Pandemic Diary 14: A Love of Books

My eight-year-old self enjoys his shelf of books in quarantine. He gets to choose each day between writing about reading or reading about writing.

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I’ve been told that I look like a kid in a candy store when we visit a book store. I suddenly appear to have multiple arms, like a Hindu deity, and my stride becomes a purposeful lurch.

There are two booksellers in my hometown of New Paltz, NY, plus our legendary record store offers a wall of books. When was the last time you visited a record store? Heck, it’s been a couple years since I have … and I reside in a community which has one.

An acquaintance, a rare book collector, was about to open a third bookshop here this spring, but the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent quarantine interfered. It is a difficult time to start a business other than a vape outlet or coffee shop anyway, even in a college town like ours, even in times when one can come into physical contact with customers, delivery boxes, cash. There will be better times.
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Pandemic Diary 13: Teach Your Children

The control freak aspect to my personality hates life in quarantine.

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I taught freshman composition at two upstate New York colleges in the early 1990s for five years. My last class met for its final session at the conclusion of the fall 1995 semester.

From the start of that school term, I knew that this was going to be my last semester teaching or attempting to teach or even correctly referring to myself as a “teacher”; thus, of course, two of the three classes that semester were two of the best groups of students I had yet worked with, and they almost made me regret my decision to retire at age 27. Almost.

The decision never was mine to make, however; I was not a good teacher, and I am grateful that I learned this on the sooner side of “sooner or later.” I am, perhaps, an entertaining lecturer but I am an even better student; as a twenty-something freshman composition instructor, I must have been execrable. It was too bad that I had barely made even the faintest start in what eventually became my pose as a long-suffering anything by the time it was all over.
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Pandemic Diary 12: Love and Light

Kindness is always available, of course, but snark, innuendo, and rumor are the only currencies in the economy of dread that quarantine offers us.

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An April shower lashes the northeast today; my window faces the southeast, so it feels like my desk is ringside at a boxing match. It is a day-long storm with an angry wind that is noisy even without tree branches or loose eaves to whistle through. After three weeks of quarantine, this can feel like a quarantine inside a quarantine, twenty-three hours of solitary confinement with sixty minutes alone added just for today.

Some days in quarantine, the repetition of minor tasks and details is relentless, and then the relentlessness is its own unforgiving detail. Days like today, with the gusty threat of a power—and internet—outage, which might on any other April 13 carry a “day off from school” relief, instead add foreboding to the limited palette of anxious dread.

Thus, the glimpses of light when they come are more brilliant and meaningful if one allows oneself to perceive them.
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Pandemic Diary 11: Bite-sized Insults

“You aren’t worth the breath you use.” I tweeted that to some Twitter account today, some individual or individuals hidden behind an American flag and a pro-Trump phrase in place of a person’s name. (“Something Deplorables Something,” written in the Fraktur typeface favored by neo-Nazis or those who think it is cute to be thought of as a neo-Nazi. The account spent the morning tweeting GIFs at me happy to think that it had “owned” me, a Lib.)

This particular account had defended … oh, who cares about the controversy du jour of April 11, 2020? It is so small that I can imagine future me perplexed by it were I to supply the details here. But I had replied, and then I had insulted it, so I suppose the “deplorable” hidden behind the Nazi typeface had earned what it wanted: me to show a temper.

No, the bigger issue for me today is the effect of insults on me, both received and given, because I am curious as to why I tossed some insults out there into a world full of insults to begin with and why I subsequently deleted them. Neither act impresses me much.
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Pandemic Diary 10: Poorly Orchestrated

Life in quarantine: The Golden Rule, but with more soap.

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At the grocery store today, the ratio of shoppers with face protection to naked faces was roughly fifty-fifty. No one in New York State government or Ulster County government has declared the coronavirus pandemic half-over, but half of the shoppers with whom I congregated acted like they think we are more than halfway through the disaster.

Even if we are in fact more than halfway through the disaster, which would equate to another three weeks of quarantine and face masks and the scrubbing of all surfaces, there are no exemptions from the rules. But because my fellow New Yorkers have ignored rules, which is something I usually celebrate about my fellow New Yorkers, our rejection of some of the more superfluous rules in life, well, today, April 10, New York State announced further restrictions on “social distancing”—that dumb phrase from which I wish I could be socially distant—no one can use golf courses from today until April 29.

Why is this? Because New York State did not declare golf courses “nonessential,” so too many individuals discovered the glories of golf in the last three weeks and started to congregate in large groups, crowd into the pro shops, and too many hands to count have touched flags, bunker rakes, and rental equipment.

The subject of the photo at top is my masked face while at the grocery store, and I apologize. My face was a cute one when I was a child, but whoa. The mask is an improvement.
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Pandemic Diary 9: Love and Service

When all this is over, some of the things we used to take for granted will appear to us a novelties or great new ideas.

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Sometimes I wonder about the elderly couple that my friend and ran into a few years ago. If they are still with us, does the quarantine affect them; for those who were already in a form of social isolation, how has the month of April 2020 felt any different, if at all?

Love is love, no matter what. This fact can feel like a new idea in isolation, a revelation in our current world of video chats and the neighborly refusal to sweat the small stuff when the suffering and loss of others are omnipresent. I want to sweat the small stuff, though, to return to my cranky outlook on life, but I have friends on the front line of this global tragedy. I have family whose acquaintance with loss is renewed each decade or so. Thus, the small stuff remains small—Quarantine Land leads one to thoughts about whether any worry is important or not. Priorities are assembled in a more sensible order.
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Pandemic Diary 8: The Flat Curve

I could never hit the curve. Also, as if consistent physical incompetence was to be sole consistency that nature would bestow on me, I could not throw the curve, either.

Never athletic anyway, the absence of athletic ability from the start of my life was not a factor in any life decisions. And now, disabled as I am, almost every physical activity qualifies as athletic. (I walk a couple of miles each day because I can and ought to.) But I wanted to be a baseball player …
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Pandemic Diary 7: Below Par

I golfed for about two decades, and all of that time spent in frustration yielded perhaps a total of two anecdotes. That’s my only low score in relation to that fiendish and addicting game.

(I am no one’s father, but the “dad jokes” are growing stronger as I age. Perhaps they are better thought of as “Jokes When You’re Fifty.”)

Golf is a frustration because it is perhaps the one human endeavor which a person whose expertise consists of watching quite successful professional golfers ply their trade on television plunk a ball on a tee, swing a club, hit the ball any distance, and grow angry when the results are not the same as what he or she has seen on television. And I shared in that frustration.

I do not watch tennis and think I can play like tennis players do. I know that if and when I ever perform at a karaoke night (this happened most recently about twenty-five years ago) that I will sound like what I am: a person who does not sing in a way that makes any one want to hear me sing again. But golf? Anyone can swing a golf club, and I’m anyone, aren’t I?
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