Friday, 5:40 p.m.
Whatever you do this weekend, my friends—do this, and don't do that (unless you absolutely must or if you are old or pregnant).
Friday, 2:44 p.m.
A writer friend asks on Facebook: "Anyone else having knock-down fights with siblings via Zoom, text and email? Ha! It’s almost satisfying. And yes, I mean adult siblings. All those childhood traumas (remembered differently, of course) spilling out. 'I know that’s why you never liked me…'"
Friday, 11:40 a.m.
Was cheered to read this auto-reply from a communication colleague, the first of its kind that I've seen: "Hello! I’m taking the day off to spend with my family, who will be confiscating my devices. 🙂 So please expect a delay in response."
Friday, 11:26 a.m.
Q. What do you see when you look down a mole hole?
Friday, 11:25 a.m.
At Writing Boots, even our accountant is handy with a metaphor. Asked how his work is these days, he said, "It's like working in molasses, everything is kinda urgent, but slow moving."
Friday, 10:20 a.m.
I mean, can't a guy even brainstorm anymore?
Friday, 10:15 a.m.
My sister Piper and I talk on the phone every other Friday morning.
During coronafuck, we're making it every Friday, because though there's less to talk about, there's more to say.
Like today, when she said she thinks young people and old people are more frustrated than middle-aged people. Young people are losing irreplaceable years, and old people are losing precious ones.
"And for us fifty-year-olds," I interrupted, "this is just the worst and longest halftime show in the history of football."
Friday, 8:57 a.m.
I brought some 3-IN-ONE oil upstairs to lubricate my squeaky desk chair for all the conference calls and webinars I do from my office-turned-studio.
I'm keeping it on my desk, because I like the smell.
Friday, 8:32 a.m.
My old pal Ron Shewchuk took this picture of us.
Thursday, 10:40 a.m.
Yesterday here I talked about trying to help my daughter think of the coronavirus as something other than an inconvenient interruption of her well-planned life—but rather, as part of the grand human adventure.
It was a hard sell.
But I do like adventures.
In fact, I like trouble. So does my old buddy Tom. This utterly asinine Schlitz commercial—which I witnessed while watching the 1974 World Series this last sleepless Monday night—could have been written by us. Because was definitely written for us.
When we were young, we didn’t just go for the gusto—we went for the rust-o.
In college, Tom and I went in on a $200 1978 International Harvester Scout that got five miles to the gallon, had a leaky gas tank and the fuel gauge didn’t work. (Also, it had a foot of play in the steering wheel and it kept overheating all the time and you had to use pliers to pop up the hood and let steam out.)
Over the years, Tom and I went on to buy two more Scouts, crashing one of them in a strip mine in Ohio and breaking down in the other one so many times, Triple A would follow me with a tow truck.
One day back then, one of my wife’s students—an African-American teenager from one of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods—was riding around in my Scout, admiring himself in the big side mirrors. Casually, he asked me why I drove such an unreliable bucket of bolts when I didn't have to.
I said I liked the adventure of it—because you just never knew what was going to happen!
“Dave?” he said.
“Sometimes I think white people don’t have enough problems.”
We do now. We went for the gusto, and now the gusto has come for us.
Wednesday, 9:15 a.m.
I’m not a fan of pep talks or pregame speeches, which are usually less emotional communication and more coaches’ superstitions, and I’ve urged coaches to “Skip just one for the Gipper.”
But Monday at the tennis courts at Smith Park I heard myself giving one—a very, very heavy one—to my 16-year-old daughter, who I’d just unwittingly reduced to tears by telling her a soft-soaped version of a New York Times Daily interview I’d heard. The newspaper’s health and science reporter sounded damned credible when he said that American life will be weird, and maybe very weird, for years to come.
My wife thought it was premature to tell her that, but it seems to me that, six weeks into this nightmare—and with months and months to go—it seems it’s time the kid stops fantasizing about a summer at the North Avenue beach, traveling soccer tournaments and a return to scholastic normalcy next fall.
And starts thinking … about what, exactly?
As we waited for a court to open up, I haltingly began to tell her she needs to start thinking more broadly of life’s great adventure.
I told her that one reason we are all knocked so completely on our asses by the coronavirus crisis is that in America, we haven’t had a broadly life-disrupting event in the seventy-five years since World War II ended. World War II, when my dad was plucked right out of the University of Virginia and traded in his white bucks for army boots on a mosquito-infested base in Georgia and then was put on a ship and sent across the ocean, “for the duration.”
But in the decade before that, there’d been the Great Depression. About a decade before that, World War I and Spanish Influenza. And back then at July 4 parades, would march veterans of the fucking Civil War! And lots of death and disease and danger all the time back then, between all those events. But after 75 years of relatively predictable school careers and graduations and sports and proms for a lot of people, we are culturally unprepared—not just kids, but parents and even grandparents—for what we are staring at.
