Saturday, September 4, 2021

Where Do We Go From Here?



September marks a major event in my life.


No, it’s not that the tenth book in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series--THE MYKONOS MOB--is available throughout September across all e-book formats for a mere $1.99 by clicking on this link.


Nor is it the inevitable sadness I’ll feel as we approach next Saturday, and eye-witness recollections of that day 20 years ago in Manhattan return in a rush. I’ll write about that next week, on September 11, 2021.


Rather, it’s something seemingly mundane in the scheme of things, but quite significant to me.  For this week was the first time in twenty months Barbara and I ate in a New York City restaurant.  And by in I mean inside a restaurant.


About a month ago, when an optimistic Covid mood was still in bloom, we agreed to get together in New York at a neighborhood restaurant with a dear friend whom we hadn’t seen in two years. He’s one of the world’s top physicians, and someone on whose medical advice I’d several times entrusted my life--successfully.


We’ve been great buddies for many years, and though we have significantly different political positions on many issues, none of that has ever impacted our friendship.  I respect his views and how he presents them, and (I think) he respects mine.


Our first topic of discussion was the obvious elephant in the middle of everyone’s room everywhere on earth.  We had no difference of opinion on that situation. Covid is dangerous, now more virulent than before, and a worsening problem, but a communal exercise of common sense would allow us to conquer it.  The question is, how do you convince the unvaccinated of the error of their ways? 


For those who do not trust the safety of Covid vaccines, how many more hundreds of millions of vaccinations with extraordinarily high success rates do they need to see before they’ll accept its efficacy?  A hundred million? Five hundred million? A billion?


For some, statistics won’t matter, and I’m not just talking about off-the-wall conspiracy theorists convinced that Bill Gates is using vaccinations to implant tiny devices to track the vaccinated’s every move.  (I guess to pick up the few who aren’t already being surveilled courtesy of their cell phones.)


I’m referring to the honestly concerned and truly anxious who put their faith in anecdotal stories (which may or may not be true) obtained from a family member, a friend, a Facebook post, or simple gossip, that tell of those who caught Covid despite being vaccinated, or who experienced a bad reaction from a vaccine. They resist statistics demonstrating that the efficacy rate of Covid vaccines puts them among the top tier of common vaccines long administered for a myriad of other diseases, because even with a 99% success rate, when billions are successfully vaccinated there remain tens of millions with anecdotal tales to share.


Many vaccine resisters share a common trait. Rather than accepting a statistical reality and trusting science to protect them and their loved ones, they choose to entrust themselves to MAGICAL THINKING.


By that I’m talking about the sort of thinking that serves as an emotional security blanket for children who imagine reality does not apply to them. Magical thinking allows them to fly to the moon atop unicorns, swim beneath the seas amid mermaids, and soar like a bird through the sky, all without consequences. Personally, I treasure that sort of imagination in children.


But adults who think that their vitamins, pills, and exercise regimes alone will spare them from this plague, are engaged in magical thinking of a very different order.  One that might bring them a lifetime of grief, if not cost them their lives.


I pray for them.


Having addressed that problem, my friend and I moved on to swapping anecdotal observations on a related but different topic, the state of New York City.   New York has taken a big hit from Covid. You can tell from the vacant store fronts, shuttered businesses, homeless on its streets, exodus of many of its bulwark supporters to other regions, and a pervasive sense of lost direction.


New York will always be a player on the world stage. No doubt about it.  Those finger-like, Tower of Babel height, residential skyscrapers sprouting up in prime Manhattan locations are a testament to that reality--even though many apartments are virtually unoccupied.  Investors willing to pay humongous prices for the benefit of anonymously parking millions in Manhattan real estate without regard to the true value of their investments, seem willing to overlook how much they may lose in the transaction, taking consolation in how much they’ll get to keep.


Still, it’s strange how different the city feels, and as we said good night, our conversation left me wondering how to explain that feeling.  


