Pandemic Day 676 – The Precarious Balance Between Contentment & Disappointment

Day 676 is a national holiday – Martin Luther King Day – and so I have the day off. I reinstated my subscription to the New York Times and read this article about Jasper Johns and have learned – a little late in the game – that his work is showing at the Whitney and the Philadelphia Art Museum through February 13th.  This, along with having finished The Magnolia Palace (Fiona Davis) on Saturday, has awakened from an extremely long slumber my love of art.*

I was again reminded of the blessings I have had throughout my life – the many I have held and taken for granted as simply part of life. When I transferred to NYU it was on a wing and prayer. I knew absolutely no one there, or anywhere in New York City. I continued to major in English and lived in apartment-style housing with 3 very unique women. (Two are a story for another day.)

One of them, with whom I shared a bedroom, was also a transfer. We were thrown together and it turned out to work. It was she who brought me to MOMA on a sunny fall afternoon, one of the first weekends we were there and I am eternally grateful to her (even if she does not know it and we haven’t seen each other since O was about 2-1/2) not only for her friendship but also for the many experiences I might have missed without her. (Special thanks for my intro to alternative music.)

Anyway, how to get to Johns’ show? In the literal sense, that’s the easy part. It’s the practical part that precludes such an endeavor. Can I convince Todd to go to Philly? Moreover, I would really prefer to go to the Whitney – but I don’t think it is wise to travel to New York right now. Hell, it’s not a good idea to travel anywhere.

This morning I read Heather Cox Richardson’s “letter” in my inbox and learned some more historical facts I never learned in school. Like Sergeant Isaac Woodard, and George and Mae Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcom. It continually disturbs me how many historical racial crimes and injustices were never taught to us. That there was nowhere that we would be exposed to these crimes against humanity, time and time again. In essence, much of our history lessons were whitewashed. For fucks’ sake, we were never taught about the Holocaust in school. At least I have no memory of it – and let me tell you, I might have forgotten what we ate for dinner last night but I would remember that.

There seems to be so much wrong with society right now, I often wonder if it has always been so but that I’m now experiencing it regularly and acutely. Last week, while scrolling Facebook, every post – back to back – was about something negative. Exponentially it is covid, but others are about medical issues and difficulty obtaining medications, and painful relationships and one husband who put a scale next to his wife’s side of the bed. America – the cruel.

So. Much. Covid. Working in an area of high transmission and every other call is a positive diagnosis and questions about quarantine. The county next door has been blowing up the last two weeks and I have healthcare things I’d like to take care of that I think will have to wait another month, at least. Six months ago I was saying that Covid keeps getting closer to “us,” but that notion is laughable compared to today. It is all around and it isn’t comforting when even the experts are predicting we’re all going to get it, eventually. At least we are vaccinated which makes a world of difference I have seen firsthand. America – the sick.

EVERYONE everywhere is short-staffed and … where the fuck are all the people? Over 850,000 are dead but not all of them were employed. The people that are working are “doing the best they can” and yet still there are places where you have one job. Like grocery orders containing items folks didn’t order or pay for – including formula that cannot be returned. Do ya’ll know how many families are on WIC for formula? How some cannot even find the formula they need? The person who posted it was offering it up to anyone who needed it, because she wasn’t going to just throw it away. America – the careless.

A local hospital just closed – permanently – and I heard through the grapevine that someone THREW AWAY vials of vaccine. The vaccine we (well, those of us who actually wanted it) were desperate for and looked to, for a way back to some semblance of normalcy. This makes me so angry.  America – the wasteful.

Meanwhile, people waited in line – during a pandemic, because we are still in a pandemic – for nearly SEVEN hours at one stand in EPCOT to buy a Figment-shaped popcorn bucket for $25. They’re already being resold online for upwards of $150. America – the embarrassing.

And the Tik Tok challenges, just when you think it couldn’t get worse someone comes along and says, wait, hold my Tide Pod – continue to be dangerous and stupid. Criminal, even. Have you heard about “Sleepy Chicken?” Cooking chicken in … you ready for this? NYQUIL. Which, by the way, is not only dangerous to consume but also to cook, as the person is inhaling the alcohol fumes that are cooking in the process. Like – deadly. Overdose on purpose? America – the stupid.

Let’s not forget the kid who jumped off the boat in Splash Mountain and refused to get back in and the entire ride had to be evacuated. How the fuck does that even HAPPEN? I mean, you’re on a ride with your kid and he starts making a move to climb out, what do you do? LET HIM??! America – the spoiled.

America can do better, but at day 676, has been regressing like a toddler with a newborn sibling. The world is watching – HAS BEEN watching – since 2016. The more I read of history, the more I realize it is all par for the course. America has struggled throughout its existence. But this – I am alive and living in this – and some days I just can’t with these people. The angry, “Let’s Go Brandon” people would tell me if I hate America so much, I can leave. Well, that’s not the right answer.

It’s an option, yes. We’ve talked about what life might be like if we moved countries. But, for one – I’m not moving that far away from my kids. I don’t care what they do or don’t say. For two, the answer is not, “get the fuck out.” This isn’t an abusive marriage. It’s a home. And we are ALL charged with the obligation to make it comfortable and safe … for everyone.

I don’t have any answers. I can’t write anything prolific about MLK today. Instead, I will spend some time learning more about long-forgotten black people who were victims of hate and white supremacy. Learning FROM it. Which we all should do today. Look up “unconscious bias” and outline the ways that you have it. And then map the ways you can change that.

Change is nature – the part that you can influence – and it starts when you decide. ~ Remy, Ratatouille

*The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis is a fictional tale based on several real people, historical events, and classic, priceless works of art – with The Frick as its backdrop -weaving a story around tragic, yet intriguing people that will grip you to the very end.

The Frick was another place my roommate and I visited. We truly enjoyed a great deal of culture and ordinary things – New York is unparalleled in experiences – I was truly blessed to have lived there – it is why my heart will always be there.

Some recommended reading for bibliophiles:

The Water Dancer ~ Ta Nehisi Coates

The Yellow Crocus ~ Laila Ibrahim

Homegoing ~ Yaa Gyasi

Heather Cox Richardson is an American Historian and history professor at Boston College. She earned her BA and PhD from Harvard University. I’ve been subscribed to her Letters From An American since early 2020. It is where I have learned a great deal of history I had never known before. You can find her on Facebook as well.

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