Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: Thank You So Much

 

Left the house after a week in lock-down. I’ve been deemed “essential,” so I can move about freely. If stopped, I present my media credentials and hope for the first time in my career the name isn’t familiar. You’re the columnist whose wry, fractured take on modern life consists mostly of exaggeration and invention designed to elevate your inner monologue into a simulacrum of a larger truth? Go home.

I was off to investigate two things, one of which I have to save for my column. Quick drive to the City Center, and let’s just say there was no shortage of on-street parking spots. Minneapolis prices the meters depending on proximity to the business core, and the canny vet knows which blocks give you two hours for a buck-twenty five, and which charge four dollars for the same interval. There are some curious seams where the difference between the two rates is a matter of yards.

The expensive slots were empty. The cheap slots were full. It was somehow heartening to see a downtown street lined with parked cars. It felt normal. Alas, the main function of feeling that something is normal these days is simply to remind you how it’s not. Things that would never stand out are now nine feet tall and firing flare guns. 

Like the daily mail delivery. The mailman or mailwoman – it varies – is now firmly in Kevin-Costner movie territory, performing their rounds with stubborn tenacity, delivering things that serve no purpose but must be delivered simply because they have been sent, and this carries a professional imperative. Today it was a circular for home improvement and a cruise-ship enticement. Birch the dog whips himself into a spittle-flecked frenzy at the mailman’s shameless encroachment of our den’s perimeter; I think if the mailman stopped and relieved himself on a tree the dog would explode at the audacity of it all. 

I think: if they cut down residential mail delivery to three times a week, because of The Covidian Situation, few would care. The land is being scoured, and while we will want the basic attributes of normalcy to return, they need not return in all their previous detail. 

The daily paper still shows up, although it’s thin. It’s Franz-Kafka-with-a-wracking-cough thin. This is to be expected. Other papers whose short-sighted blood-sucking owners drained the newsrooms of resources are furloughing reporters; we are tightening things up but still going full-force on coverage no one else will provide in such breadth and detail, and one of the reasons we powering through this ghastly interlude is because we’re owned by a FARGIN’ BILLIONAIRE, you miserable fargin’ Bernie Bro Jacobins. 

Doesn’t mean we won’t take a haircut, but for now we have a readership grateful for what we’re doing: telling the local stories. 

Anyway. I park and walk to my destination. Cross the street when anyone else is approaching. Downtown is empty and inert, but it’s not as if it’s dead. It’s in a medically-induced coma. We’ll come back, and we’ll wear masks for a while and sanitize a lot and keep our distance, but summer will find us back, walking around, basking, exultant. I am filled with love for the future.

A guy on the opposite street corner waiting for the light to change spits on the ground, and I am filled with fury for the quantity of idiocy that still abounds, and wish I could call down Rodan from an old Japanese monster movie and incinerate his spittle on the spot. Him too while you’re at it.

I get to my objective. It’s the downtown Target store. There are barricades outside – no, those are chutes designed to funnel traffic. That suggests people line up early to get in, or they’re restricting access, or both. There are about ten people milling around the front of the store, and this seems entirely too many. From dress and behavior they’re the people who just wander downtown all day. Disputations and loud booze talk. Wiiiide berth.

Across the street there’s a police car parked on the sidewalk. It’s now SOP to have a black-and-white by the Target, I guess. New Normal! Got it, makes sense, you never know, won’t last, no prob.

Won’t last, right?

I take my picture and head back to the car. I consider going up to the office to replenish my hand sanitizer, but no, I’m good, and going indoors would involve a suite of touching maneuvers and enclosed spaces, and I want to chalk this outing as friction-free zipless excursion that doesn’t reset the calendar.

A thought enters my mind, and it’s a dangerous one. 

I’m not going to get this.

Which seems like someone who stormed Normandy, made it off the landing craft past the barbed wire to the shelter of the cliff, and thinks: well so far so good.

That said: so far, so good.

The picture I took? It was on the sidewalk outside of Target, intended for the workers who show up every day.

Beauty and gratitude.

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  1. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Dang it, right in the cockles! 

    • #1
    • April 1, 2020, at 11:07 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    FWIW, The Postman, the movie, is rightly mocked, but the novel it’s based on by David Brin is very good.

    • #2
    • April 1, 2020, at 11:36 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. John A Peabody Member
    John A Peabody Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    But…but…there’s celery.

    • #3
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:35 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Stad Thatcher

    James Lileks: I’ve been deemed “essential,” so I can move about freely. If stopped, I present my media credentials and hope for the first time in my career the name isn’t familiar.

    Our local paper, the Aiken Standard (we call it the “Substandard”), proudly boasts they are deemed an “essential” service. Interesting, given its circulation is a little over 17,000 in a town of 30,000, in a county of 170,000. Seems like most of the local citizens have deemed our paper non-essential. Of course, some folks might read it on line.

