A Short Walk From Emily’s House

I encountered this guy around the corner yesterday. He had wandered into the neighborhood from Sepulveda, sweaty and disheveled, muttering on the curb as he loaded his crack pipe…unfettered by self-consciousness, so deep was he into the finger rituals of addiction.

Like my beloved Los Angeles, he was in a state of nervous prostration.  A herald of self-destruction. It made me think of our three-month bender of submission to safetyism and power-tripping bureaucrats.   So many of us remain insensible to reason. Hopeful data do not appease us. Hard facts of morbidity do not move us. We’re all Emily Dickinson now, cowering at the top of the stairs.  We hide behind our duty masks and wait for someone else to be the first to defy authority, lest we are ratted out on social media.

When we take the full measure of the economic damage inflicted upon ourselves and face with clear eyes our willingness to swallow propaganda from a garden hose we will look back on this time as one of madness. We will tell our children by way of explanation for the debt we hand them, forgive us, it was sort of like we were smoking crack. 

“I am growing handsome very fast indeed! I expect I shall be the belle of Amherst when I reach my 17th year. I don’t doubt that I will have crowds of admirers…”  When admirers failed to appear, roaring disappointment contracted Emily’s world. She ventured no further than the garden gate, then the sitting room, finally her bedroom, where she retreated for the remainder of her life.  Amherst became that terra incognita signified on ancient flat earth maps by sea dragons.

“A prison gets to be a friend,” Dickinson famously said.  As we emerge from the lockdown, will our pent up creative energies prevail,  will the animal spirits of commerce revive fully intact, or will we find ourselves diminished somehow? Marked by a limp?  Will we embrace a newly discovered weakness?

7 thoughts on “A Short Walk From Emily’s House”

  1. A preview of how democracy ends. Find an emergency, declare rights suspended (temporarily), have your media supporters report uncritically and ensure the well compensated keepers of order are on the payroll.

    Actually plenty of precedence in 1917, 1933 and 1949.

    1. Seeing as we have an election in November, democracy still has a few miles left on its tires. What comes after that is what worries me.

  2. I don’t doubt there will be diminished spirits among the fearful ones, but I envision, and am preparing for an enthusiastic celebration of the return to human interaction and gathering of friends. It was shameful how much of the crisis was dealt with. I believe and trust there will be a good bounce back because you can’t keep down the élan vital of the American spirit.

  3. Covid-19 deaths in the US have surpassed 100,000.
    41,000,000 jobless claims which has surpassed the Great Depression.
    Covid-19 effects the upper respiratory tract…so does kneeling on a person’s neck for over seven minutes.

  4. But wait…Covid-19 has taken a back seat!
    Mayor yoga pants has been on the phone with the Governor to request the National Guard
    A state of emergency has been declared for LA County.
    In ’92 the looters wore masks to conceal their identities.
    Now masks have a dual purpose.

    Funny old world.

  5. Masculine/feminine: to do or to be. You have written about the Boomers, whom you know well–the pinnacle of Boomerism, the “be-in” has progressed to the point where we no longer know from whence the feminine comes. The be-ing is everywhere, and not to be is the most horrifying thing imaginable…

    I think C.S. Lewis wrote that, in the person of..was it Weston? A secular man, follower of a secular evil that turned out to be simpler, more primitive, and less secular than he thought.

    There was a time when one could advertise war service by what glorious feats the pawn could accomplish; then it was, “Be all you can be”; and now there is such a horror, all around you, of no longer being, that the ancient calculus of trading your potential existence for a sufficiently grand accomplishment–the climax of so much pulp fiction!–no longer makes any sense.

    Emily Dickinson was, for so many years–and wrote incessantly about it. Have you been to Amherst? It is a small world–a shabby prison into which to anchor oneself! And such a strange thing, to have one’s literary legacy–one’s doing!–in the hands of one’s bosom friend’s husband’s mistress.

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