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2020 Article Contributing Writers Pandemic

The Birth of Society’s Creativity in the Midst of the COVID-19 Crises

Written by Amanda Alysia Daniels

Creative ideas manifested into action may be deemed a survival mechanism.

In a crisis, creativity and innovation reign supreme. One becomes sparked in accessing a new path of ideas that were not previously considered. Meeting a newly developed demand whether externally or internally, requires being stirred to act. These moments are where creativity’s potential transitions into a solidified existence.

Today’s climate has initiated creativity from all walks of life by way of existing challenges in safety precautions and social isolation, due to an unrelenting virus. According to Erika Alvarez of Fremont, California, “It feels like a third world war. How do you fight against an enemy that you cannot see? It’s hard to combat something you can’t see.” COVID-19 appears to want to dominate the lives of the living while remaining undetected. However, this virus also stimulates minds into seeking a way to endure safely in a less than traditional manner.

When COVID-19 arrived, social isolation came along with it. From school and business closures to cancelled entertainment events and social connections, this virus impacted how we as humans interacted with one another. Society took to getting creative in how social distance was maintained with strangers as well as with those we love. In practicing social regulations, physical contact was strongly discouraged. What was welcomed? Facetiming. Some individuals went so far as to set “Netflix dates” by utilizing Facetime and streaming Netflix together from separate homes to continue social connections and dating life.

To keep physical distance in practice and the virus at bay, students from all grade levels and colleges attended instruction via online platforms. For example, elementary school teachers from New Haven Unified School District located in Union City, California reported to empty morning classes in order to video lectures for their students. Teachers were still teaching and students were still learning. While some classes were held online for older individuals, younger students at home required supervision and creative stimulation, like 4-year-old, Prakash Vindero of Fremont, California. Prakash was in preschool and according to his mother Indira, Prakash needed constant engagement as he grew bored easily. Because Prakash enjoyed plants, Indira created a mini garden in the family’s backyard to facilitate Prakash’s learning while also engaging him in something he loved.

Another challenge encouraging creativity due to COVID-19 was seen within entertainment venues, bars, dining, shopping, concerts, and festivities. According to, San Jose Mercury News, to further prevent the spread of the virus, California had become less restrictive on alcohol. The golden state also lifted a ban on alcohol sold through drive-thru windows. This method allowed for businesses to maintain some form of financial earnings in the wake of COVID-19, while also complying with emergency health order. With that nice alcoholic drink for pick up, arrived an alternative form of musical entertainment to go along with it, some recording artists offered in-home concerts for their fans. Hip Hop Hollywood said that Neo-Soul artist, Erykah Badu would perform a “Corona Concert” from her bedroom and would cost a $1. Another entertainer offered to Facetime interested individuals for $950. However, she was later criticized for attempting to exploit a health emergency situation for financial gain.

Further entertainment resources such as dining out for celebrations also had become impacted. Veronica Tolentino of Hayward, California, and mother of four stated that this specific Mother’s Day was celebrated with a home-cooked breakfast by her children at the family home. Esther Chavez and her family of Stockton, California appealed to creative actions when they celebrated their mother on Mother’s Day as well. Esther and family members fashioned handheld signs with flowers. They then drove by their mother’s home in vehicles and honked. Afterwards, Esther and her family left the memorabilia on their mother’s doorstep to complete the occasion. Josie Jugarap of Hayward, California could not honor the occasion of having been married to her husband of thirty-eight years at their favorite restaurant. Instead, take-out meals were ordered and their celebratory festivity with family members, cancelled.

Crises are inevitable. COVID-19 reminded society of that notion. Resourcefulness followed closely behind when a steadily increasing virus forced entertainment, work, school, store, and non-essential closures. By way of the challenges presented by COVID-19, all people were forced to think outside of their comfort zone, not only in the name of creativity but also for continued existence.

Amanda Alysia is passionate about law, justice, and truth. She is a current student of law and lover of positive vibrations and light, wherein all good things come about for the good of all those involved.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Whisky

Written by Bruce Dodson

This is the worst of times—a plague. Our leaders are confused, afraid, and often incompetent. The competents are getting fired as those who’ve seen too much fall out of windows, sometimes hang themselves, and are prone to accidents. Citizens with loaded guns stroll public places. Chances are I won’t get gunned down by some madman, but it happens every week.

This virus is a stealthy killer that can be delivered on a cardboard pizza box. The odds for me—a 50/50 chance of getting Covid. This it’s not the best time to be elderly. I’m suddenly aware of, elderly, a label for people of a certain age. I’m 85 now and admit to being elderly. I’m told to stay at home. ‘The virus will kill you—almost certain death might well be waiting on a doorknob, or airborne surfing on a stranger’s sneeze.

