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  • Writer's pictureJH

COVID Diaries 1: A Dimmer Glimmer

My friend and mentor Dale Anne Brendon – drummer extraordinaire and all around good egg – told me when all of this started that I should do a COVID blog.

I dunno.

Who cares about days in the life of a suddenly non-working drummer? I mean, most people don’t even care about days in the life of a working drummer. And I do cool stuff. I record albums and play shows and travel around to places like Miramichi, NB and Nelson, BC.

These days I travel from the bedroom down to the basement and back. Sometimes I stop for coffee in the kitchen or a bathroom break in the … well, in the bathroom. I sit at the kitchen table most of the time with my computer open in front of me, but I mostly look out the window. I’m trying to appear productive in lieu of actually being productive. I have a home office that’s been commandeered by my wife. She does real work, and lately she does it from home. It’s not easy for her.

This afternoon I took one of my cats outside in the back yard. We hitch them on leashes to a spike in the ground, the way people used to leash dogs in the yard. It’s our compromise between letting them roam free in the neighbourhood and not letting them outside at all. Compromises are important. We’re negotiating them at a global level right now as we try to find a middle ground between letting everyone roam free in the neighbourhood or not go outside at all.

The problem with blogs is that I feel a pressure to make them profound. Like if this was an NPR or CBC story it would turn into a pithy anecdote with an amusing twist at the end or some deep insightful revelation.

Let me set you up now for disappointment on that.

So anyway, I took Frank the cat outside this afternoon, but it didn’t go especially well. Frank’s a new cat, just over a year old. You’d think a year-old tom cat would be aggressive and dumb and fearless, but the outside makes him jumpy lately. The slightest noise from a neighbouring yard sends him screeching back to the window (his entry and exit point from the house) and scratching at what remains of the window screen. I’ve tried to explain to him that there’s nothing to fear in the yard. That, like Shrek, I’m scarier than anything in that particular forest, but you can’t reason with cats most of the time. So it’s a game of me sitting down in my chair, then getting up to let him inside, then letting him back out, then sitting in my chair, then getting up to let him inside, then letting him back out, etc., etc., etc.

It’s been cold. It’s been raining.

T. S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month. For Canadians it’s probably May, but the principle remains. In Eliot’s April, reflecting on the First World War, the flowers come up in the wasteland but the shells continue to fall. Death makes a mockery of this new life. In our May you can get four seasons in five hours. You watch our flowers poking bravely up as well, the yellow daffodils and later the tulips, and you think that at last the great oppression of winter is lifted. But then that faded sun up there doesn’t quite reach full colour. The clouds roll in. The wind still has teeth. You can’t count on anything until June, and even then you tend to hedge your bets.

None of this helps with the COVID.

I’ve said more than once that we’re lucky this happened in the spring, as opposed to the winter. In times like these it’s probably important to count to small blessings. I’ve watched my livelihood (such as it is) get sucked up and launched into the social distance and that’s not such a heavy price to pay. The Canadian government has been helping sole proprietors like me make the bills (yay socialism!) and despite my discomfort with grocery store trips, we have everything we need.

Truth be told, my life hasn’t changed a lot since all of this began. I work from home anyway – writer, drummer, or vice versa – but life around me has changed very much. I feel a certain tension in the world. Or maybe I’m projecting a certain tension into the world. People around here have been very civilized. No shootings over face masks. No spitting on fast food restaurant employees trying to preserve the public good.

It’s just this … suspended animation. Things are beginning to open up now, which makes me think that if I was going to write a COVID blog I should have done it before, when glimmers of light on the horizon were much dimmer indeed. But maybe now there’s perspective, and maybe this is a false dawn anyway. Does anybody really know what’s going on here? I mean apart from 5G towers and the Illuminati and how Bill Gates is somehow enslaving the entire planet. We all know about that stuff, but what’s going to happen next?

Fred Willard died. Jerry Stiller too. Man, oh man. Laughter dropping like the price of oil. That might be profound if it made any sense. And that’s the thing now, right? It’s hard to make sense. So the connections between Frank Costanza and the petroleum industry are valid in this new, insane reality.

The COVID Diaries.

You know, it occurs to me now that Marshall McLuhan was right when he said the medium is the message. Maybe there’s nothing you can grab onto in this meandering hodgepodge about my cat and T.S. Eliot, but there might be something you can grab onto in the fact of its existence.

Something here exists that did not exist before – a blog post of a thousand words. An act of creation in a world turned upside-down. Sometimes that’s the best you can do with a circumstance like this.

So create on, my COVID friends. Write those songs together but apart. Do your live streams. Write your poems. Sketch your sketches. Sew your masks. Plant your gardens. These small acts of creation might just be the antidote we need to all of this uncertainty, this fear, this boredom.

This future behind glass.


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