HCAYMAN

Seriously Irreverent Musings

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Eight Mondays A Week

With all due respect to Carole King and Gerry Goffin, I woke up that morning feeling fine. There was somebody special on my mind…

Unlike most recent days, that particular Saturday was going to be different. Change, glorious change, was in the air.

Our granddaughter, Portia, was coming over, and she was staying for the weekend. My Porsches, the four wheeled kind, as opposed to the two legged kind, were going to be a tad jealous. Most likely, I would not even notice them that weekend, because Portia would garner all our attention.

Yup, I thought, it was going to be an interesting weekend, and that was before I knew Portia’s dog, Stasi, was coming, too. If I’d have known Stasi was coming, I would have gone back to sleep, hoping to hibernate the weekend away. It’s not that she is a bad dog, she isn’t. It’s just that she loves to look out the windows and bark at everything passing by. She and our dog, Jake, love each other and have a good time, but they really raise a ruckus. Stasi takes a lot of work without Portia being here. Having both at the same time always feels overwhelming. Of course, Pam and Kim knew on Friday that Stasi was coming, but they opted to keep me in the dark. Most likely that was a good idea.

Pam loves being a grammy. She is really good at it. She is referred to as Grammy Pammy. I love being grumpy. I am really good at it. That is why I am referred to as Grumpy, with no need to qualify it further, as adding Harry on the end of it would be redundant, not to mention the fact that Harry does not rhyme with Grumpy.

As I lay in bed, I felt more excited about a weekend than I had in quite some time, despite all the extra work Pam, and to a much lesser extent I, was going to have to do.

Since Covid-19 began, most days are pretty similar for us. The Beatles sang about love everyday in Eight Days a Week, using the impossible number eight to stress how they loved their partner everyday. If they wrote the same song today, they would title it Eight Mondays a Week. Not to express their love, but to lament the sameness of every day during the Covid-19 lockdown.

I led a pretty regimented, read consistent, life prior to Covid-19. Some might have said I was on the OCD spectrum. I would disagree, as I believe my actions were predicated on the fact that I did what I did in the way I did it to maximize my benefit while minimizing the cost I incurred in terms of hassle, time, money, pain etc. I felt my behaviors were outcome based and not driven by irrational fears.

I must admit that the benefit I derive from some of my actions is kinda insignificant. One of my habits, a holdover from my more intense running days, is that when I buy a new pair of running socks I number each one with the same number, enabling me to match them up after each wash, thereby ensuring that each sock in a pair is run in for the same number of minutes and washed the same number of times, resulting in consistent wear patterns and the avoidance of sock related blisters. As the number of minutes I run each week has dwindled as my age has increased, the likelihood of me getting a running related blister has decreased significantly, but I still dutifully number each sock. So maybe I have an irrational fear of blisters and am on that spectrum after all.

But I digress. Each week in the Covid-19 lockdown has a cadence. There has been very little variability. Even though I had limited variability prior to Covid-19, at least Pam and I did stuff. We ate out. We went to concerts. We saw shows. We saw movies. We saw friends. We went to our respective gyms. I did stuff on my own. I drove my cars for fun. I had cronies. Our lives were full. Of course, we really enjoyed the weekends we had no plans, as they were so relaxing.

That all changed with Covid-19. Now the only cronies I see are the checkers I know at the market and the lady behind the counter at the bagel store. I really enjoy chatting with them, as doing so makes me feel like life is almost normal, despite our masks muffling our conversations and hiding our facial expressions. We do see a handful of friends in an extremely socially distant way and that also helps us feel more normal.

But the reality is that we have very little we can do outside the house, which results in a daily sameness that permeates us to our cores. So instead of cherishing weekends without plans, now we cherish ones with plans. That is human nature, I suppose.

None of that mattered on that Saturday morning. What mattered was that I woke up feeling fine and there was someone special on my mind…

Divided We Fall

People have been espousing this sentiment for millennia, ever since Aesop uttered it in his fables in ancient Greece.

Americans have been espousing it for over 200 years. In 1792, Patrick Henry, in his last public speech, said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln referenced it in his House Divided Speech, opening with, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

Apparently, we need to reiterate this sentiment, because we currently live in a house more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Thanks to 24 hour news channels, we are bombarded with biased stories all day, every day. For many of us, the result has been the utter disbelief of anything the other side says is true. Generally, this is dysfunctional, but not deadly.

