Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: Rotaria

 

We’re in lockdown starting Friday at 5 PM, but as far as I was concerned it started today. Wife has an essential-person deferment; so do I. No plans to use it but it’s nice if it’s there. When Wife held up her document stating she could move about freely, it was like a Letter of Transit. I’ll hide it in the piano.

The sun came out and the temps soared. I stood on the porch at the top of the hill and watched all the dog-walkers and moms with strollers. Made a point of waving if they looked up. When I’m walking the dog and I see people coming up the sidewalk, I move to the street, but I wave, and smile. For a few weeks we weren’t looking at each other. Now we need to wave, and smile.

Rotaria, our delightful exchange student who is here for The Duration, had a friend over. Another Rotary student. She’s been recalled to Spain, where Rotaria is also from. She’s the last of her friends to go. It’s been hard for her to watch her friends be repatriated, and this was, well, the Last Sad. They sat outside, six feet apart, and chatted for an hour. Nice kid. I Chloroxed the gate door handles after she left. 

Later Rotaria got an email from her parents, full of dire concerns. Since Spain was ahead of us, we had to prepare for the worst. Her dad sent a list – he wanted to make sure that we had at least a week of food, gloves, masks, sanitizer, and the like. She was able to report that he shouldn’t worry. We have all that and more, and (however she refers to me) is scrupulous about anti-vital habits.

I . . . can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were in her dad’s place. Perhaps I’d be heartened – Minnesota is not Italy, Minneapolis is not a dense city like Barcelona, with everyone packed into picturesque blocks. I told her to send pictures of the back yard and the front yard so he had a sense of the place, how we’re not stacked up on top of other people. I think she feels safe here.

Best of all, Rotaria and Daughter get along crackingly well, and end each night watching Spanish soaps on Netflix. The other night I called up Netflix and noted that Daughter had set up an individual profile for Rotaria with a Spanishesque avatar. Why, that means she’s practically adopted. 

But of course there’s your host family, and there’s your family. Your family speaks your language, and there’s never the occasional misunderstanding because a word’s accented in a particular way. We were talking about relatives and extended families, and Rotaria said that her favorite uncle was the one who put the wire on her head, and I tried figure out what sort of cybernetic procedure that was – ah, baptism. Water in the Catalan accent hit my Nordic ears as wire. 

I was worried when Rotaria read an email and suddenly seemed really happy that she was going to have a problem – but in this case my ears heard “prom,” ran it through it a Spanish-accent preconception filter, and kicked out “problem.” She actually meant prom. The high school is planning to have a prom in June. 

June.

In normal times in these parts, the end of March makes you take stock and set the chocks. April rushes past. May, the peacock of months, seems to be one of those months that doesn’t realize its own unique worth, and sprints towards June, its role model. In normal times in these parts, the end of March is the start of the great good time, and we always wish we could invent a way to make it last longer than it seems to last.

This year, perhaps, it may proceed at the pace we always wanted, for reasons we never expected. We feel like Napoleon’s soldiers on retreat. March is Russia. June is Paris. 

Later that afternoon I came downstairs, whistling. Rotaria was doing homework at the kitchen island. I thought: I’m used to wandering around Jasperwood talking to myself, whistling when I please – this might be annoying. So I said to her that I was aware I whistled now and then, and she should tell me if it’s getting on her nerves, since we’re all here locked down for two weeks.

“Nooooo. My father, he whistle too.”

Ah.

“But it ollwus same song.”

What is it? What’s the song? She didn’t know. I said I would go on the special Spanish Dad YouTube and find it, but of course that’s not a thing and even if it was, I wouldn’t. There will be a day when it’s done and she’s home and every single thing she experienced in her American life will be forgotten, because she is home, and Mom is cooking the breakfast they never made in America, and her father is downstairs too, whistling. It will be the sweetest thing she ever heard. 

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  1. Ontheleftcoast Member

    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    Rotaria is a genus of asexual microorganism known as a bdelloid rotifer

    • #1
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:03 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  2. Jon1979 Lincoln

    James Lileks: Later Rotaria got an email from her parents, full of dire concerns. Since Spain was ahead of us, we had to prepare for the worst. Her dad sent a list – he wanted to make sure that we had at least a week of food, gloves, masks, sanitizer, and the like. She was able to report that he shouldn’t worry. We have all that and more, and (however she refers to me) is scrupulous about anti-vital habits.

