Thursday, April 2, 2020

Gen X, this is for you.

As expected, I’m the one most cut out for this corona routine.

Remember The Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields and that guy? I know you remember.

If you didn’t see it, can you even say you’re one of us?

We hypothesized . . . though we didn’t use that word . . . with whom we’d like to be stuck on a deserted island.

I know I didn’t envision that my deserted island would require me to stockpile Fancy Feast. 

I am “trapped” in the house with my husband of nearly sixteen years, two teen girls who tell me that their friends are still living it up, a dog who recently decided that he’s allowed on the couch, two fat cats, a hamster or a gerbil (I really don’t know what he is), and four neglected glow fish. I have to admit that when we have ventured out to panic-shop, we urgently search for dog and cat food—but no one ever mentions the hamster/gerbil or the four fish. Hopefully, someone is thinking about them because, apparently, I’m not.

I vacillate between feeling cozy/home-comfort/I-have-my-babies-here/my-pets-are-adorable/I'm-happily-married/we-have-Netflix and, its opposite response: end-of-the-world panic. Is this a Biblical plague? Remember Moses in Egypt with Pharaoh? Wouldn’t it be pretty appropriate for the world to, um, end in a global pandemic that makes a joke out of nationalism and money and partisan politics? Is this the Apocalypse?

I wasn’t supposed to be alive for this!

I’ve already had my crazy! Who hasn’t read my novel about a psychotic marriage? (Oh yeah, everyone.) I survived breast cancer for this? Chemo for this? We didn’t do enough global warming! We could still warm up a bit. Can my kids just grow up first? May I please see the final season of Homeland before I meet Jesus?

I mean, it’s crossed my mind: forget this Trump and Biden (oh, and Bernie) Thing. It’s so petty. And we all know that only Jimmy Carter’s making it to heaven.

Maybe my Gen X colors are questionable: Alienated, yes. Isolated, yes. Art and Unemployment, yes and yes. Cynicism, yes.

But anxiety is mine, all mine. Aren’t I supposed to be going with the flow a bit more?

Of course, Kurt Cobain looked all laid back with his messy hair and sweaters, but we all know what happened to him.

Allow me, now, to share with you my angst-riddled Covid-19 thoughts, which will undoubtedly leave NO ONE feeling at ease.

  • I bet the creators of THE WALKING DEAD are realizing that they never actually cashed-in on our biggest fear, which is the loss of toilet paper. I mean, that show is so five-minutes ago anyway—but, seriously, folks. I’m remembering that scene in The Graduate, that famous scene. Go here. Our one-word is actually two words: toilet paper.
  • Where’s Melania?

  • There is not a huge demand for books on one's cancer experience during a global pandemic. I’ve noticed. (Which, of course, begs the usual question: Why did I choose writing again?)
  •  This is a rare opportunity to evaluate friendships. I mean, are you keeping in touch with people? All of them? Some of them? Are you sorta surprised by the way your own affections are playing out? I mean it. Is your interest in the lives of others, um, thin? It’s been a tad sobering as my life has been reduced to bare essentials which mostly involves a handful of people, the dog, and half ‘n’ half. Guys, have you not seriously risked your life already to feed a pet? We didn’t even wear masks UNTIL TODAY. (AND THEN WE DID.)
  • Yes, we wore masks today when we went shopping. Tim and I. No kids. We acted as if we were on a secret mission. We donned face masks. We grabbed one Lysol wipe from our limited stash. We put on old sneakers. We cautiously entered, heading straight to the paper products. Nothing. We moved on, and here’s my report: no paper products, minimal frozen vegetables especially potatoes, limited cleaning supplies, rationed eggs, almost no chicken nuggets, no Purina dog chow. Plenty of other stuff. I’m pretty convinced that delivery and pick-up are shams. A friend asked today if Trader Joe’s does delivery, and I’d like to know if you know something I don’t. Gen X likes Trader Joe’s very much.
  • I tell my kids, "There's a U2 song for every occasion." Bono's my bro. He just put this song out. He’s a bit scraggly here, and I think his dog shot the video, but I watched every second. You should too, because I promise you this: Bono Will Be Singing In The Afterlife.
  • I find myself personally vested in the welfare of Chris (“Christopher,” to his brother) Cuomo. I’m intrigued by his narrow basement, his reddish eyes, and the mildly sensationalistic tone of his news; I also am intrigued by Andrew Cuomo’s nice Italian New York-ness.
  • But, lest you get all excited about my left-leanings which are still left-leanings, I have to say that I’m weary of partisanship right now. I’m a #NeverTrump-er. Still. Always. But I guess I’m, like, We’ve Got Bigger Fish To Fry. I know that we can go nuts on all of the failures that led to the pandemic, but Can We Do This Later? At least Trump is working with Dr. Fauci. I’m weary of Trump-bashing! I can’t believe I’m saying it! We Gotta Give It A Rest! Let’s Live First!
  • I am repeatedly struck by how difficult it to shut America down. Both my husband and I are able to work remotely (for now). But, if you venture out there, you’ll see it: there is still a lot going on. I get maybe two pedicures a year (and I feel guilty admitting it): one at the beginning of sandals weather (which is, like, early March here in AZ), and one before I do some random literary event that may involve someone looking at my toes. Yesterday, going to the pharmacy, I saw that my nail salon was open. Because, well, they’re probably scared and they’re immigrants, Asian immigrants too so the world is showing its evils, and they feel like they have no choice but to stay open. And what can I say? What can any of us say?
  • Which finely leads me to my Trump friends . . . Is it me or am I seeing this weird tension? Trumpsters are often loudly declaring how they’ve got their rights, this is a free country, and the government can’t step in. Blah, blah, blahhhhhhh. And, now, in a surreal and unanticipated dystopian nightmare, Their Man is saying, from his bully pulpit, I’m Telling You To Stay Home. I think it’s the Trumpsters who are ignoring him! What a wild turn of events! And it’s all because of this: Old Town Road. Right-wingers be like, Can't nobody tell me nothin'
  • Isn’t it ironic—don’t you think?—that my family just spent the winter binging on The 100?
  • If you don’t have a pet, are you sad?
  • I’m so thankful that Tim and I got a grip on this marriage-thing. I. Can’t. Even. Imagine.
  • So this is my kids’ 9/11?
  • Writers, are you writing? You know, I wrote my way through cancer. I never stopped. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I’m finding it about a thousand times tougher to write now. It’s one thing to write with—get ready for it—the gun to my head. It’s quite another when the whole world is threatened. I only want for my survival to be at stake, not everyone’s. Am I seeing futility in my vocation? Am I preoccupied? I ask again: Writers, are you writing?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

