Another Monday in this quarantine-land. La-La-Land gone almost apocalyptic. I look outside and see the sunshine, new flowers in their beds, I hear the sound of birds, a cat’s meow, and cars out on Huntington. For a moment I can pretend that I don’t need a mask to go out. That I can really only go out to get groceries or gas. Essentials to fill one hunger up, or the other. You can still buy booze. You can still go to the local dispensary to get high. You can drive through Starbucks and get your Frap-fix. But, we can’t go to the library, the museums, the parks, the beach.
I’m not complaining. I’m lucky. I know I am. I have a roof over my head. I have a job I can still do. I’m able to support my family. I can cook and bake and feed them all regularly. I can meet-up with my writing group to give each other feedback (and mostly to connect and say we’re all still here). I have books and music, Netflix, my creativity, my heart and mind, and soul. I have a garage to work out in, three cats that delight, a new plant to name, and take care of. I’m not complaining. I know I’m lucky. I know I am.
But, I miss things. I miss seeing people’s faces. I smile underneath my mask, I smile deliberately, with intent. I smile as big as I can hoping it will reach my eyes. I try not to panic. I try not to notice the panic that’s everywhere. My daughter hand sews masks from old tee-shirts. I order a few from an artist I love. I try not to think of how this feels like a horror movie, like something out of the books we read my senior year. That this isn’t the future I thought was just fiction. I think this is only temporary. This will pass. We will all be together again soon.
Its been weeks though. Seven, I think. It’s all starting to blur together.
I think of the last time I went to the movies. The last time I walked through the Norton Simon. The last bookstore I went to. I have an overdue library book that I kept meaning to return. Does it matter now? Will it matter eventually?
I can’t remember the last time I walked on the sand and stared at the ocean. I don’t know when the last time was that I let the waves freeze my bare feet with the cold Pacific water.
When was the last time we had people over? Shared food and conversation, with music playing, and laughter warming us. Will we have those moments again?
We connect. We have ways. But I’m hungry for conversations that don’t lag because of bandwidth issues, or hours between texts. I’m grateful for it all. The jangly, static of a Zoom meet, the autocorrect that changes fuck to duck 98% of the time, the stories and status updates that let me know my people are still here, still breathing, still alive.
I try to muster up all the hope I can every morning when I wake up. I want to shower my kids with it, wipe away their loneliness, their anxiety, their doubts. I want to know what kind of shower and disinfecting wipes I can use on myself to do the same.
My hands itch from over-washing, and from my own anxieties. I wake in the middle of the night to find myself scratching at the reddened skin.
My routines come-and-go. I need them, badly, but I find it hard sometimes to keep up with them. I put on makeup, try to dress in something more than yoga pants and tank tops. I hear my best friend’s mother saying “fake it ’til you make it”. Will we make it? All of us?
This faking is getting harder each day.
I don’t feel like me half the time.
They say this is the new normal. What was the old normal? And, what does that mean exactly? Will we ever go to concerts, stand in lines for something more than Trader Joe’s, dance, and hug and fill up our kitchens with voices other than who receives mail at this address?
I feel selfish for feeling this way. For feeling sad. For feeling angry. For feeling impatient and frustrated. For feeling unhappy. I have so many things to be thankful for. I know. I know. I’m lucky.
But this is really hard.
Today I miss conversations in person. Sitting close on a couch, or across a dinner table. Touching a hand, a shoulder. Hugging tightly to say hello. I miss the overlapping voices that aren’t because of wonky connections. I miss interrupting each other and not having that be a bad thing.
Yes, today I miss all the “Little Conversations”.
“Little Conversations” by Concrete Blonde
from the album, Free (1989)
Song Of The Day
“The little conversations,
if I tried my very best.
You know I never could say anything,
in twenty words or less.”
Photography by Tony Mott
I discovered Concrete Blonde in 1989. The same year that Free came out.
I was in Pasadena, in a tiny coffee house that used to be down this alley. It was the kind of place where people sat at big tables, sharing space, sharing conversations. Just outside there was a woman who would read your cards. She was always there, sitting behind a fold-up table that was covered in a colorful tapestry.
It was my first time there. I was on a shitty first date with a boy that the boy I actually liked had set me up with. I should have known right there that nothing good could come out of that reality. This was no love connection, let me tell you. And the date was terrible to a comical degree. Seriously, it was something meant for a badly scripted sitcom.
He took me to this cafe because his ex-girlfriend frequented it (I know this because it was one of the first things he told me after we ordered our drinks). Every fifteen minutes, or so, he got up to check his messages at the payphone by the bathrooms. In-between those frequent stops and starts he name-dropped every LA band you could think of, producing a story involving himself and each and every one of them. During one of his message checking jaunts the girl next to me leaned towards me and said matter of factly, “that cannot be your boyfriend.”
We connected immediately, laughing at the absurdity I was dealing with. We conspired a plan to win back the night (or at least amuse ourselves). When the boy returned we faked a conversation about an imaginary band. I don’t remember the name we came up with, but it was reasonably believable. He immediately recanted a story about how the drummer of said band had rear-ended him on Sunset Blvd. How he let him go without paying for the damages in exchange for passes to their last big show. The girl and I laughed so hard we almost wept. He sat their confused at first, then smiled widely thinking his story had entertained us just that much.
Needless to say I never saw that boy again. I did however see that girl. A lot.
We exchanged numbers that night. We became fast friends. Me and this tiny girl with wild curly hair and a prediliction for wearing clothing straight out of the Woodstock era late sixties. We were both music obsessives.
The first time we hung out she slipped Free into my car stereo. We played it loudly as we drove around Hollywood. I had never heard them before that day. I connected with the songs the same way we’d connected, fast and furiously. I fell in love with Johnette Napolitano’s voice most of all.
The album fit right in to those Summer months that we were friends. We shared stories and secrets, confided in each other about life and love, crushes and good dates, and bad ones, books, music, and film. All the good stuff.
In the Fall she went off to university somewhere across the country. We lost touch as people do. It was a short-lived friendship, but it was one of those that mattered. You don’t always have to know people for long stretches of time to feel their impact on your life.
That wild haired post-hippie coffee house girl gifted me a band I would grow to call one of my all-time favorites, a band whose music would become part of my own life’s soundtrack, and would grow to have many memories attached to them – not just the contents of that Summer.
That said, it is always that bad date, that cool coffee house, and that unforgettable girl that I remember when I listen to Free. Especially my favorite track off of it. The second to the last one. “Little Conversations”.
Photography by Tony Mott
“Little conversations are we.”