My dentist is in the L&C Tower at 4th & Church, so I went downtown yesterday for the first time in four months. It was truly exciting to be able to put the top down on a beautiful summer day and have an actual place to go.
Once I got off the Interstate… “eerie” doesn’t begin to describe it.
I started to wonder where I was when I turned eastward onto Charlotte Pike and there was not another car in either direction for blocks. I passed a demonstration at Legislative Plaza where somebody was barking something through a bullhorn about the State Police stealing citizens property (hadn’t heard that protest before). I found a place to park right at the entrance to the garage (no circling around floor after floor looking for the one empty space).
The street was basically empty of pedestrians, though I was surprised/pleased to see that even outdoors most were wearing masks.
The lobby of the L&C tower was empty, with social distance markers spaced along the floor leading to the bank of empty elevators. I rode 9 floors to the dentist’s office alone in the elevator.
In the office, the waiting room was empty; The two women behind the desk were wearing masks. I was greeted by a masked young man who pointed a thermometer at my forehead and handed me a Covid Questionaire: “do you have a dry cough? fever? chills? headaches? fatigue?” After checking several boxes “no” I asked “are there any trick questions here or can I just mark them all ‘no’?” I handed the clipboard back and immediately went to the rest room and washed my hands.
The rest of the visit was like all the visits before. Hooray for nitrous – the only buzz I get after 32 years without a sip, a sniff, or a puff. The hygienist agreed with me that, despite all those awkward, adolescent years with braces, my front-lower teeth are “a mess.” She scraped away as best she could. My teeth are clean now. Mission accomplished, now back to solitary…
I drove down 4th Ave to Broadway, past several of the honky-tonks. More eeriness: the streets were empty, though here the few tourists I did see were less enmasked. What was weird was to hear country hits and standards blaring out of the clubs, and look inside to see them mostly empty. The sound echoed around the street in ways I’d never heard before.
Re-reading this before posting it, I realize the most-used word is “empty.”
Surprisingly, there are still scooters parked on the street, but it doesn’t appear that anybody body is using them. I’m surprised that’s still a thing.
Harvey Schatzkin and Ellen Gould met on November 30, 1942.
As Ellen recalled decades later:
There was an Army Air Force communications school at Scott Field in East St. Louis. My good friend Howard Beck kept telling me that he wanted me to meet his brother Norman’s friend who was at Scott Field who was only free on Monday nights. At the time I had a regular Monday night date with a boy named Dan, and told Howard, “I don’t break dates.” But Howard kept insisting that his brother’s friend and I would really like each. I finally agreed and broke my usual Monday date. I was working at the USO downtown and Howard arranged to pick me up there.
November 30 in Missouri “dawned cold, snowy… blizzard-like.” Howard and Ellen rode the trolley through the drifting snow to have dinner at the home of a friend…
Hedy Lamar as the jungle temptress ‘Tondelayo’ in “White Cargo.” I’ve see the movie. It’s pretty awful.
And there was this really cute guy in the uniform of the U.S. Army Air Force Cadets named Harvey Schatzkin. We really did like each other. We had a perfectly great evening with lots of repartee and jokes. When the evening was over, Harvey took me on the trolley back to my apartment, and we made a date for the following Monday. I am not sure we knew it that night but I know now that it was “love at first sight.”
A week later they had their first date: Chinese food and a Hedy Lamar movie called “White Cargo.” Harvey returned to Scott Field and graduated from Officer’s Candidate School. Then the Army sent the newly minted Second Lieutenant to several locations on the East Coast before he landed at his first post: a weather station in Greenland.
Which left their new-found devotion to the vagaries of the mail in the middle of World War II.
I have all the letters. There are hundreds of them.
Harvey and Ellen’s letters, aka “The Pile.”
One of the things I have been doing over the past few months of Involuntary Covid Incarceration is reading all these letters and dictating them into digital documents. I’m almost done going through the “first tranche” – the letters they wrote between their meeting at the end of 1942 and their wedding in New York in January 1944. Whatever the final result, I think those two markers will serve as the bookends, so to speak.
