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Notes from the Edge, A Journal of Social Distancing Part Three

Notes from The Edge:

The Chronicles of my Social Distancing amid the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic

Thursday, March 19th

Sleeping in has become part of the new routine, though there are varying definitions of what that means in our house. I’m up today around 9:30, which seems to be the running average for me, but my two older sons are easily stretching it out to late morning, even early afternoon, and today is no different. Perhaps sleeping in is a defense mechanism, or a natural process, getting us to revert to our ancient circadian rhythms that we’ve been destroying since the harnessing of fire.

I can barely get any work done. ISU’s system gets slower and slower by the day as it gets overwhelmed by traffic. Simply submitting a grade takes up to five minutes, not nanoseconds. Maybe it’s because of my proximity to campus. I don’t know enough about the internet to make an educated guess, or really care at this point.

As has been usual of late, I’m doing a horrible job of avoiding the news. None of it’s good. I spend most of the day working, then read Donovan Wheeler’s excellent piece on locally supporting those who are feeling the economic breakdown.

Mid-afternoon my seventh grader heads over to my sister-in-law’s house to erect her ping pong table outside, under an old pool shelter in her back yard. We’re taking the sport outdoors, a combination of exercise and fresh air. There’s talk of a tournament between the seven of us. I find myself consciously going out to the porch and just breathing, taking solace that I’m not confined by real walls for a moment, though imaginary ones are already being erected at the edges of my lot.

Over Christmas, I bought one of my friends a tactical throwing tomahawk, because he’s hard to buy for (the most content people usually are), and I consider buying one for myself, for when it all goes full Thunder Dome. I don’t think it will come to that, but I mentally earmark some funds for the axe anyway. At the very least it could be fun to throw it into a tree stump or something. It seems very American at the moment.

Keto is quickly falling by the wayside as we search for all the creature comforts we can find, which I hope lasts. Tonight it’s good old frozen pizza, a luxury if you’ve ever known the carb and sugar embargo you must enforce during Keto. I’ll get back on that horse sooner than later, I tell myself, knowing full well it’s probably not true.

Again, the television is our family hearth in the evening. I teach a research and writing course at ISU that focuses on American Popular Culture and I can’t shake my teacher-role, even at home with the kids. We’ve burned through the filmography of Wes Anderson in less than a week, so it’s on to the films of John Hughes, starting tonight with Sixteen Candles.  As we watch, I’m reminded of two things.

First, though I didn’t think it at the time, the 80’s were damn good to me. The sprawling suburbia of the Hughes Universe reminds me of my own experiences in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, riding bikes in a gang of middle-schoolers during summers where the days just bled together.

The second thing that strikes me is that this movie would never be made today. Long Duck Dong, anyone? Sometimes we get so caught up in political correctness and self-victimization that we suck all the fun out of life. We’re horribly judgmental creatures. We even have to laugh at John Hughes behind closed doors, for fear of reprisal. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow night we’ll spend a Saturday in detention at Shermer High School. Go Bulldogs!

Barcus 4

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Friday, March 20th

One week down, and according to the President one week to go, though anyone who believes that shit is delusional, or just a plain old denier. The same people who deny climate change and the fact that flying a confederate flag is racist. I’ve decided to become a sort of denier myself. I’m going to deny the fact that Trump is in charge. I’m making Dr. Anthony Fauci my de facto President, since he seems to be the only voice of reason within the actual President’s orbit. And why not deny? If it’s good for the goose, fight fire with fire, etc. Sometimes denying others seems the only kind of discourse people are willing to engage in. It’s hard to fathom how childish people on both ends of the political spectrum are about everything. They’re sitting in opposite corners, holding their breath until they get what they want, which neither will. I may have to follow our fearless editor’s lead and just give up on the two major parties.

I can’t really get into working. It has nothing to do with technology or being at home. It has everything to do with the fact that I feel paralyzed. Paralyzed by the videos of people packing beaches, parks, and hiking trails. Paralyzed by news of brawls at distant Costco stores. And, by mid-morning, the news comes down that the first case of Covid-19 has been identified in Putnam County. But, we all knew it was coming, me and the deniers. And we know there are probably hundreds of cases out there, on our doorsteps. But many still go about their business, and their pleasure, like it’s all a hoax. That’s probably easier than admitting narcissism or the possibility you might value money more than someone else’s life. And my own circle is not immune to the oblivious approach. I get word that some of my extended family in Illinois, all forever-Trumpers, are planning to throw a cocktail party for their friends. It seems the cure, for many, is a blind eye. I’ll be praying for this lot.

But what the hell? As of 5:00 p.m. today, I’ll officially be on Spring Break. I won’t be in Canada, as planned, though Canada is looking saner by comparison by the minute. But, I am planning to take the time to take a real break. I’ve often lamented my schedule out loud and in the digital pages of this very publication. The endless practices, games, school concerts, math bowl competitions, ballet recitals, pickups, drop offs, rushed dinners, dinners in the car, late nights grading, the commute to Terre Haute, the commute home, and the list could go on ad infinitum. I always wished that I could just be home, with nowhere to go. Now, in a biological twist of fate, I have just that. And there’s no telling for how long. Spring Break. Spring Break forever, y’all.

About Patrick Barcus

Patrick Barcus holds an MFA from Butler University and teaches writing at Indiana State University. He’s the front-man for the local band, Saturday Shoes, and also happens to be one hell of a poet.

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