Week 3

The deeper reality is here. We’re home, for awhile probably. It’s sinking into my stomach now. It’s been long enough that I knew what was happening, sort of, but it’s gotten to my gut.

Jeff and Victoria are in the kitchen making a soup from nettles and mushrooms they foraged. I came downstairs and Beth was wiping down a package of toilet paper with disinfectant. A few days before we’d done a big shop and wiped all the food down.

Earlier today Jon called me to tell me about the successful direct action he’d helped organize. People drove their cars to Center City to demand the release of prisoners from jails in the pandemic. The cars shut down traffic. A lot of people went out.

We spent basically all of Sunday on zoom calls. First with Becca and Andrew in Palo Alto. Their nanny probably had or has COVID. She’s a doctor doing hospital service from home. He’s chief of staff for a deputy CEO in San Jose, data scientist. We talked to them for awhile.

Then we had a socfem meeting. Shelly facilitated. We got the agenda done, talking about what we’d accomplished for the pandemic and what we should work on now in the pandemic. Not clear.

Then we talked to other of Shelly’s college friends. One couple is 20 weeks pregnant in North Carolina. She went in for a checkup and he couldn’t come with her. (Friends of friends of ours in New York actually had a baby last week. Hospitals had put in a policy that partners couldn’t attend births, but on the third day the governor canceled it because it was too draconian. Our friends gave birth in that three day window.) She’s an elementary school teacher. Has classes on zoom, says that her students show her their rooms and their dogs.

Another of the friends live in Manhattan but they rented a house in the Hamptons and decamped their with their baby. Husband’s in finance I think.

Other friends in Chicago have a toddler. Their childcare is still technically taking children, but they don’t have a disinfection policy. The mother is a doctor and she said there’s no plan for childcare when she starts her day-long shifts. He still has to work.

I’ve started playing electric guitar in the basement. It’s Kevin’s. Actually he got it from his grandfather who died last year. Mini-Fender with an amp. We’ve been jamming. It’s fun. He wants to learn to play guitar and I want to learn to play drums, and we said we’d give each other lessons.

I went for a bike ride with the group of guys in our circles. They’ve closed MLK so bikers can go up and down. It was Friday afternoon, beautiful spring day. We went to Belmont park and took a “social distancing selfie” where Jon went a bit away and took a picture of all of us sitting apart. We called it “ride-day.” Maybe we’ll do it again, who knows.

The day before, Shelly baked a tahini orange cake. Made the frosting herself. While she did it we were on a zoom call with our friends in the neighborhood. During that call my dad called me to tell me he’d send me financial advice columns he gets from Vanguard. We talked about the stock market, how crazy it is, how I shouldn’t get too ‘revolutionary’ in my facebook posts while I’m still going up for tenure. I also ended up defending China for some reason. Not something I do a lot.

Today I had doctoral defenses, all online. More people attended the defenses than would have normally since everyone’s home. The students did well. The program made them little videos of friends, family, and colleagues congratulating them since we won’t have a graduation ceremony. Some of them cried.

I’m still jogging every morning. Then I walk Sappho. I listen to podcasts, finance podcasts. I want to understand finance and the markets.

Yesterday I was walking Sappho, but in the evening. It was about to rain, very gray outside. I was talking to an old friend in Cleveland. He was finalizing the sale of a house he owned with his ex-wife, with whom I’m still friends. She works at a hospital. Packing up the house, he was about to burn a papier mache dragon head and huge pair of human hand puppets– he said it was a ritual to move on to a new phase. His daughter Rosemary was there. He said his plan had been to move into a collective house in Vermont, live there for three weeks/month and then come back to Cleveland for a week/month to take care of Rosemary. He said that’s not happening anymore. They were going to go visit his mother and grandmother in North Carolina. That’s not happening anymore. He said there was a few days where he thought he’d be homeless with his daughter in the pandemic, but he got them housing. He’s an artist, does work in theater. There’s no theater really anymore.

While I was talking to him I saw some people standing near the steps of a house. They were looking concerned but confused about what to do. I told my friend I’d call him back and went over. A younger couple stood close to an old man on the ground. He’d fallen down. His cane was under him. His limbs were in a pile. I was holding Sappho, who was jittery. The younger man went over to the older man and helped him up. A middle-aged woman was standing just off the sidewalk and said “I’d help but I have two kids and I don’t want to infect him [the old man].” I spotted the younger man as he did this. The young woman he was with said “we were just walking by.” The old man was able to get up and pick up his cane. His head was shaking from a slight palsy. A little drip of thin mucus clung to his nose. He was pale. The young man asked “can I help you back inside your house?”

“No, I’m going food shopping,” he said.

“We can go food shopping for you,” said the young woman, “so you don’t have to go out.”

“No I have to go out,” the old man said, “it’s really important for me that I go out. I can’t stay at home by myself anymore.”

He was very shaky. I stood by and watched, so did the young man. The old man slowly made his way to the steps, walked down them, got to his car, got in his car, and drove off. The younger man looked at me and asked “you live around here or something?”

“Yeah, just down the block,” I said. He nodded, dazed, and then kept walking.

They’re saying now that the peak in Philadelphia will be mid-May, but the more the curve flattens the longer the shutdown lasts. Instacart, Wholefoods, Amazon and others on strike. My university just announced there’ll be no in-person summer classes. I’m supposed to go up for tenure in the fall. We’ll see.

On Mondays Lilac has started doing online socialist trivia. I have a shot of whiskey and we do a kahoot online. It’s fun and distracting. Laughing is good, isn’t happening as much as I’d like.

I try to be silly and make Shelly laugh. She’s in a lot of discomfort most of the time from the pregnancy. She eats popsicles and the fetus moves around. Its head is buried in her groin, feet pointed up to the side. I wonder how the birth will go. It’s due the first week of May, just before the peak. Our parents can’t come. Maybe even friends can’t visit. We’ll take walks and be outside and still hang out, I think. Not sure.

Just after I witnessed the old man episode I went back to walking. I called back my friend. We got to Springfield and 46th street and there was a row of trees with white blossoms. I went under them. Many of the blossoms had fallen, and the white pedals covered the sidewalk. There were still a lot of them on the branches too. It was like standing in a white-gray tunnel. Up and down mixed, but not totally. The sense of everything being washed out, unnerving vertigo, but somehow beautiful. Scary and pretty. I said “wow” under my breath. Kept walking.



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