California is a weird and wonderful place. But it’s changed significantly since the coronavirus started dictating all of our public policy. Disneyland is closed for the first time since 9/11, the public schools are closed, and Governor Newsom finally dropped the hammer (& sickle), decreeing that nobody should even be outside for any reason deemed non-essential (whatever that means).
And bizarrely, SoCal, known the world over for its never ending sunshine, has been hit by a cloudy, rainy cold front. As a conservative champion for liberty, this is all starting to feel a bit too Soviet. This is heightened by California being one of the few states to actually support comrade Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
If you are brave enough to venture out to a grocery store, the comparisons to Russia’s failed experiment with “scientific marxism” are heightened. Shoppers will find no bread, no rice, no eggs, and no milk. The shelves and freezer aisles are drained of pretty much everything, leaving behind an eerie blankness.
One of the best grocery chains in California, Stater Brothers, deserves a special shout out here. Senior citizens were having so much trouble meeting their essential grocery needs that Stater Brothers began closing early in order to open early for “senior only” shopping. That’s a perfect example of how to respond to a pandemic.
Despite the superficial Sovietness of it all, the truth is it really hasn’t been that bad for the most part. I’m not praising the coronavirus, it’s basically evil. Italy lost over 700 people in one day to this tiny terrorist. No one should take any of this lightly.
But to non Californians, it's hard to convey just how busy this place usually is, and especially how bizarre it is that a tiny, essentially invisible, invader has brought it all to a halt, or at least a canter. Under normal conditions SoCal never sleeps. Something is always going on somewhere. We have arguably the best weather in the world and everyone takes advantage of it. People are always driving and buying and playing. Somebody is usually protesting something on a street corner or government building somewhere. There’s fruit sellers and taco trucks everywhere.
Everyday I take a long walk through a beautiful park near my apartment. It’s my favorite part of the day. And it gives me a gauge for how my area is doing. Today was the first day in a while that I intentionally didn’t do it, because I stayed in to listen to Newsome’s edict. I’m not sure how many people didn’t listen and took their constitutionals instead, but up until today much more people than usual were out enjoying themselves.
Despite the bad weather we’ve been having and despite fears over spreading coronavirus, a lot more people than usual have been outside. The taco trucks might be mostly gone, but with schools out and so many people working from home the parks were active.
However, none of this activity feels busy, it’s all relaxed and quiet. The urgency is gone. During my walks I’ve felt a kind of peacefulness covering the land. Everything feels just less. There’s less movement in general and it’s almost palpable. It’s almost like the whole place is meditating or doing yoga or something, and these are past times Californians are stereotypically known for.
During our last day of on site work, before we were all sent home, I mentioned this to a colleague and he said “Yeah. Everything feels quieter. Kids are with their parents at home. This is the way the world is supposed to feel all the time. There’s less anxiety.” And that’s kind of true, at least in the realm of daily life.
The horrible truth is that there’s tons of anxiety. Loads of people are off work and worried about where they’re going to find toilet paper, as if bowel movements were a product of the modern toiletry industrial complex. People are scared of the pandemic, quite literally. But there’s nothing anybody can do about it. And it's hard to act too crazy when you’ve been told by the powers that be to just stay home and chill.
I’m very thankful to live amongst people who are so industrious and lively. But California isn’t known for its humility. Maybe the pandemic has brought some of that to SoCal. Maybe fighting an invisible enemy will help us all remember just how tiny and out of control we truly are. My Church can’t even meet at its building, we’re livecasting our worship service, as are so many across the country.
Most of the time, my wife’s and my work schedules only permit us to be together a couple days a week. But thanks to tech, we can basically work at home during this crisis. Not everybody is able to do that, we’re privileged and we’re grateful. I set up a workspace for her in my office and we can take breaks to play with our cats together whenever we want. There’s a lot to be worried about, but there’s not much anybody can really do.
So until the California rat race starts up again, I’ll pray for the people who don’t have it as good as me, but I’m going to enjoy it too. It turns out that being trapped in our homes brings a considerable amount of freedom and possibly peace if we’re open to it.