We Have Nothing To Fear (Just Kidding)

My thoughtful spot, Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona ©

Am I the only one that feels like a rabid bear is chasing me but with my shoe laces tied together, and a bag with a wolverine in one hand and a bag with a bobcat in the other, it is becoming increasingly hard to keep the panic in check?

Still, the show must go on. And so I am developing new programs and projects, revamping old ones and finding ways to use these to support small businesses, the Route 66 community and authors as well as artists. As an example, for folks with an online store I am offering to put our travel network to work for them at no charge. Links to their sites will be added to the social media network and a new section that is being developed for the website as well as applicable blog posts. I am also offering a 50% discount on advertising and sponsorship packages, even for existing promotional partners.

Folks are going to need an escape from quarantine as well as a constant stream of bad news and political BS masquerading as news. And so the weekly audio podcast 5 Minutes With Jim will focus almost entirely on trivia, history, and stories from the road. As an example, on the episode of March 22, I share a rather dark tale from the ghost town of Glenrio, Texas. “In the old forlorn ghost town of Glenrio astride the Texas/New Mexico state line there is a non-descript cinder block-fronted building with broken windows and no door. Even though the town is a favored photo stop for Route 66 enthusiasts, this building is often overlooked even though it is one of the most famous buildings in Glenrio. It was here on July 10, 1973, that Dessie Leach was senselessly murdered.”

And we have launched a new live stream Saturday morning program through our Facebook page that is archived on the Jim Hinckley’s America YouTube channel. Book and movie reviews, a bit of reading from old travel journals (Edsel Ford, 1915, Alexander Winton, 1901), lots of surprises and lively conversation. This too is being used to lend a hand in these trying times as I am offering reviews of products, gift certificates, copies of authors books or anything folks want to provide.

The weekly travel planning newsletter is being revamped. You will find the latest information about closures, travel options, online gift shops, the latest releases of both books and movies and some great offers from businesses. You can sign up on our Facebook page.

As to the panic, it isn’t the idea of a self imposed quarantine or nearly empty shelves in the supermarket that worries me. So from that perspective, as I am a beans and taters sort of fella, the only concern is for the poor folks that might have to hunker down with me, and I am partial to quiet and empty places. As to hiding from the world with my dearest friend, well after nearly forty years together we don’t have a lot of secrets and to be honest there are few things that I enjoy more than time alone with her. Still, in all fairness I suppose it might be a good idea to cut back on the beans or to take more walks in the desert.

This is social distancing in Jim Hinckley’s America ©

No, my concerns are with those families being devastated by the disease and economic tsunami that is sweeping around the wheels on the heels of the virus. My concern is for what this country is going to look like after the storm passes. After all, in spite of the crisis we seem to hold fast to our tribal divisions as a badge of honor and as Abraham Lincoln famously noted, a house divided against itself can not stand. My worries are for the Route 66 community. I am unsure how many businesses can weather this storm. Poorly informed folks sharing childish and juvenile postings on social media platforms have offended friends across the pond and kicked them when they were down. I am not sure how this kind of damage can be repaired.

Things are about to get interesting amigos. And I don’t mean to scare or panic you but it wouldn’t take much to get me to bet the bottom dollar that nothing will be the same when we get to the other side. The big question is, will we be the same.

Just A Flu

Just A Flu

The world had been ravaged and forever transformed by an unprecedented war that was in its final act. And so something as inconsequential as a bout of influenza garnered little attention. After all it was just the flu, something people dealt with most every winter. Even though the symptoms – headache, body ache, fever and dry, hacking cough – were more intense in nature, and the rate of infection was well above average, the overall death rate was relatively small. In some instances those afflicted had symptoms so mild doctors were led to conclude that the patient suffered from allergies or something similar, but not the flu. Unusual aspects of this influenza was the speed with which some victims were struck with symptoms and that most deaths were young adults.

Another reason few took notice of the influenza that was sweeping through the country and around the world in the first months of 1918 was the heavily censored wartime press in the United States, British Empire, Germany and the other warring nations. The exception was in neutral Spain. When the flu swept through the country and sickened the king, the intensity of the disease was noted in articles and editorials.

By the first of summer the disease was being experienced in most every country on earth but by mid July it was being viewed as an anomaly. A medical report prepared by the United States Army noted that the influenza epidemic was winding down. Late in the summer Switzerland was struck with a disease that had many of the symptoms of influenza but with greater intensity. And the death toll began to climb. People would feel sick in the morning, and be dead by evening. Again, it was the young adult that seemed to succumb first. On an army base located in France, in less than one week more than 1,000 soldiers were debilitated by the flu, almost 700 required hospitalization and nearly 50 died.

The pandemic that is now often referred to as Spanish Flu, and the fear it generated transformed America and the world. Factories, shipyards and offices were emptied as employees became ill, or were afraid to come to work. Public gatherings were restricted. Using the script set by the president, the Los Angeles Director of Public Health announced that, “if ordinary precautions are observed there is no cause for alarm.” Two days later as the number of cases climbed, he ordered the closure of all schools, churches and theaters, and the suspension of public gatherings. The Albuquerque Morning Journal, with a front page banner, offered advice – Don’t Let The Flu Frighten You To Death. Within weeks remote ranching and mining towns were devastated as one hundred percent of their populations were to ill to work or travel for supplies. In several instances an entire mining town would die from the influenza, just the flu.

The long term ramifications from deaths can only be imagined. In Russia and Iran, an estimated seven percent of the population would die before the pandemic ended. Robert Speer, the mayor of Denver, died on May 14, 1918. Rose Cleveland, the sister of President Grover Cleveland died on November 22, 1918. Driver Johnny Aitken who had led the first Indianapolis 500  died on October 15, 1918. Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves, the re-elected president of Brazil, died before taking office on January 16, 1919. Horace and John Dodge, manufacturers of the Dodge automobile did not die from influenza, but rather from complications made worse by underlying health issues.

In the 21st century, especially in countries with access to the wonders of modern medicine and technology, we have come to believe that plagues, pestilence and pandemics can be kept at bay or even subdued. The terror of polio outbreaks is bit a fading memory. Until the recent abandonment of vaccinations by generally rational people measles was a relative rarity. As a result, the Coronavirus that is currently sweeping the globe is rather jarring, a rude wake up call. And so it is easy to succumb to panic, fear and hysteria, especially when we have access to instant news, and rumor.

I have never been a fan of horror movies. Real life is much scarier. If you would like to read about a truly terrifying episode in history, and put the current crisis in perspective I suggest picking up a copy of The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.