We are one with “social distancing” and “shelter in place”, with boxed meals set outside the door, Charlie’s workshop masks at the ready, and my 2′ poker still good for pushing buttons and better than anything else for keeping people at more than arm’s length.
Well, goodness knows we’re trying. No outsiders can come into our building, so Charlie brought his dog clipper over to cut my hair, tonsured as it has become. He does not take suggestions for a more subtle cut well. He has upgraded my Internet, so I can become a proper Zoom-er. No more my nattering away at statues, with an “unstable connection.”
The seagulls have returned, and Charlie is trying to be one with them. They bob and preen and pay no attention to his sqwaa-ck sqwa-a-ackng. Neither do the invading pigeons. But a mezzanine lady shouted, “I wondered what kind of very big bird that was.” Hardly missing a sqwa-a-ack, Charlie called back, “I have a lot to learn.”
Besides the COVID19-related news and great graphics of the online NYT, I’ve spent my pandemic reading articles that help me make some sense of the chaos engulfing the world.
Lawrence Wright’s NYT essay and his NY’er interview are both about his research for and writing of The End of October, his just published, prescient novel about a pandemic that started with a virus in Asia. I learned that from history and science, we should have been less surprised and more ready.
Orhan Pamuk’s NYT essay about the classics of pandemic literature is a great Cliff’s Notes, plus wise analysis. I am glad for his list and lessons and someday, when we are not living in and through this, I may read these, but not now.
Stephen King gives a great interview to David Marchese, who asks great questions. Interesting that Stephen King, who wrote about a pandemic in The Stand, was most surprised at how fast everything changed in real life, and thought having food, not fear, is most worrisome.
Every time I hear Trump say we are battling an invisible foe, which, he implies, we therefore cannot know, I silently shriek AARRGGHH! I recall Stephen Greenblatt’s NY’er article about “invisible bullets” or the atoms that Lucretius understood were the pith of epidemics and recoil at the ignorance currently in Power. Then I read Tom Friedman’s conversation with Dov Seidman on leadership. It was a gift, wise and pertinent, and I can breathe again.
Wolf Kahn died and a fresh look at the vibrant colors of his outdoors makes sheltering-in-place in Spring a tad more tolerable. So did the work of other artists who rendered views from their windows. And as I am profoundly one with my one room — and Charlie and a view of the Ship’s Canal — room-rating is fun, maybe more for the art and the color, though books on shelves are fun, if you can see the disheveled shelf of current reading. And I love that while virtually testifyingDr. Fauci’s room rated a 10. But then, he’s an all-purpose 10 in my book. (I found a picture of the room, but I couldn’t find the room-rating, which I know I did not make up, though I would have if I had thought of it.)
OTHERWISE, Hope Jahren, whose memoir, Lab Girl, is among my all-time favorites, has new book, The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go from Here. It’s true; I’ll read anything she writes, but who better than a well-read, well-traveled paleo-botanist researcher and teacher to think about the future? I’ve just started the book and it’s already good, but anticipation is much of the fun.
Will McGrath’s memoir, Everything Lost is Found Again: 4 Seasons in Lesotho was fun because friend Mary’s stories introduced me to Lesotho some years ago. I loved living two places for 35 years and was probably predisposed to like this book, which I did, but then, there on the last line of the author’s acknowledgements was thanks to Bill and [my friend] Mary. Next I have Bill Holm’s memoir of his life in Iceland, The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland.
First freedom stop after sheltering-in-place is lifted a bit: a latte — when the sun is out and umbrella-ed tables can be set far enough apart. Until then, read about coffee in the world, especially the third paragraph from the end which notes Todd Caspersen’s Equal Exchange coffee company and all they are doing right. Spilling all: Todd is Millie’s son and one of Charlie’s almost cousins from Southeast Minneapolis. Best neighborhood ever.
And don’t miss the sheep in the vineyard on YouTube. Six hours of pleasant.