I Remember Sandy (Installment #2)

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I didn’t say when I’d get to this unpublished continuation from Super Storm Sandy in 2012. So here it is. It is 2021 right? 😷

Monday – That first day
I kept wondering when the worst would hit. There had to be more, right? Where was the so-called “Super Storm”? Were we just in the eye? But there was no more wind, no more downpours; it never got worse, just overcast, with occasional drizzle. Okay. I thought I would be fine for a couple of days without electricity, even without heat. And I knew for me the hardest thing would be to go without sleep.

I had a dull, deep, throbbing headache at the base of my skull and down into my shoulders. This is the sleep apnea headache that comes from lack of oxygen and lack of real rest. If you know about Apnea at all, you probably associate it with snoring. It amazes me now that I managed with it, undiagnosed, for years, and that anyone would try the CPAP solution and choose not to use it. It makes you look like Darth Vader in bed, but who cares? The CPAP mask, pumping filtered air into your face, stops the apnea and the headache. And thanks to Sandy, I wouldn’t be able to use my CPAP again until I had electricity. I was anxious about the lack of sleep and the potential for an incapacitating, whopper headache, so I located my migraine prescriptions, found the one with codeine, spilled one into my hand House-like, and swallowed.

The apartment was still warm, and luckily, I had city water. But I was isolated. No Internet. I didn’t have a radio. One of those funny little hand crank radios in the LL Bean catalog suddenly seemed like a great idea. I went outside.

The town was quiet; in fact, except for a couple of shell-shocked dog walkers, the streets were empty. I sat in my car, engine running, and charged my phone and iPad. I tested the CPAP. (It worked.) I listened to the reports. Apparently with no damage to the building, no giant tree limbs covering my car, and for now the Delaware river not flooding, for a change, I was in better shape than many. Sandy had slammed into the Jersey shore and ricocheted up the coast to cause major damage in New York and Long Island. The disaster at the Jersey Shore was yet to be fully ascertained or appreciated, but it was clear that my little town had done “well”.

Lambertville suffered downed trees, but it seemed the city had been largely spared. Throughout the damaged areas, time and again, evidence remained of a lucky event – a huge wreck of a tree, lying by the side of a house safely between walls and car, slumbering horizontally, in the driveway, house and auto, untouched. Among the downed lines and smashed and exploded transformers there were many of these near misses. All the stores and shops were closed, of course, but I didn’t see any broken windows. In the street lay the roadkill of two dented “Dish” satellite antennas, the likely source of night-time screeching, as metal was bent, bolts pried from brick and concrete by the wind, until they fell like crashing, grey, sea birds, to be gashed deeply by the concrete and asphalt that broke their dives.

I tried my iPad, but of course there was no WiFi. My iPhone on the other hand, had a good signal – 4 bars of LTE. Who would have known? Later in the week I learned that around a 3rd of the cell towers in NJ had been knocked out, one way or another, but at my location, 4 bars. Then and there I decided it was worth investing in a one month data account on the iPad. I signed up for it, and was off and running, with full access to my email, magazines, newspapers, and other junk on a device with a ten hour battery – if I could get a full charge.

On the radio, in the papers, on Twitter, everybody said, “Don’t go out. Stay home. The roads are a mess, there are wires down.” I had nowhere to go, the office was closed, our network was inaccessible, and that’s what I did. I cleaned, I gathered and arranged candles, I thought about how to eat my food before it all spoiled. Pendar was at his brother’s house up in the hills. My kids were in the South. I checked on them via Text. They were fine. I had a late breakfast.

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With one burner, and one frying pan, I cooked a small omelette with some sliced turkey, a little Irish cheddar, a veggie sausage, and an English muffin. I was glad that I had assembled my butane camp stove the night before. I had good coffee, and creamer – which I regard as a necessity for my coffee. It was a hearty breakfast. Much better than the bagel and cream cheese from the local deli that I’d been eating every day for the last week or two. I had nearly a dozen eggs to get through, one was broken, and I used two in my omelette. If I kept at it, I could get through them in a day or two. I had some smoked salmon and lots of crackers. At this point the goal was to use up all the food, so as not to waste it. It began to dawn on my just how much food I kept in my small, and largely empty, pantry. I figured I had plenty to last a few days, and if it got bad, there was always pasta, canned tuna, and oatmeal.

Tuesday I enjoyed another morning omelette and coffee. I started to get antsy, but decided to stick around town anyway. Two nights so far with no CPAP meant that I had to get up and move around and take drugs before I could do much else. I was still optimistic that I would have electicity soon. There were plenty of emails from my work colleagues around the world. They obviously had little or no concept of the magnitude of the crisis. “Hope you are well.” Well wishes along with requests for work that needed to be done. I spent a lot of time answering emails.

I set up a little cellphone workstation in an effort to save electricity, as well as to use my work phone for my work email. I paired my Mac bluetooth keyboard (because my iMac was useless without electricity of course) with my iPhone, and set the iPhone on a little Kensington iPad stand. Voila! A very serviceable workstation. Now I could type, leave the screen in landscape mode, work quickly through email as I located news about the state. New York City apparently was clobbered. Knocked out. The pictures were stunning, especially of the Brooklyn power station explosion and subsequent fire.

By the afternoon, it was clear that I had no heat, and the house was getting cold as the sun lurked behind the autumn clouds and the temperature dropped.

I had offers. Several friends from work had offered their homes. Marc had no electricity, but he did have a generator and a fireplace. I could plug in my CPAP. Robert had lost six big trees, but none had hit his house or car. He had electricity AND he pointed out, FIOS. That was tempting, but he lived pretty far down river. I opted for a third night at home, while the house was still not too cold. As I explained, this could go on for a long time. I would hold out as long as possible.

Wednesday was my day to break free and look around. My third day after a night without CPAP was okay. I wore the mask all night, and maybe, even without the airpump, I breathed differently – that is, in some healthy way. The tube to the mask was dripping with moisture from my breath. My back was getting tight from skull to hips, but there wasn’t much pain on Wednesday. Are you getting the CPAP issue here? For me, everything was pretty much okay, but my big anxiety was about the medical condition. I don’t normally think of myself as a person with a disability, but besides the headaches, apnea can kill you. Usually with heart failure or a stroke. I was just worried about the headache turning into a full-blown migraine. I’d been managing my migraines for almost a year, and the idea of rolling around in agony on the floor in the freezing cold didn’t appeal to me.

I drove North to Flemington. Rt. 202, normally a highway with fairly light traffic, now a disaster because of the huge numbers of cars lined up at the few gas stations that were open. Ten, twenty, thirty, or more cars. I learned quickly to stay in the left lane to avoid tail-ending someone. With almost a full tank, I wasn’t going to worry about gas. Presumably the stations were mobbed by all the people with generators. Lots of people with big red gas cans. Flemington appeared to have power. Chilis, Fridays, Applebees, all the “ees” were open. I drove to the County Library, for the WiFi. A lot of other people already had this idea. The folks at the library had set up a conference room full of tables and extension cords, and these were all occupied. I found a single power outlet and a chair upstairs in Fiction. I worked for hours, until my butt hurt, and I had to move. A young woman claimed my seat before I had packed my backpack. Something was going on in the parking lot as I started to pull out – lots of cops and flashing lights and a big truck. I ignored the hubbub until I saw the woman standing at the exit holding a big sign, “ICE AND WATER”. “For me?” I asked. “Sure,” she said, “If you need it.”

