Vacationing With The Other Half (Plague, Day 67, August 25, 2020)

Last week, we took a quick, drive-able vacation to the Adirondacks in New York and ski-country in Vermont. It was lovely. Every day, we did at least one adventure – motor boating, touring a historical site, hiking, biking, shopping, exploring. And then capped every day with a fine meal and several drinks.

I’ll do a travel post later with links to things we liked, because those posts are surprising popular with the google-searchers. But today, just some observations.

There were very few political signs anywhere we went. A handful of Trump and Biden signs, but not the amount that you would expect to see before a big election. I have no clue what that means.

These vacation spots were packed. Not being terribly organized, we failed to make reservations ahead of time for dinners or for a boat, so we had to hustle to find those things when we were there. I suppose that many of those vacationers would have normally gone somewhere that involved a plane, so places that were in driving range of Boston and New York City were more crowded than usual.

Hanging out with all those tourists for days, life felt normal — normal but with masks. People were eating huge meals and hiking mountains just like normal. In late August, most people in this area of the country don’t have their children in camps or school, so the presence of kids wasn’t surprising.

Our contractor begged to finish work on the repairs to our house, even though we were gone. In the shadow of some green mountains, I texted him about base moldings and toilets. He was in a rush to finish our project, because he has a long list of other projects ready for him. Everybody is doing work on their house right now, and contractors’ time is precious. They are charging premium prices.

I’m not sure, if he’s talking to me anymore, because Home Depot broke the bathroom vanity during the delivery, so it has delayed finishing our project for three weeks. Home supplies are very hard to come by right now, because everybody is doing work.

My cousin and his wife are one of the thousands leaving New York City for the suburbs and paying stiff prices for houses. He said that 25 offers on homes is typical. He is having trouble reserving a mover to get his crap out of his apartment.

So, based on our experiences and texted conversations with cousins and contractors, you would think that the world is awesome. Everyone has gotten used to wearing masks. Outdoor restaurant dining is delightful. The biggest problem that we have is getting a bathroom sink delivered in one piece.

On the way back home, we stopped off in Middlebury, Vermont for lunch. The Travelocity app recommended the local tavern, so we masked up and went in. Tables were separated from each other, but it didn’t really matter, since we were the only people there.

After an excellent meal of brisket and clam chowder, I asked the waiter whether Middlebury was going to be virtual or in-person. He said students were set to return in two weeks, and added that the town needed them badly. He has only been working two days a week, since the school closed in the spring. Middlebury isn’t a tourist destination. Its entire economy is based on the local college.

I wanted to ask the waiter what was going to happen to him and his girlfriend, a private pre-school teacher, when the COVID checks stopped, but one can’t exactly do that.

Last night during the Republican Party Convention, I was surprised about all the talk about socialism and Marxism. I felt like this topic came out of the blue. I was prepared for talk about policing and crime, but Marxism was weird. Who’s talking about that right now?

If the pandemic continues to hammer the economy, income inequality is going to get worse. One half will be taking motor boats on lakes and renovating suburban castles, the other half won’t have enough work. The unemployed, the hungry, the homeless will need a massive government bailout. Maybe, the debate of tomorrow will be about socialism.

46 thoughts on “Vacationing With The Other Half (Plague, Day 67, August 25, 2020)

  1. Yes, people are apparently leaving NYC. DeBlasio has always wanted to drive the middle class out, and he bids fair to succeed. I hope we don’t go the way of Detroit.


  2. I have no idea where the “Marxist” meme comes from, but it has become prevalent on the upper middlebrow right (that means publications like Quillette or Claremont Review). It doesn’t make sense to me. Contemporary progressives don’t care about expropriation of surplus value; in fact they are quite favorably disposed to some capitalists, such as the tech lords, while despising others, such as oil company executives. And they rather despise the white working class. They reserve their real energy for issues of race and gender (including sexual preference or identity), not class. They don’t use Marxist terminology, they don’t call themselves Marxists, and they haven’t read Marx.


    1. y81 said, ” They don’t use Marxist terminology, they don’t call themselves Marxists, and they haven’t read Marx.”

      I think you’re correct that race and sex are a lot sexier than class these days, but people seem to like the term “late capitalism” a lot, which is at least Marxist-ish.

      It’s a weird term, because it suggests that the speaker happens somehow to own an exact timetable of the past and future of world economic development.

      Some of the current violent protests are also probably at least Marxism-adjacent. There’s definitely the idea that if you smash up and burn nice things right now, the Eschaton is going to magically swoosh in and provide nice things for everybody, and the more stuff you smash and burn, the faster this is going to happen and the more justice there’s going to be. How that is supposed to work, I have no idea, but that seems to be some people’s plan!


