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Beards and no masks? I’ve got a REAL problem.

Day six in St. Louis featured trips to two supermarkets in St. Peters not too far apart. I counted seven people not wearing masks. All were male, and all but one had a beard.

It wasn’t the first time. In nine of the ten grocery stores I have visited in St. Louis, more than 80 percent of the maskless people were men with beards. I have rarely encountered a woman without a mask.

I told Peggy this. I prefaced it by saying she might not like it. Her son, Conor has worn a beard since he was in high school, and her three sons-in-law all have them, although Sam, Chelsea’s husband, does go clean shaven frequently.

I would trade my father’s facial hair for mine. My father could not grow a beard if he went without shaving for a full year. He tried growing a porn star mustache in November 1976, which looked pathetic. He had the mustache on the day of my baptism, and every time I looked at that picture, I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag. Sometimes I did both.

The only time I went an extended period without shaving was when I was in the hospital. The first time I saw my face in the mirror I nearly threw up. It was ugly. The most I ever go without shaving is one day. I don’t shave with the double edge safety razor every day right now, but I have a high-end Braun electric to touch up.

Notice I sad “9 of 10” grocery stores in the second paragraph. That’s because the 10th was Whole Foods, which won’t let you in if you’re not wearing a mask. The store provides masks, but if you don’t want to wear it, you have to leave immediately.

I don’t know how much the surgical masks I am wearing prevent against catching COVID-19, but they definitely prevent against sneezes and coughs spreading. I sneezed today in Dierbergs, and I felt good knowing the particles didn’t spread.

I feel better with the blue surgical masks than with a cloth mask. Two ladies were wearing Blues masks at Schnucks. Too bad I don’t know French or I would have said “Go Habs” in French. Montreal did beat St. Louis in both meetings this season, about the only thing that’s gone right for the Canadiens this season. Hey, at least it is still 23-1 Montreal over St. Louis in times winning the Stanley Cup.

N95 masks would be the best, but the doctors need them. I hope Dr. Custer and the rest of the staff at Hays Medical Center has been able to secure them.

I still have not seen blue surgical masks sold anywhere except Hen House in Johnson County, where I’ve seen them at the Leawood and Prairie Village locations. Speaking of Prairie Village, everyone who goes out in public in that city now has to wear a mask, thanks to an ordinance passed by the city council there.

I’m curious to find out how many people in Hays are wearing masks now. I’m going there Tuesday to Walgreens to pick up medication. I may stop at Dillons just for fun, because heaven knows I don’t need food after all I’m bringing back from St. Louis.

I gorged myself yesterday on sushi, plus I ate a salmon filet and grilled cheese.

The grilled cheese was not made of cheddar, swiss or provolone. I decided to try a St. Louis specialty.

It’s called Provel, and it’s a processed mix of the three cheeses I just mentioned. It is used as the main cheese (instead of mozzarella) by St. Louis pizza chain Imo’s, where pies are baked on a thin cracker-style crust and cut into squares. Many St. Louis residents swear by it and will never eat pizza without Provel, but others dislike Provel and want good old mozzarella.

The Provel grilled cheese was very tasty. I’m going to bring some back to Russell and have my parents try it. I’m not big on processed cheese; I will eat Velveeta and “American” cheese, but it is far from my favorite. However, Provel may grow on me and I may start bringing back lots of it from St. Louis, the same way I do things from Kansas City.

I skipped White Castle yesterday but went back today. Got a crave case (30), which will tide me over through today and tomorrow. I doubt I’m going out tomorrow, because the forecast calls for heavy rain. Monday is supposed to be the perfect day for an eight hour drive, with cooler temperatures and abundant sunshine.

One thing I am really hating about shopping right now is the ban on reusable bags. God I hate those flimsy plastic bags. I get a lot of angry looks from baggers and checkers when I request paper and not plastic.

Growing up in New Orleans, we didn’t have to ponder that question. If you shopped at Schwegmann’s Giant Supermarkets, you got paper and you liked it. The bags were so ubiquitous around the Crescent City they were known as “Schwegmann bags”. Unfortunately, Schwegmann’s went bankrupt and closed its last stores just before the start of the millennium.

Forty years ago tonight, a magical sporting event took place. Too bad few people witnessed it live. I’ll get to it in my next post.

Motorcycles more important than a pandemic? Maybe in Missouri

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of a day Boston sports fans treasure…and St. Louis sports fans want to forget.

On Mothers’ Day 1970, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1941 by completing a four-game sweep of the Blues in the Finals. Boston clinched the Cup when Bobby Orr, probably the greatest defenseman (defenceman for the Canadians) to ever lace up a pair of skates, scored 40 seconds into overtime of the fourth game.

