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Bonus Post

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Nancy Greenaway sent me a couple of her lovely poems today, and they put me in the spring spirit. Thought I’d share them with you.

 To Arms

After dull, damp, mud months,
tender green blades
duel to freedom
from the weather underground
where the fight for life
somehow survives
gray death’s dominion
over the frozen, surface world.

Just when we’ve thrown
gloved hands skyward
in surrender to whips
of winter wind,
daffodils shoot up blazing
captivating us with promises
of an armistice
called spring.

 

 

April

A great golden wall of forsythia
defines my neighbor’s property lines.

It glows through fog, competes
with daffodils to steal the show.

 

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Jen Andonian and Matt Shearer, both epidemiologists, recently got married at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Many group events are being put off because of the war against coronavirus, but recently I’ve been learning how weddings, Passover feasts, funerals, conferences, and the like are probably managed in other kinds of war.

Here are two wedding stories from the Boston Globe.

Liz Kowalczyk reports on Jen Andonian and Matt Shearer, who “had it all planned: her burgundy floral dress, his matching checked tie. They live in Cambridge, but chose Ann Arbor, Mich., where they met as graduate students, for their simple courthouse wedding ceremony in March with immediate family. A reception for 75 guests would follow the next day at her parents’ lakeside restaurant.

“Then the fast-moving coronavirus began spreading through the world — and the United States. Andonian and Shearer, both epidemiologists on the frontlines of COVID-19 — she at Massachusetts General Hospital, he at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security — knew they could not ignore the risk of a large celebration. …

“When she told her coworkers at the MGH Center for Disaster Medicine the next day, a colleague joked: What about just getting married at the hospital? Her co-workers turned the offhand remark into an actual plan, executed in the midst of exhausting 12-hour workdays.

During quick breaks from setting up coronavirus testing sites and expanding intensive-care units, team members ordered flowers and vanilla cupcakes and devised a music playlist. Nurse Eileen Searle applied for a one-day state certificate to perform a marriage ceremony. …

“On Friday, Andonian, 30, and Shearer, 36, were married before a small group of disaster medicine colleagues, all wearing surgical masks and sitting six feet apart to prevent the spread of germs, as the sun streamed in from the windows high in the light-blue dome. It was a welcome but brief break amid the relentless arrival of patients ill with a relentless virus; the number of patients sick enough with COVID-19 to be admitted to Mass. General had more than doubled over the course of the week, to 61 on [March 27] alone.

” ‘This may not have been the wedding you wanted, but it is clearly the wedding MGH needed,’ began Searle, whose job includes training nurses to properly put on protective gear. ‘Thank you.’ …

“When they told their families about the plan to marry at the hospital, Andonian said they had mixed feelings. ‘Everyone was sad, but after seven years, they were ready for us to get married,” she said. …

“The couple arrived about 15 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., walking past a long table outside the Ether Dome set with cupcakes to share, a cake for them to take home, tiny colorful containers of bubbles, and a gift bag hiding a bottle of champagne. ..

“As Andonian waited in the hallway, Shearer stood between a white plaster statue of Apollo and a glass case containing an Egyptian mummy, part of a small collection of artifacts [in the MGH museum].

” ‘You ready?’ Searle asked.

” ‘Let’s do it,’ he said.” More.

Another Globe story detailed how a photographer that a couple had never met was determined to put together all the traditional pieces so that a soldier could “elope.”

Megan Johnson writes of bride Victoria Pass, “ ‘If you still want to get married, I definitely want to get married,’ said Victoria. ‘We gotta figure this out.’

“The couple decided they’d wed at Chicopee City Hall. But with none of their family and friends in the area, Victoria wanted to have a photographer capture the moment. They started making phone calls, and stumbled upon Dani Klein-Williams, a Northampton-based photographer.