Ellen and her father went to Alton Illinois to spend Christmas with family but…
I was feeling kind of miserable and I really couldn’t think why. I guess I figured I would never see Harvey again. We went to Alton and I was even more unhappy. In the middle of the afternoon the phone rang. It was Harvey. He had tracked me down and wanted me to come back to St. Louis. My father I thought I was crazy, but I talked him into leaving and taking me back to town. Harvey and I spent the evening together and we decided we were in love. We sort of got engaged. I don’t remember an actual proposal, but it was sort of taken for granted that we would get married someday.
While everybody is honoring their father’s on this Pandemic Father’s Day in 2020, I am going to honor both of my parents by sharing the beginning of their correspondence, exchanged over New Years 1942-43. They have known each other about a month at this point.
Harvey wrote first:
December 30, 1942
Hotel Miami Dayton Ohio
(That’s the first time I ever started a letter that way; hope I spelled it right.)
In a room about six times too big for him sits a somewhat sleepy Second Lieutenant who has spent the day (1) signing papers and filling out forms, (2) thinking about you.
It’s been another one of those typical army days –standing in lines and waiting around while nothing happens. As usual I told six captains, ten sergeants and three men who sell Good Humors my name, address, birthplace and favorite seafood.
Tomorrow I have to go back and continue some more of the same since I did not get anywheres near finished today. Also tomorrow I shall move into the Bachelors Officers Quarters. By then I should have an address and will expect you to send me cases of champagne, boxes of caviar and other little items essential to my well-being.
I am wondering if you have enough Air Corps knickknacks to get along avec. I’ve had my agents working on the case and they have come up with the following information which may be of interest to you:
To begin with, very popular this year are full-size propellers; they are strapped across the back and considered excellent for travel in crowded buses; Another item that is definitely chic for junior misses, sub-debutantes and Pomeranians are old carburetors; A spray of wisteria and a few drops of 100-octane gas are added, and the whole business made into the neatest little hat you’ve ever seen. Also high on there list are hearts of newly-minted Second Lieutenants – but, then, what would you do with more than one?
Honey, tonight while waiting to see if I can sell the hotel the idea of letting me have a bed upon which to toss my weary bones and blood and stuff I heard music pouring out of the little bar they have here – the Kotex room or something, I think it’s called. Like a little, hungry tyke on a cold day looking into a bakery shop I pushed my nose against the glass. It was just one of those quiet little bars with a three piece orchestra, soft blue lights, and scattered couples sitting around. I figured it would take a long time to get your hat on and get down here, but something inside me just got all knotted up, and all I can think of was how I wish you were here, darling.
I kind of think I’m getting tired so I can sleep (Gee wouldn’t that make a clever song title) so I’ll close this one up. I’ll write you again as soon as I have an address.
All my love, darling, and right now I’m kissing you good night.
The next day, Ellen wrote back….
December 31, 1942
New Year’s Eve
Gee, it seems funny writing that.It’s the first time for me, too.
I was so glad to hear your voice today. And you called just at a time when I was thinking hardest about you, wishing you were here and thinking about how much I love you.
The trip back from the station was like a rocket trip to some other planet, and equally as terrifying. In fact I’ve written to General Arnold to see if that cab driver could not be presented a pair of wings. He handled that cab beautifully in the air.
Daddy fell down a flight of stairs today and hurt his back! He can’t move. The doctor doesn’t know whether there are any broken bones or not. He told him to stay in the bed until Saturday, and then come down for an x-ray. He’s better tonight, though. He can turn over, etc. When he came in this morning he was a pale chartreuse. His stomach has been bothering him for two weeks, and now this. If it weren’t for you darling I wouldn’t have a very happy New Year.
As I told you over the phone, I lost my wallet with our gas ration books.See what you do to me? I never lose things.
I think I have enough Air Corps bric-a-brac. In fact if things get too tough, I’ll turn myself in to the scrap metal drive.
I really didn’t have to tell anyone about us. People just looked atthe expression on my face, and guessed that I was in love. They don’t know how wonderful you are.
