Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Popcorn and The Duration

 

I suggest we call this period . . . The Duration. 

The Before Times are still close enough so they don’t seem like a dream, passed down by the elders telling tales over the fire. I mean, I remember walking into the hardware store to look for a part. The most normal thing a man can do on a Saturday. It was cold outside; there was popcorn in the back, and no one thought anything of opening the door and helping themselves to a bag. We used a scoop, because we weren’t savages. You chatted with the clerk, petted the store dog, picked up the pen to sign the POS terminal, pushed your way out of the store with your hand on the door, which had a big hammer as a doorknob. You didn’t give a second thought to how many people had touched it.

Why should you?

In three, four years there will be people who have become accustomed again to pushing the hammer without worrying, much. There will be kids who were taught to push the door with their feet, but it’ll seem like old folk superstition to them. There will be popcorn, and there’ll be a dog.

I think what surprises me, and gives me a bit of faith in myself, is the way I’ve reacted to the sudden imposition of the New Ways without losing my sh*t, if I may be frank. I have found my inner Stoic, and discovered was siting around chatting with my inner Fatalist. Both recognized me when I showed up: Yo. About time. 

I absolutely hate the way the world outside my house and car feels like a land of lava and sulfur. But I accept it. Part of this has to do with my suspicion that it is not a land of lava and sulfur, but it is prudent to regard it as such. On Friday I ventured out, which I hate to do because I feel as if it resets the calendar to 0. If it takes 14 days to show symptoms, and I’m good today, well, when last did I go out into the miasma? Never mind: reset the hands to five minutes to self-destruct.

The objective: beer. 

I don’t drink beer. I love it, but you know, carbs. Wife enjoys a beer when she gets home from work. Daughter is allowed a light Heineken in these harrowing times. I have been stocking up over the last month, buying a bit more outside the anticipated rate of depletion, but something happened that is truly indicative of the exigencies of the Duration. Calculation: Governor calls a press conference, does not announce a lockdown. Conclusion: This was done to surface the possibility of a lockdown among the speculating class. Elsewhere, statewide lockdowns are occurring. Strenuous force must be brought to bend the curve. Ergo, the lockdown having been established as a possible norm for the Duration, it will soon become a probable norm. 

Hence the objective: beer. Because you don’t know if one will be allowed to go to the liquor store. 

Side note: I am at the kitchen table right now, and have poured myself a ration of whiskey. I usually snatch a napkin to use as a coaster, for no good reason; the table is stone. But paper products are rationed items now – not because they’re over and done, but because the means to secure them is onerous and the trip not always fruitful. For the first time my hand went to the napkin rack, and I stopped: no. A napkin abjured is a napkin secured. I also found myself making my pot of coffee with fewer grounds, without ever having decided to do so. Something about the Duration stays your hand, instinctively.

Anyway. The liquor store. You’re amused and heartened by the signs in the parking lot: the store has already put an online / phone order system into place, and not only carved our four parking spots for this delivery system, but hung professionally-designed and printed signs that guide you to your spot. There are workers in jackets with portable card readers.

An entirely new modality of getting you hooch arose in a matter of days. 

I go inside. I try not to breathe much. Three checkout lanes; everyone is automatically observing distance. I get what I need and no more, and note the signs that say NO CASH. 

Because cash involves touching. 

This speaks to a vast electronic money system that keeps commerce going, and will continue to do so. Water, money, gas, light: we’re going to hold these things together. The trash was picked up this morning, the most normal thing in the world – except after I’d put the carts away, I imagined how many handles the trashcan had grasped, and I disinfected before I did anything else.

The lady who checked me out at the liquor store was probably 70, and bounteously cheerful. She was the embodiment of Church Basement Ladies, that merry auxiliary you could count upon to brew the coffee and put out the cookies. 

When I got back in my car Birch the dog was anxious, but relieved to see me. I stowed the beer and turned on the ignition, and the car nagged me to connect my phone to the global interconnected information system. FINE. I backed up –

. . . and crunch, hit a car that was also backing up. Ah damn. New car, too. Got out, checked the damage, expecting crumples. Just a white streak on the rear quarter panel. Rubbed right off. Well this day was turning out to be a win-win all around.