‘They said they were just planning a very quick, no-frills elopement at Chicopee City Hall,’ said Klein-Williams. ‘I was like, “Okay, can you give me two hours? I’m gonna put something even more spectacular together for you.” ‘

“Klein-Williams called Blantyre, the Tudor-style Relais & Châteaux property in Lenox, Mass. … Within two hours, she got approval from Blantyre, which was already shut down for their annual winter closure. …

“Next, Klein-Williams called her favorite wedding planner, Tara Consolati, who also happens to be ordained. Though she had never performed a ceremony before, she was on board to officiate. Carolyn Valenti, a Berkshires-based florist, offered up a blend of snapdragons, hyacinth, and other blooms. ‘She said, “I have all these gorgeous flowers and they’re just going to rot and die,” ‘ said Klein-Williams.

By the end of the conversation, she discovered that Valenti had a house guest who could bake. Without her baking equipment on hand, however, they dumped the contents of an oversize can of tomatoes, sterilized the can, and used that as a frame for a small wedding cake, topped with berries and flowers.

“[Klein-Williams next] … reached out to Mike Murray of Summer Wind Wedding Films, who volunteered to live stream the event, so Victoria and Jerrod’s family and friends could follow along.” More.

Oh, the kindness of strangers!

Photo: Dani Klein-Williams
Victoria and Jarrod Pass eloped in the Berkshires after having to cancel their 60-guest wedding in Las Vegas. A photographer they hadn’t met, Dani Klein-Williams, was determined the couple should have all the traditional features of a wedding.

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90-year-old grandma moves like Mick Jagger.

Don’t you feel that, among all their reports of gloom and doom, journalists are also trying to find ways to cheer us up? I sure am seeing a lot of articles about people helping  other people. Here is one about ways you can connect to online dance opportunities and performances, mostly for free.

Boston Globe dance critic Karen Campbell writes, “Dance, by its very nature, is an intensely personal endeavor, involving the body, as well as intellect and emotion. But dancing is seldom solitary. The sense of connecting with other bodies, other sources of energy, and the momentum generated by bodies moving together and in opposition can fuel a palpable electric charge. In this time of social distancing, those of us who regularly dance are missing not just the visceral thrill of movement, but the joy of dancing together.

“Meghan Riling, dancer/marketing director of Haitian contemporary dance company Jean Appolon Expressions, says, ‘There are so many people who refer to attending [Jean’s] Saturday class as “going to church.” With so [much] devastating news and a lack of physical connection, we really need to be there for our community as much as we can.’ The organization is now hosting online classes and tutorials. …

“Teachers and performers, many of them freelancers in the gig-based economy, are losing much-needed income. …

But Greater Boston’s dance community isn’t taking it lying down.

“Even as organizations such as Boston Dance Alliance, the Boston Artist Relief Fund, Dance/USA, MassCreative, Americans for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council seek ways to provide a glimmer of hope for some financial assistance, dance studios and independent teachers are finding ways to keep classes going.

“Using Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, Google Hangout, even Skype, they are live streaming from their living rooms and basements, with only a computer, tablet, or phone. The stylistic range of offerings is remarkable — from contemporary (Project31dance.org) to jazz (MassMotion.com) and flamenco (LSFlamenco.com), from country western line dancing (JKDance.com) to Dance With Parkinson’s (Urbanitydance.org), to a range of ballet, hip-hop, tap, and somatic practices. Some, like MiniMoversStudio.com and BallroominBoston.com’s Facebook page, have offerings tailored for young children. …

New England’s busiest multi-genre facility, The Dance Complex in Cambridge, is offering its teachers the opportunity to live stream classes via the organization’s Instagram channel (Instagram.com/thedancecomplex), boosting visibility and access. Cambridge Community Center for the Arts (cccaonline.org) is jump-starting its interactive online video/remote learning and teaching platform to allow ‘students to attend remotely, and faculty members to teach from wherever they are comfortable,’ says president and executive artistic director Dan Yonah Marshall. The organization is offering its A/V online streaming setup to the greater dance community, too.

“Other studios are following suit, and in some cases increasing the range of offerings. “

Find many great links in the Globe article, here. Plus, you can check out free Alvin Ailey dance theater performances here.