    Still, I’m glad to see you’re able to move about freely without being wrestled to the ground by some burly police officer . . .

    • #4
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:47 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: A guy on the opposite street corner waiting for the light to change spits on the ground, and I am filled with fury for the quantity of idiocy that still abounds, and wish I could call down Rodan from an old Japanese monster movie and incinerate his spittle on the spot. Him too while you’re at it

    I’m sure there’s a Federation phaser setting for that.

    • #5
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:54 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Hoyacon Member

    Wondering already if the state fair will go on as planned. I’m guessing no, but I’m kind of a downer.

    • #6
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:19 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: the columnist whose wry, fractured take on modern life consists mostly of exaggeration and invention designed to elevate your inner monologue into a simulacrum of a larger truth?

    JamesL,

    Nice. Does this fit on your business card?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  8. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jim Chase (View Comment):

    James Lileks: A guy on the opposite street corner waiting for the light to change spits on the ground, and I am filled with fury for the quantity of idiocy that still abounds, and wish I could call down Rodan from an old Japanese monster movie and incinerate his spittle on the spot. Him too while you’re at it

    I’m sure there’s a Federation phaser setting for that.

    Or you could chill out. It is not as if spittle on the ground is going to infect anyone who does not get on all fours and lick. 

     

     

    • #8
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    James Lileks: the columnist whose wry, fractured take on modern life consists mostly of exaggeration and invention designed to elevate your inner monologue into a simulacrum of a larger truth?

    JamesL,

    Nice. Does this fit on your business card?

    Regards,

    Jim

    “Gadfly” might sum it up.

    • #9
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:58 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    iWe (View Comment):
    It is not as if spittle on the ground is going to infect anyone who does not get on all fours and lick.

    It’s unlikely to spread the contagion, but still needless and unwise. I can imagine three scenarios by which germs on the ground get passed to the hand. 

    1) You step in an inch-deep puddle with the contagion and return home. You grab the heels of your shoes to remove them. 

    2) Your dog steps in the contagion. You return home and the dog jumps on the couch, per usual. Or the dog stands to put its front paws on your waist during play or while being pet. 

    3) Kids. Little kids frequently carry germs from the ground where they play. 

    I’m the opposite of a germophobe. I will eat something that’s fallen into dirt or onto concrete where people walk. (And I haven’t needed a doctor in decades.) But right now spitting anywhere is like cussing — a very minor habit to sacrifice for the comfort of others. 

    • #10
    • April 2, 2020, at 7:56 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    I’m the opposite of a germophobe. I will eat something that’s fallen into dirt or onto concrete where people walk.

    Five second rule. You’re good as long as it’s less than five seconds.

    • #11
    • April 2, 2020, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Mark Camp Member

    Left the house after a week in lock-down. I’ve been deemed “essential,” so I can move about freely. If stopped, I present my media credentials and hope for the first time in my career the name isn’t familiar. You’re the columnist whose wry, fractured take on modern life consists mostly of exaggeration and invention designed to elevate your inner monologue into a simulacrum of a larger truth? Go home.

    “Wait a minute…who wrote this!?”

    [Self: Camper, you’ve just got to start reading bylines before you read the article.]

    We Ricocheteers are accustomed to bending every sinew to the task of writing well, and to writing humor well (harder). 

     Accustomed to the effort, but not to the success. So we are unaccustomed to reading a writer who seems to do both perfectly and without effort.

     

     

    • #12
    • April 2, 2020, at 8:26 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  13. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “deemed essential”

    Damn straight you’re essential. Don’t ever doubt it.

    • #13
    • April 2, 2020, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    I’m the opposite of a germophobe. I will eat something that’s fallen into dirt or onto concrete where people walk.

    Five second rule. You’re good as long as it’s less than five seconds.

    It’s good as long as you can’t see or taste the contaminant. But if you didn’t see it fall to the ground, assume it’s the devil’s bait by way of radioactive squirrels.

    • #14
    • April 2, 2020, at 9:44 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: Across the street there’s a police car parked on the sidewalk. It’s now SOP to have a black-and-white by the Target, I guess. New Normal! Got it, makes sense, you never know, won’t last, no prob.

    I can go this one better: Our local grocery store has a uniformed sheriff’s deputy in the store – assigned to work the toilet paper aisle.

    • #15
    • April 2, 2020, at 10:44 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    James Lileks: I’ve been deemed “essential,” so I can move about freely. If stopped, I present my media credentials and hope for the first time in my career the name isn’t familiar.

    Our local paper, the Aiken Standard (we call it the “Substandard”), proudly boasts they are deemed an “essential” service. Interesting, given its circulation is a little over 17,000 in a town of 30,000, in a county of 170,000. Seems like most of the local citizens have deemed our paper non-essential. Of course, some folks might read it on line.

    Still, I’m glad to see you’re able to move about freely without being wrestled to the ground by some burly police officer . . .