It is deadly now, as we live in the era of Covd-19, a novel disease without a cure as of yet, a disease that scientists have proven is primarily transmitted via particles in the air, a disease that can infect a carrier without manifesting symptoms, a disease that takes several days for symptoms to appear, a disease that is running rampant across the globe, with its current epicenter in the United States.

Scientists around the world have determined that wearing a mask is crucial to slowing the spread of the disease. Logic tells us that slower spread is better than faster spread until a cure is found or a vaccine is developed. The logic is irrefutable. It is not debatable. More spread means more illness, more hospital stays, more economic impact, and, eventually, more death.

So why is there any debate? Why do we not have a national mandate to wear masks? What irreparable harm comes from mandating their use? No one is espousing that they be worn forever. In my opinion, if wearing a mask prevents the spread of one case of Covid-19, it is worth the sacrifice of each of us putting a mask on each of our faces. But we will not be preventing the spread of just one case. If we wear masks we will be preventing the spread of thousands or, more likely, millions, of cases.

Maybe I am just too much of a bleeding heart to understand what the true cost is of wearing a mask. Maybe I do not sufficiently cherish my right to be free. Maybe I put too much faith in the scientists. I mean, they were wrong about wearing masks several month ago. How do I know they are not wrong now? Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Or maybe not. None of the maybes matter. The absolute fact is that we are facing a common enemy. An enemy that can strike at each of us at any time. We need to fight it with a cohesive, unified strategy. We need to put our bias, our divisions, our beliefs aside and act in a manner that is best for all of us, not in a manner that is best for each of us. To not do so, results in a divided house, which, quite possibly, will fall in on itself.

Pause

I didn’t intend my statement to be taken in a self-centered, woe is me, my life sucks, the world is ending sort of way, though Pam, and then Kim, took it that way. Ever since, I have been the butt of their jokes, even more so than usual. My statement was so funny to them that they even told our friends what a stupid comment I made. I guess it’s good that I have thick, old man, skin.

I had been sitting at my desk, where I have been spending the vast majority of my waking hours this year, when, for some reason, I started thinking about Uber, and how I may never take one again for quite some time. This led me to reminisce about last year.

2019 was a crazy year for me. For the first time in my life, work turned me into a road warrior. I flew over 60,000 domestic miles, traveling every two or three weeks, either to Northern California or to the East or South East. I was at the airport so often, I began to recognize the baggage handlers and the ticket agents, not to mention the flight attendants. It got so bad, I started drinking alcohol, usually bourbon, on the homeward flights. I had never done that before.

I spent over 50 nights in hotels, generally ones that were functional, but not luxurious. I got used to working out in postage stamp sized hotel gyms, usually going to them at between 4 AM and 5 AM to ensure no one else was using them. I ate many, many meals alone, either in hotels or restaurants. Rarely did I use room service, as I found it too claustrophobic.

And, of course, I took lots of Uber rides. More than I could count, and more than I care to remember, though none were bad. The good news was that I took full advantage of my Amex Platinum card Uber and airline benefits, thereby essentially paying for the card’s annual fee.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was working from home or visiting clients. My days started early, as I was always at Equinox in Beverly Hills by 5 AM during the week.

This year I commute to my den where my desk is, though I have made lots of trips via Zoom, Skype, Microsft Meetings, Google Hangouts, etc. I cannot image going to the airport, staying at a hotel, or getting into an Uber. I struggle to even want to drive, having put about 500 miles on my Cayman, my daily driver, since November, though I have put about 200 miles on my 89 Carrera, driving it to Shelby’s sporadically and once in a really blue moon going somewhere else. I would need to review my credit card statements to determine the last time I bought gas.

I have not eaten in a restaurant since early March, and I have no idea when I will go back to one. We do take out on a regular basis, so we are keeping some restaurants in business. Generally, I have been cooking more, though I have to admit my diet is not as clean as it was last year, as I have given in to the desire for Covid-19 comfort foods, especially homemade pizza, beef stew and that all-time artery clogger, tuna lasagna, on a regular basis.

