Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gasps, growls, and curses from Corona Virus Central, here in the cranky heart of Manhattan

  Is it true that once this man is out of office, Crayola 
will issue a new orange crayon Called Burnt Trump? 
Just wondering.

Donald Trump isn’t the only chief executive who can’t handle the Corona Virus.  New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio appears to be in  over his head, too. 

Writing online at, journalist Carolyn Cakir chronicles her bout with a barely-responsive and totally discombobulated New York City Corona Pandemic Bureaucracy after she fell ill with what was presumed to be COVID-19. 

After days of frustration calling all kinds of city and medical agencies that are presumably assigned to deal with Corona-infected victims like her, she was left with nothing save a bag of hazardous (and probably highly infectious) medical waste that city workers left in her apartment, with instructions to give it to the team that was supposed to show up (but didn’t) the next day. 

She also concluded that her experience was “Kafkaesque.” Personally, I think that’s putting it nicely. (She finally got treated for her COVID-19 infection by completely ignoring city advice and taking herself to a decent hospital’s emergency room.)

De Blasio, as you might recall, until recently focused his first-thing-in-the-morning attention on getting from his mayoral mansion, high up and way east on the Upper East Side, to his favorite gym in a Y in the BoCoCa section of Brooklyn. (Regardless of what it sounds like, BoCoCa is not a form of excrement. It’s a New York real estate agent acronym for Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, three adjacent Brooklyn neighborhoods.) De Blasio worked out there until the day before gyms were officially closed for social distancing, when perhaps he should have been working harder on dealing with the coming chaos. 

I encourage you to read Cakir’s horrifying tale of a De Blasio bureaucracy tangled in its own confused entrails. Again, it's here, but I would advise you to wrap a leather belt tightly around your skull before starting. Otherwise your head might explode.

If Donald Trump wrote history like Shakespeare…but of course I jest. All the same, the Bard could have had a field day with the likes of Trump. 

That thought came to mind when I read that, in the midst of a world pandemic, Trump has decided to cut off our nation’s annual contribution to WHO, the World Health Organization, and shift the blame for the American part of the pandemic onto them. Imagine that if, instead of writing “Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare wrote “Donald John.” We could then have been forced, in school, to memorize public addresses like this:

Friends, Republicans, Confidence Men
Lend me your ears.
We have come here not to praise the WHO
But to disparage it.
The evil men do is oft interred with their bones
While the good is something I’ll take all the credit for,
Thank you.
I accuse WHO of doing 
That very thing of which 
I have been accused
Thus transferring the blame
To someone else’s bodkin. 
‘Tis fake, fake news, this accursed virus
And this be why I have no choice
But to cut them off even as they bleed
And ask with a sneer,
WHO’s on first now?
And that’s enough from you, young reporter.
Sit down.
Shut up.
Next question?
I said next question.
I answered  that question already
Next question.

Panic among the hookers. One of my  former advertising colleagues — let’s give him the pseudonym Harry — describes his favorite passe-temps as “hobbyist.” Turns out that “hobbyist” is argot on certain fringes of the demi-monde for people who have only one hobby. And that hobby can't be purchased in a kit at Hobby Lobby. It involves paying very substantial amounts of money, on a regular basis, to have sex with representatives of what is said to be the world’s oldest profession.

With the COVID-19 Pandemic reaching its slimy tentacles into every corner of society, it’s little wonder that the hooker business is going to hell in a handbasket along with the restaurants, bars, barbers, and beauty shops. Harry the Hobbyist explains:

“So you’ve got a few of these women. Their hourly rate is about equal to a partner in a white shoe law firm. And suddenly, the whole business is kaput. They’re scared of their customers. We’re scared of them. It's this Corona thing. Who knew you could get a fatal lung infection from sex? Or not even from sex. Just from being close to somebody. It’s like, umm, supposing we had a brand new STD epidemic and condoms weren’t invented yet.

“Now they have a problem. They can’t apply for unemployment insurance, because officially they were never employed. They're in an off-the-books business. They can’t get fill-in gigs modeling, or waitressing, or topless dancing because all those people are out of work, too. They probably won’t even get that $1,200 dollar check with Trump's signature on it. 

"So a bunch of them who were pulling down $800, or $1200 or $1,500 an hour are now trying to sell phone sex for some pathetic handful of small change. I don’t think they could make a living that way even if they charged their full escort rates. It's too hard to get the customers. I mean what’s the point of paying fifty bucks to have somebody talk dirty into your phone when you can get a whole action packed sex orgy free on the Internet, with closeups and sound effects?”

So what’s the solution?

“Don’t be surprised if they start Go Fund Me pages,” Harry the Hobbyist said.

The arc of justice bends toward Staples, or, what goes around comes around. Maybe. Remember when stationery and home office supplies were a mom-and-pop business that also printed wedding invitations and maybe even developed film? (What?! You don’t know what film is? Ask your grandfather.) Then along came Staples. It smothered the hapless moms and pops. The giant Staples stationery stores discounted the living crap out of everything — and drove poor mom and pop either to impoverished retirements or suicide. Then, when Staples and maybe Office Max were the only games left in town, guess what happened?

Well, two things happened, actually. First, prices shot right back up again. And second, Staples, which had been everywhere, started closing stores faster than a lap around the Indy 500. When you're all but the only game in town, you don't need stores everywhere. People have no choice but to come to you. 

Then along came the pandemic. And guess what?

According to Brad Thomas, who contributes to an online stock market commentary called "Seeking Alpha," Staples has joined The Cheesecake Factory and other mass market retailers in telling various landlords to go shove it. Business is bad, so landlords ain’t gonna get Staples’ rent check. 

Can Staples get away with this?

Thomas points out that a lease is a legal agreement. And unless that agreement has a “force majeure” clause, allowing for an “event” beyond human control, Staples and the others are legally on the hook. And few leases contain force majeure agreement these days.

So it could be that the landlords and the Staples of this world will be duking it out in court until the end of this decade. In which case, mom and pop’s ghosts can rub their hands in glee. But I’m not getting my hopes up too high. 

If Trump stays in power, I foresee a bailout for Staples, the cheesecake people, and their landlords (remember, Trump is a landlord) even if it means no more $1,200 checks for the starving little guy. Or perhaps the money will be found by raiding the Social Security trust fund to save those precious Staples executive bonuses. And their orange-faced landlords.

Orange-glazed cheesecake, anybody?


xulon said...

I may point out that Staples is a Republican favorite having been a product of Romney's Venture Capitalist firm, Bain Capital. They will be the first in line to get the Post Office biz once they destroy the USPS, with its Union workforce. The plan is that people will tire of standing in long lines so that entitled over-paid counter people will charge then $0.55 to mail a letter and approve the privatization of the Service. Then they will stand in long lines at Staples (have you ever tried to get copies made there?) to pay some minimum-wage High School counter guy $6.00 to mail a letter.

emjayay said...

This comment system needs thumbs up/down and replies.

On the other hand xulon, the Staplesmail sites would probably be clean and untrashy and not have lobby walls with the wallboard torn from yanking off old posters, various forms and things scattered about, old curling posters and notices taped up with masking tape all over the place, and bulletproof plastic walling customers off from staff like it's the South Bronx in 1971.

I'm against privatization. But the Postal Service clearly needs top to bottom management reform. It's like the Soviet Union in there.

The New York Crank said...

It's not management reform the USPS needs, emjayay. It's money. The Post Office has been deliberately hobbled by a pension system that would bankrupt Staples in a millisecond. Congress has not only tied the USPS's hands behinds its back, it has also punched them in the gut and forced them to stumbled around in a blindfold.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank