by John Kendall Hawkins
"I know what you mean, Steve."
-Jane Martin sitting in a car at Lover's Lane and inching slowly away, The Blob (1958)
"Hideously plausible suspense... [that] will glue you to your chair."
-Detroit Free Press review, The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Recently, someone online suggested reading Journal of the Plague Year by Willem Dafoe, I mean Defoe. Daniel. I kept looking at an illustration of the 14th-century German Plague Doctor, thinking it looks an awful lot like my imagined picture of Dylan's "Man in the Long Black Coat", and Zimmy singing, "He had a face like a mask", and "People don't live or die people just float she went with the man in the long black coat." The Germ Man.
Holed up, but internetted, in my no-panic-but-getting-there-room, wondering what the f*ck I'd do if the tubes went down, now that they're shuttering customer-service centers, I'm told, and I had to make my way Out There, gingerly, as if the air between here and there were now all jungly with corona vines hanging everywhere, to sift through my paperback collection in storage, only to find one dega book left -- The Foucault Reader. F*ck me.
But back to Herr Doktor Daniel Defoe. There I was self-isolating, like Robinson Crusoe listening to his parrot squawk "Poor Crusoe" for 30 years. Me thinking Dafoe, who played Christ, could have played Crusoe (he has that kind of range) in a kind of combined performance. There's the why-have-you-forsaken-me self-pity that became the Church. There's that spooky crossover pagan element that comes out at Easter. In fact, at one point, good Friday, "flung down by corpse evangelists", ensmirkled by the love-smiling cannibals of transubstantiation, is saved by good Crusoe. What I want to know is why Defoe has Crusoe, after he returns to England, abandoning his young family for more crazy adventures (Vol.2), and why Dafoe isn't starring as Defoe in a post-mod TV movie about all this scheissen.
Some people think idle thoughts during times of plague and pestilence. Me, I prefer a good lip-doodling frenzy. Strange things happen to people in these global crises of ours -- and I've had my share of them, starting with the Cuban missile crisis, when the organic gardening craze began (wink) -- strange ways of thinking that bring strangers together worldwide to contemplate the One Thing. The threats to the body, but it's the psychology that fascinates. We haven't been down this road since 9/11, but there are no politics here, coronavirus isn't Islamic (Inshallah), and even as we fall like Sartrian flies, it feels like a test of the Emergency Broadcast System, like a cover for something else, but then conspiracies and pandemics are French-kissing first cousins, another version of the mind-body problem we can't solve.
I have idle thoughts, too, and I wonder: What happens to the homeless during Corona? Are they given digs to self-isolate in? A Good Will box each, maybe? And if we've found a solution suddenly (by necessity), then where are we on this issue all the other days? Also, while we're idling, if we can come together on Corona, everyone on the same page, then how come we can't put out a pandemic -- issue a public-service virus -- that forces us to think together about climate change? And, also, is it me, or is Trump looking these days like he's got a sibling jealousy of Corona?
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