Today I started reorganizing the record collection. It was inevitable. When I moved into the new house, I left the records deliberately disorganized so I might have a thing to look forward to in the event of bad weather or illness. I didn’t anticipate quarantine, but here we are. And I’m back to being solo again, so the time, it would seem, is nigh.
I had an old roommate years ago, who used to watch me as I blithely reshelved and realphabetized until late at night, and comment that it my fondness for the activity was clearly a sign of mental duress. “A happy person does not do those kind of things,” she’d say, and give me some new armchair DSM diagnosis on her way back from the kitchen.
I would think, “A happy person does not date dudes with swastika tattoos (“He was going through a phase. He’s swears he’s saving to get it removed”) and obsessively write poems about death,” but I rarely retorted back at her because she was clearly unhappy and we all have our crosses to bear. I was sorry she could not take the achieve the same satisfaction from alphabetizing old vinyl that I did.
Putting aside the “High Fidelity” of it all, the record reorganizing is apex meditative fun (especially when paired with a finger of good whisky) and real deal when it to grounding a person. And I’ve spent most of the today feeling a little bit like I’m floating into the ether. I hit Day Sixty of Quarantine yesterday to little fanfare and less hope. About the only things I can say about it are 1) I’m not dead yet (and if you’re reading this, neither are you) and 2) the scratches on the closet wall where I’m marking the days are starting to take up some actual real estate. I feel absolutely not at all clearer about any of this than I did on Day One. If anything, current l reports find the future even more grim and obscure than the original prognosticators.
From the outside, it would appear we have nothing to look forward to, save perhaps eventually getting the virus and figuring out exactly when and where on the sliding scale of suck (from absolutely miserable to actual death) we’ll land with it. From the inside? I don’t know if that holds. I think there’s all the awful and then I remember that there are plenty of smart, talented, compassionate people who don’t seem any more likely than I do to crouch helplessly in the corner and wait for the end of the world. Many of them—many, many of them–are not. And I’m not just talking about the medical personnel and the front-line, essential workers, but pretty mu ch everyone that’s organizing food drives or calling their congresspeople or making art or doing whatever they can to keep their communities alive and change the conversation from How It Is to How It Could/Should Be Be. I kind of think are there are way more people like that out there than, say, people at the ReOpen rallies. And I’m not just saying that because I’m lucky enough to know plenty of the former.
Yesterday, a friend of mine, a local community leader, lamented the way the argument has been constructed in the national media. It’s not that we need some Pollyanna-ish spin on an unfolding tragedy, but that we need a way to acknowledge and accept the darkness of our current situation without entirely giving up and ceding the larger part of the going-forward conversation to the conspiracy theorists, petty fascists with guns, sociopaths in the federal government and the corporate interests that support them all. I don’t want to be the side associated with fear and shame and apathy. I think we can be responsible, considerate people, who listen to scientists, and take of ourselves and our communities and our cities without surrendering to hopelessness and despair. Just because we’re staying home doesn’t mean we should quit pushing for positive change.
I’m not calling for revolution exactly (if memory serves, I was disinvited from the event years ago for various reasons, both political and aesthetic). But I do need something to look forward to. Maybe you do too. And it’s got to be more than just reorganizing my records or catching a new Netflix series. It’s got to be more than waiting on takeout. I can’t fall back on my “the world sucks, but” salves of live music, friends, parties, theatre, travel, etc, because those things can’t and don’t exist in this world for the indefinite future. I can’t hang my hopes on the weak sauce of a promised vaccine that I’m repeatedly told may not come soon enough to make any real difference (or at all). I can’t go back to school or try a new job. I can’t move to a new city. I can’t have a mad passionate love affair with a handsome stranger. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. And you can’t either. So now that we have nothing else to distract us from the bullshit, maybe we should do something about the bullshit. I mean, there is theoretically a life on the other side of this. I’d like to want to live there.
Because look, I’ll be done with this record thing in a few days. If I’m going to make it through the next however many days/months/years of this, I’m going to need a new project for sure.
Photo today is of some ominous skywriting I caught over Astor Place, back around 2011.
As of this writing, 1,522,034 people have recovered from COVID-19.