Lastly, I have not been to Equinox since early March, and after 17 or so years, I terminated my membership. I have no desire to be near anyone else while they are working out. Instead, I have been sleeping in, sort of, running outside, and doing a homemade calisthenics routine, complete with jumping jacks, on a regular basis. I have purchased a Tonal and can’t wait for it to arrive some time next month. Ironically, I seem to be healthier since not frequenting the gym at the butt crack of dawn. My blood pressure is down, despite being irritated by DT everytime I listen to the TV.

As I sat at my desk and had that random thought about Uber, all of the changes I was experiencing this year flashed through my brain, and, as is usually the case, without a pause and without any context, I blurted out to Pam, “My life is so different this year!”

Clearly, I was well aware that I was not alone. Everyone’s life is different this year. I was also not complaining, as my life, despite Covid-19, is still really good. I was just stating a fact. None of that mattered. Pam heard what she heard, not what I was thinking or intending, and I have been the butt ever since.

American Spring

I am hopeful that Spring 2020 will be looked back upon as a watershed time for America. Winter ended with the outbreak of Covid-19. We were introduced to social distancing and a concept called flattening the curve.

Spring began, and it was a weird time for us. We were acting like a tale of two countries, those that believed in the need to socially distance and those who didn’t. It did not help that our president continuously played politics while our countrymen died, despite selfless, life sacrificing efforts by our health care and other essential workers.

As Spring wore on, we learned just how critical our governors and local leaders were to the running of America, something many of us, including me, took for granted or, frankly, seriously underestimated. This was hammered home when our president, in a cowardly display of political posturing, correctly informed us that our governors had the power to implement our Covid-19 response and that the federal government was not a shipping clerk.

When it became clear that our economy could not survive the carnage imposed upon it by the lock-down and social distancing, the brunt of the leadership again fell to our governors and local leaders, with our president continuing to show an utter absence of leadership and, even worse, using social media to undermine governors with whom he disagreed.

Then Minneapolis happened.

At first the response was predictable and justified. Shock and rage were rightfully expressed. As the days wore on, the heinous nature of the crime did not diminish. Nor did the heinousness of the local lack of response.

At first the outrage was localized, but that did not last long. It soon began to spread to major cities. In Los Angeles last weekend, I went to sleep to the sound of sirens. I woke up to the same sounds. Walking around my neighborhood, I saw the negative aspects of protests, the shattered windows, the boarded windows, the graffiti, and the stores stripped of goods. On TV I watched the organized looters make a mockery of the Santa Monica and the Los Angeles police, using diversion to attract attention in one area while looting in another.

Then our president spoke and acted. He threatened to send our military against us. He dangerously disrupted a peaceful demonstration for a corny photo op. He proved yet again how useless and misguided he was as a leader.

Frankly, I was mad. And I was scared. Having said that, I was also hopeful. I was hopeful because across America, and to my utter amazement, many other parts of the world, began to protest the actions of the few, to call attention to the systematic, structural issues plaguing the less fortunate in America.

This week, the protests changed. The protesters came from all walks of life. All races. All sexes. All orientations. All ages. The looting stopped. Knees were bent. Hands were clasped. The message was heard. For now.

The protests have achieved their initial goal, opening eyes and calling attention to real issues. Questions remain about how real change will be made, and if it is, how sustainable it will be. Will it be like a rip tide which starts strong and generally peters out after a few hundred yards? Or will it be like a tidal wave that wreaks some destruction in a local area but subsides after a few months or a year? Or will it be a sea change, which generates long-term results? I hope we can achieve a sea change.

The one-two punch of Covid-19 and George Floyd have hammered our faults as a nation home. Too many of us are a week away from economic ruin, and too many of us are an institutionalized act away from losing our lives. The only way to create and sustain change is by voting, voting in every election and in every race. Countless Americans have died to protect our right to vote. Sadly, many of us do not deserve to have that right, as we consistently eschew the voting booths.

It is a sad fact that less than 60% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections and around 50% of eligible voters vote in mid-term elections. On the surface that is bad enough, but a deeper dive into the statistics shows that the majority of those who vote are those trying to hold on to what they have as opposed to those who vote to engender change.