I was going to a party tonight. They all insisted I come, date or not. But now I feel that I ought to stay home with Daddy.
I went marketing today. I just love to go marketing. You find such interesting things, things you’ve never eaten before, but someone must.OK, I’ll take a can. As I stood in line with my booty, I trembled from head to foot, suffused in shame, thinking what Mr. Wickardwould say if you could see me.I looked around, and instead of the usual expressions on the faces of my fellow shoppers – The pensive look: have I forgotten anything?; The worried look;:This is going to cost too much; The harassed look: Did the maid remember to take little Ambrosia out? – These were all supplanted by grim looks of of determination, as knuckles turned white from gripping the cart handles.
Each woman had the gleam of a Commando in her eye. This strange transformation did not change till she was out of the store with her precious cargo of cans.Then you’d hear something like this, “I know this is unpatriotic, but you know, Oswald just adores pickled snails, and what with rationing, well, I just don’t know what he’d do, so I just thought I’d get a few….
I read Daddy parts of your letter, and he thought you were very, very clever.Of course, I think so, But I’m kind of prejudiced.You see, I’m very much in love with you.
Howard called the other night.He kept asking me what was new.So I started to tell, and then he admitted that he knew all about it, and thought it was wonderful.So do I.
Daddy is getting lonesome in there by himself and wants me to come in and talk to him, so I guess I’ll say Good Night, honey.
Happy New Year, darling, and I hope we’ll be able to spend next New Year’s Eve together.
I love you,
They didn’t spend New Years 43/44 together but Harvey was furloughed back to the States for the holidays that year. Ellen and her father went east to New York, and they were married at Harvey’s parents apartment on January 16, 1944. Harvey had just turned 23, Ellen was 22.
I haven’t figured out yet what I am going to do with all this material… Book? Screenplay? Podcast? Multimedia Internet Extravaganza? Dunno yet.
But I figure there’s a story in there somewhere. Some of you already know how it ends…
Incidentally, the working title “I’ve Heard That Song Before” comes from a popular recording by the Harry James Orchestra that Harvey and Ellen both reference several times in the correspondence. I guess that was “their song.” And it’s a pretty good one…
This is what’s different between now and, say, 1968 – the last time convulsive dissonance tore a hole in the fabric of our cultural universe.
In the 60s, the media environment was dominated by three primary channels. Even when The Whole World WAS Watching, the message was homogenized and filtered through those three channels. Three points of origin transmitted that carefully pasteurized message to an infinite number of points of reception. Yeah, the police are rioting, and clubbing kids in the street, but… Laugh In! Mary Tyler Moore! Power structure intact!
This is what’s different now: The internet has produced a world of channel parity. Every point of origin is a point of reception. Every citizen has their own channel.
And the truth is finally breaking through.
We are all transmitters and receivers. And when a man gets murdered on the street in broad daylight, there is always somebody there to record it. As Will Smith said: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Because we have all these gizmos in our pockets, there is no longer any corporate or political force that can control the narrative.
And finally, the truth is breaking through.
Kimberly Jones lets us in here on the Dirty Little Secret: The system IS NOT broken, it is working precisely the way it was designed to work. The forces that we were taught are here to protect us are actually protecting the now obsolete narrative
We are all Kimberly Jones now.
And the truth is finally breaking through.
I use the hashtag that begins this post a lot. #TMITM = “The Medium Is the Message.” When he coined that expression in 1964 Marshall McLuhan explained: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”
In other words, it is not until the media environment changes that new content can be delivered. The printed Bible fostered the Reformation; newspapers fostered republican democracy; first radio and then television reorganized society around broadcasting towers. The advent of the Internet reversed those trends toward ever larger audiences. Everybody is a transmitter, everybody is a receiver.
After a decade of smartphones, the truth is finally breaking through.
When I first got on “the Internet” in 1993, with McLuhan’s maxim in mind, I wanted to believe that this fundamental change in our media environment would ultimately foster a fundamental change in the way our society functions. The advent of the Internet fed whatever idealism was left over of my sensibilities from the 1960s.