  3. Who’s talking about Marxism? Marxists.

    Two of our cousins are card-carrying, go to meetings, participate in demonstration, Marxists. They graduated from leading universities this decade.


    1. Wow, real live Marxists? Do they talk about primitive accumulation? Democratic centralism? Class consciousness? Bourgeois hegemony? Dependency theory? How cool. I would bet that no one I know under 40 knows any of those terms.


      1. y81, it is not funny. It is not cool. They are not museum pieces, but young men who have fallen into the grasp of a nihilistic group. I know from their mother and my children that the cousins do “classes.” They go off for “meetings.” I do not know what they do there, but I fear the worst.


      2. Well, I admit it’s not nice to mock. But these young people are unlikely to do any damage to the larger society, and they will probably outgrow this silliness without suffering permanent harm. It’s like having a child who’s a vegan.


  4. “My cousin and his wife are one of the thousands leaving New York City for the suburbs and paying stiff prices for houses. He said that 25 offers on homes is typical.”

    Heh, I was just talking about this last night with a former student who is living in NYC (UES) and working remotely at an ad agency. I asked her if NYC was “dead” and wondered if I should try to buy my retirement home there now. She says she’s been keeping her eye on an apartment down the block that was $750K a month ago and is now down to $650K.

    (Please note: I cannot afford an apartment in NYC under any circumstances. This is just a lottery dream.)


  5. I am wondering how you went to VT. Did you just go and not worry about the quarantine? My friends in VT have been carefully attending to the quarantine and basically said “don’t come”. In fact one of them works at Middlebury…I think some of the town and the professors are very upset the college is welcoming students back. It is very interesting. I think a place like Middlebury can be very careful and drop a lot of money on testing and they are unlikely to get a UNC or Notre Dame situation. we’ll see though! 20 years olds are 20!


  6. I didn’t see anybody paying attention to the quarantine anywhere. License plates in every restaurant were from all neighboring states. Nobody mentioned it anywhere. Other than socially distant meals in restaurants that lasted an hour at most, mostly we were in the woods by ourselves. Our rates here are lower than VT’s rates, so we’re actually having to change some appointments here, since we’ve been back.


  7. A friend of mind suggests that the coming wave of COVID divorces, caused by excessive forced personal contact between spouses, will send a bunch of UMC men back to the City (it’s closer to work and you have a better chance at finding a new woman), which will boost the price of smaller apartments at least. As they say, it’s an ill wind that blows no good.


    1. I see this — I think there’s a certain kind of marriage in which people seem to live very separate lives which would have found the forced, long term sharing of space difficult. The New Yorker did a story on the slow motion implosion of a group home that showed some of the myriad frictions of being forced to share space with little escape. It struck me again that I was able to share a room with the same roommate for 4 years in college at least partially because she went home every weekend, leaving the space to me (and, escaping my presence).


      1. When I moved to San Francisco in 1989, all lesbian households were still a thing (the feminist bookstore had a housing board where people put their ads for roommates on sheets of paper with those tear off strips). Households of friends often imploded more than houses of roommates with separate lives because, especially with people in their 20s, drama was avoided.

        I will say that being able to marry my wife and all the changes overall with social attitudes towards same gender relationships has had a large impact economically on me and my LGBT friends. The tax savings and health insurance are a big deal, and it’s impossible to describe the relief at not being forced to be closeted at work. When I did my MBA one of the professors was studying how earnings of LGBT people increased over the 2000s. I’ve never followed up to see if she published. Certainly I enjoy a lot more opportunities for advancement now than I remember from when I graduated in 88.


      2. I changed my mind, almost instantly, on what marriage would mean to someone who wasn’t allowed to marry when a young woman I just met spoke with starry eyes about marrying her love (before marriage equality was generally recognized — she was traveling out of state to get married). I’d never been against marriage equality, but I became an advocate at that moment. As you say there are the practicalities and pathos of Jim Oberfgefell and John Arthur, but even without those practicalities and details I saw how much I had taken for granted the right to celebrate with the world when I was embarking on my marriage (we celebrate our 32nd anniversary this Friday).

        It’s hard for the kids to understand how much things have changed since 1988. I was isolated, but that day was the first time anyone told me, personally, that they were gay, and I was 35). Now, there are communities like mine, where there is really acceptance.

        (BTW, only one of the people in the group house in the New Yorker were in a relationship; the others were roommates and the break up of the house was over a seriously problematic roommate and the constant forced proximity. The couple seemed to be navigating well).


