A Possession of the World

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank opened its doors yesterday to a mile-long line of cars. Offering fifty pounds of food, no questions asked. Note to self: the asteroid is coming, get to foodbank early. If you’ve never been in a needful situation like this, set your imagination on crazy. The rivers run red with fear. The fear of the unknown and the uncharted, the unhappened the inescapable truth. I love my brother but will kill him for the last can of pork & beans.

One day my grandfather took my father down to the railroad depot to pick up a fifty-pound sack of Mr. Hoover’s cracked wheat. The mood was a foul as the line was long. A lot of rachet jawing going on as these men were in dire straits. Fifty pounds of cracked wheat was no picnic, you could bake bread or make cookies, if you had the butter and the sugar. The one thing you couldn’t make out of cracked wheat was a meal. Like someone giving you a ride halfway home, thanks for the effort. Anyway, two men were tossing down sacks from the back of a flatbed truck, and they were tired and surrounded by a crowd of angry men. Someone didn’t like the way that sack was thrown down and thought it disrespectful. Words were exchanged, and the mob sacked the truck.

Like the ghost to Scrooge, you’re going to see a lot of peculiar things around here. I was cleaning up my urban capsule with the news on. “Trump proposes two trillion-dollar infrastructure stimulus.” I was stunned as I said to myself haltingly, that’s a good idea. That’s exactly right! Donald Trump said something that was absolutely unmistakably correct. The broken clock rule proven true, but I knew then for certain that the polarity of the Earth had shifted. I was agreeing with Donald Trump, and that frightened me. Blue cows and green skies, waving mountains and purple wheat majesty coming up!

Then during his daily infomercial, the Cheeto was somber and serious with the pain of a high roller who just crapped out on his face. He appeared almost a sympathetic character, almost what’s the word I’m looking for…human? It reminded me of the time I saw Miss America in the Macy’s parade. It was a cold windblown day. Wet snow coming down in gobs. Miss America in an evening gown and a cape in no way attired for winter was trying to smile and wave her scepter as the snow stuck to her crown and soaked her hair trying to look happy in a situation which obviously sucked.

I worried for the Cheeto, when the Cheeto tells the truth. I have a sudden impulse to run blindly into the night. To try and run as far away as I can before the bomb goes off. It was almost reassuring when the orange one began to lie and heap cheap praise on himself again.

You know one of the greatest ironies of Wall Street is their façade of stoic certainty. Charts and graphs and computer models, statistics theories and history of. But looking out the window from the stock exchange in Manhattan they could see that line of cars way off in Pittsburgh. They’ve been living in Pollyanna denial. It’s not that bad, it’s going to be alright. This disaster wasn’t caused by inventories or fiscal policy, it’ll come right back, there’s no reason it won’t come right back. The other day they mentioned that the market had risen the most in one day since 1931 and I jumped in my seat. That period was called, the road to the bottom. The stock market had already crashed, and now the economy was slowly bleeding off. The weakened wounded businesses and the hangers on were slowly closing their doors.

Like a toddler losing an ice cream cone, they cry and stomp their feet at the realization that the world is turned upside down and burst and there is nothing anyone can do about. The bubble of their delusion pricked by the image of hungry Americans lined up for a mile as the markets begin their bleed off.

It was only later, when I heard a doctor put some figures in the calculator that I began to understand what the orange ape was braying about. Three hundred and fifty million Americans and somewhere between forty to sixty percent of whom will actually catch the virus. That’s one hundred and sixty million Americans and if one percent of those Americans die. That is at a minimum, one point six million Americans. The death rate from Covid 19 in China is two-point three percent, in Italy it’s seven point two.  The Cheeto has told the biggest whopper of his career and it’s all down hill from here. That moment when the roller coaster reaches its apogee when fear says no, but the padded steel bars and seat belts counsel commitment.

John Biden phoned in from the house to let us all know he’s still out there and that Donald Trump isn’t doing enough to fight the virus. Thank you, Captain, Obvious for that stunning revelation. No, Trumps isn’t doing enough, nobody could. Trump knows now why he was invited to the gang bang. West Texas crude slipped beneath twenty dollars a barrel, and the barrel cost more than that. A price that goes back to the 1960s when a Coke was a dime and a meal at McDonald’s cost less than a buck.

Economists forecast a 25 to 30 percent hit to the GDP with unemployment reaching 20 percent. But the figure is misleading. It’s not across the board, Brentwood, California, might be 8% while Los Angeles is 30%. As Twain called it, “Lies, Damn lies and statistics!” Like a fever or that first cough, a mile-long line of cars says more than all of the world’s economists put together. It knows more than all of the economists put together and warns more than all of the economists put together. I relish the days and nights locked in my urban capsule for they are inside. Inside, a place of warmth and comfort. Inside, a world of possession versus outside, a possession of the world.

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