My quarantine birthday

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Having your birthday in the era of COVID is different. Dinner at a nice restaurant comes to you in a large box. Your friends & colleagues show up, but you all gather on Zoom. Socially distanced cake happens w/ face shields on.

But you know what doesn’t change? The love. I’m so grateful to everyone for taking a few minutes out of their day to stop by and wish me happy birthday via Zoom yesterday, and for my lovely wife for arranging the whole event.

Among a parade of folks from all different parts of my life, my dear friend Matthew Weber showed up in the Zoom chat and was his characteristically amazing self. He wrote three Haikus to celebrate the occasion of my birth, which I shall now reproduce for you in full:

“Renaissance hombre
With a depth of excellence
Parallel to none

A voice and a heart
That is smooth and savory
Foie Gras kind of friend

Mysterious? Yes!
But crack that sweet hardened nut
And your reward? Joy.”

This inspired me to ask us the whole crew to get into a haiku-writing session, and in fact, many great haikus were written impromptu and shared. Here is mine:

“Zoom with all my peeps
Even in mid-pandemic
I’m very lucky”

Even in the middle of everything, there can still be love and kindness. My friends and colleagues are a frequent reminder of this.

Most days

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‘For those of us who are privileged enough to work from home during the pandemic, the events of the past few months have really messed with the notion of time. Days blend into each other. The weekend, while still a much-needed source of rest, doesn’t feel demarcated from the rest of the week anymore. The things we used to look forward to — gatherings with friends, nights out on the town, opening weekends for blockbuster films — have all melted away. We’ve been left with the endless repetition of the daily routine.

The pandemic has had this strange effect of freezing our lives in place. Whatever financial position or professional status you’d achieved by February 2020? That’s basically what you’re going to be stuck with for awhile. The friends you had pre-COVID? If you’re lucky, they’ll still be around when this is all over (but you probably aren’t going to add to their ranks so much during this time).

Most days, I struggle to dream of a future where things get better. Where we’re allowed to dream again. Where people trust in each other, in the idea of truth, in the possibility of a government that is benevolent and that values science and expertise. This whole pandemic has been absolutely shattering.

But there is one thing I do think about. It’s this interview Larry Brilliant to Wired magazine not too long ago. For those of you who don’t know who Larry Brilliant is, he’s one of the scientists that worked to eradicate smallpox (check out his amazing TED talk on the subject here).

When asked whether he was scared or not, Brilliant responded:

I’m in the age group that has a one in seven mortality rate if I get it. If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention. But I’m not scared. I firmly believe that the steps that we’re taking will extend the time that it takes for the virus to make the rounds. I think that, in turn, will increase the likelihood that we will have a vaccine or we will have a prophylactic antiviral in time to cut off, reduce, or truncate the spread. Everybody needs to remember: This is not a zombie apocalypse. It’s not a mass extinction event.

“It’s not a mass extinction event.”

Yes, I will grant that if our bar for comfort right now is “the thing is not a mass extinction event,” things have truly gone off the rails. But for some reason I’ve often reflected on this sentence in recent days.

It often feels like the world is ending. For many people, the pain caused by the sickness or death of loved ones will be irreparable. The financial consequences of the pandemic will be with us for a generation.

But this is not a mass extinction event. It’s not an asteroid that’s going to wipe out all life on Earth. It’s not 28 Days Later. Humanity will survive this.

[It’ll also be up to us what type of society we want to live in afterwards. How much do we want to support the middle class? How do we want our cities to look? Do we still need restaurants? Concerts?]

In Seattle, the governor has announced a phased plan to re-open the economy. Slowly, we are seeing signs of life returning to our streets and our businesses. The farmer’s market has opened back up. Many restaurants I used to go to are now operational, albeit for pick-up/delivery only. It is a process that will take months, at the absolute bare minimum, but it is a process that has begun.

In The New Yorker, James Ross Gardner writes about what it feels like to live in Seattle right now:

For now, we stay at home and wait. And we watch other regions that are in the position we were in weeks before. The wave of casualties and economic destruction that first hit Seattle has long since rolled across the country, every city a replica of our empty, boarded-up own. But here, in the first U.S. state with a confirmed case, the first to log a death, there is cause, however modest, for optimism. We showed that there’s a way to slow the spread. That it could, in fact, be done. At the beginning of all this, at the start of March, as the death count climbed, and we stopped shaking hands and sitting in the same rooms together, I thought of Seattle as living in the laboratory of the nation’s future. I hoped I was wrong. Now I hope I’m right.

I hope so too.

A few other interesting things from around the web:

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Thanks for reading. If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it on social media. Thank you.

Image credit: cottonbro from Pexels