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.



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.


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.

Washing the Bananas


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.


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



Photo: Karl Gehring/Denver Post via Getty Images
According to
Vice, the FCC needs to clarify whether libraries lose their subsidized rates during Covid-19 social distancing if they offer wifi away from their buildings.

Libraries, as usual in a crisis, are stepping up. Remember the critical role of the Ferguson Library during the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri? I’ve been following that library on social media since then, and I’m impressed with what it does for the community and how fast it responds to needs.

Now, during social distancing, libraries are offering wifi hotspots via bookmobiles. Karl Bode reports at Vice, “As millions of Americans hunker down to slow the spread of coronavirus, the lack of affordable broadband access has become a far more pressing problem.

“The FCC’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report states that 21.3 million Americans lack access to any broadband whatsoever, be it cable, DSL, fiber, or wireless. Recent studies suggest that number is actually twice that thanks to inaccurate FCC broadband availability maps.

“It’s a problem that is notably worse in many low-income and minority communities, long-neglected by the nation’s incumbent broadband monopolies.

“For many Americans, the local library is their best and sometimes only opportunity to get online. But with many schools and libraries closing to protect public health, these users are losing access to a valuable resource in a time of crisis.

“In a letter to the FCC [March 19] the American Library Association (ALA) floated a solution: why not turn the nation’s 16,557 public libraries into free, communal broadband Wi-Fi hotspots, then extend that access into the broader communities that surround them?

“American libraries are subsidized by the FCC E-Rate program, which helps them obtain and deliver broadband access to bridge the digital divide. But the ALA said libraries were worried that the [current administration] —which has taken aim at the program in recent years — would penalize them for extending broadband access to users that are technically not on library property. …

“The ALA urged the FCC to waive E-rate restrictions so libraries could not only offer Wi-Fi access via local libraries, but could also provide broadband service to disconnected communities via bookmobiles and mobile hotspots without running afoul of FCC rules. …

“Former FCC lawyer Gigi Sohn told Motherboard that the FCC has more than $1 billion in available funding from the last round of E-rate subsidies, and could easily waive E-rate restrictions during a crisis. …

“On Monday the FCC issued a statement making it clear that libraries would not be penalized under E-Rate rules for extending Wi-Fi access beyond their property boundaries. …

“While the FCC said it was ok for libraries to leave their hotspots running during the pandemic, the agency simply ignored libraries’ questions as to whether they’d be penalized for extending access into the broader community. …

” ‘We are pleased that the FCC, in response to our request, has clarified that schools and libraries may leave their Wi-Fi networks on for community use without jeopardizing their E-rate funding,’ the The SHLB Coalition said in a statement. ‘The SHLB Coalition now encourages the FCC to take the next step and grant the Petition of the Boulder Valley School District to permit schools and libraries to extend their broadband services to surrounding residential consumers.’ ”

More at Vice, here.



Poet Ross Gay celebrates life.

When Ross Gay read at our library, I liked his poems and his way of talking about them and I bought a book. Recently, I noticed that his writing and his joy in nature had come to the attention of both Maria Popova at Brainpickings and the environmental radio show Living on Earth.

From Living on Earth
“STEVE CURWOOD: In an endangered world, gratitude and appreciation are difficult to balance with practical and existential fears. … Poet Ross Gay took a moment almost every day for a year to write about something that delighted him and has published these observations in his latest volume, The Book of Delights. In this exercise, he found joy in everything from bumblebees to folding shirts at the laundromat and noticed beauty he had never seen before. Ross Gay spoke with Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: What inspired you to take on this project?

“ROSS GAY: I was just in the middle of a [pleasant] walk. I was having a nice, delightful moment. And I thought, Oh, how neat. … It’d be interesting to write a book about something that delighted me every day for a year. …

“BASCOMB: You had a few rules of engagement for your project for writing about delight. Can you tell us about those? …

“GAY: I wanted to write it every day. I didn’t exactly get to that. But you know, pretty close. And I wanted to write them sort of quickly. And I wanted to write them by hand. …

“BASCOMB: Would you mind reading a passage for us? I’m thinking of an essay called Black Bumblebees. …

“GAY: There is a kind of flowering bush, new to me, that I’ve been studying on my walks in Marfa. On that bush, whose blooms exude a curtain of syrupy fragrance, a beckoning of it, there are always a few thumb-size all-black bumblebees. Their wings appear when the light hits them right, metallic blue-green. I have never seen anything so beautiful. Everything about them- their purr, their wobbly veering from bloom to bloom — is the same as their cousins, the tiger-striped variety that shows up in droves when the cup plants in my garden are in bloom, making the back corner of my yard sound like a Harley convention. I wonder how I can encourage these beauties.” More.

At Brainpickings, Popova starts her appreciation with a Hermann Hesse quotation: ” ‘My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys.’ …

“Each day, beginning on his forty-second birthday and ending on his forty-third, [poet Ross] Gay composed one miniature essay … about a particular delight encountered that day, swirled around his consciousness to extract its maximum sweetness. …

“One is reminded — almost with the shock of having forgotten — that delights are strewn about this world like quiet, inappreciable dew-drops, waiting for the sunshine of our attention to turn them into gold.

“He writes: ‘Patterns and themes and concerns show up… My mother is often on my mind. Racism is often on my mind. Kindness is often on my mind. Politics. Pop music. Books. Dreams. Public space. My garden is often on my mind. …

” ‘It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. …

“One of the readiest sources of daily delight comes — predictably, given the well documented physiological and psychological consolations of nature — from his beloved community garden. (Gay is as much a poet as he is a devoted gardener, though perhaps as Emily Dickinson well knew, the two are but a single occupation.)

“In an early-August essayette titled ‘Inefficiency,’ he writes: ‘I don’t know if it’s the time I’ve spent in the garden (spent an interesting word), which is somehow an exercise in supreme attentiveness — staring into the oregano blooms wending through the lowest branches of the goumi bush and the big vascular leaves of the rhubarb—and also an exercise in supreme inattention, or distraction, I should say, or fleeting intense attentions, I should say, or intense fleeting attentions — did I mention the hummingbird hovering there with its green-gold breast shimmering, slipping its needle nose in the zinnia, and zoom! Mention the pokeweed berries dangling like jewelry from a flapper mid-step. …

“[But his] transmutation of terror into transcendence haunts the book as a guiding spirit. ‘It astonishes me sometimes — no, often — how every person I get to know — everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything — lives with some profound personal sorrow. Brother addicted. Mother murdered. Dad died in surgery. Rejected by their family. Cancer came back. Evicted. Fetus not okay.

” ‘Everyone, regardless, always, of everything. Not to mention the existential sorrow we all might be afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated. Which sounds more dramatic than it might. Let me just say dead. Is this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness? Is sorrow the true wild? And if it is — and if we join them — your wild to mine — what’s that? For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation.

‘What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying. I’m saying: What if that is joy?’

More at Brainpickings, here. (Want to bypass Amazon? Buy the book from Algonquin Books or IndieBound, here.)

%d bloggers like this: