Quarantine Chronicles Day 5: Welcoming new kids to the party in Isolationland

Well, I see a lot of new faces out there in Isolationland today. And, while “lucky” might not be the first word you’d use to describe your situation, today is in fact your lucky day, because, as an old hand at self-isolation, I’m here to conduct your first-day orientation.

For starters, you’re going to want to keep up with information on what’s going on in Long Beach regarding COVID-19. Sorting through what’s available on the internet will alone occupy all of your time from now until there’s the discovery of a handy cure that you can make yourself using common household products. Baking soda, I’m pretty sure, will be involved, so start your hoarding now.

To free up time for other activities, such as walking around the block or playing Chutes and Ladders With Friends, I would recommend dumping news sources beyond the city’s boundaries most of the time and instead sticking to reading local media, particularly (at the risk of sounding a tad biased) the Long Beach Post. I can testify to its veracity and the talent of its reporters and editors. And consider this: Have I ever steered you wrong?

All you really need to know right now is what’s happening in Long Beach. The farther afield you go in terms of national and international news, the deeper you’ll fall into depression and pretty soon you’ll start referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese Flu.” This is not the time to go all moron on us. I don’t want to be accused of being partisan here, though, so if you find President Trump’s coronavirus briefings calming and reassuring, by all means tune in and enjoy yourself.

In terms of whatever scant freedoms you’re allowed these days, I’m envious, because I’m trapped at home simply because of a clerical error on my birth certificate that shows me as being an outlandish 65. You, on the other hand, while told to stay safe at home, are nevertheless free to visit stores and conduct your toilet-paper and hand-sanitizer scavenger hunts, while all I can do is sit at the window with my dogs and watch the al-fresco frolicking of non-essential workers. How I wish I were you!

Does it sound like I’m throwing a pity party for myself? Because that’s precisely what I’m doing, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for those of you who are feeling despondent.

Dig around your kitchen and pantry for some party food. Look how lucky I am: I found everything I need in one sealed-for-my-protection fiesta feast: a Salami & Cheese Party Tray from Gelson’s with a sell-by date in June, when we’ll all be looking back at this and laughing like idiots.

Sharp cheddar? You bet. Salami? Would it be a Salami & Cheese Party Tray without it? Havarti? You’re damned right, I do.

One of the best ways I’ve found to pass the hours alone is to build playlists on Spotify, and what’s a party without party songs?

With the theme of isolation, there’s not much on my playlist that’s good for dancing, but nobody dances at pity parties, anyway. Rather, these songs are excellent accompaniment to cowering and quaking in the corner:

“Alone Again Or,” Love

“Fretless,” REM

“Only the Lonely,” the Motels

“Splendid Isolation,” Warren Zevon

“911/Mr. Lonely,” Tyler, The Creator

“One,” Three Dog Night

“Solitary Man,” Johnny Cash (more cozily self-pitying than Neil Diamond’s original)

“Tired of Being Alone,” Al Green

“Isolation,” John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

“Morning Dew,” Grateful Dead

It’s therapeutic to make up your own, tailored to your personal pities, which I’m pretty sure would be a bit different than the one I carefully crafted for you, so I won’t be hurt (much) if yours differs. Just don’t monkey with Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation.” I’m afraid that one stays on your list.

Your rollicking cheese-and-meat-tray dinner and dance should leave you sated for the day, so when it’s time to hit the sack, spend your last hour awake and alone with a good book. Three good ones on our list now are “Deacon King Kong” by National Book Award-winner James McBride. It’s how a character-crowded community interacts following the shooting of a young drug dealer by a cranky old deacon who goes by the name of Sportcoat; “The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier,” by Ian Urbina. If you thought life on land was fraught with danger, it’s nothing like the piracy, squalor and oceanic looting that’s going on at sea; and “The Cactus League,” by Emily Nemens, a welcome story now that sports have disappeared from the landscape. This one, too, is teeming with characters fully or tangentially involved with baseball’s spring training season in Arizona.

Good night, get some good sleep. You’ve got busy days ahead.

And please, drop us a line anytime by email: [email protected], or @grobaty on Facebook and Twitter. Pass us one more slab of salami, will you please?

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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.
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