Masking continues to be all the rage in my neighborhood. Head on over to Whole Foods in Lafayette you can see for yourself. Gray haired Volvo drivers (I confess to nothing) are likeliest to be hand sanitizing maskers.
Younger clerks at cash registers prefer to go a la natural. It’s a mixed bag in the grocery game, down at the local health care providers scene you don’t get into a waiting room without a mask.
Keep it small, go it alone, electing to take some care in these triple respiratory threat times seems prudent even if it is emotionally debilitating. My wife and I generally have found taking some risks to see friends and family are worthy meetups, pub crawling in congregate settings with a sneezy wheezy mob of strangers isn’t worth the trouble.
Testing, testing and more testing continues unabated. Travel plans have us both boarding planes in late January. One of us goes to Key West for holiday with her girls the other to Seattle to pleasure in winter wonderland with the other girl. Guess who travels north.
March 20, 2023 we will mark the 3rd year of this ongoing worldwide pandemic. Tell me you are the same as I am— my larger circle of friends has been hard to keep in touch with. The inner circle, those closest intimates we’ve stumbled through the last 900 days together, sometimes visiting and at other times isolating.
Little concessions litter my social meetup choices. Is it indoors or outdoors, is the weather going to cooperate, do they work in large congregate settings, do they have a lot of exposure to children, have they given up their masks, decided against getting the booster shots, do they still think Elon Musk is a genius— once you have the answer you will know whether you are going to risk being infected.
Arizona and Alberta are overheated frozen opposites. Calls to souls I know in Arizona uncover masking burnout, handwashing boredom, and a general sense of my Arizona people are just completely done with it. Neighbors to the north in Alberta are having a harder time, as much as they may be fed up with the pandemic the pace of transmission disallows they’re moving on.
Life in Canada is an indoor affair during this time of year. Outside is refreshingly temporary where indoor life harbors stagnant unfiltered overheated air. You want to breathe go to Puerto Vallarta, you want to feel confined try life in a midrise condominium along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton.
I can’t help but wonder about the current tensions playing out across the globe. Bolsonaro’s defeat in Brazil, the attempted coup in Peru, the ongoing tragic war of choice by Putin in Ukraine, the heroic women in Iran seeking their human rights, I would have imagined such turmoil could have waited while we stood the world’s economy back up on its feet.
Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are all going through a few things. Tesla has blown through the lower bound and is about to plumb the horrific depths of the brokerages up and down the line making margin calls on clients. Elon Musk rather than channel his inner Zelenski has revealed himself to be a Putin sympathizer. Admiration for war criminals by the formerly richest man in the world wasn’t on my list of predictions for 2022. Billionaires with thinning hair anxieties turns out to be predictive.
Shooting baskets at the gym off hours alone is one place I go to get my heartrate up to some degree of healthful benefit. Walks in the neighborhood another. My wife and I get out together, she’d death march me if allowed, instead I throttle back, something like an hour is about right with a hill or two to climb, that’s proven to be good for my moods.
There is a lot of texting, fewer voice calls, emailing is over. My sister is a terrific foil for my texts. My kid plays along as she can, when she can, she does have a job, thumbing her keyboard on her iPhone isn’t a priority.
There is the shortlist of calls made on a routine basis to select friends. There is Waldo over on the Big Island. He’s good for laughs, lava flow updates and the gossip he hears while out at his favorite sunset oceanside overlook.
Martin reaches out too, both of us are sailors, husbands and always plotting a quick out for the afternoon reach in fair winds off the beam. Dan a show business buddy, has taken up pickle ball coaching, and we meet for short walks and compare our offstage life to the onstage life we both until the pandemic hit had spent decades living in. Dave has decided to take a seat at a Ducati repair shop, speed and G-forces created by carved turns at the apex in a corner seems to be my friend’s current deep dive. We talk a lot about anything that is a machine, just so long as it has some pedigree, some claim to being a legitimate thrill-maker. We’ve both lost more championships than would be imagined based upon our unrivaled skills.
