The Golden Monstrosity, as I like to call her, is sprawled across the kitchen threshold beside the antique white stove. When I look at her, she thumps her tail against the dining room rug. Her black eyes are open, watching me. If I gaze too long or look too often, she will come to my side. I don’t want that so I must look away frequently and quickly to prevent it. She is perfect where she is.
I’m listening to Carl Sonny Leyland’s Sunday evening show, as usual. This one, however, is pre-recorded, as, I think, most or all of KCSM’s shows are now in these pandemic days. Pandemic days? Pandemic-ized days?
My favorite music geeks aren’t showing up to work anymore. They are sheltering at home, like the rest of us. Maybe some of them are still doing shows from their closets, as I know many entertainment and news folks are doing. But, this particular show was pre-recorded.
I’m listening to tunes from 1932, 1938, tunes with names like “Grasshopper” and “Scorpion.” We’re apparently having an insect-themed show tonight. “Scorpion,” which is the next song, is from Stéphane Grappelli, which excites me. I love his swing violin. Oh, and I’m told, we’ll hear a song called “Mosquito’s Knees.” What fun. And yes, what an innocent time.
Will we ever return?
You can really hear the innocence in these times, in these tunes. What is it? This sweetness, this silliness, that we don’t possess too much of these days. Not just these pandemic days, mind you, but these days, as in the last few years, or maybe the last three decades, when the wealthiest in this country figured out good and well how to rig the economy so expertly that they would invariably accrue the vast majority of the wealth produced in the country by their minions — the people they employ.
The pandemic is clearly showing the fissures. How the most vulnerable, the ones with no paid sick leave, no health insurance, no protections, no… nothing… the ones who are earning a minimum wage that has barely budged since the mid ‘80s… those folks. How those folks are actually the engines of the “economy,” such that it is.
What is the economy anyway? What is this stock market these people salivate over? I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs, nor the depths of the depravity, but it’s pretty clear it’s egregious, and that the chickens just may be coming home to roost.
Of course, this also plays into my extremely difficult, ambiguous, conflicted, and angst-ridden belief system about “wealth” and money. My extremely schizophrenic relationship with money.
It’s always been weird. Once more I find myself confused. Am I one of the lucky, the fortunate? In many ways, I am. So far. I still have my job. I can do my job from my laptop at home. My company is still okay.
Of course, I am incredibly privileged. Maybe even obscenely so.
Yet, if the economy really tanks, we like most everyone else, will be impacted, and hard.
I began my journey toward a healthier fiscal existence only a few years ago.
And thank God I did.
If this pandemic had hit a mere three years ago, we would have been jeopardized immediately.
I’ll be 53 this month. I’ve been reforming my irresponsible and careless relationship with money for only about six or seven years.
When I got my present job, my back was against the wall. We had no cash on hand, no savings. It was Christmas, and I had suddenly lost my sole client, even though I knew it was dangerous to place all of my eggs in one basket. I blithely ignored that folly and forged ahead, only to be laid off from HP with the rest of the remote contractor marketing staff.
I signed up with a headhunter in San Francisco, and I got lucky. I got offered a temporary contract job with a company I had never heard of. I took it because I had nothing else, and no money in the bank. I had never heard of the company. I lucked out because the interviewer asked me no questions. I was simply the good listener that I know how to be. That sat well with this particular interviewer. And I got the job.
I know. Incredibly lucky.
The entire first month of employment, I scavenged the leftovers from meetings to bring home to my two kids because we had negative funds in the bank and no credit.
No car either.
That was our reality.
The kids saw me unable to pay the grocery bill more than once in their tender youths. They say it scarred them, and that’s why they’re both such good savers now, and so financially savvy.
Whatever it took, I’m glad for it.
I grew up with no financial savvy whatsoever, and it’s taken me far too long to develop any bit of it. And I have a long way to go.
Yet, here I am, unsure as we ride the waves of the pandemic economy, whether we’re poor, rich, or middling. It’s all relative, right?
I’m not sure.
Regardless, I’m proud we are safer now. I am proud, relieved, and incredibly grateful that I am better prepared this time around. That we can ride this emergency out for at least a few months. This makes us rich, right?
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
If the economy truly goes to hell in a hand basket (as we listen to “Flea-Flop” on Carl Sonny Leyland’s show), none of us will be safe from the fallout.
I don’t know the answers to anything.
All I know is that today and yesterday were scarier days. In the New York Times yesterday, eight of the nine obituaries of famous people died of Covid-19. That gave me considerable pause.
A musician named Adam Schlesinger, whose name I didn’t know but whose work I did, died a few days ago, after fighting for life for a week on a ventilator. He was 52.
I’ll be 53 this month.
My son announced last night at dinner that I’m not to shop anymore. From now on, he will do the grocery shopping.
Fragile B is with us. Luckily, he stays entirely in the house. He’s been afraid to go outside since September. Now that fear seems less irrational. Still, we can’t bring it home to him. 57 and paper-thin, he can’t get this nasty thing.
I bring groceries to my 83-year-old friend. So, I’m distancing aggressively, not seeing my friend Jen around the corner, not walking with Ellen down the street. I have pulled in. I need to tell them why. I haven’t. It’s because I haven’t been able to admit to myself, to articulate, why I’ve pulled into my shell quite so much. I guess I’m afraid.
I don’t understand this virus.
We thought we knew so much. We thought it attacked the “aged,” the weak, the infirm, the smokers, the immune-suppressed. But I can’t believe these doctors and nurses, these 19-year-olds, 26–year-olds, 35-year-olds I am reading about all fit that profile. We don’t really know.
But it seems it’s quite nasty.
Now, I’m hearing of diarrhea, profound tiredness (one young woman couldn’t face the walk from her bedroom to her bathroom), and nausea. I didn’t hear about those symptoms in the early days.
Boris Johnson is now hospitalized.
It’s all incredible, surreal.
Grocery shopping now feels like running a gauntlet. The other day, I chose self-checkout because it seemed like the safe option as I eyed the long lines at the cashier-manned registers. But as I ran my items through the self-check machine (which, admittedly, I’m a neophyte at), I encountered problems. Bleeps and blips, and then the machine froze, and then a young woman with a mask came precariously close to help me and the items seemed to be sprawling and spilling everywhere, and I was losing track. I just knew I was encountering lots of scary surfaces.
Now, CSL (Carl Sonny Lehland) is playing a passionate spiritual about the truth of Jesus. I guess it’s as good a time as any.
I forgot to say I was making dinner during the writing of this post. Now, I’m pulling out of the oven skillet cornbread. Black-eyed peas are on the stove, with a charred, clove-studded white onion, no less (and a chile, and two bay leaves), and leftover lamb stew from last night, with paprika, and we have honey from our neighbor, and a big saucer of butter.
And Aretha Franklin with the Reverend James Cleveland from Amazing Grace, the Complete Recordings, on Vinyl. “I can’t urge you enough to see Amazing Grace on the big theater in the screen. It will give this recording, the best-selling gospel album of all time, … can’t even begin to describe how great a documentary this is…”
That’s now Harry Duncan on the radio, where he’s been for the last ten minutes. I missed the changing of the guard. Now, we are firmly into soul. And boy is it fun. It’s marvelous. “Gravy train ain’t going nowhere…” sings the current singer. Hopefully, this is a harbinger.