I have despaired over past decade, as I have watched ‘social media’ poison the world’s discourse and flood it with disinformation and crazy talk and unleash a whole world of stupid. Even as the movement of the past few weeks erupted. I’d lost hope that the promise I thought I saw 30 years ago had foundered.
Kimberly Jones has restored my hope. This video is by orders of magnitude the most information-packed three minutes you will see this week, this month, this year.
It has taken almost 30 years since my first packets of hope were delivered, but the truth is finally breaking through.
– – – –
Every year, around the middle of March, as the cold and dreary of winter wears on, I will say of the season, “Winter: it goes on until you can’t take it any more – and then it goes on a while longer.”
The same can now be said of the spring of 2020.
And quite possibly the summer.
Maybe the whole fucking year.
It can likewise be said of the past 5 years, when speaking of the descent that started with that ride down the escalator that has no bottom floor. 5 years later, new bottom after new bottom, and still we descend…
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….
I really have no reason to complain (but I’m Jewish, why should that stop me?) as I have been comfortably ensconced out here in West Bumfuque for the past nearly three months. My cupboards and freezer are filled with provisions, and “essential workers” have made the trek out here each week to drop off more.
It gets pretty damn lonesome at times, but I figure I am better off this way than if my ex was still around. I am grateful that all resolved itself well before I had to lockdown, otherwise the operative hashtag would be #MurderSuicide instead of #HomeAlone.
I wish I had more to show for all this time I have had to myself. I have ventured furtively into various creative endeavors, but let’s just say “the input exceeds the output.”
My attempt at an audio/video recording space. If only I sounded half as good as it looks…
I set up the ‘studio’ in the back of house – the space with the big picture window that I cleared of all but a mediation cushion once I had the house to myself – to attempt some audio and video recording, but the first attempts at actually recording something sounded so bad that I have not tried again for a week or so.
I have not really been writing much. I lament that most of my verbal energy gets dissipated into Facebook posts and comments. Facebook has become my go-to distraction and frustration. On the one hand, it offers the illusion of some kind of contact with other humans. On the other hand, the conceit of keeping an open mind and peering outside my own bubble opens the window on a stream of crazy nonsense that melts my brain.
The back roads less traveled aka my typical top-down joyride routes – Old Charlotte, Pond Creek, River Road and back again.
I really didn’t leave the house for about two months, except for #LifeIsBetterWithTheTopDown joy rides along the back roads between here and Ashland City most afternoons. This has been the season for a convertible, and I have not let it pass without making the best of it, nearly every day.
As for writing… heh.
I’ve written a couple of accounts of my life in isolation, that, again, mostly got posted to Facebook. But I also made some notes about my visit to the doctor last month for my annual physical, posted to my website in two parts here and here.
I have been missing my job at the Apple store. The store closed on March 14. The good news is that Apple has so much cash (like $2-million-per-employee!) – and continuing revenue through online sales – that they haven’t laid anybody off. We’re all still on the payroll. I had a personal experience there that has transformed how I feel about that job and the company:
As the Coronavirus Panic reached its first crest of frenzy in mid-March, I started to worry about the risk for my age bracket relative to the rest of the personnel I work with (many of whom are literally a third of my age). I called the store on Friday March 13 and expressed my anxiety, telling a couple of mid-level managers that while on the one hand I didn’t want to ask for any special dispensation, on the other hand… I’m old and 3-to-5 times as likely to die if I get the Covid. A couple of hours later the Lead Manager called back and said “we’ll take you off the schedule and make sure you get paid.”
That moment brought me almost to tears. No, wait… actually… it did bring me to tears, to the extent that this emotionally-arrested old man is capable of them.
The next day they announced that the store would close indefinitely and offered a similar arrangement for all personnel. But I felt like the universe had singled me out in a way that I felt like somebody had my back – as my therapist pointed out – maybe the first time in my life.
And then I settled into my confinement. They have tried to keep us busy with online training and video conferencing – just more glass and silicon and mostly looking at my own disembodied image on the screen.