My frig had been off for 3 days. I still had food, and was anticipating dumping a lot of it in another day or two. I made a loop around the lot and the cops threw a sleeve of ice in my trunk. I waved off the bottled water. Just when I thought I was going to lose the rest of my food, I had a chance to get by for another day or two!!

Dropped off the ice, rearranged my food, and headed to Doylestown to find out if gasoline was truly hard to get, and to go to Starbucks and free WiFi. Despite horror stories I’d heard from neighbors and on the radio about standing in line for 4 hours to get gas, there were virtually no lines once you got to the Pennsylvania side of the river. I passed a short line in New Hope, and with nothing unusual in Doylestown, I filled my tank. I headed to Starbucks, and hunkered down with a sandwich and iced coffee and spent the rest of the afternoon there.

When I got back, my apartment was dark. I had hoped there would be a light in the window, but NO. No electricity for me. About that time, Marc texted me that he had electricity at his house in Solebury. Man. Why couldn’t I have electicity? He offered a room and a bed. I told him I would be there around 9. I got my stuff together, grabbed a bottle of wine, and headed over. Sure enough, all the lights were on in his neighborhood…why couldn’t all the lights be on in my neighborhood?? I thanked him for his kindness, he told me I didn’t have to bring the wine, I insisted, and I begged off on his offer for dinner, coffee, and anything else. I just wanted a shower and to go to bed, and I did. It is great to have people who are generous enough to share their homes in a crisis, but I hate to impose, and I didn’t want to interfere with his family life or routine. I slept well, with the CPAP on, and sneaked out the door before 8 AM the next morning.

Now, let me say, all the while that I was just making meals, and staying warm, and keeping my devices charged, it was clear that much of New Jersey and most of Manhattan had suffered tremendous damage and was still dealing with phenomenal hardship. I didn’t have much to complain about, just a great deal of inconvenience. I kept that in perspective, but I was cranky. It wears you down. It makes it hard to focus.

To be continued…

Written on my iPad.

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😷 Covid-19 Info & Resources—SPECIAL GET VACCINATED Edition!! Update Feb. 24, 2020 Wednesday (USA – New Jersey)

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Your goal is to get vaccinated. Mine too!! Call me a “WV” (Wannabe Vaccinated). I am “1B” qualified, and so far am on a bunch of lists, but have not received my first shot. If you aren’t offered a vaccine through your work, and no one else has contacted you to offer you one, then expect to be last on every list. If you don’t want to wait, you can try to get vaccinated. You probably know people who have done this, successfully. Right now, as I write this, it’s unlikely that any vaccine distribution site will actually schedule you, immediately, at the time you contact them. However, if they know what they’re doing and want your business, they will have a waiting list.

This process is in constant flux. It will change. Here’s how:

  • In a few weeks or a month, not only should there be more vaccine, hopefully slots will open up because the vaccinators have over-estimated the demand because so many of us have signed up on multiple lists! That’s good.
  • But, it might turn out a few weeks or a month from now, that ALL the people who are trying to get their second shot will be the priority at all the locations, and there still won’t be any appointments for the rest of us. I know, it’s a frustrating mess.
  • Caveat Lector—The information below will undoubtedly change. Sites will be improved, processes streamlined, all good stuff, I hope. I won’t be chasing those changes. (It’s too much work!!) If you stick to the basic guidelines, you’ll be fine…

To be clear, apply only at sites that will:

  1. 🗒 Put you on a waiting list and
  2. 📞 Reliably contact you when they do have vaccine or
  3. 📅 Schedule a vaccination appointment immediately. They should also make it easy to…
  4. 📆 Schedule your second visit preferably when you schedule the first visit, or at least, when you get your first injection. (Until the J&J Vaccine becomes available, full immunity REQUIRES TWO INJECTIONS). You want to sign up with a site that is smart enough to schedule you for both. They should not expect you to go through this whole quest all over again for the second shot.

    Got it? You can go with that, or read on for more details.
    We’ll start at the “top”…

The CDC Guidelines— The CDC has set guidelines to prioritize vaccinations for the most important or most vulnerable groups, people who ought to get vaccinated first. Unfortunately, states and distribution sites are inconsistent in applying the guidelines. And, a lot of states have “opened” up vaccinations to lower priority groups long before they’ve received or distributed enough vaccine to the groups that were supposed to be vaccinated first. I can’t change that, President Biden will try, meanwhile I’m just telling it the way it is…


The NJ State Program —In New Jersey (and maybe in other states, but I’m talking about New Jersey here) you can sign up for the state distribution program. They will screen you and let you know whether you are eligible based on state guidelines. Don’t waste your time. Once eligible, they tell you to go find your own vaccine. Which means you have to register somewhere else, and all the distribution sites do their own screening. So skip the state, and get on with your search. (There’s a huge list of sites where you can get vaccinated in New Jersey—you just have to find one with vaccine.) And I have more time-saving advice…


Hunterdon County Health Dept. (My top choice)
🗒📞📅📆—For me, and maybe for you and your county health department, this is the best bet, because after a month of flailing around with “Survey Monkey” and no waiting list, the Hunterdon County Health Dept. has become transparent and organized. They have a list of 5000, confirm that you are on the list via email, “guarantee” if you get on the list you will get vaccine when they have it, sending out notices each Wednesday as they get vaccine, and automatically schedule your second visit when you receive your first shot. Period. Be patient and try to get on their “list of 5000”.
https://www.hunterdoncountyvaccine.org/
(908)788-1351

Nobody’s perfect, the Health Department server got overwhelmed on the first day, but I did get a confirmation that I was registered. Be patient!


Hunterdon Health Care, our local Medical Center
? ? ? ?—These guys are a big disappointment. After several previous web-only fiascos, they announced a clinic with dial-in. This began at 8:00 am, with no online access, no waiting list, just call supposedly and schedule an appointment. I made 53 Calls in 30 minutes. Never got through, never spoke to a human. As I’ve said, if they can’t even manage a waiting list, don’t bother. On their web site, it doesn’t even look like they are getting any more vaccine. I’m sure they’ll do better, but when?
https://www.hunterdonhealthcare.org/when-can-i-get-the-covid-19-vaccine/

Other Hospitals, Medical Facilities—By word of mouth, I heard about several sites that seemed to be organized, maintain lists, and actually vaccinate people. Of course, by the time you hear about these, so have thousands of other WV’s . Although I’m still waiting, for all my readers in Beautiful Western Central New Jersey, I will share my secrets:

  • St. Luke’s University Health Network
    🗒📞📅📆 —Headquartered in Bethlehem, PA, they do serve clients from New Jersey and have a location in Philipsburg, NJ. Sign in to their “My Chart” program, they maintain a list and they will stay in touch after you pre-register for the Covid vaccine. I know people who succeeded in getting vaccinated here.
    https://www.slhn.org/
  • RWJ/Barnabas Health
    🗒📞📅 ? — They have lots of locations in New Jersey, and provide vaccinators to several of the state “Super Sites”. They maintain a list, and I have been told that people I know were contacted and vaccinated. https://www.rwjbh.org/patients-visitors/what-you-need-to-know-about-covid-19/schedule-a-vaccine/covid-19-vaccine-appointment-request-form/
  • Virtua Health
    🗒📞📅 ?—Virtua runs the Moorestown “Mega Site”, the only one I list here. After experiencing the frustration of some of the more inept sites (see CVS and Rite Aid, below), this one will give you confidence. I know several people who have been vaccinated there after signing on to the list on this web site. https://www.virtua.org/services/covid19-vaccine-info

CVS Pharmacy
? ? 📅📆—This sounds like a great idea! Search for the first dose by trying different locations until you find a pharmacy with timeslots available. Then, immediately try to schedule. Whoops! If you ‘re not fast enough, the open slots disappear, and now you have to search for another location! If you actually get an appointment, they “hold” that slot for you, Hooray!!

But you must schedule your second dose before they even take your name! You must go through the process again, locate a pharmacy with vaccine, quickly select a time, and click the [Continue Scheduling] button.

Almost there!! And you wait. And wait. And nothing happens. The site seems to be locked up. But what about all those timeslots they are holding?? Sorry…

Remember: they don’t have any of your information yet. If you click [Cancel], or refresh the web page, or click the browser “back” button….POOF!! It’s all gone, and you have to start over. That happened to me twice! And I gave up. This is just BAD DESIGN. The Good News is that when CVS doesn’t have any available slots, you can’t even search for a location—at least they save you the trouble. No list. (Psst: Someone told me if you go on at 4 AM, you might find some open spots. Have at it!!)
www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine

Rite-Aid Pharmacy
? ? 📅📆—This sure sounds like a great idea! Another convenient pharmacy with vaccinations! When CVS doesn’t have vaccine, they don’t ask you to pick a store and see if there are appointments. BUT that’s exactly how the Rite Aid site works! Enter your location, and they’ll give you a list of ten nearby stores. Then, you have to pick one, to see if it has vaccine. You have to go through the whole search to discover there is no vaccine available. BAD DESIGN. If successful, they will schedule the second appointment right away. Nothing available AFAICT, but I hear a rumor today that you should try at 5 AM. 🙂 If you get an appointment, let me know!!
http://ritea.id/newjersey

Remember that every site screens you for eligibility? On the Rite Aid site, if your medical condition isn’t on their list, DO NOT select “None of the Above”. Do that, you will be immediately considered “not eligible”.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy
🗒 ? ? ?—This sure sounds like a great idea! Another convenient pharmacy with vaccinations! You have to sign up with Walgreen’s and/or download their app before they will even tell you if they have vaccine available. They get you on their list before you get any information. Pretty clever!! I will just say, no vaccine, no list, no thank you. Your mileage may vary.
https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19?ban=covid_vaccine_landing_schedule

? ? ? ?Shoprite Pharmacy—This sure sounds like…oh never mind. I wasn’t going to include Shoprite, because after having vaccine early on, now they don’t seem to have any at all. At least they don’t make you wait online or bother with a list. They just tell you, “We don’t have any, all slots are taken.”
https://vaccines.shoprite.com

So there you have it Christo’s helpful summary of the current status of getting a vaccine in New Jersey (and elsewhere in the USA). Remember the basics, be patient and do your T’ai Chi. If you haven’t had enough already, I’ve included links to more vaccine info with suggestions and guidance. Good luck, Stay Healthy, and Keep Wearing a Mask!!

— Christo


🦠 FLASH!! – THIS JUST IN‼️ (FEB. 25, 2021)
VaccineFinder.Org (CDC)
— The CDC now supports a “curation” site that pulls much of this COVID Vaccine info together in one place. My impression is it might save you a little time, but results in a “tease” – informing you that CVS in Trenton has vaccine, but when you click the [Schedule] button, you get the same “No Appointments Available” result that comes up when you go direct to their web site… Give it a try.
https://vaccinefinder.org/

How and where to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in N.J. – WHYY Where you should go to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey, and why there are so many websites to do it.
— Read on whyy.org/articles/how-to-register-for-the-covid-19-vaccine-in-new-jersey/

How Do I Get A COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment? : Shots – Health News : NPR
— Read on www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/02/18/967448680/how-to-sign-up-for-a-covid-19-vaccine-in-your-state

Johnson & Johnson one-dose Covid vaccine shown to work | World news | The Guardian UK has bought 30m doses of product that could transform world’s immunisation programmes
— Read on www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/29/janssen-one-dose-vaccine-shown-to-work-against-covid

Why Some Who Are Vaccinated Still Get Coronavirus – The New York Times Experts say cases like these are not surprising and do not indicate that there was something wrong with the vaccines or how they were administered.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/01/31/us/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-positive.html

Covid-19 Vaccines – The latest news and resources about the coronavirus vaccines to help you better understand and navigate the path to life after the pandemic. — Read on www.nytimes.com/spotlight/coronavirus-vaccin


P.S.: Hang in there!! Stay Healthy and #WearAMask

Custom Masks from my photos!

— Christo

😷 Covid-19 Info & Resources Update January 24, 2020 Sunday (USA)

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Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones— It’s a new year and for many of us a brand new day. 🙏🏻 In the USA we now have an actual national leader who believes in science and cooperating with state and local governments to save all our citizens and defeat Covid. He even has a plan. Imagine! Unfortunately it’s going to take months to enact an actual plan and weed out the ineptitude, indifference, stupidity, and magical thinking that have characterized much of our country’s response so far. The irresponsible and arrogant will refuse to wear masks or take other precautions. People will continue to get sick, and to die.

418,000 dead at this writing.

How long can this go on?? Longer. Quite a bit longer. Last month I wrote: “…people, friends, loved ones, businesses big and small, are going to be having a very hard time at least into the summer of 2021.” I’ll stand by that.

The short summary is this:

1) Masks, Social Distancing, hand washing, and all that sensible stuff – CONTINUES TO BE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. In fact, with the new more transmissable variant(s) of Covid, now is the time to double down on proper and careful mask use — wear multi-layer masks, wear N95s, and be sure you’re wearing the mask properly, not “chin diaper” or “mask slipping” like Bill Clinton, and other men.

2) Get the Vaccine if you can. But you probably can’t
. Be patient. Try not to judge those who have been vaccinated, seemingly by their own devious means, when others are more vulnerable. Be patient.

In New Jersey you can sign up for the state distribution program.

I signed up for the vaccine— In my case, I got an email stating that I am “on the list” for “Phase 1B” (see the chart below). In other words, I am qualified as an “essential worker” BUT it would be some time before I could get a vaccine. A week or two after that, I got another email, notifying me that I can now schedule a vaccination! EXCEPT, there is no vaccine and no appointments for which they can schedule me. BUT I might also be able to get a vaccination at one of the local medical centers, or Shoprite supermarket pharmacy, or local Health Department, or even through my employer if it’s in healthcare, all of which (apparently) get their own supplies of vaccine. (There’s a huge list of sites where you can get vaccinated in New Jersey—you just have to find one with vaccine.) I called, and checked web sites to find out… there is no vaccine! Does this sound like a cluster f***? Because it clearly is.

