Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

28 May

Jean’s Place. Thinking About How To Open

by Jon Katz

Jean’s Place can open in a week or so, according to the State of New York. But it won’t be simple. The restaurant is only allowed to fill 25 percent of its seats, and everybody has to wear a mask, except when they are eating.

Kevin says that will, in a way, be worse for the restaurant than doing take-out only. They’re working on the logistics now, the big news for me is that they are not closing as so many small restaurants have.

Their community in Hoosick Falls, N.Y, came out for them, returning many favors and kindnesses over the years. Just as Jean’s Place never turned their backs on a customer, the customers never turned their backs on them.

In a month or so, they will be able to fully open unless something unforeseen happens. Maria was out walking with a friend at lunch, so I went down to Jean’s and got a tuna wrap.

Some of their regulars are bringing their own tables and chairs and eating their take-out outside in the parking lot.  That is loyalty.

I love that place and feel so good they have come through this.

28 May

What’s Behind A Mask?: The Politics Of Reconciliation

by Jon Katz

I stopped to see Amy McLenithan at her Country Cooking Wagon, I haven’t been by much during the coronavirus lockdown.

It was surprising to see her with a mask, and odd to be wearing one when I got my coffee.

They call it the new normal, and I’m getting used to it. Amy looked great and said her business was holding up. I missed her.

Before stopping at Amy’s, I made three stops along Main Street in my town – the hardware store, the post office and a convenience store.

It feels like the town is opening up, more men in trucks, more cars, more stores delicately moving to open. All along the way, I encountered groups of men who were not wearing masks or social distancing.

They were talking and gathering as they always do, not as health authorities and the governor are pleading with them to do.

Yesterday, I saw some stories about the growing the growing political divide over masks. The President isn’t wearing one and is encouraging his followers not to wear them, and this has upset medical authorities and many people who do wear masks and who believe it is callous and irresponsible for people not to wear them.

It makes me a little sick to see that masks are being used to divide us further and politicize this awful Pandemic. It speaks to the country’s broken soul.

It also challenges me to figure out ways to help undivide the people I live around. It’s time to make America kind again, and it has to start one person at a time.

The country is too big to handle for me, but listening has to start somewhere. If Nelson Mandela did it in  South Africa, we can do it here.

One of the men I met this morning told me that he doesn’t wear a mask in order to support President Trump. Everyone was jumping on him, he said.

I said I was sorry to see the masks divide us in our town. I said it was his choice to make, I don’t feel I can tell anyone to do. He was polite and offered to shake my hand.

I shook his hand. ( I admit I did use the sanitizer back in the car.)

This man then said he thinks people who wear masks are doing so in opposition to Trump, as a statement against him. I said I was wearing a mask to protect myself and others, and in good faith, but that we all had to answer to our own sense of what was right.

Another man waiting in line at the post office – he had no mask, looked uncomfortable when he saw mine, and moved away a bit  –  told me the virus might be serious in New York City, but not up here.

He seemed angry. The whole thing was a lot of BS, he said, from people who wanted to make the president looked bad and who didn’t give a shit about ordinary people.

I said I wasn’t in the business of telling other people what to do, and I understood the feeling of resenting the government’s intrusion into our personal lives. I said I often voted Democratic and I wore the mask because I believe the doctors who say I needed to, for my sake and others.

I said no politician, including Donald Trump, made my clothing choices. I said I did listen to Dr. Fauci and the CDC, but that was my choice, he had to make his own. You don’t need to explain yourself to me, I said, and I don’t need to explain myself to you.

He nodded and turned away and do his business.  He still seemed angry, but he nodded to me on the way out.

I don’t intend to march around talking to people about masks. But I’m figuring out what to do when it comes up.

I was wearing a mask for both conversations, and it was strange to think of this as a political statement. I did feel a bit like a wussy, the real men were not wearing masks. Then I rethought that..

My town has a lot of supporters of Donald Trump, it also has a bunch of transplanted New Yorkers who don’t care for the President and who are wearing masks.

So it is divided, although it rarely bubbles up.

A lot of the New Yorkers speak up and argue with the locals who aren’t wearing masks. Some even shout at them or move far away. Some argue. I can’t recall ever seeing an argument change someone’s opinion, online or off.

My feeling about it – some people won’t like it – is that I need to try and accept the feelings of other people. I don’t think I changed anybody’s mind, but I liked the fact that we did listen to one another.

I sometimes resent the mask also, there is little coronavirus up here, and I can understand why these men – most of them out of work now and hurting – are getting angry and vulnerable to different messages, and already feel divided.

I feel like I’ve got to start listening somewhere, and at some point, and I’m not inclined to rush to judgment on other people who have their own souls and consciences to consider.

I hate being told what to do, and I  hate doing that to other people. It’s too much like playing God to me.

I wear the mask on the admittedly remote chance that I will save my own life, I am an older man at risk, and as, and as importantly,  so that I might save the life of someone else.

I think wearing a mask is the right thing to do, for now, I have no reservations about it.

I can understand ignoring a politician, but I do listen to doctors, they have saved my life more than once, and have saved countless other people as well in recent months.

It is just too easy to judge other people when I am so flawed myself and have been judged so often by others.

So that’s where I am on masks. Generally speaking, and unless it relates to dogs, I don’t tell other people what to do.

I focus on what I do and make sure I like the face I see in the mirror each morning and do nothing to shame him. I also appreciate my town, these men, who are so different than me, have always rushed to help me when I needed help.

