It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 22.

I was up last night relatively late, a little after midnight. I’m up this morning relatively early. People are back out for the second Man Day. What initially seemed like next to no traffic now, after Nobody Sunday, feels insanely busy.

Still, birds outnumber cars by a long shot.

Hullo, Guv-nor

At 10 p.m. last night, I received a note from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office. Whitmer campaigned with the memorable slogan, “Let’s fix the damn roads.” After years of the criminal Rick Snyder, who brought you the eco-racist follies in Flint, Whitmer’s election was a no-brainer—though given the horrorshow of November 2016, I’m sure I wasn’t the only nervous person in November 2018 as we waited for the results.

Prior to COVID, I heard grousing that she’d run as a moderate but was a secret progressive, to which I say a big fat YES. Since COVID, she’s taken names and kicked ass, getting national attention. My sister Becky, who prides herself on being somewhat apolitical—I dunno how she does it—told me that when she watched the address Whitmer gave prior to COVID restrictions being applied, she couldn’t tell which party Whitmer was from, and that she was awesome.

Whitmer’s rep and I have a heartening and very personal back and forth. She likes my updates, and tells me she welcomes my ability to find some humor in our situation. I just reiterate for the hundredth time how fortunate we are. And that we’ll be patient.

I’ve been struck at how I’m dealing with real people in my government offices throughout this, who haven’t seemed real up til now. When I get back, I want to take them all to lunch. Of course, we can’t do that any more.

This new world is going to take some serious creativity.

Steppin’ In

I decide that every time Steve leaves on Man Day, I will walk in place while I watch something. From time to time, I get very diligent about trying to watch at least part of most MUBI daily movies. Yesterday, I began Variety, a terrific made-for-8-dollars-feature by filmmaker Bette Gordon shot and set in the New York City I moved to, circa 1984. The young protagonist—”you’re tall, you’re skinny, you’re pretty”—reminds me of myself back then, particularly since the description should also add, in both cases, “you’re clueless.” She works taking tickets at a porn theater and turns her job into this perverse “Harriet the Spy” kind of adventure. People allegedly refer to it as a female Taxi Driver, except that this protagonist doesn’t go around murdering people to impress a horribly abused child; instead she decides to take a tiny bit of control of her life. Gordon deserves Scorsese-level recognition; her film is disciplined, restrained, and intimate. If this is the first time you’ve heard of her, well, you’re right behind me.

I get a couple thousand steps in watching the end. Steve comes back from grocery shopping, then heads back out for a walk, lugging an enormous bag of trash. We have to add our recycling to the trash, unfortunately; there is simply not a way to recycle during the quarantine, not that Peru is particularly good at recycling to begin with. The bag looks as if he’s got Santa’s sleigh and a reindeer or two in it, but is apparently not crushingly heavy.

Once he leaves for the second time, I begin Hungry Soul, Part II, from Yuzo Kawashima, another new director for me. (I have missed part one, but a 5 minute recap at the beginning of the movie fills me in.) Watching a post-WWII (1956) Japanese domestic melodrama appeals to me like crazy. Who better to show resilience and how life still goes on after horror than Japan?

Then about 20 minutes in, I stop. I remember: I’ve been having trouble with my Shine workout choking mid-class. Steve has suggested that watching it before noon, I might find more open servers. Also, doing a dance workout to Taylor Swift and Pit Bull is great fun for me, but not so much for hapless bystanders in earshot. So I decide to get it done while Steve’s gone, and save Hungry Soul for later.


Steve’s home at about the 40 minute mark of my workout; I had one brief lag, but otherwise, no issues. As I jump around, he says, “Hey, we’re registered for a flight. They’ll send details.”

Well, that sounds calm. I resolve to finish the workout and check my email in 20 minutes.

More Like “Olds.” (forgive me)

When I finish, I see in my inbox….wait for it……build up……the standard Embassy email. They’re trying. We’re not forgotten. The repatriation count is 5600. No flights tomorrow, and we’re obviously not on the flight today.

