Quarantine Chronicles: Day 1 and I’m already out of fireplace logs

Monday brought perfect self-isolation weather to Long Beach: overcast, scattered showers. It’s the sort of day that if Gov. Gavin Newsom had given me the green light to go to the office rather than strongly suggesting that I and everyone else in my (ahem) “age demographic” stay home and keep my viruses to myself, I’d be sitting at my desk and wishing I could be curled up in front of the fireplace with a pair of dogs and sipping a coffee fortified with a wee splash of Bailey’s and ordering up Masterpiece Theater’s “Wolf Hall” on Amazon Prime.

Which is, in fact, what I intend to do today on my first day of self-isolation, just doing my part to “flatten the curve” on the spread of COVID-19. It would be untoward and boastful to call myself a hero, though you’re free as always to draw your own conclusions.

Look, I know my self-quarantine isn’t tragic like many others’. Even in pandemics I’m privileged. I’m still being paid (I think/hope), I don’t own a business that will be, at best, imperiled by this pandemic and I don’t have the coronavirus—or at least I don’t feel sick, although I tend to develop whatever symptoms are in the news about any sort of illness and am therefore a good candidate to become the first person to develop hysterical coronavirus.

In these inhospitable times, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for workers in the hospitality trade—the restaurant servers, the hotel housekeepers, the bartenders and others who struggle to pay the bills in the best of times and who’ll now be chasing after whatever meager employment scraps that are still remaining after the numerable closures and shutdowns, however temporary.

To say nothing about health care workers who are constantly exposed to potential virus-carriers and who, if adequate testing was available, would surely (or positively) test positive for COVID-19.

But enough about everyone else. What about me?

This is, again, the first day of my self-imposed house imprisonment, though one strongly urged by my governor, so there’s a novel feel about it, sort of like the first day of school if you can throw your memory back that far. It’s a day of metaphorically arranging pens, filling out the tabs on your binder, writing your name on your gym shorts, settling into your seat in the classroom.

As the days go on, I expect the isolation to be more like the doldrums of the school year, when the minute hand moves as slowly as the hour hand on the clock and 3 o’clock is as far away as next Christmas.

I already miss my beloved work colleagues who have made the Post’s office the happiest place on Earth, even more so now that The Happiest Place on Earth® is closed for a bit.

It is fortuitous that I have been preparing for this stretch of isolation my whole life. This is what I practice for. When it comes to being an introvert, I’m at Pro Level 4, and there is no Level 5. What I need to be happy is reading material (a backlog of dozens of books on my Kindle) an array of video streaming services (got Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, Showtime), an internet connection and some food and beverages, and I’ve got plenty of that thanks to a weekend shopping binge. I even, miraculously, have some Girl Scout cookies left, though I don’t like their chances of surviving the week.

I have music, too. Whatever Alexa has in her little library, as well as Spotify, where I can listen to appropriate tunes, like those found on its COVID-19 playlist, which kicks off with the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” and runs through other viral classics like MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” and the Minutemen’s “Corona.” I may spend a day or two adding some that they’ve forgotten, depending on how bored I get. Matthew Sweet’s “Sick of Myself” might become appropriate.

I anticipate snags along the way. In fact, here comes one now: I just noticed I don’t have any Duraflame (or any other brand) of logs for the fireplace, so that’s throwing somewhat of a damper on my day. Looks like I’d better get an Amazon list going.

If you’re in isolation, you’re paradoxically not alone. About 11% of Long Beach residents are 65 and older—about 50,000 people in the same one-person boat in Long Beach alone. So go ahead and reach out to your friends, neighbors and, most importantly, me, on how you’re coping with living trapped in your home for a couple of weeks or longer. Are you making the most of the time? Learning a new language, taking up macrame, bingeing on old “Mannix” episodes, taking another run at Proust or Pynchon, polishing up that novel?

Drop me a line at [email protected] or grobaty on Twitter and Facebook. We never close.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.