Thomas Balzac
13 min readMay 6, 2020


/“It’s killin’ folk in nursing homes/
African-Americans and the poor”/

“The Coronavirus Blues (‘What do you have to lose?’) — in B/Maj-7th

Thomas Balzac had never composed a funeral dirge and now he must do so for the hundreds of thousands in the world who are fast succumbing from complications of SARS-CoV-2 (“Coronavirus”) which suddenly and evilly enslaves humans as their host and has already caused 8,000-plus deaths in America up to today, Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Balzac is sure that he, too, is going to die in about seven weeks from so-called COVID-19. The old music composer had been exposed by “social contact” long before society realized being less than 6-feet away from other humans (“social-distancing”) is required to prevent the virus from transmitting to the lungs.

“I got them Corona Virus Blues/“They say ‘what do you have to lose?’/…”

Moreover, Balzac is considered “compromised” due to having 7 broken ribs which he suffered 7 weeks ago in an accident while stupidly chasing-after his cat, Josephine; to whom he had attached a leash and collar, and from which she, almost immediately, escaped during their first “walk” a short distance outside the ancient-but-restored courtyard servants’-quarters where Balzac, Josephine and Tarzan are hibernating during the pandemic.

The artist leaped to catch Josephine before she escaped, tripped on the base of a planter and landed, latterly, onto the sharp edge of an old-brick flowerbed, breaking 7 ribs all lined in a row on the left side of his body….

“The artist leaped to catch Josephine before she escaped, and tripped on the base of a planter…”

The virus is dropping humans like flies. Balzac wishes he were not bitten, but suspects he is; thus, he is preparing to die. He will need more than 7 weeks, however. “‘Seven weeks, seven ribs’ — must be a song there somewhere!” the composer jests. He picks up a classical guitar….

More than 1,000 COVID-19 patients died today in America. 8,300 died since about two weeks ago.

“People are stubbornly NOT staying home and the tide will NOT at all be stemmed!” Balzac is fiercely preaching to JB. But his sidewalk-astronomer friend is too preoccupied drawing the moons of Saturn as they traverse the planet. JB, who in the day works as a portrait artist at Cathedral Square, is wearing the military-grade respirator mask he was issued in Vietnam.

JB Brown returned from Vietnam and used his saved-up combat pay to purchase a Meade 12-inch reflector telescope and follow in the footsteps of an elderly “sidewalk astronomer” who had recently passeed-over to the other side, leaving JB an opportunity to continue the public service.

Nevertheless, Balzac continued his rant. Nobody is around the telescope tonight — not because of the “distancing” situation but because, these days, very few locals or tourists are motivated to view the stars at 3 a.m. in the morning in front of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans’ “French Quarter,” the tourist neighborhood named “Vieux Carré” (Old Square) by French-Canadian explorer Bienville.

“Telescope of New Orleans ‘Sidewalk Astronomer’ John T. Brown”

…“The President is not educating the general public, to learn the scientific facts about how social-distancing will save lives. He espouses such ignorant rhetoric it is impossible to take Trumpf serious! Most sane, smart folk would like to punch his lights out, he’s so f’ing, alarmingly, stupid!”

POTUS should announce a national lock-down — even if informally — at the bully pulpit, as CNN editorialized today on Balzac’s television screen. Trumpf, however, is too ignorant to make this very practical move; his megalomania saturates his brain and “normal” people dismiss him as being the insignificant intervenor he is….

Days have passed and — today — nobody has posted on Balzac’s “Facebook” stream — they are all dead, perhaps, he wonders.

The tired old musician-composer sets aside his “last great work” (an opera titled: “The Death of Sodom”) and begins scribing personalized funeral dirges for families of the many who are perishing from the virus this day, Passover 2020….

The Corona Virus Blues” (Take 1): (recorded on YouTube @:

“I stay at home alone / With my old guitar/Whiskey and Ginger Ale in a chilled glass not far/ I got them Corona virus blues /in B-Maj/7 darlin’ — “what do you have to lose?”! / Oh the Horror of it all / I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy to befall….them Covid-19 Blues”

Balzac carefully lifts a classical guitar from where it is secured on the wall near his composing table and begins sorting-out the chords and notes for a song which he has titled: “The Corona-19 Blues in B-Maj/7”

“Well, I’ve got them blues/I’ve got them Covid-19 Blues in B-Maj/7
I’ve got them blues/It feels as if I’m already in Heaven/I got them blues and They say, “What have I’ve got to lose?”

