Each day brings with it, along with the bad news, ever more suggestions for what we can do with all our free time during the quarantine. I’m not sure where all the free time is supposed to come from since I’m a university professor and I still have to teach all my classes on-line, which actually takes more time, effort, and planning than in-person classes. But there are so many new opportunities being made available each day, it’s hard to refuse.
Operas, ballets, and concerts I never would have had the money to go see are now available for free streaming. I live in Houston, and I’ve never had the time or money to go to the Alley Theater, but now Terry Treachout at The Wall Street Journal tells me that I can stream a really good performance of 1984. I better do it now before they take it down.
So too, each day brings new of “the best things” streaming on Netflix, Amazon, and HBO that will presumably only be free for a limited time. So if I want to see Chernobyl, I had better binge watch it now. Should I watch all six seasons of The Sopranos, or the seven seasons of Mad Men? Everyone tells me I have to watch The Wire, the best television series ever. Is now the time? How about Veep, Six Feet Under, or Silicon Valley? All come highly recommended. How about that Tiger King series? Even my physician is watching it.
But this is just the tip of the quarantine iceberg. I read an article the other day suggesting that this would be a good time to read Boccaccio’s Decameron. That’s certainly true. But once I started it, I looked over and realized I should probably be re-reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. A friend wrote to recommend the Inspector Littlejohn mysteries by George Bellairs. Volume 7 is free on Amazon. I guess I had better get started. But this reminds me that I meant to read through several more of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin seafaring novels. Another friend has decided now would be a good time to re-read all the major works of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and wonders whether I would like to do the same and discuss them with him.
My wife has decided that we should read through a canto of Dante’s Inferno out loud every evening before bed. I prefer not to let her know how much sleep I am missing because of the nightmares. She is starting a reading group of people to read through the short stories of Flannery O’Connor together on Zoom. I expect more nightmares.
She also has been reading articles about things people have been learning to cook during the quarantine. “Guess what?!” one web site announced. “One thing you can definitely do, and should be doing, is COOKING AT HOME! You will most likely find yourself with big chunks of time that you aren’t used to having and what better way to spend it than cooking up a comforting meal for your family?” We are supposed to fill these “big chunks of time” (which I don’t have) with big loaves of home-made bread, it seems. I have been assigned to figure out how to make something called chicken tikka masala. Lord help me!
None of this cooking happens without shopping, of course, and upon the advice of a You Tube video made by a physician in Grand Rapids, we are carefully wiping down all our food as we unpack the bags of groceries — that is to say, after we’ve carefully disinfected a clean surface and kept it separate from our unpacking area. “You should be doing this,” our dutiful physician suggested, “in all the extra spare time you have now.”
We’re told we need to keep in touch with friends, so we’ve been devoting time every day to Skyping or FaceTime with people we would otherwise see serendipitously. We are also supposed to keep exercising, so we try to put in an hour or more each day. My wife signed us up for online yoga.
It occurred to me that this might also be a good time to compare documentaries on the Vietnam War. Which reminds me I never got a chance to watch Ken Burns’ series on jazz. Another website said this would be a good time to learn a musical instrument, but I can’t decide between the guitar and the tin whistle. I’m trying to brush up on my German, but an article said this might a good time to learn Mandarin.
So, unlike some others, I am grateful that President Trump extended the quarantine until the end of April. I have so many projects in the works, I will certainly need the extra time.
By the same token, I am pleased to hear that plans are being made to lift the lockdown. I don’t want anyone to get sick, but quarantine is exhausting.
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