Monday, October 12, 2020

Social Distancing Journal: Week 13 (June 8-June 14, 2020)

On the Heritage Trail - 6/8/20 - Photo by Mark Pfeiffer

As the weather has improved, I’ve wanted to make more of an effort to get some exercise. I could (and will) keep walking around my neighborhood, but I also got it into my head that I ought to check out some other area parks to add some variety. I ended up visiting one in Hilliard that I believe has a loop around it but which also has a point to get onto the Heritage Trail. I assumed the loop was shorter, so rather than doing laps, I decided to check out the trail.

The Heritage Trail runs from old downtown Hilliard all the way to Plain City and is reportedly 6.1 miles long. I didn’t know what to expect along the way, so I figured I’d walk until it seemed like a good idea to turn around. The park where I began was a little ways after the trail’s start. At first I was walking behind typical suburban homes. Then there was another park, although one that looked to be more for dogs. The view shifted to farmland. Where I decided to reverse course, as the trail crossed a country road, it looked like I was indeed in the country. Round trip, I logged about seven miles on foot.

Leaving Hilliard on foot - 6/8/20
Photo by Mark Pfeiffer

I’m tempted to conquer the entire trail, from Hilliard to Plain City and back, before the summer’s over, just as long as I can get an earlier start and on a day with a moderate temperature. I found that this trail, while easy in the sense that the section I walked was almost entirely flat, doesn’t really have services along the way. The park where I hopped on has locked up the drinking fountains and closed the restrooms because of public health concerns. I spotted a port-a-john at the dog park. So it would appear that you better bring whatever you need with you if you’re going to walk the whole trail and hope nature doesn’t call because, in a pinch, there’s not really any cover if you need to relieve yourself. (Spoiler alert: I walked the whole trail a week later.)


This week also marked the biggest step back into pre-pandemic life. I was supposed to have a dental check-up on March 23, but that was canceled for obvious reasons. I had some reservations about whether I should keep this rescheduled appointment, but a friend who was once a dental assistant felt that I shouldn’t have reason to worry about it. The protocol was different--fill out forms before arriving, wait in the car until getting a text to come in, have my temperature taken upon entry--and the workers were wearing more protective gear than in the past. I trust my dentist and his team, and while the dentist’s office isn’t a place that I would say I look forward to visiting whenever the time, I didn’t feel uneasy about doing this.

I don’t know whether I felt emboldened knowing that I was venturing into the public in this particular way so a line of risk had already been crossed or obligated to see a friend, but a couple hours after the dental appointment, I met up for lunch at a restaurant. I had just learned this friend had lost a longtime job, and while I wasn’t especially keen about dining out, he wanted to do so and didn’t think there was reason to be concerned. I don’t know that I was concerned so much as I felt like people in general were becoming too lax in remembering that we’re still in this situation. I’ve remained vigilant--I wear a mask whenever I go away from home--but noticed that even I was softening in the number of times I might leave my place. Having faced a lengthy stretch of unemployment myself and been treated to a meal here and there, I felt compelled to give in even if a big part of me thought this was a bad idea.

We had a later lunch, and the handful of people in the restaurant were spread out in a way that put considerable distance between everyone. Still, even with a reservation, an outside table was not available. Oh boy, what am I doing? I kept a mask on until it was time to eat. Menus and payment were contactless. In that regard, this visit was probably about as “safe” as it can be. I still didn’t feel great about having done this, though. Yes, I wanted to return a favor and provide some support. I also suppose I was tempted to talk to someone in person who isn’t a service worker for the first time since mid-March. If I’ve been cautious yet gave in here, it doesn’t bode well for the situation we’re in, especially when I see other people behaving like we’re back to how things used to be.


Painting no. 7 - 6/9/20 - Photo by Mark Pfeiffer

The cosmos painting was one of the challenges before I was in the group. As I was looking for additional ideas to turn my brushes toward, I reached back to this one.  I think what I’ve produced looks like something that might get slapped on a cheap science fiction novel. Maybe that adds to the charm? 


