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The Nooner for Wednesday, March 18, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Important note: In these 16+ hour days, I'm consuming news from lots of sources. I spend over $250/month of ATCpro subscriber revenue to access lots of material behind paywalls that you don't have access to, and I don't expect you to find room in your budget for that. I'm trying to link to non-paywall and nonprofit stories as much as possible and am not doing the author crediting the way I normally do. I urge you to subscribe to your local newspaper (digital or dead trees) as journalists are busting their asses and working under unthinkable circumstances to cover this story. It's easy to joke about "work from home" being 80% (if that) productivity, but journalists (like other essential folks) are working 150%+ time if my experience mirrors theirs at a time of a huge drop in revenue.
Whether it's the Monterey County Herald, Davis Enterprise or the San Francisco Chronicle, Bee or LA Times, they need individual support. Advertising won't do it, including The Nooner. I'll keep going as long as I can, but my fixed costs (server and newspapers) are over $550 per month. And, while I live quite cheaply, I still have to pay rent, health insurance, and other bills to keep doing this each day.
Meanwhile, Amazon is hiring 100,000 people in the distribution warehouses. Journalists and quasi-journalists like me may be meeting each other on coffee breaks soon. On second thought, do they get coffee breaks?
If you missed it yesterday, this is the link to the crowd-sourced Google spreadsheet of restaurants staying open. in the Sacramento region offering take out and delivery, many of which have only just added such options. For Noonerites in other regions of the state, if you have a similar resource, let me know so I can list it. Additionally, online reservations company Resy has lists of its affiliated restaurants offering take out in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
I wish I had some good news for you this morning. We all can use it and I'll keep looking for it. I am confident that there are thousands of stories about humanitarian steps being taken in neighborhoods around California. In Portland, a neighbor went to my 74-year-old mom's house and offered to go shopping for her. As I've written, my family has been talking more over the last fourteen days than in years. We''re an emotionally close family, but like too many, years have gone by during which technology replaced voices and its simply not the same.
Last night when I called my mom, I noticed that her voice was noticeably different. I immediately was concerned about my grandmother, who as I'd talked about turns 100 years old on March 29. No, Gram is fine. My mom though had heard the stories throughout the evening that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had warned Senate Republicans yesterday that if bold stimulus steps are not taken, unemployment could hit 20% leading to a depression (a 10% decline in real GDP, or a recession lasting two years).
My mom is no Nervous Nelly. Two weeks ago when my sister and I both raised the prospect that our dear Gram's 100th-birthday party may need to be canceled, I don't think she took it seriously. The news was nothing like it is now, so I don't blame her. That said, I was looking at the possible policy and economic impacts in California broad scale, while my sister was preparing for the worst for the thirteen-restaurant SoCal chain for which she is Director of People, Stonefire Grill. (Editor's privilege: If you're in Ventura, Los Angeles, or Orange County, they are open and delivering outstanding comfort food as well as offering take out. I know several legislators that know and love the food.)
Both my sister and I surely wished we were preparing for a hurricane that veered in a different path, but here we are. (My sister, dad, and I actually went through the direct hit Hurricane Roxanne in Cancun in 1995.)
Obviously, my mom was not alive between the Great Depression in 1929-1933, but my grandmother was in her early teens. My mom has lived with her for over twenty years in a great partnership, and only recently did my grandmother move in to a nice, small house with assisted living. My grandmother, who graduated from college at a time when that didn't mean a ticket to many jobs for women, was a hospital receptionist (her sister became a senior leader of a bank branch downtown, something also largely rare). I remember going to St. Vincent's Hospital and seeing Gram at the main information desk and my late Aunt Ruth would always have those rare $2 bills in birthday cards.
Gram was incredibly frugal through her working (and retirement) years. She reused before recycling was a cool thing. To this day, my mom probably sees thirty-year old containers that margarine and the like came in. There is a longstanding joke about fruitcakes, as my paternal grandfather would send everybody fruitcakes and grapefruit over the holidays. We're not talking about the fruitcakes that people joke about that have been around on a shelf for years, but rather the Collin Street Bakery tins of joy from Corsicana, TX. To this day, my dad sends my mom one every holiday and it brings smiles to the whole Portland family and doesn't last long. I don't think I even got a slice when I was there in December!
Like the plastic containers, the fruitcake tins can be found everywhere and are used for everything. We don't really do Christmas gift exchanges anymore since there are no kids left, but when we did, wrapping paper was saved for reuse when possible.
Gram's experience in the depression in her childhood is still in the family 87 years later.
The point is that, while we don't know where we are headed with COVID-19 on either a health or economic sense, these are life-changing times. I didn't talk about these issues with my mom last night other than what was triggering the quiver in her voice. I was thankful that it wasn't about a family member, but I did think about it in the hours after our call. Of course, like almost any call with my mom, we had plenty of laughs, using the world's best medicine.
