Updated: May 14, 2020
How am I?
Well, this forced isolation is doing funny things to me…in a Twilight Zone amusing sort of way. Most folks would label me an extrovert, and I am. I’m the lead singer for a band and a college professor and for the larger part of the first half of my life I was a springboard diver. Here I am writing this letter so Matt can put it and my face on a webpage. I like the spotlight on me. Even during this pandemic, I’ve found ways to be the center of attention. I recorded a music video to be distributed campus-wide at the university where I work. I recorded a segment for Minnesota Public Radio, “Art Hounds”: artists talking about other artists. I played a few tunes for a bunch of folks at my local bar, the Dubliner, before we all played our usual Sunday night trivia, but now by Zoom.
But, I’ve also become eerily comfortable with being alone. Sedentary. Inside. Alone.
In some ways, I’m digging back to my core, that little kid me who scribbled stories on violet colored, wide-line, notebook paper. I’ve been writing. In some ways, the writing feels scary. Not because of what I have on the page, but because of what I have in my head that I’m scared will never make it out and onto the page. It’s all in there in cluttered heaps, piles and piles of stories. Only a few escape into neat, coherent markings made of light on my laptop. Fewer still become real on paper. What happens to them if I die?
It seems I am tangentially and directly connected to some dying. Just before all this hit, my cat Toby died. Just a few days before the stay-at-home commenced in earnest, a fan of my band died. She was months shy of turning 100. We got to play a little music at her wake, including a tune called “River Stay ‘Way from my Door” – a hit from the 1920s that she herself sang on the radio when she was a teenager. My friend Michael’s dad died. He was 82 and had influenza. Or maybe he didn’t have the flu. Tyler died. I get that sadness that you feel in your body, Matt, when I type that. And, I get a so very clear visual of him at the Dubliner, on a bar stool, bathed in the red and green neon lights that only barely brighten that pleasantly old dark woodness that is that drinking hole.
Drinking. In an effort to support another favorite place, the Urban Growler, about once a week I’ve been ordering curb-side pick up from them, and, because they are a brewery, adding three or four crowlers with my order. There’s about 25 ounces of beer in a crowler. I’m drinking not a lot and not too much but more than usual. My neighbor, Cheryl, orders with me. We get two beyond burgers with tortilla chips and salsa on the side. I add the beer. She does not. Cheryl found out two days ago from her week-long series of tests at Mayo that she does have early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t have words yet to apply any more meaning to that than that.
I’ve finished writing an article about the confluence women’s sports and the fight for women’s suffrage at the turn of the 20thcentury. I started it three months ago and I also started it four years ago. Cheryl, who is 65, lifts weights with me on Sundays. We work out with the same personal trainer. She’s progressed to doing a pretty impressive set of pushups. I like writing about smart women who are strong women. Cheryl’s also a professor. And a long-distance cyclist. All the things we used to do are harder to do now.
I got a new cat. Her name is Jojo. I adopted her because I heard on MPR that with the impending shut downs due to the pandemic pet adoption agencies needed to place their animals in homes quickly. She had been a stray, is probably about three years old, and had originally been named Uh-Oh at the PetHaven rescue shelter. She hissed at me for the first 36 hours, but now she sits on my lap and licks her toes, then leans over and grooms the hairs on my arm. When she day-naps, she burrows under the comforter on my bed and becomes a small, slow- breathing ball of warm snooziness.
My good friend Pao dropped off in my mailbox a bag of home baked cookies with four little teabags tucked in, then texted me to tell me it was there. A bag of stay at home friendship and coziness. Another friend, Anita, who lives two miles away from me, mailed me a homemade postcard, just to say hi and make me smile.
I’m not playing much music, but I did decide to learn Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time.” Our bass player messaged it was possibly a top ten song for him and offered to bring over chocolate and whiskey. Which makes it feel like maybe we all need to start playing music together again. We will when it’s safe. I’m a bit of a raggedy shit-pile solo singer-songwriter, but I am good like chocolate and whiskey when I’m with my band.
Forging ahead with my shit-pile guitar playing self makes me think about the memoir Petal Pusher which makes me think of my friend Laurie Lindeen. Not because she struggles playing the guitar but because in her book she says she struggles playing the guitar but forges on ahead anyway.