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The Covid Cure

Suggested Song: Let’s Go Crazy, Prince Suggested Drink: Isolation Ale, Odell Brewing Company

Shutdown Redux

Le confinement has returned to France. Home detention is once again le rigueur, the daily walk/run (keep it brief and close to home) and occasional trip to the grocery excepted, hall pass in hand. Our neighbors at all points – Germany, Italy, Spain, England – are exacting similar decrees. Note to America: stock up now.

This lockdown is different than the spring fling. The winter months are looming with darker days, dryer air, vacations over and kids to school. All are standard ingredients for a thriving flu season, and now Covid is piling on.

It’s going to be long winter.

Strategy v1.0: Preservation

Getting through the first confinement was a short course on adaption. We were debutantes at this no, you can’t leave your home thing and trying to minimize the disruption. Preservation of a semblance of normalcy was the guiding principal: maintaining our active social calendars through Zoom; eating out through delivery in; uninterrupted spending through Amazon Prime; the Sunday cinema on Netflix, microwaved popcorn in hand. See, it’s not that bad!

What did we learn? There is a reason we pay up for the restaurant experience. A television display is a poor substitute for the majestic silver screen. Online shopping is fast, easy, and antiseptically void of any neighborhood rapport. And apéros with family or friends over Zoom are a struggle in spontaneity and flow. Yeah, kind of sucks.

Strategy v2.0: Reinvention

So here we are again and may find ourselves repeatedly through 2021. Do we stock up the shelter, lock down the shutters, and prepare for more concessions? Is there another option?

One could consider this a unique moment, a golden opportunity really, to veer off the rails and defy everything everyone, including yourself, believes about you. Covid may just be your horrible excuse to try something radically, beautifully different; to go a bit nuts. Less cheapened preservation and more fresh invention, even if just for a few gloriously whimsical months.

Where to start? Everyone’s crazy angle is different, and what makes you beautifully bewildering during these mundane weeks – has she gone mad? – is unique to you. Read the taro, learn some hip hop moves, dye your hair green, start a vision board for a brand new you. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Less glitchy video, more indigo ink. There are few joys that salve the soul better than penning a note on quality paper to someone whom you care about deeply. A good fountain pen is indispensable. I’m not sure what is more satisfying: writing the letter or waiting the few days it takes to navigate the post and imagining that smile when opened. I’m lucky to be in France, where shops that specialize in paper and pens remain common. And guess what? My fountain pen doesn’t get a bad connection.

  2. Less home dinner delivery, more kitchen creation. Our local restaurants are suffering badly now and deserve our takeout orders. But, when you’re locked in for endless hours spending a few more of those in the kitchen is a healthy distraction, wine in hand of course. To make the experience more engaged I’ve been diving into ethnic inspirations far removed from the usual list of the tried-and-true. A friend turned me on to the art of Korean kimchi earlier this year and I’ve also been experimenting with Japanese udon soups. Neither are particularly to difficult but far enough out of my comfort zone to keep things unpredictable.

  3. Less One-Click impulse buys, more patience that the local shops will be back open soon. Our neighborhood economies rely on a diversity of commerce to thrive. You come for a coffee, buy a dozen tulips, and pick up stationary for those letters to loved ones. The flower shop owner takes your tulip money and buys a sandwich at corner café. The café owner says come back again, then spends the sandwich margin on new novel from the corner bookstore. Payrolls are met, rents are paid, the commercial equivalent of a coral reef is in full bloom.

Amazon is a neighborhood commerce killer. The sole proprietor is helpless against the impressive machine that Bezos built. It is convenient, cheap, expedient, and leaves our neighbhorhoods bleached of diversity like a great coral reef in decline. Amazon doesn’t need more your money. Their stock is up 85% since Covid Wave-1 hit in March, while your local guy is struggling mightily to hold on. Many won’t. What do you want your neighorhood strip to look like next year?

Oh yeah, I’ve been reading some stuff lately that I never imagined would be on the bedside stand: Brontë, TE Lawrence, my grandmother’s African travels diary from 1912-14. It’s the year for it.

I’d love to know what you’re doing to keep your sanity in a world gone mad. My advice: meet crazy with crazy. Please stay safe, there’s a sunrise ahead.

Bill Magill Aix-en-Provence

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