Covid Feuilleton #12
Though we vain transients have been in this transit lounge for six million years, we only had access to its entirety for less than a century. Before air travel, so few could circle the earth, they were basically freaks.
Of the 269 men who set out with Magellan on 9/20/1519, only 19 made it back to Spain on 9/6/1522, with Magellan killed halfway, for forcing Jesus onto some Pinoys. To this scowling ubermensch, we owe the name Pacific Ocean, yes, the one with countless tsunamis, typhoons and undersea volcanoes. One just burped loudly near Tonga.
Swarmed with YouTube travel vlogs from legions of dorks and ditzes, we forget how inaccessible and unknown the world was just yesterday. Isabella Bird Bishop, “In the winter of 1894, when I was about to sail for Korea (to which some people erroneously give the name of “The Korea”), many interested friends hazarded guesses at its position,—the Equator, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea being among them, a hazy notion that it is in the Greek Archipelago cropping up frequently. It was curious that not one of these educated, and, in some cases, intelligent people came within 2,000 miles of its actual latitude and longitude.”
Think about that, just 128 years ago, even some very bright people thought Korea was a Greek island!
With Covid and the Great Reset already locking out much of the world, it’s entirely possible an infant will grow up believing the USA is a Chinese shithole. Masked, thus oxygen deprived, his IQ is already nosediving.
The first passenger flight on a fixed wing aircraft went just 23 miles, five feet above water, from St. Petersburg to Tampa on 1/1/1914. For this, its lone passenger paid $400, or $10,500 in today’s dollars! If the Great Reset has its way, air travel will be limited to only the fattest cats.
With net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as their goal, global elites are quite open about what they want from us. In 2019, Imperial College London, Oxford and other top UK universities released Absolute Zero, which maps our future. We must cut out red meat, and stop flying, so no more airlines by 2050, they tell us.
Still, we’re not quite grounded yet. With airbnb, booking.com, half a dozen cheap flight websites, Google Maps and universal Wi-Fi, traveling is still absurdly easy, despite stressful Covid restrictions, which can change so abruptly.
After landing in Tirana on 2/4/21, though, I just wanted to linger a while. Luckily, my pad on Mine Peza was close to pleasant cafes and good restaurants, though it took a while to sort them out, naturally. The sublime Detari Fish, with its attached market, I only discovered after five months. Sitting in its semi-basement dining room with a plate of freshly caught octopus and sardines in olive oil with lemon, or tagliatelle with huge shrimps, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was, or how stupid for not walking in much earlier. It had no menu, period, to advertise its low prices. There were times I thought they had miscalculated the bill.
One had to communicate in Albanian, Italian or English, with the last two possible only if certain workers were present. Of course, one could just point to a displayed fish and say “makarona” for pasta, or “oriz” for rice. Usually, a culture borrows foreign nouns to name alien objects, such as a computer or a phone. In Albania, however, I couldn’t help but notice that some of its most ordinary and, one would think, timeless words, such as peshku (fish), pulë (chicken), fasule (beans) or oriz (rice), also have foreign roots. One must conclude, then, that before Albanians encountered Romans, they had no idea what a fish or chicken was, or what beans or rice was before they had Greek girlfriends. Sure, they might have seen a chicken or fish now and then, but since they had no name for either, chickens and fish were interchangeable.
My most regular spot was Lami’s, just 25 yards from my building. I went there maybe a hundred times to get a macchiato or cappuccino, plus, often, a pretty good burek or lousy croissant. Like most outside France, it was just croissant-shaped, but what are you going to do? Arriving there usually just after it opened at 7AM, I often claimed a table facing its open door, so I could see all the lovely people walking by. Sometimes a very spunky yet ugly boy would walk in with his mom. His fierce expression was comic and impressive.
Two young women worked at Lami’s seven days a week, with a third showing up occasionally. Despite their low-waged jobs, they spoke English comfortably, sans accent, and this was a place away from tourists. During all my visits, I may have seen four other foreigners, with one a Chinese likely from the nearby Chinese Embassy. On Lami’s logo is an Italian sentence, “Il pane è una cosa viva.” Bread is a live thing. Inside its bathroom is a sign in English, “I hope everything came out OK.” I suspect scatological humor is common in Albania, for the menu at Spaghetti Western also includes “sweet-fart beans.”
