Plague Diary V
Day 108 6/28/2020
OK, so here’s the question: I sat in the Univ garden this morning, amid flowers and birdsong. Peace everywhere. And I drew a diagram of a circle in my notebook with a yogi-meditator (me) in the middle, legs crossed, hands in prayer position. Om Shanti Peace. Around that circle I drew another circle in which from every direction were arrows labelled “fear” pointed at , attacking , attempting to penetrate the inner bubble. Around that circle I drew a third circle in which I wrote the names of all the “facts.” Coronavirus pandemic joblessness political mismanagement social unrest rampant racism nationalism white supremacy closed schools food shortages. I thought that we (I) should stay “in the bubble,” stay peaceful, exude goodness and not let the “outside” world attack and thus be some kind of “spiritual ballast” in a reeling world.
Later I watched a lengthy Zoom meeting put on by environmental activists, instructing people how to perform an “action” or disruption or street theater, if you will. Complete with detailed instructions put out by the ACLU and Lawyers for Action telling people how to stay safe at a demonstration: what to wear (goggles!);what to have on your body (the phone number of the lawyer group written in indelible marker on your arm); what to carry (id, immigration status); how to behave when stopped, when questioned, when detained, when taken in, when arrested; a complete and detailed list of your rights as a citizen and how to say the right words to the police; possible outcomes, penalties; personal protection gear against tear gas, spark bombs, and other police armament. I listened to people telling their experiences at actions against the war, corporate greed, environmental degradation, animal extinction. “I was at Occupy Wall Street for weeks, “ said one man, “the longest time I was ever away from my cat.” American people, going to the streets.
I talked to a friend later in the afternoon, mentioned my bubble meditation, and he said what if it is all a bubble? What if it is all an illusion? Maya. Like reality is on another plane or chronosyncrastic infundibulum as Vonnegut wrote. .And we need to achieve realization of this. Or some such. I have to admit I don’t completely remember his words, but I could see the spiral nebula in my mind.
So, OK, you say, you started off saying “here’s the question”. So what’s the question, already? Did I say that? Oops, sorry, I’m sure it was important..
Day 109 6/30/2020
I meet Ed and Jacqueline at Lillipies Plaza for a picnic. I hadn’t seen them in person for over 100 days. We were masked, Jacqueline fastidious almost to a fault, me and Ed less so, but her fastidiousness wore us out in a way, and we left our masks on even though we were outside six feet apart. When they walked away afterward, no hugs, no nuthin’ I felt bereft. I had a weird feeling of abandonment. Wait! I want more. Don’t go, don’t go.
Dear Doctor Faucci tells us now that it will get much much worse, possibly 100,000 new cases a day. The whole nation lit up. People wielding guns at protestors walking past their houses. Me, I write a little story of a child born in a spaceship, reminiscent of my own birth memories. Trying to decide if she is a Mabon or the Plague.
Day 110 7/1/2020
Well, there are miracles and then there are miracles. You probably don’t remember that I had entered a third Lent a while back so yesterday was Easter III. I was trying to decide if I should call this next 40 days Lent IV, but decided to call it Pilgrimage I. I wrote in my journal about the “abandonments” one experiences on pilgrimage (thinking of yesterday’s picnic), drew a little line drawing of a pilgrim climbing the Tor.
And the phone rang.
Bea and David calling from the Chalice Well Garden. Oh my God, my Goddess, my God, here in the fountainhead of pilgrimage. They walk through the gardens with their camera, they introduce me to a passing pilgrim, a woman who is carrying a candle in a lantern like the Hermit card, it’s her birthday, she’s going to climb the Tor, says she will carry me with her.
I weep as I carry the phone through the apartment, bringing the sound of the well water into the rooms. I see the gate of the yew trees I have entered so many times, I see the Excalibur over the Michael gate, I see the flow where I have always bathed my crystals. How did this come to be? How did this come to me? What a gift, what a gift, what a miraculous and wonderful gift.
I paused to give my weary brain a rest
And ceased my anxious human cry.
In that still moment after self had tried and failed
and tried and failed again
There came a mighty vision of God’s power
And Lo! My prayer was answered in that hour.
Old Unity prayer
Day 111 7/2/2020
I have cataract surgery in the morning early and spend the rest of the day resting and trying to remember not to bend over, not to pick anything up that “weighs more than a gallon of milk.”
