“You were Practicing Social Distancing Before it became Fashionable.”
The above quote was given to me from a family member who, I am fully aware, meant it as a humorous jab. It’s typical tongue-in-cheek Bahr humor. But it got me thinking about my present state of isolation and who I am as a person on a few levels.
I’ve Always Been What You Could Call a “Loner.”
I remember hearing Paul Simon’s “I Am A Rock” (1966) with the line, “I have my books and my poetry to protect me.” I remember hearing that as a kid and thinking, “Wow, you can be protected by books and poetry?” For the record, I didn’t enjoy reading much until the Harry Potter books came out, and I found an interview in braille from Rolling Stone with John Lennon from 1970; Had my teachers known the gratuitous amount of profanity-laced throughout the text, it would have been snatched away. Although I already knew those words by age 13 or so. But I digress, where was I? Oh, right, books and poetry to protect.
Once I started reading histories of music, and the Internet showed up, worlds opened to me. I found I would much rather read than watch movies or TV. Priscilla was the TV/movie person, not me. I would guess I’ve read over a hundred books this year alone, and I’m not sure how much that would or would not have changed had the pandemic not forced isolation to be the sensible thing to do. It also helps that I read at double or 2.5x speeds on audiobooks depending on the narrator and even faster if it is a book read to me by a computer. I’ve always been one for books, some poems, but mostly history and biography. See my other entry on that for more info.
Crowds frighten me. They always have. Unless I happen to be entertaining one. If I have the audience, then I could not be happier. That is for another entry though. I will do damn near anything for a laugh; I’ve always been a ham. I think, now that I write that last sentence, that a lot of comedians are perhaps the more lonely of the species. Performing takes a lot out of a person, but if the audience pays him/her back in kind (I.E. laughter) then it makes it worth it. But I wonder how many comedians, of any stripe, are truly fabulously social creatures.
I’ve Always Been Called “Antisocial.”
It’s a descriptor that’s hung around me for as long as I can remember. Social Media has had both good and bad holds on me as it has on all of us. But this last year, and as I was once again reminded regarding the “social distancing” quote used to start off this rambling discourse, I actually have counted myself extremely lucky to be able to isolate as I have. And for every action of reading a book or absorbing the beauty of Beethoven String Quartet Op. 130 (one of the strangest pieces of music ever set down in any era), there is an equal and opposite reaction of a person who cries out for conversation.
For every moment I laugh at an old Fred Allen radio show or a story by Jean Shepherd, there’s the man who wants to get in front of the crowd and do ridiculous impressions and tell stories of things that may, or may not, have happened in my life. To impart wisdom through laughter. But for all of those extroverted times, there are the “socially distanced” times. The days or weeks or maybe even months that I have to recharge to face the world again.
Returning to the quote at the top of the piece, I know it was meant in a sardonic fashion. Virtual communication can only go so far before someone needs a physical presence. Even if it’s a delivery person dropping off groceries and I say, “thank you very much” through a closed door and hear a, “you are very welcome to have a good day,” in return. Right now, I’ll take that distance and try to do my damndest to stay safe for my own personal space.