    The rest of @stad’s thought: “A voluptuous police officer would be a whole different story.”

    • #16
    • April 2, 2020, at 10:55 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Richard Fulmer Member

    Jim Chase (View Comment):

    James Lileks: A guy on the opposite street corner waiting for the light to change spits on the ground, and I am filled with fury for the quantity of idiocy that still abounds, and wish I could call down Rodan from an old Japanese monster movie and incinerate his spittle on the spot. Him too while you’re at it

    I’m sure there’s a Federation phaser setting for that.

    Set your phasers on dummy slap.

    • #17
    • April 2, 2020, at 11:23 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Richard Fulmer Member

    James Lileks: Like the daily mail delivery… Today it was a circular for home improvement and a cruise-ship enticement.

    Since you’re so essential and all, please talk to the President and ask him to ban junk mail for the duration. No point in risking mailpersons’ lives delivering virus-infested cruise-ship enticements that will just end up in the trashcan anyway.

    • #18
    • April 2, 2020, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Richard Fulmer Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    So we are unaccustomed to reading a writer who seems to do both perfectly and without effort.

    Writing is always an effort. Writing well is a big effort. Writing seemingly without effort is an enormous effort. It’s like ice skating; the great ones make it look easy. Don’t try this at home.

    • #19
    • April 2, 2020, at 11:31 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I stopped by an essential gardening store today. Our weather is great today, so their business is booming. 

    • #20
    • April 2, 2020, at 11:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Goddess of Discord Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Jim Chase (View Comment):

    James Lileks: A guy on the opposite street corner waiting for the light to change spits on the ground, and I am filled with fury for the quantity of idiocy that still abounds, and wish I could call down Rodan from an old Japanese monster movie and incinerate his spittle on the spot. Him too while you’re at it

    I’m sure there’s a Federation phaser setting for that.

    Or you could chill out. It is not as if spittle on the ground is going to infect anyone who does not get on all fours and lick.

     

    @IWE. It could get on someone’s shoes and get tracked into another building,

     

    • #21
    • April 2, 2020, at 12:05 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. aardo vozz Member

    @jameslileks, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t Target a Minnesota corporation? (And was the original corporation Dayton-Hudson?). 

     

     

    • #22
    • April 2, 2020, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. SParker Member

    iWe (View Comment):

    Jim Chase (View Comment):

    James Lileks: A guy on the opposite street corner waiting for the light to change spits on the ground, and I am filled with fury for the quantity of idiocy that still abounds, and wish I could call down Rodan from an old Japanese monster movie and incinerate his spittle on the spot. Him too while you’re at it

    I’m sure there’s a Federation phaser setting for that.

    Or you could chill out. It is not as if spittle on the ground is going to infect anyone who does not get on all fours and lick.

     

     

    Probably not, but since TB was the reason for “don’t spit on the sidewalk” laws still on the books I’m pretty sure everywhere, you just never know. Which leads to the happy thought that my grandfather died of TB and that it was an extremely popular thing to die from in 1927. At least we’re not there or anywhere even vaguely close to there.

    • #23
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    Your columns are essential reading to get through the Duration! Thank you!

    • #24
    • April 2, 2020, at 3:50 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  25. Southern Pessimist Member

    I am not normally a germaphobe but I also have never had will power. That is why I have always said that I am glad I never smoked tobacco or snorted cocaine. I don’t have the will power to pass up a French fry on a parking lot.

    • #25
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:14 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  26. Rapporteur Coolidge

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    It’s unlikely to spread the contagion, but still needless and unwise. I can imagine three scenarios by which germs on the ground get passed to the hand.

    1) You step in an inch-deep puddle with the contagion and return home. You grab the heels of your shoes to remove them.

    Or something like this happens, perhaps? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2o-3Gn9xFg

    • #26
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:02 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks

    aardo vozz (View Comment):

    @jameslileks, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t Target a Minnesota corporation? (And was the original corporation Dayton-Hudson?).

     

     

    Yes, it is! And we’re proud of it. I was at the store in the downtown Target Office complex, which is huge.

    • #27
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:28 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. kedavis Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    I’m the opposite of a germophobe. I will eat something that’s fallen into dirt or onto concrete where people walk.

    Five second rule. You’re good as long as it’s less than five seconds.

    Except in China.

    • #28
    • April 2, 2020, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. kedavis Member

    John A Peabody (View Comment):

    But…but…there’s celery.

    What if they’re leeks? Or scallions? Or bok choy?

    • #29
    • April 2, 2020, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    kedavis (View Comment):

    John A Peabody (View Comment):

    But…but…there’s celery.

    What if they’re leeks? Or scallions? Or bok choy?

    Bok Choy is one of the least effective martial arts in all of China. 

    • #30
    • April 2, 2020, at 7:59 PM PDT
    • 3 likes