Mourning in the Age of Coronavirus

The Washington Post and The New York Times and The Drudge Report and all the other media we look to every day were full of bad news on Monday, but by far the saddest thing we read was on Facebook, where we learned of the death of our dear friend Cheryl Capps at the too-young age of 64.
You probably never knew her, but if you had would have loved her, because she was irresistibly lovable. So far as we can tell everybody thought so, except for maybe a couple of incompetent bosses whose butts she refused to kiss during her locally legendary career in media and pubic relations. She was fun and funny and brutally and delightfully frank, sweet and sunny and sassy, always interested in how you’re doing and genuinely delighted by the good news and sincerely saddened by the bad, which you could always feel blissfully free to share in either case.
We’re told she died of pancreatic cancer that spread to her liver, but we can’t help feeling she was also yet another victim of the coronavirus. A couple of very excellent women we know made sure her last days were comfortably spent in a charming small Kansas town outside Wichita, but the protocols of the coronavirus prevented even her family and closest friends from dropping by to give her a loving farewell. She well deserves a funeral or memorial service attended by her many hundreds of adoring friends around here and in Arkansas, who could share in a celebration of her life and the joy it brought to the world and also share the grief they feel, but for now that’s not possible.
She won’t soon be forgotten, and at some point in the near or distant future we’ll all get together and hug one another in memory of Cheryl Capps, but for now it’s another very hard thing about this moment in time. Good people die every day all over the world, and potentially good people are born every day, but for now it’s impossible for the families and friends to properly commemorate these occasions. After losing such an extraordinarily empathetic friend as Cheryl Capps, we somehow feel both a heartening touch of all the love and a painful awareness of the sorrow that people all over the world are experiencing at this awful moment in time.

— Bud Norman

Christmas in the Information Age

Today is Black Friday, when the annual Christmas shopping season begins with bargain-hunters duking it out over some Chinese-made gewgaw or another in the store aisles, and as usual we’ll pass on the ritual. This is expected to be the first Christmas when on-line sales surpass those in the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores that you have to drive to and walk into and then interact with other people, but we’ll also take a pass on that.
As much as we resent all the current stores on the east and west sides of town for driving away Gateway Sporting Goods and Reader’s Bookstore and all the other locally-owned retailers who used to transform downtown Wichita, Kansas, into a winter wonderland during our youth, we don’t want to see them driven away by the computer or other newfangled device you’re using to read this. That would leave a lot of empty buildings, and a lot of unemployed shop clerks, and what with the drones Amazon is already using and the driverless trucks that Google is threatening to unleash it’s hard to see what space-filling businesses and jobs the new economy might offer them.
Such potentially dire economic consequences aside, the technological tectonic shift that’s expected to occur this Christmas season has a cultural effect we also don’t care for. Although today’s stores lack the personal touch of the mom-and-pop operations we so fondly recall, there’s still something to be said for driving to a store and walking into it and interacting with other people. The drive takes you past places that evoke fond memories and gives you a chance to hear the local radio, and if you don’t get hit by a car the walk across the parking lot is healthful, and maybe it’s just a Wichita thing but we find that most of our interactions with other people are generally quite pleasant and often have a very salutary effect on our mood.
Somehow, despite the crass commercialism and creeping secularism of this modern age, people always seem to become more pleasant to interact with the closer it gets to Christmas. Lay off the Black Friday sales or the Cyber Monday bargains, hunt down some fascinating shop some local oddball opened, and it might just instill some Christmas spirit. We also suggest you call your far-away family rather than texting them, and meet face-to-face if at all possible, and gratefully accept any invitations you might receive to a holiday party, and except for your daily visits here spend less time looking at some sort of screen.
There’s no fending off progress, even when it goes too far, but we’ll be damned before we go along with it.

— Bud Norman