The game-winning goal wrapped up a phenomenal season for the 22-year old, who became the first defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer (goals and assists), then took home the Norris (best defenseman), Hart (Most Valuable Player) and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies, becoming the first player to win four major awards in one season.

Orr’s backhand beat one of the game’s greatest goaltenders, Glenn Hall, but what was more memorable was the photo captured a split second after the goal. It shows Orr suspended in flight after he was tripped by the Blues’ Noel Picard. It is the most iconic photo in NHL history, and certainly one of the best-known photos in North American sport.

It took the Blues 49 years, one month and two days to even the score. Right now, the Blues should be defending the Cup in the playoffs, but of course, COVID-19 has put life as we know it on hold. If the NHL cannot complete the regular season and playoffs, will the Blues keep the Cup, or will the NHL require it go back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto? The hope of commissioner Gary Bettman and every hockey player, coach and fan is the season is completed one way or another.

For once, I agree with Gary Bettman. Mark it down.

Speaking of St. Louis, your lazy blogger got up at 04:45 today and departed 1224 North Brooks at 05:30 for a trip to the far side of Missouri. This comes exactly three weeks after I left Russell for Kansas City.

My parents know nothing of where I am. They know I left this morning, but that’s it. Peggy knows where I am. Larry knows where I am after I just texted him. Crista will know tomorrow at 14:00.

After farting around in Kansas City for an hour filling up my gas tank, buying bread at Hen House in Leawood and purchasing treatment for scars left over from a grease burn at Target in Martin City, I was on my way to the opposite side of the Show-Me State.

One major difference between how Kansas and Missouri have responded to COVID-19 can be seen in the electronic road signs along Interstate 70.

In Kansas, all signs have now been targeted towards reducing the spread of the disease. Signs read “Wash Hands, Cover Mouth, Save Lives”; “If Fever Strikes, Stay Home” and other ominous messages.

Some of the signs say “Stay Home”, but I’m ignoring those. It has nothing to do with my parents. Seriously. It’s all me. They need a break from me every so often. EVERYONE needs a break from me every so often: Peggy, Caitlyn, Crista, Dr. Jones, Dr. Custer, Robb, Larry, Liz, Brenda…whomever. I can only be tolerated in small doses. It’s not their fault. They do their best to put up with me. All of them deserve sainthood.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly went too far too fast by calling off the remainder of the 2019-20 school year when she did. She could have waited a couple of weeks like most states, including the three which border Kansas. I’m surprised Kelly did not extend the stay-at-home order, which expired last Monday.

You would never know there’s a pandemic if you read the road signs on I-70 in Missouri, at least from Blue Springs to Wentzville.

None of this business about washing hands. None of this business about staying home. Instead, the Missouri Department of Transportation reminds drivers constantly to be alert for motorcycles and to share the road with Harleys and Kawasakis.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has been raked over the coals by the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for what they see as a lackadaisical response. The Star has praised Kelly while pounding Parson, and the same is true of the Post-Dispatch comparing Parson to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker., whose state is still under severe restrictions; however, if you took the Chicago area out of the equation, Illinois would be much closer to Kansas and Missouri in terms of cases and deaths.

Speaking of Illinois, it is forbidden for Kansans like myself, unless I want to quarantine for 14 days when I return to Russell. Believe me, there is absolutely nothing I want or need in Illinois, although it would have been nice to have the option to zip through on I-64 heading towards Louisville and Lexington.

If Kansas were still governed by Sam Brownback, or worse, Kris Kobach were governor, I can only imagine just how bad it might be in the Sunflower State. I’m guessing neither Brownback nor Kobach would have issued a stay-at-home order, and Kobach might have made it much worse by threatening to sue—or actually suing—the federal government. Notice I didn’t mention Jeff Colyer, who became governor after Brownback became an ambassador in 2017, because Colyer is far more level-headed than Brownback or Kobach and would have done something to head off the virus at the pass.

I don’t particularly like most of Kelly’s stances (I didn’t vote for any of the three major candidates for governor in 2018), and while I wish she would have waited a little longer to close schools—it probably would have happened regardless—her course was probably as balanced an approach as there could be.

The White Castle in Columbia provided a great caper.

I attempted to place an order for pickup before leaving Kansas City. However, I kept getting an error stating the restaurant would not be open at that hour. I was trying to place an order for shortly after noon. I used the app on both my phone and tablet, and then tried to order from the regular website as well, but nothing. I did, however, place a 16:45 order for the O’Fallon location.