Went home and joined an online Slack channel for work: Happy Hour! All the reporters in our section got online and chatted. The boss had a glass of white, and showed off her tulips. The hard-core true reporter-type guy had a bourbon. We shared kudos all around for getting the paper out; I gave an account of my trip to the deserted office. It was good to see them all. The mood was merry. This was the new way of things, for the Duration.

Napped, fitfully, then woke to await the pizza delivery. Sat on the big marble slab on the living room radiator with Daughter and dog, the place that’s warm in cold times. Talked about past trials. When the pizza came it was handed off like a nuclear fuel rod: no contact.

Disinfect before you open the box. It’s what you do and you don’t mind and don’t even check yourself. 

It was an excellent pizza.

I did the second podcast of the day, same as every Friday. I poured a bourbon at 10 PM, same as every Friday. I’m about to watch some TV and have some popcorn and ice cream, same as any Friday. The absence of a coaster-napkin seems a small thing. 

But: I just used the last microwave popcorn bag in the cupboard. I know I have three boxes in the stores, but I make a note: next expedition, buy bulk.

One of the things I look forward to resuming: Not even giving a passing thought to the popcorn stocks. Except I don’t think I ever will. I was keen to note when we were getting low before, but now I think, well, the expectations of immediate, frictionless replenishment have been proven unreliable. Act accordingly.

To put it in context: I’m not concerned there won’t be microwave popcorn. I’m concerned there won’t be my favorite kind. An important distinction, and a heartening one.

During WW2 things were unavailable . . . for The Duration. Men who had been drafted and left their desks were gone . . . for The Duration. It was understood what this meant. It was defined, but undefined. It was however long it took. 

Right now we have everything we need, and I am grateful. The most important things, aside from the material needs, are perspective, focus, patience, and hope. And the greater of these, as the saying goes, is whiskey.

No – that’s not right. Ah heck. It’s late. You know what I mean. I’m good.

Also, the calendar reset to zero again. The Stoic and the Fatalist nod: it does so every day. You just never knew it.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Someone should give this guy Post of the Week. 

    • #1
    • March 21, 2020, at 2:40 AM PDT
    • 28 likes
  2. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: I also found myself making my pot of coffee with fewer grounds, without ever having decided to do so.

    Ha, I just got my quarterly coffee shipment in. I’m good for 3-4 months! 

    Automatic bean grinder, Single-source whole bean coffee from who-knows-where and a great drip maker. I am set!

    • #2
    • March 21, 2020, at 5:36 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Stad Thatcher

    I’m down to my last six pack of . . . wait for it . . . Corona. I’ve been taking advantage of Papa John’s 50% off on Mondays coupon and stock up, living off pizza for the next three days. It’s like being back in college, but the pizza has been upgraded from the 89 cent A&P frozen pizzas I lived on as an undergrad . . .

    So James, thank you for sharing your personal routine with us. It lets us know we’re all in this together.

    James Lileks: I don’t drink beer.

    We all have our flaws. What do you drink?

    • #3
    • March 21, 2020, at 5:44 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks for being professional not in panic mode

    • #4
    • March 21, 2020, at 5:55 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):

    I’m down to my last six pack of . . . wait for it . . . Corona. I’ve been taking advantage of Papa John’s 50% off on Mondays coupon and stock up, living off pizza for the next three days. It’s like being back in college, but the pizza has been upgraded from the 89 cent A&P frozen pizzas I lived on as an undergrad . . .

    So James, thank you for sharing your personal routine with us. It lets us know we’re all in this together.

    James Lileks: I don’t drink beer.

    We all have our flaws. What do you drink?

    The salty tears of commies.

    • #5
    • March 21, 2020, at 5:59 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Blondie Thatcher

    This rationing thing won’t be hard for those of us reared in households by depression era parents or just plain poor. You only use what you need and for goodness sake don’t waste the toilet paper. Thanks for your account, James. Y’all stay well. 

