Volume 3, Issue 19: Sonny Feeling

"Remember to show gratitude, the darkest night is nothing new."

I sit here typing to you from a house that sits on Lake Keowee, a calm, quiet man-made lake just off the border of Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve always preferred lakes to beaches. There’s always pressure when you go to the beach, as if a moment you’re not at the beach is somehow a waste of your time. Beaches demand your attention. A lake lies around drowsy, not doing much of anything; you can get in the water, if you want, or you can fall asleep on the dock, or drink too much bourbon on the porch, it’s all the same, nobody cares, you’re on vacation. Relaxation has never been a particularly sharp tool in my belt, but this is about as close to it as I get. Well, under normal circumstances, anyway, whatever those once were.

My family has taken its first trip of the pandemic. We have close friends who live in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the hardest-hit areas in the country right now, and they have this lake house where they’re riding out this current surge. Their kids are around the same age as our kids, and in lieu of our annual Georgia football gathering sure looking like it’s not going to happen, we decided a weekend at the lake would be just fine. Planning a trip like this in a pandemic requires considerable preparation. Because their older son is immunocompromised, I insisted on taking no chances. My wife and I both got COVID tests before we could go—seven-day turnaround on those, so that’s great—and we’ve all been quarantining for about three weeks. It didn’t take long after we walked in the door here—when the kids started jumping up and down and screaming, and we started hugging our friends, actual hugs of actual other human beings who doesn’t live in our house—to appreciate just how worth it it was. It is relaxing to float around a lake. But it’s not in fact as relaxing, in July 2020, to groggily nod good morning across the kitchen table to someone whose name isn’t on your tax returns. It’s as normal as anything has been in some time.

One of our friends, like me, traveled constantly before the pandemic hit. We’d always bond over our travel strategies, the best airport sky clubs, the underrated hotel perks, the out-of-the-way sushi spots in various cities across the country. Her life, like mine, was a constantly flurry of forward motion. When she’s on the road, she’s sprinting from place to place, from meeting to meeting, from plane to plane; when she’s home, she’s shuffling the kids from one activity to another, too exhausted at the end of the day to decompress from any of it. Before this, she couldn’t remember when she and her wife and her family had sat down and had a proper, all-together, all-quiet-and-gathered dinner, around the table. Everyone was always just coming back from somewhere, or just about to leave. I am very familiar with the sensation.

But since March, she hasn’t gone anywhere. All those super-important meetings, those trips that were so damned vital, they’ve all gone virtual, or they’ve gone away entirely. Much of their entire family dynamic revolved around the constant go-go of her life. And then it just stopped. And now she’s just … home.

She looks happier to me now.

This is going to end. I don’t know where we’re all going to be when it ends, but it going to end. It will not end with a bang, an it’s-over, everybody-make-out-in-Times-Square moment. It will end after a series of slow normalizations, little compromises and adjustments we’ve made along the way. We’ll look up and realize that the virus is gone, and it almost won’t even matter, by that point, because we’ll all be entirely different people by then.

What adjustments have you made during the pandemic that are going to stick? After the initial shock of everything, and the bunkering in, and the malaise of realizing how long this is going to take and how incompetent this country’s response has been, after the next round of fear we’re all going through right now … what’s going to last?

I do not believe that many of the large-scale changes your futurist types are predicting will come to pass. I do not think, when this is over, people will stop going into the office, or there won’t be movie theaters anymore, or live concerts will stop happening. Humans will always want to meet, and gather, and get the hell out of the house—even more so when this is over. We will see if there are lasting changes and reckoning involving capitalism, and the class struggle, and the value of labor: I will confess that I am skeptical on that one. At a certain level, I wonder if we’ll all settle back into the comfort of muscle memory, an old hat you can never quite bend out of shape no matter what you do to it.

