Anne’s Review: It’s perfect and I love it!
Day Whatever of Staying Home. I keep thinking I have the thing. Is that normal paranoia or some sort of extra-curricular worrying syndrome? Perhaps I’m simply entertaining myself with some contrived personal drama. I try to distract myself by watching Tan deliver his judgement on Next in Fashion and can’t help but think “so what?” Why do fashion designers love weird, unwearable stuff? Some of the dresses are gorgeous, but I will never wear them. Right now, no one is wearing them. We prefer our clothing to be comfortably understated in our isolation.
I decided to start wearing the t-shirts and yoga pants that I haven’t worn all winter. I’ll save the outfits I usually wear to impress the public for whenever the public is allowed to form again and be duly impressed. I haven’t given up on my grooming habits entirely, I am still taking a shower and combing, if not styling, my hair. I take great pains in the morning to choose different earrings from my magnificent collection. It’s part of my defense against the monotony. I am determined to keep personal appearance to my usual low standards.
Mashed-up, continuous days of saving the country. While watching the news and seeing all that bad stuff happening, I came up with the idea of walking in the cemetery. Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery is huge. It is home to the remains of many local notables, whose names I recognize from the street signs in town. The sweeping lawns and cozy, treed alcoves also house the bones of our famous writers O. Henry and Thomas Wolf. I reasoned there would be fewer living souls roaming the paths of the dead than would be trundling along the river trails or the lower-lying hiking areas.
I met my friends Tee and Michelle in front of Tee’s house. Tee lives a short walk from the entrance to the cemetery. The roads through this memorial acreage are wide and numerous. As we ambled together, keeping a safe distance apart, we searched for unusual names and magnificent monuments. The sky was grey, nearly the same color as the headstones. This felt appropriately somber. The cemetery was nearly empty of visitors. No tours, no mourners, no picnickers. We did see a girl on a swing, a sight I would not normally associate with a graveyard, but there she was, up on a hill, swinging on a large swing hung from a tree, a ghost from playgrounds past.
We read the headstones, laughing over funny names and sobering over the graves of children. We huffed it up a hill to find the poem written by a mother for her railroading son, engraved in stone to remember her boy and his dedication to trains. We loved O. Henry’s grave where there were pens lined up along the nondescript slab marking his last resting place. At a time when many virus-afflicted people are losing their lives, most of the isolated public would not think a stroll through a place of death would lift their spirits. We are reminded of life here. All of those who came before us had loved ones who left a little something about them for us to discover. I found it touching. Each of the souls resting here have a story, as do we. I went home knowing that my story would continue, for now.
On the first warm, sunny day my husband and I took our restless puppy out for a long walk through the neighborhoods of West Asheville. Hours of locomotion feel essential to keeping immune systems in working order and allowing us a certain degree of freedom. The signs of spring were evident—daffodils popping up around mailboxes and fences, colorful blossoms lined the roads. The flowering trees were most likely the culprits contributing to my allergic sufferings, but I persevered along the paths, enjoying the beauty of the season, covertly sneezing into my coat sleeve. We were greeted on every street by folks out working in their gardens, washing their cars or just sitting in their yards to soak up the sun and watch the parade of housebound isolationers as they strolled past, grateful to be out and about on such a splendid day.
I’m aware of the other extroverts living in my neighborhood. They are the ones who organize parties and chili cook-offs and group activities of all sorts for the neighbors who occupy the houses along the five streets of our little neighborhood. One of our primary instigators of get-togethers emailed all the neighbors suggesting that we stroll past her house with a drink, staying well apart, and drink a toast to each other. We joined a dozen or so neighbors in the street with our own bottles of beer or glasses of wine to greet, commiserate and enjoy a few minutes of social-distancing conversation, allowing for an appropriate amount of safe space between one another. Some might see this as an unnecessary risk, but I was buoyed to the surface of the depths by some fresh air and communion. It helps to bolster the immune system and creates an awareness that we are not alone. As more people get sick, communities find other ways to stay connected.
Connecting with our neighbors, from a safe distance
And so, public life goes online. Live concerts, yoga instruction, workouts, book readings, stage performances, museum tours and access to many of the treasures of human culture. In trying to figure out why I have no desire to indulge in any of it, I have decided it’s because I can’t find that little cable that hooks my computer up to my television. It’s got a name, that cord. It’s Mabel. Mabel has not been seen since we moved to Asheville. We have not used it since my son went off to college (seven years ago). Maybe he took Mabel with him. Finding Mabel and hooking her up in a three-way with the computer and the television seems like more work than I want to get into; though the pleasure payoff has the potential to be enormous. Sure, I could lie down, balancing my computer on my tummy, defending it from the dog, but I want to casually lounge on my couch, facing the TV while I watch people working out or performing a symphony—that way, when I fall asleep, I’ll already be comfortably reclined.
Virtually touring an art museum? Yawn. A live concert by performers I like might keep my attention. When I find that cable (or order one) I plan to set up a small table with our most uncomfortable chairs in front of the TV, and charge ourselves admission (submit a donation to the artists via PayPal). We’ll order over-priced drinks and forget to tip the waiter, worry about the weather though it’s a short drive home, and clap enthusiastically even if they can’t hear us. I am looking forward to this event. But first I must track down Mabel. I believe she may be disguising herself among her look-alike brethren in a U-Haul box in the basement.
My ineptitude with technology fuels my frustration any time I get on my computer or smart phone or fancy new camera. When the squad (my group of local friends) decided to set up a group gab, I turned to the experts, my friends in Houston who were setting up Google Hangouts for their church meetings. I got good instructions and passed them along to my pals.
We tried. We really did. I already had the Hangouts program on my phone and computer because a family friend had set me up on their family chat group. Hangouts is part of the Google family of unusable applications. I spent an hour practicing my swear words (it’s like chanting but without the good effects). I set up the group: The Squad. It did not appear on my list of contacts. I set it up again. It did not appear on my set of contacts. I did a search of my contacts. It found two of The Squad. I could not figure out how to discard one of them, so now I was stuck with two. I chose one and typed up four email addresses to add to the group. Two were unrecognized — not valid email addresses. I had to send an email to each of them in order for Gmail to recognize them. I re-entered their email addresses into The Squad. Voilà, I have set up a group! Time to connect with my comrades.
I tried a video call, only one person answered. The others did not get a call. All the names in my group came up as “Unknown.” WTF??? I just put them all in. After numerous, murderously fueled attempts, I figured out how to retrieve each email address and edit to add the names of my friends. They got added to the second group. So now I had one group with email addresses and another with names. It is a testament to my powers of restraint that I did not throw my computer out a convenient window. Lucky for them, there were no Google app developers in my house at that time. It would have been ugly.
I tried another video call. Two people were able to connect. We had a bit of a chat, but had to answer the texts that were coming in from the other two. I tried several times to “Invite” our missing friends into the connection, but they did not get that invitation. It was beginning to feel like middle school, when some girls were in and some were out of a life-or-death, socially important conversation. We finally gave up on Hangouts. We did not reap the good feelings of connecting with our friends since some of them could not join us. We would need to find something more inclusive.
Filling up these home-bound days with entertainments, projects and safe social interactions has helped the hours pass. I find I have a visceral need to hug my loved ones, but virtual hugs are keeping me going. Call, text, email, write. I would love to hear how you are doing. Our health is good, our happiness is moderate and our dog is still driving us crazy.
In it to win it,
Guest Editor Anne, after recovering from her tumble which resulted in a nasty ankle injury, is a pro at staying at home. She didn’t think she’d have to do it again so soon! She can now take long walks down the driveway and back.