The news sucks. It will continue to suck for awhile. We have no idea how long. We will likely change. How we work may change. What we value may change. Most importantly, the way we interact with humans -- from our family members to neighbors may change.
I'm seeing it even now when I stretch my legs and rest my eyes from the computer screen and go across the street to Southside Market to hear neighbors (and delivery drivers in the 'hood) talk to T (Thao) about how they are faring, as many work in restaurants downtown and are furloughed for who knows how long. But, without sports to talk about, folks are sharing their personal stories and how they are holding up both financially and peronally. State workers who stop by say that they just keep showing up, awaiting guidance on whether or not they are to stay home amid great confusion.
Everyone asks T how long he will remain open and he has no idea. While he got a delivery of the universally demanded toilet paper (we joke about how rough and cheap it is, but it's an essential for the neighborhood that spans the economic spectrum), hand sanitizer, and the like, other suppliers are becoming questionable. Cigarettes are running low, as are lighters, and while neither he nor I smoke and he would prefer not to sell tobacco from their small selection, I think we can all understand that smokers gotta smoke at this time. His cheap "Swishers" cigarillos are also running low and we all know that those are mostly used for smoking pot, legal or otherwise.
Side note: there's a debate in the "shelter in place" counties whether or not dispensaries can stay open and, if so, whether or not they can only serve medical cannabis and must stop selling recreational cannabis. Who would have thought we'd be having that quandary in 2020?
It's good to see people in the convenience stores to buy goods and not just beer, wine, and tobacco. Neighbors are shopping these locally owned stores for canned and paper goods, pasta, and water. (I'm still a tap guy and I'm not fearing an interruption of that as much as this feels a "The Walking Dead" apocalypse.) A common discussion, though, is a sad one -- the March 5 death of Gold Star Mart (10th/S) owner Kulvinder Singh ("Indi" to customers) after an altercation with an individual trying to steal beer.
Lots of people in the broad neighborhood of blocks around the expansive Southside Park are talking about the tragedy and also going out of their way to shop at Gold Star, which remains open without Indi. Folks who once lived in the neighborhood are returning to shop to support Indi's widow and family, and leaving their mark on a vigil for Indi.
Convenience ("corner") stores can be controversial. They often sell alcohol to homeless and are seen as a draw (I don't see it in Southside Park). Some are more lax than grocery stores on checking IDs for alcohol and tobacco, as they often have part-time clerks passing through as a short-term job, rather than a union job at a large store.
But across the state, many residents are rediscovering these family-owned businesses and finding them stocked that while those in panic clear the shelves in large stores. For example, Market 5-ONE-5 (a neighborhood store of Raley's) yesterday was out of pasta, while Gold Star and Southside had some and people were excited to find it. Soup and toilet paper were the same way.
Perhaps this patronage of corner markets will be a bit of a renaissance for them. Decades ago, Southside Market was a sandwich shop, which is still reflected on the weather-worn sign and with a service counter in the back where the prep area now serves as a storeroom. I'd love for that to be the current convenience store but also banh mi shop, which would be popular with state workers who pass each morning going to and from the state parking under the freeway and the weekend gatherings in the park.
Perhaps the refamiliarization of people of the value of convenience stores will get patrons to reshape them to be more like NYC bodegas and not just primarily for booze and smokes. I know T would love that, but it comes down to consumer demand. I can dream, right?
Meanwhile, I don't want to get political here, but we've seen how quickly changes happen, both in Washington and Sacramento. The legislative comity seen on Monday night would have been unthinkable last year. The tears in the adjourn in memory of Katcho were a combination of love for the former lawmaker and sincere fears about mortality among legislators, who were thinking about themselves, their families, their staffs, and their constituents.
Regardless of how long or how deep the economic downturn is, we might think twice before putting that fruitcake bin in recycling. We might think about how we can reuse it before buying something new at the store. We might realize that making food from farmers markets can be cheaper than fast food even without riding the health benefits high horse.
We'll get through this. But it doesn't have to be all grim.
...we're just getting started...
...political developments after the jump...
BALLOT STATUS: We're getting closer...
LA LA LAND: Los Angeles County has around 64,000 ballots left, but it looks near certain that there will be a runoff in the district attorney race between incumbent Jackie Lacey and "criminal justice reformer" George Gascón, the former San Francisco DA. Here are the current numbers:
OH, DUNCAN: In a story that would have been a big item before we entered the crisis tunnel, former congressmember Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) is going to the pokey for eleven months on his plea deal of one count of campaign finance fraud.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
I may be back in your inbox later today. I don't want to be clutter so I judge each story based on importance. I figure many of you are at home and following the major stories so I'm trying to keep it as much of a roundup of news affecting most, and not just some, Nooner readers as possible.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Assembly member Ken Cooley, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, and Joe Mathews!