I’m sure it will change and get better, but until then? I can wait to receive an email from the state program, or I can keep checking the sites on the list. As I said, be patient.

Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, (properly) wear a (multi-layer, well-sealed) mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive.


Covid-19 Vaccines – The latest news and resources about the coronavirus vaccines to help you better understand and navigate the path to life after the pandemic. — Read on www.nytimes.com/spotlight/coronavirus-vaccine

Where, how, and when can I get vaccinated? For my fellow New Jersey residents, this is the state’s FAQ. — Read on covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/slowing-the-spread/where-how-and-when-can-i-get-vaccinated

CVS Pharmacy COVID Vaccine (COVID-19 Immunization Updates)This is great, but for now, only if you live in IN, MA, NY, and PR. I hope that eventually getting a vaccine will be easy at any CVS, anywhere! Let CVS help guide you through everything you need to know about the coronavirus vaccine. Get all your questions answered and learn how to schedule your vaccine online or through the CVS Pharmacy® app once available! — Read on www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine


What You Can Do to Avoid the New Coronavirus Variant Right Now It’s more contagious than the original and spreading quickly. Upgrade your mask and double down on precautions to protect yourself.
2021/01/19 — Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/well/live/covid-b117-variant-advice.html

European countries mandate medical-grade masks over cloth face coverings President Biden has enacted a mask mandate for all federal properties, public transit, airlines, and elsewhere. But some countries now have even stricter mask requirements… Confronting new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus and a winter spike in infections, a number of European countries are beginning to make medical-grade face masks mandatory in the hope that they can slow the spread of the disease.
2021/01/22 — Read on www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/europe/europe-covid-medical-masks-intl/index.html


What If You Never Get Better From Covid-19?— We’ve looked at “Long Covid” before. There are a couple of articles in this week’s NYT Magazine. Some patients could be living with the aftereffects for years to come. Recent research into another persistent, mysterious disease might help us understand how to treat them.
2021/01/21 — Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/01/21/magazine/covid-aftereffects.html


Hang in there!! Stay Healthy and #WearAMask

— Christo

😷 Covid-19 Info & Resources Update December 29, 2020 Tuesday (USA)

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Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones—We’re just about into a NEW YEAR!! Vaccines are all the rage, but if you were paying attention, it was pretty clear that vaccines are not going to FIX the PANDEMIC in a hurry. Really, they won’t be making a big difference for months. Months!! And to quote the Eagles, There’s a New Kid in Town -I don’t want to hear it!!” (I’m not talking about Joe.) Sorry, viruses mutate, and there’s one COVID variant that seems to be MORE contagious – although so far, probably no more deadly. We don’t know yet if the vaccines will protect us from the new guy, but probably.

“Things” – meaning, people, friends, loved ones, businesses big and small, are going to be having a very hard time at least into the summer of 2021. Be patient. Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, wear a mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive.


Covid-19 Vaccines – The latest news and resources about the coronavirus vaccines to help you better understand and navigate the path to life after the pandemic. — Read on www.nytimes.com/spotlight/coronavirus-vaccine

Covid Vaccine Rollout and Where Research Fell Short, “Fresh Air”, NPR Interview (Podcast) overcast.fm/+Ys_kvI_nU

After the Vaccine: Sore Arm, Yes. Headache, Maybe. Regrets, No. – Here is what some of the first Americans to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are saying about how they felt afterward, with some side effects but no second thoughts. — Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/12/28/us/vaccine-first-patients-covid.html

Here’s Why Vaccinated People Still Need to Wear a Mask – The new vaccines will probably prevent you from getting sick with Covid. No one knows yet whether they will keep you from spreading the virus to others — but that information is coming. 2020/12/08— Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/12/08/health/covid-vaccine-mask.html

Vaccinated? Show Us Your App – The New York Covid-19 health pass apps could help reopen businesses and restore the economy. They could also unfairly exclude people from travel and workplaces.
12/13/2020 — Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/12/13/technology/coronavirus-vaccine-apps.html


TESTS— Testing is becoming more readily available and convenient.

Remember:
1) Testing is no substitute for being careful—washing, wearing a mask, social distancing. It only indicates your state at the time the sample was taken. You may have been exposed and infected since then.
2) Antibody Tests don’t mean much—A positive on an anti-body test doesn’t mean that you won’t get Covid (again), nor, that you are not currently spreading the virus. A negative doesn’t mean that you never had Covid.The jury is out on this.
3) All Tests have “false positives” and “false negatives” – pay attention to your symptoms (if any).

Try the CastLight Testing Site Locator tool. This looks like it should be a CDC tool, but I can only find it on my New Jersey State web site. Enter your location and it provides a map and summary of testing locations, including if screening is required, and if “regular lab testing”, “rapid testing”, and if antibody testing is available. I located testing sites in Nevada, and I live in New Jersey, so try this tool, no matter where you live!!

So why isn’t this tool on the CDC site? They’ve been pretty devastated by the anti-science morons of the Trump Administration who didn’t believe that a federal government is supposed to protect all its people, and preferred to push the responsibility and cost onto the states… This will improve once the Biden administration gets moving.

In my county (Hunterdon), the Health Department offers free, Test At Home” saliva kits available to all qualified residents over the age of six. They send you a kit, you complete the sample using a remote telehealth visit with Vault Health. Results are sent to you within 2-3 days after they receive your sample. You are still looking at 7 or more days, unless you already have the kit ready to go. But you don’t have to leave your house! That’s in my county—check with your local Health Department.

Labcorp Home Test Kit —AFAIK, anyone in the US can order one. You have to pay for it – so check with your insurance first.

Walmart and CVS offer drive-thru and other testing options. Expect at least 3-4 days after you test to get results. Some CVS’s offer “rapid testing”, but these are few-and-far-between, and I’m not sure how to identify them in advance. I scheduled on a Thursday for the next available test, tested at CVS on a Saturday and got results late on Tuesday. Your results may vary.


They’re Here…. What do we know about the two new Covid-19 variants in the UK? One appears to have arisen in Kent, the other brought in from South Africa. Both are highly transmissible 2020/12/23— Read on www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/23/what-do-we-know-about-the-two-new-covid-19-variants-in-the-uk


Covid: Post Exposure Anti-body Protection Trialed, BBC, Think of it as a “morning after” medication – for someone exposed to Covid. Read on: www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55438758


Millions go hungry as America reels from pandemic’s effects—Community groups say widespread unemployment has driven surge in hunger – and the holiday presents another challenge — Read on www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/dec/24/hunger-surges-as-americans-reel-from-pandemics-effects

Coronavirus Failures: “Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C. 12/16/20—Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/us/politics/cdc-trump.html


Happy New Year!! Stay Healthy and #WearAMask

— Christo

🙄 “Making Lambertville Better” & “Stopping Over-Development” are only Acceptable if Achieved by LU & Former/Incoming Councilman Stegman

LU’s Supposed “Survey” about Closson Farm Leads you to Oppose It

Lambertville Mayor Julia Fahl, proposes that the City purchase the Closson Property and protect it before it becomes another tract of houses and condos on one of the last remaining open spaces in Lambertville. Her proposal includes purchase using existing funds and partners to limit the taxpayer cost to .63/household/year. (That’s cents.) Housing conversion estimates of the idyllic and historic farm vary from 12 units (current zoning) to 28 units (with variances). The property is currently on the market and could be purchased by a developer at any time. (See the City’s FAQ.)

