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Monday, April 20: The magnificent seven

There will never again be a relevant time to ponder hyper-local iconography, so — as seven CNY counties prepare to assemble a regional reopening plan — let’s take a look at the team.

I hope that the CNY League will do better with their recreation of Northeastia than Madison County is doing with its recreation of the New York State seal. The New York seal is already trying to do too much, and I’m not sure what Madison County is trying to communicate here with a very well-dressed colonial and a Native American with the wrong headdress and shorts. I’m not sure if this is the symbolic direction we want to go in.

Oneida County’s seal just cuts to the chase and features… someone who may or may not be an Oneida or a Mohawk.   Notwithstanding the general thorny issue of Native mascots, two feathers straight up actually does not represent any of the Haudenosaunee nations.  (Oneidas have two feathers up and one down, and Mohawks have three feathers up.  Maybe this was a compromise.)  

Can we do better? (If the Village of Whitesboro can come around and get it right, you guys can too.) 

Oswego County obviously had their seal redone sometime in the last 20 years, and it is pretty slick and modern, with carefully chosen clip art and a very cool Fort Oswego-shaped shield.  

Maybe it’s a little too pretty. The nuclear symbol in the center is spot on from a design standpoint, but a little alarming when you think about it harder. That said, it hits all of the county’s many bases.

In Onondaga County, where the 19th century never ended, the iconography is just as complicated, but the message is more blunt.  This seal takes no prisoners.  Pastoral, yes — a sheaf of wheat (no longer grown here), a placid cow — but provoke them, and you will be driven back by the sound of the drums.  There is not much PPE left, but plenty of shot, and they also have Justice’s Terrible Swift Sword.  (Incidentally, the seal of the Onondaga County Legislature features a beehive.)

Cortland County also has got a nice pile of projectiles at the ready, although I don’t know if those are cannonballs or just potatoes.  Well, it’s all good.

Cayuga County was into social distancing before social distancing was cool.  Stay inside your cabin, crack open a book, use the threshing flail to amuse your cat.  Clearly they will be the “Quiet, but Smart” member of the team.

Herkimer County’s seal is, of course, a depiction of General Herkimer, directing the battle, pointing to the future, while expiring from his mortal wound.  This is actually pretty deep.  War is hell.  The fight against the pandemic is hell.  People will die.  Some businesses may never come back.  But we must press onward together toward the sunlit uplands — or at least, the “new normal.”

Monday, April 13: Trust

A week ago, I was feeling down about how one of suburban upstate NY’s gods — Wegmans — has been less than mighty during the COVID crisis. I continue to not be terribly impressed with the Wegman family in all this. They seem to be dragging their feet continually at every turn, only putting out information when they have to. It is such a strange phenomenon that I have seen in other crises in different fields during my lifetime, where the very people you think of as paragons of public virtue start acting dismissive and even defensive when a band-aid gets painfully ripped off and it’s time for a real change.

But the opposite can also be true. People you never really thought about — the folks who seemed bland, irrelevant, or just not worth noticing either way — are often the ones who step up and function intelligently in a crisis. There’s this phenomenal PSA that comes from… the State of Ohio, of all places. (If there’s been a smartly designed social distancing PSA from New York, home of all those whiz-bang Madison Avenue creatives, I haven’t seen it. They were too busy creating a tone-deaf spectacle on top of the Empire State Building, apparently.)

There are the people we didn’t trust anyway, like Donald Trump and Congress; and then there are the people we used to trust, like Wegmans; and then there are people and institutions we are still mostly trusting, like the State of New York’s agencies, and also “new” people who we are coming to trust more, like Dr. Fauci or some of our local officials. Before any political or social changes begin to manifest, what happens at the molecular level is the reshuffling of assumptions about who we can trust.

Sunday, April 12 update

NYS update: Essential businesses must provide masks for public-contact employees. This should have been ordered last week.

Nice photo op for the gov as he goes all the way from the Capitol to Niskayuna to return borrowed ventilators to a nursing home. (No, really, I’m not being sarcastic. That was as nice as photo ops can be.) The Albany Times-Union pointed out last week, however, that it’s not been easy to offer equipment to the state during this crisis.

It’s been difficult to lend the ventilators to New York’s state government, according to Jeff Ruso, the administrator of the Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He told the Times Union on Monday morning that he’d been trying to lend them for free for about two-and-a-half weeks to the state Department of Health, but had not heard back from the governor’s administration for about a week on the matter, with the last directive to “stand by.”

And now there’s a big windstorm coming, and it will affect darkest Upstate the most. The storm could be “historic.” Please, I’m already sick to death of living in historic times… But, we’re ready! Check out these comprehensive stats

  • 1587 large dump trucks (Finger Lakes: 125, Western NY: 213, North Country: 161)
  • 48 loaders w/grapple (Finger Lakes: 7, Western NY: 6, North Country: 7)
  • 278 loaders (Finger Lakes: 21, Western NY: 39, North Country: 38)
  • 15 vac trucks w/sewer jet (Finger Lakes: 1, Western NY: 2, North Country: 1)
  • 31 tracked excavators (Finger Lakes: 4, Western NY: 3, North Country: 3)
  • 47 wheeled excavators (Finger Lakes: 5, Western NY: 4, North Country: 5)
  • 62 tractor trailers w/ lowboy trailer (Finger Lakes: 7, Western NY: 6, North Country: 9)
  • 15 tree crew bucket trucks (Finger Lakes: 1, Western NY: 1, North Country: 2)
  • 39 traffic signal trucks (Finger Lakes: 4, Western NY: 7, North Country: 2)
  • 78 chippers 10″ (min) capacity (Finger Lakes: 8, Western NY: 7, North Country: 8)

It’s not just ventilators Cuomo has been counting! (And yet, there’s a gloomy part of me that wonders if these equipment numbers will become very important in years to come. I mean, things could always get… worse.)

