Report on some masketology in Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland

This is a report on the coronapanic level during a late April trip to Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland (see previous post regarding the flight itself).

First, if coronapanic ever does end, the government invites you to think about all of the other bad things that could happen and “Make an Emergency Plan”:

But coronapanic hasn’t ended. In Northeast D.C., where shootings are a daily occurrence, faith in masks remains strong (nobody has read “Correlation Between Mask Compliance and COVID-19 Outcomes in Europe”?):

Here’s an establishment serving healthful beer, wine, and mixed drinks in an environment that is perfect for spreading SARS-CoV-2 variants. They explain that they enjoyed checking vaccine papers so much that they’re going to continue doing it (“Gotta give the Freedom Fighting Anti Vaxxers Something to Whine About”) even though it is no longer required by mayoral order.

Folks in DC and suburban Maryland have so many masks that they had trouble keeping track of them. Masks were some of the most common street litter in various locales.

What about in Northwest D.C.? Here are some photos from the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood (houses: $1-3 million). First, a street dining venue that is technically “outdoors” but also reminded customers that masks are required (between bites?):

The typical shop front door had signs in both English and Spanish, often referring to a government order from July 31, 2021. Here a worker cleaning the front door wears a mask in the outdoor heat (over 80 degrees):

Some miscellaneous images from the same neighborhood.

Despite the love of mask-wearing, COVID-19 seems to be raging among the Followers of Science right now. A cousin who is a clinical psychologist in D.C. restricted her practice to Zoom more than two years ago and has barely left her house. She explained that she couldn’t meet us because… she has COVID-19 right now. Her symptoms are similar in nature and severity to what unvaccinated friends suffered in 2020, but she attributes her survival to having been vaccinated. She would share the mystification of the following tweet:

https://twitter.com/SamPogono/status/1517986960786309122

My mom (nearly 88) and I attended what was supposed to be a 100-person Bat Mitzvah celebration. The hostesses put “vaccination required” prominently on the invitation. Nonetheless, multiple D.C.-area people guests failed to show up at the last minute because they were sick with COVID. Masks were not required at the gathering, but roughly half of the invulnerable teenagers attending wore masks (for four hours straight, while dancing, etc.) while only one or two of the older people, all enthusiastic Democrats (and therefore voters for politicians who order mask-wearing), wore masks. For privacy’s sake, I don’t want to show the kids, but here’s an adult with a rainbow mask:

My favorite photo from the trip is this Toyota Sienna with a “MINIVAN” vanity plate:

Related:

  • now that everyone in D.C. has COVID-19, the public health experts who live there are willing to think the unthinkable: “What Sweden Got Right About COVID” (Washington Monthly, 4/19/2022)
  • from the same date, “Correlation Between Mask Compliance and COVID-19 Outcomes in Europe”: Surprisingly, weak positive correlations were observed when mask compliance was plotted against morbidity (cases/million) or mortality (deaths/million) in each country (Figure 3). … While no cause-effect conclusions could be inferred from this observational analysis, the lack of negative correlations between mask usage and COVID-19 cases and deaths suggest that the widespread use of masks at a time when an effective intervention was most needed, i.e., during the strong 2020-2021 autumn-winter peak, was not able to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Moreover, the moderate positive correlation between mask usage and deaths in Western Europe also suggests that the universal use of masks may have had harmful unintended consequences.

D.C.’s most powerful politician says “everyone encouraged to wear a mask all the time”:

#MissionAccomplished! (at least in D.C./MD)

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Commercial air travel in the Mizelle Age

This is a report on a trip from PBI-DCA-PBI, April 21-24. Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the Biden Administration’s mask order on April 18. (Friends on Facebook have been continuously posting reminders that Judge Mizelle is “not qualified.” In other words, a confused 80-year-old is well qualified to be President of the U.S., but a sharp-minded 35-year-old cannot be a judge.)

