnosed in my native state, with at least one in each of the 64 parishes (counties).
Russell County still does not have a case, but there have been 19 in three bordering counties (Barton 9, Ellis 8 and Osborne 2). There has been a huge spike in the three largest counties in southwest Kansas: 544 in Ford (Dodge City), 422 in Seward (Liberal) and 175 in Finney (Garden City). More than 1,000 of the Sunflower State’s 3,500 are in Johnson and Wyandotte, the two counties which are part of the Kansas City metro.
Asking for life to go back to some semblance of normal before Father’s Day is asking too much. Maybe by Labor Day. If it doesn’t by my 44th birthday, 45 isn’t looking so good.
Happy 50th, Apollo 13
Fifty years ago last night, the humdrum of what appeared to be another routine Apollo mission to the moon was forever changed by five words spoken by Commander Jim Lovell.
“Houston, we have a problem”.
And so began the saga of Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. There was no way they would follow in the footsteps of Apollo 11’s Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, nor Apollo 12’s Bean, Conrad and Gordon. Apollo 11 went to the moon in July 1969, with Armstrong and Aldrin setting foot on its surface on 20 July. Four months later, Apollo 12 took the same path.
As an aside, it would be Dick Gordon’s last space flight; twenty-six months later, he became the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the New Orleans Saints. Gordon was obviously smarter than the man who hired him, Saints owner John Mecom, and the head coach Gordon was inheriting, J.D. Roberts, but Gordon was in over his head against the likes of Jim Finks in Minnesota, Carroll Rosenbloom with the Rams, Al Davis in Oakland, the Rooney sin Pittsburgh, and Donald Francis Shula in south Florida.
Enough football. Back to Lovell, Haise and Swigert. Landing on the moon was out of the question; the new question was simply if they would live or die.
The first three and half months of the 1970s were carrying on the same deadly legacy as the last few months of the 1960s.
Following Apollo 11, ]Hurricane Camille bulldozed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast the same weekend as Woodstock, killing 256 over five states. Three and half months later came the infamous Altamont Free Concert in northern California, where 18-year old druggie Meredith Hunter was stabbed by Hell’s Angel Alan Passarro, the latter claiming self-defense because he and his fellow Angels were scared the former would attack Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones during their performance.
Less than six days before Apollo 13 lifted off, four members of the California Highway Patrol were shot to death by snipers near Los Angeles. And three weeks after Lovell radioed the Johnson Space Center, four students died at Kent State (fortunately for football fans from coast to coast, one of them was not Nick Saban, then a freshman on the Golden Flashes football team).
The launch of Apollo 13 on 11 April was covered by the three networks, but other than updates from Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds, there was no special coverage. The night of Lovell’s transmission, the networks were in regular programming (“Here’s Lucy” on CBS; “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” on NBC and a horrendous TV movie on ABC), but Cronkite, Brinkley and Reynolds scurried back to their anchor chairs and updated the viewing public.
The mayday came after an explosion occurred in a liquid oxygen tank on board the command module. It turns out the tank was seriously damaged when it was dropped in preparation for Apollo 10. The tank for Apollo 10 was replaced, and the damaged tank was repaired and placed aboard Apollo 13.
It should not have been. It should have simply been disposed of. However, in 1969 and ’70, the cost of simply replacing the tank may have been too prohibitive to not to try and salvage it.
The damaged tank could only handle 28 volts, compared to 65 volts if the tank were in optimal condition. When temperatures spiked to approximately 185 degrees Celsius (365 degrees Fahrenheit), the internal wiring in the tank melted. When Swigert flipped a switch to stir the cryogenic tanks, the defective one exploded.
Lovell, Haise and Swigert were now on their own, more than 320,000 kilometers (200,000 miles) from earth. Mission Control was rendered useless.
The only hope was to use the lunar module, which Lovell and Haise would have used to land on the moon while Swigert circled above in the service module (the same way Collins did for Armstrong and Aldrin during Apollo 11, and Gordon for Bean and Conrad during Apollo 12), to fly back to earth.
Lovell had to figure out how to guide the lunar module with the service module attached, a totally different animal compared to what he and Haise would have experieneced landing on the moon.
As the trio neared earth on 17 April, they moved back into the damaged service module to prepare for splashdown. Originally, it was believed it would splash down in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Australia, but the trajectory was improved and it splashed at the original destination in the south Pacific.
I learned about Apollo 13 in sixth grade science. Two years later, an episode of ABC’s “The Wonder Years” featured the Apollo 13 crisis as a central plot point. Norma Arnold (Alley Mills) is up late after husband Jack (Dan Lauria) and children Karen (Olivia d’Abo), Wayne (Jason Hervey) and Kevin (Fred Savage) had gone to bed. Just as Kevin walks into the kitchen where Norma is watching television, and Frank Reynolds pops onto the screen with a “special report”. Later in the week, Kevin enters a church and finds Norma praying for the astronauts. The astronauts’ safe return also seemingly eases any tension between Norma and Jack. Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) sat out this episode.