I pulled off I-70 at a rest stop and e-mailed White Castle technical support, explaining I was getting a message that the location was closed. When I arrived in Columbia, there were numerous cars in the drive-thru lane at White Castle. I then called their customer support hotline to explain the online ordering snafu. I chose not to wait any longer, and instead got back on the road.

It turned out I was the one with the snafu.

The Columbia location—the farthest west in the United States as far as I know—is now closed on Monday and Tuesday. I received a reply from White Castle headquarters in Cincinnati which mentioned it, but gave no explanation.

I then shot back that there were cars in the drive-thru, but the representative told me the closure was true.

D’oh!

The good news? Wentzville was only 80 miles away. If I waited seven hours of driving (well, seven hours after leaving home; there was a lot of wasted time in Kansas City and at that rest stop 70 miles west of Columbia), I could make it 80 more miles.

Wentzville, a booming town in western St. Charles County 40 miles west of downtown St. Louis, provided me a good laugh or two.

The QuikTrip was one piece good news, two pieces bad.

The good: I could buy a fountain drink! I could not at any Kansas City location during my trip last month, nor could I purchase one today in Overland Park. However, I walked right up to the fountain like the pre-COVID-19 days in Wentzville. The differences: no styrofoam cups and no refills, so I had to buy a new cup and pour it into my black mug.

The bad…

First, the restroom was incredibly dirty. I have never seen a QuikTrip restroom that filthy. Never. And I have been frequenting QuikTrips for 14 years in Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha and (once) Tulsa.

Second, NOBODY was wearing a mask other than the boob from Russell. I’ve made the mistake of not wearing a mask at times, although when I nearly entered the QuikTrip in Overland Park, I caught myself and went back to my car to get it.

On to White Castle, and only the boob from Russell was wearing a mask. St. Charles County has greatly loosened its restrictions, so patrons can go into a restaurant to pick up food, although there is no seating. Six employees, no mask. Four other guests, no masks.

I put the maskless people behind me, because I was damn hungry. White Castle never tasted better.

The Schnucks in Lake St. Louis was almost the complete opposite of the QuikTrip and White Castle in Wentzville. Every employee had a mask on, and nearly every customer did, too. However, at the White Castle in O’Fallon, only the boob from Russell wore one, although no other customers entered during the 10 minutes I waited.

The outlet mall in Chesterfield is a ghost town. That’s because St. Louis County still hasn’t loosened its restrictions. But as long as White Castle, Schnucks and Dierberg’s are doing business, I’m a happy camper.

I’ve crossed the Missouri River on I-64 three times already. Over/under is 14 for this trip, which will go until at least Friday, maybe longer. My yellow rain slicker will get a workout. The weathermen and ladies are expecting a lot of rain in the Gateway City this week.

I’m not as tired as I could be after a long day. But it’s time for me to stop blogging for tonight.

COVID-19 and Kent State: two sad stories of American history

Kansas’ stay-at-home order has expired. Some businesses have reopened, but many have not.

This was evident today when I went to Hays.

The Wendy’s at the corner of Vine and 43rd north of Interstate 70 was doing quite a business. Ten vehicles in the drive-thru, elderly couples sitting at the tables outside, and people inside the restaurant for the first time in seven weeks.

The nearby Applebee’s and Old Chicago were not seating customers, although they were accepting takeout orders.

I haven’t missed sitting in a restaurant. I’ve been able to procure takeout from Chick-Fil-A without difficulty. Unfortunately, Arby’s and Popeye’s don’t have mobile ordering, which stinks, because I could really go for Popeye’s right now. Then again, the chicken would get cold on the 70-minute drive from Salina to Russell.

The three large cities in southwest Kansas–Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal–are all overrun with COVID-19. Each county has more cases than Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located.

Coincidentally, the same thing has happened in Nebraska. The three large cities of south central Nebraska–Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney–have more cases between them than either of the state’s large metropolitan areas, Lincoln and Omaha.

Missouri also lifted its stay-at-home order, although Kansas City and St. Louis are still locked until at least May 15. St. Louis couldn’t care less about lockdown right now; all the Gateway City wants is for the Blues and Cardinals to return.

Today marked the 50th anniversary of the infamous shootings at Kent State University in northeast Ohio. Sandy Scheurer, William Schroeder, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller were killed, and nine others injured when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during an anti-Vietnam War protest. Krause and Miller were participating in the protest, but Scheurer and Schroeder were innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Due to COVID-19 and the closure of every college campus in the United Staes, the celebration at Kent State was quite subdued, a far cry from what organizers of the school’s May 4 Committee hoped for. Had campus been open, it’s likely Kent State’s most famous alumnus would have appeared (see below), not to mention Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and possibly three of the school’s greatest athletes, Jack Lambert, Antonio Gates and Julian Edelman.