The PBI airport still had a few “masks required signs”:

Most of the advertising at PBI was geared toward selling real estate to those fleeing the Lands of Lockdown:

I estimate that 15 percent of the waiting passengers were masked here in majority-Democrat Palm Beach County. Contrast to a friend who was simultaneously flying SFO to EWR (he’s been a righteous supporter of masks, Biden, lockdowns, etc., but somehow is still participating in COVID-19-spreading activities such as travel) who reported 85-90 percent voluntary mask compliance at SFO and only 10 percent masked in Newark. Being in the airport was, despite the lack of audio announcements and signs regarding masks, not as relaxing as it might have been. The PA system was freed up for frequent reminders regarding unattended baggage and TSA liquid policies.

We were welcomed onto the plane by an unmasked flight attendant. The Followers of Science row was directly behind me, but even though were going from mostly-Democrat Palm Beach County to all-Democrat Washington, D.C., only a small minority of passengers chose to wear masks. (In other words, they voted for politicians promising to impose mask orders, but when given the choice won’t wear a mask themselves.)

The flight was on time and passengers, except maybe for the two behind me and their brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters in Science, cheered when the flight attendant announced that masks were optional. I witnessed no air rage.

I don’t remember any real estate ads in the D.C. airport. Here’s one for the central planners, though. All that they have to do to beat inflation is picture themselves winning:

The percentage of masked passengers and workers at DCA was no higher than at PBI, despite DCA being located right next to the twin hearts of Science (Anthony Fauci’s office at NIH and Dr. Jill Biden’s office).

On the return trip, I noticed a legacy “face coverings required” sign at DCA as well as a depressing Chick-fil-A (closed due to it being a Sunday):

Once again, JetBlue was on time and everyone was in a good mood. The lady sitting next to me had moved from Bethesda to Florida two months ago “for the freedom”. She and her husband (in “wealth management”) had returned for a wedding. They were not wearing masks.

We’re still left with a big question regarding each masked traveler. If he/she/ze/they is concerned enough about COVID-19 to wear a mask voluntarily, why isn’t he/she/ze/they concerned enough to stay home? Nobody held a gun to his/her/zir/their head and forced him/her/zir/them to travel by commercial airline or, indeed, to travel at all. The answer can’t be “an N95 mask protects against all viral attacks” because (1) not all of the masked travelers are wearing N95 masks, and (2) countries that imposed forced N95 masking, e.g., Germany, still had exponential plagues (i.e., two-way N95 masking failed to stop COVID-19 so what hope is there for one-way masking?).

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The Disney World cathedral: perfect for astronomers

One of my favorite stops on a central Florida trip earlier this month was the Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe (see also Wikipedia). It is tough to conceive of a more dramatic contrast with the theme parks. For starters, it’s free and you don’t have to wait in line,

For folks who love astronomy, this is the ultimate chapel:

The approach from the parking lot….

Once inside,

The stained glass covers the good old days when everyone got along:

Life was simpler before the Covidocracy. Moses stopped at 10 rules and didn’t revise them every week. And, although these rules were downloaded from the cloud, Moses did not claim that they were determined by Science.

Reviewing these windows makes me wonder if churches in the Northeast, California, and Illinois should be updated with stained glass panels depicting the lives of the modern saints, i.e., public health officials and governors who kept people safe via lockdown, mask, and school closure orders.

When you’re done with the cathedral, there is another church next door devoted to the god that most Americans worship, i.e., an outlet mall.

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Report on a Southern Secession (Buckhead City)

On our return from Denver, we stopped overnight in Buckhead, the rich area of Atlanta that was annexed by the city in 1952 and that soon hopes to vote on seceding into “Buckhead City.” Our local host explained that the secession wouldn’t starve Atlanta of significant tax revenue, e.g., for schools. The big difference would be that Buckhead could fund and run its own police force (see “In Atlanta’s Buckhead Neighborhood, Rising Crime Fuels Move to Secede” (WSJ): “Potential loss of the city’s wealthiest and whitest area spurs debate as officials move to address homicides and property crime”).

From what I observed, Buckhead already essentially does fund and run its own police force. The restaurant where we dined and the hotel where I stayed both had hired off-duty police officers, clad in bulletproof vests and wearing guns, to make sure that roving thugs didn’t rob all of the customers. Immigrants from Caracas, Venezuela will feel right at home.