28 May

Make America Kind Again. A Letter To My Country

by Jon Katz

First, I want to thank Maria for her quite wonderful sketch called “Coronavirus Hug.” She went for a walk with two friends yesterday, and since they couldn’t hug one another in the usual way, they came up with the Coronavirus Hug, hands up and out, in a circle,  eight to ten feet away.

This inspired this sketch, which I predict will one day be a magnet, poster, postcard, or fiber painting.

I also want to thank Mary Hogan Gerber, a blog reader, who gave me the idea for this letter to my country, which I wrote this morning: “We have the potential to be much better and stronger than the ugly side of America that has stolen the media attention for far too many months,” Mary wrote. “It’s time to Make America Kind Again.” Thanks, Mary.

My letter:

Dear America, 

It’s time to make America kind again.

I love you, my country, for welcoming people,

not excluding them.

For helping the poor,

not blaming them for their suffering.

For lifting people up,

not tearing them down.

For helping us find common ground,

not tearing us apart

For listening,

not shouting

For community,

not self-interest.

For sharing our wealth,

not hoarding it

For uniting when we need to,

not dividing for selfish gain

For being the most beautiful melting pot,

not a cold and heartless moat.

For lifting your lamp beside the golden door,

not slamming it shut

For being a beacon to the world,

not a walled fortress with ugly spikes on the walls.

I love you, most of all for your great

and troubled heart. 

Make America Kind Again,

Be well, get well, Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm, May 28, 2020

28 May

Mansion Wish List: Movie, Canvas, Art Supplies

by Jon Katz

The Mansion has just posted a new and very modest Mansion Corona Wish List on Amazon. As you know, the residents are in a long lockdown, no visitors (including me and Zinnia), no family no friends.

We’ve been trying to help in a number of ways – disinfectant fogger, weekly lunches and ice cream sundae kits, puzzles, stuffed animals, and art supplies.

The new wish list has just four items on it – a DVD of the Movie Oklahoma (about $14), Canvas Painting Panels ($25.99), Color Liquid Tempera Paint Assortment ($41.99) and some faux fur Mongolian fabric ($26.)

The Mansion has greatly stepped up its art and activity program, the residents can’t go out any farther than the porch. The good news is that no one there has gotten sick. A great job by the staff and aides.

If you can, please check out the new wish list and see if there is anything there you would like to purchase for the residents at this very tough time. Thanks. You can see and view the wish list here.

27 May

My First Video Doctor’s Visit

by Jon Katz

I had my first video doctor’s conference today. Amy, my nurse practitioner, sent me a video link by text, my iPhone 11 hooked right up to her office and she popped up on my phone screen.

I was uncertain about it, I value face to face talks with my doctor, we usually have things to discuss. I especially value my time with Amy, she is bright, honest, and helpful.

She senses when I am uncomfortable talking about something and makes me feel at ease. She thought the Pandemic may have altered medicine in many permanent ways – one of them is the video visit.

I came to her office for blood tests, and she liked the results she saw. If she didn’t, I would have been asked to come in. The video visit saved both of us time and is safer than an office visit for both of us right now.

We always talk books for a few minutes before we get to the medical stuff.

I had a cup of tea and some notebook paper by my phone, which I tilted up against a candle holder. We could see and hear one another clearly, and I thought once again of how much technology has altered and shaped my life.

I missed seeing Amy, I enjoy talking with her.

Amy said that during the first days of the lockdown, she saw very few patients, not the practice is opening up once more. But she doubted things would return to normal anytime soon

But I didn’t miss the hour driving or the wait in the waiting room. The day before, a nurse called and went over my medicines and that morning another nurse called to make sure the link worked and to go over my insurance.

The big news for me was that I can stop taking the diuretic I took to keep my blood sugar down and for my heart.  The medicine was disruptive and had a bunch of side effects.

I am always happy to take fewer medications rather than more.

My diabetes is under very good control, she said, let’s try it without the diuretics, I was very happy to hear that. I monitor my blood sugar closely and am very conscious of what I eat.

Since the Pandemic I found myself having some pie two or three times a week and some ice cream. That didn’t cause any problems, but I want to watch my blood carefully if I stop taking the diuretics, which I did this morning.

Secondly, I might try taking some short term insulin before meals, as I got older, she said, and without the diuretics, this could get my very low numbers more even throughout the day, when I do a very little testing. We’ll do some now and see what we find.

I guess the bigger news is that I’m going to see an orthopedist next week about my knees, which have been causing me some pain and stiffness when I walk or bend. I’m thinking I might need one or both knees replaced if that’s feasible, I love walking and it’s gotten harder lately.

I want to confront that before it gets worse.

Amy thought it was a good idea. Walking is important.

A few years ago, I fell and broke my kneecap up at the other farm one winter.

I never went to a doctor about it, and I have a permanent hobble. There might be a lot of arthritis there now, it’s  never fully recovered. So we’ll see. I might not be a candidate for a knee replacement and I was always determined to keep my natural parts intact.

But I love walking and that’s important to my health also. I have no squawks about getting older, but there is a need to take care of my body in a different way.

There are two words I particularly hate and they are “never” and “always.” Both help one’s mind to go rigid and rarely apply over a lifetime.

I appreciate Amy. She listens and considers what I say. She is open and interesting. I also showed her my right hand, where I was stung the other day.

It’s still swollen a bit, and I am still having an allergic reaction to the bite. She suggested some new medicine to reduce the swelling further. So my first video visit was productive and valuable. I told Amy I wouldn’t be happy if I never saw her face to face again, she said she wouldn’t like that either.

But for now, this is the way we’ll meet. As promised the Pandemic is changing life for many of  us.

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