Bookends of a Pandemic

I drive, therefore I am

It’s true I do love bookends. I love things that contain other things on the front and on the back. I also love actual bookends, though I don’t have a bookshelf currently so I just envy others’ bookends. I also love the album ‘Bookends’ by Simon and Garfunkel, and I love that Zooey uses that very album to stick it to her mom, Frances McDormand in Almost Famous.

When I dove into screenwriting around 2008 how meaningful was it then that I learned bookends were a writing tool. A story tool. In screenwriting it’s called opening image/ closing image. The place where the character starts vs where they end up. It’s a compare and contrast, and hopefully it’s satisfying. In a good movie it always is. (think about the before and after of Tim Robbins’ character in The Shawshank Redemption as just one example).

I have had zero energy to write for many months now.

Less than zero actually.

I had too many other things all coming down at once, too many balls in the air, too many what ifs, too many miles to travel.

But now I’m done.

And I’m spent.

And I’m home.

So making coffee and getting back into bed, yeah that’s about all I’m good for today. I mustered up energy for a date yesterday, and it was fine, though she probably thought my lack of exuberance had something to do with her. Carrie if you’re reading this it had nothing to do with you. You were as cute as your pictures and your truck is cool too.

For me it was driving 7,506 miles over the past three weeks — that was the culprit. While pulling a trailer.

And making ten bikes.

And finishing another film.

And publishing a book.

See what I mean? Been quite a year. Quite a six months actually.

Bookends

So what gives? Where is this energy to write coming from? Well I think it’s pondering the miles driven, and thinking about the past two years of life with this pandemic, and since I love analyzing recent history and choices, I woke up and saw clearly the bookends.

When the pandemic hit I got wind that a friend was getting evicted because he might have Covid. He tested negative but was drinking too much vodka and not eating great and so his landlady still flew off the handle and made his life a living hell, turning off power in the cold winter months and stealing the door to his bathroom.

Among other things.

So I hit the road.

I visited my friend and helped him get help, and moved his stuff into storage. Then I drove further and out of state and visited more people. I posted my traveling as I went to towns in California that had zero covid hospitalizations but were in total lockdown. It was eerie. I visited a friend in a neighboring state I had disagreed with online and I wanted to give her a hug and tell her that friendship was more important than getting every covid stat correct.

That was how the pandemic started for me — driving.

May 2020, somewhere in California

Similarly, driving — at least for me — was how the pandemic ended.

Driving home from LA after Christmas this past week was a different drive than that trip in late April of 2020 though. That was uncertain. This was not. That was leisurely, explorative, this was not.

This was a bullet train compared to that.

I blazed across the country in just three days, and instead of in a gold convertible now I was in a truck towing a trailer. Life in the past two years for me has dramatically changed as far as where and what, though my friends would probably barely blink if I said my life now was really much different.

Regardless, these two drives have really bookended the pandemic for me, and that’s interesting. I think on New Years Day, with the majority of “experts” at least agreeing that everyone eventually will contract some form of a *corona* virus, and combined with the legality of the mandates on life support, that the pandemic, as much as we’ve defined it, is over.

Therefore it’s a great time to think about the bookends.

I realize that was a long intro.

Truth

I also feel it’s timely to bookend the pandemic as the truths about things we found ourselves arguing over are *thankfully* now out in the open. I won’t list them all but Ben Shapiro just did — and relax, it doesn’t matter if you love him or hate him — I respect his intellect but I acknowledge he’s a little whiny for me sometimes — but he lists out perfectly the things some of us said/ knew in the early moments, and that now even the experts have to admit are true.

Here’s the link if you haven’t read it.

New Years Day

Even if it weren’t a great song by U2, New Years Day I think always holds more hope and faith than other days.

Don’t you think so?

Forget about the weight loss goals and think bigger. Regardless of your view of how your own country or state “handled” the virus, the fact is we were all caught off guard as far as life priorities. That’s partially why the first two weeks felt so cathartic. Why nobody fought it at the onset. Because we all (in Western countries at least) probably NEEDED a break — and two weeks was great. It was a slow down. A reset. A catch up time and a reminder that maybe we HAD all been running on fumes for too long.

