Desultory musings

It’s a big letdown to be imprisoned at home again in Raleigh after a glorious week on the ocean at Topsail Island.  Still no air travel!

On the plus side, we were not on the coast for the arrival of Hurricane Isaias, which thankfully moved through North Carolina like a rocket, leaving minimal wind and water damage in its speedy wake.  This caricature says it all (misspelling aside):

Mask fashion flair

I am a dutiful mask wearer, both to protect myself and others.  But, you know, it’s not that much fun. At all. 

If we have to wear the damn things, then why not have a bunch of interesting masks and rotate through them? Like these babies (among ten or so I use routinely).

I list these in functional order, meaning in order of which masks stay on my face best:

Scottish plaid, made in Hanoi.

Tasteful Scottish plaid, an ironic design since it was made and purchased in Hanoi by me some years ago.  Plaid designs are popular there; such masks are everyday items on the streets to combat air pollution and to ward off sickness due to constant intermingling of human density in that fascinating city.  This mask is simple and easy to keep clean, and yet its subtly contoured design hugs the parts that bulge out on my face better than any other mask.  Bravo to the Vietnamese; they knew what they’re doing.  I think I paid the equivalent of two or three dollars for it (and probably overpaid at that). Yet it’s the best.

South African flag, made in China

Loving the Kruger National Park as I do, I had to have one that boasts the South African flag.  It’s made in China and was shipped to me from there (took five weeks).  Like the Vietnamese model, very well-made and benefits from China’s long tradition of mask-wearing to fight SARS and traffic fumes (not in that order) by having been sewn well and being form-fitting over the facial contours of chin, mouth, cheeks and nose.  Also came with three robust washable filters.  Pretty good for $20, delivered.

With thanks to Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch

“The Scream” mask from – Clever and trendy, created by independent artists and originated in Melbourne, now with offices in San Francisco and Berlin, featuring products of 700,000 artists. You can pass an entire afternoon browsing their stuff.  Not cheap at about $18.

Science doesn’t care what you believe

Science is real! Another great Redbubble design, and one guaranteed to trip someone’s trigger wherever it’s worn. Be prepared to fight, run, or argue.  I love the designs, but the Redbubble masks are not contoured to fit the jutting angles on my face.  Works, but less well than the Vietnamese and Chinese masks—the Asian-made masks are the optimal designs to fit properly and stay on. Again, about $18.

Can I help you with your groceries?

Plain green, which seems to be standard grocery store employee issue.  Sturdy and has at least some contour-sensitive features to make it stay on my face. Free.

I’m so sorry for your loss

Conservative plain black with classy discreet U.S. flag to show it was made in America for Joe Brancatelli’s joesentme “wall of business travelers”!  Great for funerals and to sport at presidential candidate rallies of either party. I loved it from day one, but is much like the Redbubble designs in wanting to slip off my nose. About $10.

Artisan-made in Raleigh

Kind of paisley plaid made locally in Raleigh; comfortable and sewn with contours, but missed the mark a bit.  The mask tends to slip off my nose over time.  $22 is steep, but I bit to buy local and support art.

A whole lot of not much

Washington Post hosted a live broadcast called “The Path Forward: The Airline Industry with Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian” that was free to anyone who signed up.  I get the WaPo through Amazon for cheap since Bezos owns both companies, and was thus alerted to this one hour discussion.

Bastian was, as always, nattily attired and coifed to look like a million dollars, which he certainly is and more (net worth over $60 million as of late last year, which, even pandemic-shrunken, is vastly more than I have).  He nearly sparkled.  Though I give him credit for not looking like a sleaze and without the whiff of a mafia boss, as do some other airline execs.

The face of Delta pronounced firm, no-compromise stances on masks (wear them or get added to the no-fly list) which I liked. He predicted 2024 or later for a return to pre-Covid levels of business flying. 

Mr. Ed repeated the Delta empty middle-seat mantra (well, at least through September, though he hinted that might get extended, depending…), and he talked about upcoming pilot furloughs that look likely.

Most interesting to me was a glimpse into Delta’s acceleration of long-term fleet plans: lots of Airbus A220s, the A320NEO aircraft, and the 737 family.  However, he failed to mention the retirement of the 777 fleet and the new dependence upon the A350 models for international routes, including the A350-900ULR to be deployed ATL/JNB/CPT/ATL. Neither did he say what was to become of the ubiquitous 757 and 767 airplanes.

Mr. Bastian was strictly replying to questions from the WaPo host, but I was still disappointed that no mention was made regarding the future of customer loyalty.  I wanted to ask how Delta plans to differentiate service to very frequent flyers and multi-million milers like me (5.4 million) as we return to the road now and in the post-pandemic flying environment.

Or maybe now “how” but “if” Delta is planning any customer differentiation to survive the plague.

Video highlights here.

Even a little road trip can be exciting

A friend sent me a picture yesterday of his midday chow at Nashville’s Loveless Café, a mainstay since 1951, saying “it never disappoints” and including a note describing his meal:

  • Fried Chicken
  • Mashed taters
  • Fried okra
  • Biscuits
  • 3 flavors homemade jams
  • Sweet ice tea
  • And of course
  • Coconut cream pie saved for pre-departure

And he ended with this critique:

  • The menu was quite reduced yesterday
  • Breakfast menu was typical
  • But Supper menu was seriously reduced
  • Supper starts at 11:00 AM
  • Tables very reduced
  • But the food and service were excellent
  • Worth a trip if you’re into southern food

Having been born and raised in Eastern North Carolina (Kinston), I’m a big fan of southern comfort food. Never learned to like collards or Brunswick stew, but most else is okay, especially finely chopped southern-style slaw, mashed potatoes, fried okra (not the frozen stuff), southern biscuits, cornbread, hush puppies, chopped pork BBQ, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, fried chicken livers, fried flounder, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fried scallops, crab cakes, deviled crabs, and soft shell crabs.

And pass the biscuits back again, please, along with the butter and blackstrap molasses.

I like that supper at the Loveless starts at 11:00 AM.

3 thoughts on “Desultory musings

    1. Richard, I bought the South African flag masks via Amazon here:

      The “Science is real” and “Scream” masks came from where you can peruse a great number if independent artist designs.

      I cannot replicate the Hanoi mask because I bought it on the street there 9 years ago. My local grocery store gave me the plain green mask, and the paisley design came from a local Raleigh artist.

      Contact Joe Brancatelli ( to see if he has any of the plain black masks

      Hope that helps! best, Will

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