I haven’t left the house in months. It’s not as though I have a fear of death. I’m old, I get it. Not so many years are left, but I would rather not die gasping for breath with my face in a ventilator, surrounded by strangers in masks, and gowns, and gloves—afraid to touch me. I’ve stayed home these last three months.

Those first few weeks I rearranged the closet, cleaned up rooms and cluttered drawers. Got rid of things I’ll never use or need. I had a burst of energy, but then—these last weeks, it began to fade away. There seemed less to do and got harder to do it. Drawers have re-cluttered, and rooms need cleaning again, but I’ve lost interest. I feel lazy, tired for no reason. Nothing to do but surf the internet, and watch movies on TV. I’ve read a couple books as days grew long and boring. I can handle this, I tell myself. I don’t go out much these last years: the gym three times a week, and trips to a store for something needed. Something needed is the problem.

I’ve run out of whisky. The neighbor leaves groceries at my door now, but he doesn’t drink—an AA member who’s been dry for twenty years. I do not want to ask him to deliver booze—to put him in harm’s way, but it was nice to have a shot or two at night, end of another day. It’s been three weeks since my last drink. I need to get some whisky in the house, enough to last . . . how long? I should have thought ahead and stocked up, but who knew? Some people did. I’m elderly and slow at times—still in good health though. How long will it last? Can I afford to take the risk of stepping out into a toxic atmosphere? Is whisky worth the risk of life, my own and others I might come in contact with? I decided it is.

A trip to the liquor store.

I’ve been wearing the same sweatsuit for days and sometimes sleep in it— no need to change, just me alone here. I pull on a pair of slacks and a clean sweatshirt, then tie on a pair of shoes and notice bending is not as easy as it used to be. I find my keys and some thin plastic gloves the neighbor left; they were giving them away where he worked. I throw on a denim, Levi jacket. It’s the middle of May and still cold here. There was light snow two days ago—a typical Swedish spring.

I unlock the car, put my gloves on the passenger seat and shove the key into the ignition slot. I give it a twist. Nothing—not even a whimper of effort. I click the radio on—nothing. Battery’s totally dead. I haven’t used the car in weeks. The guy across the street has a charger, but borrowing it will mean contact with another human, one who goes to work every day. Who has he touched? Has someone sneezed on him? Who knows?

There’s no alternative. I make a phone call and Fredrik comes over a half hour later with the charger. He helps hook it up and says, “It’s going to take a couple hours to get the charge back up.” He leaves and I go back into the house to wait and look at TV news to pass the time.

I’m watching riots in the States . . . so many places, buildings burning. I change channels and watch a riot in Hong Kong, protests in England— crowds of tightly packed protesters. What about the virus? They don’t care; their cause is more important than whisky, but we all have limits to our tolerance. I go back out a couple hours later. Battery’s now fully charged and the Volvo starts without protest. It feels good to be on the road again.

I see an old lady who is a decade younger than me waiting at a bus stop. She’s a neighbor who lives alone and does not drive. As I pull over to pick her up I notice there’s’ a kid, maybe twelve years of age, sitting on a bench a meter or so from where she stands. He’s coughing directly at her, a phony cough—harassing tease. She is ignoring him, but I can see she’s annoyed. I pull over and open the passenger side door for her.

“That little bastard was driving me crazy,” she says as she gets in. She’s sitting on my gloves. The kid leaves his seat and comes over to cough on the car. I give him the finger as we leave.

“It’s a new thing idiots have taken up,” I tell her. You are not the first one to be coughed at. I’ve seen mention of it on the internet, a few times—often older people.”

“Guess it’s better not to talk,” she says. “In this closed space.” She’s wearing a mask. “You’re not wearing a mask,” she says.

“This is my first time out in months. You’re going for groceries?”

“Haircut,” she tells me.

I’m surprised. A trip to the beauty shop seems dangerous—such close contact will be greater than the risk I’m taking. We say nothing for the rest of a short ride and I let her out in a parking lot at the shopping center. My gloves are smashed flat. They were always flat, but now the sides are stuck together. It’s hard to get the damn things open, but I manage and then fumble a two kroner coin out of the cup holder and step out to feed a parking meter. I drop the coin twice while trying to get it in the slot. It’s hard to hold onto things with these plastic cloves. It seems weird to be wearing them. Paper is easy to hold on to and I leave the parking chit on the car’s dashboard.

I see a few others on the sidewalk some with masks, some not—none of them wearing gloves. Do I look silly wearing mine? The store is just two blocks away. A sudden thought—will it be open? More than half the businesses I pass are closed, but would the city dare to close a liquor store in Sweden? We are in the middle of an alcohol belt that starts in Russia and goes south as far as Denmark. There would be riots if they closed them. God, why don’t they let us smoke a joint? We’ve outlawed coffee once . . . or was it twice? We’re good at passing laws in Sweden. It’s illegal to carry a pocket knife. One of our politicians got stabbed a few years ago, so we outlawed pocket knives. Each week I see new Swedish laws about the virus, often published as suggestions. We assume people are intelligent—always a risk.