As a society, we haven’t prepared for this civically or politically, and as individuals, we simply haven’t prepared intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. As Fran Lebowitz said, “It is a very startling thing to be my age—I’m sixty-nine—and to have something happen that doesn’t remind you of anything else.”
So I appealed to what I have already taught my 16-year-old since the beginning—
—a sense of adventure, physical toughness and spirit. I explained all that history that this virus now connects us with, and I asked her to try to begin thinking of being a part of that—part of “a bigger adventure” than what she’d ever expected life to be. Bigger than the games we have invented—sports, high school social drama, SAT scores. And lasting, in one form or another, for at least as long as the rest of her high school career.
“But you’re supposed to cherish your senior year of high school!” she said.
Not that none of the old pleasures will be a part of her life—and not that life won’t have new pleasures to compensate—but that life will be different enough that pining for this summer to be like last summer and wondering feverishly when Lollapalooza will be back is less useful than thinking more openly, more broadly, about what is needed, what is possible, and what we can achieve in this life, as we stand here and look at it now.
“I don’t want to do that,” she said with a tear in her eye.
“I know, Honey, I don’t want to do it either,” I said with a tear in mine. “But I think we need to at least start thinking that way.”
Luckily, a court opened up just then, and we took to it.
And you know, I’ve never seen her play harder in her young life.
Tuesday, 8:50 a.m.
Perhaps the most cloying of all coronavirus sentiments is the one about how “maybe this is teaching us” to protect the environment, to appreciate our loved ones, to praise God for not having to wipe our ass with coffee filters. (Like snark, smarm is goes better online than in person. Surely someone in the Warsaw ghetto gently pointed out that maybe after this, folks won’t take their freedom for granted. And surely that someone was gently socked in his mouth.)
"Teaching us," indeed. Adults, for all their dull insistence on “lifelong learning,” generally don’t learn jack shit after about the age of 30. And when they think they're learning, what is really happening is they’re having their deepest prejudices deepened even further.
As I have been over the last month—about rich people—by the astonishingly asinine behavior of a Facebook friend—a soccer parent on a club that my daughter left several years ago. This divorced entrepreneur—a motorcycling, boating, sports-car driving, exercise-freak gourmand who I playfully dubbed, “The Most Interesting Dad in the World” (and I should know, because I’m a pretty interesting dad myself)—has taken his two daughters beginning at the outset of this coronavirus lockdown, on a ridiculously happy-looking, never-ending sailboat trip all over the motherfucking Caribbean Islands.
And Facebooked about it, incessantly. Between face-masked, glasses fogged errands, near-daily tears with my grief-stricken daughter, worries about work and bad nights of sleep, I see this jagoff and his high school daughters smiling on the open ocean, wading on the beach, standing at a restaurant with glasses of red wine in their hands, gazing off into the happy middle distance.
I’ve written about this before, explaining why I don’t believe in posting lots of vacation pictures without redeeming reason: "Some people can't afford to go on vacation—this spring, this year or ever. Some people are on a crushing deadline. Some people's water heater blew up last night while they were sleeping and drowned the furnace and then everything froze."
Right now, that's all of us—except, of course, The Most Interesting Dad in the World.
In ways large and small during this generalized coronavirus nightmare, we must try not to come off like this guy. Not even a little bit.
Stay humble, my Facebook friends.
(I don't always call out friends on Facebook. But when I do, it's usually narcissists not likely to read anything that's not their own.)
Monday, 1:20 p.m.
On one hand, I'm beyond grateful for experts on this pandemic who have spent a lifetime preparing. We are fortunate and blessed to have them just now.
On the other hand, I see a once-roaring economy crashing down around us by our own forced hand. Its debris is falling mostly on lower- and low-middle- income people who are not consulted for their opinion in the press even as they are described as suffering the most. (There's a lot of un-woke paternalism in all this that's no one dare acknowledge.)
If our salvation is from the experts, and, again, thank God for them, then this pain is from them as well.
We're told—forced, actually, by largely unfettered fiat—to accept that the choice is not ours to make as individuals.
Yet our leaders seem at best unaware of and at worst unconcerned with the spectacular pain and fear these measures have wrought, especially to those they claim to care for the most.
I would appreciate more specific justifications for the conclusion that their burn-the-village-in-order-to-save-it approach is the only way. I am weary of moral hygienists whose position inevitably reduces to treating anyone with a question as a petulant child: "Do you want to die, then?"
No, I don't want to die.
But I also don't want to lose my business, see my home foreclosed on, stay locked inside 24/7, and get arrested for walking alone on a beach.
As I have in our previous correspondence, I question from whom he would accept the "specific justifications" he cites, above.
