Merry Christmas from MY neighborhood

All I want for Christmas is good health for the coming year for all of my family and everyone worldwide. I think everyone is looking back on 2020 and trying to put into perspective what transpired this year. They can’t believe what we’ve been through and are still going through. My heart goes out to all the Doctors and Nurses that have endured ungodly long hours and days upon days of working under war-like conditions. If you think I’m exaggerating, please read this article that I came across the other day. This article should be required reading for everyone.

Sometimes the best getaway is home

I recently heard from several of my friends who lost loved ones. I feel like no one escaped from being profoundly affected by this virus this year. On the flip side, at the beginning of the virus, my neighbor across the street, Bob, came down with coronavirus and became housebound for several weeks. He had previously lost his wife to cancer several years ago, so he had no one that lived nearby. His girlfriend, Marta, was 60 plus miles away. I wound up buying him groceries several times. I got paid back with many; many thank you’s from Bob and Marta, and as I write this blog, they dropped by to give us a bottle of wine and a gift for our two kids. I am really taken aback and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everyone around me and my local community. Without going into in-depth detail, the street I live on is remarkable, to say the least. Our good friends and neighbors, whom we vacation with at least once a year, dropped off Italian cookies and a HUGE gift basket on Christmas Eve. My wife and I were blown away by how generous and sweet it was. It’s not just the gifts; it’s the WAY you are treated on this block. Like everyone is family. And when I mean family, I mean better than family.
I have a great extended family, my in-laws, but the friends on this block are special to my wife and me. They take the time and get to know you and care about you. We’ve been to funerals, parties with DJs and waterslides where the street was blocked off, bachelorette parties, and so on. We’ve traveled several times with our good friends and neighbors, the Saccamanos. We went on several cruises and one trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for a chillax vacation. They have two kids that are roughly the same ages as our two kids. The adults still reminisce about that Ft. Lauderdale vacation. Nothing was planned, but he all had a blast and made life long memories with each other. That never would’ve happened if we never moved to this block in a little town in South Jersey.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

As much as I love to travel I did have a fantastic trip to the backyard earlier this summer which I did NOT blog about. This July my son and I were supposed to go to Colorado with the Boy Scouts for a week to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Because of coronavirus the Park was closed and the trip was canceled. I originally was a little nervous about having a week off and staying home the whole time. But I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxing and how much I enjoyed it for a change. I’m not sure how many times I’m going to take a week off and not go anywhere (probably never), but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

During the coronavirus we have traveled to Cape May, New Jersey and to Disney World twice. We visited Disney World for Halloween and again for Christmas in early December. I’ll eventually write a blog about our most recent trip but I’ll include some pictures of our last trip below.

I need a break!

Gimme a break! I used to love that show. Don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry, I won’t go explaining here. Let me repeat that – Gimme a break! I realize in the context of what’s happening all around this country, this is the last thing I need to be complaining about, but I seriously need a destination vacation. I have no reason to travel this summer, and I have become sour on the future. But for now, I have to be content with where we are in life. I am eternally grateful every day that I’m in my current situation that I’m in. I have a beautiful family, a roof over my head and friends, and an extended family, food on my table, and a job- what more could this midwestern guy ask for? Which right now I can say is more than a lot of people in my country have. Amid this unprecedented situation, we currently find ourselves in a lot of people are out of work, probably close to being out of money and certainly running out of patience.

We in New Jersey have lost patience with staying indoors a while ago. As of this writing, the stay-at-home order has been lifted. But before that, most people were hitting the hiking trails or have just continued shopping in grocery stores. My day job is working at a wholesale club on the Jersey Shore, and I can confirm that people got a late start but are buying outdoor patio and seasonal items like CRAZY!

