Half of this month just slid right by (and I probably buried the lede)

I had a blog post all ready to go, except for photos, the night before the election. And then the election and its very, very weird aftermath took over my brain, your brain, and everyone else’s. That post just looked silly and outdated, and the Covid-19 pandemic just got worse with no end—or national government action—in sight.

Staten Island’s quarantine zone in the 19th century [photo courtesy NYPL Digital Collection]

This happens a fair amount. I’ve got seven aborted drafts in the can, and I’ve deleted a few drafts completely from my WordPress library, too. Sometimes events overtake the abandoned posts. Or I was in a bad mood when I wrote them. Or I’ll reread the thing and think that no one could possibly find that solipsistic piece of crap interesting, so into the vault it goes.

The latest aborted draft seems so innocent and unknowing. It began like this:

I got my last call from the New York Health Department a couple of hours ago. “Your quarantine ends tomorrow,” Yvonne told me. “You can resume your regular activities, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance, of course,” she added. Of course.

Problem is, what are my normal activities? Or anyone’s? Tomorrow is Election Day, but I did my bit early via absentee ballot. I’ve read all sorts of ominous stories saying that the present occupier, oops, occupant of the White House will declare victory tomorrow night, even if all the absentee and mail ballots aren’t yet counted.

Who knows what’s going to happen? It’s like we’re the villain in a Road Runner cartoon. We’ve gone over the cliff but we’re still running, unaware that there’s no ground under us.

Hey, maybe I wasn’t so innocent and unknowing after all. It still kind of feels like that doesn’t it? Orange Man did declare victory. And we’re still in this weird limbo, avoiding unnecessary outings and maintaining social distancing.

So I’ll just write about what I’ve been up to, or not been up to. I haven’t been working, not for lack of trying. But I’ve been trying to straighten out stuff. My desk has actual surface area, and we’ve got new phones to replace an obsolete one whose battery percentage plunged precipitously if I so much as looked at the screen. The Spartan Woman continues to be an alchemist in the kitchen; I’m amazed at what she does with bread flour. She’s been channeling Montréal’s Fairmount Bagels to make these beauties:

I’m also trying to wean myself from the semi-evil Facebook. I told my iPhone to limit my exposure to 15 minutes a day, enough time to scan my feed to see if anything important happened to a friend, but not long enough to do much about it except call or text the friend via non-Facebook means. My tech setup surprised me by applying that limit across all my Apple devices (see below), so I get shut down even on this MacBook, unless I tell it to override the limits. I set a rule for myself: I can only override the limit if I’m in the middle of writing a personal text to someone.

Result? So far, it’s working. I haven’t spent hours reading memes and clicking on shared articles about the surreal situation we’re in. I can find those articles pretty well by myself. And I haven’t been angry at the extended family members who post opposing and often, racist or just plain mean or stupid remarks about the current and soon-to-be occupants of the White House. So all in all, I think this little experiment is doing what I hoped it would do, to lower my emotional temperature regarding events over which I don’t have much control.

At the same time…well, I feel a little erased. Being mostly homebound and not having a regular gig means that my social life is sporadic and virtual. I’ll concede that I was spending too much time on Facebook. But that was partly by necessity; for some friends and relatives, that’s the only way they’d stay in touch. I definitely feel like less of a participant in the world, whether it’s virtual or real. (And maybe what’s “real” isn’t. In my wandering I’ve learned that philosophers and metaphysicists are arguing whether we’re just bots in a machine.)

I haven’t yet exchanged that time for more useful action in the real world, because I’m obsessed with the news and the crazy refusal of the Republican Party to let go of the wannabe dictator squatting in the White House. Let’s not forget, he lost the popular vote in 2016 by some 3 million votes, a margin doubled this month.