I sometimes make music with The Rock Orchestra.  It's a tribute band. They're good.

On Wednesdays at 7:30pm, they've been hosting watch-parties of professionally-shot, multi-camera videos of some of our live performances... Peter Gabriel... The Who... and tonight was when we performed Bruce Springsteen's first three albums

I was never a huge Springsteen fan, for no particular reason.  But playing that Born to Run album (as I overlook the occasional problematic misogynistic juvenile lyrics) with people I freakin' LOVE, with bravado and swagger, with a horn section, a friggin' old-skool Hammond Organ trucked in... just... wow. We killed it.  I had forgotten how much fun it was. (Here's a link to Rosalita. Here's a link to the song Born to Run with my badass glockenspiel.)

But this post isn't about that.  

The audience was packed-- it was a sold out show of 700+ people we didn't know. And they were happily buzzed and singing along. Some of the camera angles were shot from the back of the house, over the heads of the revelers standing shoulder to shoulder to strangers, having a blast, connected in that moment of live music.  And at one point there were 15 of us on stage once the horn section came on stage... and at times some of us were sharing mics and doing that jubilantly goofy standing-back-to-back "rock move" that sometimes organically happens when musicians are musicking. 

And then it hit me. 

We can't do that anymore.  That was another life. Another world. We may never get back to that until we have a vaccine... and today I read an article in Wired about how this Covid fucker is mutating into something potentially more sinister. Great.

I watched the livestream and cried.  I cried with happiness, remembering the joy we experienced on stage. 

And then I cried for how much I miss connecting with other people.  I cried seeing the audience, and hearing them sing along. I cry at the drop of a hat lately.

Maybe it's PMS. Maybe it's 8 weeks of not leaving my house except for three turbo-fast trips to the grocery store.  Maybe it's missing my parents (who are doing fine, by the way).  I dunno.  Last night was really bad-- I was inconsolably crying and feeling really fucking hopeless for a few hours.  I've never felt suicidal in my life, but last night was the first time I could sorta see how someone could maybe feel that way-- it seemed at least.... plausible?  Like, fuck it, why bother?  (Pleeeeeeease don't read anything into that. I mean it. Do not worry. I am not suicidal, like, at all. I'm totally OK, and was just feeling blue from these shit-ass circumstances.)  And honestly, taking a 1/2 xanax and talking to my dad via Duo helped a huge deal.  But I'm just saying I could finally see for the first time the darkness that brains have the potential to experience. Jesus.


ANYWAY, now that I've totally ruined the mood... let's forget all that and talk about happier stuff.

1) I have bird feeders outside my kitchen window and I love how we have a cast of regulars who visit every day.  We have a pair of sparrows, four mourning doves, a pair of cardinals (though the male visits more often), a fat squirrel, and we had our first crow the other day, but I haven't seen him back. (As an aside: My dream is to have a crow or raven decide to be my friend. I subscribe to waaaay too many raven/crow channels on YouTube.)

2) We are still doing our thrice-weekly 15-minute Hot Breakfast CoffeeBreak Concerts at 3pm EDT on our Facebook page.  Our production values have gone up a smidge... we have "hold music" as we wait for people to arrive, and Matt labors over the signs we put up as a placeholder before each show.  I love his silly design aesthetic.

Today was concert #17, which I kinda can't believe. We haven't repeated a song yet, which is kind of a fun challenge.  Today we did only covers... we did one somber tune to acknowledge the sadness in the air that seems to be weighing everyone down ("Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, of course)... and then we played "Squeezebox" by The Who because it's our friend Kevin's favorite song and he was having a rough go of it and we wanted to cheer him up.  Then we went full-on dork with Pac Man Fever, and we finished chipper with a Daydream Believer singalong.  Original songs are great and all, but sometimes you just wanna hear songs you recognize, y'know?

When we originally decided to do these concerts, we said we'd do them until May 15th, which was the arbitrary end-of-the-lockdown date the Governor of Delaware picked way back in March.  It doesn't look like things will reopen by then, or maybe a few things will soft-open, I dunno... so I'm not sure if we should bother still doing them after May 15th.  Lots of people write to us and thank us sincerely for doing them, saying it really helps to have things on their calendar a few days a week. The comraderie that has built up among the regular attendees in the chat windows is so, so glorious to see.  It's really fun seeing new friendships being formed among the viewers.  