    "Padre, no te preocupes por mi salud. El Sr. Lileks es como Felix Unger con sus precauciones de seguridad ..."
    • #2
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:15 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  3. Samuel Block Support

    Jolly days! A fuller house than you’d anticipated. Perhaps the stay in America will be hampered by the pandemonium, but, oddly enough, Spain doesn’t have the same Oomph as a not-America destination when regular-America isn’t cool anymore.

    So, yeah!

    🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    • #3
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:46 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Samuel Block Support

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    James Lileks: Later Rotaria got an email from her parents, full of dire concerns. Since Spain was ahead of us, we had to prepare for the worst. Her dad sent a list – he wanted to make sure that we had at least a week of food, gloves, masks, sanitizer, and the like. She was able to report that he shouldn’t worry. We have all that and more, and (however she refers to me) is scrupulous about anti-vital habits.

    "Padre, no te preocupes por mi salud. El Sr. Lileks es como Felix Unger con sus precauciones de seguridad ..."

    How’d you do that!

    • #4
    • March 27, 2020, at 2:13 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    James Lileks: Later Rotaria got an email from her parents, full of dire concerns. Since Spain was ahead of us, we had to prepare for the worst. Her dad sent a list – he wanted to make sure that we had at least a week of food, gloves, masks, sanitizer, and the like. She was able to report that he shouldn’t worry. We have all that and more, and (however she refers to me) is scrupulous about anti-vital habits.

    "Padre, no te preocupes por mi salud. El Sr. Lileks es como Felix Unger con sus precauciones de seguridad ..."

    How’d you do that!

    Create paragraph in html, then copy and paste to Open Office and adjust font and type size (after it came out too small the first time it posted, hence the edit).

    • #5
    • March 27, 2020, at 3:16 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: When Wife held up her document stating she could move about freely, it was like a Letter of Transit. I’ll hide it in the piano.

    Here’s hoping the searchers aren’t any more musical than Captain Renault.

    • #6
    • March 27, 2020, at 4:32 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If I could whistle, this would be my whistling song.

    Strangely, I have known only one woman who often whistled. It prompted me to write a song called “Whistling Girl”.

    • #7
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Mark Camp Member

    This is Ricochet at its best. (What have we contributed to humanity that we deserve articles by James Lileks? Doesn’t matter.)

    I’ll bring it down a notch with Ricochet at its typical: picking out one idea from the post, and using it to divert attention to myself.

    That idea is ‘father whistling, always the same tune.’ I forgive myself for kidnapping the thought, because it resonated so acutely with me.

    My father always whistled, too, in idle moments, and “it ollwus same song”. The audio-video-olfactory clip that comes to mind now, now that almost all of youth has been deleted from mental long-term storage, is this scene. He is driving a little white Datsun with a stick shift and badly brown-yellowed headliner fabric adding to the acrid stench of past Marlboros coming from the upholstery. We are going on rounds at Ridley Park’s Taylor Hospital, or in the city at Penn. Or to the row houses of Chester or Upper Darby on evening house calls.

    In fact, It ollwus same couple bars from same song. I never heard the rest of the tune. When I heard the song on the radio a few years ago, I learned the name of it: “Fascination”, and at the moment was struck by the question: why had I never asked what song he was whistling?

    • #8
    • March 27, 2020, at 7:11 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: Wife has an essential-person deferment; so do I.

    I am just glad you didn’t have to go to Captain Renault for them.

    • #9
    • March 27, 2020, at 7:59 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. FridayNightEcon Member

    What a delight!

    • #10
    • March 27, 2020, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Always a treat to start the day. Thank you, James.

    • #11
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:39 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. tigerlily Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    James Lileks: When Wife held up her document stating she could move about freely, it was like a Letter of Transit. I’ll hide it in the piano.

    Here’s hoping the searchers aren’t any more musical than Captain Renault.

