Pacing Ourselves For the Long Haul (Plague, Day 20, March 23, 2020)

11:00am — I calmed down a bit this weekend. I’ve been on overdrive for the past 14 days. Longer, if you include Ian’s medical emergency that happened in the beginning of the month.

I still had a ton of stuff do around the house, but I wasn’t totally stressed out about getting something published. My USA Today article about the impact of the school closures on kids with disabilities came out on Saturday morning and is continuing to do really well.

Every day, I give thanks that Ian’s health emergency happened before things got nasty. My uncle in Florida is in the hospital in ICU all by himself. The family can’t visit him. My cousin, Jenn, is getting chemo and is extremely immune compromised. They’re suffering alone and vulnerable. I worry about them every day.

On Sunday, Steve and Jonah brought all his college crap home. They did two trips back and forth with two cars. Now, I’m organizing space in the basement to make room for a mattress, box spring, dresser, desk, microwave, and all the other crap that he won’t need until he gets another apartment sometime down the line. He was slated to move into a dorm next fall, but who knows what will happen.

This mess isn’t going to be wrapped up in a tidy little bow in another week, as much as our president would like that. We’re looking at months of destruction to our economy and way of life.

I drove around this weekend just to get out of the house. I passed people lining up to get into Whole Foods, jogging along the side of the road, kicking a soccer ball on an empty school field. How many of them will be sick in another week or two? We’re all walking time bombs.

A disaster with a long tail is going to have a major impact on a whole generation of kids. How many are never going to go back to college this fall? How many will lose friends and family members? How will life in an economic tailspin impact them? Will they become compulsive hoarders, like our grandparents, stockpiling cans of beans and toilet paper in the basement?

I sat Jonah down this weekend and asked him how he was doing. Boys need to be asked directly how they feel about things, because they tend to swallow up their emotions.

Jonah said that he was missing his friends enormously. He was sad for other friends that would miss graduation and other milestone celebrations. He’s been chatting almost constantly with friends through social media, but being stuck in his parents’ house isn’t a fun time. Today is his first day of online college education.

I’m most worried about Ian. In some ways, he’s well prepared for life on a computer, because he excels with anything that deals with technology. For him, the problem isn’t math problems on Khan Academy, but the fact that he’s separated from real people and from structure. He’s in mourning.

After talking to Ian’s teachers today, we’re all agreed that they will check in him once a day for the continuity and social contact. He doesn’t have any friends, so he really needs to keep contact with teachers ,and for Steve and I to make sure that we talk long walks with conversations every day. We can’t let him lock himself in his brain.

I need to take a break from this make hard boiled eggs for egg salad sandwiches for lunch. The grind of prepping three meals a day is already tiresome. Back later.

The Plague is Here, Part Six

OK. I’ve been in work mode since 5am. I’m going to be writing frantically all day. The political and economic world are about to shutdown. Half of the world leaders are going to get sick really soon. Banks are shutting down.

I don’t want to cause a panic, but I just want to let my little readers know what’s up. If you don’t have a stockpile of TP, get it now. In this part of the country, it’s all gone. If you don’t have a stockpile of cash, get it now. (After you use the ATM, clean your hands and the steering wheel of the car.)

I will be here and on twitter round the clock for the next week.

Your college students will be the best help, because we will probably get sick, but they will be okay. Make them understand that they have a responsibility to the family and the community.

Get medicine, soup, and soda. Whatever you need for when you all get a fever and child.

Do not visit your parents. Even if they already bought corned beef and want to make everyone dinner for the extended family for St. Patrick’s day. Hello, mom!

I’ll be back all day.

Millennials and the New Economy

Maureen Dowd’s column is an absolute train-wreck this week. The first three paragraphs are so confusing and tone-deaf that one should avoid the whole thing. But I did read it. At the end, she had some interesting quotes about millennials and the tech boom.

“The 23-year-olds I work with are a little over the conversation about how we were the superpower brought low,” said Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed. “They think that’s an ‘older person conversation.’ They’re more interested in this moment of crazy opportunity, with the massive economic and cultural transformation driven by Silicon Valley. And kids feel capable of seizing it. Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.”

Ben Domenech, the 32-year-old libertarian who writes The Transomnewsletter, thinks many millennials are paralyzed by all their choices. He quoted Walker Percy’s “The Last Gentleman”: “Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.” He also noted that, given their image-conscious online life in the public eye, millennials worry about attaching themselves with a click to the wrong clique or hashtag: “It heightens the level of uncertainty, anxiety and risk aversion, to know that you’re only a bad day and half a dozen tweets from being fired.”

Jaron Lanier, the Microsoft Research scientist and best-selling author, thinks the biggest change in America is that “technology’s never had to shoulder the burden of optimism all by itself.”

And that creates what Haass calls a tension between “dysfunctional America vs. innovative America.”

Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute and author of the best-selling “Steve Jobs,” agreed that “there’s a striking disconnect between the optimism and swagger of people in the innovative economy — from craft-beer makers to educational reformers to the Uber creators — and the impotence and shrunken stature of our governing institutions.”

You know what your problem is, old fart? You need to have the swagger of a craft-beer maker! So, grow yourself a beard and stop whining!

There are a handful of people making a load of money on the Internet with companies that sell preppy belts on Instagram or that help you locate people who want to hook up. There are also a handful of people who call themselves gurus and are suffering from the dreaded fullashit disease. They write books about belts on Instagram and one-night stand software. They make a nice living, too. Good for them!

I don’t know how the new economy is working out for millennials. The Atlantic and their 15-year old writers pump out daily articles about how they can’t buy houses or cars, because they have so much student loan debt. I’m on a ‘secret’ Facebook of 27,000 women writers that complain about working for free. The latest list of most well paid careers went to old-fashioned sort of careers like anesthesiologists. Not German barbecue pop-up store owners in Williamsburg.