A page out of the old-school TedQuarters playbook. If you’ve got questions you’d like to see answered in future installments of Friday Q&A, feel free to email AskTedBerg@gmail.com or tweet them at me.
I’ll start with some quick ones before I get to the big one:
Into the garbage. Maybe I shouldn’t admit to wasting food in times like these, but for as much as I love freshly sliced lunchmeat, few things gross me out more than old lunchmeat. Eating it risks making me feel so sick that I go off deli meat entirely for months, to my own detriment. As such, I usually buy lunchmeat in 1/2-pound increments, knowing I’d rather crave more meat than I have than wind up eating a 10-day-old piece of salsalito turkey that’s starting to spore.
1. Tried to, but didn’t get it to rise. I think I’ve successfully used yeast one time in my entire life, and it was in home-ec class in 7th grade. Made a calzone with it. If I recall correctly, it was a dope calzone.
2. In my eyes, there is no reasonable return, as my appreciation for Dom Smith extends beyond reason. The joy he took in the Mets’ successes last year while he was confined to the little scooter thing was completely infectious, and I want the Mets to keep him forever even if it’s not what’s best for his career. Being a fan isn’t a reasonable thing. They could trade Smith straight up for Juan Soto tomorrow and I’d still be at least a tiny bit bummed out. I’d get over it, but I’d hate to see him go.
Of course. Fun fact: I have the cap Pascucci wore during the TedQuarters singularity game, when he homered off Cole Hamels. A reader who was also a friend of a friend came into it somehow and thought I should have it, and I did not disagree. I’m not generally much of a memorabilia collector and I don’t know what I’ll ultimately do with it, but I do cherish it, and the only way I could ever imagine parting with it would be bestowing it back upon Pascucci’s glorious head in some grand ceremony someday.
Yes! There is currently a napping child separating me from the big stack of novels on my nightstand, but some I read in the last couple of years that I can recall enjoying include: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, New York 2180 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, and everything by Ottessa Moshfegh, who writes so well it makes me angry. I also re-read 1984 a couple months ago and learned that it’s still incredible. Just started Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, because I read a speech he gave about writing and found it so thoroughly on-the-money that I kept involuntarily and vigorously nodding at the points he made. Seems good so far, but I’m only like 15 pages deep.
Man. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic right now — as we all do, I assume — and not a lot of time to sort them all out in this space, so I apologize if this strays into a stream of consciousness. I promise I’ll get to an answer.
Yesterday morning, I took my son out for a walk and got so frustrated that I planned to turn my Thursday post here into a tirade about how much this situation sucks. I love my kid, naturally, and I love spending time with him, and until the ‘rona hit New York, I found that the trophy husband lifestyle really suited me.
But now the zoo is closed, his one-day-a-week school program is closed, the Natural History museum is closed, we’re avoiding playgrounds, and all of a sudden I need to be a total hardo when he wants to climb up random stoops and stop in the middle of the sidewalk to wave at strangers. This child is 2 1/2 years old. He knows something has changed, but there’s no way he can understand it, and the only way to get him to behave in a socially responsible manner is to be far more stern with him than I really think anyone should ever be with a playful toddler. It blows.
All that was weighing on me yesterday after he went down for his nap, when I opened my computer to write. But before I started writing, I checked Twitter and saw a bunch of other people complaining about coronavirus-related inconveniences and stresses, and I completely lost patience. And I want to be careful here, because I recognize that everyone else’s feelings are just as valid as my own, and I don’t want to make light of anyone whose real mental-health issues have been exacerbated by this crisis.
But it’s just… I’m sorry. Nurses at Mount Sinai — one of the top hospitals in one of the world’s biggest, richest cities — are literally using garbage bags as protective gear. There are refrigerated trucks parked outside a hospital in Queens to handle all the dead bodies. This is a full-blown apocalyptic shitshow. And here I am, all, “I’m so mad I have to tell my kid not to touch the magazine rack outside the bodega.” And here you are (not Chris, but the general “you”) going on Twitter, like, “This whole shelter-in-place thing is really making me feel anxious.”
I hope it gets better. I think it will get better. But if you’re not feeling anxious about the situation right now, you’re a sociopath.