Two of my new friends help out, driving me to the surgicenter and home, one brings me a delicious lunch. So, I can stay self-absorbed and not at all concerned about the 87% surge in coronavirus cases causing the epidemiologists to say we have perhaps reached the tipping point—and they don’t mean in a good way.
And I don’t have to look up from my blurry crossword puzzle to learn more about Putin’s Bitch knowing about his lover paying cash bounties for the killing of US soldiers. So here’s the visual: a round pink plasticine lump on a lazy-susan, twirling, twirling, singing (to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat)
I di’n’t even know,
I didn’t even see,
Merrily, merrily merrily, merrily,
I concentrate on ME.
Day 112 7/3/2020
When I was a kid we went to Alliance Nebraska for the Fourth of July. My father’s family held a huge family reunion in the park—oh my goodness, you have not tasted food if you have never attended a family reunion in Nebraska in the 1950’s. Potato salad, fried chicken, corn on the cob, baked ham, jello salads in all colors and varieties, baked beans redolent of molasses, coleslaw dressed with home-made mayonnaise, devilled eggs, pies, oh the pies! Apple, Cherry, Peach, Strawberry, Rhubarb, Blackberry, ambrosias made fruit floating in clouds of whipped cream . Root beer floats. Cakes—oh the cakes, layer cakes, yellow cakes with chocolate frosting, angel food cakes dripping with strawberries, chocolate cakes, white cakes with butter cream frosting. Huge picnic tables put end to end to make one long trestle down the middle of the park. Every morsel, every bite, every concoction made out of food from the farms, even the chickens, even the ham.
Nursing mothers sitting in the shade. Men playing horseshoes, kids running rampant everywhere, dirty from sliding into home during pick up softball games, sticky around the mouths and fingers from all the dessert sampling, tee shirts stained with spilled Kool-aid. A skinned knee or two. Then the music—guitars come out, old Swedish songs and Hank Williams songs, country songs, Old Country songs. Ballads of longing: If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly… My dad and Uncle Gib singing rowdy songs: There was an old man and he had an old sow, rowseldy, rowseldy row, with an oink and a snort and a grunt and a snuffle, rowseldy dow. Us kids gather around them and giggle at the noises, pretty soon we are all oinking and snuffling as the tune is sung over and over.
Little kids sleeping on blankets under the picnic table. Ladies gossiping. Old farmers talking about crops and weather and stock and water, their thumbs hooked in their suspenders. Courting couples sneaking off behind the trees for a kiss and a promise and maybe the beginning of the next generation, hints of wedding right after high school graduation. The scandalous town girl who dares to wear short shorts in front of all these boys and men.
And the fireworks! Uncle Rudy (who refuses to go to the reunion, claims it’s because he hates pickle relish) stays on the farm, drives his tractor up and down the rows of sugar beets—we bring him an ice cold root beer float out to the field during the middle of the day and return to the park) saves all year and spends a fortune on a box of fireworks that comes from Michigan every 1st of July. We all go out to the farm for the fireworks. Little kids are given sparklers and poppers and “worms” that can fizzle under the mothers’ feet and make them scream. Uncle Rudy puts lit firecrackers inside an old oil drum and we ride it while they explode, call it our “motorcycle.” Rudy and his son Karl (all of us girls of all ages are madly in love with Karl) and a couple of other older cousins set off the Roman Candles and Fountains, bursting up and up and over the fields of ripening corn. Somebody starts cranking the ice-cream freezer, we all take turns as it gets harder and harder to turn the handle. When all the fireworks have been set off, there will be homemade peach ice cream.
We kids get “over-diddled” as the saying went, cranky and hyper. A hand reaches out, a bottom gets smacked, doesn’t matter whose hand or which bottom. A cautionary thwack. A pout appears, a finger points—it wasn’t me---another hand reaches down and plunks another random kid on a lap until it stops wiggling and whizzling.
Stars come out, there’s coffee “up at the house.” Long after dark, if one can keep one’s eyes open long enough, one can see the line of cars driving out along the farm roads.
So why am I telling you all this? I’m thinking maybe this is what all those folks up at Mt. Rushmore want when they go to see a carny man in red, white, and blue as he emerges from a gypsy wagon disguised as a helicopter, walks up to a podium draped with American Flag bunting, and preaches a Return to Glory, Honor for our Heroes, Death to our Enemies— who are just there, just outside the gates, waiting to destroy our history. Maybe in their heart of hearts, their strands of DNA, underneath their MAGA hats, they want that family picnic in the park, those fireworks out by the barn, homemade peach ice cream. And that wanting, that yearning, that deep nostalgic hunger may well be what the wife of Lot felt when she turned her gaze backward, and we know how that turned out.