Here’s one from the only part of Umi, our inland sushi destination, that wasn’t too dark to photograph:

Faith in cloth masks is alive and well in Atlanta. Here are a couple of signs encountered on 1/29/2022:

Atlanta adheres to the proven-by-Science principle that if restaurant customers are wearing masks when walking in the door, it doesn’t matter how close together unrelated parties sit once unmasked and talking, drinking, or eating (we saw some counter-serve places with long communal tables that were completely jammed). The FBO where we parked had the obligatory signs reminding pilots and passengers that Uncle Joe’s 1/21/2021 order regarding masks at airports applied even to the world of private planes. Nobody inside was wearing a mask, however.

Our local host was in favor of secession. In his opinion, the city government was incompetent and plagued by nepotism.

(I am not sure how Georgia can compete with neighbors Florida and Tennessee in the long run. The state income tax rate is 5.75 percent (compare to 0% in FL and TN).)

Related:

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New Orleans update

The Cirrus Vision Jet is a great machine, but one thing that it can’t do is go non-stop from South Florida to Denver against a winter headwind. We decided to stop at Flightline KNEW for fuel, muffulettas, and beignets in “The City That Care Forgot”.

After a 15-minute drive over falling-apart roads, we hit Cochon Butcher for the muffulettas and they were everything we dreamed they would be. It is counter service like Panera, but the staff check up on tables periodically, e.g., to make sure that water glasses are full and to see who wants more booze (not us!). This seems like a good system for a country where labor is scarce/expensive.

How about the vaccine papers check that resulted in a family trip cancellation? (see Karen orders two dozen beignets and a three-gallon Hurricane and “Children as Young as 5 Now Under New Orleans Vaccine Mandate” (U.S. News, 12/17/2021) and “New Orleans residents prepare for school vaccine mandate for kids as young as 5” (NBC, 1/22/2022)) It was done with a similar degree of precision as refugee screening during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. My friend was ordering while I was parking the crew car. Prior to ordering, he was asked to show a photo of a vaccine card, but not a photo ID. So the restaurant had no way to know whether the card had any relationship to the customer. I walked in from the street directly to the table and never went to the counter, so my vaccine status was never investigated.

We proceeded to the French Quarter to walk off the sandwiches and build up our beignet appetite. “Most of these people look like they’re on meth and haven’t bathed,” said my companion. The buildings and infrastructure in general seemed to be in rough shape. It was a Monday, admittedly, but the streets did not seem busy enough to sustain the shops and restaurants. Café du Monde is operating in a degraded COVID-19-safe fashion. There are no waiters. You order and pick up beignets and coffee from some ladies working behind a counter, then carry them to a table.

Nearly every shop had a significant amount of signage regarding masks. Following CDC guidance, virtually any piece of fabric qualifies as PPE. An official city poster for businesses, downloaded 1/27/2022:

A saliva-soaked bandana not only qualifies as PPE, but is officially recommended. Alternatively, if you’re visiting from New England, pack a scarf to block aerosol Omicron.

Here’s an example of some disrepair and, if you click to enlarge then zoom in, you’ll see that all of the people walking on the sidewalk are wearing masks of various types:

Voodoo is powerful enough to heal or kill people, but its magic isn’t effective against SARS-CoV-2 without cloth masks:

Hot sauce was powerful enough to propel Hillary Clinton to the forefront of American politics (BBC), but it is also insufficient in the fight against Omicron:

The physical shop behind https://www.themaskstore.com/:

How well have these orders from Covidcrats worked? From the NYT, 1/27/2022:

Cases have decreased recently but are still extremely high. The numbers of hospitalized Covid patients and deaths in the Orleans Parish area have risen. The test positivity rate in Orleans Parish is very high, suggesting that cases are being significantly undercounted.

How does this compare to our home of Palm Beach County, Florida, which is not under any vaccine or mask orders?

#CurveFlattened? Our impression was that “The City that All Recent Economic Booms Forgot” would be a better sobriquet for New Orleans than its trademark “Care Forgot.” Yet median household income does not seem to explain the mournful condition of the city:

(Is the Broken Windows Fallacy actually a fallacy? Katrina (2005) seems to have resulted in an income boost.)

Income in the New Orleans metro area is lower than in the U.S. overall, but higher than in Louisiana overall and it should still be sufficient to keep public infrastructure, such as roads, in decent condition.

Our take-away from the visit: “Covid is the least of this city’s problems.”

See also, OpenTable data from 1/26/2022 back to 1/6/2022:

The tourism-dependent cities of Miami Beach, Naples, and Orlando are much more active, relative to 2019, than New Orleans.

Related:

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What are folks reading in Boulder?

Pictures from the Boulder Book Store.

SARS-CoV-2 has achieved much more mindshare in Colorado than in Florida. Boulder and Denver are the centers of concern regarding COVID-19. As you enter the store…

The #1-selling book is The 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.”

(Black Americans may be at the very center of the United States national narrative, but I did not see any employees or customers at the bookstore who appeared to identify as “Black”)

Another prominently displayed book reminds customers that there wouldn’t be any Black or white people here if the Native Americans had been more successful militarily.

Joe Biden might be able to find his next Supreme Court nominee in the children’s section:

Speaking of the Supreme Court, AOC stands next to RBG. Perhaps my dream that Joe Biden will nominate thought-leader AOC to the Supreme Court is shared by others?

(Fortunately, no Deplorable had snuck in to set up a Willie Brown action figure next to Kamala.)

The best way to deal with climate change is stoned and drunk:

If you need pocket-sized constant inspiration:

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Karen orders two dozen beignets and a three-gallon Hurricane

One of the things that I have always appreciated about New Orleans is the city’s commitment to public health, e.g., ensuring that visitors are adequately hydrated (“This Trendy New Orleans Bar Serves Gigantic 3-Gallon “Hurricanes” Filled With Rum”) and provided with nutritious low-fat gluten-free vegan muffuletta sandwiches.

We told neighbors here in the Florida Free State about our plans for a family trip to New Orleans over the Thanksgiving school break (a whole week for young scholars in Florida). “You know that they’re checking vaccine cards before you can get into restaurants,” was the response. We had some trouble believing that New Orleans would follow San Francisco and New York, but our neighbors’ information was confirmed by “Vaccine mandate: Which places will require them; how will it be enforced?” (August 12, 2021):

New Orleans residents and out-of-towners will now require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, music venues and many more places.

In New Orleans, you’ll need proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test to go to bars, restaurants, performance venues, stadiums and large outdoor events.

Proof of vaccine should be checked before individuals are allowed to enter the building. Businesses can use the LA Wallet App’s “VerifyYou Pro” function to scan patron’s digital vaccine cards.

Do I still need to wear a mask? Yes, the entire state of Louisiana is currently under a mask mandate and even with your proof of vaccine, you will be required to wear a mask while indoors.

That was August, in the midst of the southern “case” wave. What about now? “NOLA Bars and Restaurants Will Require Vaccine Proof for Entry Through Mardi Gras” (11/16/2021).

It is possible to do some sightseeing without showing papers. The art museum, for example, requires masks, but checks for vaccine status only if people want to get food. Nonetheless, the idea of showing papers several times per day turned out to be a deal-breaker for one member of our family: “Why don’t we just stay in our Florida bubble?”

Readers: What are your Thanksgiving plans?

(above photos: from LEGOLAND, Carlsbad, California, 2005)

Related:

  • “Florida Gov. DeSantis Signs Bills Limiting Vaccine Mandates Into Law” (NBC, 11/18): DeSantis signed the package of bills during a news conference at a car dealership in Brandon, Florida on Thursday. … “I think that Brandon, Florida is a great American city,” DeSantis said, as some in the crowd of about 250 supporters chanted “Let’s go Brandon.” … Additionally, it bars schools and governments in the state from having vaccine mandates and allows parents to sue schools with masking requirements. [See video below for the gal that Palm Beach County might not want to mess with.]
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Maskachusetts trip report

I returned to Maskachusetts at the end of last month. My first impression of the city was surprise at how much trash was allowed to accumulate in the corners of Logan Airport parking lots and how many marijuana shop billboards are now lining the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90).