I can’t be too glum, my family has a Disney vacation planned during Halloween this year, but it seems like a long way away. Our April vacation to Tennessee was canceled. My son and I’s trip to Colorado with the Boy Scouts in July was also canceled. This has been the craziest year that anyone can remember with a desperate hope for the future. Unfortunately, things continue to get worse in our country, with a nit-wit dictatorial type President in the oval office. Our country’s flaws are laid bare by this virus for all the world to see. It’s painful to watch as other countries have come up with real solutions while our country has totally fumbled the coronavirus response.

In my opinion, we are regressing as a society instead of moving forward. I’ve read that Anthropologists say that it’s not one linear line to progress. Nations and societies regress and fall backward before moving forward again. We are definitely moving backward. For the last two weeks, I, along with the rest of the world, have watched the country rise up against brutal tactics of the police in minority communities. It’s both heartbreaking and encouraging to see so many people come together of all races and use their constitutional right to protest amid the coronavirus pandemic. Heartbreaking because we are still having major race issues in this country. Encouraging because people are willing to risk their health and lives to protest in large groups.

As for travel, I think that’s going to be out for most of us in the northeast. My brother and sister-in-law are going away for the night to Wildwood, New Jersey, and they have to bring their own sheets to sleep on. I don’t know how much we’re going to be able to do when we go to Disney for Halloween, but at least we’ll get out of town for a while. Travel is my favorite thing to do, and it’s all but squashed at every turn. Again this is where gratitude comes in to play. I am very thankful for the position we’re in, but this has got to change. I have a friend in Texas, and they opened their state up early, and now I’m reading they’re having a spike in cases of coronavirus. I know this is not going away until there’s a vaccine. Especially next winter things are going to be ugly. I’m not looking forward to this summer because of racial tensions in this country, and I’m sure as hell not looking forward to this winter because of the coronavirus.

I’m in no way a Debbie downer, but this current situation has me beat. I want to end on a positive note that there are sunnier days ahead and many trips for the future. I think we all need a little hope and inspiration right now. Think back to your last vacation while you were sipping a drink poolside or smoking a cigar with some friends in some sunny destination as the wind blew through the palm trees. Take care, my friends.

We never learned the lessons from 2008

Considering this is a travel blog, and right now, travel has all but disappeared. I am not planning to travel until my son travels to Colorado in July. I am writing about more pressing issues that are on my mind.

I’m glad I didn’t send this post out when I originally wrote it earlier last week. It was profanity-laced tirade that meandered and wasn’t coherent. It was how I felt at the time but didn’t make for very informative or decent writing. So let’s try this again, and please be aware of where this is coming from. It’s coming from a place of caring about my fellow human beings. 

The response by the state is both brutal and swift to squash uprisings

I am extremely concerned if the current economic situation in this country continues on its current path, it will lead to social unrest. In other words, riots, to put it in different terms. Inequality has been a significant focus of Bernie Sanders’ campaign as well as major news outlets. In history around the world, anytime there are huge disparities in income and wealth, you will commonly see social movements but may see riots. In turn, the response by the State is both brutal and swift to squash these uprisings. The levers that have been put in place from the Bush Presidency through to the Obama Presidency allow the State to infringe upon our rights in ways that have never even been thought of before.  

We cannot go back to the time of Lord and Serfs, and that is precisely where we are heading. For us to move forward as a healthy society, we need to involve as many people as we can in the economy. It’s not rocket science if we structure our society the way we currently have it where only a tiny fraction gets to enjoy massive benefits at the expense of the many only that fraction move forward. However, if we structure our society where the majority of the population enjoys the benefits, we can have a healthier, happier society.  

The current symptoms of a sick, diseased society: pornography, gambling, rampant drug use, and suicides. Pornography has almost become mainstream. Gambling has corrupted our way of living. I don’t need to go into the details of the current drug use situation in this country. A subject close to my heart are suicides are going up in this country at an alarming rate:

A healthy society doesn’t need to medicate its way out of feeling

[On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people, the highest rate recorded in 28 years]. I lifted this from Wikipedia. But I also researched several other sites, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and they all say the same thing, the suicide rate has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. The bottom line is this is a significant problem along with the other things I mentioned. A healthy society does not need to medicate its way out of feeling. It does not need to resort to get-rich-quick schemes like gambling. And finally, we are not even close to a healthy society when one-third of the population is considered pre-diabetic, and the mortality rate has actually increased in our country for the first time in modern recorded history since the industrial revolution.

