A New Idea
I’m out of ideas. Every day is the same. Today is like yesterday, which is like the day before.
We no longer go out. We don’t see any friends. All movie theaters and restaurants are closed. We gave up playing bridge and I stopped playing tennis. I miss playing tennis a lot. Even the tennis channel has lost its luster: all they can show are games from a year ago. We use Instacard Shopper to buy our groceries. I try not to watch the stock market. My doctors’ appointments have been postponed.
Every day I get up, I drink my morning coffee and read the news — on my iPhone, that is. I talk to my wife. How many more people have contracted coronavirus since last night in our area? How many in the United States? How many have died? Nothing else is of interest. Riots, fires, earthquakes, elections — they do no longer exist. Nothing else makes the news.
At about eight thirty or nine, I put the phone in my pocket. “That’s it,” I say to my wife. “I’m going upstairs.” That’s code for “I’m going to write.”
I start with a few computer games. With a dose of irony, I call it “my focusing strategy,” because, really, it’s mostly a waste of time. But playing relaxes me and takes me out of my terrestrial moods. So, I do it until I am done, and the good thing is that I don’t get up from my computer until, eventually, I ease into writing. Once I start, writing is a sort of routine. I have a plan and a schedule, such that most times the tasks are clear for me. The tasks are defined.
I have good days and bad days. Lately, most days are someplace in the middle — indifferent days.
Somewhere, I learned a trick. The best way to finish a day of writing is to stop in the middle of a paragraph that goes well — towards the end of a resolved scene. Then, the next day, I can start with rereading a few of the previous lines and continue writing. By the time I am ready to begin something new (the next scene), I’m warmed up. I hit the ground running, as they say. On the worst days, I struggle and struggle and little comes out.
At lunchtime, I go down to the kitchen. Lunch is usually something light: two slices of bread, one with cheese and one with smoked fish spread, an omelet, a salad. My wife is insisting on feeding me vegetables. I do what I can to please her.
I end my writing at about three or four. Then I take a nap, I read, or I go for a walk. I am lucky to have a nice wooded path right behind our house. Depending on the route I choose, my usual walk is two to three miles. It takes me fifty minutes if I hurry, an hour and ten minutes if I go at a more relaxed pace. When my wife comes along, we walk slower, but we talk, which makes it more enjoyable. Lately, the weather has been very nice. It’s spring. The trees are budding and the daffodils are blooming. It seems that nature is not afraid of the coronavirus. Maybe it considers the virus a part of itself. On the path there are people. They stroll, jog, bicycle or walk their dogs. When I encounter them, I step aside — six to eight feet. That’s social distancing, if somehow you don’t know. We say hello to each other from the safety of our positions, smile, and move on. If I see clusters of people I frown.
At seven o’clock in the evening it’s time for Erin Burnett. That’s CNN. We want to find out if there are masks for hospitals; if tests are available; how many more people have gotten infected since morning; how many have died. We wonder how many lies we were told by some of our officials over the course of the day.
We watch the news for one hour, two hours, three hours — until we are numb. We eat dinner in front of TV.
Why do they still broadcast commercials? Nutrisystem, Sandals Vacations, cars, Dr. Sholl’s, insurance policies, money managers and so many others? Viewers have always hated commercials. Now, with all of us confined at home, they have become mostly irrelevant, offensive even. Nobody is going to jump on a plane, fly to some island and have a martini under the sun. I wish that these companies do us all a favor, stop their commercials, save the money and pay their newly unemployed workers instead.
At long last, we switch to our favorite show: The West Wing. We love it. We’ve seen it twice before and we are binge watching it now for the third time. It is well acted, well put together — such an escape. The dialogues are intelligent, funny, involved. Leo McGarry, CJ, Josh, Sam, Toby, Donna — they are all very smart. Their lawyers and doctors are smart. Charlie is smart. When they argue a point, they are convincing — even when they’re wrong they are right. And president Bartlet! He knows history, politics, religion, literature, geography, chess. He is a brilliant man. He has a heart and he cares. He can talk about carving a turkey and the Visigoths. He prays in Latin and argues with God. He takes responsibility for his actions and is man enough to apologize.
I started this blog by saying that I’m out of ideas. Well, I was wrong. “Bartlet for America!” — it’s not original, but it is a good thought.
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