Risky Business


It’s frightening to realize I am one of the “at risk.”

It’s never been that way before. I always considered myself one of the Indestructible — I don’t get sick, I don’t miss work, even though I don’t take good care of myself.

Given that coronavirus is fatal to a lot of older people, I decided to self quarantine. I would stay home for the rest of the week and Karen would do the same. No contact with any other humans — none. I planned out a menu, we made a King Kullen run, and pulled up the drawbridge. I planned a pasta dish with artichokes and sausage meat. Karen forgot the artichokes; I forgot the sausage.

I decided to adopt the same attitude they had in the Middle Ages when a castle was under siege: survive. “We’ll slaughter a horse!” I proclaimed. You can imagine how that went over.

Karen grabbed a dozen movies from the library: all chick flicks. Middle aged women who join poetry clubs. An 84-year old who goes back to school and becomes a Swahili social worker. A woman who has a foot amputated and becomes a Pogo champ. Welcome to my world. “Does anyone get beheaded in any of these movies, dear?” I asked meekly.

After a hearty portion of celery and hummus, another wonderful surprise — the NBA was suspending the entire season. That means NO GAMES to wager on. Ouch! I don’t feel so good.

The funny thing is there were two dozen students quarantined at Southampton College in the dorms. No offense to SUNY, which took it over and kept the campus alive, but the bathrooms in the dorms didn’t work 20 years ago when I taught there, and I doubt the situation improved much. Talk about roughing it.

We went to Suffolk Theater Saturday night and it was sold out. Karen, to be honest, wasn’t overly thrilled being  amid the crowd. I adopted “the vodka will kill it” defense. John Lodge of the Moody Blues, the headliner, is 74. If indeed coronavirus attacks the elderly, it would have latched onto him. Truth is, he sounded great, but looked old. I spoke to him about being at Carnegie Hall 50 years ago — he was a baby then. The whole band, just a bunch of kids with a hot sound who wanted to play their music because it was important, and it meant something. It did, and it does. Time has moved the albums from “New Age” to “Oldies” and moved us along with them.

I stared at him giving his all, breathing heavily, face puffed, and standing proudly for the applause even as the other band members left the stage. I saw a solitary figure perhaps holding the pose a moment too long, guitar raised triumphantly over his head. As the applause began to weaken, I realized every moment of adulation may be his last, and he wants — needs — to absorb the love.

Thursday, Karen announced we forgot to get dog food while we were stocking up. “Give him some of the horse,” I suggested.

Friday, the grilled filet mignon had to be put on hold because I forgot to buy the meat and we were out of charcoal.

By the weekend, I began to forget what civilization was like. I feel like I live in the mountains and I go down to town twice a year to get a 50-pound sack of beans, 100 pounds of flour, and a slab of bacon, and so on. “I’ll git me some peppermint candies, and some tobackey,” I tell myself. “And if Doc Schellinger is still alive, some new teeth.”

“Better stop at the liquor store,” Karen said. True. Medicinal purposes. We may need to pour vodka on the open wounds.

I better start writing. I still work, even if it’s from home. I’ll have plenty of time now because I don’t have to take showers.

Bottom line: I feel we are more than halfway through this thing. I’ll get the quarantine thing down, but it will be hard. Karen doesn’t want French toast because she blames the virus on the French. I forgot to get almond milk and got Half & Half. I forgot to get seven-grain crackers and got Pop-Tarts, I forgot to get chicken and got Hungry Man, and I cleaned out the endangered pastry section trying to save what I can from extinction.

And if I have to throw myself a James Bond lifeline then damn it, I will.

Toughen up kiddies. Show your resolve. Let’s pull it together and beat this thing so we can protect our families and get back to betting on professional sports.

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