In preparation for what remains an unscheduled reopening, I actually went in to the store for the first time on Tuesday for several hours of “socially distanced retail training.” I wish I could say it was anything other than just fucking weird. It was great to be in the presence of other actual humans again but of course we were all visible only from the eyes up. And seeing people for the first time in months but… no hugs, no physical contact of any kind. Wearing a mask and trying to communicate through it… not fun. Also very itchy with the beard. And, of course… don’t touch your face…
“The Pile” – my father was a prolific letter writer; my mother saved them all.
The other thing I have done in the past couple of weeks is return to what I am now calling “The Pile” of letters that my parents exchanged with each other in the year between their meeting and their marriage in 1943. I have been reading the letters and dictating them into a digital document. I don’t know what I will do with this stuff. I have reached the point now where I feel like I just need to stay with “the work” such as it is and eventually something will manifest. I have been circling the idea of weaving my own memoir (remember the 1969 stuff?) with some of this material. I just don’t know yet.
As I’ve been dictating/transcribing these letters into a Scrivener doc, I’ve stored some on Dropbox so my sister in Connecticut can read them. Here’s one from Harvey, and here’s one from Ellen. I’m pretty sure there’s a story in there somewhere…
It’s not quite so lonely out here for the past two weeks… as some of you know (via Facebook), I got a kitten… Her name is “Buster” (she was gender-confused when she first arrived) and she’s about 8 weeks old. I’ve posted pictures of her on Facebook almost every day over the past two weeks.
As I suspected, the hard part was just getting to the clinic from the parking garage.
The elevators, they’re easy to find, they are centrally located in a red-walled glass box in the center of the garage.But the stairs?Good fucking luck.
The parking lot was fuller than I thought it might be, but I was pleased that everybody I saw was wearing a mask.
After I’d parked the car, I searched for a stairwell in what amountedto wandering around in a dark concrete maze. I saw a couple of gentlemen in scrubs (and masks!) conversing near the entrance to the elevator lobby, so I approached, and from a socially safe distance asked,
“Do either of you gentleman know where I can find the stairs up to the Frist Clinic.”
“The stairs are locked,” the gentleman in the navy blue scrubs muffled to me through his mask.
I took this news rather incredulously.“The stairs are locked?”
“Yeah,” Mr. Scrubs repeated, “on account the virus. The elevator is the only way up…”
Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Because there is an infectious virus a-loose in the land, the only way to get to the doctor is by getting into a small enclosed chamber with a bunch of strangers?
One of the more vocal members of the Committee Inside My Head said something like “if that’s true, that’s the dumbest fucking thing you’re going to hear all day.”I’m not sure, but those words may have gotten through before the committee member that holds my tongue could stop them.
It wasn’t easy, given the labyrinthine nature of this particular parking garage, but I managed to find the vehicular entrance/exit, thinking I’d just go out on the street and find the entrance to the building that way.But the way these buildings are arranged around Centennial, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the building I was trying to get in to.
I went back into the garage, and after a little bit more dialog with Mr. Scrubs, resisted the Covid Wheel of Anxiety -induced urge to just get back in my car and go home.I resigned myself to getting on an elevator in order to proceed with my mission: to risk my life in order to get a clean bill of health. #IronyAbounds
Not so fast…
I wanted to wait for an empty elevator.Two people with masks got into the first car that opened, and I figured “what the hell…” and got in with them.But before the doors could shut… another woman got in.She was not wearing a mask.I got out.
The next car that opened, there was just one other guy – with a mask –waiting to get on, so I took my chances with him.
I put on a rubber glove and pressed the “4” button.#ParanoidMuch?
The door closed before anybody else could get in. In the few seconds available, to us, we exchanged our mutual surprise that there was no stairwell access to the building. He got off in the lobby and again, mercifully, nobody else got on. 30 seconds later I had finally reached my desired destination.