In the beginning these livestreams were easy because we had our standard material that we've played a billion times and didn't really have to think about.  But now we are deeeeeeep in the super-deep-cuts of our original songs... stuff we've only played live once or twice, and/or learning new cover songs the night before the livestream.  We try to have some kind of theme, and we try to put little easter eggs around our performance space, though we're not sure if the camera can always pick 'em up.  These are definitely good for us to do.  I'm grateful to have deadlines since I have no other work.

(Though I did teach my first vocal coaching session via Zoom yesterday, which was cool... but it was a favor for a friend's kid who has an audition coming up.)


3) In other news: Every Saturday the PhilaDels have been having Zoom hangouts; sometimes we play Cards Against Humanity or Pictionary, and other times we just shoot the shit.  I've "seen" my PhilaDels more in the last 8 weeks than I have in the last 2-3 years combined. So I guess there is a silver lining in this.


4) In other, other news: Since the general rule is that you can't gather in groups of 10 or more... what's preventing anyone from having a small group of masked people over to our backyard on a nice weekend day, standing a reasonable distance apart, just to shoot the shit and eat a burger (carefully, being mindful of the mask and drool)?  Do we have to be THIS isolated?  


5) Matt and I have only left the house thrice for quick shopping trips, like I mentioned... and when we do, we have ridiculously complex and hella overkill decontamination processes as we bring ourselves and our purchases into the house.  I am confident we are virus-free.  With that, we are thiiiiiiiinking about visiting my parents this weekend. They also have not left the house except for a few quick shopping trips. Mom is clearly getting worse, surely due to understimulation... but Dad actually seems to be doing a lot better now that the weather is warming up and he's healthy again, and now on a low-dose antidepressant which has made him a new guy.  They are more than comfy with us coming up... the room we sleep in up there hasn't been opened/entered since we were last in it in February.  I'm still a teeny bit nervous about going up-- god forbid I somehow am an asymptomatic transmitter... but I don't know how I could have contracted it since I'm so friggin' neurotic about washing, desanitizing, distancing, masking, even wearing goggles in the store, etc.  I have a few more days to decide if we're gonna go.  It'd be nice to see Mom for Mother's Day.  I don't know how many more Mothers Days she'll have where she understands what day it is.  The last time Matt and I left the house was April 28th, so we're 8 days isolated. I suppose I could wait an extra week and go up next weekend when we are more than 14 days clear, just to be super-safe.  Hmmmm.  Thoughts?


Anyway. That's enough outta me for now.

I love you all very much. 

Sorry I've been so quiet over here. I am reading what you're all writing. Thank you for writing.

xoxo-- good night!


PS: Hey, anyone hear from Robert Bryan anytime recently, by the way?


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I'm here, thankful to hear your voice in my head as I read your amazeballs writing.
Yaaaaaay! Thanks for surfacing, my friend. Just wanted to know y'all are OK.
Sounds like those concerts might be doing good things for you guys as well as your audience. I would think about keeping those up. maybe change the schedule to be a little less intense if you like. Just a thought, of course you should do what's right for you. But rhythm is everything.

Everyone is working out their own quarantine buddy situation. I see how there are big trade-offs in your mind about visiting your parents. It does sound like you've been impressively isolated. We are taking advantage of the fact that we're allowed to go for walks, and so is the entire neighborhood, with increasingly poor mask participation, so I would hesitate to say that we are grandparent ready.

Take care.
For what it is worth, I know you will be out there again as soon as the stage is available. You will be one of the people reminding us about what it means to be together, and be encouraging us to return to whatever level of social normalcy is possible.

Also, for what it's worth - this isolation has given me the opportunity to examine my own mental health from a different perspective. For me, life does not change dramatically from one day to the next, and yet my mood(s) can swing wildly. It's helped me recognize what a chemical pea soup I have going on in my brain, and further, to recognize real versus imagined crises. Yes, I can cause my own downward spiral if I focus on anything negative for too long, but I can also simply experience something without even trying - and it can come and go in the space of a few hours.

And I don't have the stressors you do. I mean, you don't actually know what mine are right now, but I know they are very different from yours.

And your concerts do help. For me, they give me something to look forward to that is regular and predictable. I know you can't see me, but I imagine you can, so I make myself presentable before I sit down in front of the computer to tune in. It jump starts me to handle errands or interact with others. So for me, you're helping a lot.