      3. And, a court case was necessary for me, too, but had come earlier in the nation’s history, early enough to have been forgotten.


  8. My second grader is in the process of inventing COVID tag, which she says is like zombie tag (?). She says that the last person left wins.

    My bff’s private school just announced that a 1st grader and aide at their school have COVID. My bff’s middle kid’s teacher is being tested and if she’s positive, her entire 2nd grade class is headed to quarantine.

    My husband tells me that Hometown U. is planning to do random testing of faculty in addition to random testing of students. There will be some neat prizes for cooperative students.

    On the bright side, the national reproduction numbers look a lot better. There are some real surprises in the state comparisons:


    1. I don’t think the range of the R0 is hugely meaningful (though they predict increasing and decreasing rates, which we see soon enough). So, for example, the right stats to look at is to see states with R0 0 are seeing increasing rates (Fl v MN) for example going into the future. But, the testing levels have to be taken into account, too. FL is showing decreasing testing rates & high positivity (12%). There are positive trends in hospitalizations going down, and maybe cases deaths will decrease, but we don’t know yet.. For example, CA (6000 cases/130 deaths), TX (5100 cases/180 deaths), FL (3800 cases, 130 deaths). In the site you cite (which seems to be lead by a former CEO of Instagram), CA & FL have R0<0 and TX has an R0 of 1, which would mean TX would continue with the 5100 cases/day. As a comparison NY positives are almost a 10% (600) and NY deaths are 6% (<10/day). So, NY shows what could be reached.


      1. In WA state, they’ve always been individualizing positive tests (that is, a positive test from an individual is only counted once). They were doing the same with negative tests but then realized that negative tests in April & and negative test now in August from the same person shouldn’t count only once. WA revised the data today,

        “New positive and negative test counts include all molecular tests by specimen collection date among individuals who have not previously tested positive. Multiple test results from the same day are counted only once and repeat tests on an individual are excluded after the first positive result.”

        WA revised the entire 2020 set so that it follows the same rules.

        I don’t know what other states are doing.


  9. If you’re in the right demographic, it feels like everyone you know is leaving New York City. People with young school age children, who would have given serious thought to moving in the next few years anyway are all moving. The large population of renters in NYC makes it easy, these people don’t have homes to sell and have less stuff to move. And, since they’re already paying a lot for rent, they can find a place in the suburbs that fits their budget. This, combined with few new arrivals in 2020 may only amount to a few percent of the city population, but it will be noticeable, especially in the city budget.

    In the next few months, the big thing that will impact the city is whether and how much federal support there is for state and local governments. The city (and state) already have big budget holes to fill. In the longer term though, a lot of people are not just moving but will be staying put in New Jersey or Connecticut. If they don’t commute into the city anymore, they don’t pay New York state taxes. And they don’t even have to move. My company, which has large offices in several parts of the tri-state area is asking people where they want to sit when they go back to the office next year. Everyone who lives in NJ is saying one of the NJ offices, and a lot of them used to be in the city.


    1. In the next few years, the big things that will impact the city are crime and schools. De Blasio has been wishy-washy on crime, and dead set on destroying the schools, so I can’t be too optimistic.


    2. I don’t think it’s as simple as where you sit (at least for law firms — though they are different for a variety of reasons)). But, companies will figure it out and not paying NY taxes will be something they consider).


      1. A law firm is a pass-through, so the partners will have to pay tax wherever the law firm’s income is sourced. An employee, though, is basically taxable where they work. For 2020, New York is taking a fairly aggressive position that if you’re working from home, you’re still taxable in New York. By 2021 though, at the latest, that’s no longer tenable. That position was pushed early in the pandemic though. Eventually what was temporary becomes permanent, and New York will not be able to impose income tax on residents of New Jersey or Connecticut who don’t actually come to work in New York.


  10. James Altucher’s essay on New York was republished in the New York Post:

    We seem to be getting many New Yorkers. The real estate market is going bonkers here. Of course, that means they’re either people who were renting, have just sold their places in NYC, or are able to rent or buy two homes in different states at once.

    Local gossip claims home services companies are fully booked up, from people renovating their weekend houses.

    Some of the things happening now have been building for years. Given the internet, why were people clustering in a few dense, expensive cities?


    1. Honestly — because they liked them. A year ago, I had notes of envy when Laura would post meals in NYC (which I still remember fondly from every visit) and would read the NY review of shows/exhibits/restaurants with at least vicarious delight.

      But, the pandemic and work at home is accelerating forces that people were worrying about already (housing costs, homelessness, crime).