Photo: Handout
Laura Sánchez, a dance instructor in Cambridge, teaches an online flamenco class. I know a five-year-old who should take this class.

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
El Jefe’s Taqueria is among the restaurants Cambridge is paying to serve hot and cold meals to homeless shelters.

One of the many interesting aspects of the Situation has been the way leaders in states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands.

We know that individuals and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are stepping up, but some government entities are, too. Across-the-board federal efforts would be better, especially if we don’t want to see New York suing Rhode Island and other such anomalies, but we’ll take what we can get.

Here’s a story about Cambridge, Mass., a city that some have called Moscow on the Charles mainly because it tries to help the poor.

Erin Kuschner, writes at the Globe‘s Boston.com, “With restaurants facing a sudden loss of revenue due to Gov. Baker’s mandated dine-in ban, and homeless shelters seeing a drop in volunteers helping to deliver and prepare food, the City of Cambridge came up with a solution to benefit both parties: Paying restaurants to make and deliver food to homeless shelters.

“The program launched Monday after the city reached out to both the Harvard Square Business Association and the Central Square Business Improvement District to help organize the initiative, with a goal of distributing roughly 1,800 to 2,000 meals to various shelters by the end of the week. …

“Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that it has already brought roughly 15 restaurants on board to make meals for local shelters like the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Y2Y, a youth homeless shelter that has seen many of its student volunteers leave following Harvard’s closure.

“ ‘It just made so much sense,’ Jillson said. ‘We were on board immediately.’ …

“Among the restaurants serving Harvard Square’s homeless shelters are Black Sheep Bagel, Cardullo’s, El Jefe’s Taqueria, Orinoco, Subway, and Veggie Grill. Jillson said that they have tried to provide a range of healthy meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“The Central Square Business Improvement District partnered with PAGU to deliver meals to Bay Cove Human Services and the Cambridge YMCA.

‘We made our first delivery [Monday],’ said Michael Monestime, executive director at the Central Square Business Improvement District. ‘It was pretty humbling and sad at the same time. It’s hard enough being homeless on any given day, and then under these circumstances it’s even more difficult.’ …

“In addition to providing hot and cold meals to those experiencing homelessness, the city has set up a Cambridge Community Food Line, available to any resident who is a high risk for food insecurity.

“The delivery service provides a weekly bag of produce and shelf-stable food items to individuals and families who have experienced the following: The food pantry or meal program you used has closed until further notice; you have lost your job or part of your income and cannot afford groceries at this time; you are homebound due to illness, disability, or quarantine and do not have friends or family that can bring you food; you are at high risk for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and do not have access to a regular food source.”

More at the Boston Globe, here. Local readers, try to remember these restaurants and thank them with your business when we come out of the tunnel to the other side of this plague.

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Photo: Jack Devant
The Perm Opera theater in Russia is getting around quarantine regulations by performing to an audience of one. At least, that’s the plan.

I have been reading a lot of articles about organizations that, although hurting badly from the pandemic, are managing to limp along. You are probably reading other such articles. Just as humans with underlying conditions are said to succumb more quickly to coronavirus, so do institutions with underlying conditions. Some weak nonprofits and businesses have already folded.

Others may come out on the other side of this with new ideas for a stronger future.

It helps to be adaptable.

Andrew Roth writes at the Guardian, “Picture the scene: The curtain rises as the orchestra strikes up the opening bars of Puccini’s La Bohème or Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

And in the 850-person auditorium of a storied Russian theatre sits just one lucky viewer, a lottery winner whose prize is the personal performance of a lifetime.

“Barred from hosting audiences due to the coronavirus outbreak, a theatre in Perm, a city near Russia’s Ural mountains, plans to host a unique experiment – private viewings of the theatre’s ballets and operas for the price of just a normal ticket.

“The project, called One on One, is the creation of Marat Gatsalov, the principle stage director of the Perm Opera and Ballet theatre. The idea, he said, predated the coronavirus pandemic. …

“When the local government in Perm, an industrial city that also has a reputation as a cultural powerhouse, declared that events with large audiences should be cancelled, he realised the time for the experiment had arrived.

