I can’t sleep. I’m haunted by the fatalism of those city workers who puffed so placidly. They weren’t at all surprised that one of earth’s great Chinatowns was turning into a gargantuan charred pit several blocks away.
There aren’t enough firefighters and their equipment is falling apart. Those school buses the city sends to the suburbs must be returning empty. Mountains of garbage and armies of rodents show how well the Sanitation Department has fared. The handful of cops is preoccupied with busting a community group—the LES DIY. The next time I hear people yelling, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the Idaho National Guard.
I’m scared. After six weeks of Round 2, the pandemic seems to be intensifying. Is it time to try to flee to my bungalow? The volunteer firefighting system upstate has faltered with so many key members ill or dead. Ambulance corps rely on untrained volunteers. Some counties lack ventilators. Deep, sustained snow could bury them. Tens of thousands of otherwise-healthy folk could die for want of fuel and food. That’s just in one state. I don’t want to drag Anna off to die in an icy bungalow.
If H5N1 doesn’t blow over soon, everything we’ve seen so far is the prelude to a catastrophe no one pictured. (Except two artists did in 2009: Here’s Joseph Nechvatal’s video study of a virus on America, with Stephane Sikora.)