It rained almost every day for a week, often heavily, with temps in the 50s. “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.” does not seem to be applicable to fall foliage:

We flew up to Manchester, New Hampshire in a friend’s Cirrus. The FBO and a local camera shop (Hunt’s) devoted some signage to our current Vietnam War:

A college in the Boston suburbs tries to keep the infected barbarians outside the walls (“Campus Access Restricted”):

Wellesley College had similar signage. Speaking of Wellesley and signage, I visited a family at their $3.5 million house in Wellesley. Across the street:

Unrelated, a sign in their kitchen:

Speaking of $3.5 million houses, I visited a friend at his $3+ million place in Brookline. His kids lost more than a year of education, but the good news is that they no longer have to exhaust themselves to get to a marijuana store (“essential” according to the Covidcrats and, therefore, open throughout coronapanic). Right around the corner:

I visited the Museum of Fine Arts and determined that our apartment would look a lot better if IKEA would start making Ettore Sottsass‘s Carlton room divider (1981):

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The vaccinated white elite are forced to wear masks inside the museum by order of Boston’s mayor. They’re also required to wear masks while walking up the driveway, by the museum itself:

There are numerous reminders inside the museum regarding the mask requirement. Example:

How can the vaccinated white elite put together an exhibit on Blackness? Have local high school students do the curation (this exhibit opened in January 2020, shortly before the schools for those curators were shut down for 1.5 years). It is nice to see an art museum take a firm stand on the Debian vs. Ubuntu question:

Here’s some of the work by a teen curator:

(Of course, Black literally is a rainbow color in many variations of the Pride flag.) Speaking of the Pride flag….

Humans come in a rainbow of gender IDs, the museum would like to remind us, but only one gender is entitled to space on the top floor of the newest wing:

Since the MFA is in Massachusetts, of course there is a section curated by Elizabeth Warren:

What if you get tired or feel sick while you’re at the museum? Just step outside and there you will find all of the information that you need to have essential marijuana delivered into your hands:

The ad, direct mail copies of which had piled up in my Harvard Square mailbox, raises a deep question: As noted above, marijuana is officially “essential” according to the Maskachusetts governor and therefore marijuana stores had to remain open while schools were closed. In light of this status, when doesn’t life call for cannabis?

Not everyone agrees with being stoned 24/7 (airport souvenir shop):

After the museum, it was off to visit friends in Newton, a suburb dominated by rich white heterosexuals. Based on their signage, they’re most passionate about the BIPOC and the 2SLGBTQQIA+, but they apparently are happy to pay $1-2 million extra for a house in Newton (compared to house prices in neighborhoods that are diverse) so that they don’t have to live anywhere near those people.

Based on the sign, what is “the Faith”? Is it Christianity, to which the church nominally adheres? One might say “no” because there is no cross or other symbol of Jesus on the sign. But there is a rainbow flag. So perhaps “the Faith” at this church in Newton is faith in Rainbow Flagism.

On arriving at my friend’s house for a planned outdoor walk, his wife asked through the screen door “Are you vaccinated?” Her next question was “Did you get a booster yet?” Later she asked what has become today’s conventional test of faith: “Are you going to get your children [youngest: 6] vaccinated?” She then lamented that her 4-year-old was too young to qualify for the sacrament of vaccination against a disease that kills 82-year-olds.

I visited CVS and found that they were seeking to hire more workers while simultaneously promising those workers 8 hours of mask-wearing time:

If you take the job, you won’t be working with a lot of coins:

Because obesity is a minor problem in the U.S. compared to the horrors of COVID-19, the health-promoting pharmacy maintains its mask vigilance while simultaneously offering ginormous chocolate bars on a “buy 2, get 1 free” basis:

Even at 6 am on a Sunday, Logan Airport was mobbed and my JetBlue flight was full. Note in the pictures below that more than half of the gate agent’s computer screen is devoted to “Federal vaccine mandate” (deadline: January 4; why not January 6 to coincide with the one-year anniversary of The Insurrection?)

The flight was jammed. As on the flight up, almost everyone was simultaneously demasked after every cart-based beverage service. When people struck up conversations, I would see them pulling their masks away from their faces to be heard. A woman who was at least 40 lbs. overweight had purchased all three seats in the row next to mine so that she wouldn’t have to sit right next to someone infected with SARS-CoV-2. As usual, I wondered why someone who was that fearful of COVID-19 was (1) on the plane in the first place (travel is almost always optional and, certainly, Florida and Maskachusetts are connected by highway), (2) unable to lose weight during the 19 months or so that we’ve known about COVID-19’s tendency to kill the obese. Staying home and shedding pounds are the only proven methods for avoiding infection/death by COVID-19. Why don’t people who say that they’re afraid of COVID-19 take these steps?

