Coronavirus Diary: Closure

This Coronavirus Diary must end sometime. That time is now, with the State of California, where I live, officially “re-opened” 15 months after the shelter-in-place-order.

It is a moment of closure in my experience of the Coronavirus Crisis. That’s not to say the pandemic is over. We all experience this situation differently. Those who suffer from sickness or lost loved ones may never feel the pandemic ending. 

For me, even after a gradual return to my old life in the two months since my second vaccination, the state re-opening is a watershed. The re-opening means communal recognition that the health threat has passed, at least for those vaxed, which is an even greater uplift than the relief and joy of feeling safe as an individual.

So, to close this diary, here are highlights of the weeks between my individual vaccination and our communal exultation.

The day after flying to Milwaukee to visit my parents, our first flights in nearly two years, my daughter Eleni and I jogged the bluffs at Klode Park and took time on the beach to thank nature for delivering us.
We timed our trip for “ASAP after vax+2 weeks” so we could see Papa and Lulu after almost two years apart. We celebrated Papa’s 80th with a family dinner about a month after his actual birthday.
Molly hosted me for a much-needed catch-up conversation on the balcony of her new home.
Fire seemed to be a theme of our friend gatherings. Beth hosted a “Jake’s in Town” bonfire.
Molly, Beth and The ’82 Project crew, plus many others, have taken Eleni under their wings when she visits my parents–a source of my great pride in friends and family. Here, Eleni, Mark, Tom, and Liz show off their “Jan’s Pack” bracelets worn in support of an ’82 classmate courageously facing health struggles.
On the next leg of my trip, in Chicago, my worlds started colliding. As a member of the Redwood City Racial Equity Mural Steering Committee, my eyes are opened even wider to murals (which is not to say I’m “woke”.) As a Chicago ex-pat, I follow the city’s news. After learning of The Firehouse Community Arts Center and its effort to intervene in violence among North Lawndale neighborhood youth, I arranged a visit.
Pastor Phil Jackson, who founded the The Firehouse Community Arts Center, welcomed me into his inner sanctum and toured me through the facility. We kicked it for a couple hours, covering our backstories, my writing of “The Black Book,” his writing of “The Hip-Hop Church,” our thoughts on whoever wrote “The Good Book,” other authors (Frantz Fanon for me, Greg Boyle for him), which Chicago Public Schools to call on for a free trial of the Fit Kids program that I represent, how art heals, basketball, sneakers, rap lyric quotations, civil rights history, the movement’s various visionaries, economic empowerment, and too many other topics for my frantic mind to remember. We learned a lot and now know we need to work together.
The day after meeting Pastor Phil, still all about the arts and seeking ideas for my mural folks back in the Bay, I passed this one on Lake Shore Drive while walking from my friends’ place where I was staying down to the Art Institute of Chicago for the Bisa Butler exhibit.
Mind. Blown. “Bisa Butler: Portraits” is the best art exhibit I’ve ever seen. One signature moment was viewing this quilt, titled “Southside Sunday Morning.” The variety of personalities shown in their poses and the distinct differences in the hauntedness of their eyes speaks to the individual and collective experiences of Black people in the United States.
This detail of “Southside Sunday Morning” homes in on those facial expressions.
Another favorite was “Les Sapeurs.”
Look what she can do with eyes and facial expressions in this detail from “Les Sapeurs.” With fabric!
Same here.
And here.
“Four Little Girls, September 15, 1963” grabbed me because it depicts those killed in the infamous 16th St. Baptist Church bombing, including Denise McNair, elder sister of my friend Lisa McNair.
This, and the rest of my favorites from the exhibit, follow without comment.
After the Art Institute, I was tired from about six miles of walking and no food all day. I could not get a Lyft or a taxi, so I set off on foot toward one of the holy grails of Chicago sandwiches and passed this Coronavirus-themed mural in the South Loop.
A shot of the Sears Tower (or whatever they call it now) from the Dan Ryan Expressway overpass near 26th and Wentworth.
Holy Grail
Can’t stop won’t stop the art walks, but I took a lunchbreak the next day with Mark before peeping Pilsen.
The next day, a much different kind of walk–golf with friends.

Those are just the photo highlights. Many one-on-one, face-to-face conversations with other dear friends and family helped me emerge from the pandemic. After isolation, nothing beats breaking bread with people I’ve loved for decades.

Back in the Bay, early June, I miraculously had an in-person business meeting. I wore big boy pants for the first time in 15 months. Now, the lockdowns and quarantines and even most of the mask mandates are officially behind us. Barring the unforeseen, the last steps in my journey through the Coronavirus crisis will be into a pick-up basketball gym in these big boy shoes purchased the day before the courts closed.

Playing basketball with friends and strangers will be the ultimate communal confirmation that the pandemic has passed. With my feet aching, body bruised and maybe bloodied, barely able to breathe, I’ll know that, at least in my world, we’ve returned to full health.

(To read the Coronavirus Diary all the way through, start here.)

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus Diary: Closure

  1. Pingback: Coronavirus Diary: Anniversary |

  2. Pingback: Coronavirus Diary: No New Normal |

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