Happy Fourth of July, America.
Day 113 7/4/2020
What’s to say. You want to make fun of the BRAYING ASS but it’s not funny. You want to crack jokes about how he doesn’t read and only plays golf, but all the jokes are old now. “The coronavirus is disappearing. 99% of all those who get it recover.” It’s old news to show the teeming hospitals in Houston and run sidebars of statistics and dire warnings from scientists and doctors. I find that sarcasm is falling short of my burgeoning anger. I find myself hoping that when the New Lincoln builds his Garden of American Heroes that there’s a spot reserved for a monument to him and that it’s a headstone.
Day 114 7/5/2020
Quiet here. Hot. I work on my story for a few hours, then make a homemade iced latte (Starbucks has yet to ask for my secret recipe. Oh well.) and walk out into the cemetery.
Find a bench under an old tree where there is shade and sit among the Pryor family, who are, by the way, social distancing responsibly.
You-know-who has divorced himself from Fox News. You might think that’s a good thing, but the Jeremiah in me says he’s opening a path to stepping out of the race and starting Trump TV. (Which was his plan when he thought he would lose the race in 2018.) He wouldn’t be able to sign executive orders or appoint judges, but he would have free reign to foment revolution. The dissolution of the Union, brought to you live, 24/7 on The Donald Show, the Ivanka Show, the KellyAnne Show, the Eric Show, the Don Jr. Show, the Weekend Spectacular Jared Kushner Marathon! Brought to you by Purdue Pharma, creators of the OcciCocktail.
Somebody in the 60’s told us to destroy our televisions. Why did we not listen?
Day 115 7/6/2020
Sometimes the days slide by, like riding an innertube down a sleepy river, trees hanging into the water, baby boulders coming up from beneath. Dappled light. Past a bend where the kids have hung a rope swing that takes them from the bank to the middle where they scream and drop into a pool; past the picnic-ers on blankets, past the lovers sitting with their feet in the water, past the older boys hiding their six-packs in the water to keep cool, past a group of fellow tubers in a water fight of wet silliness, past and under a walking bridge, past the red stones on the Eastern bank. When you come to the end of the day, come up out of the water to the waiting bus, you think, what? It’s over? How did it seem so long on the river and so short looking back?
A lot of us can’t remember what we did yesterday.
Day 116 7/7/2020
Total cases, 3,000,500. Deaths 133,000. Somebody called the prisons “petri dishes” of the virus. So the hospitals in the surrounding areas are refusing prison transfers. Ah, the humanity!
A man in my writers’ group reads a poem he’s written that starts off with flowers and dogs and summer and stuff and then says the demonstrations have “gone on long enough.” My friends say they are moving to Portugal as soon as possible. Well, I think we all dream of moving to “Portugal” when “this is over.” We all want this virus to listen to us when we say it has gone on long enough. Like the virus is a naughty—very naughty—child who needs strict discipline. Like if we bellow “Enough!” it will slink off to its room and peace will descend on the house. Like we will wake up tomorrow and all the demonstrators will have not only left the streets, but cleaned up after themselves. Like the tickets to Portugal will arrive by Fedex. Like the White House will be the house of Job after ‘a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the people inside and they all died…’
I mean, it’s been three and half MONTHS already, we’re sick of this shit. C’mon!
In the middle of all this I get an invitation to Sophie and Adam’s wedding in March and I dare not think that I won’t be able to get there.
