This is my piece for the Quilcene Community Center (currently closed) April Newsletter. No, I didn’t say “shit” in that online (a proper distance, socially) only publication; but I am here. Shit
First, to almost-quote something a surfer friend of mine said (more like exclaimed) while donning his wetsuit at a beach also frequented by dog walkers (actually a leash-free zone) and their caretakers/companions/emotional support humans, one of whom, evidently, hadn’t followed the only-proper and socially-mandated protocol of packing a little bag, frequently seen as a sort of glove, at the ready, on one hand, for the almost-certain activity dogs enjoy just slightly more than rolling in dead sealife along the shoreline: “Shit just got real!”
It took a while, but it seems reality, too frequently referred to as ‘the new normal,’ way beyond the shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, is sinking in.
With all this reality forced upon us, the TV filled with frightening headlines and scrolls and death counts and maps and prophesies of doom and down markets, with the regret that we’ve already binge-watched every available episode of “Bosch” and “Vera” and we’re almost desperate enough to start on season one of “Doctor Who,” it may have escaped our notice that Spring is here. No, really.
I actually, and this is unusual, started writing stuff for the April newsletter early. It’s all a bit scattered, as if my usual writing is so concise and straightforward. So, take a deep breath, if you can (gallows humor- maybe). Here’s some of it:
Love in the New Normal
“I love you,” you say, in an optimistic way, yet I sense there’s a tinge of resistance, we cannot quite touch, and it’s hard to feel loved, when we’re kept at six feet or more distance: “We’re in this together,” you say, while affecting an upbeat inflection; “Still, you’d better stay back, I don’t know what you’ve got, and I certainly don’t want an infection.”
Now I don’t want to snipe, I can see you on Skype, we’ll have all kinds of cellphone engaging, “Hey, it’s just for a while,” you say, with a multi-pixel smile, “’til there’s a drop in the rate of contagion.”
It was a Saturday. Not a Saturday in what were normal times; last Saturday, a Saturday in the… (cue the scary music) TIME OF COVID 19 (maybe it’s 19/20 now).
I used my ten cents per gallon discount (for using cash) at the Quilcene Village Store, stuck two twenty-dollar bills (from the ATM at the US Bank, the lobby now closed, even on, you know, weekdays) on the table blocking the door. The clerk approached from the darkness (maybe it wasn’t that dark), wearing something more like a respirator than a mask (though my imagination might have embellished this a bit, this being the first time I’d come up against the blocked entrance). I wanted thirty bucks worth (regular unleaded, ethanol included). He brought a ten-dollar bill back (the store clerks were, in old normal times, really fond of giving change in two-dollar bills and fifty cent pieces, both of which, for no good reason, scare me). I could have taken the bill in my hand, but, with an overabundance of caution (and my newly enhanced sense of fear), I signaled him to put the change onto the table. I picked it up with my gloved hand (yeah, some paint on it- that kind of glove).
I headed for Silverdale, enjoying the empty roads. When I tuned into “This American Life” on the radio, I was confronted (I could say assaulted) with several tales of people not able to see dying parents in hospitals, usually-controlled (and kind of dry) commentary replaced by people actually crying. No, can’t take that. I switched to KPTZ from Port Townsend, just in time to get a “Corona Virus Update.” Nope. I had already checked the running scoreboard for infections and deaths and recoveries around the world on my computer, along with the doppler radar (scattered rain) and the surf report (down, with any spots on any Native Reservations- and there are some- closed).
I needed a bit of optimism. I tried to speed dial a couple of friends (possibly illegally, not a confession). No one answered. Hey, I know people are at home; why don’t they answer? Oh no. Oh, so I called Trish. She did answer. “You’re driving my car.” “Yeah.” “Get off the phone.”
There’s no real story here; I did notice, cruising through the Central Market (which we refer to as ‘the Fancy Store’) that I have become ultra-aware of social distancing; enough so that, when someone passes me in an aisle, I hold my breath; just in case; and, when I saw a woman who had a baby in a carriage, I couldn’t help but think she probably shouldn’t have exposed the child to the risk.
Over by the area that used to have components for salads, I asked myself, “Are we all Zombies?” Evidently, with my loud voice, a whisper is normal speaking volume, and what I thought was a thought is a whisper. I only say this because, a guy, passing me at a distance (I’d estimate it at five-foot-six), answered, “Not all of us.”
Then he gave me a kind of almost-evil smirk. “Ahhhhhhh!”
Anyway, I continue to wonder about those carpool lanes. Let’s say a cop pulls someone over, taps on the window, says, “License, registration, proof of insurance. No, hold them against the glass, please.” “What did I do, Officer?” “Risky driving, citizen. Is this a loved one or do you just not care?” “Oh, I care.” “Okay, open your trunk.” “What? Why?”
STAY SAFE. SHIT’S REAL.
BONUS MATERIAL- Three guys attempt to go into a bar. One wants a Corona, one has Corona, and one is from Corona Del Mar. No, it isn’t funny. I heard losing one’s sense of humor, almost as serious as the loss of one’s sense of irony, is immediately followed by a loss of sense of taste and/or smell, and that followed by, yes, Coronapocalypse. Now…
Now, since I’ve gone into overtime on the additions to what was published in the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, here’s a quote Adam Wipeout dropped on me after I, super stressed in trying to finish a job before it and everything got shut down, texted him to stay calm and not put scary rumors out there: “I’m calmer than you are, Dude.” Evidently it’s from “The Big Lebowski.” It is better than the usual texts I get from Adam and some others of my surfing friends. “You would have loved it, Dude.”