AS was true when I wrote my March blog post, I’m not sure if I should write about Covid-19’s tragic hold on humanity, or pivot to my sense of humor, a valuable distraction from the constant stream of bad news. I’ve decided to do both. I cannot ignore the virus’s tragedies. Nor can I shut off what seems to be my fail safe weapon against fear and impending danger, my ability to perceive grains of humor, however dark, that are entwined in sadness.
On April 9th I checked into Facebook and read that two of my FB friends had tested positive for the virus. Those words “tested positive” roared through my mind with the fury of a monster once thought to have been defeated, now returning to claim its revenge.
Every LGBTQ person who lived through the scourge of AIDS recalls those words, sometimes whispered, other times shouted, always dreaded. In the early days of that plague, “positive” was the most negative and feared word one could hear. It meant suffering and an almost certain death. Then, as now, we were counseled about changing behaviors that promoted the spread of the disease. Then, as now, cities’ populations changed. Provincetown’s gay male citizenry shrank. The character of San Francisco’s Castro District dimmed. New York City’s and London’s Soho neighborhoods lost their brilliance as AIDS erased the artists, writers, actors, musicians, and ordinary people who’d found safe harbor there.
As was true then, the pulse of the Arts continues to beat. Equally true is the presence of irony. Ironies abound in the Covid-19 situation. Isn’t the phrase “social distancing” an oxymoron?
Humor lurks within these ironies, and humor-inspired laughter keeps my mood above water. With that in mind, what follows is my attempt to lighten your thoughts, if only for a moment.
Some of my comments include references to people known more by the members of my generation, the Baby Boomers, than by the younger readers of this blog. For the sake of those younger readers, I’ll place an asterisk next to the names of the “oldies.”
*Smokey Robinson is/was a song writer/ producer from Detroit, Motown. He is/was the lead singer of the Miracles. One of the group’s songs, (less popular than “Ooh, Baby Baby”) was “I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying.” I’ve changed “dance” to “laugh,” and let the lyric become my daily earworm, always ready to pop into my head when I’m listening to CNN or MSNBC broadcasts. Hence, I lean on Smokey and the Miracles several times each day.
- My age demographic suggests I could be one of the virus’s prime targets. So, is completing the 2020 Census Form a waste of my time?
- *Remember the question that concluded every episode of “The Lone Ranger? “Who was that masked man?” If you heard that question today, you’d be able to answer, “It’s everybody!” (Of course, the L.R. didn’t wear an anti-virus mask, and Tonto had absolutely no protective gear. That figures, doesn’t it?)
- Maybe the moment has arrived for me to read Albert Camus’ “La Peste.” (“The Plague”)
- Once, in the early days of social distancing, I was in the market’s cereal aisle and I watched a man move away from me quickly. Stunned by his speedy retreat, and knowing I hadn’t pulled the pin from a hand grenade, I started to yell, “Is it something I said, or at your age, are you ashamed you’re buying Fruit Loops?”
- As my lovely spouse finished trimming my hair, she examined me closely and asked, “Who says everything has to be symmetrical?”
- I know it’s a good idea to stay busy. So, by now I’ve detailed the toaster, cleaned each window sill using Q-tips dipped in Simple Green, vacuumed our two kitties, cleaned each window on the inside and outside using my breath and old newspapers, soaked and scrubbed my 15 little eyeglass cleaner cloths and hung them on a clothesline I rigged up in the basement. BTW, rubber-coated paper clips are an excellent substitute for clothes pins.
- Every Wednesday night I can hardly sleep because I’m so excited about going to the supermarket on Thursday morning during the “senior hours,” six to eight A.M.
- Every Thursday morning at ten o’clock I fall asleep while I’m reading the newspaper. The six A.M. trip to the market exhausts me.
- Pulling up to the bank’s drive-thru window and “wearing a mask while black” makes me a tad jumpy.
- I’m going to organize a group activity for my neighbors. Some evening we can all stand outside in front of our respective homes and play “Whispering Down the Lane.” Of course, we’ll have to shout at each other, so what’s the point?
- The day following our neighborhood whisper/shout game, I plan to phone my financial adviser and ask for her advice about investing in hearing aid companies.
- Bored between cleaning tasks, I’ve resumed answering every single phone call, even the ones identified as “spam.” I love how the robot keeps talking no matter what insults I scream into the telephone.
- In violation of practicing social distancing and wearing protective masks, protesters have taken to the streets. They want to return to work where they’ll be able to become infected or infect others. Let’s ask them how they’re feeling fourteen days from now, okay?
Written evidence suggests that the D.C. idiot received briefings and memos about Covid-19 in time to make life-saving plans. He dismissed the information and continued playing golf. The ultimate irony of all of this would be his re-election, wouldn’t it?
My dear friends, please do your best to remain safe and healthy.
Renée Bess is the author of five novels and, along with Lee Lynch, the co-story collector of OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS, winner of the 2018 Golden Crown Literary Society’s Best Anthology Award. She is one of the winners of the 2019 Alice B. Readers Awards. As of this writing, she and her spouse have maintained their sanity whilst obeying Pennsylvania’s Stay at Home mandate.