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The Shapeless Banality Of Quarantine Takes Place In New York City

It’s only been a week and already quarantine is getting pretty old.


As I woke up, the living room lights were on full blast, CNN droning in the background. According to the little numbers on the cable box, it was 4 a.m. I thought, It’s four in the morning, you should go back to sleep. But then I thought, You can’t go anywhere anyway, what difference does the time make? So I made some coffee and shuffled into the chilly backyard to smoke.

I’m not complaining. I’ve had a pretty productive week in quarantine. I read some Shakespeare, wrote a few articles, and on Wednesday I made meatloaf and added those dried hot pepper flakes you get with pizza. It was pretty good. I listened to a lot of Roy Orbison, which is unusual for me. But hey, I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a little dull.

This all reminds me of how much I dislike vacations. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy travel. But I like travel for work, with a purpose, a way to fill the time. Five minutes after setting foot on a beach, I say, “So this is what we’re doing all day?” That’s what this has been like. I tried playing some of my son’s video games. A bunch of people freaked out at me on Facebook for being a racist. That was exciting.

The novelty of the novel Chinese flu is wearing off. I mean sure, at first a crisis is full of vim and action. You get your supplies, make plans; each new piece of news shocks and alarms the senses, you are alive! Then it’s a week later and you’re watching “Storage Wars” and eating more soup. “Storage Wars” is good.

What was I saying? Oh, right. If not handled quickly, crisis turns into banality. I mean, the most exciting thing in my life right now is listening to Gov. Andrew Cuomo discuss how he and his sister argue about whether mom should go to her house. To me it seems like the right decision, but I don’t want to meddle.

At the beginning of “The Breakfast Club,” Anthony Michael Hall tries to explain to his mom that in detention you’re not allowed to do anything, It goes like this:

Mom: Now you get in there and use the time to your advantage.

Brian: We’re not supposed to study, we’re just supposed to sit there and do nothing.

Mom: Well, mister, you figure out a way to study.

Little sister: Yeah.

In retrospect, that seems a little harsh given that his character was contemplating suicide, but in any event, all week that mom’s voice has been in my head. “Use the time to your advantage, Dave!”

I know there are way better people than me who do stuff like put detailed schedules on their fridge and take showers, but I don’t understand them. My days have become amorphous blobs bubbling with boredom and addled by anxiety.

This is the part of the column where I’m supposed to give you some sage and useful advice. Sorry. I got nothing for you. Sometimes in life, a thing just is what it is. It’s a dream like state of life on hold. Stay in place, we’re all counting on you.

I could smile for a while, but now the ho hum, hum drum, naaathin to do is setting in like bats. Is it going to be another week of this? Another month? Several? Am I going to have to turn into a podcast person? “Oh look! True crime!” God on a wheel.

Alright. Enough. This is the day the Lord made, right? Right? Sure, we can’t see anybody or do anything or go to a bar, or to work, or brunch, or a nice museum or the movies or watch a basketball game or — you get the point. But there’s some smiles. I’ve actually spoken to friends on the phone in the past few days, like with voices. That’s new.

According to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month and it’s likely to turn out that way this time. As he might also say, this whole situation is growing old, but even in the wasteland of coronavirus we have to chin up and carry on. Lunch isn’t gonna make itself, after all.

Okay. I should probably take a shower. Anyway, here’s a little Roy Orbison.