Archive for April, 2020

Larry, My FBI Guy

At the beginning of class, I don my headphones, get my notebook ready, and click on the link. The link brings me to a little virtual room into which students begin aspirating with a vroom. It sounds like the magical characters in Harry Potter zooming into the ether to another location.

“Hi guys!” I say, too chipper, trying to remove the little gap of reality that sits between us all, namely the fact that we are all at home and we won’t be leaving, let alone seeing each other, for a long time. On the bright side, I think we are all wearing pajamas. After I say hello to everyone I say, “Oh, don’t forget to say hello to…”

“Hi Larry!” the group says.

Larry is our FBI guy. Well he’s my FBI guy. We are certain that he sits in on classes and listens to us discuss the unreal past, the probable future, and the unbelievably, uncannily fucked up unreal present. So, if Larry wants to sit in, why not.

Some of my students seem to be better than others. Some are quite demoralized about being cooped up in their homes for so long. Others seem fine, these are the ones usually at their family homes in the country somewhere and who, though surely a bit depressed and thrown off, have seen this as an opportunity to sit on the lawn and not do things.

When a demoralized one speaks, I just know it. There’s a voice now, a Corona voice. It has a mildly desperate plea in it that is shucking its subtly. Some might come out and say “I am not doing well.” But even if they didn’t, I’d know the Corona voice. I know because I have it. I hear it in myself when I chat with a friend or my family at home. It’s a creaky and small voice in the back of my throat that says, “Fuck man, this thing better end or I’m going to go to the zoo covered in chum and grabbing a wolf by his genitals.” I let the demoralized ones speak about being demoralized. “It’s OK,” I say, “this is only temporary.” But they can tell I’m just as demoralized as they are. They no doubt hear my Corona voice. We sort of have an unspoken support group. The Demoralized.

And who can blame them?

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Into the Miniature Mouth of Madness

The world becomes Coronafied. People have it terribly bad out there and I am fortunate to be able to be locked away in a flat in Prague 6 with only occasional trips to a grocery store or a walk around the park. Still, while I get it that I have it much better than many others, I have certainly begun to descend into a mouth of miniature madness.

I have not worn pants in a month. Not even looked at them. I wonder on occasion how they’ll fit when I go to put them back on in late-May and have thus resolved to start a diet in late April. Maybe early May. Mid-May at the latest.

Going out means wiping things down, boiling a mask, hand sanitizing in a routine my hands haven’t seen since I was twelve, and dropping my clothes into a hamper at the door before I walk like a surgeon about to enter surgery until I can turn on my sink with my elbow. Therefore outside doesn’t occur that often. I spend an awful lot of time, though, staring through the window at the reckless maniacs below.

My people skills are depleting. Not only people skills, but what to do to go outside skills. A mailman rang the buzzer yesterday and I had to check three times that I was wearing pants. (spoiler alert: I wasn’t). I’m sure it’ll get better before June. In any event, I don’t think anyone else will forget to wear pants either.

I have full on conversations with my cat, who is becoming a real dick. She knows every step of my day, so the mystery is gone from our relationship and we both know it. It’s sad. We schedule the day with two meals. Breakfast-ish and dinner-ish. There’s something in between that sort of resembles lunch, but it’s not so much food as the time when I begin to wonder if it’s OK to start drinking. It usually is.

While I drink more days during the week now I find that I am rarely intoxicated. I mean, I can push through if I need to (heroically, I must add), but it usually doesn’t happen. I hope that ability comes back too. I have accepted a writing job for a series of coursebooks that are devouring all of my time. I am up at 6 am writing and at some point in the day I stop when my back hurts too much. So while people talk about Corona free time I squint and try to remember what it was like.

I guess this is going to be talked about one day. Everyone will have a “what were you doing during Corona” story. These will probably grow and become little myths. One day Max Brooks will write an oral history of it and I will read it. As long as there are zombies in it. The thing is, I don’t know if I’ll really remember what I spent the Corona time doing. I’ll remember work and not being outside and rather staring out the window at the Prague weather getting nicer. I’ll remember a ton of work and talking to my cat and the big day every week when we go out for groceries and then the twenty minutes after we get back when we clean ourselves and all of our things.

But I really hope I can get drunk after this whole thing.

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I am the actor who has played soldiers dying in various representations of World War II assaults in six different movies and television shows. Ask me Anything!

How many beaches have you died on?

Three. Due to camera magic (as we call it, well as I call it) I died on Omaha Beach twice in Saving Private Ryan. Once I was blown in two and the other time I just fell down in the water. The third time was in The Pacific when I died on Peleliu. 

Which beach was your favorite to die on?

While I got to hold hands with Tom Hanks on Omaha Beach, Peleliu was a lot warmer and the hoagie tray was much better. Also I got to chat with that kid from Jurassic Park in between takes.

What movie makes you laugh no matter how often you see it?

Saving Private Ryan. Because of the times we had. You spend a lot of time laughing with guys while you’re laying in the sand and being gritty.

What’s the hardest thing you ever worked on?

A Vietnam flick I did called We Were Soldiers starring a little known gent called Mr. Mel Gibson. I played a Vietnamese soldier (I’m shortish). Napalm deaths are a bitch. Lots of flailing.  

Do you prefer dying on a beach or inland?

Great question! There are benefits to both, of course. The beach assault takes took twelve days, which means I was wet for and my underwear was full of sand for twelve days. To be honest, I would go more for an inland assault. In Band of Brothers, my character jumped into Normandy and had a few lines before he tripped a bouncing betty and got part of his face blown off. One of my fellow walking dead was a “hanger” which is what we call the paratroopers who died in the jump and were hanging there. That was the money shot, but those guys had it tough. Dangling around, genitals all bound up and cinched up, I mean, they were brought cakes all day, but not drinks so they didn’t have to pee.   

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Backwards TV

After counting on my fingers and toes, counting backwards, and consulting my computer’s desktop calendar, I have deduced (rather brilliantly) that it’s Sunday. Almost immediately I forget it, as it doesn’t mean a lot these days. We aren’t going to work and we don’t have a television that we use to watch television, but rather movies and series online or on DVD.

Truth be told, I have not been a “television watcher” for many years and I mean that literally and not in the uber-obnoxious way that some do. (I don’t even own a television.) But rather for fifteen years I have mostly watched things online. I can easily binge a sitcom if I am in need of a screen-time comfort zone. And I have a log of comfort shows and movies – Seinfeld, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Shaun of the Dead (though not recently). I can’t remember what it’s like to need to adhere to a TV schedule.

But I remember liking it. There was always something great about good TV nights. Seinfeld was on Thursdays along with Friends, The Single Guy, and the unmovable ER. And plus there’s always something brilliant about stumbling across a show rather than putting in a DVD of it. It’s like getting an extra rush of excitement. And I do think it’s why we love flipping through the channels so much. We are like primal hunters, with a remote in one hand and a box of Cheese Nips in the other, looking for the mother lode of TV that promises to be just around the corner. The first few minutes of Jaws. A replay of the Eagles Superbowl game. The very tipoff of a 10 hour M*A*S*H marathon. An episode of Columbo from the 70s. The non-remote holders might shout “For God’s sake, just stop here!” but we say “Nae! There’s something better yonder!” and beat our chests to clean our sweaters of Cheese Nips. Or something like that.

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