The Isolation Age

I can’t explain why I started crying when Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out” came on my Spotify. Friday was the last day of my first full week of working from home (or “WFH” in my company’s shorthand – honestly, it took me a while not to see that as something naughty) and it’s going OK so far. For me, anyway.

We’re under a shelter-in-place order.  All “non-essential” businesses are closed. We’re to stay home except for absolutely essential errands, like picking up medicine or groceries. Most people in my community were already voluntarily practicing social distancing. But elsewhere, there were still the people who think they’re invincible, and don’t consider the impact their non-compliance could have on others. The Governor of Florida left it up to local officials to close beaches, and only announced that “the party’s over” on Thursday.  He still didn’t issue a statewide order to close beaches, but he did finally close bars. Somewhere along in there, the mayor of Miami and a senator from Florida both tested positive for COVID-19.

The poster child for hubris is going to be the kid who was quoted as saying, “If I get corona, I get corona. It’s not going to stop me from partying.” Well, you do that, dearie, if you want your Grandparents’ last words to you to be, “you killed us, you selfish little punk.”

Meanwhile, back at the the Ridiculous residence, I grew bored with my classical radio (and it takes a LOT to bore me with classical music) and a little too lulled by “Lute Music for Alchemists” on Spotify. So I clicked on an Eagle’s playlist.

The days of my youth rushed back – songs I played over and over without ever getting bored. I lived and breathed Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg, Emmylou Harris and the Eagles back then.

“The Load Out” is a song about what happens after the concert – when “the roadies take the stage” to pack up and get the band and the equipment moving toward the next show.

Some lines in the last verse go,

“People you got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait, or you can pull us through…

The song moves right into “Stay,” with David Lindley coming out from behind his hair long enough to sing in falsetto, just like the original by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. Look it up.

Over the years, I’ve thought about that last verse. I’ve even imagined that it’s possible Jackson wrote it partly because of me.

Allow me to explain.

When I was in high school, I somehow scored third row seats for a Jackson Browne concert. I took my friend Mich (you remember this, Mich, I’m sure) and we sat there, two self-conscious teenage girls, mesmerized, unmoving and not singing along, through the whole concert. In our defense, the entire crowd was pretty subdued at a venue that was notoriously strict with rock acts. But we were paralyzed by proximity to the real, live Jackson Browne (look at that hair!)  The YouTube version up there is from 1978, probably just a year or two after we attended that concert. I spent a good part of high school trying to belt a verse of “Stay” like that amazing background singer. Wish I knew her name.

I haven’t been to a concert since without making a jackass of myself singing along, loudly, often in harmony. In three decades, I’ve only run into one band that seemed to disapprove. (click on “singalong). Oddly, it was an Eagles tribute band.

Yesterday, I started bawling on the line “just be sure you’ve got it all set to go, before you come for my piano…” That sent me right into the wayback machine.

I spent hours at the keyboard as a teenager, wailing songs by all the above listed ’70s artists.  But now, Angelic Daughter can’t take it.  She wants to sing by herself. Sometimes, in the car, I get away with harmonizing with her on “Brave.” We sound great together.

Maybe it was something about being stuck at home, unable to let off steam by singing and playing some of those oldies. Or maybe it was just knowing that I probably wouldn’t remember how to play them anymore, anyway.

HA! “The Load Out” just started on my Spotify daily mix. Cue lump in throat.

I believe in positive thinking. I believe in the force of will. So I’ve prepared a new “27 Things” list about what I like about working from home.

Grateful that I woke up this morning, and sending positive thoughts to you, to health care workers, to everyone who has lost a job and to every essential worker still going to theirs, I remain,

Your nostalgic, (quietly) ’70s singing,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Harut Movsisyan from Pixabay

Snow

“Smells like snow.”

If you live in, or visit, the Northeast or Midwest or mountain states of the US in winter, you might hear someone say this.

If you have the misfortune (or luck, depending on your perspective) to live in a place where there is never any snow, and you have never visited a place where there is, you will not have had the sensory experience of what the air is like before snow.

