I need a haircut.
My last was in early February before a trip to Washington, D.C., to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. At the time, COVID-19 was a “developing story,” but that weekend I heard relatively little talk about the virus.
When I returned to D.C. in the first week in March to attend a journalism awards dinner, COVID-19 had developed into a “breaking news,” medical and political crisis. Still, few people were masked on my flights, nor in the hotel where I stayed, nor on the streets during an afternoon walk in the nation’s capital.
The pivot in Jewish Atlanta came at the end of the second week in March as schools, synagogues, communal offices, and cultural and recreation facilities closed their doors and moved into the virtual world. The scramble for masks, toilet paper, and disinfectant wipes took on proportions akin to what happens when the local weather forecast mentions ice or snow. More than one phone interview was interrupted by a parent needing to admonish a child whose classroom was now in their kitchen or living room.
In the past six months, I have been to my oncologist’s office, for tests and treatment, as often as I have been anywhere else. I have avoided the hair salon down the street. I finally updated the prescription for my glasses. I’ve dropped in at my favorite neighborhood eatery only a couple of times for takeout.
A mask is required for entry at these places. Mask requirements are neither a violation of my constitutional rights (which amendment would that be, anyway?) nor an impediment to my quest for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The mask is not a political or cultural statement, but a prudent measure to protect your health.
“Being Jewish in the Time of Coronavirus,” which appeared online on March 11, was the first article I wrote about COVID-19 and the Atlanta Jewish community. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve written since; several dozen, I’d guess. Given the uncoordinated and inconsistent application of regulations at multiple levels of government, and then their premature relaxation, as well as the cultural and political divide over everything from masks to opening schools, and in the absence of a vaccine proven reliable and safe, there will be more.
Meanwhile, I have a laundry list of articles about candidates and issues to write in the runup to the Nov. 3 election. While it may be true that two Jews can hold three opinions, the latter don’t matter if the former do not register to vote, so here’s a reminder that the deadline to do so is Oct. 5.
I continue to socially distance from home. The last of the blackberry, blueberry and raspberry crop was picked in June and the last tomato in late August. At present, we are eating cucumbers, cantaloupes, green beans, sweet potatoes, and various herbs grown in the front and back yards.
My kingdom continues to stretch from the end of the driveway to the backyard fence, but even an introvert wants at least the option of going out, taking all prudent precautions, of course. I have one last chance for a week’s visit to that cabin in the woods by a lake in Maine and, with a qualified green light from my doctors (so long as I’m careful), the trip is on.
There are places closer to home if all I want is a change of scenery, but none has the emotional attachment of that cabin, with its eight decades of family history. There was a time when the only telephone there was a party line among several houses, but today a cellphone call can be made deep among the trees. There was a time when only a few radio stations and sometimes one television channel penetrated, but today, with the phone’s hotspot, internet access is possible.
I am looking forward to as many outings in the kayak as I can muster, cutting back the brush, reading the books I’ll bring, and, hopefully, progress on a seemingly never-ending book project.
We are in that period of the calendar when Jews wish each other a happy and sweet new year. After all that the community has been through the past six months, that prayer for continued inscription in the book of life is imbued with even greater depth of meaning.