Self-proclaimed “watchdog group” and 1st Amendment advocates “Lambertville United” apparently think this is a bad ideaespecially if it is done before former Council Person Steve Stegman returns to his seat on the Council. Stegman you may recall, after many years on Council, and serving as Council President, resigned “to spend more time with his family” when the Fahl administration’s budget work revealed years of mismanagement, incompetence, and hidden costs in City budgets resulting in a crushing debt burden for at least the next ten years. (Many details available on the City web site.) With the endorsement and support of LU, Stegman, and his conveniently-named running mate, Benedetta Lambert, won election, returning the fox to the henhouse starting in 2021.

In mid-November, the “watchdog group” distributed a “survey” requesting feedback on “the Mayor’s Closson Farm” proposal.

I have screenshotted the entire survey (LU Closson Survey Questions) if you would rather not subject yourself to the trackers associated with it.

As in previous “surveys” from the Stegman, er, LU group, the very leading questions are intended to rile and misinform people about an issue, as opposed to actually getting feedback. Please read the City’s FAQ first.

For example the first real question in the survey begins with:

“In the past, all City of Lambertville purchases blah, blah were put to a vote through public referendum…”

REALLY? ALL? IS THAT TRUE? I’m not sure that is really true. Are we talking about the hills above Ely Field? Maybe this just doesn’t seem right due to the way it is phrased, because:

“Voters in November 2008 approved, by almost a 3-1 margin, extending the city’s open space tax, in part to purchase the McCann tract.”—NJ.com, (see link following)

BUT that referendum was not specifically on the purchase of the tract, it was about extending the tax.

The City condemned the hillside above Ely field, so technically the City didn’t purchase it, the city was obligated to pay market value, and you might recall there was a big controversy because the City paid way more than market value…another of Dave and Steve’s expensive adventures requiring a Google search to reveal the details: <https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/2013/04/discussion_of_condemnation_for.html>

But was there a referendum about every other purchase?

Nevertheless, the “survey” doesn’t let me say, “You idiots, the Clossons aren’t going to wait for your stupid referendum, time is clearly of the essence!”

And the next question leads with assuming higher taxes, bonds, and debt, and uses the term “redevelopment” without mentioning “open space” or “historic preservation” or even suggesting that there are some creative options for buying the property. (Again, I suggest you read the FAQ—the truth is out there.)

Someone needs to ask LU to be honest about what they really want, because when you offer them something that—based on their anonymous public statements, press releases, and lawn signs all over town—it seems we all could agree on, their concerns appear to be way more about personalities than issues or facts. It would be good to get clear on that.

But, uh, oh yeah, they don’t have any names on their web site. You can’t actually talk to anyone from LU. They’re not a public non-profit. They’re a secret society. Darn.

If you’d like to participate in the City’s public discussion of the topic, where speakers are required to reveal their identities, the meeting is Monday evening…

https://www.lambertvillenj.org/component/dpcalendar/event/2011

Peace out,

— Christo

😷 Covid-19 Info & Resources Update Sunday November 30, 2020 (USA)

Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones— Vaccines are on the way!! Wahoo!! Dr. Atlas has resigned!! (Barring a coup), the imposter in the People’s House will be leaving on January 20th! WE can see that things will get better, but unfortunately we have MONTHS to get through first. And, the advice is the same: wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and don’t be an idiot! Oh, that’s new!? But you know what I mean, right? No super spreader orgies or rallies. You have the idea. BE SAFE.

11/30/20 How Covid can Cause Neurological Problems Unfortunately, it appears it gets into your brain. —Read on https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/11/30/world/covid-19-coronavirus/new-study-gives-clues-to-how-covid-19-can-cause-neurological-problems

11/29/2020 Long Covid: ‘Is this now me forever?’ A disturbing number of people continue to have symptoms for months after Covid… — Read on https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/29/eleanor-morgan-is-still-struggling-with-long-covid-months-after-catching-the-virus

11/18/2020 Take at home Covid test Approved! Whoohoo! Something to look forward to!! 🙄 — Read on https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/11/18/world/covid-19-coronavirus/fda-authorizes-the-first-at-home-coronavirus-test

11/21/20 Why Are States Imposing Coronavirus Curfews? – New York State and city leaders are trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus without full lockdowns. But whether curfews will help remains unclear. Or from my view, why close restaurants and bars at 10pm? Does Covid only come out after that? Jeez. If you’re going to close them, just do it! — Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/11/21/us/coronavirus-curfew.html

11/21/20 A (Not so) Nostalgic Look at Thanksgiving in the Flu Pandemic of 1918. Not so different… — Read on https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/nation/2020/11/21/covid-and-thanksgiving-how-we-celebrated-during-1918-flu-pandemic/6264231002/?build=native-web_i_t

11/18/2020 If Covid is Airborne, why are we still Scrubbing Things?! “Fomite” transmission does not seem as hazardous as it did months ago. But you should still wash your hands!! — Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/world/asia/covid-cleaning.html

11/14/2020 The hottest of the Covid-19 hot spots in the United States.—Yet another example of how quickly things change in this pandemic. Today, two weeks after the article, the WHOLE COUNTRY is a hot spot. Well, pretty much…— Read on www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2020/11/14/covid-19-alert-the-10-riskiest-states-to-visit-right-now-ranked/

Wear a mask, find some stillness, and be patient,

—Christo

😷 Covid-19 Info & Resources Update October 25, 2020 SUNDAY (USA)

keep-calm-wash-your-hands_8.5x11

Info and Links for Friends and Loved Ones
Wow, I lost a whole month! Where did it go? (I wasn’t sick, just working, and living..) And that’s life in the pandemic. I like to keep this information hopeful and upbeat, if possible. Honestly, things are going to get worse before they get much better. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, wear a mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive. As the imposter in the People’s House has proven, relying on testing alone can get everyone sick. VOTE if you haven’t. There is still time.