    • #6
    • March 21, 2020, at 6:08 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. cirby Member

    My only food worry has been whether my favorite brands of not-that-popular things will drop off the inventory at the local Publix. So, starting in January (yes, I’ve been aware of the problem that long), I started grabbing the occasional “extra.”

    So now I have four jars of Wickles pickles, three jars of Wickles relish, six bottles of Crystal hot sauce, and various other things that I’d be annoyed to be without.

    …and I still have that nagging “what if the company goes out of business because of all this?” feeling.

    I have what would normally be a several-month supply of liquor, because I just don’t drink that much. Well, usually. So I’ll probably make a run to the local alcohol warehouse and grab one more bottle of that expensive tipple. Just because.

     

    • #7
    • March 21, 2020, at 6:53 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Rodin Member

    Shared broadly. (Two thumbs up)

    • #8
    • March 21, 2020, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. TallCon Coolidge

    Wait, second podcast? What’s the other one? 

    • #9
    • March 21, 2020, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Stad Thatcher

    cirby (View Comment):
    I have what would normally be a several-month supply of liquor, because I just don’t drink that much.

    Same here. Our liquor cabinet is overflowing because we almost always drink beer and wine. The problem is we buy booze every time we go on a cruise because it’s so cheap (duty free) . . .

    • #10
    • March 21, 2020, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  11. danys Thatcher
    danys Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hence the objective: beer. Because you don’t know if one will be allowed to go to the liquor store. 

    Ricochetti rightly lambast my California but even California recognizes certain unassailable truths: alcoholic beverages are essential. Wine stores & liquor stores are open during our state-wide “Safer at Home” mode. 

    • #11
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. TallCon Coolidge

    danys (View Comment):

    Hence the objective: beer. Because you don’t know if one will be allowed to go to the liquor store.

    Ricochetti rightly lambast my California but even California recognizes certain unassailable truths: alcoholic beverages are essential. Wine stores & liquor stores are open during our state-wide “Safer at Home” mode.

    Arizona has that beat: we legalized alcohol delivery for the duration while we closed the bars. 

    • #12
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. MarciN Member

    My daughter and son-in-law are living in Manhattan. My daughter is in the middle of a three-year residency program. A month ago, I begged her to come to the Cape, to get out of the city, which I knew would be a hot zone. She refused saying, “Why would I bring this bug to the Cape?” So she and her husband are staying and they are helping others. It’s a grim place to be right now. If people have the inclination, it’s a good time to pray for the people in New York City. 

    • #13
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. aardo vozz Member

    James Lileks:

    … I get what I need and no more, and note the signs that say NO CASH.

    Because cash involves touching.

    This speaks to a vast electronic money system that keeps commerce going, and will continue to do so.

    Love the post @jameslileks, but what happens to the vast electronic money system that keeps commerce going if there is a blackout?

    • #14
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. cirby Member

    TallCon (View Comment):

    danys (View Comment):

    Hence the objective: beer. Because you don’t know if one will be allowed to go to the liquor store.

    Ricochetti rightly lambast my California but even California recognizes certain unassailable truths: alcoholic beverages are essential. Wine stores & liquor stores are open during our state-wide “Safer at Home” mode.

    Arizona has that beat: we legalized alcohol delivery for the duration while we closed the bars.

    The same in Florida, at least on a county-by-county basis.

    I just went out, and while there’s a fair amount of traffic, it’s bordering on “Christmas afternoon” mode. Home Depot was busy, though, with lots of people buying “make the house pretty” stuff, like gardening supplies and plants.

    I’m also starting to plan my takeout food rotation: which restaurants am I going to order from each week, in order to help keep them afloat while keeping my bank account intact? I think the one local sandwich shop is going to get a couple of orders per week, because 1) They’re really that good, and 2) I need them to stay around.