As Americans, we have the ability to mold our world, to create the structure under which we live. To some degree those rights are being attacked, either by preventing voting by mail or making it more difficult to vote due to a reduction in the number of polling places or the economic cost of taking time off to vote.

As Spring winds down and Summer begins, we need to change the dialog with our leaders. We have a window of time in which to act. We need to speak to them, loudly, about how serious we are about voting in the Fall.

It’s A Virtual Life

It’s Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally, on this day I watch The Grand Prix of Monaco followed by the Indianapolis 500, and ….. if I have not totally OD’d on motor sports …. I might watch Nascar’s Coca Cola 600 from Charlotte.

I am so starved for live motor sports, that I would gladly watch all three this year, including all the commercials, but only the Nascar race is being run today. Given my general disinterest in the normal “money sports,” like baseball, basketball, and to a lesser extent, football, I have not really cared that the seasons for those sports have been truncated or cancelled, though at this point in my retirement in place, even baseball might start to be slightly interesting.

Speaking of baseball, I had a really good laugh over the rules that MLB was planning to put into place for re-opening the baseball season. The one that made me chuckle the most was the no spitting rule. I just cannot imagine baseball sans chewing tobacco. What has the world come to? Oh yeah, it’s become a Covid-19, Socially Distant, Virtual World.

Most of the live entertainment I have been watching since the lock-down has centered around home based musical performances, which have been surprisingly good, especially The Rolling Stones predominately acoustic version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Bruce’s acoustic version of Land of Hope and Dreams and his version of Tom Wait’s magnificent ballad, Jersey Girl.

The other form of live entertainment I have paid attention to are the morning new shows. In the real, pre-Covid-19, world I never watched those shows. Now I have become a Today Show junkie, something I never would have thought possible, though my ability to continue watching it is in jeopardy. Interestingly, and despite my utter lack of understanding it or expecting it, I do find that I like Hoda.

Some entertainment has actually gotten better this year. Pam and I enjoyed watching the socially distant versions of The Voice and American Idol. Something about the against all odds nature of producing those shows in this environment added to their allure for us.

But what really blew me away was Eric Church’s abridged acoustic set he played in lieu of his cancelled Stagecoach performance. For many reasons, Pam and I never go to music festivals. We had no plans to start this year, even though my favorite country artist, Eric Church, was scheduled to be a headline act at Stagecoach. We have seen him perform live a couple of times, and we love his shows. So as far as I was concerned, his 20 odd minute mini-set that I watched on YouTube, which he never would have produced but for Covid-19, was a real win for me.

So what did I do this morning in the new virtual world? Did I get my motor sport fix? Shockingly, I did. And, duh, it was virtual. I enjoyed watching the F1 Virtual Grand Prix of Monaco. It wasn’t real, but it was fun. I had to laugh, though, at how seriously the announcers took the race. They really brought it to life.

Now it is the middle of the day, and there is no substitute for Indy this year. I am sort of flipping between reruns of the 2006 and 2019 races, but none really hold my interest. At the same time, I am listening to more Covid-19 inspired acoustic performances. Currently, Luke Combs is blasting out of my speakers as I wait for the live Coca Cola 600 Nascar race to start later this afternoon.

While I have enough to keep me occupied this year, I am pretty sure the novelty will wear off real soon, and I hope next year’s Memorial Day will be less virtual and more live.

Memorial Day

Make no mistake about it, we are at war, a war that is affecting the population of our entire planet. A war being fought against an invisible enemy, an enemy that can subvert our family, our closest friends and our neighbors and turn them into our greatest foes.

I am 65 years old, and this is my first war. I came close to being drafted for the Vietnam War, and I remember the fear I felt and the tension in my body as the days wound down to the day the Selective Service System, also known as the draft board, would be assigning me a draft number. Thankfully, the draft ended, and I did not have to serve. I cannot avoid serving in this war. My goal is to do so with honor and integrity.

My dad fought in WW2. He was a member of the greatest generation, volunteering to serve in the Air Force. During the war he performed Herculean acts, all the while knowing his life was at risk every hour of every day for months on end. It took mental toughness, the support of comrades and family, and, yes, a splash of alcohol to survive.