One of Krause’s classmates was a freshman from Monagaha, West Virginia named Nicholas Saban, who, of course, would become the most successful college football coach of the last 50 years, leading LSU to a national championship in 2003 and Alabama to titles in 2009, ’11, ’12, ’15 and ’17.

Saban and a classmate were walking to a dining hall and saw the shooting unfold. He rushed back to West Virginia after campus closed to spend time with his longtime girlfriend, Terry Constable, now better known as Miss Terry, Nick’s wife of almost 49 years.

There was another future Southeastern Conference football coach on Kent State’s campus that day.

Gary Pinkel was a tight end for the Golden Flashes who went on to earn All-Mid-America Conference honors. He eventually followed in Saban’s footsteps as head coach at Toledo before going to Missouri in 2001.

When Pinkel arrived in CoMo (to differentiate from the other Columbia in the SEC), Mizzou was in sorry shape. The Tigers were a powerhouse under Dan Devine throughout the 1960s, and even though they fell on hard times after Devine left for the Green Bay Packers in 1971, Mizzou bounced back to respectability under Al Onofrio and Warren Powers.

When Powers was fired after the 1984 season, the Tigers tanked. Woody Widenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith all failed miserably in pulling Mizzou out of its funk. Sadly, the thing Mizzou is best known for during the tenure of those three coaches was the infamous Fifth Down Game vs. Colorado in 1990.

It took Pinkel a few years to get it going, but when he did, Mizzou zoomed to heights it had not seen since Devine’s glory years. The Tigers reached #1 in the polls in 2007 following their victory over Kansas, although their hopes of a date with Ohio State in the BCS championship game ended with a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. LSU was the beneficiary, ending up as national championship following their victory over the Buckeyes in New Orleans.

Mizzou ended up #5 in the polls following the 2007 season, and repeated it in 2013, the Tigers’ second season in the SEC. The Tigers have struggled since winning the SEC East (why is Mizzou in the SEC East when it is farther west than five of the seven SEC West schools?) in 2013 and ’14, but it hasn’t relapsed into the pitiful form it showed from 1985-2000, when it became roadkill for Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and later, Kansas State.

Here is an excellent New York Times retrospective of Kent State.

Given the late hour, I’ll end it here.

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.

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.

Wrong.

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.

Yikes.

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.

A party of no, no, no, no, no, no…

Today was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Tonight was supposed to be the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

Unless you have totally shut out media the last two weeks, you know by now there will be no NCAA basketball tournaments for either gender at any level until at least 2021, and it’s likely the first pitch of the MLB season will not be thrown before Memorial Day, probably later.

Earlier today, it was announced the Indianapolis 500 will be postponed from 24 May to 23 August, the first time since 1945, the last year of World War II, that “The Brickyard” will not host the iconic race on Memorial Day weekend. Formula One already cancelled several Grand Prix races, including its most prestigious in Monaco, which is usually run the same day as the Indianapolis 500.

Tuesday was quite eventful, definitely not the norm with stay-at-home orders proliferating to try to “flatten the curve” against COVID-19.

I was supposed to see Crista at 13:00. As soon as I pulled into the Walmart parking lot to pick up an order, the phone rang. Since it was The Cars’ “You Might Think”, I knew it was Crista’s office.

She told me that I would not be going to the office to see her. Instead, we would video conference via Zoom. The setup was simple, but now I had to find a quiet place to hold the meeting. Going inside a restaurant was not an option, and besides, I wouldn’t want to attract unwanted attention. It was a nice day to go outside, but again, I didn’t want people to become concerned.

As I drove south on Vine, I got the idea to go to Sonic, pull into a stall, and sit in the Buick while conducting the session. I knew Sonic was operating as usual, and it would be easier to go there than most other places, since there was no inside seating and everything was brought to the car to begin with.

The idea worked like a charm. Got two burgers and a big drink, and I had my session with Crista and Alicia, one of the many students who sit in on sessions at High Plains Mental Health (with client consent, of course).

Crista and Alicia laughed at my Zoom backdrop: the Kentucky state (or is it commonwealth?) capitol. Obviously, the picture was from when I stopped in Frankfort three years ago on my way to Lexington. They did not know you could create your own background. I told them it was like the backgrounds used on CNN, ESPN and other outlets.

The session went well. I see her again April 15, and hopefully I’ll be able to go into the office. Actually, Zoom might work better, since I see Dr. Custer 20 minutes after my session with Crista will end.

