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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.Published in