My dad was a flight engineer with the 73rd Bomb Wing. He was part of one of many B-29 squadrons stationed on Saipan, one of the Mariana Islands. He participated in more than 30 bombing missions over Japan, including the dreadful firebombings, which turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.

For a portion of the war, he had it pretty easy, acting as a training instructor in Florida. His worst injury during that time, a broken foot, occurred while playing handball. The remaining portion of the war, when he was stationed on Saipan, was hell for him.

Throughout the years following WW2, he suffered in silence, never really discussing the war or his actions during it, though on numerous occasions he would tell us that he consumed lots of alcohol to numb his senses. When he did discuss it, he usually glossed over the details.

In the late 90s, when he and my mom attended a reunion of the men who fought with the 73rd, some of his heroic acts came to light. Many men from his crew told stories about my dad, how he was a hero, and that without him, none of them would have survived the war. My dad never told us the full extent of the danger they experienced daily, though he did laugh and say, “I used to sit on my flack jacket while we were flying to protect my testicles from the shots from below,” an act I was very happy to hear about.

To a man, his crew wanted to discuss one particular mission. It started like all the others did, as they flew from Saipan to Tokyo to drop their load of bombs. It ended much differently.

While over the Bay of Tokyo, his B-29 was hit, and it was hit hard. While it was still able to fly, the damage to the plane was extensive. It suffered instantaneous pressure loss, causing my dad’s eardrums to burst, which resulted in partial hearing loss for the rest of his life, though he had it easy when compared to the others of his crew who were either unconscious or dead.

The plane was a mess. Not all engines were operating. The rear gunner was partially sucked out of the plane, but was still stuck in what was left of his bubble. Smoke was everywhere.

A Japanese fighter was pursuing them, trying to finish them off. The crew took evasive action. They hit the deck, almost literally, dropping to about 100 feet above sea level. As they passed through 300 feet, the Japanese fighter stopped pursuing them, assuming they would splash into the Pacific.

My dad, as flight engineer, knew they would not be seen at 100 feet because they were below the radar floor, but he also knew they had bigger problems than losing the fighter because they were over 500 miles from Saipan without oxygen, flying slowly in thick, moist sea air. The likelihood of them having enough fuel to get back to base was practically nil.

As flight engineer, he knew all the specifications of the plane, and his job was to use every trick he could think of to save fuel and get them home. No one expected them to return. As the other planes in the squadron returned to Saipan, they reported that my dad’s plane was hit and most likely lost at sea.

Over four hours after the other planes returned, my dad’s plane limped to East Field in Saipan and ran out of gas as it reached the runway. Against all odds they made it back, knowing that they would have to do it all over again. His strength and courage during those times is inspirational to me.

I am not equipped to be on the front lines of this war, which is being fought in labs and hospitals and fire stations and police stations and grocery stores and farms and packing houses and other critical industries across the globe. Our scientists, doctors, nurses, police officers, firemen are our fighting force, but our clerks, truck drivers, meat packers, farmers, farm workers, delivery workers are also on the front lines.

At best, I can play a support role, sort of like those who bought war bonds in the 1940’s, doing what they could to further the war effort. Instead of building planes and other war devices, I need to do what I can to prevent the inadvertent spread of Covid-19. I need to make it as easy as possible for our current combatants to do their jobs, and I need to act in a way that protects their health.

Sadly, we need to fight this war on two fronts. The first is finding a way to beat the infection. The second is to do it without killing our economy. We cannot focus solely on the first and ignore the second, but focusing on the second will make it tougher on our combatants to fight the first.

Memorial Day is a week away. This year it will hold special significance for me. I will be tearfully thinking of my dad in a way I have not done in years. More importantly, I will be respectful of all our past and current combatants, especially the current ones who did not volunteer to be combatants, but instead were drafted into the fight. I will express my appreciation for their acts, both in my actions and my words. I will do everything I can to enable them to to do their part in this war as safely as possible. I will tell everyone I know to do the same.

I am proud of my dad. I’d like to think he would be proud of me.

DeFunked

A few short weeks ago, I smugly thought I knew all about working from home, maintaining a schedule and maintaining sanity during this prolonged period of insanity. Boy, was I wrong.