Which means, on Lady Day tomorrow, I get to check out the new grocery store Steve has found, Metropolitano. “It’s nice, very clean, and a great walk from here. Just don’t buy water because it’s a really long schlep,” he tells me.

Later, he starts laughing as he reads some online article. Apparently, a US commentator is saying how strange it will be to get used to everyone in masks.

We’re kind of on top of the mask thing. Peruvians have been wearing them from the beginning of the quarantine, more and more universally with each passing day. Now, masks are required. Pictures of the president and his advisors in session show that they’re observing the laws they’re setting for everyone else.

Steve said that when he was in the Peace Corps in Jamaica, he had very little difficulty adjusting to life there. The rough part was going back to the US.

I’m starting to see what he means.

Be Brave, Reiko-San!!

Steve goes for another walk, and I decide I will continue with my Japanese movie, walking in place as I watch. I end up jogging just because I feel like it. Will beautiful tragic Reiko escape her crappy husband for the dashing Mr. Tachibana?

I hear a big bang. No idea. Then I think, wait. Did someone in the flat below bang on the ceiling? Am I too noisy?

I freeze for a few minutes, then start tentatively walking, this time on the carpet. The absurdity of the whole situation strikes me. I’m jogging in place while I watch a Japanese movie because I can’t get out and just take a walk and clear my head, like I normally try to do as long as the weather’s decent. I’m possibly living on top of someone because I’m currently a Lima resident.

After a few minutes, though, I start walking in place once again. I’ve lived in apartments. You bang three times. It’s just normal. Maybe two. But not one. I must’ve heard something else.

Mail Call

A mail check once the movie ends—let’s just say it’s quite operatic, and if you know anything about opera, you can do that math. For the movie, that is, although the email from the embassy has a touch of melodrama on its own. The usual, accompanied with the number for Peruvian 911 (which is 113), and a new count of confirmed cases here: close to 3K, with nearly 100 deaths. That’s nothing compared to what’s going on in my home state, let alone my native country, but it’s still something. “You will not be allowed to travel if you show any symptoms of the virus.”

I think one of the hardest parts of this is having any kind of imagination at all. It’s very easy to head down the worst case scenario path, especially watching the numbers tick up at home from afar.

It’s so hard to use my imagination for good these days. Conversely, it’s really easy to use it in the other direction.

Steve comes back from his walk with this picture.

covid-19 in peru day 22

In Which I Transcend My Aversion to Royalty

I have avoided the series The Crown on Netflix despite everyone telling me how wonderful it is. I really hate the whole concept of royalty. Without getting too into it, it just seems like the dumbest thing ever.

But I remember, when we visited the Tower of London last summer, watching footage of a very young Elizabeth being crowned. The weight of that big thing on her head, how small she seemed, how seriously she took this entire idea of doing the right thing.

I was appalled at Trump being accorded a State Visit to the UK, but a British friend—of course it’s Joanna—told me, “She really has nothing to do with the decision.”

Anyway. We watch Episode 1, Season 1 of The Crown. And it is amazing. First off, there’s Jared Harris, Lane Price in Mad Men, elegant, brave, and about to have a really scary death. There’s stunning photography, breathtaking shot composition. Claire Foy as QEII looks really scared, always wary that something’s about to hit her out of left field.

Having heard the Queen today, very briefly—it’s sort of hilarious the way she pronounces science as “sahence”, which is not quite sonce, but on the way there—I thought, when she says, effectively, we’ll get through this, it doesn’t sound empty. As bizarre as I think the whole institute of monarchy is, the Queen has been through some shit. Not the whole Diana thing, which is fascinating at a gossipy level but honestly some kind of rarefied air.

But as a woman who made it through WWII, who dealt with the hell that was being a Londoner during the blitz. She could drive ambulances, she could fix cars.

Here I am watching this series, watching people get steely-jawed and fighting back tears because they will do pretty much anything to help the people who look up to them.

Inspiring. Glad we watched it.