“The Woodstock Nation and Greatest Generation/ the young-old and the old-old, Behold!/we got them corona-19 virus blues/ they say we got nothing to lose//And that we don’t get to choose/ I got them Corona-19 virus blues

“Don’t put me on no ventilator / No, I’m headin’ to the elevator/ Afterwhile crocodile/See ya’ later alligator /Don’t let them put me on no elevator/ I’m outta’ here, see ya’ later/I got them covid virus blues / i got them covid virus blues…. I stay at home alone/With my old guitar whiskey and Ginger Ale/in a chilled glass not far /i got them covid virus blues….”

Even the strongest do not survive this virus; it attacks not only the respiratory system but also other systems such as blood-circulatory where it is latching-on and causing blood clots which results in heart-attacks of (curiously, predominantly-male) persons aged 40–50.

This new fact learned in late-April, 2020, has surprised physicians, who authored a letter to the American Medical Association warning that the virus is indiscriminate in its attack on hosts, any host…. Curiously, this letter reminds Balzac of Nietzsche’s quote in his book of aphorisms titled, “My Sister and I,” where he exclaims: “Give me a woman! — any woman!!”

But Balzac digresses deeper into the arms of Morpheus and experiences the effects of a high fever as he dreams….

A Poem: “The Beginning of the End”: We’ve got mirrors / but can’t see ourselves /They’re fogged with hate / cluttering the bathroom cabinet’s shelves/Sometimes fogged with grief / next to the medicine bottle that gives us relief /Look into the mirror/and I’ll show you a thief …/I’ll keep this brief/I’m not saying “you”/But society in general /is my, one point, of view… [Note to self: it’s not the “deplorable-class” but the “mentally-uncultivated” class….”wiglomeration” (both from Dickens’ “Bleak House”]

His adopted street cats Josephine & Tarzan are fed and Balzac turns to another morning task — feeding the three field mice trapped beneath his kitchen sink-cabinet floorboards. They do not have a name, the very idea is ridiculous to the musician-composer; but, nevertheless, they deserve a life, Balzac reasons as he doles out a small piece of whole wheat pita bread to each critter.

Living an isolated life due to the self-quarantine, many if not most (?) will think Balzac is crazy, disgustingly neurotic and/or such. But he’s just “Balzac” — a human who believes all life forms have an inalienable “right” to Life. Is crying when he accidentally obliterates a minuscule, unnoticeable speck of an insect while cleaning his kitchen — crazy?

….If Balzac is a nutcase, likely his thousands of music “compositions” also are crazy or disgustingly neurotic as well; in other words, unworthy of being considered “art”….

Suddenly awakened from a feverish dream, he feels as if he just returned from the late 1960’s — a period which the New Orleans musician-composer thought, at the time, was “hypnotic” as were the psilocybin mushrooms he consumed on occasion during that decade.

….“I wasn’t finished!” he cries-out in a sweat, desperately. Indeed, the dying dreamer (who has now awakened) is not ready to leave Mother Earth. However, apparently this is his Fate and he can only put-up a fuss about it. There is nothing to be done about Fate, of course.

He surely will succumb to this “flu” which was originally considered a first-day-of-winter cold. It won’t matter how he is classified by the hospital when they “call it” and disconnect all the devices he’s hooked-up to— hopefully at 4:20 or midnight, or some other somewhat “memorable” time for when his bells will toll….

Which is soon, he is sure, for he had recently become soaked in a cold hard rain falling onto the streets of New Orleans’ La Vieux Carre’.

Nevertheless, Balzac stupidly stomps home; not a long walk but unfortunately for the musician-composer’s Future, a deadly one, because a heavy, icy-cold rain appears out of nowhere and he suddenly becomes drenched to the bone in the middle of his walk, with nowhere to take shelter….

He considers a liquor bar 50 yards off the sidewalk’s path but why waste money on whiskey or time on inane conversation?