It sucks to have to stay indoors and isolate yourself, no doubt. But there are levels of suckitude, and losing your job and facing grim financial uncertainty at this time most likely sucks way more than just social-distancing. And it sucks even more than that, probably, to have a job that exposes you to these dangers and forces you to witness the horrors up close. And it sucks most of all to lose loved ones to the virus, or to die from it yourself.
What I’m saying is: It sucks across the board, but not equally. And because I recognize that the degree to which it sucks for me is far less than the degree to which it sucks for many others (my wife among them), I decided I don’t really want to whine about it publicly.
Still, when I saw Chris’ question, I felt a tinge of envy. I assume it implies Chris does not have kids, and all I could think was how much easier this would be if I weren’t charged with stewarding a toddler through it. I could rewatch The Wire! I could practice the guitar without my son wanting to play it himself. If my living-room floor weren’t perpetually covered in toys, I could do push-ups and sit-ups all day and spend this time getting super yoked.
But then I started trying to think of the era of my life in which I would have found the quarantine least burdensome, and I couldn’t do it. If this happened when I was in high school, it would’ve canceled a sports season or the play, and those things meant the whole world to me when I participated in them. If it happened in college, it would’ve destroyed the Moo Shoo Porkestra. In grad school, it would have dried up my only source of income — tutoring for the SATs — and I probably would’ve wound up murdering my roommate and his girlfriend (both of whom were, and remain, awesome).
And so on. There has simply never been a time in my life when it would have seemed convenient or palatable to have the whole world shut down around me. I imagine it’s the same for you.
So to get back to Chris’ question: I think the first thing everyone in every situation needs to come to terms with is that this fully sucks, and it sucks for everybody else, too, and it’s just going to unavoidably suck for a while yet. Far as I can see it, this is more or less the rock-bottom moment for civilization in my lifetime. Right? Nothing’s ever canceled baseball before, except baseball itself in 1994.
If you’re young and healthy and desperate for cash and willing to take on the risk, there’s definitely work available in grocery stores and delivery jobs. That’s an option. It’s not an option for me due to my array of auto-immune diseases, so it’s hard for me to speak to the risk-reward ratio. But people are doing it, they’re (rightfully) being hailed as heroes, and if and when they come out of it OK, they’re going to have a heck of a story for the bar. And, statistically speaking, the percentages are in their favor: Most of them will probably be OK. It’s still terrifying, of course.
But if you don’t want to take that on, I’d say the pretty obvious answer here is bucket drumming. Learn how to play some fuckin’ bucket drums! There are hundreds of instructional bucket-drumming videos on YouTube. All you need is a bucket and a pair of drumsticks, both of which can still easily be acquired online.
I’ve always felt like bucket-drumming would be an incredible skill to have in my pocket, and I think, if I had the next couple of months to dedicate a few hours a day to practicing, I could come out of it a pretty awesome bucket-drummer.
Just picture it: It’s August, and everyone’s finally allowed to go outside and interact again. After the initial round of orgies, you’re at a regular, non-orgy party with some friends and someone mentions that there’s a really nice view from the roof and they’re going to go up there for a cigarette. You don’t smoke, but you’re down to get some fresh air, so you join the little group heading up the fire-escape to chill on the roof. The person was right about the view, too — it’s a sweeping vista of the Manhattan skyline, and it’s a clear, gorgeous night, and if you walk to the other side of the roof you can even see the Statue of Liberty.
And, lo! What’s there on the roof but an old bucket and, for some reason, some drumsticks. You sit down and start playing a little rhythm — real simple at first — and the people, all standing well within six feet of each other, cast eyes your way as they drag on their cigarettes, thinking, “hey, Chris is doing a neat little thing on that bucket.”
Then you build up a little, start playing a full-blown beat, and heads start to bob, and they’re all, “wait a second, it sounds like Chris actually knows how to bucket-drum. I didn’t know that about him; that’s pretty cool.” And next thing they know, you’re just absolutely throwing down on the bucket-drums, a complex but still undeniably funky assault of bangs and thwaps and bops and rat-tat-tat-tats, and everyone’s dancing and laughing and having a great time, totally mesmerized and impressed by the virtuosic bucket-drumming skills you cultivated during our shared, months-long hiatus from normal life. You’re now the coolest guy you know, because you made the best possible use of these lousy circumstances.
So that, or play a bunch of video games.