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Part of the fun of writing for Retro is knowing that, given our relatively shared demographics (age, education, affluence, political persuasion, etc.), we are likely to hit very common chords in our stories. Stories that will resonate — be they happily or sadly — with each other.  Layer on top of this the lives we have all been forced to live these last weeks under the shadow of a pandemic and we are likely to hit even more common chords.

Of course, this is also a euphemistic way of saying that our options have become incredibly limited of late. For, while such commonality may breed greater collegiality, it also makes originality that much tougher.  For example, I am willing to bet that none of us will be writing about having gone off to a Fantasy Baseball Camp this spring to see if he/she can slip a 90-MPH slider past a former Major Leaguer.

Accordingly, I am doubtful that my experiences of the past several weeks, primarily hunkered down at home, are that different from many others’.   So, rather than suggest otherwise — e.g. my isolation is somehow different and more interesting than your isolation — let me just present, in a stream of consciousness manner, a number of points as to my own experiences.  If I were more industrious, I might have converted them to power points with flashy graphics and charts but, since I am more or less living in sweatpants these days, any expectations of such industriousness on my part would be delusional.*  And if a couple of them resonate with any of you, well, then my work here is done.

  1. My wife and I regularly remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have gotten away for a wonderful vacation in New Zealand in January and, more generally, how fortunate we are to be (so far) healthy, safe, and financially secure.
  2. I try to stream at least one on-line lecture a day, either from The Great Courses or from a link to free Yale courses my older daughter sent me.  They are principally in the areas of classical music and language and linguistics.  They are very purposely not related to law or accounting — the areas of my professional life for decades.
  3. I have also had a ton of Zoom meetings with my various non-profit boards. The first wave primarily dealt with postponing or cancelling major events and the second wave with applying for SBA loans.  Now we are just trying to deal with institutional matters as well and as regularly as possible.  In the process, I would like to think I have become a fairly proficient Zoom techie — though that usually just means just reminding others how to unmute themselves.
  4.  We have also started having Zoom “cocktail” parties with friends and family. Actually very nice, as there is no need to worry what you’ll wear, what you should serve or bring, or driving home afterwards.  And, in many ways, these parties have resulted in more frequent — and more appreciated — contacts with people we love and care about than likely would otherwise be the case.
  5. Streaming movies and series.  Lots of movies and series.
  6. Weather permitting, a long walk together every day and some (solo — duh) time on the elliptical machine every day.  I’ve decided that running outside with a mask on and while observing social distancing rules is just too damn difficult.
  7. Grocery shopping once a week and going out to any public place (e.g., grocery or liquor store, pharmacy, post office, restaurant for take-out, etc.) no more than once on any day.  For tips as to how to (hopefully) safely have an annual car inspection, contact me off-line.
  8. Reading.  Lots of reading. And thank goodness for Kindle.  Also, doing the Times’ crossword puzzle every day, even the really easy ones early in the week.
  9. CNN.  Especially for Cuomo’s pressers.
  10. Screaming and yelling about Trump’s latest insanities and about the idiocy (at best) and sheer evil (more likely) of Republican politicians.
  11. Noticing for the first time (though I really try not to) just how much more toilet paper women use than men.
  12. See No. 1 above.


*And they are numbered rather than bulleted only because I couldn’t get the Retro bullet point function to work.  And, yeah, I didn’t bother too hard to try to fix that.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Thanx John, I enjoyed your list.
    Indeed us Retro boomers have much in common and much to feel thankful for, altho I find myself often struggling to shake off the self pity and to remember we’re all in the same boat.
    Stay safe!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You make an interesting point about the similarity of the beliefs of the writers of our group, John. And of our current lock-down situation. Yet, I suppose we are all coping in slightly different ways. My husband no longer has the ability to tell time (what day is it?). Since I actually did one longish drive this past week, I heard a teaser for an up-coming NPR show on that topic for the next day. I gather this is something that lots of people with nothing on their calendars are experiencing. They have no markers to guide them, so no day is different than any other. That is interesting.

    I admire your ability to keep busy. Not everyone has such an internal drive. Glad you shared your bullet-points.

  3. Blursday indeed. You’re right that “our” activities are much more similar than not; differences are in degree perhaps. My partner and I try to limit our trips to once a week. This is facilitated by the USPS “Informed Delivery” service that sends me e-mail scans of what’s in the P.O. box. Of course “Informed Delivery” is a clever name since I’m sure I’m informing certain unnamed others about my mail. One thing not on your list is one quickly moving up in my personal standings: sitting in the sun doing absolutely, positively nothing but watching and listening to spring proceed apace.

  4. Marian says:

    It’s funny who ends up being the Zoom guru, John. Each time I use it, I learn something else. Today by accident I managed to get a tiny screen during Shabbat services while I switched to a PDF of the prayer book. However, I have no idea how I did it. With Zoom, I can tell what day it is by what’s on my calendar. Business meetings for my freelance job are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and poetry group is Thursday. That helps me feel less addled. Oh, how true about the TP for the women. Nothing to do about it. I haven’t had too much grief yet from my partner, because right before Covid he’d bought one of those ginormous however-many roll packs at Costco, and it will be summer before there is grumbling.

    • John Shutkin says:

      As mentioned, Marain, most of my guru-ship is just reminding people to unmute in the lower left hand corner. As to TP, you poor women who have never known the sheer, hedonistic joy of taking a pee in the woods!

  5. Suzy says:

    Thank you for posting your list, John, even though you may have thought you had nothing to contribute. Glad to see that you are doing your own grocery shopping and other errands, even if only once a week. You have piqued my curiosity about the car inspection, so I will contact you off-line about that.

    I love the “Every day is Blursday” line — that should be posted somewhere conspicuous! Sorry to hear you have not had warm, sunny days all along, as some of us have. 🙂 But at least you are getting some now!

  6. Funny that, as TP has become a meme of this pandemic, we’re talking about it so openly and so I thought I’d add my two cents: My husband and I have separate bathrooms and one day he mentioned that I use more TP than him and I had a fit that he was monitoring my usage. Then I found myself actually trying to outlast him before replacing my roll! (Folly.)

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered, “What day is it?” and then checked my pill organizer.

    Even those early-week NYT crossword puzzles are so witty and well constructed, they’re still a welcome pleasure, aren’t they?

    Stay safe, John!

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Of course, I could really relate to many items on your list. Zoom is an interesting new phenomena for me. Sometimes it’s great, but not when several people are trying to talk and no one is muted, which is how most of my meetings are. Numbers 5 & 6 – definitely. Also number 10. Wish he would drink a glass of Lysol if he can find any. I can’t. And as to number 11, yes that is definitely true!

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