I’m sorry I didn’t think to grab a photo of the lobby of the Frist Clinic. It’s usually a pretty bustling place, but this time it was nearly empty.Most of the seating had been removed, and what remained was all socially-distanced apart. There were signs saying everybody had to wear a mask, and a Miranda-like warming that “if you don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you…”
I waited a safe distance from the counter for my turn to check in.The receptionist asked me for my Insurance card, and I made a mental note to thank Apple for keeping me employed and insured while so many millions of people are losing not only their jobs but also their health insurance – at a time when they are really going to need it.Note to America: this is fucking stupid.
After a short wait the nurse invited me in.
“How are you?” she asked dutifully.
“Right this moment… I’m pretty agitated!” I replied, launching into a concise summary of the Ordeal of My Arrival and repeating the profane conclusion that the Committee Inside My Head had arrived at earlier.
Then she sat me down, took my blood pressure – and rattled off a number that didn’t sound right.
“Is that good?” I asked, sensing some alarm.
“No.” was all she said.
She left me in the room to wait for the doctor while I wondered if being forcedto ride an elevator could actually elevate one’s blood pressure.
Dr. Louis Johnson at the Frist Clinic, who has been my Primary Care Provider for the entire time I’ve lived in Nashville. Another, like my barber and my housekeeper, who have been around longer than my (now ex-) wife.
Eventually the doctor arrived and I told him the story of the limited choice of conveyance. He was surprised that somebody had told me the stairs were inaccessible.We talked a little about the Strange Times we’re living in, and the exam commenced.
I’ll spare you the sordid details of the ensuing poking and prodding.The highlight for me may have been the discussion around my weight.He didn’t say anything, but I did express my concern that I have add a few lbs from “sitting on my ass for the past two months.”
“Yes,” he said, “that’s been a concern for a lot of people.”
“Yeah, that’s what happens when the grocery store has run out of chicken but you can get all the Oreos you want…”
When the exam was over, the doc took me out into the hallway and showed me an exit to the stairs. “That’ll take you right down to the parking lot.”
Before I left, he took my blood pressure one more time.
“Normal,” was all he said.
So, yeah… riding an elevator in the spring of 2020 is definitely not good for your health.
Of course we won’t really know the full impact of this penetration into the Infection Zone for another 12-14 days so… y’all standby!
After much perseveration, I have decided to go to the doctor for my annual physical today.
Like every thing else over the past two months, the decision hasn’t come easily.
So far as I know, my health is good. Despite my advancing age (a “7-handle in November!), the only health issues I have are blood pressure and A1C that have hovered near the “you might have to do something about that” levels in recent years. The last time I did the blood work, all the numbers were fine and the doc said “just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” That was a couple of months after the divorce was finalized. Go figger.
This is a non-essential excursion into a potentially risky environment. The nurses I spoke to at the Frist Clinic assure me that they are taking all the necessary precautions: everybody in the clinic must wear a mask and observe social distancing. And there was one point during the conversation when I realized: the nurses and the doctors and staff at the clinic are going to work every day – and they’re not dead yet…
Once I’d decided it was probably (?!?) safe, The Great Wheel of Covid Anxiety starts turning again: How do I get from the parking garage to the clinic? Sure, once in the clinic, all the guidelines are being practiced, but I usually ride an elevator to the clinic on the 4th floor. What is the likelihood that everybody on the elevator will be wearing a mask? From what I read, not very likely. I can just imagine: one cough from somebody on an elevator and dial up the body bag.
It’s not helping to turn on the TeeVee or read something on the newspad (do they still make newspapers?) that singles out Nashville as one of the newest hotspots in the nation and wonder all over again, “why risk it?”
There seem to be two factors driving the Covid Anxiety Wheel: On the one hand, it only makes sense to be cautious. On the other hand, at what point do you realize that your life is being ruled by fear? At what point do you have to listen to the third voice in your head (it’s quite a committee…) that says “feel the fear and do it any way”? (H/T Julie).
Anyway I’ve made my decision.
Like Luke finding the exhaust port on the Death Star, “I’m going in…”
I just hope I can find the stairs. And I am grateful-sweet-jesus that I have the strength to climb them…
We keep hearing the phrase “these uncertain times,” but it is not that the times are uncertain so much as the quality of time itself has changed.
