PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

All Quiet On The Western Front

Back in the old days (like, 2 years ago), I could conduct a team meeting and be completely certain that no one was listening to me. They'd be talking amongst themselves, surreptitiously passing love notes to one another, launching spitballs at the crown of my head when I would look down at my notes, and so forth. This would leave me with no choice but to clear my throat and bang my gavel, shouting, "there will be order in this meeting room!"

Now, with only the sounds of Jeb from communications munching on potato chips and Gail from finance trying but failing to squelch nervous laughter, I'd return to the topic of whether the annual employee summer outing should be held at a newly established ax-throwing pavilion, or instead at a beer garden. Or both (ax throwing first, needless to say).

But now, over Zoom, I get silence, even though there is collectively more noise surrounding my team members than ever: dogs are barking, kids are screaming, spouses are running the blender in the next room over to make smoothies. I hear none of it because everyone's audio is muted. Which means I also get zero reaction to anything I say. "Any questions? Thoughts? Opinions? How are things going? Does the lack of any discernable reaction indicate that everyone's doing OK? Is that a yes? Would you please raise your hand to indicate that you're alive?"

Hands go up. People are still alive, if maybe not entirely well. 

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Destination: Unknown

I should have plotted my family’s summer vacation well before these early hours of May. What the hell was I thinking? Now all the vacation spots are taken. Every resort booked; every campground full; every friend’s couch occupied (yes I checked). It’s like the latest crisis is that there’s nowhere to go. Maybe it’s a CDC plot to keep me from leaving New England. I’m under house arrest in these six states!

OK, slight exaggeration. But the CDC is well aware that spending 16 months straight in New England is harmful to one’s psychological health, if for the weather alone. Even Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC herself, has been granted leave from the region; surely I can leave town for a week or 10 days too.

But where to go? My many years in Catholic school taught me that angels have a penchant for coming to people in dreams and visions to provide useful information, such as announcing the birth of a savior. So there’s a chance that an angel with some time on his hands might pop into one of my frequent dreams to suggest vacation places for my family, with star ratings and user reviews. I like to know what kitchen implements are provided when I rent someone’s space. I’ve stayed in one or two places that had no wire whisk on the premises, confounding plans and diminishing the vacation’s karma. So it’s important that the angels be transparent, providing all the necessary pros and cons of each vacation opportunity. Of course, they are angelic, so one should be prepared for them to be somewhat cryptic in their messaging.

Also, I’m hoping they take into consideration cost. We don’t have wings so we’ll have to book seats on commercial airlines to get from here to there, which isn’t necessarily cheap.

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Lest We Forget

This current hellish pandemic seems destined to be tamed in the coming months and years, and I’m expecting that as we emerge from the abyss an effort to establish a new American holiday will be afoot, a holiday that will require another day off from work.  

Let’s assume that there is at least a tacit effort to get public input on the name for the holiday, via a poll of all Americans who may choose between “COVID-19 Day” or write in a holiday name of their choice. My write ins include these:  

 

·       Foggy Glasses Day

·       National Mask Mandate Day

·       American Sour Dough Starter Anniversary

·       The 19th of March

·       Birthday of American Kombucha

·       March Madness

·       Hell Year Day

·       National Amazon Prime Membership Renewal Day

·       Lysol Injection Anniversary

·       The Day the Music Died

I don’t really care what it’s called, as long as I get a day off.   

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This Year

I’m trying to decide if the most apt Mountain Goats song to describe the past 365 days locked up in our homes and masquerading as 1970s surgeons is “This Year.” It seems like a reasonable choice, given that it includes the line, “I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.”

However, “Going to Lebanon 2” might be more suitable because the surrealness of the last 365 days is captured in the verse, “Take note of what will be gone in the blink of an eye, the blue blue water, the bone white sky.”

I cast my vote for Going to Lebanon 2 because a) it was released during the pandemic from hell, which suggests to me that John Darnielle wrote it to describe the feeling of being denied the simplest of pleasures when the disease struck; and b) because I have scads of Lebanese cousins, so what the hell.

As with many Mountain Goats songs, it’s really hard to understand why this one was named Going to Lebanon 2. It could have been named almost anything else and you’d be no farther from guessing what the song was about. There is no mention in the lyrics of going to Lebanon or anywhere. You’d think that something about the architecture of Beirut or Mediterranean beaches would be in order.

OK, I’m clearly diverting our attention from the bigger story: the last year has really stunk. Did you know that I had tickets to 3 rock shows that got canceled, including Nick Cave. (As if that’s a problem, with half a million Americans dead.)

But it is a problem, as is the fact that my kids haven’t been in school for a year, restaurants have closed, there is no live theater, film venues are shuttered, and I need a goddamned hug.

Maybe if we just listen to a Mountain Goats song, we’d all feel a little better and would have some hope that the future is a little brighter.

 

 

 

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J'Biden Era Haikuage

 

People's Arms. That's right!

200 million shots

In 100 days

 

We are good people

But we still have far to go

Repair. Restore. Heal.

 

There's nothing new here

The Affordable Care Act

We're restoring it 

 

America's Day

Democracy is fragile

The world is watching 

 

Strategy is based

On Science, not politics

Truth, not denial

 

 

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