Nothing in This Column Is About COVID
In a college semester abroad, I asked my host family “mother” in Dijon how they could endure the constant peril of WWII. She said with a certain French intonation that’s hard to describe, “It was wartime. But life went on. We cooked. We ate. We laughed.” I was baffled.
Wiser now, I know that even during wars and pestilence and other supremely difficult tymes, as long we have food in our bellies and a bed, humans find a way to laugh. I lived by a funeral home in Randolph for years, and some of the rowdiest parties I’ve ever heard were wakes. People just rip it up, man. Recalling the deceased’s antics or foibles … hair … footwear … who knows?
Because we all struggle daily now, this month I’ll distract you with gems old and new that made me laugh. Won’t you join me?
Last month I received a birthday card depicting a fish wearing a halo. I anticipated a joke inside about an “angel fish” with a reference to my angelic personality. Inside instead was Holy Mackerel! with a reference to my age. I asked my housemate if mackerel was a greasy fish. He said, “Yes, very…Mediterranean. Served with olives and the like.” Holy Mackerel, the official entree of the Vatican. At least on Fridays.
Things sure are weird now, early and often. Reminds me of past peculiarities. Like on a fundraising trip for Dartmouth-Hitchcock when in the hotel gym I came upon a lone, elderly gent motionless on a weight bench at 6 am, pondering. He says, “I’m thinking about a bread.” Originally from New York where such encounters are common, I ran with it. “What kind of bread?” What he mimed, with a swirling flourish of his hand indicating filling, became clear: “A danish!“ I said. Yes, a danish. He was thinking about a bread.
Tech oddities abound now. Why? Who knows? I’ll text someone and the dog walker or my banker gets pulled into the recipient list for no apparently reason. Occasionally, “U” appears on my phone’s calendar. Stands for what, “You” Meaning “me”? I scheduled “Me Time”? I hate Me Time. Also “pampering.” Sounds like a big baby who needs coddling and special hands-on “treatments.” Like you’re being diapered. That could be a new service. Big Baby Treatments. $350/hour. It probably already exists.
In August, my phone Facetimed someone by itself while sitting on a table. I hadn’t summoned Siri and, besides, what could I possibly have said that rhymes with “FaceTime Colleen” —Peacetime Latrine? Holstein Careens? Spacetime Continuum? I don’t say those very often. Sometimes my texts, right before I send them, now add Yes! at the end. It happens too quickly for me to delete. It’s generally to comedic effect, whether making sense or not within the context of the text (e.g., “Let’s go biking. Yes!” Or: “I can’t stand that place. Yes!”). But does it make me appear an overly enthusiastic dork? Yes!
Recently, my dear Vermont nutters and I held a gathering that was a competition, a Curbside Drop-Off. Our hostess dusted off her FREE sign, and we each put unwanted but usable items – chicken wire, tires (mine), an old Atlas, a tabletop Santa Claus – at her roadside curb as we cocktailed and watched from a distance far enough so as to not intimidate our “shoppers.” The odds were heavily in favor of my tires going first, and I was anticipating this big win, but no: the marital aids, in concert with two plastic pumpkins. God love the playful young couple that claimed them, and the
timeless allure of silicone and plastics. My tires eventually went; some items didn’t go; prizes were awarded. I won nothing, but was handed the booby prize by someone who didn’t want it: a can of mushroom pieces and stems. Usable? Yes!
The last laugh involves foliage, which was as spectacular that year as it was this year, presumably due to drought. I grabbed an old camera with film in it and took a friend who can’t drive on a scenic tour of the foliage. I made him pose against stunning vistas and ravines, the colors forming a rich background for his handsomeness. When I finally got the film developed months later, surprise! The film had been black and white. We laffed and laffed. B&W foliage shots: a first? Yes! And last.
Okay, I lied. One thing I must relay to you in closing. The good news is that, while COVID tracing, I speak to families from all over the world that were born or now live in the US. Sometimes in English, sometimes with a translator. Astonishingly, almost everyone is very nice, regardless of race, birthplace, gender or age, wealth or poverty, how midly or hard-hit they are by the disease… and almost all agree to stay home so as to contain the virus. Mediterraneans, Danish, Americans… Most people are good. So don’t pay too much attention to American politics right now, it’ll sink your view of humankind. We’re just not that bad. Good day.