      I wonder what the political implications will be. I am the kind of person who can imagine living in a more remote place (though the lack of restaurants would be my biggest loss, a place close to a vacation area might mitigate that issue, though it would increase the expense). I thought building a refuges for non-city Amazon/Microsoft/Google/Facebook -tes might have a significant effect on the voting demographics of some small population states.


      1. Lack of libraries and museums would be (will be?) my biggest loss in leaving NYC. Maybe I could move to a university town, like Hanover or Princeton?


      2. The problem with those places and with other cities that do have museums and libraries (we do) is that they are not the museums found in NY, DC, and Chicago. SF & LA don’t quite cut it for me either (I’d put them in the 2nd tier in the US) and cities like Seattle are in the 3rd tier (but it’s a non-linear scale).

        If you are from NY lots else looks less (a friend complained when moving from NY to DC about the opportunities to play cello, and DC has pretty significant resources).


      3. New Yorkers seem to feel that people from out of town should be Very Impressed. However, for some time it hasn’t been worth the trip for us, other than visiting family. Most of the retail shops are chains now. If you have a hankering for something you could only get in NYC, you can order it online. Back in the ’80s, yes, there were unique stores only in NYC. Now? Not so much, perhaps setting aside the stores catering to the ultra-wealthy. Museums and shows are pretty good, but a day trip suffices. I’m not a city person. I’m not a New York person.

        As to libraries, there are wealth of materials available online. Otherwise, as before, a day trip suffices.

        I don’t think there will be immediate political implications. Many people are currently either moving home, or locations associated with family members (i.e., wife’s family’s town.) Some seem to be moving to vacation spots, like Sun Valley. Sun Valley votes Democratic, so an influx from Silicon Valley wouldn’t change things politically. And an influx from New York City to the Hamptons wouldn’t seem to change anything. I have heard that some New York restaurants have moved operations to the Hamptons. So there’s that.

        However, New York (state and city) relies on the financial industry. It’s hard to tax people who’ve relocated their businesses to Florida or Texas. There are a small handful of people whose travels the tax authorities track minutely, due to the 183-day test for state residency. For the people tracked individually by state tax authorities, changing residence isn’t difficult; they probably already own a fancy condo or house in Florida. Cuomo probably has data to back up his worries. (

        I would worry more about the social implications. We rely on colleges and a period in one’s early 20s to allow young people to make friends from all over the country and world. What happens when that just…stops? I’m already noticing talks among my children and their friends about finding a town to settle down together. So…clusters of people bound by similar backgrounds (education, family ties, employment). I would not be surprised to find a cluster of young Princeton alums in one town, a cluster of Goldman Sachs interns in another town, etc. Employers are currently not even requiring employees to live in the same state. The one necessity is good internet service.

        All cities depend upon downtown office buildings, served by elevators and public transport. If the virus remains, and the fear of the virus remains, I wouldn’t be surprised to see people eventually settle wherever they can meet outdoors most of the time. Not too hot, not too cold.


      4. “Sun Valley votes Democratic, so an influx from Silicon Valley wouldn’t change things politically.”
        The Republicans consistently win in Idaho by >200K votes, so a lot of people would have to move from Silicon Valley to flip the state. But, in time, a dispersal of urban centers into the west could make a difference.


      5. I think we should move a federal bureaucracy or two to West Virginia. They need the jobs, D.C. is close enough for meetings, the cost of living is lower, and it’s better views.


      6. I mostly like it — but federal employees were pretty upset when there were plans to move agencies out of DC. Seems like it could be a bipartisan effort:

        “Under the proposal, the Department of Agriculture would move to Missouri, Commerce to Pennsylvania, Education to Tennessee, Energy to Kentucky, Health and Human Services to Indiana, Housing and Urban Development to Ohio, Interior to New Mexico, Labor to West Virginia, Transportation to Michigan and Veterans Affairs to South Carolina.”

        I’m not sympathetic to people being unwilling to live in those states and do question why further west states don’t get any of the departments, but do recognize the issue that “as many of the offices located in D.C. are tasked with policymaking, which requires access to members of Congress, the White House and other agencies to accomplish.”


    2. I loved the SF Bay Area. I moved there to be better able to live as a lesbian than I was able in northeast Ohio in 1989. I fell in love with cities, and have gone on 3 wonderful vacations to NYC, plus trips to Seattle, Portland OR, Vancouver and Washington DC.
      I live only a mile from downtown Denver now so I still have the city vibe, but I guess I’m getting old because I’m liking the slower pace.


  11. my head has officially exploded over the CDC guidance on testing and quarantine. Enough that I don’t trust the report of the successful Maine camp.

    And that makes me incredibly sad.


