The COVID Diaries: Lingering, not Malingering

Hi Darling Ones,

I was eight when John Lennon was killed outside The Dakota in December, 1980. I do not not remember a lot about his death, though I do have vague memories of reading about Mark David Chapman and his obsession with Catcher in the Rye in an issue of People, my mom’s favorite magazine.

The Beatles meant nothing to me at that age. Not a lot of things did, I was a pretty oblivious kid. My favorite song at the time was probably “Boy From New York City” and I thought that Fonzie and Richie Cunningham were actual people who lived in Milwaukee, whose lives we got to see once a week. Yes, as a child I thought all TV was reality TV.

I only became aware of John Lennon and his death when I watched the video for Elton John’s song “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).” Having lost my own grandfather shortly before seeing the video for the first time, I paid extra attention to it because the VJ introduced the song by saying John and written it about his friend John Lennon who was murdered, etc. You know the story. New grief, I was absolutely mesmerized by the idea that you could take your sadness and make into something for your dead friend.

For that exact reason I’ve always had a soft spot for Paul Westerberg’s “Good Day”, which I wrote about last year for Valentine’s Day.

Are you sensing a trend? Do you know what’s coming?

I’ve been obsessed with Frank Turner’s song “A Wave Across a Bay” for nearly a week now. I listen to it roughly seven times a day. I sing it to myself as I’m getting ready for bed and when I wake up in the morning.

It’s the soundtrack to these lingering days of COVID-related low-energy and unending congestion. I really thought once I got my taste back this COVID nonsense would be over. I was wrong. I feel like this is never going to end. I decided I was all better this morning and went about my pre-sickness routine. My body was pissed off about that and so I spent a lot of the afternoon tipped over on the couch wondering if I would ever get back to normal or if I would just die instead.

This song wrecks me in the most excruciating way. There are certain deaths by suicide that squeeze at my heart and make my stomachache in an anxious sort of way — Sylvia Plath, Robin Williams, Anne Sexton, David Foster Wallace. Scott Hutchinson, the subject of this song and the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, is also on that list. I’m not sure why these people’s deaths feel extra painful to me. I did not know any of them. However, the way they turned their pain and inner turmoil into something tangible and beautiful makes their deaths seem extra-sorrowful. It’s like Turner sings, “You had something in your soul that we could recognize.”

Can you think of a better, finer tribute than that line? I can’t, at least not at the moment. Isn’t this what all artists want? Someone to recognize something in our souls?

Unrecognizably yours,

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