Da Vinci

The practice of quarantine, first began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from the plague. Ships arriving from infected ports, really any port, were required to sit at anchor for forty days before being allowed to land. The word quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean forty days. That’s a lot longer time to wait than the two-weeks we are now asked to endure in quarantine due to the corona virus.

Just before we entered into quarantine and the rest of the world also locked itself down, we visited the Saint Louis Science Center. The featured exhibit there was on Leonardo Da Vinci. This traveling exhibit had visited Saint Louis before and we happened upon it then, quite by accident, when we had been bicycling around the downtown one day. Then it was on display in the lobby of a bank building. There was only one guy running it and we were its only visitors at the time. I think that this show is better suited to that venue and is not worthy of the science center. It is a history exhibit without any artifacts. Every single one of the items on display are replicas. Actually, they are even less than that. Most of these items that were supposedly invented by Da Vinci, were really only just sketched by him. From these drawings the purveyors of this show have gone on to fashion their interpretation of what they would look like in real life. I was so unimpressed by this exhibit that I have not bothered to write about it until now, but since we are still under quarantine and not much else is happening, news of it has finally bubbled to the surface. I guess that it is just a slow news day.

Reef Bay Petroglyphs

Reef Bay Petroglyphs

When we hiked the ranger led Reef Bay trail on St. John’s in the Virgin Islands, one of the sights that we saw were the petroglyphs. They were on a side trail, from the main one, where there were spring fed pools. Carved into the rocks were various images and symbols that we studied while eating lunch. The ranger wet the rocks to make them easier to see. The face on the left is supposed to be that of a bat and has been used as a logo by various island businesses. Most famously by the once luxurious, but now defunct resort Caneel Bay. Wiped out by a combination of twin hurricanes and bad business practices, this resort was underinsured and couldn’t afford to rebuild. The resort’s proprietor was also a tenant of the US Government and was left stranded, without sufficient time left on its lease to profitably rebuild the resort. The Native Americans who carved these petroglyphs are believe to have done so around 1300 AD. These people had already departed by the time that Western explorers arrived on the island. In another year or two the existing Caneel Bay lease will expire and a new outfit can come in and restore that place to its former glory.

For our walk today, we drove over to Tower Grove Park. If Forest Park is the front yard of Saint Louis, then Tower Grove is its backyard. Similar to what the city has done in Forest Park, where roads have been closed to cars, all of Tower Grove Park is now car-free. It being a Monday, the park was not very crowded and with its trails plus the empty roads, there was plenty of room to spread out. Once around the park was almost the perfect number of steps for us.

Spanish Flu / Pangolin Revenge

Chinese Headband with Bat Design – Made with Kingfisher Feathers, 19th Century

We walked this afternoon. It was almost fifty and I was surprised at how many people were out walking around too. Kids were out playing together. Dog walkers were everywhere. In our neighborhood, there are sidewalks on both sides and along Wydown, the main drag, there are also additional lanes. When another walker approached, we simply switched sides. Ours and others dancing in the streets was all unspoken, but I think that our actions and that of some of the other pedestrians, were obvious to all. We were able to maintain our safe social distance, but still I was concerned. With warmer weather and nothing else to do people will migrate outside in greater numbers than usual. If the epidemic progresses as it has in Italy, the authorities might even prohibit this modest release from cabin fever.

Cycle Zydeco, our planned April bicycle trip to Louisiana, has announced that it is offering vouchers for next year or refunds. It hasn’t cancelled yet, but… Our 2020 vacation schedule is quickly collapsing.

The outdoor floor show that is the water company’s replacement of the water main continues to amuse. They’ve paved over the portion of the street, where plastic pipe was laid, with concrete. Our street has always had asphalt paving. Maybe the concrete is there to protect the new pipes? What do you say, Jay?

I had a little bird, its name was Enza.
I opened up the window and in flew Enza.
— 1918 children’s rhyme

I made the mistake tonight of watching the episode of the PBS series American Experience on the 1918 flu epidemic, the so-called Spanish flu. It is freely available to watch, just Google it. It was the last year of World War I, when the epidemic began at an army base in Kansas. One day, first one soldier became ill, then soon hundreds of them did and they started dying even soon after. Unlike our current epidemic, where the elderly are the most susceptible, this flu was most deadly to young adults. This was a time, when we didn’t even know there was such a thing as a virus. This show was produced on the centennial of the epidemic, so the few people who were still alive, were only small children back then and only had a child’s memory of the events. The hopelessness that the people felt back then was horrible, but the disease burned its self out after a year or so and was soon forgotten afterwards, until this next time.

The 1918 pandemic was most commonly known as the Spanish flu. Not that this flu originated there, it didn’t, but in 1918 all of the other first world countries were at war and also under strict wartime censorship. Neither side reported their epidemics, leaving only neutral Spain to shoulder the burden and the blame. It is believed that the Corona virus originated in a so-called wet market in the city of Wuhan, China. The virus is thought to have originated with a bat, but in order to facilitate its transmission to humans, an intermediary animal is hypothesized. The most likely candidate for this intermediary is also the most trafficked animal on the planet, the Pangolin.