I’ve a brother-in-law in Kona that I talk to as often as he has the patience for. His life requires privacy so he might heal the scar of losing my sister almost two years ago. Mike down in Santa Clara updates but he’s swamped and demands on his time is large, running a full-time magic show enterprise as a solo requires your best effort, sometimes as a duo, and then often as an ensemble cast for theaters does not leave much time to eat mushrooms and then room to gush metaphysically about the state of show business down here in the small time.
Another of my friend’s is a regular. Finally, his childhood is over, he’s now a full-blown adult and life’s urgency is an emergency, my favorite man-boy has turned 60. A terrific housekeeper, devoted hiker, incurable but too sincere to make even a dent in the high art of womanizing, more of a one man-one woman type, his inner constitution resembles a department store with a very well-staffed complaint department. Monogamy is fine, it isn’t commitment that he finds so uncomfortable as it is that other opposite thing— the bedrock sense of self-possession, his freedom to be safely separate, his mastering living alone is more than a controlling solitude, it has proven to be the most durable alliance, in his experience his solo arrangements have proven to be the key ingredient to the experience of being in a fully awakened soul. Quarreling and enlightenment never do well together.
I experience this urge to be alone as the problem that comes from living in one place. I’m not suited to living somewhere. That is more the rub against the nervous system I was born with. Fortune has found the woman right for me love. My wife has as much wanderlust as mine, her ability to shape her travels into gainful enterprise differs from her poet laureate in his own imagination husband. I’m chasing sunsets, river valleys and campsite fires for the pure pleasure of being out there away from it all. The wife has made her itinerary a more practical affair, stuffing her purse with gold coins while out making the international rounds is her style, that is until her spirits are aroused, then it is her higher chakras, her soul’s appetite, it is her being asked to witness intangible human spirited wilderness that surpasses all her other many goals and responsibilities. Getting good at being present isn’t part of our current modern life. That’s why I believe dogs are so popular in this era, at least an uncomplicated devoted best friend that can’t talk back does provide some emotional support. An over wordy too chatty friend you can’t trust with your deepest darkest secrets resembles a roadside warning sign you would rather live without.
This was the year of living with less physical contact, connecting with the few while wondering how to reach out to the many. I’ll surf the infectious wave of winter into a less virulent spring, by then I’m thinking we could be a fair piece further out of the pandemics grip, we can all plant our gardens, walk our dogs, call our friends and catch up with those good next outer circle of fabulous souls that make life all that much richer and more rewarding.
I haven’t got over to the Prizefighter, a favorite Emeryville saloon, to inventory what remains of the staff I counted on to make my Manhattans and small talk. Some I counted as confidants, others to tell a tale and share a laugh. Best friend continuity matters but so do all those incidental unnamed acquaintances that pass through our lives. I’ve a long roster of lost now nameless friends that for the life of me I cannot remember.
The pandemic I hope will spiral downward into irrelevance this next year. Friendships will regather momentum and the emotional damage of three years of isolation will be healed one week after another as we get on with the extended conversation that is sharing our lives. We are by the code of our genetics social animals and our running with the herd is our nature.
There are the before-times, there is this present-time, and there will come a less infectious after-times. I’ll meet you there, we can enjoy until one or the other of us become dull and rather a burden to be with. All this solitude does no favors to those of us that prefer to be alone. All of this will have to be sorted out and will be, things will turn out just as we’d hoped.
As centuries go the start of this one has been nothing to sneeze at. With a little luck, vaccinations, treatments, masks and hand hygiene because there’s really no ceiling to how far hope may climb.
I’ve got a script on my desk, is a comedy, taking on the challenges of the day, in this case an ever-drier American Southwest.
Betty a water regulator trying to encourage— Papermaster, eating your girlfriend’s fresh baked bread is going to shorten your life—
I’m on life support— Papermaster explains— my life’s already over.
If we don’t get this right Papermaster, there won’t be anything out here on the shores of Lake Powell but lounge chairs and tobacco spitting cowboy’s looking for a god damn stray bull named— Titanic