In Bloom

photographycovid-19east pamusic

Magnolia tree in all its glory

I cough into my shoulder.
I sneeze into my shoulder.
I watch as the dates marked on my calendar
for something exciting
pass me by.

I'm thankful that I celebrated my
birthday just before people started
taking COVID-19 seriously,
so I got to hear the sound of Miguel Zenon's sax,
taste a last frozen margherita,
and blast... R.E.M. one last time.

Magnolia tree in all its glory

The Journey

I departed from New York City about a month ago. Much of the public transit was cancelled. I had resolved to maybe, just maybe renting a car from an agency that apparently cares neither about cleanliness nor its employees' safety. (Well, at least that was my judgement from a glance at Twitter and the conspicuous lack of any Coronavirus info on the rental agency's homepage.)

What would I use to combat the germs? Well, in the greatest upsell in the world, the lady working at Baku Mart sold me some Turkish hand cologne. Unfortunately, it was only 40% alcohol, rather than the 60% recommended by the CDC, but it certainly smells nice, and is a really good excuse to touch your face.

Can you say, bad ideas?

Luckily, my oldest friend happened to be driving from his corner of Brooklyn to his corner of Eastern Pennsylvania, and offered me a ride. So, that significantly limited my exposure to germs and lowered hoe much I would mell like an alcohol-soaked lemon.

It poured rain as I left New York, crossing over and out of Staten Island, and I have to say it felt so much more like a "ta-ta for now" than a goodbye.

Magnolia tree in all its glory

Pros and Cons of Rural Life in the Age of COVID-19

Now that I've effectively moved back in with my parents, there are a myriad of small life improvements. For example, I think the view out the window from my desk while I work is muchly improved. In Brooklyn, I was looking at forklifts and a McDonalds. Here, I get to look at grass, trees, flowers, and sometimes squirrels frolicking about. And, I can also step outside without worry of being within six feet of someone (other than my parents.)

Also, I get the rare pleasure of other people cooking food for me?! Somehow, a much better wireless internet signal. And instead of being by myself, I have company, which is a nice change, minus that I am now forever with other people. Haha.

Since there's a literal quarantine in effect, it's easier not to mind that I'm out in the country with nothing to do. I can watch movies, read books, and listen to livestreamed readings from favorite writers of mine. There isn't much I could do differently in New York, because so many of the things that excite me are shut down. The culture gap is eliminated because culture is on pause.

Magnolia tree in all its glory

Entertaining Yourself During Quarantine

A while ago, I was having a nice video call with a college friend who was rather frustrated at being pent up in her apartment due to COVID. The question of course came up, "what are you doing to keep sane?" Here are my answers.

First off, I'm working. And as much as I may like or dislike work on a standard daily basis, it is something that adds structure to my day, obliges me to get out of bed, and occasionally even forces me to have... face-to-face meetings with people in other parts of the country. It is an immense privledge that I am able to work remotely and do not foresee any changes in that arrangement in the immediate future.

Secondly, I've really been enjoying cooking. It's nice that I've gotten to try making some things I haven't made before. There was something really satisfying about mostly competently preparing jollof rice, and then enjoying the fruits of my labor for... basically the whole week that followed.

I've been really enjoying reading and watching films, and also reading in the bath. Super great ways to refocus yuor energy a lil bit outside of the standard situation around you for a bit.

I've channeled some of my creative energy into writing, for instance, this post, and some of it into making music. My focus actually is on eventually livestreaming a performance of some sort. That might be fun, right? (I have not played for an audience since I did so in the theatre basement of a köfte shop in Tokat in Spring 2016.)

Videochats are real hecking nice, especially because it's a great way to catch up with people who live on the other side of the country. That way they can remind you that even though you've been watching films, you've totally forgotten to watch their film recommendations.

Walking outside is a really lovely activity if you can do it without crowds. Being pent up is not enjoyable. Feeling fresh air makes a huge difference.

Since coming to Pennsylvania, I've also been complimenting that with photography. I wanted to pick up a relatively compact but versitaile camera that I could use for travelling, and so I've now been focusing that occasionally. Speaking of which...

Magnolia tree in all its glory

The Tulip Tree

There's a magnolia tulip tree in my parents' yard. It looks lovely when it blooms, after which, petals eventually coat the ground and decay. Sometimes, people would stop and take pictures of it.

When I came home, the tulip tree was really just started to open, and within a week it was in full bloom. These photographs, then, encompass my documentation and appreciation of its progress:

Apparently I've been playing around with depth of field. Whatever that means. Can someone please tell me what 'f' and 'ss' mean? Maybe if I understand those I'll take better pictures. 🙃 (Don't worry, I looked it up.)

And yes, the title of this post is for the tulip tree, and not for the fabulous Radiohead song. But, while I'm thinking about music...

A Playlist

As a parting gift, I'd love to end this post with some albums that I have been enjoying lately.

  • Confidence by Memum (bandcamp|spotify) is a really superb ambient album. It's simultaneously relaxing and engaging with washes of reverb and acoustic guitar, and someitmes also some singing in Finnish. It is an excellent companion for lying in a hot bath, or creating an atmosphere that is totally at odds with the one you get by turning on the news.
  • St. Cloud by Waxahatchee (bandcamp|spotify) recently came out, and completely deserves all of the praise it is getting. It is from start-to-finish some superbly enjoyable Americana-tinged indie music, opening with relatable lines like "when dreams come true they might seem trite."
  • Singer of Tales by Damir Imamovic (spotify) is an utterly fantastic Bosnian folk album. Imamovic is primarily a singer, and he has a beautiful voice, but the other musicians do not slouch either. The whole thing is impeccibly produced and arranged, and it is a really lovely listen.
  • Habibi by Tamino (spotify) is more-or-less a more Eastern-influenced, operatic and poppy Radiohead. I find some of the songs are much bigger standouts than others, but the whole thing is enjoyable.

These then are my recommendations. Go forth and listen.

And stay healthy and sane out there!

Magnolia tree in all its glory