It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 21.
Sunday. The first day where no one is allowed out.
It’s also the day that the Ann Arbor Buddhist Temple live streams its service. So instead of meditating first thing, I read my NYT briefing, and, as usual on Sunday, I go to the week’s Playlist. And the first song is “All in It Together” by Mavis Staples.
The first time I heard “Respect Yourself,” I was 11 years old, so in junior high. (Mom started all of my sisters and I a year early in school because we were tall. Fortunately, we were also smart. Still, that’s weird, isn’t it?) I had a sister, probably Becky, drive me to Tower Records so I could buy the album. I still love the song, and at least once a day since the world changed, I’ve thought of Mavis Staples singing sternly, “Put your hand on your mouth when you cough, that’s a better solution.”
(When Bruce Willis covered “Respect Yourself” in the 80s, Karl and I would have kicked the radio in if we could’ve afforded a new one. He does not get to sing that song. And yet he did.)
“All in It Together” is a lovely, simple song. It lacks the dusty, bone-deep groove that propels “Respect Yourself,” and the righteous message that you need to toughen up and get shit done. “All/Together” on the other hand, has been written to please. Thus, it’s a little bland. But bland is not in Mavis’s dictionary; she turns it into a gentle anthem of “c’mon, now, you know we can knock this out.” It’s perfect for this day, this time.
A New Crush
Also perfect—and I’m just heading down the NYT Playlist—is this beauty by Moses Sumney, an artist I’ve never heard of. This isn’t a music video. It’s a brilliant piece of dance theater, captured on film with the imagination and grace used by Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins, the greatest directors of dance on film in history. (Compare “Cool” in West Side Story, which Robbins oversaw, to “The Dance at the Gym,” dutifully but unimaginatively captured by Robert Wise after Robbins was fired.)
Sumney and his dancers are beautiful, their work is beautiful, the music is beautiful. Don’t let the mask and hospital setting scare you off.
Nobody Day rocks so far.
The rest of the Playlist turns up more gems by a bunch of people I’ve never heard of: the plangent “A Comma” by serpentwithfeet, Troye Sivan’s “Take Yourself Home”: “I’m tired of the city, if we’re gonna die, let’s die somewhere pretty” he sings softly, as the camera swirls over an eerily empty metropolis and a building that looks, from the air, a lot like the ones I can see from my balcony. Those are the best. There’s also a trippy electronic ditty by Sonic Boom, some goofy child named Powfu, an overly breathy number from The 1975 feat. Phoebe Bridges (with lead Matty Healy) of a nonetheless interesting song, “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America.” In it, the singers confess being in love with people of the same gender and the conflict because they’re also both “in love with Jesus Christ.”
Nobody Day Rocks a Wee Bit Less
I decide to get a walk in before video church, and in the meantime to check out the Hardcore History podcast on WWI that my niece recommended. Yesterday, the only steps I got in were on my epic Lady Day Trip to the grocery store; in other words, not many.
It’s stunning on the rooftop. The big hill that marks Churillos, the Lima neighborhood below Barranco, stands out in clear relief against the bright pale sky.
About 10 minutes into my walk, a young woman, unmasked, strides toward me purposefully. She starts talking to me with my headphones in. When I remove them, she says, “I can hear you when you walk.” She’s nice about it, but it’s clear I have to shorten my treadmill. I apologize, she says no problem, and I head over to our half of the building. From the view, I can tell when I’m directly over our apartment, which is the top floor. I decide I will confine myself to tramping over Steve’s head. I do that for 40 minutes. In the podcast, once Dan Carlin gets past 10 minutes of a somewhat tedious ramble on conspiracy theories, he’s on a tear through what happened on a Belgrade corner back in 1913. It’s great.
But clearly, the novelty of quarantine is wearing off and the closeness of it, combined with the lack of certainty, is grinding many of us down. The first week, it seemed that people pretty much everywhere thought, time with family, time to read and cook and watch stuff: Different, but we can do this. In fact, could be really nice.
The second week, I think it was more, ok, we did this for a week, we can do it another. And then we’ll be done.
Now it’s the third. And today, for the first time here in Lima, no one’s supposed to leave the house.
It’s obviously imperative we respect what little space we have. And try, with increasing desperation, to stay sane in the process. But I miss the smiles. I still give them out, but I don’t get nearly as many back. I can tell that, masks or not.
I call my niece, Erin. She has 3 kids. No one’s quietly going mad; in fact they’re pretty noisy about it. I offer to do age-appropriate history classes with the kids a couple of times a week. Her school district’s guidelines for the rest of the year (Michigan schools are closed for the duration) will be released on Tuesday. I tell her whatever is designated for social studies, she can leave to me, and I’ll weave in music, art, stories, and whatever science makes sense. She’s excited, I’m excited.
I root through some age-appropriate lessons plans and think, oh dear. How can I teach US history without getting all righteous and lefty? Well, I’ll cross that bridge as we get to it. I mean, they’re kids, not potential anarchists. Then again, aren’t all kids anarchists already? No potential about it….
Here for Half a Week, or Maybe All of It
We get two communications from the Embassy. And…we are not forgotten. Flights went out today, are scheduled tomorrow, but not on April 7th. Still, we are not invited to join one. Steve makes his grocery list for Man Day tomorrow.
The tone of these governmental emails, drily informative as it is, practically sags with exhaustion. I could be inferring that, but I feel for those folks. Tough job. The only reason we stay on the list is because we have zero alternative for getting back at this point.
Maybe I should start taking bets, the way people do when babies are due. The winner gets a free dinner from us when it’s ok to have people come over again.
Man, I wish I’d bought that wine yesterday. Then again, who am I kidding? It would all be gone by now.