Day 117 7/8/2020
The bookstore opens today! O res mirabile! You have to have a 20-minute “browsing appointment,” but I must look like an orphan, a pitiful book-orphan, so they let me in. Temperature check, hand sanitizer, yeah, yeah. I feel like I have entered the sanctus sanctorum. I try not to run between sections. I pull out 2 books of poetry, 2 books of theology, and 2 novels, pay my money, and walk home feeling like I did when I was 5 years old on library day and I got to pick out 5 new books. The delicious terrible dilemma—I felt it in my tummy—of which one to read first. Not wanting to hurt the other books’ feelings by choosing. I was that kind of kid. Same thing here, only now I hide the book of poems beneath the sight-line of the next Zoom meeting, furtively tasting words—
And sea, dear mother,
retreating with long stealth
though I lie awake—
Day 118 7/9/2020
I sit in the back garden at my neighbors’ house across the street. Hot and lazy, drinking Two Buck Chuck, hoping for a breeze as the sun goes down. Ha! This is New Jersey, darlin’, get a grip! And the woman says, “What do you think of (she names the President of Princeton)’s decision to re-open in September? He says he is going to bring the Freshmen and the Juniors in for Fall semester, then the Sophomores and Seniors for the Spring semester in January. I’m irate! What do you think about all those kids coming from all over the country (All over the world, her husband interjects.)? I mean, what are they going to do? That’s 1500 kids, supposed to keep social distance, no parties, nothin’ to do, most of their studies online? They’re going to come out here (her hand makes an arc to indicate the town, the neighborhood), that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to come into my neighborhood. What do you think?” I try not to answer. My first thought is that she thinks Princeton is in her neighborhood, and I think we are in its neighborhood. I have a passion for education, can’t bear to think of the University shutting down, keeping students out. I can’t bear to think of all those bright minds losing their educational trajectory, can’t bear to think of this nation without schools and Universities. I want the students to come back.
I’m not—I hope—crazed like the Large Pink Blow-up Dolly who screams for schools to open in spike zones, forget rules and precautions, too expensive, just get ‘em back in there. Holding my glass of Two Buck Chuck, trying not to let my hot sweaty hands warm up the already noxious wine, I try to think of an answer as my neighbor again says, What do you think? It’s so hard, I answer. She doesn’t want my answer anyway, she wants agreement. I see her viewpoint, her side of things—danger in the pandemic, strangers carrying the virus back in, all true—and yet her shrillness sounds like the old us vs. them of racial paranoia, fear of the stranger, war rationale, and I balk at it. What do I think? I think we are in shit trouble, stuffed into a crisis too big for us. I can’t separate my own nostalgia from her paranoia. And I think the entire nation is riding on this.
Day 119 7/10/2020
Huge storm. Beautiful massive WET huge storm that lasts all day. I go out twice during what I think are lulls between bursts and am fooled both times, coming in soaked to the skin. I strip naked and dry my clothes in the dryer with the sopping window towels. More than once. I am caught up in the magic of the storm—I make myself a cuppa tea with a wee dram of Glenfiddich in it and settle on the couch to read the new books of poetry and I think I am in heaven.
On my second trip out I walk to the Coffee Shop and there in the doorway just under the eave as the rain pours down in front of them is the ancient couple I used to sit near at church and the movie house. Her beatific face lights up as she recognizes me—in her way, of course; she has no memory, so she recognizes only beloveds. Her husband-guardian stands smiling next to her, and they look like two shimmering, happy ancestors appearing just behind a waterfall.
Oh, hello, I say. How are you?
We’re alive! the man answers, smiling, like he’s just revealed a miracle.
Yes! she beams. And they laugh toward me standing there so drenched, so in love.
Day 119 7/11/2020
It is my birthday. It feels portentous and I write:
I am pregnant
Standing here on the knife edge
All my friends here are virtual
All my friends there are liminal
and I hold in my belly
this yet to be life
From where I stand I can see all
the glitterings and sorrowings of
the road to get here
from this fearsome footfall I can see
all my strivings and callings out littering the roadside
just missing the bins put there
for the purpose of collecting them
I am pregnant
not yet seeking a place to lie down
coming one direction
while the Magi come from another
a pillar of light before them as they set out
the very moment a horny archangel
penetrates me in that garden
I am pregnant
and like Sarai
I am old and laughing for the child I carry
Ahead is the flight to Egypt
the wedding wine
the rumors of the intent
to murder this being yet unborn
the foot of the cross
the overland trip to Rosslyn
See how I connect with Her
see how I sense midwife Brigid near to hand
for when my time comes
see yon inns
their lobby doors pasted shut with handmade signs
Closed due to Covid
You’re reading this and thinking
I am mixing metaphors
that’s the way of the world now
a white-haired woman on a foot bridge
thinking of the child to come
Day 120 7/12/2020
I call my friend Lucy who is an astrologer—I’ve told you about her. I say I wonder why we’re here on earth at this time, what’s our job? To witness? She says we witnessed the sinking of Atlantis and the disappearance of Lemuria, so we’re here because we “know how to do it” and can help others (survivors?).
Nic sends me a fact sheet in answer to the claim of not to worry there’s only a 1% mortality rate:
The US has a population of 328,200,000. If only one percent of the population dies, that’s 3,282,000 people dead. What about the people who survive?
