A Recluse in the Time of Covid19

March 26, 2020 § Leave a comment

Lake Hollywood Park on March 21, the first weekend of Los Angeles’s “Safer At Home” order

The last time I thought about writing a post, it was going to be about Harvey Weinstein, who had just been sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. Seeing a rich, powerful man appropriately punished was novel and gratifying, but my story was personal: an account of my first, last and mercifully non-criminal encounter with Weinstein. But it can wait.

How quickly and dramatically the world has changed in the past couple of weeks, as the corona virus has gone from a terrifying overseas crisis to a terrifying domestic one. Although I may not have been among the earliest Californians to self-quarantine, I locked myself in a week before orders came from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Newsom, after attending in short order a post-surgical physical therapy session in a packed facility, a lively restaurant dinner, and a crowded funeral reception. Unnerved by the amount of close physical contact I’d had between March 10th and 13th, I decided to stay home and see no one for two weeks.

Because I live alone and work at home, spending a hundred percent of my time alone didn’t strike me as dramatically different from my usual routine, but I soon realized it was. Though outside activities consumed perhaps twenty percent of my waking hours, running errands and seeing family and friends made a huge difference, and I missed it. By Day 4, I actually felt lonely—an emotion I’d previously felt only in the company of narcissists. When I complained on the phone to my son, who was days away from his own self-quarantine, he said, “You? But you’re a writer!” True, but I wasn’t a hermit until very recently.

Fortunately, by Day 6—the eve of the state-wide shelter-in-place order—I had turned a corner and no longer felt sad, or even particularly alone. Part of the reason was that housework, cooking, gardening, doing my own physical therapy and trying to write left me no time to think about loneliness, let alone wallow in it. The other reason, I suspect, is human adaptability: most people can get used to anything, however strange and unpleasant, and I am predisposed to adapt quickly.

This week, as I embraced my new life under Covid19, news surfaced that Harvey Weinstein, ensconced in a hospital on Riker’s Island, had tested positive for the corona virus. Although only three weeks had passed since his incarceration, Weinstein had become antique, a relic from the shiny world of restaurants, stores, concerts, movie theaters. Now that all the fun places were shuttered, he was irrelevant.

Next time: Movies that speak to our circumstances

“I Love You, California”: the Song, the Era and the Ad

February 26, 2013 § 20 Comments

There’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee ad currently running on TV in California that features a jaunty song sung in warbling 1920s style. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGYR1C6wPo0
Over picturesque shots of the Jeep with the Golden Gate Bridge, mountains, desert, poppies, redwoods, beaches and the Hollywood Sign, we hear:

I love you, California,you’re the greatest state of all
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore

I looked up the lyrics and was surprised to learn that “I Love You California” is our state’s official song. It also features a chorus and three more (in my opinion, far superior) verses that can be seen here: http://www.50states.com/songs/calif.htm#.UTGjrqWSTHg
Having spent most of my life in California, I find it more than a little odd that I had never heard “I Love You, California” played even once before Jeep decided to use it in an ad.

The lyrics were written by F. B. Silverwood (1863-1924), a Los Angeles clothier, and set to music by A. F. Frankenstein, the conductor of the Orpheum Theater Orchestra. The song was copyrighted in 1913 and was debuted soon afterwards by the opera star Mary Garden. “I Love You, California” was an instant success, and in 1915 became the official song of both the San Francisco and San Diego Expositions. It was also played aboard the S.S. Ancon, the first ship to sail through the Panama Canal.

For me, the song captures what I think of as the era of California Exceptionalism–the period between 1900 and 1940 when California had a burgeoning population and geographical remoteness from the East Coast and its culture. Californians–whether established or new–reveled in their state’s differentness: its non-European culture, its climate, its exotic crops, its dramatically varied topography. That California was a popular name for both boys and girls before WWII says a lot about state pride, as do the sentiments expressed in “I Love You, California.”

Apparently, the song is still played at the funerals of former governors, most recently Ronald Reagan’s. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were played at sporting events, and if children learned to sing it in school? Perhaps “I Love You, California” could pave the way for a new era of boosterism, one distinguished by a new-found interest in planting backyard citrus, and in naming babies for the greatest state of all.


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