The problem in catching up on these weekly entries well after the fact is pinning down what was happening when or misremembering. (Note: it’s even worse having  left this unfinished a few months ago.) As I was sketching out topics for these updates, I knew that I wanted to touch on what I was feeling when the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd were at their peak. As I complete this entry on October 12, it is safe to say that I am too far removed to have anything meaningful to write. I recall being angry about yet another injustice and the lack of accountability by those in authority. That certainly hasn’t gone away even as the headlines have changed or coverage has faded. For a few days I would be jolted by the screech of the city curfew alert that emerged from my phone. I remember that it felt like maybe we were on the verge of protests initiating some real change, but the subsequent months don’t seem to have revealed that silver lining.  


Look at me, just watching multiple movies in a week like someone who’d been doing that forever until a pandemic came along and switched up his routine. OK, so I was watching these for films for the podcast, but I was interested in both. Call it synchronicity if you will, but in light of what was in the news, some weird dynamics were cast on the romantic comedy/crime mystery The Lovebirds while Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods felt especially pointed and urgent. 

In a blatant but nevertheless effective bit of ViacomCBS synergy, the Paramount Pictures release--or intended theatrical release until the pandemic saw The Lovebirds sold to Netflix-- opens with a discussion of the long-running CBS reality TV series The Amazing Race and follows the arc of an episode of the globetrotting show while containing the action to New Orleans. The appealing lead performances from Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae go a long way in making this the kind of light entertainment that is especially welcome when you just want to escape. Although this is not a film with the makers looking to engage in a lot of social commentary, the driving force behind the characters starting their adventure to clear their names is because as a Pakistani-American man and African-American woman, they don’t feel they can go to the police and be believed that they didn’t run over a man on a bike. It’s no fault of the film’s that some of the upending of conventions seemed ill-timed--it’s certainly nowhere in the league of Let’s Be Cops coming out on the heels of the events in Ferguson, Missouri--but some of what would otherwise have been more innocuous moments required putting the news out of mind. Anyway, it’s a funny movie that, in the video store days of “if you liked that, watch this” recommendations, has some broad similarities with Game Night that could make for a good double feature at home.

Da 5 Bloods, a Treasure of the Sierra Madre-esque drama about four Vietnam veterans reuniting in Ho Chi Minh City decades later to search for buried gold and the remains of their fallen leader, considers the Black experience at war and in this country back to its origin, so seeing it as protests were at their peak this year surely made this a more potent viewing experience. In diving into history and bristling against what’s happening now, Lee lands gut punches whose power doesn’t rely on the timing in relation to real life matters. Da 5 Bloods can meander too much at times to place this among the director’s best films, but it’s a vital work of fury and historical education even if I feel it can be ungainly for stretches.

I’ve been egregiously slow in editing these, especially the latter, but you can hear the Filmbound podcast episodes on The Lovebirds and Da 5 Bloods for other thoughts I had on these films.


I started writing this entry in mid-July and have now picked it up again in October to get it into the world. While it would have been nice to have kept up week-by-week, I’ve simply not been able to do so. Call it the curse of having too much to do. My intention is to write the next entry to catch up on the last, gulp, four months but with nowhere near the comprehensive nature I’ve tried to capture in these weekly pieces. From there I’ll try to keep up with them periodically as it certainly doesn’t seem like a return to something resembling pre-pandemic life is imminent. 

Previous Social Distancing Journal Entries:
Pre-Social Distancing

Week 1 (March 16-22, 2020)

Week 2 (March 23-29, 2020)

Week 3 (March 30-April 5, 2020)

Week 4 (April 6-12, 2020)

Week 5 (April 13-19, 2020)

Week 6 (April 20-26, 2020)

Week 7 (April 27-May 3, 2020)

Week 8 (May 4-10, 2020)

Week 9 (May 11-17, 2020)

Week 10 (May 18-24, 2020)

Week 11 (May 25-May 31, 2020)

Week 12 (June 1-June 7, 2020)