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I am wondering when the day will come that a March and an April will stop reminding me of that March and that April.
I received an Amazon Echo device for Christmas, and I’m surprised how little I use it. It basically is just my music player and a device I use to turn the lights in my office off and on; handy, I guess, but more a monument to human sloth than any sort of revolutionary upheaval of modern life. But it also, because it is Amazon, flips through all the photos my family has stored on Amazon Photos as its screensaver. For whatever reason, it is currently set just to show photos from that specific date in years past, which means, today, anytime I look at it, it’ll be photos from various April 17s over the last decade or so. Which means every day I’m reminded of exactly one year ago. The photos are time capsules from a moment that we’re still in but also on that feels like lifetimes ago.
And it really was such a distinctive time, one disorienting to look back on now. Obviously, where you lived this time last year will affect your memories. Those in New York City, or Seattle, or Spain, or Italy, were going through something very different than what people we were going through here in Athens, or Texas, or in Central Illinois, where most of the people I knew wouldn’t even admit the virus was real for several months. (And some still aren’t.) Here, last spring was an unceasing succession of cancellations (no NCAA Tournament, no Little League, no more in-person school), anxiety, sadness and fear (did you see this video of a hospital in China? oh god no John Prine) and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, a shit-ton of self-medicating. Almost every time a photo of me comes up from a year ago, I’m holding some sort of alcoholic beverage. Here’s exactly one year ago today:
This picture was taken at 2:43 p.m. on a Thursday, and I’m carrying a pitcher of margaritas across my front yard. That accurately represents what April 2020 was like around here. It was probably our third pitcher. There was likely a fourth.
The weather, the loveliest it has been since it was this time last year, brings up all those memories, back when this was a temporary condition, #flattenthecurve, all the celebrities getting together singing songs to make us all feel better, that sensation that life had just been put on pause for a bit, that it’d get back going soon, if we could just make it through this. (This was also the same time that our president was saying the virus would “miraculously” disappear when it gets hot outside.) I have always associated this time of the year with baseball, with spring break, with Easter, with Passover, with college basketball, with an extended stretching, arms high, a cracking of the knuckles in preparation for a reentry into the world after long, lonely winters. But here, this first year out, I’m only thinking about last year. I’m only thinking about how much we’ve been through since then, how much we’ve all changed, how different everything is.
There is even something nostalgic about thinking about where we were then, back in April 2020. We sort of didn’t know how good we had it. One year ago, we thought this might not last as long as we had feared, that we may have dodged the worst of it, that maybe we might catch a break. But we were just getting started, with the virus, with all of it. On April 17, 2020, there had been 34,724 American deaths from Covid-19; that number doubled in a month, nearly quadrupled in two months and by year’s end would hit 340,000. It now stands at 579,000. The next month, May 2020, would bring the release of video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder (that trial finally begins next month, by the way), the realization that the President had decided to ignore the pandemic entirely, those murder hornets and, of course, the horrific execution of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota. By the end of that month, when SpaceX sent two men to the International Space Station, it felt like an escape: You wanted to go with them. And we still had the election, and the insurrection, and 400,000 dead Americans left to go.
It is bizarre, and unsettling, to think of the fearful, terrifying time of April 2020 as good as it was going to get for a while. It is utterly absurd to be nostalgic for it. But the memories sparking to mind seem warmer than I would have thought. Knowing what I know now, I should have appreciated it more.
When someone goes through some sort of tragedy, the sort of life-altering moment that you never really recover from, those who have survived it often talk about how that, in many ways, the second year afterwards is the most pivotal one. You’ve already gone through all the “firsts” by then, the first birthdays, the first holidays, the first school year, the first year Without. That’s the year when you start to create memories from After. When you can begin to move again.
We are not through this pandemic, even with vaccinations and plunging positive rates. But the perspective is different now. One year ago, I wasn’t seeing anyone outside the people who live in this house, and neither were they. Now, my children are back in school. There are fans at baseball games. We are slowly peeking our heads out again. The other day, I ran into a parent while walking my kids to school, and our conversations did not exclusively consist of “how are you hanging in?” or “are you holding up?” or even “hey, make sure to keep your distance, buddy.” We talked about the future.
