Life in Coronaville
I need to add a couple of disclaimers right up front about this post - first, I’m a retired guy living on a pension and investments and thus the direct economic challenges to us have been few. To those who have lost work and are trying to make ends meet or are scrambling to educate your kids I apologize if I sound flippant or if it seems like I am downplaying the pandemic. I count my blessings every day that we have sufficient income, a secure place to live, and decent healthcare.
Second, I started this a week or so ago - long before President Trump became the Super Spreader in Chief - I hope for his complete recovery and for all of those around him that he has put in direct risk. I find his behavior abhorrent - but sadly, not surprising.
Certainly all of us can think of a million things that suck about the COVID-19 pandemic. I, like most of us I would imagine, am completely over being part of a historic event. I’m sick to death of feeling like I’m on home arrest with an ankle bracelet. At times I almost admire those of you who have decided that Covid-19 is just a big hoax - nothing more and probably less than the annual flu - or whatever. Sadly I think you are wrong (I wish you were right!) - and I think we’ve likely already pissed away our best chances to control this thing before a tried and true vaccine has been developed and distributed, maybe that’s just me. Hopefully we will all endure (in whatever way we choose, while respecting those who feel differently than we do), and make it out the other side.
But this post is not about the negative aspects of our respective shut-downs and quarantines - whether self imposed or legally mandated. As I said earlier - we can all come up with a very long list of what sucks about it. Betsy tries to soften the reality of it by reminding me that I am free to go anywhere I want to - as long it’s in the backyard. So this post is about things that are at least somewhat positive about our collective year of discontent! Complaining is too easy!
First and foremost for me is truly appreciating the time I spend with my spouse, my co-conspirator, the love of my life, best wingman anyone could ever have, She Who Must Be Obeyed - my beloved wife Betsy. For 37 some years we have spent more time together than not - but not in a long while has it been the constant 24/7 with few if any distractions like since COVID struck. We actually do still get along, we can complete each other’s sentences, and we can just sit quietly on the sofa together and be content with the world. We both have our challenges - me more than she - but we are still a damn good team. I wouldn’t last a week without her and I thank my lucky stars every damn day that we found each other nearly 40 years ago. There is likely nobody else who would have put up with me for all these years and there is damn sure no one I would rather spend a quarantine with.
Like a lot of us I have spent much more time online since the pandemic began but I’ve figured out how to make it less painful and hopefully less of a complete waste of time. About the only social media that I do is Facebook (as if that isn’t plenty) and I’ve done my best to try and mold their silly algorithms to my liking and not theirs. Still have a ways to go but I see far less political crap (and face it - especially in an election year a lot of it is political crap) unless it’s posted by a Facebook friend. What I do see are a whole bunch of local history pages from the various places we have lived over the past 37 years and during the pandemic those pages have absolutely exploded with activity. So have my favorite cooking pages and music pages. It has been great fun to see all the increased activity in things that interest me.
Making connections with people has always been the best part of social media and I’ve managed to reconnect with all sorts of folks since COVID invaded our lives - some that date back 50+ years to elementary school - some from college - some from various stages in my career - it’s been fun to catch up and I am ever so grateful that they lowered their standards enough to chat with me.
I have mastered - at least for Moab - the “art” of online grocery shopping. We only have two grocers in town and only one of them is a “sort-of-supermarket.” I started out doing the grocery pick-up thing but most of the pickers seemed to be high school kids who often left much to be desired. I have now “graduated” to grocery delivery via Instacart and have finally figured out how to make it work. I was hesitant as hell at first - especially when it came to produce, but damn if they don’t do a great job of it. We have the luxury of having a real butcher shop in town where we buy probably 90% of our meat so leaving that to an unknown shopper was never a concern for us. We’ve been going there for over a decade - they know exactly what we want - we call in the order the day before and they have it all bagged up and ready for us. Now if you’ve ever used Instacart - there’s really no way to ask for a particular shopper so I had to figure that out for myself and now get Mrs. B almost all of the time - she’s a foodie herself, she is very picky, and she has figured us out. If something I have ordered is out of stock of if she sees something that looks better than what I requested - she’ll shoot me a photo and let me choose. Now I’ll eventually drag myself back to the grocery store - in the dead of winter when all the tourists are gone it can be a major social event - but for now I’m more than happy to pay the delivery fee and give Mrs. B a tip. I may never do my own grocery shopping during tourist season again.
I’ve learned how to use Zoom - had to - both of the graduate school ceremonies we were scheduled to attend became Zoom events. Last month I hosted a Zoom meeting for nearly a dozen folks that graduated from the same program that I did at Western Washington University. It was the first time in 43 years that so many of us were “together” at the same time and it was awesome fun. Hopefully we can continue to build the participant list and we’ve already agreed to get together sometime in November. Damned if somehow we didn’t all get old! Had a Zoom meeting just a few days ago with a couple of guys that date back to junior high - jeez, I think we stayed online for nearly 3 hours. So beware - I’m thinking of all kinds of weird combinations for Zoom meetings - you might be next!