Why this is not the time to ease up, as much as we want and need to –

“…government ineptitude, rampant misinformation and outright lies from our own president are still thwarting efforts to stomp the virus out. And the death toll will soon surpass 200,000.”
9/18/20www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/opinion/coronavirus-fall-winter.html

“As of Sunday morning <snip> at least 224,800 have died…The national trajectory is worsening rapidly. Wisconsin has opened a field hospital. North Dakota, which not long ago had relatively few cases, has grown so overwhelmed that it has now ended most contact tracing. Cases have reached record levels recently in more than 20 states, including Illinois, Tennessee, New Mexico, Nebraska and Utah.”—
10/25/20https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html


Why Pooled Testing for the Coronavirus Isn’t Working in America? (Short answer: Because there are too many positive tests!)
8/18/2020—Read in the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/18/health/coronavirus-pool-testing.html


What the Fall and Winter of the Pandemic Will Look Like Commentary and some predictions, – The New York Times
9/18/20www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/opinion/coronavirus-fall-winter.html


Coronavirus symptoms: How to tell if you have a common cold, Covid or the flu? Runny nose, headache? Your guide to differentiating between the three illnesses.- The Guardian
9/18/20—Read on www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/18/coronavirus-symptoms-common-cold-covid-19-flu-nhs-guide


‘I Just Kind of Lost It’: As Coronavirus Cases Soar, One Montana Town Reels – The New York Times. In the Mountain West, an outbreak has revealed the danger that the virus poses to jails and rural communities.
10/16/20—Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/10/16/us/rural-jails-coronavirus-mountain-west.html


How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest: Within weeks of the gathering that drew nearly half a million bikers, the Dakotas, along with Wyoming, Minnesota and Montana, were leading the nation in new coronavirus infections per capita. – The Washington Post
10/17/20—Read on www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/17/sturgis-rally-spread/


Stay Healthy and #WearAMask

— Christo

😷 Covid-19 Info & Resources Update August 27, 2020 (USA)

keep-calm-wash-your-hands_8.5x11

Info and Links for Friends and Loved Ones
New tests and testing info! More relatively current updates about Life in the Age of Covid arranged roughly by topic with newest articles first. Explainers about transmission in the air. Should I wear a mask? Is that really still a question!? The big question: Will the Pandemic ever end in the USA? Answer: If the current administration remains in power, the pandemic never EVEN happened. With actual leadership, Covid-19 should be under control within 18 months. PLEASE REGISTER TO VOTE, VOTE EARLY, AND DON’T COUNT ON THE USPS TO DELIVER YOUR BALLOT.


Get Tested for COVID-19 at Home! Mail-in kit from Pixel by LabCorp (Not an Antibody test. A test to see if you are currently infected. You will have to come up with a reason for being tested if you don’t have symptoms.)
8/25/2020 — Read on –  www.pixel.labcorp.com/covid-19 Read on

Coronavirus Antibody Tests? It would be great if they worked and told us what we needed to know. But so far, they don’t.
8/21/2020 — Read on NYT – www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/health/coronavirus-antibody-tests.html

Should I get tested for COVID-19 antibodies? Can antibody testing tell whether someone has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19?.
8/x/2020 — Read on NJ Health Department – covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/testing-information/should-i-get-tested-for-covid-19-antibodies-can-antibody-testing-tell-whether-someone-has-been-exposed-to-the-virus-that-causes-covid-19


Europe lockdown: New coronavirus rules country by country (Americans stay home until you can manage your Covid better.)
8/20/2020 — Read on BBC NEWS – www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-53640249


What Happens to Viral Particles on the Subway – Very cool Graphic Explainer!
8/10/2020 Read on NYT – www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/10/nyregion/nyc-subway-coronavirus.html

Covid 19 is airborne [Don’t you want to just say “Duh!!”. But it was only the beginning of July that scientists could prove it and the CDC began to accept it.—Christo]
7/4/2020 Read on NYT – www.nytimes.com/2020/07/04/health/239-experts-with-1-big-claim-the-coronavirus-is-airborne.html


Could my symptoms be Covid 19? (Yes, whatever they are. A great Graphic Explainer.)
8/5/2020  Read on NYT – www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/05/well/covid-19-symptoms.html


Face masks: How to wear a covering and stop coronavirus (Video)
8/25/20 Read on BBC – www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-53517968

Coronavirus: which way round to wear a face mask? (Video)
07/15/20 Read on BBC – www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52606128

Coronavirus: ‘The masks you throw away could end up killing a whale’[So RECYCLE, or put them in the trash for heaven’s sake!!—Christo]
7/7/2020 Read on  BBC – www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53287940


Nurses Who Battled Virus in New York Confront Friends Back Home Who Say It’s a Hoax (I include this because to me it is unfathomable that people could believe this is a hoax. You probably have neighbors, as I do, who still treat it like it is a hoax. RANT FOLLOWS: And that the wing nuts could think this is a Leftist Conspiracy? When the damage, the death, is being wrought on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations—seriously, the “Democrat”, liberals, poor, seniors, and people of color— those populations. While the government is compensating giant corporations and banks and billionaires? Who is benefitting from this disease? People on Social Security? Sounds more like a conspiracy of the Republicants to wipe out their troublesome opponents. But, NO, I don’t believe that. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”—Christo)
07/07/20 Read in NYT: www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/us/coronavirus-nurses.html


Stay Healthy #WearAMask and #VOTE!!

— Christo

Life in the Age of Covid – Friday August 14, 2020

Friday August 14, 2020 11:38 am

“This rotten time wouldn’t seem so bad to me now. If I didn’t die, I should be satisfied, I survived. It’s good enough for now.”— “Sky Blue Sky”, Wilco

Winding down the summer of 2020. It’s 86 degrees in Western Central New Jersey with 98% humidity—that’s pretty swampy weather, even though it’s cooler by 5 degrees than most days for the last few weeks. I’m listening to the Goldfinches chirp as they fly overhead in between feeder stops. A Kingfisher chatters his way north up the river, while the nattering Nuthatches explore the walnut tree from every angle—upside down, sideways—jerkily walking the bark in three dimensions without hesitation or fear of gravity. They do sidestep the big yellow wasps, who have a nest in a hole in the tree. While one guards the entrance, wings buzzing incessantly, the others come and go quickly with a sense of purpose.

Too late to go for a cool morning ride.

We’re six plus months into this Covid thing. I haven’t been to GIANT market, where I now appreciate leisurely strolling, relaxed, picking through the corn chips, looking for the healthy ones, and trying to find the sliced wild salmon with no sugar or flavorings. In all this time I haven’t returned to the gym where I taught T’ai Chi—not since that last Saturday morning, right before lockdown, when only four students showed. I haven’t met my friend Pendar for dinner at Bell’s Tavern, a habit we’ve maintained for over thirty years. No tuna sub from Valpariso’s for lunch on work days. I have bought a few dozen bagels from Hee San at Bagel Delite, had a few TLT Sandwiches from Jess’s Juice Bar, sushi from Ota Ya, and the grilled chicken pesto panini at Liv and Charlies, all from curb-side pickup of course, no sit-down restaurant meals anywhere. Not happening. I miss the social ease of dropping into Rojo’s coffee shop and reading at a table, or treating myself to cookie-dough ice cream at Oh Wow Cow.

I wear a mask whenever I go out, and ALL DAY at work – and a bandana when I ride my bike. I used to say I did it to set a good example, which is still true, but I really do it because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t need to hear or make any arguments about it. My mom was an O.R. nurse. I know intuitively this is the right thing. I get pissed at people who don’t wear masks – including my neighbors with their small children. But I don’t say anything. When someone sneers some comment at me for wearing a mask, I resist the urge to shove them into the canal, where they belong. And to be fair, I have recently witnessed my neighbors and children rolling the downtown sidewalks, all masked. Not consistently, but at least around town.

This is serious business, and most of us will get through it – eventually – and some won’t.

Do what you need to stay sane and healthy, be excellent to one another, and for God’s sake, vote and vote early!

— Christo

Hitching a Ride with “the Freeway Killer”

No Nukes demonstration, San Onofre, CA, August 6, 1977

If Bonin was in jail until October of 1978 … then who picked me up?