As I approach the liquor store I see a number of yellow tapes stuck horizontally to my side of the sidewalk. What the hell is this? Some kind of graffiti? Someone else’s weird sense of humor? At the door I get it. The tapes are to keep people meter or so apart from each other while they are standing in line waiting to get in. There is no one waiting at the moment. Good. I open the door wondering how many others have opened it today—glad for the gloves. There are only a few other customers inside. I make a quick saunter to the shelf where they keep the 7 Oaks. How many should I buy? How many can I carry? These damn gloves . . . I didn’t think to bring a bag.

I stick a bottle under my arm and hold two others in my hands. I move to the checkout counter and take one of the plastic bags they sell. I’ve read the virus lives for days on plastic. I’ve got gloves on, but when I get home? Should remove the bottles with my gloves on, then peel off the gloves. Then wash the bottles? No — wash bottles with gloves on, then hold the empty bag with one gloved hand and peel the other glove off without touching the exposed surface. I’m still thinking about it when the cashier motions me to come forward. The bag and bottles slide to her on a conveyor belt. How many bottles rode this belt today, all touched by someone without gloves?

The gal behind the counter doesn’t wear a mask. She smiles a cashier’s smile and I feel sorry for her, for the risk she’s taking for a paycheck — here all day with hundreds passing and short conversations, but at least she’s got a job. A lot of us do not. First of the month tomorrow. Rent is due.
“That will be seven hundred Kroner,” she says as I try to get my billfold out — these damn gloves. I fumble with it as another customer comes up behind me with no gloves, or mask. He lays what might be virus laden bottles on the belt. I finally manage to get the wallet from my pocket, but have trouble removing my credit card. The guy behind me moves in closer as I stick it in a slot and punch the keys that hundreds have pushed before me. You cannot escape this shit, but I’ve got gloves on. I take the card back and put my bottles in the plastic bag. I have a paper bag full of paper bags at home, but didn’t think to bring one.

I pass through the virus-laden door again, onto the sidewalk moving past the yellow tapes. A woman’s coming toward me, with a mask. Is she’s smiling? She has paused beside me.

“You are old,” she says.

“I know that. I’ve been lucky.”

“You should wear a mask,” she says. “Both for your own good and for mine.”

“This is the first time I’ve left in months,” I tell her.

“Right. That’s what you all say.” She moves on, not smiling. I feel sure of it.


I make it home without further incident and throw the plastic bag and gloves in the garbage, then pour a double shot of whisky from an unwashed bottle and feel good about the soothing burn as it goes down my throat. God Damn! This will not be my last time out. God only knows what’s going to happen next. Will there be glove borne virus waiting for me on the Volvo’s steering wheel?

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat living in Borlänge, Sweden. His photographs, collages, fiction, and poetry have been published internationally. His novel, Lost in Seattle is now at Amazon, and a memoir, Dearie will be available in the near future.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Rate of Diminishing Returns

Written by Marianna Faynshteyn

Rate of diminishing returns
We’ve hit a wall: what worked for us isn’t working for us
A trend is sailing across the x-axis, on a relentless tide that won’t recede no matter how many moons
Label the y trouble, name the graph current state
Indirect relationship: profit margin and overhead, money and sympathy
Have your children
But what will your children have?
Desperate women carrying babies stand at the entryways of countries they can’t pronounce
While tired VPs carrying targets stand before rows of people whose gaze they can’t meet
The parents before us belabor the importance of the things that have become invisible to them
While the parents ahead of us labor the pain of the invisible things that have grown inside of them
What are your pain points your must haves
She points to her pain and doctor says you must have
Made this up, done this to yourself
Until he opens her up and sees scars that scrape from inside her, tissue too torn to piece together
Nothing is something until it is named and nothing is still nothing until it happens to men
We’re all so tired but we can’t sleep
I set my alarm, make myself promise to bypass the snooze
Meeting starts at 9 must make the minutes in the morning count
I hear The Second Coming as I close my eyes
“Things fall apart”
“Things fall apart”

Marianna was born in Ukraine, raised in New York and has lived in Amsterdam for 5 years. She likes sad music and has strong opinions.

2020 Contributing Writers Creative Pieces Pandemic Prose

The Rabbit Hole

Written by Caroline Goldberg Igra

I grip the edges of the hole into which I was most brutally pitched weeks ago, and peer over the edge, squinting to block out the impossibly bright light of the sun. I struggle to adjust to what used to be normal and the blurry forms before me begin to take shape, surprising me with their familiarity. The world just outside is one that I recognize; indeed, it’s the very same one I left behind. Still, the idea of resuming the life I was living seems out of the question. How will I ever regain what I have lost? How can I possibly move forward, knowing what I have missed?