Today, as Barbara and I drove back from the City to our farm, a thought came as I dodged a plethora of overtly aggressive drivers.  I’m used to that kind of driver. After all, I’ve driven in NYC since my twenties and spent many a summer on Mykonos among DUI macho tourists driving wildly, believing the gods of the neighboring holy island of Delos would somehow protect them from harm.


Yet, never had I experienced such aggression and patent road rage among drivers of practically every sort of vehicle, from motorcycles to eighteen-wheelers. Why is that, I wondered. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me—at about the same time as an eighteen-wheeler jerked across two lanes of an interstate into the passing lane.


For many, getting behind the wheel transports them into an entirely different world, one offering them perhaps their only means of demonstrating a semblance of control over where their lives are headed. They live in a world where a Covid induced anxiety bordering on a mind-fog is real. Do we mask or not? Do we need a booster shot? How secure is my job? Will I lose my business? My home?  Will my children be in school? Will they be at risk of infection?


Their “will” questions and anxieties are endless, but as they sit behind the wheel exerting control over how they steer, how fast they go and when to brake, woe be it to those they see as infringing upon their remaining power over the direction of their lives.


I don’t know if I’m right or wrong on that observation, but if I’m right I’d venture to say there are a lot of others out there who’ve noticed a distinct change in what it now takes to drive defensively.


Stay safe.





  1. Great post. Best regards from Den Haag...

    1. Thanks, Brogdan. All the best back at you from de boerderij. :)

  2. Thanks, Jeff. I try to keep out of cities these days. In the smaller places people seem to have less frustration to burn off.
    Two "Where do we go from here" posts in one week. Maybe that tells us something...

    1. Michael, your comment had me laughing at the Fates. In the eleven years or so that I've been writing my Saturday MIE post I've had one slavish rule: ALWAYS read my colleagues' weekly posts before writing my own. This was the VERY FIRST TIME I did not, and look what happened! I guess you could say it validates the wisdom of that practice. As for why that happened, the massive flooding across the NY/NJ area (including my farm) pre-occupied my Thursday and Friday. When I finally remembered I had a blog to write, it was Friday evening and I wrote it without checking on what I'd missed on Thursday and Friday.

      I can hear my beloved mother telling me, "That serves you right, Jeffrey. You can't cut corners."

      On the other hand, Michael (and Mom), some could say it serves as an example of great minds thinking alike. :)

    2. Absolutely, Jeff! It wasn't meant as a criticism, it was meant as congratulation!

  3. Welcome back, Bro. Unlike you, I have spent the entire pandemic, just about every day of it, in New York. I haven’t experienced the kind of rage you are talking about. Not at all. In fact, my experience has been exactly the opposite. Maybe it’s because I’m a downtown girl, and you’re an uptown guy. But I don’t think it’s that. Maybe you are generalizing from limited experience. Maybe it’s the eye of the beholder. For me, from my neighbors to the grocery clerks to the folks in the restaurants that I have been to, I find I’m surrounded by a lovely “we are all this in this together attitude.“ The kind of thing that happens in this city in times of disaster. The feeling of warmth with little gestures of kindness and mutual support that was the signature response of New Yorkers after the 9/11 tragedy.

    Now that (not because!) you are back, I am leaving. On Monday, if the fates allow, I will travel to my other city. Reports from Florence coming up.

  4. Wow, Sis, you've certainly raised a lot to unpack in your comment. But as you're busy preparing for your trip "home" to Florence, I'll leave you to concentrate on that packing, and simply wish you kalo taxidhi from Barbara and moi. Sorry we missed you. xx

  5. Hah. Had to laugh, although I don't know if it was intentional or not. Woe be it to me for daring to comment on your writing skills (which I know to be excellent), but, whoa, horsie, your second to last paragraph was sort of (possibly unintentionally) funny, thinking of those drivers being slowed down by other drivers telling them, "Whoa, buddy, gedouttamyway!"

    1. I can assure you, EvKa, that was not meant to be "sort of" funny. But having obviously failed with that puny (punny) effort, I sha;; now retrench and add woe in lieu (loo) of whoa. Thank you for bringing me to my senses (sentences).