[The USA just surpassed Italy and China with the most COVID-19 deaths in the world. Not the kind of “winning” the Current Occupant of the White House has in mind, I assume. Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying to find some Yucks in the Time of Corona. As always, thanks for reading.]
Sunday, 5 April
Happy <Corona> Palm Sunday! Another Milestone of Collective Weirdness reached! We can all look forward to a freaky Holy Week and/or Passover, with some interesting coronavirus wrinkles. For example, this gives us a perfect opportunity to turn our public health response to a pandemic into yet another battlefront in the never-ending and oh-so-tedious Culture Wars. Because the completely made-up War on Christmas wasn’t enough, we now have to turn Very Sensible Public Health Measures—like don’t sit for two hours elbow-to-elbow in a packed church with 2,000 other possibly non-symptomatic carriers of the coronavirus—into, you guessed it, The War on Easter. <big lingering facepalm w/ added head shake>
As Kay-Kay frequently bemoans, “Why do we always have to be the Dumb Country?”
Monday, 6 April
As if to disprove any nascent War on Easter, the way-cool, young and hip, mother of a toddler, awesomely effective, and Goddess of Multitasking Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, just issues an executive order declaring the Easter Bunny “essential personnel” in the Land DownUnder. Or in the islands right next to The Land DownUnder. New Zealand also has, to quote the WaPo, not just “bent the curve,” they’ve “crushed the curve.” Seems that in between changing soiled nappies and freeing The Bunny, PM Jacinda has managed to spearhead the most effective national pandemic response in the world.
Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to make an offer to the Kiwis that we Americans will trade Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and their choice of either Ted Cruz or (in the interest of bipartisanship) Chuck Schumer for their Prime Minister. Deal?
<Southern Hemisphere crickets>
Tuesday, 7 April
This one hits me like a ton of bricks. I wake up to NPR telling me that John Prine had succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 73. Although he was not the healthiest man, having survived both neck cancer and lung cancer, it seems so unfair somehow. I mean, there are few who contributed more or better work to The Great American Songbook than John Prine. He deserved a better death than this.
For the rest of the day, I can’t get his lyrics out of my head and I walk around humming and singing snatches of songs that I can’t completely remember, so I keep going to iTunes to find a recording. Somebody posts a video from PBS’s Austin City Limits of his last recorded performance. Of course, he’s singing, “When I Get to Heaven.” I haven’t heard that tune in years. It’s a mixed spoken-word poem with a sung chorus, all about what John’s going to do when he gets to heaven. So after shaking God’s hand and starting a rock-and-roll band, the chorus—
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale.
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long.
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the Tilt-a-Whirl,
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town.
I cry watching this on YouTube.
Wednesday, 8 April
With my life and most of the world slowed down and quiet, my brain goes to odd places. This morning, I turn to Kay-Kay and say, “Why do they call them turtle doves? I mean, they don’t look like turtles—at least they don’t in those non-secular Christmas card illustrations. They’re doves, so I’m kinda certain they don’t eat turtles, do they?”
Kay-Kay gazes at me with her more and more frequent look of slight surprise and mildly put-upon indulgence. Then she says, “Ummm, why don’t you Google it?”
Strangely, this autonomic reflex has not occurred to me. Turns out “turtle” dove has nothing to do with, well, turtles. It’s one of those mangled transliterations of Somebody Else’s Word with which the English language is replete. In this case, the Bird In Question is called, in Latin, a turtur. This has absolutely nothing to do with reptiles, instead being an onomatopoetic name based on how old Romans spelled out how they heard the birds sing—“turr, turr.” Kay-Kay and I listen intently to a recording of said birdsong—we don’t exactly hear turr-turr.
A random line of a John Prine lyric keeps running through my head today:
There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes
And Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose.
I dash to iTunes, listen to “Sam Stone,” and cry again.
Thursday, 9 April
Here we are at Holy Thursday/Passover! Our Coronavirus Holy Week is gathering steam! Well, at least in the Judeo-Christian world.
Let me note that our Muslim brothers and sisters will be entering <Coronavirus> Ramadan the end of next week, which will be extra-weird for them. For those who aren’t aware of exactly how Ramadan works, let me do some ’splaining. I’ve been in Arab countries a couple of times for all or part of Ramadan. I had long thought this was some sort of 28-day long Islamic version of a Lenten fasting bummer. True, you’re not supposed to eat or drink or smoke from first light until complete dark each day. But as soon as the fast is over, it’s PAR-TEE Time. Think of the huge belly-busting feasts we have for <non-Coronavirus> Easters. Got it visualized? Now repeat that every night for a month—and late into night. The times I’ve spent in Arab places during Ramadan, I have never been fatter or more exhausted.
Today’s John Prine ear worm is “Angel From Montgomery.” I go search up a YouTube of the definitive Bonnie Raitt version of this achingly sad song and repeat it five or six times—
There’s flies in the kitchen, I can hear ’em there buzzing,
And I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say?
I cry every time.
Friday, 10 April
It’s Comedy Friday! Kay-Kay and I decide to watch a Steve Carell double feature: 40-Old-Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman. (OK, his character has a hand grenade and a trident during the big news team gang fight scene.)
I find myself thinking metaphorically too often these days. While waiting for Kay-Kay to appear for movie time, I have 40-Year-Old Virgin queued up and on PAUSE. Looking at the screen with a freeze-frame of the opening of the movie, I ponder how this vividly represents our current lives. The pandemic has pressed our collective PAUSE button and our lives are kinda stopped mid-scene, like Steve Carrell. As I’m meditating on this profound insight, the PAUSE times out and my Fire TV Stick fades out and resolves to a gaily illuminated ferris wheel. Then to a crystalline mountain lake. Followed by the Grand Canal in Venice.
Saturday, 11 April
Today’s John Prine song on endless repeat is “Paradise.” I’m struck by the realization that 50 years ago, John had the foresight to leave us his burial instructions—
When I die, let my ashes float down the Green River.
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam.
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am.
I shall never forgive Coldplay for writing a lightweight piece-of-fluff song and calling it “Paradise,” too. Some things just ain’t right.
RIP, John Prine. Thanks for the songs that’ll outlive you, me, and the coronavirus.