Partying During the Pandemic: Hubba, Hubba, Hubba, Hack, Hack

 

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Of course, whenever there’s a celebration on Folly Beach, I shed the fedora and don my pith helmet to study the folkways of the island’s men and women, whether they be our ancient, reptilian residents who seem to make up the majority of the population[1]; the younger year-round renters who often work in the food and beverage industry; the bourgeois house-renting vacationers; or the daytrippers, which include surfer dudes and dudettes, but mostly consist of young people eager to ditch their sobriety.  The question arose: what type of person (besides intrepid anthropologists) seeks out crowds during a pandemic?

I began my foray early, keeping at least six feet away from those as foolhardy to brave the great outdoors as I walked to Center Street via the beach. The strand itself was wind-swept, and the few cloud-bathers who braved the beach had placed their chairs and blankets on the leeward side of the concrete groins where they huddled and shivered. Most of the other beach strollers consisted of dog worshipers, who barely outnumber the host of young females who have chosen The Edge of America as the destination for their bachelorette parties.

Over the course of the day, I counted six different groups engaged in celebrating the waning days of some betrothed female’s singledom. Depending on the socio-economic situation, the attire of the ladies ranges from civvies to tee-shirts printed for the occasion. Although anthropologists are not supposed to let ethnocentric emotions like pity come into play, I felt sort of sorry for these chilly, less-than-festive seeming young women in short sleeves hugging themselves.  Who can blame them, having planned the events months ago not knowing it was going to be a Masque-of-the-Red Death weekend?

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Indeed, the numbers of revelers who decided to come out was scant. It was like, as Caroline noted, living in Charleston thirty years ago when parking spaces were plentiful and sidewalks easily traversed. I began and ended my fieldwork at Chico Feo with brief stops at the rooftop of Snapper Jack’s, St. James Island Pub, and the Sand Dollar Social Club (cash only).  Here’s a virtual visit for my social-distancing readers.

On a typical St Patrick’s Saturday on Folly, these venues would have been packed to, as they say, the gills.


[1] The overall median age of Folly residents is 49.7 years, 43.7 years for males, and 58.4 years for females.

 

Old Habits Die Hard

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Triumph of Death Wall Painting, ca. 1448, Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo (Photo Rob Cook, 2012)

 

“Thus each of us had to be content to live only for the day, alone under the vast indifference of the sky.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

Although avoiding skin-to-skin human contact makes a lot of sense during a pandemic, old habits die hard. Yesterday, for example, I attended a funeral. An old, dear friend invited me to share her pew, and as I leaned over to kiss her, she shied away — a not-infrequent occurrence of my youth, but one I hadn’t experienced in a while. After the service, as we entered the reception hall, two bottles of hand-sanitizer stood next to the guest register. Although I had never used a hand-sanitizer outside a cancer ward, I confess I did a couple of dollops.[1]

UnknownAt a funeral reception, you don’t want repulse people who need a hug. As we embraced, one of my former students said, “Corona Virus be damned.”  For a young person who most likely will face what amounts to a bad cold if infected, this attitude seems reasonable to me. For a woman in her eighties, not so much so. Anyway, at the reception, I let whoever was making eye contact make the first move, whether it be the awkward fumbling of an elbow bump, a handshake, or hug.

Of course, on the way out, I forgot to reapply the hand sanitizer, scratched my beard, tugged at my ear, covered my mouth as I burped, and headed straight to Chico Feo for a couple of beers.  Earlier in the day, I had checked out a bit of Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year and ran across this horror-inducing sentence:

‘That disorderly tippling in taverns, ale-houses, coffee-houses, and cellars be severely looked unto, as the common sin of this time and greatest occasion of dispersing the plague. And that no company or person be suffered to remain or come into any tavern, ale-house, or coffee-house to drink after nine of the clock in the evening, according to the ancient law and custom of this city, upon the penalties ordained in that behalf.

Being of an advanced age, I would rather hazard death than be reduced to drinking at home alone. My sparkling wit might very well wither and die. “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” Dylan Thomas wrote sometime prior to bragging about having downed eighteen straight whiskeys, lapsing into a comma, and going ungently into that good night.[2]

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As far as sporting events go, the timing couldn’t be worse. Spring training and the NBA have been suspended, March Madness cancelled outright, and the Masters golf tournament postponed, which echoes precautions enacted in Defoe’s day:

‘That all plays, bear-baitings, games, singing of ballads, buckler-play, or such-like causes of assemblies of people be utterly prohibited, and the parties offending severely punished by every alderman in his ward.

Even Donald Trump, a Corona-Virus optimist, “out of an abundance of caution” has postponed “the Catholics for Trump” event scheduled for 19 March in Milwaukee.  Sources say that Trump has shaken hands with a Brazilian who has tested positive for the virus, but the President himself doesn’t plan to be tested. On the other hand, Court Jester/sycophant Lindsay Graham is in self-quarantine, no doubt binge-watching Lady Di’s wedding while enjoying a hot toddy or two or four or eighteen.

Me, I’m sequestered in my drafty garret skimming Camus’s The Plague and Boccaccio’s The Decameron for quotable quotes, puzzling about how bear-baitings and Macbeth could attract the same audiences, and touching my forehead every five minutes to see if I’m running a fever.

So far, so good.


[1] Thirty-four years of classroom teaching has produced in me a robust immune system. The last time I took a sick day was in 2003.

[2] According to eyewitnesses, he only had, alas, four straight whiskeys. If you’re going to die, you might as well go whole hog, as they say in Wales.