The three men aboard Apollo 13 never returned to space. The Apollo program ended in December 1972, and it would be over eight years before the first space shuttle launch in 1981.
Lovell, still alive and well at 92, retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy shortly after Apollo 13. His book “Lost Moon” served as the script for the 1995 blockbuster film “Apollo 13”, with Tom Hanks portraying Lovell.
I know of a few people who are not enamored with Lovell.
In August 1999, Lovell was as guest of the Chicago Cubs during a nationally televised game vs. the Houston Astros. Lovell harshly criticized a group of umpires who lost their jobs when they followed Richie Phillips’ dreadful strategy to resign the previous month. The interview, conducted by ESPN announcers John Miller and Joe Morgan, was seen by millions from coast to coast.
Two of the umpires working that night’s game, the infamous Eric Gregg and Paul Nauert, lost their jobs three and a half weeks later. Jerry Crawford, the crew chief for that night’s game, didn’t lose his job, but he was Richie Phillips’ best friend, and I’m certain he won’t shed a tear when Lovell finally slips the surly bonds of this earth and touches the face of God, as Ronald Reagan once put it.
Haise, still alive at 86, was scheduled to fly on Apollo 19, but his number didn’t come up, since Apollo 17 was the last. He was recruited for the space shuttle program, but he got tired of the delays.
Swigert turned to politics in the late 1970s after leaving NASA. His first run for office failed, as he lost the 1978 Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat from Colorado to U.S. Rep. Bill Armstrong, who went on to win the general election and serve two terms.
In early 1982, Swigert announced he would run for U.S. Representative from Colorado’s 6th district, a seat which the Centennial State gained from reapportionment following the 1980 census.
Before Swigert could worry about winning in November, he had to beat cancer, which manifested itself in a tumor in his right nasal passage. He finished radiation treatment in June 1982, but two months later, cancer came back in his bone marrow.
Swigert stayed in the election and won with 64 percent of the vote, becoming the third ex-astronaut to win election to Congress, with the others serving in the Senate.
The first was John Glenn, the living legend who represented Ohio from 1975-1998; the second was Harrison Schmitt, who represented New Mexico from 1977-82. Ironically, the same day Swigert was elected, Schmitt lost his seat to Jeff Bingaman.
Sadly for Swigert, he never took the oath on Capitol Hill. He died 27 December in the same wing of Georgetown University Hospital where Vince Lombardi succumbed to colon cancer 12 years earlier. Swigert was only 51.
Apollo 13 may never have reached its intended destination. However, the courage demonstrated by James Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert will continue to serve as a beacon of hope, especially poignant given what’s happening right now, 50 years after Lovell radioed Houston.
Hays’ toilet paper supply in the toilet
The 30 rolls of toilet paper I purchased in Salina Tuesday were exactly 30 more than I found in any store in Hays Wednesday.
ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.
Dillons on Vine, Walgreens and Walmart did not have a single roll for sale. No Charmin Ultra Soft, no Charmin Ultra Strong, no Angel Soft, no Cottonelle…not even one-play crap you find in rest stops.
I looked because my mother wanted Cottonelle. Tuesday, I was limited to the one (giant) pack of Charmin I bought, and I wasn’t greedy enough to even try to fight it.
I was flabbergasted to find Hays completely out of “TP”. People hoarding toilet paper was a popular sight on news broadcasts throughout March, but I figured if there was some in Salina, there would be some in Hays.
I admit I probably overdid it by buying the 30-roll pack, but it wasn’t the last one. My parents don’t use Charmin, but if they run low, they can have a roll or two. I offered Crista a couple of rolls, but she politely declined, hoping some will be in stock Friday.
There were haircutting sets avaialable at the Hays Walmart. There was also a full stock of razors, simply because most men in northwest Kansas not named David Steinle don’t shave. My father doesn’t need to shave. He couldn’t grow a beard if he went a whole year without shaving. He briefly grew a terrible mustache when I was a month old. I will never let him live that down.
As bad as hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes and other cleaning supplies is, people hoarding masks is criminal.
Too bad the federal government can’t go through every person’s credit card records and determine who hoarded masks. Once the jerks were found, the feds could raid their residences and confiscate the masks, citing a national emergency.
Why hasn’t anyone thought of this? Medical personnel are risking their lives even more so than normal because they don’t have masks, gloves and other NECESSARY items just because a handful of a-holes went all Howard Hughes and became deathly afraid of germs?
Worse than the hoarding, some lowlife scumbags were selling the masks at markups of over 1,000% before Amazon and other online retailers put a stop to this. Medical masks costing more than a new iPhone. Disgusting.
I get it. COVID-19 is the nastiest virus we have experienced in our lifetime. Yet like the Spanish flu of 1918-19, the H1N1 flu of 2009 and other communicable diseases, most people are not going to die from it.
Unfortunately, nobody is showing leadership. Dumbass Trump doesn’t know when to shut up and let the experts take over, while Crazy Bernie thinks 20 million will die and it’s all because the US doesn’t have a single-payer health care system.