Switching gears; to the latest bailout of the economy are coming in around $2 Trillion. I know that politically it was imperative to get relief of some kind to the general population very quickly, but the sheer non-oversight of the whole bill is astounding. Republicans, of course, got what they wanted to give almost $500 Billion away via Steve Mnuchin to corporations that will need help. But you have to put strings attached to the corporations to help out the people that desperately need it. You can’t just say here are billions of dollars do what you want. There are restrictions but can be rescinded if deemed appropriate(???) Are you serious? Again, this is massive government interference. Corporate welfare without strings attached is the bottom line. It’s infuriating. And you know who stood up to vote ‘No.’ No one. Not one member of Congress voted ‘no.’ Only one member of Congress has spoken out against it- and he is a fuckin’ Republican. To his credit, Representative Thomas Massie. The Democrats, including the Progressive faction of the Democratic party, didn’t stand up because they bundled the relief package with the corporate bailout.  

It’s not profitable to produce masks, ventilators, tests and beds

We have (are) experienced three crashes of the economy since 2000. The Dot-com crash, the housing/mortgage crash, and now the crash is coming with the Coronavirus. With all these boom and busts. We didn’t learn about the problems of the past. It’s not profitable to produce masks, ventilators, tests, beds, and then stockpile them for the companies that we permit to produce these items. In addition, the Government didn’t offset the lack of preparedness that the modern Capitalist system failed to do to fight a pandemic. ‘They’ are trying everything to get us through this crisis without changing the underlying problem. Which is the modern Capitalist system is incapable of getting us through these crises without throwing the mass of people out of work. It didn’t learn the lessons from the past. 

 The current situation isn’t the first time a virus has disrupted our lives. SARS, MERS, Ebola, and the most catastrophic was called the “Spanish” flu- which most scientists agree it started in Haskell County, Kansas. The only reason it’s called the Spanish flu is that Spain was neutral during WW I and they had a totally free press whereby they had reported much more honest about how the flu was spreading through their country.  

The Corporations and their idiot minions have captured our Government. Our Government is not the problem. The problem is the fact that they are willing to do the bidding of the Corporations at any cost. We have a Congress that is BOUGHT and paid for by Corporations. And nothing is going to change until we change that one simple fact. Democracy takes work and an engaged public. We have to take back our Government at any cost. Because if we don’t, the ramifications will be catastrophic.  

To travel or not to travel- Coronavirus

I started writing this blog post 2 days ago and meant to finish it before all hell broke loose. Apparently, I’m a little too late. I just came back from work where I was awestruck at the destruction of the Club I work. My 9 to 5 job is a forklift driver and bakery clerk at BJ’s Wholesale Club in South Central New Jersey. My co-worker sent me a text yesterday, alluding to how busy we were, and she shot me a picture. It was a picture looking out from the bakery to a line of customers that wrapped around our tables. This picture included our completely bare bread racks. People started panic buying Thursday at my store and have continued through today, Friday the 13th. It was absolute mayhem. With that in mind, I wrote the following a couple of days ago.

I’m just an individual with no specialized degrees or special qualifications to espouse advice on this subject. However, I think people need to hear how other people are handling the crisis and to state some facts. Make no bones about it, it is a crisis, or soon will be. The only reason we haven’t seen more cases of COVID-19 in the US is that there hasn’t been the level of testing that there has been in South Korea or the United Kingdom. South Korea was testing upwards of 10,000 a day, and the UK is testing around four thousand a day.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in the beginning insisted on developing their own kits, instead of adopting those provided by the World Health Organization. So they lost out on precious time and to get ahead of this virus. The President’s response is best described as malevolence tempered with incompetence. Instead of letting the experts, i.e., Doctors and Scientists, take the lead, our President has pushed himself and his V.P., both politicians, to take the lead on the response. This tactic is dangerous at best and irresponsible at worst.
At this point, our country is not prepared for this crisis. As of Tuesday, around 4300 people have been tested according to the Atlantic magazine and their independent team that’s studied each state’s reported numbers.

