Sunday, May 10, 2020

Serenity Gardens (05.04.20)

In these strange days, a fun show at Serenity Gardens is one of the few things that still feel normal. Photo by Kat.

This show report is coming along a bit later than usual; my apologies. It's been an extraordinarily busy time for me recently, as I've mentioned to just about anyone who seems inclined to listen. One thing that's preoccupied me lately is the fact that some areas of the USA are starting to "reopen". That is, the restrictions that were put in place to fight COVID-19 are beginning to be relaxed. Here in California, we were told on Monday that Friday, May 8, some of our retail stores and other commercial and entertainment entities that had been previously closed can once again be open for business, in varying degrees of limitation. None of this will happen all at once, and different areas of the country are each reacting based on their own set of criteria, and have different schedules to begin "getting back to normal". I have some advice for folks who are understandably concerned about immediately jumping back into society as it was before the pandemic happened. It's just one word.


Let's make sure you understand something. You are not compelled to do things that other people do. Got friends who are raring to go out to the club and party? Let them. Got neighbors who scoff at you for continuing to wear a mask or other protective gear when out amongst other people? Let them. Got a job where people are coming back into the office without taking basic precautions? Let them. You should continue to do the things that you know are right for you. End of story.

The most important thing to keep in mind: there is no "getting back to normal". Normal has a new definition now, and the sooner you accept and work within that new framework of life, the less frustrating it will be. So, as I said above: if you still see indications that COVID-19 is an imminent danger to yourself and your family wherever you live, don't allow anyone -- friends, media, employers, economic pundits, and so on -- pressure you to feel otherwise.

This photo, taken today (May 10) at a restaurant in Castle Rock, CO, is utterly horrifying to me. Not a mask in sight, and no attempt by the restaurant or its patrons to stay safely socially distant from each other. If you want this disease to hang around for years and years, this is how to do it.

My Reasons
Before you accuse me of having a privileged attitude about all this, let me beat you to the punch: that is correct. Thus far, I've had no personal economic impact during the pandemic (beyond my retirement fund taking a giant shit along with everyone else's). My business, which is the planning and execution of marketing programs, is as busy or busier than ever before, since my clients have been extremely reliant on my kinds of services to reach their customers throughout the quarantine period thus far.

But let me also add that, speaking of personal interests, mine also stem from the fact that I have been the victim of previous pandemics and other communicable diseases. I caught and suffered badly from the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, and then my entire family got nailed by H3N2 in 2012. I've had severe pneumonia twice in the past ten years, and am constantly fighting my propensity to chronic bronchitis. If I do get COVID-19, it's impossible to say what the outcome would be, but the fact that there's no vaccine nor any approved treatment path makes it something that would possibly kill me.

So, regardless of what the federal or state or local governments mandate, you'll see me continuing to avoid crowded public places, and protecting myself to the best of my ability when I am forced to interact with people. "But wait," you ask, "what if it's a year or more until there is a vaccine?" My answer is that I have no problem doing the simple things that will keep myself and my family alive for however long it takes. As a mature adult human being, I'm not going to allow impatience or boredom to dictate my actions. If that means I never again can do some of the things I previously enjoyed, so be it. I'll find other things to enjoy.

I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing... minimizing my contact with the public and staying protected in the rare situations that have me being among people. If it's a year of this or more, so be it. Photo by Kat.

Choose Wisely
Last note on this topic, for now anyway. If I see individuals or businesses who are purposefully taking actions (or being willfully negligent) in ways that can bring harm to me and those I love, I will "vote with my wallet" and do everything I can to make sure that I choose to aid those who don't do those things... and not assist the infringing parties in any way. Sometimes those things are subtle, like not recommending people for jobs, or not referring business to people whom I'd otherwise have been glad to help. Sometimes those things are direct, like choosing where to shop or whom to bank with and so on. But the economic impact of COVID-19 will have ramifications that many people aren't yet considering, and many of them may never know why things just didn't seem to ever turn back around for them. But I'll know.

Final, final note: on Saturday May 9, I did venture out of the house for my first excursion away from my immediate neighborhood in over two months. We'd wanted to break our case of cabin fever while still not putting ourselves in any kind of danger, so Christina, my son and I piled in the Jeep and took a nice little cruise along the ocean here in Redondo Beach. It was only about a half hour drive that culminated in us being extra courageous by chancing a drive-thru lunch from Carl's Jr., but it was a lovely day and it was nice to be out and about, even while in a car and with masks over our faces the entire time. I only had one weird moment, while waiting for a light at the corner of PCH and Knob Hill, and realizing we were right next to the infamous Kensington, an assisted living facility that became one of the biggest flare-up points for COVID-19 in LA County. I found myself holding my breath until we passed it entirely.

The Show
It was the "every other Monday night" day of my show at Serenity Gardens in Second Life, and damn... per above, I've been super busy lately. It's to the point that my weekends seem to be fair game for clients to contact me and want to hit various goals and deadlines that would have been laughable until recent times. What that meant in regard to my show this week was that I had less time than usual to plan out my set list. That having been said, it still came together pretty well, with the addition of a Simon & Garfunkel song I'd never done before. Ironically, while we're all still bound to our homes, the song "Homeward Bound" was done without a trace of irony.

I find that strumming a guitar and singing to people at Serenity Gardens is quite therapeutic, and hopefully my audience feels the same. Photo by Kat.

Pixel people prance as I play passionate pretty songs. Photo by Kat.

I'll continue to wear my mask in SL for as long as it's necessary for me to do so here in reality. Photo by Kat.

One thing that wasn't very well planned, though, was purely the number of songs I'd put into the set. For some reason, I left myself no leeway by selecting exactly 12 songs to perform. Well, that's not enough. It's not an exact science, this planning of sets. Some songs are longer; others are short. Sometimes I chat more with my audience between tunes; other times, I go through several songs in a row while barely saying a word to people. This means that my sets can be as low as 11 songs, and as high as 14, within the space of my hour-long show. What I did this week, with the limited time I had, was to pull exactly 12 songs. It's always a mistake, because while it never hurts to put a few unplayed songs back, not having enough to do a full gig is a serious problem. Seeing I still had over five minutes left in my show, I hurriedly grabbed a random tune from my shoot of lyrics, and it was "Easy" by Commodores. I had to kind of laugh my way through it; while it's a fine song, it's not a very high-energy tune that I'd usually pick for a closer.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
*Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (Leadbelly/Nirvana)
Never Run Away (Kurt Vile)
Nearly Lost You (Screaming Trees)
Roxanne (The Police)
Waking Light (Beck)
Pickles (Zak Claxton)
The Arrangement (Joni Mitchell)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Peace Love & Understanding (Elvis Costello)
Easy (Commodores)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Huge thanks to all the people who came to have fun with me, and extra super special thanks to the following who helped support my show.
AaronCabottJones Resident, hynesyte Harbour, Jambalaya Fonck, go2smoky Resident, Tyche Szondi, Asimia Heron, Triana Caldera, Trouble Streeter, Karmagrl Resident, Kat Claxton, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

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