I went into Dillon’s on Vine. No toilet paper, no hand sanitizer, no rubbing alcohol, very few paper towels (no Brawny or Bounty, only the cheap stuff), no Dixie Ultra paper plates. However, there was ONE package of Chinet plates. One hundred of them. I decided they would never go to waste. Also found bacon, which was not available last week.

Since I was able to drive this week, I ventured to Salina to pick up orders at Walmart and Dillons on Ohio. I also took time to get my car washed at a new location and pick up Chick-Fil-A, where mobile ordering is a snap. Too bad Popeye’s can’t get its mobile ordering straight.

Tuesday was the first day I drove since 17 February. I believe it is the longest I’ve gone without driving since I received my unrestricted license 28 May 1992. The previous long was 25 days in November and December 2004 when I almost died from pneumonia and a pneumothorax, and I spent two weeks in the hospital, the first in ICU.

The Dillons on Ohio had no rubbing alcohol, toilet paper, wipes or sanitizer, but there were Dixie Ultra plates. However, I bought two packs of the Kroger brand. I figure if I have to use two at a time, it will be okay. I also stocked up on Boar’s Head sopresseta, as I like to munch on it. I was tempted to buy some capicola and/or mortadella, but my refrigerator and freezer were going to be stuffed anyway.

Since CVS pharmacy was only six blocks north of Dillons, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stop. It would allow me to kill time, since driving to Russell at that time would have a blinding sun in my face. I had trouble in Salina with the glare driving westbound.

There were a few packages of toilet paper at CVS, with a large sign reading “LIMIT ONE PER CUSTOMER”. I milled over buying a pack, but I said no, since I have 19 big rolls of Charmin downstairs in Russell. It was a good stop because I needed a certain item I forgot at Walgreens last week, and I needed to print a picture to mail to Crista.

Old Chicago in Salina was closed, as it should have been. Last Thursday, the company issued an e-mail stating it was closing every location, even for takeout.

Yet when I pulled into the parking lot at the Hays location Tuesday at 12:30, four people walked in. I also noticed last Saturday that two people played one of the Buzztime games which cannot be played through the app.

Last stop in Salina: Target. Plenty of hand soap. Again, I passed. No toilet paper, but there were Bounty paper towels and Dawn Platinum dish soap available, so I bought one of each. I also stocked up on more toilet bowl tablet cleaners, even though I purchased eight at Walmart. Those don’t go to waste, either, and I could afford to keep my toilet cleaner.

I didn’t need to buy any soap to begin with. I ordered three bottles from an online collaborative in northern California. I got it yesterday, along with two more boxes of facial tissues.I’ve got four full cannisters and three partial cannisters of hand wipes, and three bottles of household cleaner with bleach. Now I’m glad I kept buying incrementally during all those trips to Kansas City.

When will I return to Kansas City? See below for why it might be awhile.

I made Larry’s day yesterday.

He was attempting to play Buzztime Tuesday night when I got back to Russell, and he said he got kicked off the server at Minsky’s, and then at 54th Street Bar and Grill in Liberty.

Buzztime updated its app recently. I noticed Tuesday, since I played in Salina (don’t worry, only when I was in a parking lot) that it had been updated, because after each game, the national leaderboard came up like it does in bars.

Yesterday afternoon, a Buzztime e-mail said its app now could connect to establishments up 20 miles (32 kilometers) away instead of only 2 miles (3.6 km) previously.

That change doesn’t affect me. Russell is 27 miles (44 km) from Hays, so the closest I could connect would be the Gorham exit on I-70, or a mile or two east of that.

For Larry, it’s a godsend. Now he doesn’t have to leave his home, drive by Minsky’s to pick up the signal, and then hope the app doesn’t leave him high and dry, like I did until I discovered the Android emulator for my laptop and a GPS spoofer for my phone.

I played until 02:00 Wednesday and 01:00 this morning. I’m back at it now. Might as well try to keep my mind off of COVID-19.

Larry and the rest of the Kansas City metro is under a stay-at-home order until 23 April, as is the St. Louis area. Missouri did not have many cases at first, but it is mushrooming and has surpassed Kansas.

I told Larry that hopefully we’ll be playing trivia again at Minsky’s on the first Friday of August. I can hope for July, but maybe August is too optimistic. I also want to get to Kansas City and St. Louis to be able to shop at their wonderful grocery stores, as well as eat White Castle in either St. Louis or Columbia.

The Advocate’s banner shows the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and people hospitalized in the Bayou State.

The numbers are alarming, disturbing , depressing and a bunch of other adjectives, none of them bright and sunny.