I miss you. Take care of yourself and Matt, and let me know if you need anything I can provide.
SFM 5/7
Wow, Thank you. This was extreeeeeemely helpful for me to read. Recognizing the difference between a "mood" and overall mental health. Thank you. It's OK to be in a poopy mood, and remembering that this is not the "forever setting." Thank you. It's so obvious, but reading it really helped. Thank you. Really.

And dooood, I'm so happy to hear the concerts help. I love the idea of you making yourself presentable before them. :) It means the world to be that you tune in to our bojangley-ness. :-D

Douldah.
This resonated strongly for me. I'm afraid to contact you too much because I'm afraid you'll think I'm stalking you. if you guys had to stop doing the HBCBCs, I would be blue, but I'd survive. I also imagine that prepping for these must be exhausting.
More later. I have some stuff on my desk that I have to deal with.
A couple of thoughts:

Does your mom still have respiratory issues?
Would she understand or be okay with you wearing a mask and/or remaining 6' away?
Could you say, "Mom, I have a cold, and I don't want you to catch it?" If so, would she be okay with that?

In reference to gathering in groups of 9 or less: Our downhill neighbors do this every time the weather is nice. It used to make me furious. Now I just figure if they get sick, I don't have to feel sad. They play corn hole (huh huh, huh huh, hey, Beavis) and wiffle ball, which is distanced, but they also hold their kids on their laps and sit around the same table. it seems like it's the same cast of characters routinely. I know that some people agree to co-quarantine or whatever they're calling it.

I don't know the answers, but I wholly empathize.
Thanks for the concerts! Mos def highlights of my weeks. I hope you and Matt can find it in yourselves to keep them up.
Thank you! This is really helpful feedback, and I love when you pop in and say "Yo!"

I think we'll commit to 3x/week through May 30th and then re-assess what life is starting to look like for people.

What are they saying in your neck of the woods? Any target dates of a soft reopening or anything? Here in DE, they allowed certain business to "soft-reopen" as long as they keep a teeeny number of customers in the building at one time, and everyone masks up. Stuff like hair salons and nail places... but nobody's sitting down in a restaurant yet.

Love y'allz.
As of Saturday (today's report won't be for another few hours), we've had 261 total cases, 244 recovered, 3 deaths, 14 active cases, of which 4 are in hospital, of which 2 are in ICU. Hospital capacity is at about 60%. Some two-thirds of the total cases in the province are related to one weekend's services in March at a funeral home three streets away from our house. This outbreak made a lot of the general public sit up and take it, or at least its stupid contagiousness, very seriously early on. Between that and the early move to ban healthcare workers from working in more than one long-term care home, we haven't seen nearly as much trouble here as some other provinces with their elderly populations.

The provincial government has implemented a 5-level scheme of alerts: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/alert-system/ . Today (Monday) we've been moved from level 5 to level 4. Under level 5, it was very much a complete stay-at-home order unless you were an essential employee, you needed hospitalization, or you were out for essential groceries. Parks were closed, but you could go out for exercise. Self-isolation for 2 weeks if you travel into the province, and recently they put in some rules that make it very difficult to travel here without a good reason (and "I have a vacation home in NL" wasn't actually a good enough reason). Under level 4, the parks are open, but not for picnics or playgrounds or team sports. Some businesses, daycares, and non-emergency medical visits can resume. Restrictions will continue to ease as the levels go down, but I don't think any public health official can say with certainty what level 2 or 1 will really look like. And of course we may have to go back to 5 if there's another outbreak.

Also, they've gotten us into a "bubble" concept, where your immediate household is your "bubble" that you don't break. Two weeks ago, we were allowed to merge into "double bubbles" -- two households can get together, so long as they are mutually exclusive. We doubled up with a friend who lives on her own and doesn't have any local family. (On our island with a culture of extended Irish Catholic families that gather together frequently, other households are encountering some trouble when they try to figure out which adult sibling's kids get to see Nan and Pop. One feel-good story, though, was that the mayor of St. John's got to hold his new grandbaby for the first time last weekend.) At least one other province, New Brunswick, is working with this "bubble" idea.

Canada's been addressing loss of income a little more ... proactively than the States, but we aren't eligible because of our income situation. Also, we got our U.S. tax refund but we haven't seen our sweet, sweet stimulus checks. I hear that's a common or universal problem among eligible Americans living outside the States. [EDITED to add: the system finally responded to my query this morning, and we should be seeing our moneys this week. Yay!]
Michele Grant 5/11edited