Photo: Bill King
Photo: Bill King

Life in the Time of Covid

It was somewhere in mid-March 2020 and my last gig at Nawlin’s with drummer JoJo Bowden and bassist Collin Barrett when Canada started rolling out heavy restrictions on bars, restaurants and most public gathering places. A severe lockdown was on the horizon. I had one more date booked, and my wife Kristine refused to let me stray beyond our doorstep, so I cancelled. Cancelling carried big guilt. I’d been playing live with regularity and enjoying the occasional Thursday, Friday and Saturday fill-ins with patrons applauding and requesting songs. I’m a people person and the shutdown was painful. Most of my career work centres on music, directing galas, corporate events, festivals, radio, and journalism. Playing live again was becoming habitual. Then, as for every other working musician, my world crashed and burned much like an incoming less that useful ‘60s satellite.

With nowhere to go, I entertained binging on television shows and gobbling massive amounts of forbidden foodstuffs but quickly diverted free time to writing books and music. I, like every other artist, feared the shutdowns, closures, and loss of economic self-sufficiency.

As the days and weeks passed, panic set in. Radio, print, virtual entities, and television ramped up the fear factor creating months of sleepless nights. There were moments walking around my neighbourhood when I feared touching a leaf, lifting a snow shovel, entering a doorway, always terrified of contracting the virus. Down my back alley, there was a dartboard with three bent darts attached to a target hanging from a garage door. I’d pause - toss all three and quickly run home and wash my hands.

We have three mega grocery stores in the neighbourhood, Loblaws, Fiesta Farms, and Sobeys. We were not without options. At first, Loblaws was a strange place to navigate. Folks were let inside and lined along the back walls near where meat and poultry reside, then slow marched past deep freezers to check-out. Most people refusing to wear a mask. Brutal! For countless days the parking lot was filled with the desperate in need of 300 rolls of toilet paper. Twice the store was closed for Covid-related incidents. Fiesta for the most part entertained long lines and faced only one brief store closure. Sobeys came through unscathed.

Three weeks into lockdown and desperate to connect with my past I jumped on the bicycle and toured the downtown core of the city and photographed. Yes, it was a ghost town. Even on the bike, with wind blowing in all directions, I was a fearful mess.

As the days and nights dragged on so did the strain on the brain. There was a second pandemic raging – Donald Trump’s self-made – “mandemic.” Oh, how we wished this vile, insufferable grifter would slip into a pothole never to be seen or heard from again. There was an election on the horizon and twenty-two candidates vying to lead the Democratic party. We never missed a moment of the debates, the political hours filled with meanness, possibilities, conspiracies, demagogues, and hope.

April blows in and Samson, one of two dogs we embraced as our children, begins suffering from a kidney ailment. No vet. Six days of howling, barking and shrieking. When we finally catch an opening, we are told our ageing “love dog” should be kept comfortable and let slowly pass or the option - quarantine with the vet and pray treatment wins out. Six days hooked to an IV machine and injections, the grand doggie snaps back to life. The bill snaps our necks.

Throughout, the living room became our safe area. Fifteen years ago, we strung several strands of Christmas lights which we call “fiesta” lights around doorways and windows that still shine bright today. I will admit spending a good portion of spring and several late-summer nights on the couch gazing at those rainbow coloured threads. Anything to distract and redirect the mind away from the constant reminder Covid was lurking all around.

Summer rolls in – fresh air and hoops. My son Jesse and I began 9:30 a.m. gatherings at Hillcrest Park for an hour of family hoops. This morphed into three and four times a week. Normalcy was now in play. Hockey returned, basketball, then football. Oh, to be human again.

Now to the point of my story. You are not alone in this. As a longtime, Facebook poster, I hear and read everyone’s thoughts and personal experiences. So many have undergone major surgeries from cancer to knee and back operations.  I deeply appreciate that each person in pain has attracted a cheering section - that much-needed support only family and friends can offer. At times we are alone in this world, too many lives devastated emotionally, physically, and economically, yet we are still sisters and brothers.

Progress! Two most common treatments are already in play. Remdesivir (Veklury) is currently the only medication approved by the FDA and dexamethasone is a common corticosteroid (steroid) medication that has been used for many years to treat various health conditions, such as autoimmune conditions and allergic reactions. It is the three giants that make the future look much brighter than the frightful months that stalked us through 2020. The top vaccine candidates Moderna /Pfizer and AstraZeneca, are all in the 90% efficacy category. Soon the world will be vaccinated, and we will look back at these times in horror and with humility.

I now recognize and socialize with the folks who make up my lovely neighbourhood and they are delightful. I’ve met their children, their dogs and witness a new cycle of life as each baby arrives. We are more connected, more forgiving, and sensitive to the frailties and fragility of human beings. Truthfully, we needed to pause and reassess our place on this planet. What the hell have we been doing? I’m not going to complain about what the government did or didn’t do. They stepped in and put dollars in the pockets of the most disadvantaged. We will get through this and as a long-time proponent, I’m still advocating for a guaranteed income. I say this witnessing the skills we have all developed having the time and a growing list of available tools. There’s so much potential in all of us. The past nine months have felt like graduate school except for this time we’re not skipping classes! There is a path forward and a way out of this economic and human catastrophe. Patience, knowledge, science, and faith…. Be safe!

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