The road from ruin

The Course of Empire: Desolation, by Thomas Cole

My wife Fawn and I had an argument yesterday. She’d been billed for the Covid 19 tests the county had required she take before returning to work from a mandated stay-home fortnight, which they finally had lifted after calling to tell her the results had been negative.

Her insurance rep said there was no such test taken, even though all swabs had been sent to North Carolina for lab work. Fawn suggested this would be perfect material for a journalist to jump at, an example of just how messed-up the entire testing protocol has been in the U.S. these past weeks.

I resisted. Now might not be the right time to explore such confusion, I argued. Our doctors were making decisions as best they could. In the midst of the pandemic, I had little appetite for chasing down the political ramifications of bad decisions and messy protocols. Shouldn’t we journalists instead be finding ways to lower our stress levels, to edit our interaction with such overwhelming forces of bad and/or confused news? Wasn’t the real challenge in these perilous times to rethink our approaches?


I took the dog for a drive. Milo, our 14-year old, remembered a park near a Dunkin Donuts. But its police-taped playground area, and the fact that its basketball hoops and backboards had been removed, depressed us.

We went on to a closed school’s grounds, then to an abandoned factory site by the river. The dog thought it was great.

The kid and I spoke about ruins. He said it might not be long before our ruins were as great as those in Italy.

We just have to find the will to rehabilitate them and occupy them anew, I offered.

“Right,” Milo answered. “Fat chance of that.”

On the way home we stopped back at the Dunkin Donuts for Boston Creams.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.