April 1, 2020

It’s hump day evening, I’ve had my leftover chicken masaman from the local Nepalese take out accompanied by a glass of Cotes du Rhone (Tommy’s favorite) and I finished sorting the movie collection and pulling the obvious discards. Must be time to sit down and write again. I’ve never been one to drink alone but as day drags on into day by myself in the house, I’m opening a bottle of wine a week and treating myself to the occasional glass. One less thing to have to eventually move. I still haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to do that in the middle of a societal lock down but that’s a problem for another day.

The Corona Virus counter I check every evening shows that we’re now at roughly a million cases reported world wide (likely a huge under count as the statistics from a number of places are not to be trusted), roughly double the number of cases in the USA than in Italy, and the Alabama number entering four figure territory for the first time. We continue to be able to cope at UAB and at the Birmingham VA with the local needs so far but, two weeks in, there’s a feeling of fatigue and that this is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. I figure we’re going to have a better sense of the local parameters of the pandemic in about two more weeks when we see what the behaviors of today are doing in terms of controlling spread. I tend to hang out with relatively intelligent people so we’re all practicing our social distancing and isolation with reasonable success but I can tell from friends social media feeds that there’s a longing for a return to a world of rehearsals, neighborhood restaurant nights, theater parties, and just the plain joy of hanging out with your usual crowd not feeling a need to do much of anything. A friend of mine is trying to work out an on line version of Cards Against Humanity but it’s just not going to be the same.

Today’s musings have to do with trying to battle instinctual behaviors. We all have them. They’re buried deep in the limbic system and tend to make themselves known at times of stress. One of the chief among them, as social animals, is finding solace in the group in times of fear and uncertainty. I absolutely understand why some communities are still trying to come together in religious ritual. It’s a deep and innate longing and need in unsettling times. Unfortunately, our intellectual selves, having mastered an understanding of biology and basic virology, know that this is one of the worst things we can do from an epidemiologic point of view. This leads to a really primitive conflict which we’re seeing played out, especially in the south, between militant church goers and other members of society who recognize that this behavior will endanger others and should not happen. Where do I stand on this? I believe that god will understand is church is in abeyance for a while and god is helping me through this – he/she gave me a brain smart enough to not put myself in a position of danger.

Andy hanging from the fly bar

I think I learned the most about battling my own instincts when I took trapeze lessons for about a year a couple decades ago. I’m not going back to it – at my age I’d likely dislocate my shoulder or fracture my hip or some such. I started at a resort in Mexico. Steve and I had booked a vacation there in the spring of 1998 and, the week before we left, UC Davis decided to disband its clinical geriatrics program and handed me a sixty day pink slip. Needless to say, by the time we arrived at Blue Bay Los Angeles Locos, I was fit to be tied and needed something to make me feel like I still had some mettle left in me. They were offering beginner trapeze lessons so I signed up thinking if I could face my acrophobia and do that, I could take on the upcoming work challenges.

Flying trapeze is all about physics. At the peaks of the arc, you’re basically weightless and can do your maneuvering relatively easily. Some of the tricks that look spectacular from the ground are relatively easy. The hardest part is, after being caught, returning back to the original fly bar. I never did quite get the hang of that. When you’re standing on the platform with the fly bar in your hands, everything in your brain is trying to make your body thrust its center of gravity backwards onto the platform so you won’t fall twenty five feet or so. However, to successfully launch, you must do the opposite and puff out your chest, draw your hips in and keep your center of gravity forward towards the bar. It’s difficult to get yourself to do that and requires a sort of zen tranquility to over ride the lizard brain that’s in full flight or fight mode. I took several series of lessons at that resort the next few years, and then continued with a flying school in Atlanta for a time. I stopped when I met Tommy and got interested in other sorts of performing. Joining the circus just wasn’t in the cards.

The apprehensiveness that I feel, that we probably all feel, as we experience this global event has me feeling like I’m standing on a trapeze platform. I want to bend backwards and hold myself in a completely wrong position as it feels like a place of safety. Instead, I know I have to stand tall, stick my chest out, and launch myself into a new and unknown world -it’s scary as hell but I’ve done it before in all sorts of ways. I have to trust that the safety lines and net of my intelligence, my education, my family, my friends, my career, my performing instincts, and all the rest will lead to a successful trick and dismount. And, even if I fall, I have learned how to do it safely and gracefully; it’s the first thing you learn in trapeze as you’re going to do it again and again.

2 thoughts on “April 1, 2020

  1. I understand the drive to do something absolutely stupid by normal standards (by that I mean trapeze). I took up karate at age 48 … expecting to drop it after a couple months … and wound up continuing for four years despite a broken wrist / hand, multiple finger fractures, both retinas in traction, and a cracked rib. I finally stopped when I developed asthma.
    I blame it all on Emma Peel on The Avengers …


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