I drank. Rose mostly, but also vermouth.
An aside here: one of the more amazing moments of my graduate school career involved an elaborate scheme whereby the gay student group “sponsored” a conference on bisexuality. This was a fig leaf so that the bisexuals — who in truth had very little connection to the university — could arrange room reservations for their conference. This was a case, in my moral calculus, where a small lie served a larger truth where a strict adherence to bureaucratic rules would have been damaging to a group of individuals who, in all honesty were just looking for a safe space to gather and make sense of the chaos of this fallen and trivial world.
In any case.
The net result of this easy lift was that the bisexuals transferred the profits of their conference — an amount that was barely into four figures, let’s be honest — into the accounts of the gay student group, in gratitude.
At which point the co-president and I did what any right-thinking, slightly meretricious, somewhat hungry people would have done. We treated ourselves to dinner at the kind of restaurant on Beacon Hill where the tablecloths are white, there are three forks, three spoons, and two wine glasses, and the appetizer goes through a butter bath before it is plated.
We toasted our success at filling the coffers of the group through this sleight of hand, and got to know each other. Since otherwise the gulf was kind of broad all things considered (humanities vs. social sciences, male vs. female, object-choice male vs. object-choice female, Christian vs. Jew, Cambridge vs. Somerville, etc.).
She told me a story then about having to visit her family over vacation and the only thing available to drink being the vermouth. And wasn’t that a sign of desperation, or alcoholism?
I don’t remember this woman’s name.
That is a character flaw on my part. Or incipient dementia. I remember that she had a serious crush on Marge Garber, and understood in every permutation how ridiculous that crush was. And yet I cannot recall anything about her except these stupid anecdotes (for instance, she had an excellent story about eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant and ordering the escargot. It came in the form of a baked potato carved in the form of a snail’s shell, with the actual escargot trailing out of its back like so much slime), that she was sadly single, and the bit about the vermouth.
So, yes, what I did during the plague was drink. Rose, but also the vermouth. An outward and visible sign, if there ever was one, of the horror of our current condition.
Also. I engaged in certain fantasies that I could be a whistleblower. You know, calling someone and describing a situation. Providing them a written copy of the complaint so that they could check with certain third parties to determine the newsworthiness of the item. Waiting to see if this would be yet another instance where my sense of vocation overwhelmed my common sense, or not.
Also. I went hiking every weekend. So that I could have some prayer of tiring my boys out enough that they would actually go to sleep at night. Today we went hiking along Jenkinson Lake, which is an astonishing microcosm of the bizarrety that is California’s ethnic mélange. The boats — packed with more people than could plausibly ever be a family group, but then when did El Dorado County ever actually give a fuck about public health — were uniformly white, usually playing either bland suburban hip-hop or (not quite as often) vaguely right-wing country. The lakeside picnickers were overwhelmingly Hispanic, often planning on their stereos some eminently danceable and immediately forgettable norteno tunes. And the hikers? Old white ladies, Asian extended clans, and Desi families and couples. A bizarre and yet pleasingly easy map of California’s ethnic hierarchy.
Including (unfortunately), the conspicuous absence of a place for African-Americans in the scene.