The number one mask hoarder: Baruch Feldheim, 43, of NYC, who stashed EIGHTY THOUSAND masks in a New Jersey warehouse.
EIGHTY THOUSAND. Not a typo.
Feldheim was arrested Wednesday, then coughed all over FBI agents. What a real SHITHEAD. Sorry for using that langauge, but calling Feldheim a SHITHEAD is too nice.
There’s a special ring of hell awaiting you, Baruch Feldheim.
I read where Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor was pretty darn upset with the newest expert on coronavirus.
Taylor told a Manhattan (Kansas, not NYC) radio station he wishes Kirk Herbstreit would have kept his mouth shut instead of declaring sports are dead for at least another year.
Bravo, Gene. Someone needs to tell Herbstreit to let the doctors handle it and for him to worry about his own family and (hopefully) the games which will start in September.
I’m getting worked up, and 01:05 is NOT the time to get worked up. I’m getting out of here while I can.
Remember…BARUCH FELDHEIM IS PUBLIC ENEMY #1.
A bad March transitions into (probably) a worse April
The worst month many of us have experienced is over.
What may become the worst month many of us will experience is now upon us.
Life without sports will continue throughout April, and probably May. If there are any games played before Fathers Day (June 21), it will be a Biblical miracle. If there are any before America’s Independence Day, it will be a major miracle. If the college and professional football seasons kick off on time in September, it will be a minor miracle.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit scared the living crap out of every coach, player and fan last week, stating he didn’t believe there would be any more sports, period, until a vaccine for coronavirus was available.
College football’s resident coronavirus expert, Ed Orgeron, believes there will be “no disruption” to the college football season, which is scheduled to begin August 29 with the Notre Dame-Navy game in Ireland.
I’m naturally pessimistic, and I’m tending to believe Herbstreit might be right. I’m not scared. I’m downright terrified.
My native state is in one of its biggest crises since Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803.
The banner on the top of The Advocate’s home page is grim indeed: 5,237 cases, 239 dead, 1,355 in the hospital.
For perspective, the coronavirus has killed three times as many Louisiana residents as Hurricane Betsy, which claimed 76 lives in the Bayou State (plus five in Florida) in September 1965.
The toll is only 17 short of the total number of people who perished in Hurricane Camille, the Category 5 monster which plowed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast the same weekend as Woodstock in 1969. The total of 256 was spread over Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia; the latter two states experienced flash flooding in the Blue Ridge mountains two days after landfall.
Hurricane Katrina killed 1,836 in Louisiana in 2005. If the coronavirus comes anywhere close to reaching that figure, it will be just as catastrophic, maybe more so. I’m certain it will surpass the 550 who died when Hurricane Audrey roared into southwest Louisiana in June 1957.
Kansas has “only” 428 cases as of this minute. Barton County, due south of Russell County, reported its first case yesterday.
For the second consecutive Tuesday, I ventured to Salina to pick up food and other necessities. It was a complete success, as I picked up five dozen eggs, plus the sausages and other things I like.
Target had two surprises for me.
One, TOILET PAPER. And not just any toilet paper, the Charmin Ultra Soft I have used for most of the past 25 years. I first used it when I went to LSU, and I kept on using it living in Baton Rouge following graduation. I did not use it when I moved home from April 2004 through August 2005, but once I got to Russell, I started using it again.
I have 19 mega rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft in the utility closet next to my bathroom, but 30 mega rolls for $30 was just too good to pass up. I’m set for the rest of this year, and probably most of next year.
There were ZERO packages of toilet paper available the previous Tuesday in the same store.
I was also happy to find Bounty paper towels. Bounty and Brawny are head and shoulders above all other brands. They may be more expensive, but as they say, you get what you pay for.
The second surprise: Target’s stock of home haircutting kits was completely sold out.
I was stunned, but then I realized barber shops and salons were forced to close by the statewide stay-at-home order which took effect Monday. This is going to force parents to cut their children’s hair, although there are no grooming regulations to worry about since nobody will be attending school in a building until at least August.
Fortunately, I bought a haircut set at a Walmart in Topeka in 2007. It sat unused until November, when I elected to cut my own hair to save money.
Walmart did not have haircut sets, either. Bed, Bath and Beyond, whose stores are closed through at least Friday and longer in many states due to stay-at-home orders, is sold out online. Amazon’s supplies are low.
Speaking of Salina and haircuts, I miss Amber.
Chick-Fil-A was again my meal of choice. I hadn’t eaten since the previous night so I devoured a chicken sandwich and eight strips. I think their strips are just as good as Zaxby’s and Raising Cane’s, although they aren’t hyped as much as the sandwiches.
I have seriously lost track of time. I sat down to play Buzztime at 22:00, and now it’s 02:10. I’m surprised Buzztime hasn’t kicked me off the system, which it used to after 02:00.
Just posted my first perfect Late Shift of the night. On my 17th try. Usually I can get it quicker than that.
I’d better get to bed, or I’ll sleep through my appointment with Crista at 16:00, although I don’t have to drive to Hays. We’re doing it via Zoom, which was the case last week.