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, though 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.
*I’m messing with the dating of these. I tend to write these as the day progresses and post them the next day. I want the date of each entry to reflect the day of impressions instead of the date of publication, so I’m making this one weird, the one that goes up tomorrow, on March 21, will be titled “March 20,” and from then on we’ll be fine. Got it? Great.
March 19(b): When I woke up the top trending thing on Twitter was a video that a bunch of celebrities did, with each of them singing “Imagine” over a webcam. The overwhelming reaction was, in effect, “it must be easy to protect calm when you’re living in your Hollywood Hills mansion, no doubt stocked with supplies and/or panic rooms” or whatever.
I get that impulse and I often throw a joke into the big joke pile when it happens, but my two biggest takeaways are:
- They’re celebrities, celebrity does not require a certain IQ or level of self-awareness and, in fact, having those things in notable size probably just complicates one’s trek to the top of Celebrity Mountain, so, basically, bless their misguided hearts; and
- Whenever I see celebrities doing dumb things like that my biggest concern is that a celebrity I actually like and respect will be involved, ruining them for me. Like, if Paul Rudd or Gillian Anderson showed up on that video imagining all the people living life in peaaaaaacceee, I’d probably cry.
The kids’ shared parenting schedule is for me to have them every Monday and Tuesday night, their mother to have them every Wednesday and Thursday night and for us to alternate Friday-Sundays. It’s a pretty good schedule, as it gives each parent five straight days with the kids every other week alternating with five “days off” as it were. Since I live near the school and they walk home to my house each afternoon, even on days when they spend the night at her house, I actually see them more than that, never going more than a Saturday-Sunday without seeing them during the school year. We’ve used that schedule ever since we split up and it works for everyone really well.
On Wednesday I texted Carleen, who is also working from home, about when she’d come by to get them. At first she said 5pm and then, a few moments later, texted me back and told me that maybe they shouldn’t come over. She had a fever. A low one, but enough to scare her. She had called her doctor who said that it was not high enough to qualify as a “fever” for coronavirus testing given that she’s healthy and in her 40s. Her best bet, they said, was to just hang tight, if the fever spikes, give a call back, and otherwise take it easy and see what happened. I kept the kids on Wednesday night.
The next morning I texted her to see how she was doing. She said that her fever was gone before she had gone to bed the night before and she was feeling fine. She also woke up with no fever. We agreed to check back with one another again that afternoon and, nope, no fever and no other symptoms of anything. She had spent the day disinfecting her house — which, if she is still like she was when we were married, was already spotless and disinfected to within an inch of its life to begin with — and we agreed that we felt OK sending the kids back over there.
In the course of our conversation we started piecing together sicknesses she, the kids, Allison, their coworkers, and I have had in the past month or two. Last week Allison had a similar little one-day low fever that vanished as quickly as it went. In mid-late February Carleen, both kids and I had feverish crud, with my son — who had croup often when he was young and still gets hit harder with colds than the rest of us — having a horrendous cough to go along with it all. We all had been to the doctor and took flu tests, which came up negative. Two of us were diagnosed with sinus infections, two were thought to just have colds or “random virus-y crud,” as my doctor likes to put it. We took some antibiotics and shook what we had in normal course.
Carleen noted that Amy Acton, the medical director of the Ohio Department of Health, said the other day that they have traced back the first Ohio coronavirus case to February 7. Both of us wondered if, someplace in that mix — maybe Carlo with his fever and awful cough, maybe one of her coworkers who said he “had the worst case of bronchitis ever” around that time — had it? And didn’t know it. It seems a far-fetched, but the information even official sources are disseminating every day seems to conflict with what we thought we knew just a few days before. Maybe we’re just allowing ourselves to think things that make us feel better. “Hey, maybe we had it and it wasn’t that bad and maybe now we’re immune!” Maybe these one-day fevers that Carleen and Allison each had — fevers that disappeared as soon as they arrived — were our minds playing tricks on us too.
I allowed myself to pay attention to details of the various relief/stimulus plans floating around Congress at the moment. After a day or so worth of people of both parties seeming amenable to something straightforward and basic like “let’s send four-figure checks to every man, woman, and child in the country because we are all well and rightly fucked,” it now seems to be devolving into the usual idiotic political battles. Republicans obviously caring more about giant corporations. Democrats far more afraid of being accused of being socialists than they are eager to do the right thing and thus talking about tax credits and means-testing and all manner of qualifications so no Republican can say that they’re not fiscally responsible.
I wrote two paragraphs, in pretty micro-level detail, about why that’s all bad policy, but I deleted it. I don’t want to get too into the political weeds in this diary. It’s all over my Twitter feed and, frankly, I’m trying to keep it out of my mind as much as a person wired like I am can responsibly do. I’m doing my best to just record my feelings and impressions here. So let’s just leave it at this: Cut checks. Cut them as big as you can. Cut them for every single person in the country, regardless of their income or wealth. If you think it’s unfair for rich people to get one of those checks, claw it back via taxes in 2021, but don’t slow up or gum up the works now. Do it big and do it as soon as possible, because the country is hurtling toward a depression right now and there is no time to waste.
After the kids left last night Allison and two of her friends had a FaceTime happy hour:
After that Allison and I had some dinner and then watched a James Bond movie. “Skyfall,” which I have seen about 10 times but which Allison had not seen somehow. It’s my favorite Bond flick. Daniel Craig is, in my view, the best Bond, even if only two of the four Bond movies he’s been in are good. “Casino Royale” is pretty great too.
“Skyfall” has an extended segment in which Bond is chasing the bad guy through crowded Underground stations. I instinctively cringed when I saw all of the people crowded together on platforms and cars given what’s going on. This morning I saw this:
This morning on the London Underground (left) and the Toronto subway (right).
One of these cities is getting its act together. One is hurtling towards catastrophe. pic.twitter.com/l3Fhrm5S8T
— Scott Gilmore (@Scott_Gilmore) March 20, 2020
Beyond that, it’s been jarring for me to see any movie in which the US or UK government is shown as competent or serious or that the matters to which they are deeply committed are vital as opposed to the clownery each of them has engaged in the past couple of years.
I’m, pretty obviously, a lefty who has issue with authority and disdain for tradition for tradition’s sake, but my upbringing or disposition (or something) has always caused me to be drawn to institutions. I want to believe in them, really. I want “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and the myth of small town American values to be real, even if I know in my bones they are not. I’m a shameless anglophile who wishes he could look to 1,000 years of shared heritage and say “there will always be an England” or to believe that, if we all just keep a stiff upper lip and our wits about us, we can endure whatever comes our way. All present evidence to the contrary.
Maybe I’ve listen to too many Kinks songs. Maybe it’s why I’m so disappointed by the world.
That aside, it was a nice evening, partially because Daniel Craig looks AMAZING kicking people’s asses while wearing Tom Ford suits, but also because we were offline and not obsessing on news or feeding on the anxieties of others or feeding others anxieties of our own. The online/offline battle is one I’ve fought, and mostly lost, for most of the past decade. I think I’m wired to handle it better than a lot of people are — it generally doesn’t impact my moods or distort my thinking as much as I’ve seen it do to others — but I’m more aware of a need to unplug at the moment than usual. At least to the extent that’s possible when our only significant link to the world apart from a trip to the grocery store is a virtual one.
It poured rain last night. Buckets and buckets, with high winds causing it to rattle off the windows. It sounded like machine gun fire peppering the walls of a bunker.