There was a period when reading articles and listening to podcasts about the coronavirus seemed like overkill. Then there was the pandemic.
The first days were odd because they were normal. We were still arguing with the kids over electronics time. The counter, not the dishwasher, remained the preferred location for dirty plates. And at work, questions like “Is this it?” and “Shouldn’t I look for something else?” continued to haunt me.
Sometimes though there was no denying the new reality. You’d see people in masks, and some of these masks looked like gas masks. Also, empty shelves in stores reminded you of the failure of Communism. But even so, the kids wanted to see them because at least that meant going out.
While most things were shutting down, a few opened up. Every Thursday, the National Theatre released a recording of one of its great productions. I assumed I wouldn’t miss any of them. But in the end I only watched one (Frankenstein with Dominic Cumberbatch and the guy who plays Sick Boy in Trainspotting).
There were many things I thought I’d do after all the in-person stuff got canceled and before we figured out Zoom. I had time. I could go to bed earlier, get up later, and there’d still be several hours when there was no obvious thing that had to be done. I figured I’d finally transform three years of family footage into a family movie. And even if I didn’t read all the classic novels I’d avoided for decades, I’d for sure fill in all my movie gaps. But three months later, I still haven’t seen Les enfants du paradis--or even Barry Lyndon.
I have done some things. I wrote and oversaw the creation of a series of animated videos on COVID-19. There was a period of about a month when this work took up every minute that lockdown had liberated. But the videos are done now, and I’m pleased with how they turned out. Particularly the last one, where I got to talk about Camus.
I’ve also taught myself to run long distances slowly. Until lockdown, I used to care about my speed. It’s not like I ever really pushed myself, but, unless it was 100 degrees and 100% humidity, my average mile time always started with a 7, 8, or 9. During lockdown, I haven’t averaged less than 9:20 on a single run, and my average mile on long runs is often close to 11. It’s good, though, because the slower I run, the more I run, and the more I run, the better my mental health is. I truly believe this, but there’s something curious: I started running slowly before I decided running slowly was good.
I began this reflection around five after waking up and not managing to fall back asleep. Writing has made me feel tired, and I want to go back to bed. But my first Zoom meeting is in an hour. So I should probably get dressed.
This picture (with my 12-year-old son) was taken on the day Bernie dropped out of the race--in part, I’ve always thought, because he didn’t want his supporters to risk their lives by going out to vote.