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Day 159: A Plague of Bureaucrats

I can’t sleep. The LES DIY has split. The singer who runs the community garden resigned with threats for anyone who might contemplate using her turf for corpse disposal.

Anna has become acting coordinator, as if she weren’t overworked. She has already weathered a surprise inspection from the city Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. I’m told they found little to complain about: The clinic had moved into an adjacent storefront, staffed in part by medical pros fired by the city and/or their employers for alleged failures during the pandemic. They don’t mind working for free.

ALERT: THE DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY IS HERE!My brief old friend 'Val,' whom I met at Ric’s reopening, is one of them. She says that some big contractors are offering the hospitals foreign workers and trainees to fill gaps left by the purge. “All I did was question why we were wasting resources dumping good people who stayed home sick or needed a couple of days to care for their families,” she told me. “Next thing, my grant dissolved.”

Which raises another question: How can a city without the means to pick up moldering corpses dispatch health department officials to harass volunteers who feed the starving and sick? I’m surprised I haven’t heard from Evelyn.

Outraged, I called my newspaper friend. I hoped he might look into it, ask questions, back the community with some coverage. He astonished me by explaining that the Department of Homeland Security is hunting for terrorists who might exploit the pandemic.

After the Pentagon, DHS is the biggest federal agency. In addition to running such security functions as Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and InfraGard (a weird ‘partnership’ between the FBI and America’s private sector), it directs the national pandemic response. DHS is in charge of FEMA and the startup, Restore America’s Independent Spirit & Enterprise. I’ve seen complaints that executive jobs at RAISE are going to career Federales, rather than to FEMA or Red Cross-type relief professionals.

Public Enemy #What?

My newshound pal said DHS and RAISE are leaning on municipalities to document independent groups that have sprung up to fight H5N1 (preferring institutional, faith-based initiatives). In his best Bart Simpson undertone, he lazily suggested the city inspectors might have been detectives. Then he pleaded deadlines and hung up.

I replayed Bart’s last quote in my (biological) memory several times before I realized my heart was pounding. His blasé comment scared and shocked me. The Feds have the time and interest to crush secular self-help groups?

I fled to my little peninsula in the park. Getting there is half the fun—maskless, wind in my face, legs pumping. Then I take out the excellent binoculars I got from a photo supply store in exchange for some gear, or I doze on a big rock that slants to the east in the early light.

I’m happy there. Lusty, too, in a lazy way. Life feels hot and promising so far from reality.

Escape in New York

Sometimes I imagine sharing my bubble with someone who loves life intensely enough to fight for it unconditionally: A survivor with heart and soul. Showered with light, surrounded by waking creatures of like mind, I can almost feel her with me. Of course we’d wish we were at a real lake, in a real forest, really safe. Till then we’d escape to my secret world, full of wonder even as human society dredges up pain, fear, and suspicion.

I guess the Ramble’s nocturnal visitors feel the same way. They seemed creepy and exotic at first because they’re after quick, casual sex with other men at a time when I can’t talk to a pretty woman without a plastic coating. Some of the denizens wear masks, stalking the woods and paths in high Q Zone fashion.

None of this is particularly novel, reported the New York Times: In 1904 a well-dressed young foreigner shot himself at a cave by the lake, 18 years before an artist was sentenced to three months in the workhouse for trying to pick up a man there, and 25 years before The Times noted that 335 men had been arrested for “annoying women” in the park, particularly near the cave.

Whatever goes on these days takes place silently. The scariest sound I’ve heard was a vicious, hacking cough that sounded like someone was on his last cruise. I did happen upon a violent act—someone being struck by another—but it was a moonlit spanking performed for gleaming eyes in the bushes. Phone cams lit up like fireflies.

The taser I carry is for roving packs of canines, not people. I walk like an Indian, as they used to say, noiselessly rolling my feet heel to toe, one just ahead of the other. I think I learned it from reading Mark Twain.

Today I watched a tabby cat attempting to shadow sparrows in the reeds near where I sit. The kitty was trying to learn how to feed itself. It was scrawny and dirty, one of numerous feral felines I’ve spotted in recent days. That’s bad news for the lake’s residents; the toxoplasmosis that some cats shed can poison fish and amphibious creatures. (Frogs are already dying around the world from a fungus called chytrid.)

That hapless kitty was still wearing its collar and license. I trust the flu has killed its owner. If any healthy people abandoned this creature, I hope they die soon in a manner no less painful than the fate their desperate cat intended for those sparrows.

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