The Nest of Billionaires (in Palm Beach, median condo/house price $1.5 million and up 23 percent over the last year (but that’s not “inflation”)), about to get a super sweet tax break from the Democrats when the SALT deduction comes roaring back and they can write off their staggering property tax bills (this house next to Mar-a-Lago is hit for $226,667 per year):

Confirming the assertions of Bostonians that Florida has been taken over by the Devil:

(This particular devil actually said, “I’m a rampie,” but the Devil is famous for deceiving.)

I asked the flight attendants in both directions if it bothered them to wear a mask all day at work. “I hate it,” one said. “And since I live in Florida I’m not used to it because I never have to wear it at home.” Had flight attendants quit because they were tired of 20 months of masks during 14 days to flatten the curve? “Not that many,” she replied, “but the vaccine requirement will cause more people to leave.” She was in her 20s and did not want to receive the sacrament of vaccination, citing her low risk of severe COVID-19 balanced against concerns regarding the unknown unknowns of the new medicine/religion (an entirely reasonable perspective, given her age, according to my medical school professor friends, though they’re mostly old and want the vaccine for themselves).

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Disney World during Code Orange coronapanic

Trigger warning: This post includes a description of a 911 call with screaming.

Most of the U.S. was at Code Yellow for about 8 years and aviation was at Code Orange under the Homeland Security Advisory System. I think it is fair to say that the U.S. is now at a semi-permanent Code Orange level of coronapanic with a “high” level of risk and community spread. Although the attitude of the typical Floridian is close to Code Blue (“Guarded”), Walt Disney World tends to reflect the national level of panic.

We visited on a weekday in September and chose Magic Kingdom because we were towing 6- and 7-year-olds who had never been to any big theme park.

You’d think that the park would be fairly uncrowded. Our government wisely excludes Europeans from vacationing here. For for all of the beloved PCR machines on the planet would we want to take the risk that 4 infected Germans coming off an Airbus might spread COVID-19 to the 11,000 Haitian under-bridge migrants who recently arrived to live here permanently (NBC: “Customs and Border Protection does not test migrants in its custody for Covid unless they show symptoms.”).

Disney discourages visitors to some extent by requiring a reservation for a specific date in addition to a ticket and also by limiting the number of visitors per day in each park. I had some complimentary tickets from a cousin who works at Pixar and had to wait 1.5 hours on hold before I could talk to a human capable of making the required reservation (this is the main reservations line; why are they backed up if Europeans are excluded from the pool of potential guests?). The process is easier if you’re buying tickets on the Web, but you’ll have less flexibility than in the pre-coronapanic days.

The above factors, plus the chosen September weekday, meant that the park was mobbed rather than insanely mobbed. Most rides had waits of only 5-20 minutes (the FastPass system was gone and the new Genie+ system not yet available), with a handful at 35-50 (Peter Pan, the mine train).

(According to #Science, COVID-19 is a sufficiently serious public health issue that schools have been closed (for 1.5 years in our big cities) and/or children are made to wear masks 7 hours per day while also forgoing normal interaction (American kindergarten is now set up more like high school detention; kids must sit at their individual desks and not get close to other kids… while also wearing masks). If we are losing life years, contrary to Social Security and life insurance financials, the only sensible #Science-informed policy would be a presidential order shutting down all American theme parks. Pulling together 200,000+ people per day at Disney World (all four parks combined) means pulling together people in airliners (most of the folks we met had flown there), in restaurants, in hotels, etc. Even if they don’t get infected while on a roller coaster, they’re a lot more likely to get infected than if they’d stayed home, which remains the best demonstrated method of cutting one’s infection/transmission risk (our best vaccines can cut infection/transmission in half right now?). As a society we’ve determined that it makes sense to deny an education to millions of children if just one life can be saved. Shouldn’t the same logic apply to theme parks? If child can wait 1.5 years to learn, why can’t adults and children wait until the pandemic is over to ride a roller coaster?)

