It’s April. What is usually the month where life in Paris really starts to shift from inside to outside will be marked in 2020 by a full month of confinement. And it’s the first of April. The day usually reserved for humor will be the most solemn in recent memory. This is not a time for pranks. If anything, it is a time for steeling our mental fortitude. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun though, and I have been wondering, how would I be quarantining if I didn’t have kids?
What would I be doing with the incredible amount of free time that confinement would impose without the obligations of a strong social life? The first thing that I would do is spend a lot more time playing guitar and working on my Fender Play guitar lessons. I have tried to block off 20 minutes a day to play guitar in the current situation. Since I made my chart of activities, I have managed to play guitar on one day and for less than 20 minutes because I brought my guitar into the courtyard while my son rode his bike.
The configuration of our apartment means that once the kids go to sleep at night I cannot use the amp to play electric guitar without waking up the entire household. I can’t use the amp during the day since it’s in the workshop that is doubling as our office. If I didn’t have kids, I would be playing the shit out the electric guitar with letting the reverb reverberate throughout our entire abode during the evenings. I would use this precious period to progress my technique and put certain songs to memory.
I would also be reading a lot more. The latest issue of The Economist came through last week, a small miracle in my mailbox. I can read it because it sits on the kitchen table and I can grab at articles while finishing a bite to eat or while holding the baby and the bottle with one arm. But there is no time to sit down with a large tome focused on complicated subject matter. I can’t lie on the couch for long before two small beings are lying on me. Baby hands are not kind to book pages.
I would be reading the last book I ordered, Growth by Vaclav Smil. It’s essentially a text book focusing on the different types of growth in the natural world, from micro-organisms to megacities and plays into my latest philosophical theory that everything is everything. It is fascinating but dense. Reading it requires swathes of time to absorb and unfold the ideas. I want the ideas of the book to transfer to my brain.
I would also spend more time structuring the everything is everything philosophy (that everything is something else in different form: i.e. the coronavirus is an idea, love is the strong nuclear force, capitalism is gravity and that the consequence of mass is time). I have this feeling in the back of my mind that I’m on to something here. To dig at it requires time and focus that would be perfect during the confinement, but alas… I would be spending a lot of time working out notes on this subject, for no other reason than my personal interpretation of life.
I would also be spending a lot of time on Duolingo, either working on Portuguese or Japanese or refreshing some Spanish. I love spending time learning languages, but again it requires a type of focus and aural conditions in order to be able to listen and speak correctly. I would do at least 20 minutes a day to keep the mind fresh, while dreaming about my next visit to one of the places where I could put some of this knowledge to action.
Culinarily speaking, I would attack the stack of cooking and recipe books that I’ve accumulated over the years. My brother gave me a book with hot sauce recipes. I would go to the various African grocers that are always open on my street and buy a bunch of different types of peppers and start experimenting. One of my dreams is to launch my own line of hot sauces called Haute Sauce, and this would have been an incredible opportunity to test fermented vs. blended recipes and understand the underlying heat of each type of pepper. But, as you can imagine, working with hot peppers in the proximity of small children does not mix.
I’d also have ordered the book Behind the Label, a wine bible that forms the basis of the WSET Level 2 Certification that I’m hoping to pass at some point in 2020. I would spend time each evening examining the complexities of different wines from my cave – gamay vs. pinot noir, the role of Corbières in the portfolio of Languedoc wines – instead of gulping down a few glasses of whatever is open while throwing together the kids’ dinners.
Professionally, I would have finished a bunch of big projects that required time and focus. I had been yearning for uninterrupted time to pull together the frayed ends of various subjects. There had been rays of clarity in the clouds of requirements relating to my job and the value that it brings to our company. It was starting to make sense. I would have taken great pleasure in making strides towards something more coherent and complete.
And personally, I would’ve found some way to help with this mess, delivering food or volunteering in some capacity. I do feel a deep sense of guilt that I am not doing more to help other than respecting the confinement, but there is so little time in the day and the risk of bringing the virus into the home with my children is a barrier to action. I am still looking for something to do to help, I just wish it weren’t so hard.
Enough fantasizing, time to go back to reality.