As I look at The Advocate’s home page, the numbers are 2,305 positive cases, 83 deaths, and 676 hospitalized.

Louisiana’s rate per capita is the highest in the nation. Yes, there are more cases in New York, California, Washington, Illinois and Florida, but Louisiana’s population is less than 5 million. That’s only two-thirds the size of New York City’s population (that’s just the five boroughs, not the entire metro), one-sixth of Florida’s population and one-eighth of California’s.

The number of cases in the city of New Orleans (Orleans Parish) is 997, with 46 deaths. Neighboring Jefferson Parish has 458 cases and 12 deaths, while St. Bernard Parish, where I lived and was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, has 28 cases and one fatality. Fifty-one of the state’s 64 parishes have at least one positive case, and every metropolitan area has been hit.

NBC reported last night that “patient zero” may have come from a foreign country during Carnival, which ended with Mardi Gras on 25 February, and then it spread like wildfire.

There certainly isn’t social distancing during Carnival; if you get six CENTIMETERS between yourself and another person in the French Quarter, you’re fortunate. I never went to the Vieux Carre during Carnival, but the big parades (Endymion, Thoth, Bacchus, Rex) also had crowds bunched like sardines.

It’s not hard to figure out how quickly COVID-19 can spread in that environment, just like it has in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago.

Two of the city’s most famous residents, Saints coach Sean Payton and Archbishop Gregory Aymond, tested positive. Payton is recovering, and hopefully Aymond will.

Weekend number three without sports looms, but first another visit to Hays to get my wound treated. It’s looking a lot better than it did two months ago, when Dr. Custer first got a look at what was a grotesque chasm.

Grocery shopping becomes a game of chance

I got up at 05:15 to use the bathroom. I thought about going back to bed, but as I washed my hands, I realized I had better take care of a particular task, or I may not get that chance.

That task: reserving times at Walmart in Salina and Hays to pick up groceries and household goods, notably toilet cleaners and paper plates.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated panic buying of anything and everything. The panic buying began shortly after the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, but throughout February, it was limited to cleaning wipes, cleaning sprays, paper towels and tissues.

With nine days left in March, nothing is immune to hoarders. Store shelves are picked clean, and trying to reserve items to be picked up is challenging not only because of the empty shelves, but because stores–Walmart and Dillons in my case–are severely restricting the times which items can be picked up.

Walmart is not allowing any reservations past the next day; i.e., I could not reserve a Tuesday pickup time last night, prompting me to do my shopping before 06:00. I got reservations at 12:00 in Hays and 17;00 in Salina.

Dillons is worse. I sneaked into a Tuesday evening slot at the store on Ohio Street in Salina last Friday, but when I tried to find another slot, there was nothing available for three days anywhere. A precious few slots for Wednesday and Thursday in Hays have opened this morning.

I’m going to be making three stops tomorrow, with a session with Crista at 13:00 wedged in. Walmart in Hays is before Crista, and Salina is after. The times in Salina are late enough so I can do whatever else I need to do in Hays, including a long wait in a drive-thru, before heading east on Interstate 70. At least I’ve mastered the art of ordering with an app at Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Sonic.

I’m driving this week, so I’d better get to Salina when I can. The diabetic ulcer on the big toe on my right foot has left me in a cast for the better part of the last seven weeks. It has healed very well, and with COVID-19 shutting down everything, there’s no downside to staying home all the time. Buzztime trivia, chess, Lifetime movies and naps pass the time.

While I have reserved items at three stores, whether or not I actually get those items is a crap shoot.

Last Friday, the Dillons in Hays could not get me any bacon. Nothing. My dad, who drove me to my appointment at Hays Medical Center for continued care on the toe, and I didn’t dare go inside to see if there was any on the shelf. The parking lot was filled, and I’m sure social distancing rules were being violated left and right inside the store.

There were no napkins in my Walmart order last Thursday. Fortunately I got them at Dillons.

Dillons is being stubborn by not allowing orders from their deli for pickup, meaning you have to go into the store if you want sliced ham, turkey, salami or other cold cuts and cheese. I like the Salina Dillons because it sells Boar’s Head, but I don’t know if I’m willing to fight the mob tomorrow night.

One thing I have not attempted to order: toilet paper. I have 19 mega rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft in my bathroom, so I’m probably good until at least August. And I will not consider the stupid “flushable” wipes, because toilets have become clogged numerous times using them, whether it be at home or at a hotel.

I also have not tried to order bottled water. As long as Russell’s municipal supply does not get contaminated, we’re in good shape with that as well.