    I think I’d be more concerned about Signor Ugarte. You could probably bribe Renault.

    • #12
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:45 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Jerminator Member

    I’m shocked. SHOCKED! To hear that there is socializing going on at this house! 

    • #13
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. The Reticulator Member

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    Rotaria is a genus of asexual microorganism known as a bdelloid rotifer

    Yeah, me too. I’ve spent many Minnesota hours looking at rotifers under a microscope.

    • #14
    • March 27, 2020, at 3:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: Later that afternoon I came downstairs, whistling.

    James, are you familiar with the 1940’s radio mystery show The Whistler?

    • #15
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. The Reticulator Member

    Jerminator (View Comment):

    I’m shocked. SHOCKED! To hear that there is socializing going on at this house!

    Isn’t that illegal now? Can’t some governor step in and put a stop to it?

    • #16
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. EB Thatcher
    EB

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    I thought he was going to talk about his Rotary chapter.

    • #17
    • March 27, 2020, at 7:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. kedavis Member

    EB (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    I thought he was going to talk about his Rotary chapter.

    Or some awful new character on some awful new (supposedly) Star Trek show…

    • #18
    • March 28, 2020, at 2:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Randy Webster Member

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    Rotaria is a genus of asexual microorganism known as a bdelloid rotifer

    I remember them from high school biology. The ones with all the cilia, right?

    • #19
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:33 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Randy Webster Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    If I could whistle, this would be my whistling song.

    How about this one:

    • #20
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:39 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. The Reticulator Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    Rotaria is a genus of asexual microorganism known as a bdelloid rotifer

    I remember them from high school biology. The ones with all the cilia, right?

    They have cilia, but they don’t have “all” the cilia. Here’s a public domain photo of one. I don’t know if its genus is Rotaria, but it very well may be. It uses the cilia on the “mouth” end (this part gives the appearance of two whirling disks when seen in action) to create water currents to draw in food particles that it can filter out and ingest. The yummiest food particle to my eyes is ahead of the rotifer and to its right — the multicellular green alga partly hiding behind some gunk. Maybe it’s a Gonium or something along those lines. But it’s probably too big for this rotifer, which is most likely taking in smaller particles. They’re fun to watch; more fun that Ricochet, even.

    Edit: I should have known that you can now watch them on YouTube.

    • #21
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:22 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  22. Randy Webster Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    You know realize once again that your mind has forever been warped by studying biology when you read the headline of this charming piece and think of ponds and rotifers:

    Rotaria is a genus of asexual microorganism known as a bdelloid rotifer

    I remember them from high school biology. The ones with all the cilia, right?

    They have cilia, but they don’t have “all” the cilia. Here’s a public domain photo of one. I don’t know if its genus is Rotaria, but it very well may be. It uses the cilia on the “mouth” end (this part gives the appearance of two whirling disks when seen in action) to create water currents to draw in food particles that it can filter out and ingest. The yummiest food particle to my eyes is ahead of the rotifer and to its right — the multicellular green alga partly hiding behind some gunk. Maybe it’s a Gonium or something along those lines. But it’s probably too big for this rotifer, which is most likely taking in smaller particles. They’re fun to watch; more fun that Ricochet, even.

    Edit: I should have known that you can now watch them on YouTube.

    It’s not the one I was thinking of.

    • #22
    • March 28, 2020, at 6:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Rapporteur Coolidge

    Hi again, all. I rejoined just to follow @jameslileks‘ Dispatches From The Duration. 

    • #23
    • March 28, 2020, at 12:32 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rapporteur (View Comment):

    Hi again, all. I rejoined just to follow @jameslileks‘ Dispatches From The Duration.

    Welcome back!

    • #24
    • March 28, 2020, at 12:56 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Rapporteur Coolidge

    Percival (View Comment):

    Welcome back!

    Thank you!

    • #25
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Doug Watt Moderator

    Nice essay, thank you. I cannot decide who is more fortunate, you or Rotaria. I’m going to call it a draw. By the way when she get’s back home she won’t forget you, or the home, family, and safe harbor that you are providing in this difficult time.

    • #26
    • March 29, 2020, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes