At the beginning of November, the warnings about the dangers of Americans traveling for the holidays were as dreadful as the hanging-in-the-balance presidential election results and the authoritarian’s evil machinations in battleground states. I started to feel my energy level dissipate. I couldn’t lift weights as easily, my sense of cinematic smell and taste disintegrated to the point where I felt no reason to reach for the Roku remote to pick a film from the eight different streaming services I pay for, and I had lost the impulse to scan cinephobe.tv‘s nightly playlists, that had been an entertaining and bonding experience for me and my eldest son, locked down in Austin, Texas.
The weather turned cold, leaves were dropping off the trees in the neighborhood and things seemed more cut-off from possibility than before. My mood was not great and failures like forgetting my brother’s birthday were starting to seep into the routines that had been mostly unchanged since March 13: ordering provisions, going for a daily walk in the four or five streets of the neighborhood, and then quickly retreating back indoors.
Besides nightly cozying with my wife to watch Borgen, I kept on with my weekly painting classes (although my focus was coming and going), and waited up on November 6 to finally replace my dying iPhone (which had gone to the point of dropping from 100 to zero in 100 minutes). Finally Thanksgiving itself arrived. Isolated from our children and friends, we still went through the motions of pre-ordering a turkey and other goodies (thanks, Lagunitas Farm Stand), and procuring three or four harder-to-find items with a safe-r run to the Woodlands Market (which I always consider running the virus gauntlet) by going in just before closing time on the eve.
The day itself was the warmest of the week. We trundled the carved turkey and other bits to a local playground which was semi-deserted at 2 pm. We walked around the signs that advised that eating food and drink was prohibited, because it implies that your mask is off. Our rationale was to stay 20 feet or more away from anyone else around, eat as fast as possible, then get those masks back on. And so we did.
By now Biden had been “ascertained,” and two vaccines were estimated to be a couple of weeks away from initial distribution. On the day before turkey day, I presented my work in art class, and felt a slight burden lifted that I actually had produced work in the last eight months. On the day after turkey day, my wife and I started to make actual travel plans for September 2021, for a nephew’s wedding in Vermont and thence on to rural France, before our knees give out or autonomous systems accelerate their decline.
I finally got back into the habit of a movie every other day or so. William Wyler’s perfection of a Henry James story, The Heiress, landed with such an impact that I felt I was watching Hollywood’s golden era for the first time. Angela Schanelec’s I Was at Home, But… was equally impressive and fit the COVID mentality perfectly, where its characters mused about whether there is any point to life or relationships or art or film, or whether we just need to wait and see what our mission will be. Balthasar the donkey has it better in the season of fear.
So now I move to finish the last painting for my “series” class, and email my brother, and buy presents for distantly isolated family and friends, and await the CDC policy committee’s decision on what round of vaccinations I will qualify for (white male, 65-79, no known comorbidities). I’m going to get that shot as soon as I can.