Friday, January 7, 2022

A January Thaw?


    A thaw  would be a relief from many things, for many reasons.

    What else can one expect after two snowfalls in four days (counting the nights)?  This is a month that is best lived day-to-day in search of sun and anything else conductive to good health and personal welfare. The country now more than ever is in search of its  democratic foundations  and a way out of the misinformation tide threatening to drown all civility.

    I had, for a while, at the top of a list of notably negative signs the titles of notably popular books (at least on one December poll). 'The Bitch Is Back.' "Thug Matrimony' and 'Empire of Pain,' plus Congress member Robert F Kennedy's anti-Fauci rants.  But there is only so much ill will a person can absorb before rejecting omens of any kind.

    Especially when one's birthday falls on the date of the Christian Orthodox Christmas. Bring on the lights and flowers and celebrate.

    At this point in the pandemic (capitalized or not?) it makes sense to identify the many different emotions and patterns of daily living can be attributed to what for most people is a very attenuated life. At least a life lived to the fullest. Lessons or habits learned throughout a seesaw nearly-two-year scourge?

    I write in haste, the two that occur to me: how important it is to keep a schedule - but not too perfectly; and the necessity of reading at least one book a week. Book titles are my diary of sorts. The object of holding on to some sort of daily schedule is to know how and when to break it. Finally late January 2022, I do just : I become a tourist in New York City - traveling by train to Manhattan and staying two nights in a hotel while visiting friends whom I have not seen and barely talked with in two years. In normal times such a trip would involve theater and some semblance of social life.  For one couple who are keeping strict discipline to be apart from strangers inside a building, this involves dinner outside under a plastic tent. A single heater bar overhead sustains us - barely - along with the handout plastic packet revealing a sheet of shiny silver mylar to cover our legs. A compromise, always the compromise. To enter museums it is necessary to order a  visiting period ahead online and to give proof of ID and vaccinations at the door. The upside is fewer people around, a less crowded city, and a vague sense of time suspended. I miss the absence of spontaneity: strangers communicating. The mandated mask policy inhibits such a thing. 

    As for getting through ordinary days, I am not the only person I'm sure to fall prey to addiction to New York Times cooking column or App or whatever comes with my print subscription. Sam Sifton is my guide most of the time. I ignore the lures of games and crosswords in favor of parsing recipes and treating them as treasure hunts: do I/will I have the ingredients to try this or that new or familiar challenge and what will happen as I must boldly reduce each one by three-quarters.  (The live-alone syndrome.) Mainly I fail in the attempt, being an impatient soul, but I end up with some sense of being on a journey that substitutes in some small way, for being out in the world.

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