I’ve Got No Book in Me

All I can ever do is write.

All I can ever do is shape-shift my private woes until, I hope, I offer story. As writer, I’m an alchemist. I’ll transform my experiences in some uber-act of democratic artistry. My particular stories, for you . . .

Strangely, global epidemic or pandemic happening, Covid-19 shutting down the world, I’m suffering from—of all things—“writer’s block.” It isn’t that I’m speechless. No, not that.

Rather—would you believe it?—I feel like this isn’t my battle. I’ve fought a few. My battles were mostly fought over religion and marriage and cancer. And books, too: of course books. (Am I dying? Is this my death knell?) I hope I have further battles ahead of me; I do. But, I seem to lack the call to write, to share my plight and render it universal. I am not compelled to map out this coronavirus experience.

Alas, I’m still doing stuff. I’m staying home, worrying about toilet paper, trying to keep the kids from killing each other. But I’m okay. I have nothing to complain about.

I’m alone with four people, and it’s tough—but it’s good too. I mean, I love my kids and my husband. Truth!

My pets think this is a great big party. I’m serious. During this first quarantined week, one of my daughters dragged her mattress into the other daughter’s bedroom (the novelty of this wore out TODAY—she’s moving), and the dog burrowed into the blanket mess. The cats are a tad miffed by our exceedingly great presence—but they’re pretty in-your-face felines—so it’s a BLAST.

We’re okay on food. It’ll run out, yes, but we’re fine right now. Tim’s going to start complaining about his need for whole milk yogurt soon.

Our jobs are taking a hit, undoubtedly, but it’s also okay. We can do remote work. This may be the one time that educators can truly celebrate our plight. They need us.

We have friends, faith, books, Netflix, Hulu.

I finished chemo a while ago. So I guess my immune system is not compromised.

I had no essential doctor appointments on the horizon. I will need to color my hair soon.

My kids’ school is on top of things. Next week, they enter google classrooms!

My last book came out in January, missing the DOA-routine some of my friends are encountering with their new novels. (I truly commiserate with my fellow-writers and artists who have to experience this unhappy fizzle. Ugh. I’m sorry.)

In the midst of Covid-19, we still sleep at night. We still laugh a lot. We still cuddle even. We’ve got fart jokes and personality flaws and someone’s always grabbing the new-ish cat (we’ve had Beesly—named after Pam Beesly in “The Office”—since August).

There have been good times! I’ve rather enjoyed the White House press conferences, and our sense of a global community. And, really, I gotta say that I do see many, many, many people rising to the occasion in tremendous ways.

All of this is not to say that there have been no losses for me personally. There have been.

Um, toilet paper?

I’m very, very, very high-strung, and either I’m imagining it or it’s true: chest pains. (Is this my death knell after all?) Tim says, “It’s stress.”

I say, “I’ve been stressed for my whole life. This isn’t any different.”

But yeah.

So I’m worried about that. And:

Will I run out of cream for my coffee? And:

I’m worried about my husband, who’s not keen on staying-home 24/7. He can do it for a bit—but weeks? Months? And:

My kids ARE restless. I think school will be okay, but they’ll miss big things. And:

My big book debut/launch/premiere at Changing Hands Bookstore was canceled or, well, postponed. As were two breakfasts I was scheduled to appear at. And my writing retreat that was out-of-state this spring. Book sales probably stopped. Book promo seems trite. Book kaput? And:

I can’t believe it, but I seem to have three friends with symptoms! All three have been tested and they’re waiting for results. And:
I wonder about health issues, the economy, the unhappiness in the lives of some of my sequestered friends, the planet really, the fate of Dr. Fauci. But:

As it should happen. I was looking for a job. This was a lousy semester for me financially (I’m an adjunct English professor). My Cancer-Card has expired, and I need more work. Full-time work.

But the job search ceased with this quarantine—just like that.

Now, I’m home all day, every day.

As it should happen: I’m here for you kids!


My writing, though.

This is the first piece of writing I’ve done since the onslaught of Covid-19.

How do I explain my “silence”?

I guess I’d say this: it’s not my moment.

I’ve been all about the privatized moment, the bittersweet spot between girlhood innocence and marital criminality, the existential crisis of cancer, the overblown Gen X-ness of my life. This, this “cultural moment,” is for my children. It’s their 9/11, their assassination of John Lennon on the Upper Westside.

I keep urging my children to write it out, talk about that Saturday we went to WinCo, Trader Joe’s, and Fry’s. Tell me about the paper goods, the canned beans, the empty meat shelves. Write about what makes all your friends so blasé. Write write write, I say.

Because, this time, I’m not doing it.
Girls, this one is for you.

Yes, I’m staying home.

I like a good quarantine.

I got my people, my books.

But this isn’t my story.