I may have known what to do, but I could not continue to implement effectively. Through a perfect storm of stress causing issues, including personal, work and fear, I found myself in a serious funk.

My schedule went to hell. I stopped working out early, mainly because the gym closed, but also because I lost the desire to do so. I stopped shaving regularly. I found the need to drink more often. Then I stopped going to the market, something I found very stressful. It turns out that relying upon Instacart to pick fruit and make substitutions was not good for my stress level.

In all fairness, I have it pretty easy compared to most, but that did not stop me from spiraling into a funk. I knew I was stressed. I had pain in the pit of my stomach, resulting in an inability to eat or to at least enjoy eating. I mean I did not even crave chocolate.

My heart rate, which usually hovers at or below 60 was in the 70s. I heard it all night, mainly because I was up most of the night, but also because it was beating faster than normal, a good indication that my flight or fight response was being triggered continuously.

I was working out, but I tried to do it in the middle of the day, a bad idea as that added to my stress.

During this time, one of my friends asked me what I missed most since the retirement in place orders began. He was referring to real acts, like eating out, going to the movies, seeing friends, etc. I answered, eschewing references to real acts. Instead, I told him, “I miss the ability to leave the house, have groceries delivered, pick up a piece of mail. or open a box from Amazon without wondering if I am risking my life.”

Each night, I slept a couple of hours. Then I would wake up to a racing heart. If it wouldn’t have woken Pam up, I would have read my Kindle in bed to relax. Instead, I found myself wandering around the house, laying on the couches in the den or the living room, and reading in one of those places. Eventually, I would fall back to sleep and awaken at some random time. The only good that came out of these nocturnal jaunts was that I heard strange sounds in our crawl space, leading me to determine that we had rats roaming around. Great.

About a week or so ago, my saintly wife, Pam, read a blurb on-line about the importance of maintaining a schedule during this crisis. She mentioned it to me, saying, “Didn’t you write something similar to this?” She went on to say, “What happened to you? Your schedule is non-existent.”

I took her comments to heart. I established a new schedule, running or doing calisthenics first thing in the morning. I re-instituted daily shaving. Though I did not reduce my consumption of tequila. As the days wen by, I noticed two things: First, I was sleeping better. I had no need to visit the den or living room in the middle of the night. Second, my heart rate returned to normal. These two simple acts helped me restore a sense of order in my life, and my flight or fight response was no longer my best friend.

I plan to keep it that way.

Indivisible(?)

For about 100 years or so the Pledge of Allegiance seems to have meant something special to all Americans, including those born here and those who immigrated here and those who have led us from the position of president. Sure it has evolved over the years. Sure it was written by a socialist minister. Sure god was added to the recital. None of that matters. The key to me was one word: Indivisible.

Since 1787, the United States has relied on its Constitution and Bill of Rights to share and balance power between its individual state and national interests. This unique approach became known as federalism, which has worked really well for us for centuries, having been only severely tested during our Civil War.

While this system works spectacularly for balancing power, it sometimes is awkward and cumbersome when dealing with crisis situations that require immediate, coordinated, consistent responses on a nationwide basis. We have been lucky since the Civil War that the majority of the crises arose beyond the borders of the United States or did not require a quick response, giving us the ability to dither for some time before settling on a national strategy. Our current crisis, Covid-19, is testing how we react to a crisis that affects all of us, including each of the states and the federal government, at the same time. It is also illuminating the weakness of our process, as each individual state has the right to pursue its own course of action in response to the crisis.

In times like this, only strong leadership at the federal level in coordination with the governors of all the states will provide the optimal solution to this crisis that all residents of the United States need and deserve. Variations in the implementation can have a very deleterious affect, thereby reducing our solution to its least common denominator, better known as its weakest link.

This is where presidential leadership matters the most. And it is what is lacking the most right now. The President seems to be more concerned with getting re-elected than solving the crisis. He is more interested in telling us he has been perfect than admitting he has made mistakes. He is more interested in playing politics that unifying the country to solve the crisis on a national level, going as far as fomenting divisiveness with his messages. Not a recipe for implementing an optimal solution.