62,358,000 people hospitalized;
58,076,000 with permanent heart damage;
32,820,000 people with permanent lung damage;
9.846,000 with strokes;
6.564,000 with muscle weakness;
6, 564,000 with loss of cognitive function.
The US economy cannot survive everyone getting covid-19.
I want to rave, shriek, pull out my hair (after I finally got it cut and colored), except that I’m not sure raving, etc. is worth anything if you don’t have a plan for an alternative. I don’t have a plan—I’ve seen Atlantis, ‘tis said—so I confine my raving to these pages. Maybe the next Ignatius Donnelly will find and use them for the sequel to Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. (Which was labelled Catastrophism and Pseudoscience by the great minds of his time.)
Let me just say, that it’s hard to witness money being spent to “save the bars and restaurants” while money can’t be allocated to open the schools—too expensive.
Perigrination anyone? Friends say they’re emigrating to Portugal. Oops, we’re not allowed in Europe.
Day 121 7/13/2020
I sit outside the Small World coffee shop, sipping a latte. It’s hot, midday, most people are somewhere else. Two girls in the shortest of short shorts stroll by, wheeling their bikes. Last summer the streets were packed with girls in short shorts (I was new to Princeton, I remember asking my friend Ed, Does anybody in Princeton wear underwear?), boys in tank tops, lines out to the street in front of the five—count them—ice cream shops within a 4 block area of where I live. And music! Well, every ice cream parlor had a band playing outside, with little kids and toddlers dripping ice cream all down their faces and arms, dancing in circles to summertime rock and roll. Today its just two girls and me and a few desultory diners in the sidewalk café across the street and it feels, well, just off. Like somebody shook the etch-a-sketch and we can’t get the picture back.
I don’t like the poor me, nostalgia of what I just wrote. Think about erasing it. But that’s the problem top down these days—if we don’t like it, we just shake the facts and talk about something else. Fact is we’re pretty much screwed. No, that’s fake news. Fact is we’re totally screwed. Coronavirus cases spiking in 37 states. Now averaging over 60,000 new cases every day.
Day 122 7/14/2020
If I were a kid I could build a fort for my toys with all the books I have brought home now that the bookstore has opened. They’re everywhere. Fun to have all these choices, so I walk around as if I’m at a luncheon buffet and sample a little here, a little there, a little poetry, a little physics, a little theology, a smattering of novels. The Orange Wunderkind is giving a “Covirus Update” only he’s talking about how bad a job Obama and Biden did on fixing roads and bridges. Ok, that’s pertinent in an alternate reality. I want to stay informed so I stop watching after 5 minutes, approximately 3 minutes after CNN cut him off. Back to the books.
Day 123 7/15/2020
I’m busy with my books. In Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time I read
We have shaped an idea of a “human being” by interacting with others like ourselves.
I believe that our notion of self stems from this, not from introspection. When we think of ourselves as persons, I believe we are applying to ourselves the mental circuits that we have developed to engage with our companions. . . . We are the reflection of the idea of ourselves that we receive back from our kind. (p 176-77)
And in Christian Witman’s My Bright Abyss I read
Christ comes alive in the communion between people. . . . I am pretty certain that without shared social devotion one’s solitary experiences of God wither into a form of withholding, spiritual stinginess, the light of Christ growing ever fainter in the glooms of the self. (p 20-21)
We find ourselves by interacting with others, not from introspection. We find God (however we define herm) in communion with people or else wither. And I wonder what “social distancing” will do, is doing, to us?
Evolution, or madness?
Development, or withering?
I find both in myself, I gotta say.
Day 124 7/16/2020
I go in for my second cataract surgery. The courteous, cheerful, niceness of the staff at the surgi-center is reassuring after the confusion and fuckityness of the scheduling and paperwork and callbacks. One example (there are others who shall remain nameless): In the late afternoon of the day before the first surgery (two weeks ago) I still hadn’t heard what time I was scheduled to have my procedure. I called (to shorten this, I use “called” as a euphemism for dialing, holding, losing the call, re-dialing, holding, re-routing the call, dialing, holding) Office # 1. We don’t do scheduling here, you’ll have to call Office # 2. Ask for Andrew. So I repeat the above litany of “calling.” Finally, I get a disembodied voice saying this is Andrew, leave a message. So I say, cheerful, courteous and nice, Hello Andrew. I am scheduled for surgery tomorrow and I don’t know what time to be there. Please let me know. No return call. So around 6pm I call the number again, only I don’t ask to speak to Andrew, I just leave the somewhat fraught message that I need to know when to come tomorrow. A voice—embodied— interrupts me, saying, We do not have the schedule yet, we will call you. Wait, wait, wait, I say, it’s for tomorrow and it’s the end of the day and you will be closing soon. Oh, no, says the courteous cheerful voice, we’re open until 7. Well, can’t you just tell me now? I’m…not…a…scheduler…ma’am. (I know when we get to ma’am, we’re going to hit the wall.) Please, I say. (I remember when travelling with my mother, when we hit the wall trying to book a room or get a meal, I would say, OK, mom, start drooling.) I start drooling. I’m old, I live alone, I have to arrange transportation, I am pitiful and needy and you are so nice and cheerful and courteous I’m sure you can help me. Hold just a minute. (Translate: 17 minutes.). Ok, you’re bored reading this rant, I know, but I just want to tell you that Andrew did call me back—10 days later—two days before my second surgery, to say, “This is Andrew, I understand you have called to reschedule your surgery.” Rinse and repeat.