But here’s an interesting thought — to what did you blame this on before the pandemic? Life being on fumes? Did you blame social media? Traffic? Commute times? Soccer games and kids’ responsibilities? Because it doesn’t matter what we blamed previously, the fact is that those first two weeks were just what the doctor ordered for so many people.

Now if you were the thinking type, or didn’t have a family to distract you, you may have thought, as I did, that as needed as it was, maybe we needn’t wait for another worldwide virus to cause us to slow down. To make tea and read a book. To garden. To do our taxes on time. To write a letter, or to call a friend. to refinish that piece of furniture we’d bought on Craigslist last summer. To go on a hike and turn off the phone. To not care if every picture posted is perfect.

At least those were the things I thought about.

But we did need a virus didn’t we? Or at least that’s what we got.

2022

So what now? As I said depending on your state or country the measures may be over or at least waning, but what now? It’s not just another new year it’s two-thousand-twenty-two. It’s past the milestone “future” of what 2020 sounded like.

There still aren’t flying cars. Work is still work. Teleportation despite Mark Zuck’s new Meta-world still isn’t happening. Family squabbles haven’t disappeared magically. Drug usage is sadly at an all-time high. Political discourse is sadly not getting more civil, but rather less.

Will you rise above it — or just try harder to avoid it?

Maybe you’ll make a list of the positive changes you made during the past two years, and continue them. Maybe full-on dropping bad habits like third period French will work better instead of weaning off of them slowly. (No offense to languages btw, learning a new one is probably a GREAT idea).

Maybe though, like many, you’re still feeling dependent at least somewhat, on the fate of nations. On who’s arguing for what measures. On what the *experts* are saying. ie.. waiting for the new path to drop in your lap. On your doorstep.

Or in front of you on a West Texas highway.

I would encourage you not to enter 2022 with such passivity.

I would encourage you here and now to choose a different path altogether. A different mindset, sure, but maybe an entirely different path to life. To happiness. It may be a harder choice than anything you’ve done but I believe it’s possible.

And I believe it’s time.

It’s not the new normal. Neither is it reverting to some kind of “good old days,” the memories of which are probably rose-colored anyway.

To reference the screenwriting toolbox once again, the end of a good movie finds the character embarking on not the old, nor the upside down that they’ve just experienced (in Act II), but rather a synthesis of those two worlds.

Out with the old

Better than normal

Is there a more annoying recent phrase than “the new normal?” As if your parents are divorcing and trying to tell you that it’s going to be fine. Splitting time at two houses and two bedrooms and two families is a “new” normal that will somehow be better.

Hogwash.

The only new normal that will resonate and last will include things in your life on a regular basis that will resonate and last.

Resonate with who? You. Your heart. Your biggest needs. Your best choices. Ditto for those closest to you.

Last — what does that look like? What lasts? What sticks?

How about family. Friends. Sacrifice. Beauty. Children. Waterfalls. Animals. Love.

I know, sounds corny but have you found anything better?

Lewis

C.S. Lewis had a great bit of self-analysis once, and opined that where he got his inspiration and quality from was the following:

“I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.” — Clive Staples Lewis

Often on New Years (or in late December) I take stock of things and clean out old papers, and to that end I recently stumbled upon my own version of Lewis’ quote:

“I am a product of long roads, empty sunlit meadows, woods explored in solitude, love longed for and sometimes found, gurgling streams and the wind charging across granite slabs in the Sierras. Also, of countless friendships.” — Alden John Olmsted

Maybe it’s a good day to write up your own version.

And then to live it.

Happy New Years to all of us ::

Alden

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I was born in a small town in Northern California just another latch-key kid obsessed with BMX and Tom Petty. Now I make films and travel and write when I can.

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Alden Olmsted

I was born in a small town in Northern California just another latch-key kid obsessed with BMX and Tom Petty. Now I make films and travel and write when I can.