But I don’t think there’s any question that a whole lot of pre-pandemic business seems pretty stupid and pointless right now. The amount of time and effort and worry that we put into matters that now have nothing do with our lives whatsoever bends toward the infinite. There’s a great David Mamet line: “Worry is interest paid in advance on a debt that never comes due.” Of all the things that were occupying your brain and spirit in 2019, and 2018, and really your entire lives, how many of them were worse than “global pandemic runs rampant on our shores, kills hundreds of thousands of people, thrives on the fact that there is absolutely no one in charge and upends every aspect of life for you and everyone you know?” When it ends up that this was the direction everything was going, and it turns out you don’t even have close to the control over the universe and your place in it that you thought you did, the old obsessions and drives seem like a big waste of time.

I think we’re seeing how much junk was standing in the way in the first place. Once something like this hits, how much can you really sweat that middle management schmuck down the hall? So much of that effort seems so wasted right now. Did I really once fly across the country, upending my life and time I could have spent with my family, to interview Anthony freaking Scaramucci? Did I really once get in a Twitter fight with Darren Rovell about a running app? What did I miss going on in this house while I was scrolling through my phone? Or lounging in a Delta Sky Club? Or eating at a great sushi restaurant by myself?

Now, trapped in here together, I think we’re establishing new patterns, patterns we’re fortunate and privileged to even have to our disposal. We all eat meals, around a table, together. We watch silly television shows, “Holey Moley,” “Floor Is Lava,” “Nailed It,” stuff I always sniffed at, ignored before. The boys have become best friends. There’s a lake spanning out in front of me, and when I’m done with this newsletter, I will shut my computer off and not think about it the rest of the day. This has not how any of this has worked before. But it is how it works now.

Not all of this will stick. Old habits will return. Some already have. But it’s impossible to go though something like this and not be changed somehow, forever. It is natural to go through a collective trauma like this and just look forward to it being over—to plead for it to be. But life keeps going on, regardless, and we’re changing just like the rest of the world is. I’m different now that I was three months ago; I’ll be different three months from now. And it’s not all bad. And I won’t want all of it to go away when this is over.

I don’t know when this is going to end. But the breaths I take now aren’t any less valuable than the ones I’ll be taking when it does. I’m glad I’m not in an airport right now. I’m going to go jump in a goddamned lake.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.

  1. Donald Trump Can’t Turn Bubba Wallace Into Colin Kaepernick, New York. Writing pieces about how weak Trump is right now is fun, I will confess.

  2. Mike Petriello and I Drafted Under .500 Teams by Their Odds of Winning the World Series, MLB.com. We’re previewing the season over at MLB.com, because hey, if there’s trying to put together a season, we might as well get you ready for it.

  3. Teams With a Better Chance to Win a World Series With 60 Games Rather Than 162, MLB.com. Though honestly, we are all just guessing.

  4. MLB Season Preview: AL East, MLB.com. It is odd to preview divisions and seasons that I’ve already previewed, though.

  5. 2020 Season Preview Redux: NL Central, MLB.com. Though predicting 60-game records is kind of fun.

  6. This Week in Genre History: Fantastic Four, SYFY Wire. This movie isn’t good, but it’s still without question the best Fantastic Four movie.

  7. Top Bounceback Candidates in 2020, MLB.com. I still believe in Matt Carpenter.

  8. Better Know a Player: Gary Gaetti, MLB.com. Lake Land College’s own!

  9. Tom Hanks Movies, Ranked and Updated, Vulture. With Greyhound.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, an excellent show, we discussed Hamilton and gave our favorite movies of the first half of this endless year.

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, no show this week, taping next week.

LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK

“The Exile of Bruce Maxwell,” ESPN. I’d been waiting for someone to do something on the A’s catcher who kneeled for the anthem a few years ago, so I was very glad it was Howard Bryant. The story is also about a lot more than that.

Also, your weekly David Wallace-Wells.

THIS WEEK’S PIECE OF HANDY ADVICE

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

A lot of you will have these waiting for you when you come back from vacation.

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“Rocks Off,” The Rolling Stones. Summer always makes me want to listen to The Rolling Stones. It is summer, right?

Yeah, it’s definitely summer, and here’s a six-year-old going flying off an inner tube to prove it.

Be safe, everyone.

Best,
Will