But the surgeries are done, the world is indeed a brighter lighter place. All’s well. With me. The healthcare workers are somewhat forgetful—let’s see, did we do the drops? I think we did the drops. Hmm, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, yes, it says so right here, what time is it now?; the registrar is pulling up stakes (Three more days, Friday I’m outa here) and moving to Georgia; under their masks you can see that the doctors have neglected shaving—who’s to see? I get a ride home from the girlfriend of my Starbucks friend—nobody over 50 wants to go near any healthcare facility. I give her a treat and without thinking (in my head) and straight from my heart, I hug her, before I remember that we’re standing on over an abyss.
Day 125 7/17/2020
I’ve taken up semi-permanent refuge in the University Garden. There’s a bench there that is up a short path among huge trees, then up three steps. It looks like a throne. The first time I found it I approached it in awe and asked permission to sit there. I felt like I was in the guest of honor’s chair, I even stood up looking out and greeted the invisible audience before I sat down. Now I go there every day, mostly in the morning. I take my latte and my morning bun from Starbucks and spend an hour or more in the Queen’s Chair.
I watch a squirrel’s tail upright and waving through the vines below. The squirrel itself is under the foliage, but the erect tail moves hither and yon. Funny. All kinds of birds make a racket in the trees. It is beautiful here, just out the corner of my eye I can see the flowers in the formal garden, but this is my spot.
For so many months now, people (including all the tv talking heads) have ended each conversation with “Stay Safe.” Well, it isn’t safe outside the periphery of this little forest queendom. The very admonition to stay safe is an irony sometimes hard to bear—parse it, “stay” means hold fast, impossible to do given the momentum of change; “safe” means secure, untouchable, virus free. I guess I come to this imaginary throne room in a castle of trees to feel that word “safe.” Contingent upon “stay,” for the moment I go out into Nassau Street both words become if not inoperable, certainly out of immediate control. Maybe we should end conversations with “Be Lucky,” followed by “Control Your Stupidity.”
Day 126 7/18/2020
I don’t look back anymore to earlier journals to confirm what I know is true: there was a time when 7 new cases a day sent a shiver, 70 new cases a day caused a ripple, 700 cases a day started the then hopeful stay-in-place orders. I’ll skip a factor here and get to my point: 70,000 new cases a day in the US of A. Where’s Springsteen when we need him? His mournful voice rasping a rhyme of tragedy, his music unlocking our clenched hearts, making us drive down “down to the river” with tears streaming, blurring our vision in the oncoming headlights.
Day 127 7/19/2020
I read a book called The Virus in the Age of Madness and hear my own observations and fears writ large. The author goes even further into the paranoia of state-control and digital invasion and police state. Hard to swallow, and one wants most desperately to believe that he is exaggerating. Until one turns on the tv and sees federal troops storming the streets of Portland and hears the I-Will-Be-Re-Elected-if-I-have-to-Kill-Every-Last-One-of You Head (and I use this word in the Naval sense) of State saying he will be the Law and Order President and sends more troops into cities with Democrat mayors. Lord, you can’t make this shit up.
Day 128 7/20/2020
“You can’t make this shit up.” How many times have I written that over the last 128 days? I am thinking of stopping this diary. I take a vote of all in the room. We agree. (I had a boss once, true story, who used to pontificate endlessly, saying at the beginning of each pronouncement I think…. then blithering on to the end, closing by saying …and I agree.)
I fear it has come to that. What started out as a documentation of one person (me) in the middle of a plague has become same person (me) agreeing with myself. Maybe I should stop and let history write the rest.
