Cardella: Notes From a Time Capsule

The year is 2120. A ceremony is being held in FDR Park. Several South Philadelphians among the attendees still call this place “The Lakes.” The rest scratch their heads and wonder why. There is an air of excitement. A time capsule from 100 years earlier is about to be opened.

It was a century ago that a pandemic almost wiped out the country. South Philadelphia was one of the areas hardest hit.  Once a heavily populated area, it now lays almost totally abandoned. Neighborhoods just blocks from this park once boasted an Italian-American culture rich in tradition. This was the place the rest of the city considered a destination for good food. Many of America’s finest musical artists were born here. The area had once been populated with well-kept homes, some of which are now used as tourist attractions. But the scourge of the virus wiped away almost every vestige of this unique culture in just 10 short months in 2020.

That 10-month period was shrouded in mystery. The world at large had recovered well enough from the attack of what was a corona called COVID-19. (It was also called the “Chinese Flu” for some unknown reason by the then-president, Donald Trump. Odd because the strain of the flu that was responsible for decimating America originated in Europe). Only two countries had failed to control and eventually extinguish the virus — Brazil and the United States. It’s hoped the contents of the time capsule from that era will shed new light on what’s become one of the world’s enduring mysteries. What possible connection could there be between Brazil and the United States in its vulnerability to the virus? And why was South Philadelphia especially affected in this part of the country?

Those questions have fueled much speculation through the years. One school of thought had it that the answer might lie in tapioca, a Brazilian favorite. Tapioca pudding had been popular in parts of America, but mostly during the 1950s. Records showed that sales of tapioca pudding were largely confined to only one household in South Philadelphia during the middle years of the 21st century — the Cardella family. And the Cardellas normally purchased tapioca only when the local supermarket was out of rice pudding.

There was a school of thought that there was a musical link between the COVID-19 “hot spots” (highly affected areas). These historians believed in what they called the “Jobim factor.” Jobim was Antonio Carlos Jobim, a highly regarded Brazilian composer who had popularized the Bossa Nova. But Jobim’s music pre-dated the virus by about 50 years, although the residents of the affected area of South Philadelphia remained inordinately fond of the album FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA AND ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM.

A surfing bum named William “Noodle Arms” MacAfee (He got that nickname because he was known to get arm-weary very quickly while surfing) came up with what he thought was a breakthrough. The Beach Connection. Noodle Arms pointed out that Jobim’s most popular song was THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA. Ipanema is a popular beach in Brazil. California is known for its beaches. So is Florida. But where is the South Philly connection? Wait — South Philadelphians are known for their love of what they call “The Shore.” Well, “Noodle Arms” became the toast of the town until some 10-year-old kid pointed out that the beaches had not only pre-dated the virus, they also pre-dated Jobim. Whereupon there was an especially ugly reaction against “Noodle Arms” and not only Jobim, but a popular Brazilian singer by the name of Astrud Gilberto (who, maybe not so coincidentally, was married to a Philadelphia-area man named Gregory LaSorsa). Demonstrators are presently filling the streets of Rio tearing down statues of both artists. Luckily, we’ve escaped reaction in this country, where there presently aren’t aren’t any statues of Jobim or Gilberto. Or “Noodle Arms” MacAfee, for that matter. Someone suggested that the album featuring Sinatra and Jobim should be removed from circulation. But that suggestion was quickly rejected by South Philadelphians, who threatened a protest of their own if the government messed with Sinatra. The suggestion was quickly and tremulously withdrawn.

It is turning out that the contents of the time capsule are only raising more questions. The president during that time seems to have been as much a mystery as the virus itself. He believed in various cures that were quickly dismissed by his own medical experts. Perhaps those experts were part of the plot against him? More information is needed on a sinister figure, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and his role in such a plot. There are questions surrounding whether the president himself had the virus. His skin and hair were reportedly tinted a strange orange color like a popular snack of that era. At the height of the surging disease, Trump unaccountably attempted to drop the medical coverage of 20 million Americans. He also refused to approve additional funding for testing. Trump blamed testing for the primary cause for the numbers increasing of reported cases.

Wearing masks was considered an essential weapon in protection from the spread of COVID-19. Yet Trump refused to wear a mask in public. His loyal supporters also refused to wear masks and even reportedly marched in protest against mandates TO wear them. What was it about wearing a mask? Is the rumor true that some residents of South Philly also refused to wear masks on Halloween?

And was that the reason why the maskless community in South Philly celebrated Halloween on a date other than Oct. 31?     

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