Getting to the park from Jupiter/Palm Beach involves a trip “through the middle of nowhere” (7-year-old) on “Florida’s Turnpike” (something that belongs to the people rather than to the state government?). There are signs reminding drivers that their toll dollars are at work, corresponding to signs on local roads and near schools about tax dollars being put to work. The Florida state government is grateful when citizens pay! The boys enjoyed the numerous billboards for Machine Gun America. The rest stops don’t have a “masks recommended” or “masks encouraged” sign on the sliding doors. Instead, the space is used to encourage people to come in and buy a SunPass (like an EZ Pass). Inside, visitors are reminded not to drink from the toilets (useful in case a literate dog comes in!):

Since we’re back to Code Orange rather than in full Code Red panic, Disney imposes an indoor-only mask policy:

To address fears of disease being spread by surface contamination, Disney has installed hand sanitizer stations throughout the park. With the attention to detail that you’d expect of a business operating in a country that has to buy all of its integrated circuits from Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan, 90 percent of these were empty by noon and we never saw one being refilled.

What about the 911 call? Was that because of the empty hand sanitizer dispensers? After all, quite a few state governors and local government officials have declared that COVID-19 is an “emergency”. In fact, the 911 call was my iPhone’s own decision, apparently, spurred somehow by the restraining bar on the Space Mountain roller coaster pressing against my front pants pocket. The 911 operators would thus have heard 4 minutes of screaming and muffled struggle. “What’s Your Emergency?” can be answered in so many layers when one is at a theme park with kids….

(Photo above from Loxahatchee Ice Cream Company, Juno Beach, Florida.)

You wouldn’t guess from looking at the visitors, but it is difficult to obtain food inside Magic Kingdom. Tables at the sit-down restaurants had been booked weeks in advance. What you’d think would be fast food restaurants required mobile ordering in advance and then there weren’t enough places to sit once you got your food. I am not sure what stops Disney from building up an extra story or two and adding restaurant space. My idea for a new restaurant would be “Elizabeth’s” and you’d take the “Injun Joe” raft to get to the Elizabeth Warren-themed diner next to this already-built representation of her ancestral village:

(How is Disney able to still run a boat named “Injun Joe”?)

The fireworks show started at 8:15 pm. We got back to the car by about 9:15 pm, having caught one of the massive ferry boats (packed and with nobody wearing a mask since it is “outdoors”). The boys slept in pillow nests in the Honda Odyssey, mostly reclined, but it got me thinking about how it would be nice if there could be a restraint system for minivans in which young passengers could sleep horizontally and still be protected in the event of a crash.

Related:

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TWA Hotel at JFK

This is a report on a June 23 visit to the TWA Hotel, a conversion of the former TWA Flight Center terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen and used from 1962 through 2001. Essentially two big new apartment/hotel blocks were built and the preserved portion is used as the lobby.

If you don’t mind paying $200 to park overnight, the best way to arrive is by single-engine piston airplane. Once the controllers stop laughing, taxi to Sheltair, chat with the helicopter taxi pilots, and the line guys will give you a ride to the hotel.

Try to schedule your visit for a day when the airport is using the 4/22 runways. The pool and the “runway view” rooms overlook 4L/22R, with 4R/22L behind. The action won’t be all that dramatic if the 13 runways are in use, but there is a reasonably good view of 31L. We visited when the 13/31 runways were closed for most of the day (painting?). It irked me slightly that I had to land the Cirrus in a crosswind gusting 20 knots when the airport has a 14,500′ runway oriented straight into the wind, but we were rewarded with a great afternoon and morning of plane-watching.

The hotel celebrates everything that was great/groovy about the 1960s. You won’t learn about the Vietnam War or the Great Society programs that have turned roughly half of Americans into government dependents (not to say “on welfare”!). There is an awesome car collection, including a Lincoln Continental with suicide doors, a Chrysler Newport, a Fiat Jolly, and an Isetta.

You’ll want to buy a reservation in advance to use the rooftop pool on the afternoon of your arrival (it is open to everyone from 7-10:30 am). When it is time for dinner, walk through the lobby to get to the restaurant (great food, stretched-thin service, reasonable (for NYC+airport) prices).