Day 129 7/21/2020
The feeling persists. I guess one comment in the above-mentioned book struck me to the core. He talks about people writing plague journals while in confinement and how none of them are “literature” on a par with Camus, etc. etc. Well, maybe that’s aimed at me. I take a vote of all the people in the room. He doesn’t know you, they say, somewhat snarkily I think. So we’ll see.
I have decided that I need to go to Phase 2 of “opening up” myself. I am going to go out more, take more risks in talking to people, reaching out, making friends. No one is going to come knocking on my door, so I need to find things that are happening and get in there. Maybe this impetus goes along with ending the Plague Diaries. I think I will carry on until August 3, see what happens between now and then if I put myself forward. I hear the disco beat and the song I’m Coming Out. I am not sure what I mean, but I mean it.
I do my daily readings as the sun comes up, turning the room into a spiritual sauna and read the words
Because you have asked this…
Have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,
I now do according to your word.
I give you a wise and discerning mind…
I Kings 3: 11-12
Okay, okay, so there’s more than just me in the room.
Day 130 7/22/2020
Pentagon budget $758 billion per year. Coronavirus in US tops 4 million.
Day 131 7/23/2020
The Smartest Man in the World brags that he can remember 5 words in a row. Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV. Says he did better than anyone else. He aced it. Why, because he’s “cognitively there.” (No explanation as to exactly where “there” is.). He repeats the words over and over in front of the interviewer. Perfectly, with very few hesitations. “And the doctor told me that’s amazing because not that many people can do it.” He repeated it so many times that now every American is able to recite the 5 words: Person, Woman, Man…Camera, TV. Is that right? oh wait, I’m getting confused.
Day 132 7/24/2020
Remember back in the old days when we stood around in groups and complained about the weather? I miss that. There’s so much to complain about. Hot and more hot, humidity and more humidity. But so what? I wonder if the magnificent Goddess of Storms misses hearing her evilness discussed by so many smart people: physicists in Princeton, economists at Wharton, linguists at Harvard, and all and all, standing in the hallways of knowledge and erudition discussing hot and more hot, humidity and more humidity.
I have a feeling that everybody in the entire world is wishing they lived somewhere else today. Certainly everybody in Jersey.
Day 133 7/25/2020
Gad! The Pundits and Math Wizards of the mess media have Done the Math and figured out that there are 100 days until the election! These Very Smart People who are So Much Smarter than the Cognitively Aware Person lay out in stunning detail all the possible scenarios of how he will cause a disruption, suppress the votes, refuse to accept the outcome, declare martial law, Putin-ize himself into an eternal presidency. I mean, they are giving him the game plan, right? What if they spewed all the ways it could go right, all the great celebration, all the fervor for happiness, all the liberation from this dark corruption? No, not even—they call in more experts to lay out even more do-able scenarios: Here Mr. T, here’s a way you can make this happen. Who needs conspiracy theories when we’ve got CNN?
Day 134 7/26/2020
The house is unbearable. I say “house” as an expression, of course I mean “apartment.” I don’t want to write those words. I love my dwelling place. I have filled it with art and books and plants and millions of crystals everywhere. I have made small “rooms” within its one big room—an art studio, an office, a library, a living room, a yoga studio. I have put pictures all over the walls, so that wherever my eye rests I see beauty. This is the perfect place to spend a wintry day, moving between spaces and projects, taking tea breaks. So when I say this place is unbearable I mean HOT. The brilliant windows that let in so much light also heat the place up like an egg on a skillet. I have to close the blinds, turn fans in every room, run the AC and the de-humidifier. All of which are noisy. So even if I manage to cool the place down I can’t stand the noise. So I go outside. Blah, blah, blah. How does this relate to the saga of the plague in America? It exacerbates and intensifies the crushing isolation. No more mythology of my own little writer’s retreat or my Skellig Princeton. I blow a conversation with a neighbor—the only un-Zoomed conversation in days—and I wonder if I have forgotten how to have a fucking conversation.
Am I sounding bitchy? Well, I’m hot.
I won’t mention the crying jag I endured this afternoon, I don’t want you to think I am going crazy.
Day 135 7/27/2020
I went to the local swimming pool with my neighbors, sat on the edge and dangled my feet in the cool water for two hours while they and half the senior population of Princeton floated and kicked on their pool noodles. Pleasant. Totally surrealistic.