Onondaga County update: There was no briefing today for the holiday, but there were stats released for today, although virtually nothing changed from the day before.

Following up from Friday, CNY’s colleges are putting on a brave face as they give back student housing and meal plan fees and watch their shrinking endowments.

ESF Interim President David Amberg told The Post-Standard that the college’s financial picture is not as bleak as it may appear. He said the school has slowly depleted its reserves over the past 10 years after funding from the SUNY system was reduced by about $5.3 million per year. If needed, Amberg said, the school will be able to borrow some of the $900 million that SUNY keeps in reserve for use by its member campuses.

We also have some stats on calls to local police by people concerned about others who aren’t social distancing. Why am I not surprised to hear that the north side of the county has been drawing the most calls? Joe Cicero obviously thinks it’s just the flu.

Saturday, April 11 roundup

Wegmaniacal looks at how food shopping will change after the pandemic. I can see myself buying in to a few of these, such as well-stocked home pantry and more sit-down dinners.

SUNY Morrisville held a big dairy drive-through yesterday where free milk, yogurt and cheese was given away to lucky comers, and from the photos it looks like a good time was had by all… but if only they could have brought those products to Syracuse or Oneida where I’m sure a lot of people who are truly in need of them aren’t able to drive far. We have to do better to get milk “off the ground” (ie dumped) and into the homes of local people who need it… “so near, and yet so far.”

Gas was recently as low as 75 cents per gallon in Salamanca (on the Allegany Reservation). I’m trying to find excuses to take my “Oldbaru” out for a spin to avoid future problems, but unfortunately Salamanca is a wee bit too far.

Tuesday, April 7: The Coronials

A million years ago, back in mid-March, when the coronavirus was still a bit of a joke in America, predictions were made.

Cute, but now the actual plague-borns are here:

A pregnant South Jersey mother took matters into her own hands Friday after her husband was turned away from a hospital due to new coronavirus rules. .. The couple returned home when the contractions returned. Her husband suggested calling 911, but there wasn’t time. So she gave birth in their tub.

All of us are, in our own way, newborns this spring. The process for the rest of us is just a lot harder, and may not fully succeed.

Right now, the disruption of the school year is on everyone’s minds. New York State just cancelled the Regents’ exams. School-from-home (as opposed to home schooling, a different animal) is already running into serious problems. And these are just really “problems” (tech problems) not the actual freaking problems of: kids not getting their school lunches. Kids in the way of abusive parents. Kids in the way of parents who weren’t ever abusive, but might become that way due to the stresses of unemployment. Kids who can’t even use Zoom anyway because they don’t have a computer. Kids who will not learn to read properly. Kids who will get hit by cars on their bikes or start taking drugs or never get mental or medical help that they need… well, I have to stop here. I don’t even have kids and my mind is racing.

For two decades or more, American children and teens have grown up in a culture where almost all of their experiences are mediated by adults. Except for the promise of new technologies, the parameters of the world they would enter were clearly known. If they were among the more privileged half of their society, they would play on expertly designed playgrounds under the eye of attentive parents or nannies; go with their families on vacations to Disney or Europe, where everyone else had already been before them, and already posted on Instagram; and prepare to be selected for college by compiling the recommended collection of extracurricular experiences. They only thing they needed to improvise was how to deal with whatever private inner despair they were feeling with the well-trodden paths they were required to navigate. This is the story of every generation more or less, but each generation has seemed to have less and less of a vital wiggle room that is hard to define.

Suddenly, everyone — the adults included — have been plunged into a completely unmediated experience. Right now, everyone is still in the “weird, but fun” bike-riding-in-the-street phase. Later, as the economic pain hits the adults in the pocketbook, the kids of the 21st century will be left alone, unmediated, to become whatever they have to become. They will be smart and they will be tough. And the “Old Future” will never be theirs. The goals that their parents might have been training them for will become as relevant as whale-powered ocean travel.

As forward-thinking as I like to be, I cannot go there with them. But it’s tough. We’re now all Coronials. I’m on Day 19 of “work-from-home” and every day I wonder how we are all ever supposed to go back. The “New Future” seems both horrible and appealing. The “Old Future” is receding more by the day. (How weak a claim it had on us?)

Meanwhile, a hot topic of discussion is how educational delivery systems will evolve to meet the needs of getting kids educated. While the adults discuss this among themselves…

As Pauline Kael said about this movie,

The war has its horrors, but it also destroys much of what the genteel poor have barely been able to acknowledge they wanted destroyed.