I duck my head back inside. It’s safe in here. I’m not sure I’m ready to venture outside. I wander through the chambers, the rooms of my home, finding comfort in what has become my new reality; each space assuming an altered significance, providing a newly-defined need. Fact is, I kind of like it here. What I was sure would be depressing, a mausoleum of lost opportunity, has become the opposite. My life in the deep belly of my home is more than a little wonderful.

I consider whether it’s really worth considering the leap beyond into the new unknown. Maybe it won’t be as terrific as everyone says, maybe it will disappoint by being the same as it’s always been. I need to figure that out. I crawl back up toward the light, plant both hands firmly, and lift my shoulders above the rim, this time taking more than a peek. Scanning the view before me, I find something new. There’s color everywhere. I hadn’t noticed that the first time, when I was still trying to adjust to the light, to focus. Yet now the spectacular rainbow of color–pinks, reds, purples, oranges, and yellows–is impossible to miss. Spring has come without any fanfare, insisting on its inevitability despite humanity’s forced absence. 

Down I go. I’m not ready. I don’t need all that color. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. In any case, I’ve managed to find my own glorious kind of color right here. My kingdom is bursting with multiplicity, shot through with brilliant points of light, heaving and breathing with discovery, exploration, connection, and self-realization. The feelings of isolation, abandonment, and mourning I’d expected when this whole journey began are nowhere to be found. In their stead is a wealth created from sheer willpower, the human need to thrive. My need to thrive. I’ve spent six weeks frolicking in worlds I’d never thought to explore, never taken the time to explore–expanding my mind, challenging my palette, breathing life into words I’d thought exhausted and reigniting connections long dormant. I’ve crossed more borders from within than I ever could have from without. This new world, one of my own design, beautifully competes with the one that is waiting just beyond, challenging its ability to make me smile and laugh; to make me want to get up in the morning. 

Again, I wonder if I’m better off staying put. It’s so hard to decide. I tap the font of renewed strength these last six weeks have provided and force myself to leave the comfort of my very own, now even more beloved, home, launching myself into the new unknown, the one everyone’s talking about, the one everyone has been waiting for. One hearty push and I’ve crossed the border that has protected me. I’m outside. The colors I spotted earlier rush at me from all sides, overwhelming me with their presence, insisting on being noticed. They’re inordinately enticing, so hard to resist. They welcome me back. “You made it!” And while, oh so tempting, exactly what I’d desperately craved when this all began, I hesitate. The magnetic pull of the richness I’ve left behind is too strong to ignore. I glance back over my shoulder at the place from which I’ve come. It’s equally appealing and holds a promise the outside world cannot provide. I turn my back on the beyond and jump back to safety. This rabbit hole is complex and twisted, flawed, and imperfect, but it’s eternally mine.

Caroline Goldberg Igra has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in international, academic art history journals, a book on the work of WWII artist J. D. Kirszenbaum (Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2013) and a novel, “Count to a Thousand,” (Mandolin Publishing, 2018). Caroline blogs for the Times of Israel.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Pandemic

Written by Ann McLean

The world as we knew it has come to an end,
The shelves are bare, no money to spend.
The markets are crashing, we are hoarding and stashing,
The airlines and cruise ships are taking a thrashing.
No handshakes, no hugs, wash your hands scrub your mugs.
No cuddling or kissing, no sharing your bugs.
Keep your distance don’t touch, just smile and stand back,
If you sniffle or sneeze you’ll cause a panic attack.
The virus is spreading all over the planet,
Science can’t stop it, slow it or can it.
Our leaders are stunned, they don’t know what to do
They thought it was just a new strain of the flu.
Trump gave the order, he’s closing the border
And Trudeau’s deflated, he’s now isolated.
Italy and Korea are locked down in fear,
China and Japan, are now in high gear.
Over in London, Boris is blundering,
How long can this last he is constantly wondering.
The media’s gone viral in a continuous spiral,
Reporting the numbers, their staff never slumbers.
The news is depressing, disturbing, distressing
When will it end, it leaves us all guessing.
How will history look back on this epic outbreak
Which shook the whole world like a massive earthquake.
Will we remember it casually, as the corona caper.
When our greatest concern was no more toilet paper.
An affluent society that has never known need
This pestilence will make us humble indeed.
We think only money, makes our world go around
This little bug has shown, he can shut it all down.
As always, our pride goes before a fall,
Our ego is big and our wisdom is small
If our world should return to it’s former normality
Will we remember the fragility of our own brief mortality
Pandemics bring change, may this be for the best.
Our human values are being put to the test.

Ann McLean is a painter and poet.