Back when the coronavirus which becomes the disease COVID-19 pandemic was just six weeks old (the length of the lockdown in Austin, Texas), I wrote Part I of this title. If you were here for that long, rambling and meandering post (or go read It now), you may recall a sense of aimless wandering. You might have been right about that. In many ways, we as a human race were doing that long before this outbreak. Now we are clearly fumbling our way through this waking nightmare, bad movie, or really, just stark reality. So as the band War sang,
Take a little trip, take a little trip
Take a little trip and see
Take a little trip, take a little trip
Take a little trip with me
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” I certainly can relate to that. Currently I’m biking about 23 miles a day, and often I do just that, wander around. But I’m not lost. A friend joined me for a noon-day ride recently. It was just 11 miles, because I had to return home for a seminar on Zoom. “How to Network Online” was the title. Anyway, Bruce was content to allow me to lead, knowing the roads as pretty damn well as I do. After biking the equivalent of the equator in almost five years, I come by my hyper-local knowledge of Austin streets through plenty of grit, grime and gumption.
At one point south of the river, we stopped at a traffic light. I had seen Lance Armstrong jogging one day nearby. I had danced with Yoga with Adriene just a little farther east than that. On the bike ride, I hesitated, because I didn’t know which way I wanted to go. It didn’t really matter; any way would have been ok with either a bike lane or a suburban street. Finally I chose south, because I’m living closer to that part of town, and I usually didn’t get to it living farther north. We climbed up a slight hill not too far from where I remember helping some riders on Bike Austin’s Hottest Day of the Year Ride. It’s close to Bicycle Sport Shop as well.
So in just that one small section of town, I had multiple memories of biking. Granted they didn’t come to me at the time, but now as they come flooding back, and overlapping and melding together, I am aware of the history. Which is even more remarkable, because I often say I’m not cool enough to go to South Austin; I have never lived there save a week housesitting once. Memory is tricky that way with time having even less meaning nowadays, or so it seems. Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself, “What day IS it?” They bleed into one another. I bike, I walk, I do yoga, I write. Nothing changes, and everything changes. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
If you wanted to create the recipe for a dystopian future, or perhaps write a screenplay for a hit horror/science fiction movie, you would want to have the following ingredients:
-- a maniacal, charismatic, sociopathic ruler with dictatorial aspirations -- a hotly contested election that said leader protests until the end -- legions of fiercely devoted followers of said vile, villainous viceroy -- almost as many who oppose said despot than support the victor -- an invisible, highly contagious, easily transmitted pathogen -- natural disasters, weather events, and climatic changes -- economic ruin, verging on collapse for many save for the rich
Sound familiar? Well, it’s called 2020: we’re living that movie. And even the promise of a vaccine doesn’t promise the end of the pandemic. A sizeable portion of the United States’ population may not even take it based on fear of science. Half of them won’t even wear a mask, and have politicized that very basic tenet of health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So yeah, we’re living in the end times, or so it feels. (Some pious people probably are preparing for The Rapture.) All that watching of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, plus accruing canned foods, may finally pay off.
What’s a dude to do? Fiddle while Rome burns, I guess. Which in my case means ride my bike every day for a year. I’m still at it over a month after the year milestone. I want to quit eventually, but I can’t seem to find a good reason to now while I’m still striving for a big year on the bike. Maybe in January. Will we have a new president by then? Let’s hope so. Four years is a long time to go without an adult who is qualified to be captain at the helm of the ship. At least Joe Biden has a driver’s license. OK, I’m mixing my transportation references. Time to deplane from this paragraph. Again, “Not all who wander are lost.” But some probably really are.
Some people seem to be weathering the pandemic storm just fine. The ones who are working from home, cooking dinner, and tending to kids all at once. You know, the superhero parents, usually those with means and maybe nannies, too. From outward appearances, I may seem like I’m part of that tribe, although I am not one of those people. I have been fortunate both through my summer job and all the biking and walking that to date to not have contracted the virus. At least not that I know about. I’m lucky to be living by myself for the most part, so in case I do get it, I am already pretty isolated.
And that’s the part that can get pretty annoying at times. A few friends will join me for a walk or bike ride on occasion, which is nice. Others I talk, email or text with different degrees of frequency. I’ve met a few neighbors, mostly college kids, but I haven’t been invited to their ragers just yet. People working at businesses one frequents like the bicycle shop are good to see, don’t exactly make very good BFF’s, either. As a cyclist during normal times, one may see a number of regulars at the community or shop rides. But I stopped getting up stupid early for those, and many aren’t being held now anyway. These times are odd, and the familiar touchstones and people are mostly on pause or stopped.
Speaking of touching, my tired muscles would sure love a massage. Safe? Probably not. Then there’s the gym, which is charging me membership again. I went by to check out the outdoor pool that they claim is heated to 85 degrees F. Yeah, right. Two women swam with blocks between their knees, taking strokes so slow I was amazed they didn’t sink. It’s right on the bike trail that I enjoy riding because their are no cars. But winter is coming, and swimming seems like folly. Last time I did it we had a lockdown, so I better not jinx things.
Even our trusty and reliable TV actor friends are mostly twisting into the wind, wondering if they’ll have work and when. Sometimes I’ll be watching TV and yell at the screen, “Wear your mask!” before I come to and realize: they don’t have to. And some shows like Saturday Night Live seem to be getting around it by extensive testing of the cast and crew. Some shows may not film though for a while, so we’re left holding the bag, wondering how their story goes, or ends. How does our own story go? How many seasons do we have left? We will be cancelled?
I wander through each day. I’ll do various things like searching for a job, unpacking a box, reaching the news, or cooking a meal (I’m still without a microwave after two weeks — the horror!). I’m spending hours a day doing my exercise, biking, walking yoga. And nothing much seems to change, at least not with me. Except I’m exhausted. I keep moving forward, slowly, though. Waiting to fully exhale, and afraid to inhale. Many days I’ll just think to myself, “When does this reality show prank have its big reveal?
But my malaise, or woes, or gripes, are merely first world problems. There are those with real poverty, hunger, homelessness, war, or other disease to deal with. Sure, COVID is no cake-walk for anyone, but at least many of ushave running water, electricity, lights, and so on. There’s always something else to annoy (yelling loud workmen next door at 8 am), disrupt (election drama), and COVID (probably the worst thing for most of us in our lives), but many things are tolerable and survivable. So in that I seek solace. Maybe somehow I can give back and help at some point when doing so in person doesn’t mean literally risking my life v. a killer airborne virus.
In the meanwhile, I just keep going, that’s all any of us can do. Hopefully the world will make sense again soon enough. Did it ever? The new normal sucks. Buddhism reminds us that everything is temporary, including us. Craving what we don’t have and being averse to what we do are what we humans do. Maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel of coronavirus, in terms of a vaccine — for those who take it. Many won’t. And what’s next after COVID? Who knows. People saw it coming and no one in a position to prepare for it listened. So we try to keep our eyes open, chins up, eyes on the prize, and pedal to the metal. Bike clip pedal metal, that is. Happy trails or at least safe travels until next time.
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