Lenten winds are a South Florida meteorological phenomenon. Too cool for summer, they carry a hint of the autumn that in my environs substitutes for winter. They blew steadily enough yesterday to keep me from using my condo complex pool but were sun-kissed enough for a delightful hour of shirtless reading. I had the pool to myself, the last phrase a world’s mantra. At the market more shoppers wear masks and gloves. When a sexagenarian woman realized she and I would cross paths in the pasta aisle, she responded as if we were meeting swords; she flung herself so far to her right that I thought the shelves were next. Grimly aware we Americans haven’t started the most crippling phase of the isolation, I wonder how the virus will have reshaped human relations during its ebb time. Speculation about the utility of private space, happening already in certain quarters, strikes me as long overdue by those over thirty who mocked kids-these-days for idling on Zoom and Hangout instead of, say, leaving a bar hammered or experimenting with drugs they can’t afford.
On my third morning of enforced routine, I race through Ann Beattie’s nattering My Life, Starring Dara Falcon, anticipate an Amazon delivery of Jean Stafford’s The Catherine Wheel, and blast Jay Electronica. A boxful of Choose Your Own Adventure books from my boyhood awaits plumbing. Three friends have planed a Zoom happy hour tomorrow or Sunday at 5:30 — a novel experience for us, but, hey, kids-these-days do it without the aid of the fresh bottle of Lillet purchased yesterday under the impression that Mayor Carlos Gimenez would order all non-essential commerce to cease. Should readers have Lillet recipes to share, I’ve got nothing but time to experiment.
Turning to matters political, I noticed a couple polls showing general approval for Donald Trump’s “handling” of the coronoavirus. This should surprise no one: Americans have a storied tradition of rallying around presidents, no matter how pustulant, in times of crisis. How many people watch those moronic noon briefings at which Trump and Mike Pence trade lies as if at the U.S. Open is a question in need of an answer. We weren’t ready in December and January, and here we are. The Bush administration’s slack response to the Al Qaeda threat — no principals meeting until the week before the attacks — has become lore, and we know John Bolton fired the NSC’s global health expert. The extent of the disinterest in anything but the Dow, approval ratings, and what Barack Obama might’ve done is now clear.
Buried at the end of the story lies the real reason for the indifference:
Anything associated with Obama or his administration was also a no-go zone for Trump aides. If you brought them up, “that would be an immediate rejection, like, ‘Why are they even here? Why the fuck did you ask them?’”
And so here I am, readng a mediocre novel and wondering whether it’s safer for my system to stand beside a Publix cashier or spray Lysol down my throat.