Despite the structural framework our founders put in place to balance power across the branches of government, we need to act like one country. We pledge we are indivisible. It is time to act that way.

I welcome your comments.

The New Normal?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the status of toilet paper has soared. An item that no one but the environmentally obsessed thought about, has become a bellwether, making the news almost daily.

It is the canary in the coal mine for me. The sudden surge in demand for toilet paper due to hoarding was just the tip of the iceberg affecting the availability of and the demand for toilet paper in the future.

The reality is that there is a toilet paper shortage and there is a toilet paper surplus at the same time. Demand surged due to hoarding, but overall demand did not change. Instead, ongoing consumption has shifted to homes from commercial and industrial buildings. The result is that the well established supply chain for toilet paper is in disarray. Sales to the commercial channels have plummeted, while sales to consumers have sky rocketed, creating both a shortage and a surplus.

The supply chain will adapt, but it will take time. Consumers will need to identify additional sources of supply. Bulk purchases, at the case level, may become the norm. Direct sales from the manufacturer or a large wholesaler to the consumer will most likely increase. The last big change in the toilet paper supply chain was when Costco entered the market and sold private label toilet paper in bulk packaging. Now even Costco is having (t)issues keeping up.

Other supply chains are equally disrupted. The food chain is in utter disrepair. A large percentage of the sales of food are direct to hotels, restaurants, etc. Demand for goods in that segment of the market has fallen to the floor. Toilet paper has issues, but at least it does not have a short shelf life. Fresh food, on the other hand, is very perishable. Farmers have no buyers for their products at a time when grocery stores are clamoring for supply. Though, already we are seeing farm to table mean farm to dining room table, as farmers are reaching out directly to consumers.

Thankfully, we exist in a capitalistic system, one that rewards those who have the courage or the intelligence to change with the times. Capital will be reallocated. Supply chains will change. Jobs will be created. Efficiency will be sought.

We will change faster than the rest of the world. Hopefully, it will be fast enough to get the right goods to the right place at the right price. If we watch toilet paper carefully, we might have a good idea as to how we are progressing.

Maybe It’s Time To Fix A Road

Despite the current uptick in my consumption of tequila and bourbon, this has been a ridiculously sobering week.

I have been on a work treadmill for the past six or seven months, working between 50 and 60 hours per week on a variety of projects. Thru last weekend, nothing had changed except for a slight feeling of reduced deadline stress. That was then.

Monday was still business as usual, sort of.

Tuesday the bottom began to fall out. It became clear that many of my existing projects were being put on hold and that there was not much coming in the door behind them. I had several conversations with clients, assisting them with tough decisions to ensure the survival of their entities. None of the conversations had a great outcome. During the day, the government finally began addressing the economic cost of Covid-19, thankfully.

Wednesday reality hit. We have a pipeline of projects, some of which will continue, some of which will not. For the foreseeable future nothing new will be started. I will be out of a job in a hurry if nothing changes.

Small and big businesses across America and the world are fighting for survival, shedding payroll dollars as fast as they can. For every Amazon that is hiring, 100s of entities are shutting down. The government will need to print money like never before to prevent social discord.

No one is immune. Or at least very few. Those are the ones that are lucky to be employed in industries that produce essential goods and services. For the rest of us jobs will disappear by the droves. Unemployment will spike over the next several weeks, of that there is no doubt.

What is in doubt is how we as a country will redeploy all the human resources we have voluntarily put on the sidelines. Many industries will pick back up from where they left off. Many won’t. In my opinion the relief funds in the short term will bridge some of the financial gaps,but we need a longer term solution. A much larger handout.

We need to rebuild our infrastructure with a vengeance. We have paid lip service to it for years. It is time for the government to open the spigots for real and rebuild America. We need to do it as an American First program using American owned companies, supplying American made parts using American labor. Period. It is not time for political correctness. It is not time to save the world. We can get to that later. We owe this commitment to our people.

Hopefully, we have learned a very important lesson over the past couple of months. We cannot continue to abdicate this much of the production of the goods in our supply chain to any other country. We have to rebuild our own. It won’t be easy. It won’t be quick. It will cost more, but I believe it is worth it. Covid-19 may just have given us the reason to do it.

I welcome your comments.

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