The fact that Shakespeare wrote King Lear in a time of quarantine during the Elizabethan plague has been commented upon by numerous pundits during this unusual time. It should be noted however that the plot of this play centered on three daughters fighting amongst themselves and scheming against their parents, it doesn’t end well for anyone. If you have visited my house these past six weeks, the plot of this tragedy will strike you as eerily familiar. From what I can see, it didn’t really take much imagination on the author’s part to summon this tale from his imagination. Nevertheless, I’ll allow that the Bard was able to harness genius and creativity in the telling of it.
In adapting to these circumstances, unlike Shakespeare, brilliance has yet to descend upon me. I’m struck more by what I’m not doing than by anything I’ve actually accomplished. If you had told me 10 months ago that this day was going to come, I would’ve listed all the things I would do during my confinement. During the day I spend most waking minutes working, but my commute to work is a matter of seconds, I have fewer night events, and no after school activities. I might be working harder during the school day than I did when I was in the school building, but the hours have shrunk to a more finite window. Why aren’t I getting anything done!?
Ten months ago I would’ve told you that by now I would have a physique like a guy doing life in a maximum-security prison. Consider any movie in which Dwayne Johnson escapes from prison (most of them), he comes out ripped! Yet, something about the monotony of quarantine exacts a physical ennui that diffuses any drive I thought I would have under these conditions. I have no ambition to bang out 1000 push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and tricep dips on the side of my bed. Although I discovered some potatoes at the bottom of a pantry that were beginning to ferment into moonshine.
I thought I’d read more. I would have anticipated reading the Canon of Western Literature while in captivity. I was an English major and I actually don’t have too many additional books to fill in the gaps. It’s not that I can’t get my hands on these works of literature, most of them I could download for free on my Kindle. But I’m only on my second “non-work” read since the quarantine. I don’t know about you, but the low hum of anxiety that constitutes the white noise of the crisis interferes with my concentration. It’s difficult to focus on reading when there don’t seem to be enough testing kits in New York.
We binge watch a lot of TV but we could be watching even more. We went through a stage at the beginning of the quarantine where we would watch anything with English subtitles. Perhaps we were just sick of hearing each other speak the English language. A niche genre was the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Who knew Netflix had so many films about these folks? Unorthodox is a four-episode miniseries about a young wife who tries to leave the community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is simply perfect! You should stop whatever you’re doing right now and watch it (unless you are a front line hospital worker, or you are building ventilators and personal protective equipment, then, thank you for your service, stay the course. You can come to my house when this is all over and watch it with us, we’ll make guac [assuming avocados are available again]. I find myself envying people who haven’t seen Game of Thrones, the Sopranos, or the Ken Burns documentary about Jazz, all of which I had already consumed all the way through, twice, before this quarantine began. What can I say, the elliptical machine in my bedroom is nothing if not boring.
I’m not saying this can’t change, there’s always tomorrow, and another day after that. All these days seem to run together in a tangled clump, like the Christmas lights in my attic, another task I haven’t tackled. Dang it!