I told him I’d just had my second shot. He told me he was getting his tomorrow.
“Moderna or Pfizer?” he asked.
“Me too,” he said. “Any side effects?”
“Nope, I’ve been tip-top,” I said. “Arm was a little sore for a couple of days, but that was it.”
“Awesome,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to the pub.”
“Me too, man, me too,” I said. “See you in two weeks.”
And I will. Life is not going to be magically perfect as we usher into the next, waning stages of this pandemic. It is going to be quite hard, actually, as it always is and has always been, because life is hard and people are flawed and the world is a challenge even when millions of people aren’t dying in a pandemic. But it’s going to be something new. We’re going to get to sketch the unknown ourselves. We’re going to make some new memories. Maybe every time March and April comes around, the rest of my life, I’ll be thinking about 2020, and how that felt, and how nothing was ever quite the same after that. But maybe, just maybe, the memories that rush to mind in those months won’t be from then. Maybe they’ll be from now.
WEEKLY BOOK UPDATE: FOUR WEEKS TO LAUNCH
Every week here at The Will Leitch Newsletter, we count down the weeks until the release of How Lucky, my novel that comes out May 11. This is the spot for weekly news, updates and pre-order reminders.
I think I pushed this plenty hard enough last week to give you a week off on the book promotion. But I will take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of pre-orders, and that, if you do pre-order and send proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will send you a signed, personalized bookplate upon release.
There has been lots of discussion about where it is “best” or “most helpful” to pre-order the books. My preference is always going to be for you to buy the book at your local bookstore—like mine, Avid Bookshop here in Athens—or through Indiebound or Bookshop, but it does not make a difference to the numbers either way. Amazon is obviously the easiest way for people to do it, but of course Amazon is bad in many many ways, particularly in the world of books. (This does not stop me, like most humans, from still using Amazon when it is convenient to me.) I am not going to shame anyone for buying one of my books in whatever matter, from whomever, they prefer. I am honored that anyone would buy it at all.
Also: Four weeks! That’s really soon! Yikes!
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.
Just Get the Vaccines, Medium. It’s not complicated.
The Seven Most Monumental Moments From the First Week-and-a-Half of the Season, MLB.com. I think it has all been pretty exciting so far?
The New York Knicks Are Amazingly Competent, New York. After living in New York City for 13 years, I had to have one New York team, and I’m glad I picked this one. I really am! Last night’s win was huge. (And it’s bad that it’s the second time in a week that I’ve shut off a Cardinals game to watch a Knicks one.)
It’s OK to Pay a Little Less Attention to Politics Right Now, Medium. You’re not being irresponsible. You’re being sane.
Internet Nostalgia: The Numa Numa Guy, Medium. Back when viral media fame was something you wanted.
The Thirty: The Biggest Surprise For Every Team, MLB.com. Mostly relievers, so far.
Grierson & Leitch, we discussed “Thunder Force,” “Voyagers” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
Seeing Red, Bernie and I groused about a 5-4 start, and hey, we’re finally on Apple Podcasts!
People Still Read Books, I talked with Dave Parker! The baseball player!
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, we previewed G-Day, which is … today!
LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK
“The Monster Mensch,” Steve Fishman, New York. This 2009 piece is the definitive Bernie Madoff piece, with the perfect author to write it. I had a column in this issue of New York (this was the cover) and I could not believe anything I wrote got to sit next to that. (Fishman had an update on this piece this week too.)
ARBITRARY THINGS RANKED, WITHOUT COMMENT, FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON
Marvel Movies (Haven’t Done This One in a While)
Marvel’s The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Infinity War
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The First Avenger
Thor: The Dark World
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Spider-Man: Far From Home
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
Write me at:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“The Weekenders,” The Hold Steady. Every time the weather starts to get nice, that spot when spring starts to get a little warmer, promising summer but not quite summer yet, I find myself wanting to listen to The Hold Steady all the time. I am not sure why this is, but it’s undeniably true. This song makes me, true to the theme of this week’s newsletter, nostalgic for things that haven’t happened yet.
Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.
Second shot is DONE.
I really am gonna be ready to party in a couple of weeks, how about you, let’s do this.