And to his email, I replied:
You should check out New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern on Facebook—check out her latest Facebook Live chat. You will find her manner entirely ridiculous, I think—super matronly, almost hilariously so. But she’s offering pretty granular explanations.
One thing she’s honest about is that their plan isn’t “the only way,” but rather, the best way she and the scientists and the economists could come to through careful deliberation; she tells you where the meetings were, and when, and what all the considerations were, and admits that some of it is guesswork.
That, coming from a sane and consistent human being over days and weeks and months … is what I think we need.
We’re missing the sane human being.
I keep thinking Bill Murray might step up?
Pretty glib on my part—except I really do keep thinking Bill Murray will step up, and unite us all, in humor and old-fashioned good sense.
What I know is that my conservative friend's differing view will not be some wackadoodle fringe position over the next weeks, months—and as I learned from The New York Times Daily today, likely years—that we are going to be doing what the NYT science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. calls, "the dance": gradual, halting, reversing efforts to re-open different regions and different parts of society.
If we're going to get through an extended period like that, we're all going to have to accept various views.
Whatever your own views, you're also going to have to accept the tyranny of consensus, imposed by a leader—be it Joe Biden, or Bill Murray—who communicates candidly, consistently and often.
Monday, 10:05 a.m.
A speechwriter friend said in an email that she hopes my family and I are doing well "during this terrible time." I appreciated her calling it that, and felt obligated to respond, at least briefly. I said we have "good days and bad days—actually, good mornings and bad afternoons, good evenings and rough nights."
That does seem to be the general pattern around here. What about around there?
Monday, 10:04 a.m.
A friend turns 50 today. What a fucking drag.
Monday, 9:03 a.m.
I've generalized here before about the Asian communication style, which doesn't eschew the use of clichés, but values them as a sign of the speaker's mastery of the lexicon of bromides.
If you think the obvious uncertainty of coronavirus might change that—don't hold your breath.
To wit: Reporting this morning's Executive Communication Report: Coronavirus newsletter, I ran across a story about the ride-hailing/food-delivery firm Grab, the most valuable start-up in Southeast Asia.
After needlessly pointing out that "Covid is the single biggest crisis to affect Grab in the eight years of our existence," CEO Anthony Tan went on to rattle off familiar phrases like a pro:
"There will be tough decisions and trade-offs to make, as we continue to evaluate its impact on our business. We will right-size our costs, manage our capital efficiently and make the necessary operational adjustments in order to weather the storm and carve out a path to profitability."
Sounds like he's got it all figured out!
(The problem is, of course, he doesn't.)
Monday, 7:52 a.m.
I was corresponding over the weekend with my warm, funny and curious—but also sardonic, slightly put-upon and world-weary friend Mike Field.
(Oh, don't worry about Mike; he's speechwriter, they're all like that—if not before they do this job for a few years, then certainly after. Mike has done it for a lot of years. This is Mike, at the Mayflower Hotel, in the sort of ballroom where people used to gather to listen to important people say important thinks written by Mike and his colleagues.)
You'd think the underutilized literary imaginations of speechwriters would ruminate wildly during the coronavirus time. But if they're anything like Mike—they're actually doing great! Go Mike!
How nice of you to write! I only have a few minutes for this response as I am just finishing up alphabetizing, organizing, and re-copying all those recipes that have been accumulating in cookbooks, file boxes, notebooks and other locations for all these years. And not only me! In doing this I discovered unalphabetized, unorganized, unre-copied recipes going all the way back to the 18th century. I can't imagine what my forefathers and foremothers actually did with all their time!
Of course, I wouldn't have started on this project at all were it not for the fact that after I sorted, cleaned, and organized every drawer, shelf, and closet in the house, I sat down with a cup of piping organic tea and thought, 'Hmmmm, what next?' I had already gotten rid of all those clothes that no longer fit me since losing the 15 pounds – this running 5 miles each day at full sprint speed, morning crunches and push ups and the hour of evening Tai Chi Shadow Boxing really has paid off!! 😊 Luckily, I was able to give away all those extra clothes at my Mon-Wed-Fri shifts at the food bank. I was surprised how many people are suddenly in need of larger-sized clothing.
I am happy I found this outlet for my time now that I only seem to need to sleep 4 hours a night. I think it is all the delicious home-cooked macrobiotic probiotic 100% organic free range meals I've been making. That, plus entirely giving up drinking. The extra energy has been really nice. In fact, it's allowed me to focus enough to learn Mandarin Chinese off the Internet. I think I'm very nearly fluent.
Ah well, gotta run!! I know how much I am looking forward to seeing you all when this is over, just as I am sure you really really look forward to seeing me!Namaste! (Oh, did I mention I found time to become enlightened?)