Well, I’m scratching my head for what ESPN is going to show for the next six months. Darts? Bags? Sumo wrestling? Bass fishing? With the five major North American pro leagues shut down, minor league baseball and basketball as well, and the NCAA basically cancelling the rest of the academic year including the cash cow of March Madness, we are looking at a time in America without sports – and while I am not the sports fiend I was in the 1990s, by far, it’s still weird to not have the background noise of baseball as the rhythm of spring.
I’ve been working from home since Wednesday night, initially because of a doctor’s appointment but since then to avoid anyone who might get me sick before my latest round of epidural steroids tomorrow. Like 2012 and 2016, election year means pinched nerve and shoulder pain, so here we go again. It’s been mostly in my arm this time, though, so maybe one round will be enough instead of two. And it would be even less of a big deal if being laid off hadn’t wiped out my sick and vacation time. Having the payout check from vacation isn’t much good when you actually need days off.
Then again, I’ve had to rethink a lot without vacation time. When you don’t have any prospect of seeing two weeks in London before sometime in 2021 at the earliest, you make do. The kind of money it takes to be abroad for ten days will easily fund three hours at the local British-style pub every Saturday night for a year – or, more likely, several years at home on a Sunday night with a jug of pub ale and a Peter Ackroyd book while RTE in Irish plays through your headphones. It’s affordable, it works, and if you do it just right – with the lights dim, the iPhone SE to hand instead of the X, no extra apps on the phone to distract you with Twitter or Insta or the like, and wearing comfy clothing heavy on the flannel and slubby cotton – you can almost imagine yourself in another world, another life, vacationing from reality.
And that’s really become a thing, these last few years. Even the pub isn’t an escape; refuge comes from not having to engage with the world at all on any terms but the ones you dictate. Thirty minutes in an underground lounge at work, earbuds in for mediation. An afternoon or evening driving down the coast. A weekend with nothing on the agenda but to recover from a medical procedure, maybe augmented with a short trip on an empty light rail that puts you in front of a bar or a market that you can then train back from in short order, or even a walkable trip to the taqueria or the coffee shop. Vacation has always been about escaping to the kind of life you wish you had. Now it consists largely of carving that life out of the surrounding world as much as you can get away with.
I mean, maybe things will get better? You definitely won’t get any younger. Life isn’t going to stop taking things away and start giving them back. The move is to find joy now, wherever you can, and if it can be manufactured simply and at little cost, do it. The world’s on fire, and yet the ability to work from home for a week feels as good as retirement. Pitcher of iced tea, flannel shirt over a gray T that suggests nothing so much as someone who hasn’t changed his wardrobe in almost 30 years, stay out of the spouse’s way and take turns having your meetings without headphones, and try to be at peace while everything is in full on chaotic neutral mode.
Of such is our life made in 2020.