    1. bj said, “my head has officially exploded over the CDC guidance on testing and quarantine. Enough that I don’t trust the report of the successful Maine camp.
      And that makes me incredibly sad.”

      What do you think about the stuff about Abbott promising to roll out millions of $5 15-minute no-lab tests starting in September? I saw some people yesterday pointing out that the 5-minute test being available could make the CDC restrictions on lab tests make more sense.

      “We’ll ship tens of millions of tests in September, ramping production to 50 million tests a month in October.”

      “We’re pairing this $5, 15-minute, easy-to-use test with a mobile app, called NAVICA™, which works like a secure digital “boarding pass” that can be scanned to enter organizations and other places where people gather.”

      That would be really useful in school/college settings. Aside from the usefulness of speed, there have been awful lab bottlenecks for months.


    2. I’m hopeful about more testing. The Abbott test still requires trained swabbers, and thus can’t roll out the way we actually need testing. We don’t have a testing crisis here in WA (as far as I can tell — seems like people can get tests as needed, with short lines and short enough turn around times — though not as short as the Abbott test).

      I really want the saliva test that can be read immediately (like the NBA used & that got emergency approval).


      1. bj said, “The Abbott test still requires trained swabbers, and thus can’t roll out the way we actually need testing.”

        Oooooh! That is an issue.

        “I really want the saliva test that can be read immediately (like the NBA used & that got emergency approval).”


        More Washington news: one of my Olympic Peninsula relatives says that they are continuing to have day after day of overwhelming, record-setting tourist traffic and business.


      2. They’ve closed Lake Cushman and the Staircase entrance to Olympic National Park because of crowds on limited roads. I wish they would do reservations like you described in Texas in the beginning. But, I guess the forest service isn’t sufficiently motivated.


      3. bj said, ” But, I guess the forest service isn’t sufficiently motivated.”

        They may feel that the peak summer traffic is almost over, anyway, which is kind of fair.

        I talked to my suburban Seattle sis today. She was out buying a laptop and hot spot for her kindergartner (!) for school-at-home. Their public school is being cagey and won’t divulge details of what exactly the fall is going to look like until the Meet the Teacher night. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her in detail, but I think I will encourage her to bail if it’s more than two hours of required daily screen time or if it’s otherwise onerous.

        Sis (who is a normie) was noting the weirdness of years and years of hearing “limit screens for little kids!” and then winding up being told to do school entirely via screens.

        Our current local situation in TX is that the new county COVID cases have more or less doubled for the last three days (compared to previous new cases), with roughly the same number for those three days. (Classes started Monday.) We now have a Hometown U. COVID dashboard and so I can see that (coincidentally!) half of the new county COVID cases are Hometown U. students, faculty or staff. I believe that active cases in the county have been very flat for some time. On-campus, public behavior is pretty good. Off-campus or in the dorms–who knows. My husband had a student contact-traced out of his class, so that suggests that the test-and-trace thing is finally working somewhere. There’s assigned seating and instructors aren’t supposed to hand out anything in class if they can avoid it.


      4. I was thinking of what I’d do if I had a kindergartner who was supposed to do school online. I think parents are going to have to be more aggressive about saying it isn’t working if it isn’t and bagging on it. I think there’s no obligation to have you child in kindy, so one should just withdraw if it feels like a net negative for the family.

        It might work, but it might not, and I would be wary of requiring any kindergartner to sit still for any length of time (I think more than 30 minutes). They might be able to do it, but it’s not the behavior I’d want to train.

        Our district said they have a working agreement with teachers, have delayed the academic start of school to Sept 14th (they’ll do 5 days of “solid start”, trying to get students on board with remote learning). Schools will be allowed flexibility with schedules — don’t know if there will be any minimums. Kiddo is enrolled in an AP heavy course load that cannot be taught the way spring was taught.


  12. This is gross but smart:

    “Wastewater samples from the Likins dorm on the University of Arizona campus came back positive for COVID-19, according to university president, Dr. Robert Robbins.
    Dr. Robbins said they tested the water again, and all five samples came back positive.
    He said they performed roughly 311 COVID-19 tests on students and staff in the Likins dorm, and found two positive cases. Dr. Robbins said those individuals are now in isolation, and they are conducting contact tracing. He said wastewater collected from the other dorms showed no traces of COVID-19.”

    “Studies have shown viruses can be detected in wastewater two-to-three weeks before many patients are diagnosed.”

    I’d heard of wastewater surveillance before as an idea, but it’s nice to seeing that it’s in use.


    1. I think this is clever and I would like to see more creative testing incorporated into management of the virus. A lot of people seem to be banking on a vaccine, but I think a vaccine is a long term solution.


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