June 29, 2020
Killing Time, Part II
By P.J. O’Rourke
Three months into the coronavirus pandemic and everything is beginning to return to… the new abnormal.
(Note for language geeks: “Pan” was the name of a Greek god who presided over the wilderness and hence was the source of the “panic” we feel when we get lost in the woods. The prefix “pan-” derives from the Greek word for “all.” Therefore “panic” and “pandemic” don’t actually have any etymological relationship to each other – but they should.)
I’m still panicked. Well, that’s putting it too strongly… But at my age (old) and state of physical fitness (none), I continue to be cautious. Partly, this is out of concern for my health. And partly this is because I look too ridiculous to go out.
It’s been about a gerbil’s lifespan since I got my last haircut. My hair has gotten to the point where I’m going to have to make a decision between a man bun and a buzz cut from the beard-trimming attachment on my electric razor.
Where I live in rural New Hampshire, stay-at-home restrictions have been partially lifted. Barbershops are open. But my barber is such a chatterbox that he’d have to wear a mask and a veil and have a towel stuffed in his mouth to keep him from spreading whatever he’s got – including some political opinions that would cause his barber pole to be yanked down like a Confederate war hero statue by protestors. That is, if we had any protestors in rural New Hampshire or, for that matter, any Confederate war hero statues.
Then there’s the business of wearing a mask. A friend of mine e-mailed me, “Just what is it about wearing a mask and going into a bank and asking for money that makes me slightly nervous?”
Even at an ATM, I worry that I’m going to get a handful of twenties with a dye packet in them.
My wife ordered some masks online that she thought were cute. They’re made out of the same blue paisley material as biker bandanas. When I wear one, I look like a combination of Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and a retired member of a motorcycle gang living off my Hells Angels 401k.
But it’s nice to be able to go to the grocery store again. (Here’s an idea for social distancing in public places – get yourself two pole-vaulting poles and slip them though your belt loops fore and aft. Although, this did cause a mess when I got stuck in the condiments aisle.)
Have you noticed that all the food fads have gone away? So long to organic, locavore, non-GMO, and gluten free. Now it’s all about the Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip, Ore-Ida tater tots, and Bubba Burgers. And it’s not hard to understand why. Who ever had a desperate craving for quinoa?
Have you also noticed that the word “gesundheit” has disappeared? (What’s German for “get the f*** away from me”?) The “social hug” from near-strangers has vanished, as well. I’d like to give the coronavirus a personal thanks for that.
And sporting events have lost the single most annoying and idiotic aspect of professional athletics – the fans. They were worse than the television commercial breaks occurring at every penalty call. I might want to purchase a pickup truck. I do not want to purchase a couple of loud drunk guys holding up a big “D” and a silhouette of a picket fence.
Of course, that means I can’t go to sporting events either. Although, under New Hampshire’s limited reopening rules, I can play golf. I’m just not allowed to play it with anybody… which is fine. It means I don’t get ridiculed for my dribble-past-the-ladies-tee drives, basement excavation sand-trap swings, and chip shots that wind up in the clubhouse rain gutter. Speaking of the clubhouse, it’s closed and so is its bar… and why play a game of golf if you can’t drink to forget?
So I still have a lot of time on my hands. One thing I’ve been doing is reading books, in particular books about people who had it worse than we’re having it… (spoiler alert!)
- Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death – Everybody dies at the end.
- Nevil Shute’s On the Beach – Everybody dies at the end.
- Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle – Everybody dies at the end.
- The Book of Revelation in the Bible – Everybody dies in the end unless they’ve been very, very good. And we haven’t.
I’ve let my wife cajole me into doing yoga. To make this less embarrassing – and because my “Mountain Pose” was more like a “Molehill Pose” – I’ve been renaming the yoga poses. So far, I’ve changed “Cobra Pose” to “Run Over by a Car Pose,” “Child’s Pose” to “Peevish Brat Pose,” “Warrior Pose” to “Teargassed Fleeing Protestor Pose,” “Corpse Pose” to “Snoring on the Yoga Mat Pose,” and let’s not even go there with “Downward Doggy-Style Pose.”
Another way to make yoga more macho is to do “Armed Yoga” where you assume all the traditional classic yoga poses but do so while cradling a .223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. I suggest that it be unloaded if you’re a yoga beginner.
Like golf, yoga demands a cocktail afterward. Actually, during this pandemic, everything demands a drink afterward, starting with getting out of bed in the morning. However, I’m trying to keep that drinking under control. And I think I’ve found a way to do it. It’s called “Drinking From the Depths of the Liquor Cabinet.”
What you do is you put aside your fine scotch, aged bourbon, good gin, and expensive vodka (assuming there’s anything left in the bottles), and peer into the very back of your liquor cabinet shelves. There you will find all sorts of strange and outlandish potations, most of them unopened – curaçao, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, anisette, crème de menthe, Chartreuse, Bénédictine, Drambuie, Frangelico, sambuca, Tia Maria…
These beverage bizzarities are there as the result of Christmas gifts from oddball co-workers, ill-considered hostess presents from uninvited house guests, and cleaning out your parents’ apartment after they moved to the retirement home.
Sampling each of them, you’ll find their flavor is terrible. What I’ve been doing is mixing them together randomly, which makes their flavor… much worse.
So here’s my secret to moderation in times of COVID-19…
These gag-a-cat cocktails pack the same bunch as Johnny Walker Blue Label… But they taste so bad that you’ll drink a lot less of them.
Now here are some of the stories we’re reading…
Coronavirus mortgage bailouts suddenly swell as homeowners face new struggles
As of last week, 4.68 million homeowners were in forbearance plans, allowing them to delay their mortgage payments for at least three months… Together, they represent just over $1 trillion in unpaid principal.
Trump questions Biden’s mental capacity after ex-VP says 120 million dead from COVID
The president added Mr. Biden has also said he was running for the U.S. Senate, and on other occasions has made mistakes like saying he was in one state when he was actually in a different one – a point Mr. Trump mocked during his recent campaign rally in Tulsa.
CDC chief says coronavirus cases may be 10 times higher than reported
The number of people in the United States who have been infected with the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times as high as the 2.4 million confirmed cases, based on antibody tests.
NYC Criminal Justice System ‘Imploding,’ NYPD Boss Says as Homicides Hit 5-Year High
A perfect storm of COVID-19 shutdowns within the judicial system (which have shunted indictments against the most dangerous illegal gun criminals), a breakdown in the city’s social safety nets (which has prisoners being released from jail straight into homelessness), and bail reform laws and case deferments have all hindered the NYPD’s efforts to staunch the bleeding, Shea believes.
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
Editor in Chief, American Consequences
With P the Editorial Staff
June 29, 2020