Love in the Time of COVID-19

If you’re reading this in hard copy, you’ve taken an unnecessary risk. (But thanks for the dedication!) You’ve ventured out of the house and touched stuff. Now wash your hands forthwith! With soap and warm water. For at least 20 seconds. And if you’re reading at home, on your phone or tablet, go ahead and wash your hands anyway.

COVID-19 is real, and it’s in Northeast Florida. Take heed, armchair individualists! It’s not about whether you can survive the virus. No, you are responsible for transmitting or not transmitting it to others, including loved ones to whom it may be lethal. And let’s be honest: for all you know, it may well be lethal to you, too. I don’t care how many Ayn Rand fairytales you’ve heard, you know f*ck all about coronavirus. So don’t act like it’s no big deal, like it’s fake news, like the world is overreacting. And certainly don’t act like the blunderer-in-chief’s ignore-it-and-it’ll-go-away approach pre-March 11 was anything but the last, desperate bluff by a player who knew his losing hand was about to be called. A recent story in The Guardian bore the headline, “Donald Trump is the very worst person to handle the coronavirus crisis.” And it’s true.

The federal response to this pandemic has been suicidal, and it’s impossible not to suspect that politics played a large part in the immersion of the administration’s collective head in the sand of ignorance and negligence. To begin with, the federal bureaucracy was long ago stripped to the bone and purged of all but loyalists (i.e., “only the best people”). More recently, the lack of testing at the outset of the epidemic smacks of book-cooking to make the situation appear less serious than it actually was. It is, after all, an election year. Now Trump’s ham-fisted travel ban is causing panic and gumming up the works, crowding airport bottlenecks and creating ideal contagion conditions. SMH.

DJT and the court of B-list flunkeys that masquerade as his cabinet have failed in their responsibility to ensure public safety. Most Americans know this but must nonetheless endure the flailing ministrations of the fake-it-till-you-make-it administration. I don’t. I flew to Greece in early March for what I thought would be a mere fortnight of Retsina and romance. (Aye, Mr. Editor Man done fell in love with an Athenian lass. It truly is a many splendored thing.) But alas, two weeks have turned into a more open-ended commitment to the Hellenic way of life. I have zero confidence in the Trump regime’s ability to guarantee safe passage for this returning citizen. I shan’t allow myself to be herded back to the homeland in a cattle car, and then submit to orders written on a napkin by TSA officials attempting to translate into policy the syphilitic ramblings of a reality television personality turned president—all the while standing in a crowded customs hall with various fevered, dry-coughing compatriots. Not gonna happen.

Your boy’s riding out this storm in the old country, where at least adults are in charge. Europe at large has learned the lessons of Italy (where a friend of mine is currently being treated for COVID-19—he says it’s the most miserable experience of his life, and I believe him). Here in Greece, schools shut their doors on March 11; shops and restaurants were ordered closed shortly thereafter. Everyone here knows it’s going to be tough—the Greeks really don’t need this kind of economic hit just as they start to recover from years of debt crisis—but they’re steeled and ready. So am I. My sweetheart and I are whiling away our days indoors. Netflix is our friend. We prepared a most elaborate Sunday brunch for two. I’m learning a new language. And, of course, I’ve been editing another fine issue of Folio Weekly—from 6,000 miles away.

My crew is doing much the same, as you’ll see in the pages that follow. This issue of Folio Weekly isn’t about going out. (In any case, most events have been postponed or cancelled.) This week, we’re having fun at home. Eventually the powers that be will get a handle on the pandemic, and we’ll emerge from our splendid (or sordid) isolation. And eventually I’ll feel safe enough to brave an American airport. Until then, #MenoumeSpiti.