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.
May 2: I had planned to do the day a certain way and Allison planned to do the day a certain way and by mid-morning it became apparent that the day was not going to go those ways and we ended up in that place where I think everyone ends up two or three times a week, asking, no one in particular, “why can’t things just be normal?!”
But we know the answer to that and it’s not an answer worth dwelling on because we can’t do a goddamn thing about it. So we got in the car, went to a park and went for a walk.
We decided to take a trail that wasn’t likely to have a lot of people on it. And there was no one on it, mostly because it was muddy:
That’s what waterproof hiking shoes are for, I suppose.
After a couple of miles — and some watery, itchy eyes and sniffly noses — we went back to the car and stopped at Target to pick up some seasonal allergy meds. It was kind of anxiety-inducing. I’m used to the go-in-get-what-you-need-get-out dynamic of the grocery store, but Target still had a number of people just sort of milling around and shopping for nothing in particular. It’s been so long since I’ve been around people not taking clear and definitive paths through human traffic. I’ve sort of forgotten how to navigate around the meanderers.
One of the things I’d normally be doing around now would be gardening. I don’t do anything elaborate, but I do plant annuals and spread mulch and that sort of thing. Just some neatening-up and coloring-up the beds in front of the house and those around the patio in the back. It’s been cold or rainy for most of the past few weekends but it was warm and pleasant today. Except I didn’t do any work outside and I’m not sure when or if I will.
The garden centers have been open. I’m not sure why, exactly, that’s the case. Maybe dealing with living things like plants or pets or whatever make you an essential business. Maybe there’s a fine enough line between landscaping businesses — which have stayed open — and nursery businesses that render the distinctions close to meaningless. I don’t know. I do know, though, that I have hesitated going by and picking up flats of snapdragons or impatiens and whatever else I’d plant this spring because it feels like it’d be an unnecessary trek out into public.
On the way back home we passed by the big nursery near us. The parking lot was overflowing out into the road and it was no doubt crammed with people. I couldn’t imagine a place I’d less rather be. When I got home I looked at my rather sad, empty flower beds and figured that, for now at least, I’ll just try to keep them clear of weeds and worry about flowers at some other time. It just can’t possibly rate that high on the scale of importance.
Allison left for the barn not long after we got home. Instead of gardening I just opened all of the windows and began to straighten and clean the house. It scratches the same itch I suppose. The imposition of order over disorder mostly, which I’ve always known to be something my psyche desperately craves and needs, especially in times of stress. I can’t abide a mess, be it a physical one or something more cosmic, and if I can compose my environment in an orderly and organized fashion it calms my mind. After a few hours of that, accompanied by a few golden age Kinks albums, which I’ve been binging of late, I was feeling much better.
I usually get about 85% of these entries done on the date in the title — they’re the reflections of that day — and post them in the morning, on the date of the article. I’m writing this part forward at around 5AM on the morning of May 3, however. Partially because I got pretty tired as I was writing last night and felt that zoning out to more music was the best use of my time. Partially because I’ve been up since 3AM and I can’t think of what else to do with myself besides write.
The weather woke me up at first. We went to bed with the windows open but it had gotten stuffy and some rain started blowing in at around 3, so I got up, closed windows and clicked on the AC. When I got back in bed Rosie began jumping on and off the bed, up onto the headboard, and generally being a dick. Rather than toss and turn and fight with her I went downstairs, figuring I’d chill out and then get back into bed.
I probably should’ve realized Rosie’s restlessness was the harbinger of a seizure. Just after I wrote about her last week the vet put her on a pretty powerful new drug. It comes in a gigantic horse-sized pill, but I’m good at pilling cats and it’s not been an issue. Even better, it had completely stopped the seizures. Her last one was a week ago Saturday. She started the medicine that day and had gone a week without one. Not long after I came downstairs, though, she had one that sent her slamming against the walls. There’s no going to sleep after that for me, but she’s now passed out on the couch next to me.
If they happen once every week or two we can handle it, I think. If this is the beginning of another every day cycle, though, I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do.
My Sunday L.A. Times showed up in my inbox a few minutes ago. On the front page was this:
Probably worth noting at the outset that, back in February, the L.A. Times ran an article about teenagers sharing coronavirus memes and characterized it all as irrational and hysterical. Turns out that, actually, the kids were right and everyone should’ve been paying more fucking attention. As usual.
That aside, as someone who spends a ton of time online, and as someone who has teenagers who live and breathe meme culture, I’m gonna take at least some issue with the notion that memes — or, as the article focuses on, TikTok clips and the like — are a function of people “remaining positive.”
If an Earth-killing asteroid was on a guaranteed square-strike trajectory, the last thing we’d see before our deaths would be memes. You’d get texts from teenagers with pics of graveyards captioned with “Lol it me” and things like that.
This sort of expression is, I suppose, more superficially positive than gloom and doom and genuine freaking out, but it’s not the sort of positivity people like this author are suggesting it is. Meme culture is often about laughing in self-defense, with the nut of most of the humor being the inherent powerlessness of the speaker in the given situation. It’s gallows humor, and gallows humor is, by definition, humor that stems from desperation and hopelessness.
A desperation and hopelessness with which the generation of young adults steeped in meme culture are well acquainted given all that their elders have made of the world into which they’ve been thrust.