The scent usually is most noticeable before the first snow of the season, or if it hasn’t snowed for a while, and there is no snow on the ground at the time. That’s when you notice something’s coming.

It’s clean. It’s crisp, and there is a decided sort of clarity to it, as if it has gotten…thinner, somehow. In a good way. As if you were at a higher altitude. All the junk in the air seems to have stepped aside for a moment, to make way for the snow to come.

And then it starts.

You check the outdoor temperature, so you’ll know whether this is going to be the light, fluffy stuff that shovels aside like a feather, or the heavy, heart attack stuff that could kill you: everyone who lives in a snowy place will know, or know of, someone who died of a heart attack trying to move the stuff. And that includes trying to move it with a snowblower, because you still have to move the snowblower.

If the temperature is near freezing, you know two things: the driving will be especially treacherous, because the snow will be covering ice beneath it, moisture that froze as the temperature dropped, and that you better get your ass outside every two hours to shovel so you never have to shovel more than two inches of it at a time (and risk dying of a heart attack).

We had a snowstorm several years ago that everyone came to refer to as “snowmaggedon.” Sixty mile-an-hour winds that ripped part of our roof off (“hon, what’s that flapping sound?” “no idea – but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.”)

But the winds didn’t stop Mike from going outside every two hours, all night long, in the raging gale, to shovel the driveway.

The next day, we had to shovel our way out of the house. Couldn’t get out of the garage or the kitchen door without a shovel. But the driveway was easier because the drifts were a foot lower, due to Mike’s determination with the shovel.

The snow by the doors was three feet deep. Not exactly Buffalo or Watertown, New York, but still.

The morning after was bright and beautiful, and we worked together to clear the driveway and the walk, taking breaks to warm up, change gloves or defrost toes.

I will never forget the winter when, the morning after my Dad finally got home from the city, I stood in the garage at the moment the door was first opened.

And the snowdrift on the other side of it was as tall as I was.

In those days, a “snowsuit” was a sort of winterized pair of overalls, with suspenders with metal clips. Just getting dressed to go outside was a half-an-hour ordeal – tights or long johns, turtleneck, sweater, snowsuit, heavy wool socks, parka (for girls like me, with a border of fake wool or fur around the hood), scarf (which for some weird reason we tied around the outside of the parka, where the hood met the jacket, under the chin), mittens (sometimes two pairs, one within the other) and rubber boots or “galoshes,” which weren’t warm enough, but wool socks, two layers, right?

We did things then that are the stuff of parental nightmares, now.  I’ll just say they involved sledding. I can’t describe them here because it makes me too anxious, now that I’m a grown up and parent, remembering. I’ll just say it makes me wonder how the hell we survived our childhoods.

But somehow we did survive, and grew into cautious adults who respect the power of a big snowstorm enough to bundle up and get out there and shovel, every two hours or two inches, whichever comes first, slowly and carefully, hoping to avoid the heart attack.

There’s a big storm just starting here, now, and it will affect a huge part of the midwest and northeast this weekend. The kind of storm where you check to be sure you have enough food in the house to get through the weekend, because you ain’t going anywhere til it is over, plowed and salted. And blankets, too – because this one is going to be followed by arctic cold.

There was no snow-smell before it here this time, but when it starts, the air clears, and you hunker down: flashlight checked, phone charged, firewood brought around, iron pot ready for cooking in the fireplace if the power goes out, ice-dam preventing salt pucks on the part of the roof that will leak if I turn the heat up beyond 64 (first time trying those), hat, scarf and gloves ready on the drying rack, shovel and boots ready by the front door.

Wishing you a cleared, heart-attack-free driveway and no dangerous snow-related antics by your progeny,

I remain,

Your yes-I-pay-someone-now-to-do-the-driveway-but-dammit-that-walkway-is-MINE-snow-shoveling, environmentally-friendly-ice-melt-scattering,

Ridiculouswoman