Photo by JOHN WEINSTEIN
BY KYLE WEINSTEIN I was student teaching 10th graders at a charter school in Philly when they closed the schools. Up until then, I was drowning in sub-par essays with thesis statements like “Through the use of symbolism in which represents love illustrates that love could be real but also hurtful,” and supporting topic sentences like “First, Shakespeare is fake.” My temples have been rubbed raw and my brow muscles are Hulked-up from excessive furrowing.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, the teaching has its rewards, like when a kid visited me after the final bell rang to tell me that I was the first person to really get him to understand how to write an essay. Most of them are good kids; they have to be or else the school will kick them out. Strict place. Made my life just a little easier. Still, between my senior seminar, the lesson planning, having to quit my job to keep up, and wheeling around with a fractured heel courtesy of a poorly executed frontside 180 off a ledge at Whitehall Skatepark, I was, to put it mildly, contemplating the state of my life.
Then came the lockdown, which gave me time to write, time to heal and thus get back on the skateboard (now that the skateparks are closed), time to work on my next album, time to learn about the stock market. Sure, it may have thrown a wrench into my teaching career, but I’m somehow comforted by the fact, albeit ashamedly, that I’m not the only one. And this thing’ll blow over and soon enough everything will go back to the way it was, right?
Now, I haven’t seen Philly proper since Wolf’s stay-at-home order, but out here in the burbs, stay-at-home must translate to something like get-off-your-ass-for-once-and-go-take-a-walk. I’ve never seen my neighborhood so full of human life. And if memes are any reflection of culture irl (they are), then this is happening all over the country. I saw an obese woman riding her bike; it looked like a struggle, but it must’ve been better than the alternative – attempting to keep America healthy by heeding the order to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. I’ll not insult your intelligence by breaking down the irony here, and I know I’m not the first to point it out either. Look, I get it; cabin fever’s got everyone’s skin crawling, and you gotta do what you gotta do to keep your head on straight. I get it.
But what of the obedient shut-in, the mandated recluse? Those that don’t like to leave their homes now have at least one damn good big fat reason not to. I can’t speak for everyone, but alcohol has been a loyal companion to my homebound social exile, and one of the few things I actually leave the house to get. And every day it feels like it takes longer than the day before for happy hour to finally arrive, so to compensate, we move it forward. Self-serving rationalizations abound: Bloody Marys are okay for breakfast because it’s vegetables, and how can I cook my burger at lunch time with a splash of Yuengling in the skillet and not finish the can? Oh has it already been over a month of this? Yikes… But my friends are all in the same boat so everything’s gonna be all right, and I know they are because we hop online every night to play Halo and we’re all cracking our beer cans loudly into the mic so we all know that it’s AOK I’m right there with ya pal.
Then, the other day, during a two-minute burst of destructive winds, my house got a cosmic smack upside the head. There I was contently rereading Infinite Jest because when am I going to get a better chance – this time with annotations, as I’m leading a small book club around the novel over Xbox Live – when I hear the winds picking up outside until it sounds like there’s a freight train barreling through my yard. We’ve got these great, big pine trees that like to come down and demolish the deck, or my neighbor’s deck, or other trees, usually during hurricanes. When I heard the screams of my mother and sister, I realized one of those trees was coming right down on us. The house shook as the tree snapped the roof’s tresses like twigs. The sound was like a car crash, but woody. I run up the stairs and discover there there is now a fucking tree in my attic — that wasn’t there before. Structural damage to the first and second floors of the house. Water coming in through the hole in the roof. But nobody hurt, thank fuck. I think I speak for everyone in my house when I say now is a hell of a time for this. And as we’re sweeping up the pieces of ceiling off the floor and putting the smoke detectors back into their sockets, having been knocked out by the impact, my mom guesses it’s time for a drink, and here we go again. Mother always knows best.