(Pictured: last day of school hell yeah.)
Here’s more Life on Lockdown, in which we ramble around to whatever seems ramble-worthy.
If my local districts have stuck to their pre-plague calendars, school is getting out right about now. There is no feeling in adult life that’s analogous to the last-day-of-school feeling, except maybe for voluntarily quitting a job in favor of a better one. You walk out with mingled senses of relief, accomplishment, freedom, and expectation—especially the last two, when you’re a kid out of school. Three months stretch out in front of you rich with possibility. You realize that yes, you’ll probably have to work, either chores at home or hours for The Man in exchange for a paycheck, and that it won’t all be golden time. But some of it will be.
What kids are thinking this year, I don’t know. Their world has been gravely circumscribed by the plague. Some continue to work as usual—my nephew, for example, finishing his junior year in high school, has been working the grill at Culvers all through the pandemic and will continue to do so this summer. Others will find their summer plans scrubbed: no hangouts with friends, no music or Scout camp, no family vacation.
I see kids in my neighborhood, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs or trios, on skateboards or scooters or just walking along, and I wonder what they’re saying to themselves and to one another. Do they understand just how deep is the trouble we’re in?
I am torn about whether I want them to understand it. I have written previously about 1975, when between inflation and international tension and the energy crisis and the culture wars, it must have seemed to many adults that the nation was falling apart—but also how our parents did the worrying for us, and how my brothers and me, aged 15, 13, and 9, barely knew how bad it was. I don’t think it harmed us to be protected from the worst of it. And as it turned out, we survived it as a family, and as a nation. This crisis is vastly worse, however, and all of the potential outcomes seem terrible. Some kids know the score—the number of young people who have been involved in the recent protests against brutal policing is inspiring to geezers such as I. For the youngest kids, there will be a time when they’ll have to understand, but not yet. For now, let them have a little bit of carefree summer before the sky falls in.
On another subject:
We are, like most people, passing time by binging TV. We have been rewatching Antenna TV’s reruns of Murphy Brown and another old CBS show from the 90s, Cybill. It might be indicative of the person I am today versus who I was in the 90s, but I like Murphy Brown a lot less than I used to. It’s strident and self-righteous in ways I didn’t notice back then, and Murphy’s self-centeredness eventually turns tiresome. Cybill has worn better than I expected. Cybill Shepherd plays Cybill Sheridan, an actress in her mid 40s struggling to hang on in Hollywood, with two daughters, two ex-husbands, and a sardonic/alcoholic best friend. Its strongly feminist point of view still holds up, as does its portrayal of how vapid Hollywood can be (shown via TV-Cybill’s walk-on parts in sitcoms and soap operas, her appearances in commercials, and with cameos by well-known TV actors). It’s also remarkably raunchy—a few of the jokes would make the CBS censor spit coffee even today. Cybill is on Amazon Prime.
Also on Prime is the movie The Vast of Night, set in small-town New Mexico during the late 50s, in which a telephone operator and a radio DJ lock in on some kind of communication from the beyond. It pays its debt to Twilight Zone directly, and is a compelling and spooky 90 minutes.
I have also been watching Bosch, the Prime series based on the detective novels by Michael Connelly and starring Titus Welliver. It doesn’t break any new storytelling ground, but the stories are involving. Bosch has a high school/college-age daughter who eventually becomes a big part of his story, but the family drama feels like an organic part of the whole. Welliver and Madison Lintz have genuine chemistry; her character is the most authentic teenager I’ve seen on TV in a while.
I wonder what she would say about this cursed summer of 2020.