“ ‘We’d been told that we can’t let viewers into the theatre hall,’ Gatsalov said. ‘But that doesn’t mean we can’t let just one viewer in.’ …

“Russia’s coronavirus outbreak has accelerated in the last week and the government has passed tougher measures to prevent its spread. One on One had been scheduled to open with Puccini at the end of March, but the theatre has said that it will begin holding shows only when the rules for the country’s theatres are clearer. …

“The lottery will work like this: 850 people will register for each show, whether it’s an opera, ballet or concert, and a winner will be selected and invited to buy a ticket at the theatre for the normal price.

“Nobody else will be charged, although the theatre could use the funds. Financially, Gatsalov said, the coronavirus crisis has been ‘catastrophic.’

“Asked about how he planned to keep performers safe, Gatsalov said he was trying to follow safety rules ‘as much as possible’ and said the theatre regularly checked people’s temperatures and disinfected the premises. But it was clear that plans were in flux. ‘Of course the theatre can’t be operating as normal at the moment,’ he said.”

More at the Guardian, here. I sure hope it works and will look for a follow-up story down the road. Meanwhile, you can watch New York’s Met opera nightly as an audience of one in your home. It’s a free service while the pandemic lasts. Check it out.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Perm, Russia, where a lucky lottery ticket will get you an opera performance for you alone.
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Washing the Bananas

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Image: Youtube

Because our age puts my husband and me in a high-risk category for Covid-19 and because I know the pandemic won’t last forever, I’m going to try the doctor’s grocery-disinfecting techniques from the 13-minute video below. It’s a lot of work and most people will think it’s nuts. But there are some good tips here. And you know, unless you are a health-care worker or suddenly homeschooling, you do have time.

Among the easier tips: leaving nonperishables in the garage or on the porch for the three days it takes for the contagion to dissipate; buy only hot takeout and reheat it in the microwave or stove; toss the outer cereal box and just keep the inner liner; dump bread into a container you can seal and throw out the bread bag.

Most people could manage that, I think.

Meanwhile, I confess that I am washing bananas now, but I’m not yet at the doctor’s 20-second requirement. At first my husband said, “Wash bananas? They have their own skin and you throw it out.” But then he realized we weren’t talking about washing because you are going to eat the banana but because the outside of anything that unknown people have touched can spread germs around your house.

But he still wasn’t really on board. Then he read a New York Times article by infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, here, called “It’s Too Late to Avoid Disaster, But There Are Still Things We Can Do” (!) and decided maybe we do have to up our game. We’re on our own. Watch the video, and let me know what you think.

On a more cheerful note, whenever I can get technology to work, it’s been a pretty great boon. We had a four-way chat with our kids on FaceTime yesterday that was fun and funny, and today I go online with What’s App or Skype to help an Afghan asylum seeker with her grad school application.

Hang in, Folks. This won’t last forever.

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Photo: Union Leader
A sanitizer customer hands a small bottle to Andre Marcoux, owner of Live Free Distillery in Manchester, NH. All kinds of businesses are stepping up to join the Covid-19 war.

A sense of helplessness pervades our lives now, so whenever anyone is able to actually do something, it’s a great feeling.

On Thursday our family learned that the folks at Klear Vu Home Textiles of Fall River (friends of Suzanne) and an official in Massachusetts state government (friend of John) were able to put together a deal to alleviate one critical shortage. Klear Vu is now pivoting from products like seat cushions to face masks. Congrats to all concerned!

Meanwhile, New England distilleries are stepping up to make hand sanitizer. Alcohol is alcohol, after all. And war is war.

The first distillery I read about was Flag Hill in New Hampshire. Paul Briand at Seacoast reported, “Brian Ferguson at Flag Hill Distillery and Winery is trying to figure out a way through the personal and economic challenges of a society laying low because of the coronavirus.

