Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 58

This afternoon, on the drive back home from picking up some more Los Cuentos face masks, I saw that my car and I were definitely a part of traffic resuming its more usual gross shape across L.A.’s tarmac.

Just a couple miles from home, stopped at a light, as the bulb turned green signaling the go-ahead, the car just ahead of me–which was also directly in front of the crosswalk–held steady to its breaks, not going anywhere. When I saw that the car adjacent to it was also paused, holding a line of drivers in the lane next to mine back as well and thus turning us into two clusters held firm, I raised my neck to see just what was in the way.

I saw an African-American gentlemen struggling from his wheelchair then, a man who was surely somewhere in his sixties, and who looked to still be in a hospital gown for patients, as if recently discharged. With all his strength, he bore his arms upon the chair’s groggy wheels to hobble towards the end of the cross-walk.

My concern then was someone sounding their horn unknowingly, as these intersections are wont to hearing during such moments, but I had nothing to fear: it’s as if all of us from our seats behind the windshields could only bear witness to the stunning brokenness of the minute.

Where were the man’s family members? Or his caretakers? Shouldn’t he have had a hotel bed reserved for him under LAHSA’s Project Roomkey? He certainly qualified. The city aside, how could no one standing at the end of the cross-walk rush over to help him push past the curb safely onto the sidewalk? But the pedestrians nearby were also mostly older women themselves, mothers and even grandmothers donning their face-masks with great resolve to protect their own health. But who were us drivers then? All of us were America, from sun-rich Los Angeles.

In 2017, a United Nations (UN) official visited the United States to report on the U.S.’s handling of its poverty rates compared to that of other developed (largely Western) countries. What followed was an indicting account of a political body spread across the country that not only refuses to address poverty as a social issue, but which also clearly benefits from maintaining the concentration of wealth into the hands of a few while far more struggle for basic survival, including by promulgating the idea that the poor are at fault for their own poverty and that it’s for this reason no safety net should be afforded to them. In the words of Professor Philip Alston, a UN Special Reporter on extreme poverty and human rights:

…I wonder how many of these politicians have ever visited poor areas, let alone spoken to those who dwell there. There are anecdotes aplenty, but evidence is nowhere to be seen…the poor people I met from among the 40 million living in poverty were overwhelmingly either persons who had been born into poverty, or those who had been thrust there by circumstances largely beyond their control such as physical or mental disabilities, divorce, family breakdown, illness, old age, unlivable wages, or discrimination in the job market.”

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 33

When my spirit is scattered and restless, as it was this evening, I take a walk through Los Angeles, trusting in the endless road’s ability to host my insatiability.

At moments, it feels like my spirit can devour the entire road. At others, like it needs to simply lay eyes on its slopes and curves, acknowledging their lonesome ranges. There are also moments during my walking when I feel like the paths I take are that of an outlier, well past the standard deviations of distances usually traveled when moving about the city on just two feet.

Then there are moments when none of it matters because I am alive and ready to take on all challenges presented by the terrain. At still other moments it’s the opposite; I need to be sensitive to every noise, brush of wind and slight of concrete facing my direction.

Finally, there arrives a moment during every one of my walks when I’m called back to work by that other movement emanating from the same spirit from which the walking journey began.

Especially as the days begin to warm, I recommend every reader to take advantage of the road in their midst in whatever fashion works best for them. If you need a cap to guard against the roar of the sunlight, or simply to show the solidarity which eludes so many of us workers during the “regular” seasons, Los Cuentos got you covered.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 29

Over two weeks since The L.A. Storyteller reported that COVID-19 arrived in the East Hollywood and Silver Lake neighborhoods, the L.A. County Public Health department reports that 54 cases have been recorded in the former, while 86 cases are documented in the latter.

This can mean one of two things: either these communities have taken seriously each precaution to socially distance, or there are far more cases than are being recorded even while availability of testing has increased, with the latter still failing to provide a better overall estimate of cases.

I actually believe that both scenarios are true; during every visit to the grocery store, I’ve seen people following closely each protocol for safer shopping, and I believe that long after this crisis, they’ll continue to do so. And while testing hasn’t been as prevalent as in South Korea, where the government was testing up to 12,000 people a day at one point, symptomatic or not, L.A. County has set up a transparent process for those in need at covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.

I believe that due to the precautionary measures that have been taken, as it happened in China, where the pandemic began, a two month window for dealing with the novel coronavirus is what’s looking to be in store for Los Angeles as well. Dr. Ferrer said as much herself during her press briefing today, which also included translations in Español and հայերեն:

“Every day we’re getting closer to being able to see a time when more people are going to be able to go back to work and there will more places that are going to be open. We’re never going to be able to go back to exactly the way it was before COVID-19, but we are moving towards being on the other side of this pandemic.”

While I know that many people out there are exhausted from being home, and also critical of our government’s response and repeated warning system, which they are right to be, I’m still motivated by the collective response so many of us have taken part in, including that of many of our elected officials. For it’s shown a lot about just how much we’re capable of when we decide to create change as one planet, one village, one people; that we can still do it after all. As Dr. Ferrer noted in her remarks:

“It is working and I hope you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished along with everyone else.”

J.T.

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