Anyone else thinking about “War of the Worlds”?

Never in my career have I experienced anything like the rapid shut-downs of events, places and spaces due to the COVID-19 (Corona Virus). I was amazed when UCSB shut down all its winter quarter classes this past Monday and are going online. Alright I thought – that’s a campus with more than 10,000 kids – that makes sense. A virus was doing this. Never thought of that possibility.

It was then the thought struck me – this is how HG Wells took down the Martians in ‘War of the Worlds’ with a virus. ACK ACK!

Around 12:30am Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom posted online a request for all events or gatherings of more than 250 be shut down. The NBA shut down, No March Madness either the players will play, but to no one in the house. No fans. No cheering, just the squeak of sneakers, grunts and a few names called between players. Surreal. A virus is shutting us down. A virus! Not in my lifetime.

Thursday, the gala events started dropping like tiaras from Princesses heads, as the local British gossip columnist would say, one after the other. In fact, he ran down the whole list to me while asking about an art show I was working on. ‘Could be you’ll be the only game in town. That could bode well.’ in his ever so perky Brit accent. Of course, he was jesting. Even the infamous 75th SB Orchid Show set for this weekend was cancelled and they had everything in place. My pal who works in radio said as he pulled into the parking lot at Earl Warren Showgrounds for a story, they had just decided to call the show off. Saw the KEYT TV senior reporter – John Palminteri – do a story from inside the hall with all the orchids on display. He was emcee for an auction they were due to have.

This morning around 9:30 am I got a call from my client with the film festival who said, ‘I’m telling you something now, but you can’t say anything yet. We have to postpone. We’re working on dates with the venues. I’ll get back to you soon.’ Sure enough in an hour I had an official statement and dates to announce for its reschedule in the fall. All-Access passes purchased for the film fest will be honored then. I called my pal, the radio reporter, left a message, sent a text in case. Shipped out the statement about postponement to my media list and the news was picked up as the outlets started to keep running lists of cancellations and postponed events. This I want to go viral.

Meanwhile the day is moving along. I’ve sent a couple e-mails to the art show folks. No reply. They were still holding on, hoping to let it go on, but it just was not smart. Finally, someone put their foot down, put in my need for a 5pm deadline to get the news to the media so it could be included on their outlets. I called them around 4, and said we need to get out there with at least 24 hours’ notice that the art show will not happen. (That’s to the reception not the opening time either). It was a very narrow escape. They got it, and by a little before 5, I had a statement.

Had my head down with another client’s work when I got a call back from the Radio Reporter. He’d been running all day, but thought he saw a note from me that the film festival was not happening. Yeah, I confirmed. The team feared we could screen the films and there could be a no-show effect. Roll film, to no audience. Like the NBA and college ball. People are self-deciding to not go out. And they aren’t letting the venues know. It would be awful for the artists and the beneficiary to not be able to reap the accolades and funds from this event. Grateful to the venues leaders for their willingness to find a time to re-schedule the fundraisers.

I’ve been shut down by cold & snowy weather back east. I would describe it as very serious weather. White-out weather. Nothing moving weather. Cancellations make sense for those. A virus? Never thought about it frankly.

Out in CA, the multiple day, heavy rains of the mid-to-late 90s I experienced up here shut down a show I was working on – rains! Ha, but it was no laughing matter. Glad my roof was water-tight because the velocity the rain hit with was impressive. I kept saying, rain has bumped my dance company out of a couple performances. A virus? Still never thought about it.

This one is total sci-fi – a virus. LA Times and NY Times calling it a ‘novel virus’ – novel indeed. We could be having this state of high anxiety for a few more months. That’ll get old soon. Most who get it don’t die from it unless they’re systems are already compromised – think COPD, asthma, I’m lucky to not have anything like these. The symptoms are like the flu – nausea, sore throat, coughing, aches. But it’s the older population with compromised health who are in the gravest danger. Younger people recover. That’s my single biggest take-away.

Sent a note to my friends in Italy – they live in Northern Italy, the Liguria region. Where they’ve been locked down in their homes. Did you read the Op-Ed by David Unger in today’s LA Times? said it was a very good example of how they are living right now.

Be careful. Wash your hands – (I can hear you, ‘oh Mo, I know’) Find the humor in this because that will get us through it. Two fucking months of this? Maybe the world needed to learn a little patience. It’s certainly dialed the rhetoric down on the political front. For that I am grateful. Can’t watch the news for very long, I get enough pings and dings on my phone about breaking news, so it’s as if I had the TV on all day.

A few days have passed since the Thursday closures started happening. Swinging back to the perennial Orchid Show – Nancy Melekian, president of the exotic flower show said in this story linkthey would take a huge hit. But they must have insurance I thought? Nope. The answer came out in this story – “We’re not covered for viruses.”

Gatherings have been brought down to 10 or less. I’m staying put at home. I can call younger friends to help if need be. I can order online where possible. I did have a month-long homebound experience a few years ago when I broke my leg. Since I have theatre background, I look at it as a rehearsal for this COVID-19 reality. A virus? I never thought about it frankly.  I will now.

BTW if you haven’t seen this seven-minute video on the COVID-19 virus… Here’s the link.  PBS Digital Show “It’s Okay to be Smart” hosted by Joe Hanson.  Brilliant.


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