Oh, the bad days.
For a few days out of every week, I think I’m over them. The worries ebb, not entirely, never entirely, but settle into kind of a low tide kind of deal. I can be reasonably comfortable there, so long as I don’t get too confident and wade out over my head, but then the tides turn and the big waves start coming in, one after another, and the next thing I know I’m in bed, in a fetal position on a weekday, drowning under projected casualties and weeping about that stupid New York Times article about how we’re probably never going have art or music or theatre again, maybe forever (don’t read it) and Oh-What-The-Hell-Let’s-Sink-To-The-Bottom clicking through to that one about how most of us are going to lose everything and starve to death in the coming decades-long global depression (seriously, don’t read that one either). It’s real precipice-of-doom stuff, where it doesn’t take long for obliterating doom itself to look more appealing than the increasingly narrow, thorny precipice.
And I know. I should meditate ( I suck at it) or do more yoga or whatever. I don’t have great coping mechanisms past watching squirrels and eating salty snacks dipped in irresponsible quantities of irresponsibly fancy mustards and broadcasting the latest from my inconveniently-timed nervous breakdown to my social media feed (ahoy, mateys). I find disco isn’t terrible for this kind of thing. Old hip hop is maybe better. Going outside is required.
I spend more time than I should worrying about doing/listening/reading/watching things I enjoy because I don’t want those things to be contaminated with this. Like, I don’t want to put on James Brown’s “In a Jungle Groove,” for example, in a couple of years, and have it sound like COVID19 (that’s assuming I’m still alive in two years and I still have records and player to play said record and power to power said record and my life hasn’t just turned into a lonely, desperate scramble through the wasteland digging up wild onions with my broken fingernails accompanied only by an actual zombie and a smelly three-legged dog named Stinky Hamburger Johnson as we try to outrun murder thugs terrorizing the landscape for kicks and Charmin).
I want “In a Jungle Groove” to always sound like a party. And not some shitty, “virtual” party, but the real thing. Probably with people dancing. Together. Maybe at the beach. Definitely with shrimp.
When it comes to apocalypse, didn’t think it would go down like this. I spent so much of my end-of-Cold-War childhood imagining the end of everything, trying to emotionally prepare. As many of you know, I always figured (hoped) it would happen quickly, presumably when I was at the mall, with just enough time for me to declare my love to Kevin, late of Corn Dog 7, and possessor of the most beautiful marble-like, blue-green eyes (I remember nothing else about him). I hoped he’d want to spend his last few minutes making out with me in the little corridor by Baskin-Robbins while we listened to, I dunno, INXS or maybe “With or Without You” over the mall loudspeaker, but I suppose there were no guarantees then either.
Professional advice indicates that we should try to follow a routine in order to stay sane. Don’t deviate. Stick to it. But you know what I miss? You know what really got me up in the morning in the old days? Surprise. Thinking that every time I went out into the world, there was a chance, infinitesimal as it may have been, that I’d fall madly in love, meet my new best friend, or stumble into some possibility, some side road, some chance encounter, some grand adventure I couldn’t have possibly imagined.
But now the only thing likely to surprise me on my daily peregrinations are how many people have died and what weird shit people have decided to panic buy at the supermarket this week (ice cream sandwiches? Sriracha? English muffins? Heavy cream?).
I wish I was fooling. I’m not.
I’ll be okay though. I can already feel the tide starting to turn. So maybe I’ll lather up with sunscreen and go sit at the metaphorical water’s edge and let the water lap against my feet. Probably I’ll take a walk by the literal water’s edge and watch the squirrels and herons. You never know; I might even be able to work myself up to James Brown later. I’m thinking maybe “The Payback.”
Picture today is of me, at low-tide in all senses, standing in the surf in Cinque Terre (Monterosso al Mare, precisely) in between a wine breakfast and a surprisingly challenging hike, circa 2016.
As of this writing, 190,710 people have recovered from COVID-19.