In Barry Levinson’s 1990 movie “Avalon,” there’s a scene where the aging patriarch sits down in his easy chair in front of the TV.
The camera remains stationary, but there’s a slow cross-fade, and at the end of it we see that several years have passed. The old guy is in the same chair, still watching TV, but he has gotten much older. He hasn’t moved, but his golden years have passed without notice into full decrepitude. It’s a poignant and sobering moment.
Over the last year of Covid isolation, I’ve felt something like that. Each day is much like another, lived by rote and routine and the occasional Zoom call. Each day I think I’m keeping things together pretty well, but at the end of each day I’m in the same place I started — both literally and figuratively.
My TV is mostly the computer; my easy chair is this same Herman Miller Aeron I splurged on 17 years ago. I haven’t actually traveled in a year. Since August I’ve been flying around in the virtual world of Microsoft Flight Simulator. The scenery and flight dynamics are good enough that it partially satisfies some primal urge to get the hell out of Florida. Or so I choose to believe. I’ve appreciated the illusion of being able to up and fly away on a whim. Over the last few months I’ve visited, virtually, every place I’ve ever been or ever wanted to go.
But of course I’ve never left the chair, and the computer monitor is still just another glowing screen. You can be watching Top Chef or Real Housewives or Animal Crossing, you can be Facebooking and Tweeting your ass off, but you’re still just sitting there.
Not sure where I’m going with this. Someday soon, I hope, we’ll all be vaccinated, and we’ll all venture forth unmasked, to greet friends and family in person and share meals over fully laden tables. But I worry sometimes that this Covid year, coinciding as it has with the last dreadful year of the Trump era, has wrought some sort of permanent change. Somehow, isolation and low-grade despair has become the normal way of things.
But then it’s February. Really, if you don’t feel a little isolated and depressed in February, after a yearlong pandemic and a coup attempt by cretins, maybe you haven’t been paying attention. Probably no coincidence that it’s also my birthday month, and the number associated with this one has made me acutely aware that I’m running out of days to waste. The good news: Trump is gone, for now, and Covid seems to be going. For now. I guess I’m not yet ready for my cross-fade, Mr. Levinson.