According to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the federal government may have finally ironed out the difficulties: He announced on March 8 that “around 4million tests” would be sent out by “the end of next week.” Irwin Redlener, a physician who studies public health and disaster preparedness at Columbia University, condemned the federal government’s response as “the most egregious level of incompetence in an administration that I think we’ve witnessed at least in my memory‚ĶIt’s actually stunning.”

This country is in no situation to weather the storm of a full-blown pandemic. The shocking number of bankruptcies each year, 530,000, due to healthcare bills also exacerbates the misery of society at large. The lack of paid sick leave for regular ordinary persons. There’s already talk about bailing out the cruise lines and providing a stimulus package, so Wall Street doesn’t freak out any further. The ordinary person is supposed to obey the rules and not get for any help, but when it comes to our corporations, they get all the help they need from the federal government.

On a personal note, I took a $3000 pay cut the year that my health insurer started implementing co-insurance deductibles in addition to co-pays. That was about five years ago, and it has progressively gotten worse. So any “pay increases” have been woefully too little to offset the enormous pay cut I endured five years ago.

I currently and still work in a retail environment at a 9 to 5 job four days a week. I have witnessed our store blow through at least 30 pallets of water last weekend alone. Sales are up across the board from cleaning supplies to perishables, to storage bags and all “end of the world” type items. The people around me, including myself, have convinced ourselves that this is not as bad as the 14 to 46 thousand people who die from the influenza virus each year. But because the full scope is not yet visible, we don’t know the mortality rate of this virus. From what I am reading, in Italy, it is hovering around 5%. That’s a little different than the flu.

I hope this article doesn’t scare you from taking any vacations this year. Quite the opposite, I hope it empowers and informs you to make the correct decision for yourselves. I flew, with my wife, a week after 9/11 to Colorado from New Jersey. Yes, the plane was empty. I have a strong foundational belief when it’s your time to go; it’s your time to go. So I’ve lived my life with this ethos and have taken risks that I know other people would call foolish. After the coronavirus had already taken hold in February, I traveled to Australia for several workshops concerning my Digital Marketing business. I never once thought about canceling the trip. I was not alone. Everyone showed up that had booked their journeys, and both classes were full. Granted, it was early on during the coronavirus outbreak.

I believe this virus should subside and hopefully disappear during the summer months, but it’s summer down in the Southern Hemisphere, and the virus is spreading down there as well. I have the opportunity to go to Disney World in late October, early November of this year, and we took the plunge. Last night I booked our plane tickets, and my wife previously booked our rooms at Animal Kingdom lodge. I also have a trip planned to Colorado this summer with my son through Boy Scouts that I hope doesn’t get canceled. I tell you this because I want you to realize that even though I’m extremely concerned about what could happen in the coming year, but I still will continue to live my life to the fullest. Now, after I’ve stated this, I do have a line in the sand for my family and me. I will not under any circumstance, go on a cruise until this virus goes away. I just learned my mother and father-in-law are currently booked to go on a cruise this summer. I have full intention of talking them out of it. I desperately want to cruise out of New Orleans, which my wife and I have never been to, on Disney Cruise Lines, but until a vaccine is created or by some miracle the virus subsides entirely, I will not book a cruise. I believe the US State Department stated we should avoid going on cruises.

My advice to myself and others is that everyone lay low for a couple of weeks and practice excellent hygiene, and we should come out on the other side of this, okay. I’m preparing for the worst but hoping for the best and praying for everyone else. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.