The past few days I’ve been shackled to my at home desk, a beautiful mahogany table that belonged to my Mom. Its top is connected to its elaborately turned legs only by gravity. Because I’ve been sitting at it for the past 8 weeks, I’ve grown fond of its small imperfections, the quarter-sized water stains, now slightly covered by the art books that raise my computer camera to the Tom Ford appropriate height. The side leaf which I’ve extended out to hold my keyboard sags slightly, in spite of the cardboard I’ve folded to lift it up. I noticed the other day as I was seated there, that the top was split on the side and had been poulticed with two screws I’d never noticed. This table had significant history prior to COVID-19. In Mom’s condo foyer, it held small blooming African violets and a delicate Balinese figure. She used to deploy this table when she entertained and decided to seat people in the living room for a buffet supper. It’s been the sight of many intimate dinnertime t
ête-à-têtes with grandparents and uncles, cousins and siblings. It’s been alternately the receptacle for the television, then more recently, my puzzle space, and now, in the extended weeks of Pandemic teaching, my desk and my classroom.
After my last meeting today, I retreated from my table in the gloaming living room to the balcony to write this post. Facing north, I watched the whisp of clouds move across the skyline and felt the heat of the late spring afternoon change by degrees until I was comfortable, no more sunny reflection in my eyes, the brie and crackers gone from my plate, ice melted in my water glass, music playing soothingly in my ears. I sighed with contentment. Can it be that after eight weeks I’ve found a balance of work and rest?
Today was the first day of final exams after two months of online instruction. We just entered the period of portfolio reviews for our designers, stage managers and technical directors. We met with about ten students today. The zoom format works really well for these and I found myself thinking about whether we’d ever again gather in the conference room for these. Once the students have mastered sharing their portfolios via the zoom conference, perhaps it will be important to have them come into a room with faculty and staff in an outfit they’ve chosen to show their professionalism. They may need the practice of sharing the physical portfolios and narrative live. Live presentation may be the next skill they need to hone. We’ll see where this all goes.
I availed myself of the COVID-19 testing available here in Los Angeles today. I made an appointment and drove to the Baldwin Hills Mall, where I carefully drove through a coned parking lot reminiscent of the Pennsylvania DMV parking lot I took my driver’s test in at eighteen. There were PPE-clad volunteers greeting the cars, and instructing in universal sign language to lower the window of the car just a skosh so they could get your name and see your ID and your appointment, both of which I held up to the dirty glass. Then I pulled forward, received my test packet through the passenger window, and pulled around to the other side of the parking lot where I parked, then carefully opened the pouch. Having watched the requisite training video as I made the appointment, I knew to cough three times to bring up sputum. Of course when I opened the swab package by pulling the two sides apart, it bounded out of the package, sliding down between the center console and the seat. Fortunately, I found it there on the floor of my car, (three second rule?) and then jammed it into my mouth. Hopefully my car mat doesn’t have COVID. I swabbed for about twenty seconds the inside of each of my cheeks, the roof of my mouth and back of my throat before inserting the swab into the test tube filled with liquid. Outside, volunteers held up signs saying “No Writing” which I only understood after getting home and reading the instructions, which told you to write your name on the vial.
The sun is setting now, bouncing off the canyon of glass between my perch on the balcony and the actual sun. In the soft orange glow, I can see the last of the hummingbirds dabbling at the feeder before they go off to wherever they go to sleep. It’s only twenty minutes now until the nightly paean to the medical workers. For the past two nights I’ve been involved in something which has kept me from stepping out onto my balcony to witness the odd assembly of grateful celebrants. There’s a guy across the way who steps out onto his postage stamp of a balcony, leans over, picks up a pan and a spoon and begins banging. He follows this with an exultation that sounds like a strangled cat. A truly ugly sound. Then he pulls out a green laser pointer and bounces it off the surrounding buildings, before bending again to bang, screech, then point. My neighbor just one floor down has taken to waving a full sized American flag over their balcony. I flash my porch light while waiving my cell phone flashlight in what I think looks like a broad graceful sweep over my head. Earlier this week, I brought a pan lid and some tongs out, banging them. All around me, people turn on the colored lights in their apartments, flashing them rhythmically. Across the way a bit further than the screeching cat man, a couple has formed T Y with Christmas lights in their window facing south. Cars honk, people whistle.
The sky is suddenly so magnificent, the orange pang of the sun’s departure smeared on the base of the Hotel Intercontinental. Even the black glossy Konica Minolta building sports a residual red splash of the end of this day.
And now the celebration is minutes away. I relish this uncharacteristic moment of peace and perspective coming in week 8 of this pandemic. I’m so grateful for all that I have: my health, my work, my home, my friends, family and colleagues. And so grateful for the essential medical workers to whom the Intercontinental now salutes.