Fear and Loafing in the Lopsided Land of Covid

COVID? What Covid? NFT fans party on at Cipriani 25 Broadway, with nary a mask in sight.


This is a longer version of a column published by Newsmax.com on Nov. 9, 2021. 

We live in a lopsided world gone Covid Crazy. Our country is so divided we can’t even agree on how fearful we should be of the virus that China gave us.

In Florida the fear is all but absent, and masks are passé and almost cringe-worthy, as I learned in a trip down to the Keys a few months ago. Yet Covid fear is palpable across California, where strict mandates are in place—and the seven-day case rate just soared to 113.4 cases per 100,000 people, more than twice Florida’s rate of 50.1 cases.

Oddly, political identity dictates these diverging levels of fear. California is hopelessly and fecklessly Democrat. Florida is a Republican-leaning state—the total number of registered Republican voters just exceeded that of Democrats for the first time in Florida’s history.

The latter thanks to grassroots efforts from people like @ScottPresler, the super-tall, lanky and long-haired voter-wrangler famed on Twitter as #ThePersistence.

Even people in liberal climes, however, may be tiring of the Covid crisis. Cut to Manhattan, one of the most unabashedly lefty locales anywhere in the world.

The city has been in a strict Covid crackdown mode for almost two years. Even today it forces restaurants and other businesses to require their customers to wear masks or show ID and a vax card to gain entry.

This disproportionately affects blacks because only 14.2% of blacks in New York have received at least one Covid shot, compared with almost 65% of whites.

Odd Bedfellows

A few weeks ago, in an odd intersection of warring interests, Black Lives Matter protesters joined MAGA protesters to picket outside Barclays Center, just a mile down the street from me in Brooklyn.

You can see video of the clash here: https://bit.ly/3o6zqX6

Both sides were there to support Kyrie Irving, the Nets basketball star who has been excommunicated by his team for balking at taking the jab.

A few nights later I went to a Nets home game (they played sans Kyrie Irving and lost to the Miami Heat). The long lines at the gate moved pretty fast as entrants showed their vax cards and IDs.

Barclays Center “requires” people who have had only one shot to wear their masks throughout the game and it advises even the vaxed to wear their masks, too. Almost no one that I came across complied.

And this: last Wednesday night, I went out to a networking party for the first time in almost two years. It was part of the NFT_NYC trade show for NFTs, the Next Fantastical Thing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

Artist John Dill @sliceofdill keeping up with the fashion crowd at an @NYC-NFT party.

The party, hosted by Dapper Labs and Flow Blockchain to promote a new NFT-trading platform called Metagood, unfolded at Cipriani 25 Broadway in a cavernous ballroom. A few hundred techies, artists, climbers and angel investors mingled in a frenzy and struggled to hear each other over the loud, pulsating sounds of Seventies soul, laid down by a DJ in a white, feathery top who added her own thumping bass-guitar line to the mix.

The crowd was better dressed than the typical techie hoodie types, and festooned with fashion-forward outfits. John Dill, an artist wanting to surf the NFT wave, chose leopard spots.

Their mood was buoyant and redolent with capitalist dreams. Four well-stocked bars lubricated the crowd, and people snacked on open bowls of potato chips, and rocky chunks of parmesan cheese, and still other munchies, with nary a single bottle of Purell in sight. Covid?

What Covid? Let’s just hope everyone washed their hands.

All of us had to show ID and vaccination proof to enter, and, once inside, almost no one wore a mask—except for all of the servers. They wore black masks and black Dapper t-shirts and carried silver platters of hors d’oeuvres: grilled-rare lamb chops ,tuna tartar,  bun-less beef sliders, prosciutto-tipped breadsticks, and tiny dabs of caviar on mini-pancake blinis.

It smelled great, it smelled like money.

One staffer told me that all the workers were required to wear masks, regardless of their vax status, which struck me as unfair. She was unbothered by it, citing her pay of $22 an hour at the gig and the opportunity for her to get in on this new NFT thing.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. Non-fungible means it is one-of-a-kind and can’t be reproduced. Bitcoin is fungible, and its value is based on what the next person might be willing to pay for it; by contrast, NFT value is based on a piece of artwork or digital media locked up inside the token—and what the next person might be willing to pay for it.

In May, an NFT for a digital copy of the first tweet ever sent on Twitter, by founder Jack Dorsey, who autographed it, sold for $3 million.

There is no accounting for taste.

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