The hotel is tremendously fun for kids, with surprises in a lot of corners. Play Twister, visit Eero Saarinen’s office and drafting table, sit in a 1962 living room, sit at Howard Hughes’s CEO desk.

How about the rooms? Here’s ours before we trashed it (the kids are like 1970s rock stars, but without the musical talent). Perhaps 1/2 to 2/3rds the size of a standard Hampton Inn room. Note the Saarinen Womb Chair ($1000). There is no coffee maker in the room and no room service is available, so consider bringing some cold brew and keeping it in the mini-bar fridge (empty).

Can you run a hotel without bothering to answer the phone? Sort of. As an experiment, I called the hotel prior to arrival and waited on hold until a human answered. 50 minutes. From the room, however, dialing 0 for the front desk, as the rotary phone suggests one do, never resulted in any contact. This proved to be a problem when two dogs nearby embarked (so to speak) on an extended barkfest starting around 9:30 pm (past the sacred bedtime for our boys!). Senior Management was forced to walk down the hallway, go into the elevator, walk through the connector tube, and talk to the front desk in person. She was informed that the hotel didn’t have enough staff to figure out from which room the barking was emanating. Therefore, it became the guest’s job to explore the floors above and below our room. (We determined that the dogs were in the room just above ours, then went back to the front desk to report. The dogs’ owners were reached, but apparently they couldn’t make it back to their room so the situation continued until midnight).

(Other U.S. hotels seem to be on the same plan. I recently stayed at the Hilton in St. Petersburg, Florida and one of the members of our group waited on hold for nearly an hour, calling from the room, to reach the front desk.)

Speaking of noise… the windows are marvels of acoustic engineering and hardly any noise from 22R makes it into the room. Isolation from other rooms and the hallway is not as good, however, as we found out when listening to the canine chorus.

What about the level of coronapanic? The airport’s official site, June 22, 2021:

Due to ongoing health concerns regarding COVID-19, as of Friday, March 20,2020 concessions are only offering grab and go and takeout options, consistent with the latest New York and New Jersey directives. Food courts remain open, but we remind passengers to follow social distancing guidelines and to maintain at least 6 feet of separation between other guests. Many retail stores in the airports have closed. Please note that concessions are adjusting their hours of operation and opening status on a daily basis, and so we cannot guarantee any specific concessions or eateries will be open.

A minimum of 16 months to flatten the curve because 15 months plus vaccines plus PCR tests for nearly all passengers plus masks weren’t sufficient?

From the reservation service used by the hotel restaurant:

Per NYC indoor dining guidelines for COVID-19 safety, all guests will be required to have their temperature checked with a reading of 100.00 degrees or less and must provide a contact name, number, and mailing address prior to entering the restaurant as well as wear a mask at all times when not seated at their table.

Even if you want to read about how wise Dr. Fauci is, you can’t do so. The reading room has been closed for 15 months, but that’s “temporarily” and they “look forward to welcoming [us] soon”. Given the postage stamp sized rooms, it is a shame that any of the common space is sealed off.

Gym showers will be disinfected after use, in case surface contamination turns out to be a significant source of COVID-19. You will be protected from the hazard of drinking fountains by using these dangerous devices only to refill water bottles.

The actual gym is huge, perhaps 5X the size of what you’d expect. Nobody inside the gym actually cared about his/her/zir/their health, apparently, because nobody was wearing a mask (consistent with Manhattan customs, roughly half of the folks in the lobby, hallways, elevators, etc. were masked).

Taxiing out… (photo taken by a 7-year-old)

Summary: It’s a fun experience and well worth the $$ (about $500 for the room, pool reservations, dinner, breakfast for two adults and two kids; let’s try not to think about what it cost to run the Cirrus SR20!). We were not even done with the first day before the kids asked when we’d be coming back.

Sad contrast: The JetBlue Terminal 5 that has replaced this magnificent Jet Age building functionally. It is huge without being inspiring, packed with dispirited people being hassled every minute or two with signs and audio announcements regarding masks, and features long lines, e.g., for security. On the plus side, the kids enjoyed riding the AirTrain around all of the terminals!

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