“Almost daily, he assesses how best to not only keep the business afloat but be a responsible member of a community at-large that is uncertain – even frightened – about what lay ahead. For the latter concern, he’s switched from the production of spirits, such as bourbon, at his distillery to make hand sanitizer full time, primarily for first responders in municipalities around the Granite State.

“As far as the future of the business at Flag Hill is concerned, he and his staff are trying to position the winery to remain on solid footing as a wedding and event venue once the pandemic crisis passes.

” ‘It’s extremely hard to plan,’ said Ferguson. ‘There’s no right answer. No one’s ever written a book on how to do this, all the pros and cons.

‘Every single day we just try to make the best possible decisions we can, answering the questions: It is moral? Is it ethical? Is it smart? Can it be accomplished? If we can answer all those questions, we can make the decision to move in that direction.’ …

“The tools, process and ingredients were pretty much on-site already, according to Ferguson. What it needed to ramp up production was regulatory permission (which distilleries received from the Food and Drug Administration last week). And he needed some logistical help, which he got from Matt Mayberry, an expeditor for Carlisle One Media. …

“ ‘He started connecting the dots between where we were with having supply, but not really knowing where the demand was,’ said Ferguson.

“Creating the hand sanitizer is a process akin to creating bourbon, rum, gin, or vodka: A distillery and lots of neutral grain spirit. Ferguson had that. All he needed was the other ingredients to make the sanitizer – glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. … He can produce 55 gallons of sanitizer a day. …

“While the sanitizer to the municipalities is done at no cost, he makes the 750 milliliter bottles [about 1-1/2 pints] available for consumer sale at $15 each. He’s taking orders by phone [603-659-2949]. More.

At the Union Leader, Shawne K Wickham writes about more distilleries.

“Andre Marcoux opened Live Free Distillery in a Manchester industrial park 18 months ago. The Manchester native’s day job is computer-aided design, but he spends his weekends making and selling craft liquor.

“Until recently, the stainless steel stills wrapped in red oak at Live Free had been turning out products such as his popular dill-pickle vodka. But on Saturday, Marcoux switched production entirely over to hand sanitizer, using a formula put out by the World Health Organization. The alcohol trickling from the still is now being mixed with hydrogen peroxide and glycerol.

‘It’s a giant chemistry set,’ Marcoux said, pointing to the stills he hand-crafted himself. ‘Turning grain into the water of life.’ …

“Every distiller he knows in New Hampshire is making hand sanitizer to meet the need, Marcoux said. ‘We’re all just trying to help out,” he said.” More.

And here’s an article in the Boston Globe about Industrious Spirit Company and Dirty Water Distillery. (I’m loving the titles of these New England distillers!)

“On Monday,” writes Jenna Pelletier, “Industrious Spirit Company tasting room manager Liam Maloney spent hours tossing small bottles of house-made hand sanitizer out of a window at the Providence, R.I., distillery.

“Simultaneously in Plymouth, Dirty Water Distilling was fielding an ‘overwhelming’ number of sanitizer requests from first responders. And in Everett, the owners of Short Path Distillery were waiting for more supplies to arrive so they could whip up another batch. …

“ ‘We thought, nobody’s able to get it, so let’s start offering it,’ said Brenton MacKechnie, head distiller at Dirty Water Distilling. …

“According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, more than 300 distilleries in the country, including at least six in Massachusetts, six in New Hampshire, two in Rhode Island, four in Connecticut, and seven in Vermont are now producing hand sanitizer — something many of them said they never expected to be doing.” Hooray for flexibility!

In a different kind of initiative from Scotland, an opera company, noted here, is lending set-hauling trucks to Tesco to smooth out the supermarket’s supply chain deliveries.

Got other examples of repurposing for the war effort? Please put it in Comments.

Brian Ferguson, proprietor of Flag Hill in New Hampshire. The distiller and wine maker is helping the “plague effort” by focusing on hand sanitizer as long as necessary. Make a list of companies behaving ethically in the crisis and try to give them your business when this is over, OK?8839-brian-1080

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