August 6, 1977 — It wasn’t looking good. A late start, leaving the “No Nukes” demonstration on the coast at San Onofre in the afternoon, a couple short hops through most of Orange County, but now I’d been standing with my big, orange backpack at my side, alone for over two hours, on a quiet on-ramp on the eastern end of San Bernardino, California, the last outpost of civilization before the freeway ascends through the colored layers of smog to Cajon Pass, and from there, into the Mojave Desert. I was hoping for a full ride, the four or so hours to Vegas in one trip, but it was dark, there was no traffic on this ramp, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.

As I turned my head to avoid the hot sand blowing at my face, a big, dark, slightly dented, Econoline van drove by slowly. The driver checked me out and kept going. About ten minutes later, I was pretty sure, the same guy drove by again. That was weird. Most people don’t go back to pick up a hitchhiker. But it wasn’t unheard of. Somebody looking for company on a long drive might do just that. This time he slowed, rolled over the curb, and lowered his passenger-side window. He was roughly my age, a bit geeky, dressed almost formally, as if he were a waiter, or had been in some kind of performance, but frumpy in a wrinkled white shirt and black pants, with greasy dark hair. He offered to drop me up the freeway at the far end of town. Considering my current location, I hesitated. I wasn’t fond of the spot, but I knew it was near the train station, downtown, and if I got desperate I could make my way there, maybe catch a train, at least be around more people. Before I could reply, he suggested, “Tell you what, it you don’t like it, I’ll drive you back here.”

“Deal,” I said, and hopped into the passenger seat, holding my packpack between my knees.

The usual obligatory conversation ensued—he was a piano tuner—I nodded, without making any comments or asking questions that might come to mind—me, a student going to visit family in Las Vegas. I didn’t like sharing too much information, and I was already a little suspicious. In hitchhiking, it’s always a balancing act – you want a ride, you’re relying on the generosity of strangers, you want to give people the “benefit of the doubt” without being foolish, and you always should be a little suspicious. Up to that point my only misadventures had been with sloppy drivers who were drunk, or stoned, and once, the awkwardness of politely turning down an older woman who came onto me verbally.

The van was empty, the inside walls painted; I didn’t see anything unusual. I was watching the street, making sure we were staying near the freeway. I didn’t want to end up in some unfamiliar downtown, in the dark, late at night. In hitchhiking, you cling to the big busy roads like a lifeline.

We were clearly on the outskirts of town when he pulled over at a deserted on-ramp, and said, “Here it is!” I couldn’t believe there could be an on-ramp darker, or more isolated than the one I had come from, but here it was.

I made no move to get out of the van. I told him, “Ok, I’m going to take you up on your offer. Drive me back.” Maybe slightly surprised, he did.

Very shortly after that (too soon, it seemed, as if this second guy had gotten a phone call just as quick as the piano tuner could get to a phone booth at a Seven Eleven to tell him that I was there at the downtown on-ramp), a guy in a Subaru Hatchback pulled over, told me he was going to Victorville. Not all that far, but out of the urban desolation, in the desert, and with a couple of large truck stops. After the piano tuner, I was relieved that this guy wore blue jeans and a plaid shirt, like almost every other guy in Southern California, was maybe a few years older than me, but not much; he appeared to be pretty normal. I’d been stuck too long; any ride was worthwhile, and hitch-hiking into the night was okay. As long as I was moving. It was the being stuck that was awful. Waiting under some streetlight near an on-ramp with no traffic whatsoever, in a strange town. That’s the worst.

I threw my backpack in the back of the car. As I climbed in I noticed that compared to the skinny piano tuner, this guy was short and stocky. He made some comment about my build, that I was a “big healthy guy” or something like that, and asked if I studied any martial arts, which immediately raised my suspicion another notch, although I said, “No,” and I climbed in. He told me he had to make a phone call then we would be on our way. This was before cell phones. He drove a few deserted blocks into San Bernardino and parked within sight of a pay phone. He walked to the phone booth, and was there for a what seemed a very long time. Thirty minutes? He seemed to be arguing with someone. He made a lot of hand motions and kept glancing back at the car.

So many years later, I have no idea what I was doing at the time. I think I was super-focused on getting the hell out of San Bernardino, and on the road, moving, making progress toward a destination, and it seemed that this was my best chance.  Now, I imagine this guy was talking to his partner, discussing if I was a candidate for murder, what he or they would do with me. Was he trying to ascertain if I was scared? Would I hop out and try to get away? How best to subdue me? I remember thinking I had my hunting knife in my pack, if this turned out to be a really bad situation, and obviously if I was thinking about that, I probably shouldn’t have stayed there. I sat in the car, waiting, and I passed the test for gullibility.

He finally came back, and we headed onto I-15 toward Vegas. At first I was relieved to be getting underway. It was after midnight. We drove out onto the highway and into the dark empty desert night in relative silence for 30 minutes or more, passing uneventfully through progressively more deserted tracts of rising foothills.

Was he touching my thigh? Almost everyone who has a “bad” hitchhiking story will tell you about some driver putting his hand on their leg. I’d heard a few. He touched my thigh. I wasn’t sure at first that was what he was doing, and tried to ignore it. Thinking how bad I needed the ride, I was getting scared, but angry too. Jeez. I brushed his hand away, as if he did it accidentally. I looked at him, his eyes were glued to the road. Within a minute his hand was back. I told him, “Stop it.”

“Stop What?” He asked, not quite innocently.

“I am not gay, and I have no intention of becoming gay tonight,” I said firmly.

“What are you talking about?” He asked indignantly.

“Look,” I said, “It was your hand on my leg. Keep it off.”

He gave a little snort, then got very quiet, but kept driving, his eyes on the road. I was trying hard to remain calm and not panic, but I was considering how I could get out. Would I have to abandon my pack with my sleeping bag, knife, and other means of survival? Maybe I could pull the keys from the ignition and throw them out the window into the sand and tumbleweeds?

We were not yet to Victorville, I had no idea where we were, because those minutes felt like hours, maybe they were hours, I was just praying we would see a truck stop where I could get out and be visible under some light.

A cross road appeared with an off-ramp, and with a finger, he flicked his turn signal.

“I’m not going any farther. I’m going to turn around here.” He said.

I looked out the window. A narrow road snaked off into the desert at a right angle to the freeway. Way off in the darkness lights twinkled at a big house or ranch. He pulled over. I don’t think it even occurred to me at the time that he might have a pistol.

“Here?” I asked. “Where am I going to get a ride here!?”

“Maybe you can walk up there and get a ride,” He pointed at the lights in the distance.

“Ok,” I said, opening the door, and trying to climb out while grabbing my pack from the back seat at the same time so he couldn’t pull away with it still inside. But he didn’t. He was done with me at that point. He stayed in the car. I got quickly to the side of the road, watched while he turned the car around and headed back toward the freeway, and then, figuring he was still watching me, I began to walk on the asphalt toward the lights in the distance, terrified that he would come zooming back, thinking that I could jump off to the side, and into the desert, where, having grown up in the Southwest, I might have some advantage. But his tail lights kept getting dimmer, and smaller, fading into the distance.

