I'm speaking here with Massimo Bevilacqua, of Rome, Italy, my friend and Italian tour organizer. Massimo organizes summer musical tours for me in Italy and Switzerland. Since the outbreak in Italy, his country has become one of the hotspots for the novel coronavirus. I started discussing it with him Monday, March the 8th.
"Well, our schedule doesn't look as sure as it did last year because of this coronavirus, amico. Do you think we'll be working together this summer?"
Massimo replied, "I'm going ahead with scheduling because July is still far away, so we still have some chances, but on the other side, we are living here like in a horror movie."
The next day, March the 9th, we resumed the conversation. The coronavirus had suddenly become a very real thing for me personally, and I told my friend-- il mio amico e il mio organizzatore-- about why.
Back on Saturday the 7th of March, I was playing a breakfast-time show at my restaurant, the Bluesberry Cafe, here in Clarksdale, Mississippi, my adopted home for more than 10 years now. I began to notice a post-nasal drip, which a good showman can turn to his comedic advantage, but which nonetheless is generally an inconvenience.
By the time I first talked to Massimo on the 8th, I knew I definitely was running a fever, which I had not done since 1995, the last time I encountered the Flu. And although I smoke, and acknowledge a certain smokers' cough, it was more persistent than usual.
Now, I had to go to my health clinic to renew a couple of prescriptions anyway, but thinking about it for a moment, I reflected on what the symptoms were, and what the time period was since I had spent 4 days in Paris and a town southwest of there. The symptoms matched reports, and the time since my stay in France was just right for the incubation period.
So I told Massimo about what happened next, and in return he gave me a lot of first-hand witness as to the difficulties Italians are facing, At length he was by no means complimentary of his own people in regard to their attitude toward curbing behaviors and public manifestations that bring large numbers together.
I told Massimo that I had just been advised that I should self-quarantine because of my trip to Paris for 4 days, shaking hands, embracing and speaking with many fans, often giving the traditional two-cheek French greeting kiss, the biso. My musician friend Max (he is my Rimbaud, I am his Sartre) has a new magnificent fiancee, and we spent the day off I had after the main performance visiting friends of his down toward Amiens, drinking French wine and eating haute cuisine.
It was a lovely and successful trip. The benefit I played,"Huit Heures Pour Les Victimes de L'Agent Orange"("Eight Hours for the Victims of Agent Orange"), raised thousands of Euros toward the suit a Vietnamese-French woman is bringing against Dow Chemical Co., Monsanto and other American corporations responsible for the production of polychlorinated hydrocarbonate herbicides, most prominently the herbicide cocktail Agent Orange, unavoidably carrying the byproduct of dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo(para)dioxin).
Dioxin is responsible for the poisoning of the Vietnamese land and water, and a continuing toll of deaths and birth defects among not only Vietnamese but among soldier-citizens of various nations including the USA who had lived, worked and fought (as I did) in the heavily sprayed areas.
But now, the trip had devolved to this: "On Wednesday," said the clinician who examined me first, "the proper testing equipment will arrive in Mississippi," though he did not know how soon the equipment would be deployed in Clarksdale.
So Monday night I spent at home, cooperating with the abundance-of-prudence attitude which the health authorities were responsibly taking, even though I missed a fun birthday party for the waitress at my restaurant/night club.
Now, I've really never been given to brooding about threats posed by this disease or that. But suddenly, this COVID-19 virus, like no other disease I had ever considered, was up close and personal to me.
I continued to discuss it with Massimo Bevilacqua: "I'm quarantined till tomorrow, and I can't go out and vote in the Democratic Primary."
Massimo said, "Here in Italy, as you maybe read, we are stuck in the country, we can't go in or out."