Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.
April 24: It’s prom season. I have friends in Pennsylvania whose daughter is a graduating senior. There’s no real prom, but there was a virtual one.
First the young lad brought his date flowers, leaving them on the bench for her to retrieve to ensure proper social distancing:
Then the couple posed for the traditional boy-in-back-with-arms-around-his-date-while-trying-not-to-act-nervous photo:
We’re all having to adjust to new challenges these days but I feel like dads-of-young-women the world over can get on board with this new reality.
Seriously, though: like the birthday parade for the little girl I talked about the other day, this may not be an ideal celebration or rite of passage, but it’ll certainly be a memorable one. I went to three pretty forgettable proms. I don’t have any good stories to tell about any of them, really. Everything sucks at the moment — and none of what’s happening is worth it — but we’ll be talking about it for the rest of our lives. There will be value in that and, in all of that, we will find little graces.
Anna’s mother dropped her off this afternoon. As she was leaving she said, over her shoulder, “Oh, Anna keeps saying she’s going to cut her own hair, I told her she can’t, bye.” So I guess for the next five days I either (a) police her like crazy and try to keep her from hacking her hair off; or (b) let whatever happens happen.
I think anyone even remotely familiar with Anna’s work knows that (a) is not an option. At the same time, I want to at least attempt to back up her mother, so I told Anna that while I can’t stop her from cutting her own hair, I’d really prefer it if she didn’t. And that, if she’d cooperate with her mother’s wishes we could do something fun with her hair after this is all over. Wild color. Wild cuts. You name it. Just, with a professional doing it, not her doing it herself with kitchen shears.
Anna pushed back at that some, but I told her I wasn’t super invested either way. Look at me. How can I possibly have strong opinions about hair? Part of me thinks that if she was really wanting to hack off all her hair she would’ve simply done it already and that the threat of doing it was more to push her mom’s buttons.
And if not? Well, as the old saying goes, the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks. And it’s not like she’s going anywhere where she can’t look like a poor man’s Pat Benatar or a prison inmate or something if that’s what ends up happening. And if it does, and it’s less-than-great, well, it might be something else we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives. I’ll get photos so you can too.
I joked about Trump’s comments about bleach and household cleaners yesterday, but when I woke up this morning and saw that basically the only response — apart from frantic disclaimers from Lysol and other companies who don’t want to get sued — was widespread joking, I was a bit taken aback. I mean, I realize that Trump is graded on the world’s most forgiving curve for some reason, but this is rather insane. A world-crippling pandemic has killed 50,000 Americans in a month and the President of the United States went before the nation and suggested that injecting poison may help. They should be dragging him away in a straitjacket right now but nothing happens . . . except jokes.
Even the Surgeon General cannot bring himself to say, “no, actually, one should not inject bleach into their veins”:
A reminder to all Americans- PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/ medication to yourself or a loved one.
Your safety is paramount, and doctors and nurses are have years of training to recommend what’s safe and effective.
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) April 24, 2020
This is the sort of thing you read old dissidents talking about after years under dictatorships or juntas in eastern Europe or South America or Africa or something. About how the party secretary’s or the generalissimo’s underlings feared contradicting him even if he raved madly and how there is no recourse against the madness other than dark laughter. Whenever I used to read those accounts I always thought to myself, “well, in America at least we have democracy and democratic institutions which prevent us from being powerless like that.” Guess I was fooling myself.
On a more sane note, J.C. Bradbury is an academic economist I know from the world of baseball. He lives in Georgia and has been closely following Georgia’s widely derided plan to begin opening restaurants and hair salons and all manner of businesses this weekend. So much of the public discourse about that and other “re-open America” talk has fallen into the extreme buckets of “OPEN EVERYTHING NOW!” or “OH MY GOD, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.” Bradbury, though, put together a pretty good list of factors which should be present before we start the slow process of returning to normal:
I’m no expert but that all seems to make sense. At the very least, it seems to me that those are the sorts of factors our leaders should be considering and talking about in a very clear and very public way, every day. So few of them, even the good ones, are doing that. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who I have praised repeatedly, has remained vague, saying “opening up is a high-wire act . . . many factors are at play.” Which, yes, but that doesn’t tell any of us basically anything. On the opposite end of the extreme we have Bleach Boy.
We also have New York Times columnists who apparently harbor some very odd notions of what life in not New York is like:
"I don’t see why people living in a Nashville suburb should not be allowed to return to their jobs because people like me choose to live, travel and work in urban sardine cans," writes Bret Stephens https://t.co/avMnODm1BS
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) April 25, 2020
The best part of living west of the Hudson River, I have found, is that we are, at all times, miles apart from one another, even in elevators, cube farms, hair salons, bars and at concerts. Clearly we here, in America’s Charming Heartland, are not at risk like those go-go-Gotham-go-getters. We should totally relax everything, just as the wise columnist says. Even if, I suspect, he couldn’t point out 5 non-coastal states on a map, even if you spotted him Oklahoma.
In any event, I find it regrettable that Bret Stephens’ otherwise impeccable expertise about the safety of places like Nashville is not further bolstered by a pithy quote from a notable Nashville resident. Such as, say, John Prine. Did he not try to get a quote from him?
As I’ve had to re-learn, over and over again, it’s easier to make the best of lockdown if one does not obsess on the news. A better use of one’s time: watching Tim Booth, the singer of your favorite band, James, and his neighbor, who is a guitarist, doing a couple of songs from his house.
Booth had attempted a livestream yesterday but there were some technical glitches, so he just did two songs on an iPhone and put ’em on Facebook. Were they as good as the seven times I’ve seen James in concert? Nah, but these kinds of things sure are appreciated.
COVID-19 cases reported in the United States as of tonight: 898,000. Number of dead: 51,192. In the world those numbers are 2.6 million cases and more than 180,000 dead
Sing myself to sleep a song from the darkest hour, indeed.