“So be it!” the artist angrily protests as he continues to limp home (for, now, his left ankle is giving-out and it is difficult for him to walk). Balzac, stupidly, cherishes the cold rain soaking his shoulder-length hair and T-shirt & trousers; what does it matter if he succumbs to whatever this meteorological-mixture foretells, even if his own death.

His so-called “life” was over long ago. He wants to challenge the devil and the Fates this Christmas. How in the world has he survived the last 5, since his dear older brother perished on that bitter-cold Christmas Day in New Orleans? He wants to hurry home, so he can wail into a pillow, to muffle the sound of his crying, his remorse.

[Note to Self] The time was even better than 3:33 in the afternoon, as it was 3:39. Balzac’s dear brother Georgie’s favorite, “most-lucky” number was 9.

Every next word is different than the last; not only in letters but concept as well. Not only concept but also, an undefined, trance-like, imperative.

“Words are worthless!” he screams. “Why am I not doing something else!” He pauses, then adds: “Music is worthless! why am I not doing something else!”

It doesn’t really matter, to repeat a burned-out phrase: “Life is beautiful!” Balzac is indeed content with being a part of two beautiful granddaughters, their father his son, and his younger son and mate perhaps with a similar future as his older brother…. “Life is beautiful,” indeed.

As the seminal-year 2020 fast-approaches, the rain pours down hard on Indian Rocks Beach and one old burned-out human (once a mediocre poet and musician, and a nearly-successful music-composer).

He had begun drinking a, strangely-tasteless, bottle of Tequila about an hour ago and the effects, if there should be any, are light. Perhaps the vegetable pizza absorbed the hypnotic effects that should lead to the anticipated magical affectations. Or it could be that Balzac is so distressed over the day’s events and the fact his future is (symbolically-speaking, at minimum) even less optimistic?

“It doesn’t matter! Words are worthless; music is worthless!” Yet, Balzac feels as if something is out there. In the coming year — 2020 — he wants to find it; he wants to find “hope” or a sure way to a good reality — to good outcomes for his granddaughters and for his nephew, and of course for his sons, siblings and other family.

[Blood runs thick in the Balzac family tree as the reader of this mega-series will find, should they take the time (and patience) required.]

In general the composer indeed is worthless; he’s certainly penniless, having to quarantine himself away from his longtime “day job” as a music-notation transcriber and instrument repairman at The Canal Street Music Store. “I may as well scribble and call it art!” he exclaims silently.

Balzac has had several commissions during his many decades as a musician-composer; but, all tallied, his life’s occupational income has added-up to a pittance and — in his end-years — he is presently situated at the bottom of the economic ladder.

As such, Balzac believes himself a failed human being, as worthless because he insufficiently provided for his children and grandchildren, his parents, siblings…. He doesn’t even want to “go there” in his fevered dream; it would be too difficult this time — for this particular, random, “Note”….

[Note to Self] For the life of him Balzac can’t understand how his granddaughters’ minds have become so …dysfunctional. His son and daughter-in-law, their parents, as well. What is going on? Balzac wonders; acknowledging, however, that it could be he, himself. “Is my own mind dysfunctional and unable to properly calculate theirs?”

Indeed, it takes effort to become — and to stay — a “sentient” being,” he suggests one night to his longtime nocturnal friend, the French Quarter sidewalk-astronomer, JB.

“At first,” he adds (although JB is busy viewing the planet Saturn and sketching its moons’ orbits — and is not listening). “At first I thought perhaps calling Zwi & Mi names would teach them; such as, “waste-tards!” But, of course, that approach only insults the disabled, and it is not funny at all, really…..”

Nothing is funny these days, as the year 2020 approaches. Balzac jots down a, rather tasteless, poem:

It is one day before Christmas 2019 /and Balzac sits home-alone / listening to Woodstock Live /playing loudly on his new iPhone /

The unsuccessful music composer, two days ago on the first day of winter 2019, caught a flu “out there” (while shopping for coffee, most-likely); and then, as if that wasn’t enough, he was caught-out in a pouring cold-rainstorm after angrily storming-off home following a tantrum either he or his daughter-in-law initiated….

“Alas! It really doesn’t matter/today/many years later” — Thomas Balzac

Not many years pass. It is only the Ides of April, however, “the virus” has consumed America’s attention. Balzac furiously composes funeral dirge after funeral dirge (it is quite a profitable business).

