Saturday, April 9, 2022

Wilmette Notes: Something’s in the air. A malevolent stealth variant for one.

So I went to an art show opening in Pilsen Thursday night. Nobody asked for proof of vaccination. Only a few people wore masks. I wasn't one of them, because that's where I am right now. Leaving the party, I walked to my car down 16th Street under this viaduct and didn't feel scared at all. I mention that, well, as a counterbalance to Caren Jeskey's Saturday report. I don't have to wonder where my sense of alarm went: it seems to have somehow migrated to her. 

By Caren Jeskey

     “Are times stranger than usual?” pondered a client this week. 
    “Yes. They are. Period. Yes,” was my not very therapist-like retort. There is no way to sugarcoat the suffocating nature of too many hardships at once. Armageddon theorists have it all wrong. It’s not a god we have to fear. It’s terrifying humans, savage viruses, and atmospheric catastrophes. They are tangible and are here, all at once.     
     Last Saturday I ventured out (masked, of course) for a trim and a bit of a hang in my old stomping grounds, Lincoln Square. Shoppers with bags from Gene’s Sausage Shop carrying paper coffee cups and holding loved ones’ hands sure made it seem that the world is normal, and fun. And safe.
     Then a flash of a suffering person in Ukraine flickers across my mind’s eye and it looks surreal, this Norman Rockwellesque scene. I recall the story of the meter man who beat someone up in front of Gearheard across from the Square last week. I heard the voice of a man tell me that his mission in life is to get Evil Joe out of office. There's just no escaping the layers of stress and violence that are rippling through the world, all because of a misguided sense that there is an us and a them.
     As if war rife with crimes against humanity (and misinformed crazies* denying it), which is the worst thing one would ever have to live through, isn't bad enough, BA.2 is here (and misinformed crazies* are denying it). Folks are still dying, young people I know are still getting very sick with the virus, long term COVID is real, and this isn’t over ’til it’s over and it may never be over. In the past three weeks, nine folks I know (either directly or with one degree of separation) have been diagnosed with the pesky newest strain.* I stopped using the word crazy many years ago, but in this case I believe it sums things up. A bunch of reactive, impulsive, goofs with poor attention spans and the inability to have a conversation without shouting at or mocking you is one scary thing. And they stigmatize mental illness? Ha.
     After spending the day post-haircut at a sandwich shop (that I feel compelled to say requires proof of vaccination, and I was seated a good distance away from other patrons), I decided to be even braver. It seems time to step out a bit in an effort to balance good COVID sense with some degree of living, and finding inspiration and comfort in community and culture. A friend had called to say she wanted to get together — maybe I could drive to her place downtown? My first instinct was to say no 1) because I am scared of the city with crime double what it was back in Austin, Texas, and worse than it's been in years in Chicago, and I don't want my dear little Honda to get 'jacked and 2) I had not until that point been into anyone’s home other than my parents' for about six months or more. Plus she had a recent case of COVID in the household.
     I have come to realize that even though my extreme hermit lifestyle isn’t so bad and solitude can be golden, it has its down side — there’s only so much talking to plants, singing and dancing alone in one’s living room, and laughing aloud to podcasts and Netflix shows in an empty room that is reasonable for me — so I agreed to see her. Not at her house, but at a (vax required) show at Old Town School of Folk Music.
     David Bromberg Quintet was playing, and we scored a small table in the 2nd row that had been released that day for an otherwise sold-out show. As we settled in (N95 secured) Jordan Tice, a tall young man in faded jeans with a mop of black curls and clear brown eyes stepped on stage. He regaled us with tales sung and expertly strummed in a jaunty, yet philosophical lilt.
     “Mama said relax boy. Lighten up your load. Don’t bring too much down life’s long hard road. Just do what you can. Move a little more down the line. You’re gonna make it where you’re going in a matter of time.”
     When Bromberg stepped on stage his mega-fans whooped and hollered, then quickly settled down when he stepped to the mic, a captain at the helm of his lifeboat. My friend and I enjoyed this expert showman's set. I feel lucky that I have access to such high quality places and people in the entertainment field.
     I won’t tell the story of how Bromberg lost his shit when a man in the front row requested a song, because I don’t have to tell you that it’s hard to keep it together these days.


  1. What a gift EGD is - a gift that allows the reader to start each day with a thoughtful reverie.

    At this point in time I spend about 90% of my time embracing serenity, doing the things I love, counting my blessings. The other 10%? Pondering covid, Ukraine, the cancer that is Trump, the inevitability of suffering and the void that awaits us all.

    As the story of the mustard seed reminds us, suffering is inevitable. It's how we react to what life throws at us that matters. Keep bearing witness and keep the faith.

    1. Thanks for reading, enjoying, and sharing your words.

  2. Everyone is too tightly strung right now.

    1. Right now? That started in 2016. And the traitor, tfg, is still free to spout his venom.

    2. Yes, it's been a hellish several years.

  3. Caren, I'm well aware that you had many sound and valid reasons for leaving Austin, and I understood them and agreed with them. However, given the apparent intensity of your distress about the Plague, and about your city's steadily increasing crime and violence, are you now having doubts and misgivings about your return to Chicago?

    Anxiety, alarm, agitation, and apprehension are the four horsemen who are trampling upon the serenity of your everyday existence. I find that sad. Perhaps you need to find a smaller, slower, safer place. It's a big country. Why stop at Wilmette? There's Wauconda. Or Wisconsin. I hear that Kenosha is a quiet and peaceful place.

  4. Thanks for reading & your insight, Grizz. I actually feel a little better today. Made plans to get to the Botanic Garden and such. I think the peace and calm of my new digs is just starting to sink in, and I will continue to structure my life in a way that makes sense as far as physical & psychological safety. I want to be close to my folks at this time, so won't be moving too far away just yet. The journey will continue to unfold and yes, I can see myself in a rural area one day, as long as it's also close to a cultural hub.

    1. Seems to me Wilmette is the perfect landing spot for you now. Like our host's leafy suburban paradise PLUS the great lake in your backyard. Safer and more serene you will not find. Indeed, let the peace and calm sink in.


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