That’s right, I still have this blog that I never think about. *victory lap*
As of this writing, I’m on day 93 of my self-imposed lockdown, being the first person in my office to ask to work from home (was mandatory two weeks later). And I think I’ve gone through all the cycles of elation, amazement, psychological breakdown, claustrophobia, depression, nihilism, and teaching myself to cook. No, I haven’t made sourdough yet, but I did teach myself to make chilaquiles through this super-handy video by Kenji López-Alt, and now I can whip them up on request.
Chilaquiles, “soggy nachos,” an easy breakfast throw-together.
What else have I been up to? For a while I was intent on experiencing all the altered engagement with the world through the pandemic filter. I’ve done curbside pickup several times. Once we were driving around and saw a food truck giving away free meals because it didn’t want its food to go to waste, so I grabbed some hamburger mac-n-cheese.
We also saw a live theatrical performance over Zoom: Hate Mail by Bill Corbett and Kira Obolensky, starring Rhea Seehorn and Paul F. Tompkins. That was a unique experience. Savvy viewers will recall and adore Rhea from Better Call Saul, and I’ve been a relentless fan of PFT for… quite some time.
Very. That’s how lucky. And while the dish was no more complicated than heating the broth and boiling the noodles, I gained an appreciation for their fresh, homemade noodles, and the unique taste of Zen Box touched me deeply.
Other things, too. Like getting my tooth installed has been a nightmare. The first upper incisor implant didn’t take, so after four months of waiting for the implant to set, they installed someone else’s bone fragments into my head and we had to wait another few months for the graft to establish, and then we had to reinstall the implant and wait for that to set nice and hard, and then when I was about to get the abutment installed to receive my new tooth, the pandemic struck and everything was closed. I was stuck with a goofy gap in my smile, because of which I learned to speak without moving my upper lip, which does not look natural or attractive at all.
So we set up another date, and that was canceled due to a spike in COVID-19 infections, because Minneapolitans do not take the pandemic seriously to the least degree. They walk around without masks, stumbling straight up to you with shit-eating grins, congregating shoulder-to-shoulder to rebel against the tyranny of health professionals and epidemiologists so they can just have a goddamn beer like normal. Anyway, when we set up a third appointment to finish this off, MPD killed yet another Black man, and this time my city said “no more” and blew up, gutting two precincts in fire, which is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. My dentist office had shut down and boarded up, hoping not to be destroyed, and it was put off again.
Until yesterday. Yesterday, with professionals covering up every inch of skin and shielding their mouths and eyes and running a cross-breeze in the office, the periodontist removed my temporary plug and installed the abutment, and then my wife and I toured the murals covering most of the businesses in Uptown, and then the dentist cemented my new tooth into my upper jaw and I look complete again. My wife says she’ll miss the gap.
Aside from all that, my creativity bottomed out. I felt disconnected with my community of writers and creators, like they were excitedly exploring new frontiers and my old topics and values had no place in the new world. I’d swallowed my bile to upload my titles to Amazon and try selling there, and even though I swore it would be a one-year experiment, it took only two months for me to realize I was not breaking into a vast, untapped market. Everyone who’s interested in my pervy writing already knows who I am, there’s no new audience discovering me. And the scene is mostly web surfers searching for free images and videos, not looking to purchase epub novellas.
Overwhelmed with futility, I self-reported my condition into a free therapy app called Youper. It’s not perfect but it does a great job of pretending to be interested in me and tolerant of my bullshit, which is too much to ask of any person. As trends emerged, it became apparent that my depression and unhappiness were linked to social media, more often than not. I decided to take a break for the month of June, and I temporarily terminated my two Twitter and two Instagram accounts, having one shadow account in each for my self-pub fetish writing career.
I have no regrets for cutting off the news. I miss hearing from my online friends, but none has shown any interest in contacting me through any other channel, so I have to question the structural integrity of these relationships. (A couple fetish writers did check in to see how I was doing, since someone disappearing in that community is usually tied to disastrous life circumstances, but now could also mean a coronavirus infection. I let them know I was taking a break and they completely understood.)
The world is not cut off from me. Whenever I do a search on my phone, I get headlines. My wife keeps me updated as to the significant events of the day. It wouldn’t be possible to entirely close off all information unless I could pack a tent and supplies on my scooter and zip on out to a campground to live for a month.
So. What’s it like?
It’s peaceful, like you’d expect. I started doing a self-taught program for creativity, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I’ve been writing out my morning pages every day for weeks. I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier, but I wake up and immediately start writing, regardless of anything else. In the last two weeks I’ve found myself waking up earlier and earlier, and one day I entertained a morbid curiosity to go out for a walk. It made sense to do so: despite Minnesotans’ resolute denial of a pandemic, it was less likely to encounter them while walking around early in the morning. Joggers, yes, cyclists, dog-walkers, elderly, but the latter group wore masks.
Today I got up at 6 a.m., dressed, and went outside for a half-hour walk, encountering nearly no one. I was almost hit by a car, the driver of which felt that because there were no cars in the area (and our police department is slated to be dismantled), laws no longer applied and he sped through the four-way stop without slowing down. Aside from that loveless asshole, it was a delightful, peaceful, and restorative walk. Lots of beautiful landscaping, flowers in bloom, trees spreading into protective canopies. The birds have returned, squirrels and rabbits bounded almost rampantly, and the air was clean and sweet. This time, unlike other instances, I did not permit myself to grieve that Minnesotans were too thick to learn a lesson from this pandemic, to witness and retain how pleasant life could be if they didn’t drive around aimlessly. No, this time I only stayed present and enjoyed myself and went back home to do my morning pages.
In fact, there was a brief encounter that sparked a story idea, and I wrote out nearly 4,000 words to capture the first chapter of this inspiration on my Patreon account. That’s another change: I’d been blogging for free for six years, accumulating over 200 short stories and novellas for free, for an audience that by and large doesn’t know how to say “thanks” or “good job.” One of my patrons suggested sharing a few original short stories on my Patreon account, where a handful of people are throwing a few bucks my way, and I was astounded at my own lack of imagination for not thinking of this on my own. I’m taking the story-writing slowly, giving myself plenty of time to wait for a good day when everything falls into place, and I have the time and energy to write as much as I want to. The morning pages have conditioned greater patience in me, and I’ve alleviated any pressure to produce anything on any kind of a schedule, so… I’m slowly returning to creative writing as a fun activity.