**PHOTO: As seen in downtown DC. This guy’s set-up is pretty ingenuous.
It all started with TikTok. And a dog. A poodle to be exact. His name is Pierre. He came to live with us three weeks ago, a foster dog awaiting his forever home, at the age of thirteen. It would be easy to demonize his former family for dropping him off at the shelter, but you never know what someone is going through, and this is even truer during a pandemic. We are all responsible for our choices in life, but we don’t always see what is coming down the pike headed straight for us. Anyone can get blindsided, even with the best of preparations, and a history of good decisions behind them.
It’s important not to lose sight of this.
I haven’t written anything since COVID-19 handed out its calling card, a wrecking ball of havoc and despair. Just recently, I managed to eek out a short dating profile for Pierre, which I naturally called “Rin Tin Tinder.” For a writer, all of this sudden gratis time, free from shackles, is a dream come true. But watching my city roll up its carpets, turn off the lights, and lock the doors has left an indelible constriction under the confines of my skin. What does anything I have to say, matter, in light of everything else? My voice deserted me and my hand no longer dances with its pen (a “pendemic,” if you will).
Headline: COVID CRUSHES CREATIVITY.
Instead, I’ve been reading a lot, exercising some, and making sure to have a martini every night. I’m making do in the pinch of the pandemic, loosely stacking a few routines into a delicate web of normalcy. It starts with coffee, ends with a martini, and everything in the middle is jumbled together, work and leisure alike.
Washington DC is a delight to move around in at the moment, words I usually don’t attribute to the nation’s capital. It no longer takes any time to get somewhere—by car, bike, or even by foot, all of which are currently my modi operandi. Imagine crossing Constitution or Pennsylvania Ave, anywhere, at any time, while jogging, without worrying about dodging traffic. With so few cars on the streets, road rage among drivers has all but ceased to exist. Then imagine walking down the sidewalk without being bombarded by loud conversations and layers of bodies surrounding you. People are actually looking where they are walking and not down at their phones.
It feels like a small town here.
Intellectually I know for every visible benefit, there is a deficit that far exceeds it. Besides the locked doors lining the sidewalks, I’ve noticed the many new tents dotting the landscape in the parks, and the numerous homeless on the move. This is all fallout from the true catastrophe taking place inside the hospitals, where the first responders are working to triage an overwhelming situation. Most of us don’t face this reality and it’s easy to subscribe to “out of sight, out of mind.”
This pandemic blindsided me to the fact there are populations of people who don’t merely benefit from a cataclysmic event, but actually thrive as a result. Naïvely, I assumed when something this massive, this universal, happened, we would all be in the same boat, together. I’ve quickly learned, there are two boats. You are either bailing as fast as you can in the boat with the hole in the floor, or you are cruising miles ahead in your fiberglass hull with an outboard. To be fair, I’m in the latter boat, and so is every single person I know.
I exist within the padded bubble of privilege.
Many moons ago, in another lifetime, I overheard a brief exchange between a patron and her horse trainer. Standing next to her car, I didn’t hear what he mumbled to his owner, but she punched the air with her hands in exasperation, snapping back, “You have no idea how hard it is to have everyone around you asking you for something! Everybody has their hands out these days. It’s exhausting!”
At that point in my life, I was exercising racehorses. I got paid like $9/hour. It was just about enough to put the gas in my truck, to get there and back, and that’s about it. I walked past them, looking straight ahead, as the conversation hashed out before me. I continued on, carrying my flimsy race saddle to a different barn, to get on another two-year old. I remember thinking to myself, “Hey Lady, you should really try the flip side of that equation.” I marveled at how wonderful it must be to find yourself in a position where you could help others, one I had never experienced. Even then, I thought she was missing the opportunity poised in the palm of her hand.
Decades later, in a pandemic, the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” has shifted with the tide. I know now, we are not in the ark, rather we are divided into one of two boats. For the first time in people’s lives, they might have their “hand out,” but maybe, some are also experiencing the opportunity of “putting their hand out,” extending an olive branch of generosity to others. What I truly hope is no one finds themselves sitting on their hands.
If a pandemic doesn’t inspire others to action, then truly, we are fucked.
Back to the dog squatter in my house (and that’s not a euphemism for bathroom humor, you dirty birds), and back to TikTok. Since I have only managed to scribble a doggie-dating profile in the last six weeks, I decided I should gloss-up Pierre’s “Rin Tin Tinder” narrative by adding a short video. I checked out TikTok, but the app isn’t for combining existing media. (TikTok is hilarious and addicting, by the way.) I finally figured out how to create a video of Pierre and the first one took me hours. So many hours, for a showcase two minutes long. (What does that sound like? For the horsemen out there, it starts with the letter “d.”) I’ve created three videos, and I am truly inspired by the process.
I’m so inspired, in fact, I’ve purchased a ton of software geared towards digital media and a MacBook to go with it. I’m all in. I am currently immersed in tutorials, and while completely frustrated at my lack of comprehension, I am also determined to figure it out. I haven’t felt this push/pull of creative tension in a long time. Riding the wave, I formed a new business, Cracker Media, and am in the process of building-out a website, also a new endeavor for my skillset. All of my creative work will be housed collectively under one roof. This will be a side gig offering services ranging from writing and editing, grant proposals, content creation, to advertising and media services.
So it’s not just writing anymore, but a few creative pursuits. I hope, and believe, one will help the other, and vice versa. It seems the pandemic I am experiencing has whittled itself into the shape of a poodle. Leave it to a dog to open the door. This is proof inspiration comes when you least expect it and from where you least expect it. It’s important to seek the silver linings amidst the destruction, whatever that might mean to you. Finding the gumption to make your morning coffee and your evening martini is plenty, so no need to aim high. That’s enough. (If your timeline is reversed, we should probably talk.) It’s a good time to practice gratitude and compassion, with yourself, and with others.
Remember, if you’re not sitting on your hands, you’re basically doing really great.
And if you are, well, you’re just an asshat.
(And asshats who sit on their hands can’t be TikTok sensations either…)