    • #15
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:46 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Doug Kimball Thatcher

    There is hope! There is real evidence that Cloroquine and Hydochoroquine (both forms of synthetic quinine) work as both a prophylactic treatment and curative agent for the WuFlu (Covid 19 or Sars CoV 2). There is also reason to believe that vitamin C strengthens the immune system. And we know that ethanol kills the virus. So I suggest that everyone make yet one more excursion to the market, buy a few quarts of tonic water, some limes and some gin (regular Tanqueray is my personal favorite.) Then begin regular doses of gin and tonic with a generous squeeze of lime (tonic water is infused with real quinine, not the artificial stuff.) This will provide quinine, vitamin C and ethanol.

    It will also make you feel better. I suggest no more than three to four doses within a two hour duration. Caution: pregnancy may be a side effect for some women. Drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and headaches can occur. Do not shop on-line while taking this medication.

    • #16
    • March 21, 2020, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Nick H Coolidge

    James Lileks: I have found my inner Stoic, and discovered was siting around chatting with my inner Fatalist. Both recognized me when I showed up: Yo. About time.

    My oldest and best friends. 

    • #17
    • March 21, 2020, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Richard Fulmer Member

    James Lileks: You need to rethink naming the time of mass self-isolation, “The Duration.” The phrase leads to some wording oddities. For example:

    “What did you do during the duration of The Duration, Grandpa?”

    “Well, sweetie, I was in it for the duration.”

    • #18
    • March 21, 2020, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  19. Richard Fulmer Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    buy a few quarts of tonic water

    I expect that quinine water quickly went the way of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and acetaminophen.

    • #19
    • March 21, 2020, at 11:29 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Suspira Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    My only food worry has been whether my favorite brands of not-that-popular things will drop off the inventory at the local Publix. So, starting in January (yes, I’ve been aware of the problem that long), I started grabbing the occasional “extra.”

    So now I have four jars of Wickles pickles, three jars of Wickles relish, six bottles of Crystal hot sauce, and various other things that I’d be annoyed to be without.

    …and I still have that nagging “what if the company goes out of business because of all this?” feeling.

    I have what would normally be a several-month supply of liquor, because I just don’t drink that much. Well, usually. So I’ll probably make a run to the local alcohol warehouse and grab one more bottle of that expensive tipple. Just because.

     

    Six bottles of Crystal hot sauce? Good heavens, man, do you drink it?

    • #20
    • March 21, 2020, at 3:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    danys (View Comment):

    Hence the objective: beer. Because you don’t know if one will be allowed to go to the liquor store.

    Ricochetti rightly lambast my California but even California recognizes certain unassailable truths: alcoholic beverages are essential. Wine stores & liquor stores are open during our state-wide “Safer at Home” mode.

    I suspect computer models predicted store closures would cause Acquisition by Non-monetary Means.

    • #21
    • March 21, 2020, at 3:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. kedavis Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Someone should give this guy Post of the Week.

    As I noted elsewhere, Employees of Post Of The Week, and their families, are not eligible. :-)

    • #22
    • March 21, 2020, at 4:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. kedavis Member

    James Lileks: The trash was picked up this morning, the most normal thing in the world – except after I’d put the carts away, I imagined how many handles the trashcan had grasped, and I disinfected before I did anything else.

    I don’t know how primitive Minnesocold might still be, but around here, there is no manual handling of the… containers (not really cans any more)… during pickup. The trucks have a largely-automated (because the containers are all the same) mechanical arm that does the work. Fewer union healthcare claims for back pain, don’cha’know.

    • #23
    • March 21, 2020, at 4:22 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. kedavis Member

    TallCon (View Comment):

    Wait, second podcast? What’s the other one?

    I guess he still does a Friday “show” with Duane Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt Show. I gave up on them some time ago. Technical issues they refuse to fix – including comment/message boards that haven’t worked for YEARS! – etc, and yet they still charge $7.50/month on a monthly basis. For just ONE show/host! Someone at Ricochet should put some ads on the Hugh show, pointing out the DOZENS of podcasts available, and WORKING forums etc, for as little as… what is it now, $4/month minimum?

    • #24
    • March 21, 2020, at 4:37 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. kedavis Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):
    I have what would normally be a several-month supply of liquor, because I just don’t drink that much.