If you want toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, wipes, hand sanitizer, hand soap or most other cleaning supplies, Walmart is kind enough to say they are out of stock. Dillons gets your hopes up thinking it might be in stock by allowing you to add it to your order, only for you to get a message the morning of your scheduled pickup telling you “we’re sorry, but these items are out of stock”.

Target is not allowing paper products and cleaning supplies to be reserved online for pickup orders. Again, you have to go into the store and fight the mob. I still have two full bottles of hand soap I bought at Target in January.

I seriously considered a Sam’s Club membership–there’s a store in Salina–but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I might change my mind later.

In 1999, King of the Hill aired an episode on the Y2K fear, “Hillennium”, which predicted a possible toilet paper shortage one day.

Dale Gribble, the most paranoid character in the history of television animation, hoarded toilet paper, Mountain Dew, cookies and dozens of other items. Hank Hill bought Peggy a computer for Christmas, and fearing the machine would not be Y2K compliant, Bobby, Peggy and Luanne Platter (Rest in Peace, Brittany Murphy) began to hoard toilet paper like Dale.

Bobby is elated when he receives toilet paper as his Christmas present. Come New Year’s Eve, he is deathly afraid to come outside and join Hank, Boomhauer, Bill, Kahn and the rest of Rainey Street for fireworks. Finally, Bobby comes to his senses, and Hank uses the hoarded toilet paper to start a bonfire.

My dad was fortunate to find toilet paper in Russell’s grocery store last week. He also found three boxes of tissues at Dollar General. They aren’t the Puffs scented with Vicks I prefer, but I’ll take anything in an emergency.

I can order some food online. I have a delivery from Wolferman’s Bakery with English muffins (corn meal and sourdough) and bread (all sourdough) arriving today, and Wednesday, six cases of TaB cola and 12 bottles of Louisiana Fish Fry tartar sauce (for the fish I’m eating each Friday) is coming from Amazon.

I can’t find TaB anywhere anymore, and I like its taste due to it being sweetened with saccharin and not aspartame or sucralose. I used to smuggle TaB back from Kansas City, but it’s disappeared. I was going to check other markets on my LSU baseball trip, but that’s not happening, either.

Bread is scarce,and it’s doubtful I’ll get to Kansas City before June in order to buy the sourdough I like so much. What’s worse is Farm to Market, the company which makes the great sourdough, won’t sell it online. They’re missing out. The Wolferman’s sourdough will do well in a pinch.

I also ordered cleaning supplies from the Grove Collaborative, including the same hand soap I buy at Target. If it comes by the end of next week (April 3), I’ll be happy. I have plenty to get by until then.

A sports-free universe

Today was supposed to be the day the Kansas Jayhawks began their march to their fourth NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship, at least if you believe Bill Self, his players, and at least a third of Kansas’ college basketball fans (I’m probably being generous saying there’s an even three-way split between KU, Kansas State and Wichita State, but I’ll keep it simple).

Kansas was a lock to be the number one overall seed for the tournament and would have been playing its first round game today in Omaha’s CenuryLink Center. The Jayhawks would gone against a No. 16 seed and probably would have won by 25 to 30, though nothing is certain after Maryland-Baltimore County waxed overall #1 seed Virginia 74-54 in the first round two years ago.

Unless you’ve been living like the Unabomber prior to his capture, then you know there is no March Madness for the men or ladies in any of the NCAA’s three divisions. The big dances in Division I were cancelled eight days ago, and the rest of the sports world has come to a grinding halt.

This is the biggest disruption in the history of organized team sports, much more so than the previous benchmark, World War II.

The NFL conducted its 1941 championship game only hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and the next few seasons went on, although the Steelers merged one season with the Eagles and another with the Chicago Cardinals.

Major League Baseball played full seasons from 1942-45. Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis was all but resigned to not having a 1942 season, but FDR encouraged Landis to soldier on. The quality of play was sharply reduced with superstars like Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and numerous others fighting Nazis and samurai, but there was a World Series every year.

Many college football programs had to shut down for at least a year, sometimes longer, but LSU kept on chugging. The Bayou Bengals have fielded a team every year since 1893 except in 1918 due to World War II.

College and professional sports stopped for a few days following the September 11, 2001 attacks, but everyone knew they would come back once the appropriate security measures were taken.

Now? Nobody knows.

I doubt the NBA and NHL seasons can resume. There are no good reasons to continue the regular seasons if either league is able to play again. The seasons are more than 75% complete. That’s plenty to determine playoff brackets. Besides, if either league can’t start before Father’s Day, it would seriously impair the 2020-21 campaigns.

Major League Baseball may be reduced to 100 games if it’s fortunate. That would be the minimum for a legitimate season. Anything less would cheapen the World Series champion.

