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Day 160: Relenza & I Go Underground

Count Blogula has much to report, some of it surreal, some scary.

The evening began with late bartering—masks for herbs. I set out for the Ramble from the West Village in high spirits. As I approached Penn Station, I noticed a vehicular armada parked on 8th Avenue, lights flashing in a way uncharacteristic of New York cops these days. I hunched with my bike against a dim porno storefront to watch the distribution of a consignment of boxes that must have arrived by rail during curfew hours.

WHAT WERE THEY CARRYING—AND WHY?When I saw the NYPD standing back deferentially, I reckoned it wise to freeze. Armed figures in blue DHS jackets were supervising lesser beings as they forklifted pallets into some trucks. The process took an hour. Ordinary folks would have done it in 15 minutes.

I had to urinate grievously by the time the trucks started off in various directions, heedless of traffic regulations. These were evidently very important boxes. I felt like the protagonist in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (the original one—watch the trailer), witnessing a shipment of alien pods. It was a dark and misty night….

When the last truck passed my hiding place, how could I resist tailing it on my old blue bicycle, in my old black clothes? WWJD? That’s What Would Jimmy [Stewart] Do? Why, shucks, he’d follow them!

The truck didn’t get far. It meandered west and north till it pulled into a parking lot near a shuttered diner on 11th Avenue. There stood a similar truck peopled by identical types in blue windbreakers that didn’t say DHS. The new guys used their hands to lug boxes from the first truck to their own. DHS merely watched. As did I, huddled by a bus parked in a corner of the lot, my bladder throbbing.

The DHS men left first, having handed off half a pallet’s worth of boxes. Their unidentified colleagues drove directly west to one of the idled party boats berthed near the Circle Line on the Hudson River. It took five minutes to shift the packages onto the vessel—enough for me to bike up, across, and down the highway to a point from which I could use my binoculars to see what the boxes said: GSK.

GlaxoSmithKline makes Relenza.

The U.S. government is thought to maintain a Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) of antivirals in 12 secret depots for use in the pandemic. This was apparently a shipment from one of those facilities. I had just watched the diversion of half a pallet to an alternate location, presumably in New Jersey.

Those boxes would each contain thousands of powder disks worth hundreds of dollars apiece on the black market. Priceless. The pictures I shot ain’t much, but they’re mine.

I cell-phoned my newspaper pal, woke him with a whisper. I was hoping Bart could track the boat, an absurd idea at 2 a.m. He said he’d ring back in the morning. Nothing. He’s stopped answering my calls. I hope he’s okay.

NYC’s warped dreamscape was hardly finished with me. When the boat had motored west and the truck driven east, I pedaled north along the Hudson.

Lust in the Weeds

Under the West Side Highway, where I’d planned to relieve myself, I happened on something no less shocking—an outdoor disco.

As I urinated in fogbound shadows, my binoculars revealed a speakeasy with lights, thumping beats, and dancing girls, surrounded by a multicultural crowd of dancers with naked faces. I heard whoops and howls and shattering glassware as people partied with abandon.

Then I detected an undercurrent of moans and grunts. People were having sex around me on the lawn and grasses by the river, a lot louder than gays do in the Ramble. Heterosexual New Yorkers are tossing caution aside, too. I wonder what sex clubs must be like. Profitable beyond belief is my guess, even after deducting for bribes.

A libidinous upsurge during the pandemic would make sense. It would mirror the activities of the particles that seek to invade us.

Influenza replicates with amazing speed. When two viruses infect the same cell, they can swap genes in an evolutionary process called reassortment; each can contribute units of the eight genetic segments needed to assemble fresh flu particles. Dr. Robert Webster, who suppressed a 1997 H5N1 outbreak in Hong Kong, calls it “virus sex” when influenza A mutates by drawing on the 16 H genes and 9 N genes in its hereditary arsenal. Reassortment is how those little piggies in my home state wound up with an H2N3 comprised of genes from birds and swine (with a dollop of humanity, too). And that was before Novel H1N1 swine flu popped up from the same hodgepodge.

Genetic Flu Passports

Dr. Henry Niman pursues a more aggressive theory called recombination, by which two moderate strains of the same virus can contribute to a new killer subtype by swapping genetic information from snippets of the same gene. Niman says this entails a quicker promiscuity, and he backs it up by posting genetic strings that detail where selected viral strains have roamed, like stamps in a passport.

At least the viral exchanges are voluntary. Humans aren’t so civilized. Tribulation Beat, the Brooklyn blog, says New York’s women are being sexually assaulted. I’ve seen nothing in the regular media, beyond reports from cities that endured sustained looting.

It could be that a greater percentage of women on the street are being attacked but that fewer are venturing out, so the number of actual rapes is falling. Or that women attacked in their homes aren’t calling the police for fear of being exposed to further potential flu carriers. Who knows what goes on in a city whose population is hiding? What would the police know or do?

This must be a prime time to settle scores, knock off enemies. How many autopsies can the city be conducting? It could be tempting to poison unloved family members with prescription medications. How many detectives would be spared to grill an unhappy couple’s contacts? Would neighbors even answer the door?

After so much skullduggery, it was a joy to reach my innocent avian pals. They fluttered happily and sang that I should let go, enjoy the rising sun and wind and critters. I sat in a bracing breeze for two hours as I contemplated what to say about what I’d seen. Now I know.

And so shall you: Save & Enter.

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