It is May and there is no baseball.
To fill that seasonal void, I’ve been reading Phllip Roth’s “The Great American Novel” – which is a sordid satire about baseball (what else could a Great American Novel be about?).
Most of the story takes place during World War II; There is a passage where one of the team owners explains to a player that what is really at stake has less to do with Hitler than the looming threat Stalinist Communism:
Even as this war rages on against the Germans and the Japs, the other war against us has already begun, the invisible war, the silent assault upon the very fabric that holds us together as a nation…
In order to destroy America, the Communists in Russia and their agents around the world are going to attempt to destroy the major leagues…
When baseball goes, Roland, you can kiss America goodbye. Try to imagine it, Roland, an American summer Sunday without doubleheaders, an American October without the World Series, March in America without spring training. No, they can call it America, but it’ll be something very different then. Roland, once the Communists have made a joke of the majors, the rest will fall like so many dominoes.￼
The last time I did anything in the actual world was March 12, when I went to McCabe Pub in Sylvan Park for my weekly cheeseburger – something I’d been doing for more than twenty years. I hope that tradition can resume one of these days, but I imagine it will be weird with only three or four people at the bar, spaced two or three bar stools apart. Will I need to make a reservation? How do you eat a cheeseburger through a mask?
I’d started using a grocery delivery service a couple of months before “stay home!” started; I’ve continued that routine, getting delivery once a week and leaving a generous cash tip taped to the front door for the shopper. Those people are my heroes. Their efforts provide a weekly reminder just how upside down our culture and economy are.
Several times a week, when the weather is nice and the sun is shining, I’ve indulged myself with #TopDown joy rides over the back roads out here in West Bumfuque. That has necessitated several trips to the Shell station in Pegram; I gas up the car with a rubber glove on one hand. I made one trip to another service station to swap out my propane tank and two trips to the post office to drop off stuff I’d sold on eBay. That is the full extent of my outside-the-house commerce. Amazon/UPS delivers everything else.
Every morning I get out of bed, put on my sneakers and go for a two-mile walk trough my neighborhood. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have all the conspiracy theories sorted out, and I almost understand what is happening in WestWorld. Thomas Jefferson is still dead but Clay Jenkinson lives! Most days I take another walk in the late afternoon, then I sit on the back deck and read a book, watch the hummingbirds – and remind myself repeatedly how fortunate I am. Despite it all…. #gratitude.
In seven weeks, the only other humans I have seen are the neighbors I encounter on my walks. We stand on opposite sides of the street and exchange pleasantries. Their dogs are the only living creatures I have touched. I regret not getting a kitten when I was thinking about it last year. The animal shelter not far from here has been closed.
The only people who have been to my house are my housekeeper who comes every other Tuesday, a plumber and the HVAC guy. Otherwise, all my “human interactions” (including two ‘virtual dinner dates’) have been mediated by screens, electrons, and digits. Thank you all for setting your camera in “landscape” mode and minimizing the backlight.
Speaking of dating: I did a bit of that in the months that followed my divorce last year, but was informed / reminded numerous times that: divorced less than a year, I was essentially radioactive. Late last year I decided to go into hibernation and wait for the year to end. The year ended in January and then…. oh boy, more hibernation.
It has been seven weeks since I’ve gone to my job, which keeps me on my feet – and burning calories – for eight hours several days a week. I know I am among the fortunate ones to work for such a large company that I have stayed employed and paid even though I have not really been working; the company has kept us engaged with video conferences and online training. They’re doing their level-best to get us ready for reopening, though it is quite uncertain when that will be or it will look like. In the meantime, I look forward to those video-interactions with my co-workers (aka “the kids”).
So it was no surprise when I stepped on the scale this morning and learned that in seven weeks I have gained six pounds.
It has been seven weeks since I’ve have had a hug; seven weeks since I’ve had any physical contact with another human being.
If I can’t touch anybody or anything, I’m starting to wonder why I even need a physical body.
And then I remember: my body a transportation device.