Quarantine

A four minute read; a 54 minute soundtrack

So, there are videos of Gal Gadot & co. (“company” in this case meaning, “professional entertainers, who are now realizing that there is a definite drawback to a career that relies on large groups of people being in the same space at the same time”) singing “Imagine” on the Internet. I think that in addition to revealing the deep financial rifts between the “haves,” the “have nots,” and the “think they haves” in society, we’re really going to find out who we’d like to have that proverbial beer with. In other words, starved of entertainment and human contact, the Internet will weed out those of us who are unbelievably boring and/or uncharismatic who can just appear that way thanks to a good producing team and the magic of an editing bay. Yr Correspondent, while not overburdoned with charisma, has never been accused of being boring. And I’m certainly not hurting for entertainment options — I still have Attenborough’s last series on my Netflix play tab (oh, hey, The West Wing is on Netflix, guys), I have several books on my “To Read” list (including, somewhat ironically, David Quammen’s Spillover), and there is whatever mindless videogame I’m currently going through, thanks to Ubisoft. You want to know who is absolutely not bored under these circumstances? Cancer survivors. Months — years, in some cases — spent immunocompromised have taught us how to operate for extended periods without human contact. While the rest of you are bemoaning the spread of coronavirus, we’re figuring out how to use Zoom. I hope you able-bodied people enjoyed your brief reign, because it is over.

This morning, I got the immense privilege of being able to participate in Our Brain Bank’s first weekly (It’s a thing, now) check-in/support-call/whatever. There were about a dozen of us conference calling, which probably represents 20% of the global GBM population. And, thanks to the angles of cell phone cameras, I didn’t even have to put on pants (I was wearing pants, guys, just in case)(next week, though, all bets are off). To reiterate, we are now all forced to have rewarding, rich social lives, all without leaving the house. Folks, that is the dream. Since programmers sent the first e-mail in 1973 (yes, that was when ARPANET was developed), the (unstated) goal of all this 20th century automation and industrialization has been to render human contact largely redundant. The proof of that is that we can stay home for weeks at a time, and still mostly make it through that. The indisputable record-holders for this are my blood cancer friends, who have to spend months in complete isolation thanks to severely damaged immune systems. For them, I’d imagine the last week or two have been more or less standard.

If you’re trapped in your rich person apocalypse bunker (yes, these are real things) waiting for the end to somehow roll pass you and claim 2–4% of some other demographic (bad news, people, even young and relatively healthy folks can die)(https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-teenager-death-california-health-insurance-care-emergency-room-covid-19-a9429946.html), you’re either busy, discovering your rich, inner life, or you’re reading Medium. Forgive me for making assumptions, but if you were painting an impressionist masterpiece or writing the Great American Novel, you’d be busy. If you are not busy, but are desperately trying to distract yourself from an existential crisis, well, good news; I have the soundtrack for that one:

Yr Covid 19 Self Quarantine Playlist, an idea that is in no way stolen from High Fidelity:

  1. Splendid Isolation — Warren Zevon. C’mon; it’s a gimme. Also, a this is a good intro to Zevon’s weird, self-deprecating sensibilities.

2. Her Diamonds — Rob Thomas. One of the harder aspects of disease that drives most people from it isn’t the thought of death or dying; it’s watching impotently as someone you love suffers. We’re all going to experience that before this is over.

3. The Waiting — Tom Petty. This is a fairly obvious choice, but it’s apt, I think you’ll agree. Also, a critical change in my thinking about cancer came with the realization that I wasn’t terminal; I was in line for the Traveling Wilburies Reunion Tour.

4. King of the World — Steely Dan. It’s about a lone survivor searching an abandoned, post-apocalyptic world for other survivors. If that doesn’t seem like a decent analogy, give it a week, and it will.

5. Jimmie Standing in the Rain — Elvis Costello. It’s about a man with tuberculosis who’s shunned and isolated by the world due to his disease. That is a disturbingly accurate recitation of current events.

6. Broken — Seether. Another song about the horrors of isolation and separation. I warned everyone that things would get dark.

7. Fever- Peggy Lee. Forgive me for going for the obvious Covid symptom referfences. Also, no one could resist Peggy Lee.

8. All Alone Am I — Brenda Lee. Perfect for when you usher those last malingering guests out of your doom bunker and realize you’re the last one there.

9. Isolation — John Lennon. The most upsetting aspect of Gadot covering Lennon’s Imagine is that there are more applicable songs to the current situation. Cue the music.

10. Ventilator Blues — The Rolling Stones. The perfect song for our times, in almost every respect.

11. Pain Taught Love — Tribe Society. This was my go-to song when I could actually feel chemo going up my arm; remember, horrible as it is, this, too, shall pass.

12. Tougher Than the Rest — Bruce Springsteen. Once I realized how hard existence on the fringes was, this became my favorite song of all time.

13. Misery — Soul Asylum. A song about the importance of company, how could my puckish sense of humor resist that on this list? Also, things are going to be miserable for a while.

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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