Now all the news is about re-opening the schools. The Emperor of Covid has pontificated (or can only Pontiffs pontificate?) on the need to get our children back in school by the end of this month. It will be ok, kids don’t get the virus. What about all the kids who are getting the virus, you might ask. What about the 19 babies in one small town in Bumfuck? Not those kids, says the E of C, school kids. What about the teachers who are refusing to go back into the classroom for fear of carrying the virus home to their kids, you ask. We are not talking about selfish teachers who are shirking their patriotic duty, we’re talking about our children who need to be in school. So, says the E of C, rising to full pontifical stature: I hereby un-fund all states’ education allotments for the Democrat states who are not opening their schools this month.
The estimable and revered Senator John Lewis lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Are you going to pay your respects, Mr. P? No, I have meetings and work and things to do about the economy and other things, I work hard, I am a busy man. (Photos at ten: Federal troops in full riot gear throwing tear gas bombs at the Wall of Moms and the Wall of Vets in Portland; Stately Masculine Man standing at attention next to his golf cart.)
Day 136 7/28/2020
After my fairly prolonged crash over the weekend I finally ask John D. to send me some CBD and herbal drops. I tell him I can’t “will” myself out of this grief tsunami. He asks me about Glenn—what did Glenn bring to my life? I said Spontaneity and Silliness. I said now there is no spontaneity—everything is planned. Every conversation is calendared. And silliness went away with its tail between its legs and has not been around since…hell, who can remember? I know I am not alone in this, I say, plaintively, but I feel like I have lost my edge.
I hear that one of the therapists who moved in downstairs—all happy and glad, and then three weeks later had to desert their offices and go “virtual”—the one I liked the most, has descended into alcoholism and lost his practice and his money and all and all.
Day 137 7/29/2020
I strike up a conversation with the woman who owns the beauty salon where I go to get my toenails painted bright pink. (First attempt at silliness.) I ask her about the business community in Princeton, about her business in particular. There was a surge when we first re-opened, she said, but now, people are afraid again. I can feel it in the salon—nobody having a service but me and one other woman, the owner walking around straightening already straightened chairs, emptying already empty trash cans, tidying up supplies in a tidy cabinet. Suspended animation: waiting for the old normal to return or the new normal to come or the end of the world. Door #1, Door #2, Door #3. I pay extra and tip big and walk up Witherspoon to the coffee shop. Same deal.
Day 138 7/30/2020
Today’s reading, about Brendan the Navigator—always my favorite:
What kind of Christ would call Brendan into the wilds of the sea, where the waves pounded and the winds blew? This is a sea-going Christ, a Christ who beckons without compass.
The peregrini set their eyes on Christ, not on their sails. God sent the wind that directed their future. God was not so much the ‘God of where they had been’ as the ‘God of where they were going.’ Like the rest of us, they knew they had only so long to live, so they measured their days by trusting the remainder of their lives to ‘the God of what’s left.’ CDP II, 1526
I walked by the Univ Chapel yesterday. Hot. Thought about what would it be like to have a big pitcher of ice water and sit on the steps of the church with paper cups and give water to the overheated people walking by? Come, drink, be refreshed, you cannot come in to worship the God of where we had been, and we’re not risking covid to let you in to worship the God of where we are going, so here, refresh yourselves out here with the God of what’s left. Selah.
Day 139 7/31/2020
It is raining! I set this down in writing to commemorate a miracle. It’s cooler! I feel little pops! inside my head as my brain cells re-activate. I
I am going to stop this Plague Journal V (as promised) today. Time to let this phase go. No need to tell you that the wee Strongman has already contested the election that has not taken place, has already refused mail ballots, has already said that the results will have to be arbitrated in the courts and can take years. Forcing him to stay in office until it is decided. Good on you, Mr. P, while the economy loses 30% of its value and the Estimable Senate led by the chinless chihuahua of a Speaker has decided that giving people $600 a week in unemployment is too much, will make them (implied: the worthless riff raff and all those Colored People) decide not to go to work. Oh, and the eviction suspension has timed out, so it’s ok now to throw those people out on the streets. If they misbehave we will be forced to send in federal troops to keep America safe.
You see why I have to stop, don’t you? I am not exercising Positive Thinking. Om Shanti Om.
But it is raining and it is cooler. In the olden olden days they put a tower in the vineyard and posted a sentry. To keep thieves out, you say? No, to look ever to the horizon to see if there is a coming storm. Think of this journal as a letter written from the sentry tower. Think of its scribe turning her face to the East and watching for the dawn.