I could hear music and voices from the lights at the house across the desert. Maybe there was a party going on or something. I considered walking all the way there. But since I had already given him the impression that was where I was going, I waited until his red tail lights were completely out of sight, and then I turned around and reversed direction.

I walked back to the big circle of asphalt where the off-ramp swung around the freeway to meet that desert road. I walked into the middle of that circle, where I was sure I could hear or see a car or even a pedestrian coming from any direction. I found a low spot, hidden by creosote and big tumbleweed, and settled there. I got out my hunting knife and slipped it into my pocket, laid out my sleeping bag. I was exhausted. I had this idea that he would come back looking for me. I probably didn’t sleep at all. Once or twice I got up when a big semi rushed past on the freeway, but there was no traffic on the side road for the rest of the night. I didn’t sleep.

The next morning I walked back to the freeway as the cool air grew warm, and probably walked another mile or two to a big hillside truck stop. A line of hitchhikers with signs stood or sat at the turn off. Standard “protocol” for hitching – you get in line and take turns getting rides. “First come, first served”. And of course the driver always had veto power. “I’ll take you, but not you.” According to protocol I would have to wait until the six or eight hikers who got there before me got their rides before I could get mine. Suddenly I remembered that my folks were expecting me. If everything had gone well, and I had not been stranded in San Bernardino, I should have been to Vegas late last night. I walked past all the other hitchers to the gas station, to check it out, and use the bathroom. When I was done, I walked out to the pumps, two cars gettting gas. Fuck it. I had had enough of this shit. I walked over to a middle-aged man with a crewcut standing next to a dusty blue 4-door Maverick. “Hi, are you going to Vegas?”

He quickly sized me up, replied, “I am.”

“Would you be able to give me a ride? I’d sure appreciate it.”

“You going there to gamble?”

“No sir, I grew up there. I’m going to visit my folks.”

“Okay,” he said affably, “I just gotta finish filling my tank, and we can go.”

“Thank you, I don’t have much money, but I can give you ten dollars for the gas.” I offered, adding, “It’s been a long night.”

He shook his head no, and motioned me to get into the passenger seat.

He smoked Camel plain ends the whole way, with his window down. The smoke bothered me some, but I was so relieved that he seemed normal, chatted in a friendly way, and kept his hands to himself. I don’t remember much about him except that he was an ex-marine and had done some hitching himself.  This is true of most “rides”. They have compassion, they pick you up because they’ve done it. The rest of the trip went by very fast. I did not sleep. He dropped me off at the Sahara Blvd. exit, only a mile or so from my folk’s house, and I thanked him.

I started walking up the hill where the Wonder World store used to be, where I bought my first LPs, and I’d hardly walked ten yards, hadn’t put my thumb out, when a yellow Datsun pickup pulled over. Wow. Another ride. I was kind of thinking maybe I’d be better off walking, when I realized it was my brother Rob, hopping out of the cab. He threw my pack in the pickup bed.

I was home. After explaining why I was so much later than expected, my parents offered to pay my Amtrak fare back to LA and I gratefully accepted. And that was my last solo hitchhiking trip.


*** For years I was sure that mine was a lucky encounter with William Bonin, one of three “Freeway Killers” active in Southern California around that time. (And not to be confused with the “Freeway Strangler”, who specialized in female victims). And at the time I was hitching, I was aware of there being “freeway murders” of hitchhikers . I was twenty-one, had hitchhiked with friends and alone up and down the coast, and to Tucson, Phoenix, and Palm Springs. I was young.

Bonin was known to have several accomplices who helped him procure victims, and who accompanied him on his murderous forays in his Ford Econoline van. I figure that the first “victim pickup attempt” failed—because I didn’t like the second ramp—and after the weird piano tuner returned me to that first on-ramp, he immediately called his partner to come and get me  in the hatchback.

Other than telling this story to friends and family, I never thought much more about it. Years (actually decades) later, I was exchanging emails with the late writer and friend Anthony Bruno about his biography of “the Iceman” mob killer, commenting that professional hit men are actually serial killers who have found an accepting home. Recalling my experience brought up a wave of angst that wouldn’t go away, and feeling that the Internet gave me access to information I never had before, I began reading about Bonin and the other “Freeway Killers”. I confirmed that the timeline didn’t seem right, even though the one or two photos I could find of Bonin looked to me like the guy who dumped me out in the desert. But it was a long time ago.

I left LA after an anti-nuke rally at San Onofre, August 6, 1977. (If the Wikipedia records are correct,https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-nuclear_protests_in_the_United_States “…about a thousand anti-nuclear protesters marched outside the San Onofre nuclear generation station, while units 2 & 3 were under construction.“)

If Bonin was in jail until October of 1978 and didn’t meet his two main accomplices, Vernon Butts (whose description fits my memory of “the piano tuner”) and Gregory Miley, until after he was released from his incarceration in 1978, then who picked me up?

If it wasn’t Bonin, who was it? Or, who were they? There are a number of similar unsolved murders from the same time. The geography, Econoline van, and apparent Modus Operandi, appear to match that of Bonin, not of Kearney or Kraft, the other “Freeway Killers”. Essentially, in my case, no crime was committed, just a lot of weird, scary, and intimidating shit. Maybe the two San Bernardino “pick ups” were completely unrelated. But they sure seemed oddly related to me at the time. Even the couple of documented “failed” Bonin attempts sound eerily like my night on the road to Victorville. For all I know, if I hadn’t spoken up, if I hadn’t stood up for myself and spoken out and drawn the boundaries, I might have been one more mutilated corpse discarded by the side of an LA freeway.

I include links and notes here if you want to read more, but I must warn you that these crimes were not just “simple” murders. They consist of absolutely horrifying torture and mutilation of victims. Read at your own risk.

Patrick Kearney (also known as the “Trash Bag Murderer”), killings 1965-March 1977, shoot victims in the ear with a .22 in his VW Beetle, or truck, apprehended July 1, 1977, serving 21 life sentences in Mule Creek State Prison, CA https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Kearney

Randy Kraft (also known as “The Scorecard Killer”), killings Sept. 71 to May 1983. Drugged his victims. Apprehended 1983, on death row at San Quentin, CA https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Steven_Kraft

William Bonin, “the Freeway Killer” in 1975 picks up hitchhiker David McVicker (who survives), Murders May 79 – June 80, imprisoned Dec. 75 to Oct. 11, 1978. Drives an olive-green Ford Econoline when committing abductions. William Pugh 17, picked up in 1980, survives, because he was seen leaving with Bonin. Bonin executed Feb. 1996, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bonin

Vernon Butts, part-time magician and occultist, meets Bonin in ’78, Bonin accomplice (one of 4) – Committed suicide (hanging) January 1981

Gregory Miley, meets Bonin in ’78, IQ of 56, accomplice of Bonin, dies in prison.

James Munro, at Mule Creek State Prison, Parole hearing postponed in 2014 because of threats to McVicker. Up for parole in 2029. http://www.ocregister.com/2014/01/23/aliso-viejo-man-worries-about-possible-parole-of-freeway-killer-accomplice/

William Ray Pugh – on murder of Harry Todd Turner, serves less than 4 years for manslaughter, and is released in late 1985.

— Christo