His friend Andrew, a newspaper reporter, also has a side gig: writing obituaries. They morbidly discuss and talk to each other (below, when I have time to write it out) about how profitable “death” is, with their dirge-composition and obituary-writing businesses…. JB, their astronomer friend, looks at them askew through his eyes and with a furrowed brow situated above his facial mask, which has become common attire….

Epilogue: (A song by Thomas Balzac, titled: “The Covid-19 Blues in B7/flat” [insert “YouTube” link: ]

“I got them covid blues baby / they say my outlook is pretty po’ /I got them covid blues baby/they say they gonna put me on a ven-ti-la-tor/But I’m OK, don’ worry, my love/I’m just sad i won’t be seein’ you no mo’

“I’m laying here with the covid blues baby / but I’m not worried, no
my memories have all become like a living picture show ….
Every time I wake-up from another broken fever/ I joyously sing out all your names — my children, my siblings/our dad & mom…

“I got them covid blues honey dear / I’ll be takin’ them with me when this ol’ hippie’s time is done /I hope you get this voice message/ You know I love you, ’til Kingdom Come

“Well I’ve got them covid blues, darling/ you know, it takes both young and old/ It’s indiscriminate like that, has no mercy, I’m told/So, dear, take special care of our chil’ren — and ‘specially yo’ self — Try your best to keep them all happy and in good health/

“The old and frail, we’re merely statistics/The Greatest Generation — only a number/Of course there’ll be many “thoughts & prayers” /When they plow us all under /There’ll be a million shares/It may even go “viral”/But if we all don’t take measures soon /There’s one certain thing / it’ll all soon go into a spiral/

“I got them covid-19 blues/Am I hearing: “What do they have to lose?”?

“Hello in there John Prine/I sure wish it had been “his” not your, time/
Every thing here isjust about the same/The Woodstock Nation & Greatest Generation/ — you know their name, the oldest of our Nation!/are all being taken on a “vacation”/

“Yes i got them covid-19 blues/“What-’cha got t’ lose?”/I’m a’callin’ you from the ER/I’m not going far …/We’re all shooting stars/We should have shot the….god-damned Wars/listened to the peaceniks, dylans, doors…/

“i’ll be dancin’ with you all/on the other side soon/….resistance… persistence… assistance…/They — finally — won’t say I’m crazy as a loon/

“Yes, I’ve got them covid Blues baby/but — please — there’ll be no jazz funeral for me!/We can’t spread the covid-19 blues, my lady/We have to stay home, practice patience, let’s all agree….”/

=== “The Covid-19 Blues” — take 5===

I got them covid blues baby
they say my outlook is pretty po’

i got them covid blues baby
they gonna put me on a ven ti la tor
But I’m OK, don’ worry, my love
I’m just sad i won’t be seein’ you no mor’

I’m layin’ here with the covid blues baby
How beautiful my memories have become/When I wake up from this malady
I call out all your names, my loved ones, /children, siblings, our dad & mom…

I’ll be takin’ every minute of your love wtih me to the other side
when this ol’ hippie’s time is done/I hope you get this voice message, my bride/You know I love you, ’til Kingdom Come

I got them covid blues honey dear,
Well, you know, it takes both, young and old
It’s indiscriminate like that, the invisible killer I am told
So, dear, take care ‘f our chil’ren/ and ‘specially yo self
There’s nothing more important than all of y’all’s health

The old and frail are just statistics, nobody cares
The Woodstock Nation and Greatest Generation are “only a number”
There will be much “thoughts & prayers” / When they plow us all under …. /

Yes, I’ve got the Covid-19 Blues, my baby /i’m callin’ you from the ER
But don’t you worry, I’m here my dear /I’m not going far, every time you see a shooting star…

i’ll be dancin’ on the other side soon / but there’ll be no jazz funeral for me,
You must all keep a safe distance/ I trust you will all agree!

I got the covid virus blues, i want everyone to know
It’s killing folk in nursing home/
African-Americans and the po’/
If you are living in a blue state my friends/ It’ll soon be the end of the show…

I got them covid blues, baby…

(End of Chapter 1)

[Author’s Note: The foregoing is a fragment from a series of stories I’ve been working on for a number of …decades. “My Kingdom for an Editor!”] (: