It’s a darn good thing I know how to cook, since I’ve had to cook 98% of our meals over these past nine weeks. My first thoughts in the morning are, “Take Bayer aspirin, give dog his pill, make coffee, thaw meat.” Meal prep is, as Willie Nelson sang, always on my mind. Manana in Texas means bars, yes, BARS, will open. Restaurants have already been plugging away at 25%, at least those that have not yet folded. A handful of iconic Austin restaurants operating for over 30 years each, have died a COVID death. Tomorrow, restaurants can allow 50% occupancy. And no, they will not shove blow-up sex dolls in booths to establish social distancing like a certain establishment in South Carolina did…
Austin is known for keeping it weird, but that’s hella weird. Crazy weird. And yet, when I think of the flaky dim bulb brains of many hostesses I’ve known, it’s probably helpful, so they wouldn’t seat those tables. Nice touch with the bowls and forks.
Miss Ruby Forsythe, 1987, Pawleys Island, South Carolina
one-room schoolhouse teacher for 50 years
Now that businesses are opening up, folks are itching to get out of their houses and back to work. After seven weeks sans income, my husband returned to his job, carrying his mask and his hand sanitizer (which they are selling at 7-11 for $8 at about 3 oz!), making the arduous commute into Austin. Many young folks in Austin aren’t wearing masks at all, or much of anything, according to this picture taken at Lake Travis on Saturday. I guess they figured social distancing is just a suggestion.
My heart breaks to think of the healthcare workers on their feet for multiple shifts at a time, unable to eat or bathe, trying to cope with the trauma they witness as best they can, scared to carry unseen germs into their homes. My heart breaks for the victims who had no loving hand to hold during their final moments, no solace or comfort before they left their bodies forever, bodies destined to be shoved into makeshift coolers in New York. Perhaps it takes maturity, decades of learned compassion, prioritizing and realizing that this life is not about selfishness, and we all need each other to make it. Survival of the fittest is not the goal.
I get it. I want to be where the people are. I want to cavort again. But even though I’ve daily jogged and tried to stay positive, taking hot baths and reading scripture, ignoring endless negative articles thrown my way, I evidently could not tell my own body to chill. My muscles got so tight and restricted in my neck and chest last Sunday, that I could barely breathe for two days, and I wound up in an ambulance, headed to ER (the last place on earth you want to be during COVID). My temp was 98.0, and I had no cough at all, so they didn’t waste a virus test on me. They determined that the chest pain, SOB, and left arm numbness was not a heart attack, and sent me home. As they said, the job of ER is not to diagnose, but to “rule out.” That said, don’t be too hard on yourself if your body, your hormones, your emotions are so out of whack, no matter what you do for self -care. Dr. Phil said we are all in a fight or flight mode designed to last for several minutes, not several months, and we can’t control the way the body chooses to deal with it.
So I’ll stay home yet again, watching the cars roll down the street.
Knowing that soon, I’ll be riding tandem bikes again.
And crossing streets with my peeps.
Watching films at the theater. Okay, I won’t do that because I hate seeing movies in public, listening to babies cry and patrons chew popcorn loudly. Guh-ross. But you can.
And won’t we be celebrating then?
Perhaps your state will start re-opening as per its Phase I guidelines on May 1st. Perhaps it’s May 8th. All I know is it WILL be May, and folks will be getting prepped and ready to shine.
Betty can breathe on Martha, and Martha can cough on Mary.
Carl won’t have to wipe down that wooden chair seat after he gets up.
The line at Great Clips will stretch past the adjacent Subway and Pizza Hut in the strip malls.
The cleaners will be packed with piles of people’s threadbare sweats and yoga pants.
Cobblers will be cobbling.
Diners will be packed elbow-to-elbow.
People might even board public transportation.
Ew. Seriously gross. Kirk is even having second thoughts about cushions never cleaned.
Butchers will be butchering, fileting, de-boning, and slicing deli meats and cheeses.
Department store racks will be scoured for wider waistbands.
Bars and restaurants, clubs and dance halls will throw open their doors and welcome the traumatized masses, stumbling in to relearn dances, to rebuild their tolerance to cocktails, and use public restrooms.
The streets will sound with joyous rapture and merry harmony. “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye” to coronavirus.
At least…for now.
Looking at this image of debris washed up along Galveston’s seawall as Hurricane Carla battered the coastline in September of 1961 made me reflect on the powerful beating our economy has taken in a period of only five weeks. Yesterday, my childhood restaurant closed, one where I have fond memories of eating gingerbread pancakes and broccoli sour cream omelets, washed down with iced hibiscus tea at the dawn of the 80s. It had an hour wait nearly every weekend for 40 years, and now it has no wait. Another trendy Austin hotspot folded this morning. So much for their lemon shrimp linguine. How can everything tumble so quickly?
Our favorite haunts are pummeled, as we stand helplessly by. So much for the Pleasure Pier.
The water keeps rising. The Mobil is inoperable, but we don’t need the gas because we can’t go anywhere. The Motor Hotel is flooded, but we’re not allowed to travel from home, so it barely registers.
Down is up, and up is down. Small businesses fold; delivery services soar. Horses stand on patios.
Boats prop tilted on the highway.
In the aftermath, we try to salvage what we can. Sift through the rubble.
What do we do now? We have no income. We have no idea if our jobs will exist when we return to them. How will we pay our bills? We don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. This stimulus check will barely get us through the next month on essentials.
So we cry and comfort each other.
We wonder if the lives saved by isolation outnumbers the lives lost by suicide, outnumbers the families left unfed and unsheltered, down to their last double digits in their savings accounts. And still it goes on.
But we can see the light. We can walk toward it. The world will once again re-open, battered and bruised, but hopefully more united, more focused on true priorities and aware of invisible dangers. Together, we will wade out.