We have collectively been reminded of the true heroes among us while discovering “new” ones - the medical community has been amazing and I have nothing but heartfelt appreciation for them - I stand in awe as every one of them puts their life on the line every day. Same goes for law enforcement, the fire department, etc., but hey - how about three cheers and a big thank you for everyone in public works, for the grocery checkers and stockers, the truck drivers, the mail carrier, the UPS and FedEx drivers - all those people we have taken for granted for far too long - they are all heroes.
And how about those Covid dreams? Are any of you having them? I seldom remember dreams but since the pandemic began I’m having, and vaguely remembering, completely off the wall, mish-mash dreams that throw together strange combinations of people, places, and events. They are very vivid and after googling “covid dreams” I guess I’m lucky in that they are not Covid nightmares - I actually look forward to the the next strange combination of people, places and events as I fall asleep at night.
Finally there is the binge-watching - I know - not necessarily a good thing and I could just as well add in binge-reading, binge-pod casting and binge-deep dives on YouTube finding music that appeals to me or takes me back in time - but for now I’ll deal only with streaming on the idiot box. I’ve never watch so much TV during the spring and summer - but hey - no social distancing needed and I don’t need a mask. I’ve never gotten so much out of the fees that we pay to the cable company, Netflix, Hulu, Prime, etc.
Remember way back at the beginning of the pandemic when the nation binged Joe Exotic in Tiger King? That seems like so long ago now - in fact, I figure in another month or so it might be long enough to watch it all again.
I’ve had to wean myself from constant news - I’m convinced that the 24/7 news cycle is one of the things wrong with the United States - that along with internet news. I’ve cut back to one local news cast - primarily for the weather - and two national newscasts a day although I seldom watch all of either of them. It’s just so repetitive and everything gets elevated to crisis proportion - it was crazy-making to try and stay tuned in.
No - I’ve opted for pure escapism - and I love it. I’ve re-watched two or three of the superb David Attenborough productions (Plant Earth, Life on Earth) and I can’t recommend enough his most recent release on Netflix: A Life on Our Planet. He’s still busy at age 94 and this most recent one is both sobering and hopeful. Ditto for re-watching several full series of Ken Burns documentaries - both Attenborough and Burns are masters at what they do and rather than seem like the older ones are outdated and irrelevant, they have aged quite well. Almost all of Anthony Bordain’s TV work is scattered across the web and I’ve done more than one deep dive with him.
Now before you get to thinking that I’m spending my bingeing time watching worthwhile non-fiction things - think again.
I went down one hole determined to watch all of the James Bond films in order - made it about half way through which covered all of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras, the best in my opinion - will probably finish up one of these days.
I grew up in the golden era of western movies on TV on Saturday afternoon. Living in the northwest meant there were plenty of rainy Saturday’s that kept me in front of the TV watching westerns - most of them seem so campy now and there are only about a total of five plot lines that were used over and over again - I still love them. Life was simpler and good vs bad was much easier to discern.
Watched as many early seasons of The Rifleman (1958-1963) as I could find - good old Lucas McCain with his famous ring-rifle stacking up the bodies but almost always time in the closing minutes for a moral lesson of some sort for son Mark. Highway Patrol (1955-1959) with my old pal Broderick Crawford playing Dan Mathews as he chased bad guys on the roadways wearing that snappy fedora and hollering into the two-way radio - good stuff. Childhood heroes Sky King (broadcast intermittently from 1951-1966) with his niece Penny - she may have been the first female I had a serious crush on and I couldn’t possibly leave out Sargent Preston of the Yukon (1955-1958) with Yukon King the wonder dog and his horse Rex.
Then there was the week or so that I devoted to watching all seven seasons (1966-1973) of Mission Impossible - “Good Morning Mr. Phelps” the tape would greet Peter Graves before describing the mission and then self-destructing. I think my favorite character was Barney - the electronic gadget guy - and his gadgets are so laughable now - often just a small tin box with a toggle switch attached and labeled Nerve Gas or some such with a Dymo label maker - high tech for certain.
So much to watch - and thanks to this damn pandemic - plenty of time!
I hold out hope that we shall see a vaccine sometime soon and that by perhaps next Spring or early summer we can all safely return to lives outside of our respective bubbles, however we construct them for ourselves. I won’t say that I long for a return to “normal” as I believe we have exposed too many things in this country where normal was just not good enough - still too many holes in the social fabric. I do know we can beat this thing - we just have to want to and we have to let science guide our actions, not politics.
Peace be with you - Hendo