The NFL will probably not be able to start after Labor Day since teams can’t hold any organized or unorganized activities at their facilities. Football is too complex a sport to properly play without a large amount of practice. The same applies to college football.

The Kentucky Derby has already been postponed four months. I’m sure the Preakness and Belmont will also be pushed back, which might force cancellation of the Breeder’s Cup.

Golf cancelled the last three rounds of The Players Championship last weekend, plus every other tournament through Mother’s Day except The Masters, which was postponed. The PGA Championship scheduled for 14-17 May is postponed as well.

Tennis moved the French Open to after the U.S. Open, meaning Wimbledon is the next major event. There may not be any events, period, until The Championships at the All-England Club.

European football is in dire shape. I can’t see how Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain), Ligue 1 (France), Bundesliga (Germany) and Premier League (England) start again before July. I understand those leagues want to play a full season due to promotion and relegation, but it can’t be done without seriously disrupting the 2020-21 schedule.

As for me, I have nothing to cover. The Kansas State High School Activities Association cancelled all sports until August, coinciding with the order by Kansas’ governor to close all school buildings through the end of the academic year.

Not working is on my mind, but I’m not as worried about it as the pieces of fecal matter hoarding sanitizing wipes, bleach, hand soap, tissues and any other cleaning supply. I smell a soapbox post coming on…but I’ll hold off for now.

A different type of March Madness

The first NCAA men’s basketball tournament was held in 1939.

In 1939, much of the world still struggling to claw its way out of the Great Depression. A couple of madmen in Europe, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, were plotting the attacks which would ignite World War II. There was no television, at least in the United States and Canada. Radios were luxuries many couldn’t afford. Franklin Roosevelt was giving thought to running for a third term as President of the United States, breeking the two-term limit tradition began by Washington, adhered to by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson and Cleveland (non-consecutively), and imposed upon Grant (due to party rejection following two corrupt terms) and Wilson (due to debilitating illness).

Since 1939, there has been a world war and numerous lesser wars (Korea, Vietnam, two in Iraq, Afghanistan). Tornadoes have decimated two communities in Kansas 42 years apart (Udall and Greensburg) and caused billions of dollars in damages to larger cities (Topeka, Tuscaloosa and Joplin). Hurricanes wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast twice and flooded New Orleans twice. There have been numerous scares from diseases (Ebola, H1N1, avian flu, Zika, SARS), and the war on cancer may never be won.

None of it affected what came to be known as March Madness.

Until now.

This afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the NCAA was cancelling all championship events sponsored by the organization through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

The biggest loss, of course, is the Division I men’s basketball tournament, which is the NCAA’s biggest money maker by far.

Revenue from March Madness finances just about every other NCAA championship. The Division I women’s basketball championships and Division I baseball championships, which include the College World Series, have turned small profits from time to time, but usually are in the red, although far less than the deficits run by lower-level events and Division I championships in lesser sports.

Yesterday, the NCAA planned to go on with March Madness in mostly empty arenas. Attendance would have been limited to the immediately families of players and coaches, support personnel from the competing universities, arena staff and media members.

Social media exploded. Fan after fan threw hissy fits complaining about conducting March Madness without fans.

My response? TOO FREAKING BAD.

The NCAA tournament is for the PLAYERS. The players are the ones competing for championships. They are the ones who put in the work day after day in practice and perform at games. They are the most important figures in any sports tournament.

After the players, the coaches are next in importance, followed by game officials and support staff.

Fans buy tickets. They cheer their teams. Otherwise, they have no effect whatsoever on what goes on during a basketball game or any other sporting event.

Nobody would have forced those crybaby fans to watch games in empty arenas. Most true basketball fans would have watched. They may not have liked the idea of being kept out of arenas, but they would have understood.

To those fans who threw fits yesterday about possible games in empty arenas: I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY.

The last time a major sport shut down competition due to illness was in 1919, when the NHL cancelled the Stanley Cup “challenge series” due to the Spanish Flu epidemic which spread worldwide following the end of World War I.

The NCAA’s cancellation of the College World Series three months before it’s scheduled to start is puzzling. I understand the desire to protect everyone, but who’s to say the coronavirus threat won’t be greatly reduced come June?

College baseball is now shut down until at least the end of March, probably longer. Without a championship to shoot for, is there any reason to resume the season?

The coronavirus is serious. It has killed thousands. More than 1,500 Americans have been infected. I hope it passes soon. But I’m not worried. I haven’t had any reason to go out in public much, and with things being cancelled left and right, there may not be any reason to do so.