    Same here. Our liquor cabinet is overflowing because we almost always drink beer and wine. The problem is we buy booze every time we go on a cruis because it’s so cheap (duty free) . . .

    Good thing you stocked up, then, cuz there may not be any cruis(e)s for a while.

    • #25
    • March 21, 2020, at 4:39 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks

    kedavis (View Comment):
    I guess he still does a Friday “show” with Duane Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt Show. I gave up on them some time ago.

    I was comped a membership, and I still couldn’t get it to work after a while. 

    I do enjoy the weekly show with Duane. It’s usually a chance to do a strange sort of improv. At least it was, before. 

    • #26
    • March 21, 2020, at 7:49 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks

    TBA (View Comment):
    Ricochetti rightly lambast my California but even California recognizes certain unassailable truths: alcoholic beverages are essential.

    Just read a news article that said alcohol depressed your ability to fight of COVID, and the comments were all . . . 

    • #27
    • March 21, 2020, at 7:55 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  28. kedavis Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    I guess he still does a Friday “show” with Duane Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt Show. I gave up on them some time ago.

    I was comped a membership, and I still couldn’t get it to work after a while

    If you mean the comments etc, those have been non-functional for something like 3 years now. Apparently they added some kind of “firewall” thing that was supposed to block all those ads and stuff that used to show up before, but what it did was break EVERYTHING. And up to when I left, nobody had lifted a finger to fix it.

    I tried contacting “customer service” a few times, but all I got was Spicoli.

    I also got tired of screw-ups where segments or even whole shows were lost, or never made to start with. You’d think for a “professional” outfit so highly dependent on computers and such, they would have heard of a UPS. (“Surge protectors” are useless. Especially when PG&E or SCE turns your power OFF for hours.)

    And Duane’s standard response to any kind of problem seems to be “If you don’t like it, leave.”

    So I did.

    You continuing to go along with them, probably doesn’t help anything get fixed. But that’s a separate issue. They still can’t get you on in the early morning show, unless that’s changed. And it probably keeps them from getting a lot of other great guests too such as VDH, at least most of the time. I heard them say that many of their morning listeners are people who have been drinking since the previous afternoon and haven’t gone to bed yet. But it seems they’re still oddly proud of HOW MANY of those, they get.

    At some point I may use the 99-cent-first-month thing again (they have no idea how many emails I have!) and just suck down all of your stuff at once. 

    But so far, thanks to Ricochet, I really haven’t missed Hewitt .

    • #28
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. kedavis Member

    The previous post was already at the word limit anyway, but I had a few more thoughts.

    Sure, Hewitt (Patterson) has Lileks once a week, “when we are lucky,” as they say – or at least used to say – about both you and Mark Steyn (who also doesn’t get on their early-morning show).

    But Ricochet has Lileks AND Rob Long! Plus VDH, and so much more. And even The Sub-Beacon is more informative and entertaining than Hugh has become. (Supposedly Sub-Beacon… co-host?… JVL is a Never-Trump-er, but it doesn’t come up every 5 seconds like with Jonah Goldberg.)

    On top of all that, add WORKING forums and comment sections, etc, and… what’s not to love?

    • #29
    • March 21, 2020, at 8:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. cirby Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):

    My only food worry has been whether my favorite brands of not-that-popular things will drop off the inventory at the local Publix. So, starting in January (yes, I’ve been aware of the problem that long), I started grabbing the occasional “extra.”

    So now I have four jars of Wickles pickles, three jars of Wickles relish, six bottles of Crystal hot sauce, and various other things that I’d be annoyed to be without.

    Six bottles of Crystal hot sauce? Good heavens, man, do you drink it?

    Might as well. I use it on a lot of different foods, and it’s fairly mild stuff so I use more than (for example) the Habanero sauces. I put it in my hot dog water, I dip burritos in it, et cetera.

    The last time I bought this much was when Katrina flooded the factory, and I knew they were going to be shut down for a long time. I ran out the week after it showed up at Publix again (but I also gave a bottle to one of my neighbors after he complained he couldn’t find any).

    • #30
    • March 21, 2020, at 11:33 PM PDT
    • 3 likes