Just six weeks into my Tirana sojourn, something went wrong, and though subtle at first, it was unmistakable. Having never exercised regularly, and with a fondness for a few beers, you know, every so often, I wasn’t exactly Adonis, but with my constant walking, I was in reasonably good shape, with no history of any sustained illness, not bad for someone 57-years-old.
When I write and read too much, my eyes ache, but half a day’s rest always fixes the problem. This time, though, I had a headache that, though not yet severe, intensified even after rest and better eating. Thinking I just needed some fresh greens, I went out and got a Greek salad, but even that didn’t go down right.
Right at this time, I happened to meet an American street musician, singing in Turkish outside what’s left of Tirana Castle. Despite my groggy state, I wanted to hear this man’s story, so invited him out for a couple of beers, which we had in a pool hall just off Skanderbeg Square.
A native of Kansas, he had lived overseas for 5 ½ years. Traveling as cheaply as possible, and sometimes sleeping outside, he’d been to Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, Bulgaria, Turkey (four times), Greece, North Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania (three times). Incredibly, we had a mutual Tirana acquaintance, Julit, the travel vlogger and TV dating show star. As we drifted into politics, he told me about his experience teaching at a yeshiva, where he learnt from his students some hideous Jewish beliefs about goyim. Though I wanted to hear much more, I never met this vagabond again, for I would be shut down for a month, starting that night.
Bedbound for ten days, totally exhausted yet unable to sleep, so no rest, with my mind muddled and often hallucinating, I could hardly tell day from night. Not that it mattered. I just wanted my misery to end. At least I didn’t consider jumping out my 8th floor window. A trip to the bathroom, just three steps from my bed, could only occur after hours of stalling and self persuasion. The only ready-to-eat food I had was half a bag of potato chips and some chocolate, but, again, it took too much effort to reach them, so I ate almost nothing for ten days, not that I had any appetite. There were some juices in the fridge, which I did manage to drink, after tremendous effort. Everything was too out of reach, too difficult or too risky, including just shifting in bed, for it might amplify my discomfort, which was no longer confined to my head, but entire body. Everything ached.
Soon after the worst was over, I wrote, “My mouth was constantly bitter. I was just gross. My mucus, dandruff, earwax and even smegma proliferated.” Just to sit in Lami’s again had become my only goal in this life or any other, but it was out of the question. Grimly, though, I did manage to inch my way to a neighborhood market to get cheeses, yogurts, pistachios, potato chips, for its saltiness, I suppose, and several bottles of mixed juices. Juices and sunlight, I craved above everything else.
Sixteen days into my illness, I walked like an octogenarian into Lami’s. Since a bad illness is a debasement and rude reminder of your ultimate worthlessness, it’s not unnatural to be embarrassed, so I felt super exposed just standing in front of the glass case. Plus, I had to learn how to behave naturally again, though with all of my faculties, mental and physical, still shaky. My sudden desire to order a cherry cheesecake at 7 in the morning only increased my self-consciousness. With a most unnatural chuckle that was more like a blood and phlegm choked gurgle, I even said, “It’s not exactly breakfast food, ha ha!” Jesus, man, maybe I should have jumped out that 8th floor window.
Looking back, I’m glad I was never hospitalized, because if I did have Covid, a ventilator and/or remdesivir would have too likely killed me, as they have millions worldwide. Too poor to afford health insurance my entire adult life, I had seen a doctor or dentist just a handful of times in four decades, so I was not inclined to seek professional medical help anyway, no matter where I was.
With their maltreatment of Covid patients and/or injection of toxic jabs into the healthy, millions of doctors and nurses worldwide have become angels of death. Two years into this carnage, none can plead ignorance of what they’re doing. Of course, all those who mask, dissemble or facilitate this horror in any way, to the least degree, are also guilty.
[to be continued, of course and unfortunately]