The New Normal

A stroll down Main street at dusk on one of those glorious Summer Solstice Eves.
The sun refusing to go down, an overtired toddler fighting the pull of sleep.

It’s about 50/50, people wearing masks.

A flock of teens walk from the beach brushing sand from their foal long legs, not a care in the world, nothing covering their vaping mouths.
Denied prom and graduation. Heartbreaking voids to be never filled, they are defiant to enjoy this, at least.
There is no thought of Summer School or-hah- finding a job, just the promise of long days by the pool and punishing their parents for their existence.

Out front of the shuttered Walt’s Wharf, a busker strums on his capoed Taylor and sings a slow folk version of Bare Naked Ladies’ One Week.
I can barely make out the lyrics through his N95 respirator, and for that I am grateful.
Tip him two bucks.

We think back to those first days, the empty supermarket aisles and alarming news reports on the hour.
Zoom and TikTok, social distance and ventilator. Fauci.
A new language is learned.
Those White House briefings: real time musings from an idiot saying the kind of things we may have briefly thought of while brushing our teeth, but would never dare speak.

But now people are unable to park in their garage due to the stacks of Charmin Ultra Soft.
We switch off any mention of the Virus on the local news, watch a rerun of Real Housewives Atlanta instead. On commercial break, another syrupy advertisement comes on, reminds us the the heroes at Papa John’s are there for you.

Things are moving fast now.
Local councils lifting bans just ahead of the people storming the stores and restaurants, regardless.

We’re eating out again, masked like robbers til we are seated, reading wee menus off our own filthy smart phones.
Utensils are sealed in plastic, salt and pepper come in druggy little bindles.
Here comes the Chicken Marsala in its own sealed plastic bowl, quarantined apparently from side vegetables or even a bit of pasta. No offers of a Parmesan sprinkle, no red pepper flakes sit on the table.
But goddamn. Feels nice to be sitting in an actual restaurant, pretending things are quite fine.

I’d like to think we are ready for what’s next.
Perhaps we will no longer roll our eyes at the masked Japanese tourists on Melrose, the germaphobe wiping down his tray on the flight to Akron.
Perhaps we’ll all become responsible citizens of a new world, til we can get the old one back? Perhaps?


So I’ll leave this here, one last entry in these Covid diaries for the last couple months.
Because I guess we’re moving on, is that right?

I will miss the empty streets, the blessed pause we allowed the Earth to just take a breath, one not polluted by our human stink. The dolphins came closer to shore, the stars brighter in a sky unmasked by smog.
There were ugly accounts of mismanagement and system failure, sure.
But we pulled together in other ways, the curbside graduation ceremonies, the gems of human courtesy that only seem to sparkle in the darkness.
Racial injustice was called out with a heartening dedication, a disaster within a disaster that was not allowed to slide.

Hell, maybe this was the dress rehearsal for the real disaster, foreshadowed by the vertiginous second erections depicted in those 1918 Spanish Flu graphs we’ve all seen.
But this next time, we’ll be prepared, right?

And by prepared, I don’t mean going out there, piling toilet paper to the rafters and cornering the market in hand sanitizer and sourdough starter.

Maybe we do this again, prepared with grace.

Wild in the Streets

There’s always that scene in Batman movies, start of the third act.

Joker has gained control of Gotham.
Batman absent, maybe tied up upside down over a vat of acid.
It is chaos in the streets. Minions dressed like Cirque washouts skip around downtown, beheading the statues, spray painting the marble walls.
Yeah, this feels like that.

But instead of Batman swooping down to clean up the town in the final 12 minutes, we have a President that scurries out of his bunker long enough to hold up a Bible in front of a church.
Offscreen, peaceful protesters weep not just from anguish but from chemical sting.

Rage against the murder of a black man on the ground, pleading for just a breath of air.
This after months of isolation and unemployment, the very real fear of a killer still hanging invisibly in that air.

The avenues that were empty just a week ago are packed now.
These masks, protective devices now cloaks against government trackers, or worse: the cowardly disguise of bandits.
For the criminal element had to take advantage of the protests, using the cover of mask on the crippled businesses to go on a shopping spree.
There they go honoring George Floyd again, this time with size 10 1/2 Old Skool Vans and a 52 inch Flat Screen from Target.

The current administration seems unable to detect the difference between protester and rioter though, and urges the governors to gas em all.

Our friend Norman was hit with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis, the non lethal device fracturing his skull and bruising his very brain.
But Norm’s a tough old bird and will surely pull through with Alisha by his side our help.

Seeing the posted photos of the wounded punker bleeding over his bomber jacket, it reminded me of earlier skirmishes in the streets.
Times of violence on the asphalt and police abuse, long before cell phone cameras.

The Punk riots of the early 80’s seem almost quaint by comparison.
I mean, what was at stake, the right hold 40 oz of beer in public and to see The Exploited play a decaying ballroom?
Was it all just Cowboys and Indians cosplay on the deserted downtown streets, tribes going at it without witness just because?

But the violence was just as real, the cops just as bent on breaking in heads. Outside of Mendiolas Ballroom, we saw cops walking down the streets, breaking in store windows with their batons. The damage all to be blamed on the punk rockers running for their lives.
The monster movie thrill of running from people trying to hurt you, hiding behind walls while trying to control your breathing.
The bruises yellowed just as much, those streets also glittered with the gem of broken glass.

My daughter texted me these images of protests in downtown LA.
Our sons and daughters out there navigating the fucked up world we’ve given them.
In the month they should be celebrating graduations and proms, they brave airborne disease to say: enough.

You’re bursting, sitting there in the darkened multiplex.
The 32 ounce Diet Coke was only fifty cents more after all.
But there’s no way you are leaving your seat, not just yet.

Batman is wriggling his wrists now, fingertips just inches away from some little device that will free him.

With a faith that has been gifted in consolation, you wait for rescue..
You have hope.