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12:16 PM - Sat 1.02.21

The Year In Review (The 2020 Pandemic Edition)

Still shying away from writing this entry - Don't know why, other than summing up the past year in some coherent way feels like a "challenge" (And while I'd like to be the sort of person who "enjoys a challenge", to my chagrin, I'm really not).

But actors act, musicians make music, and journalers journal.

So here goes nothing...

I remember, when the shit started getting real with COVID - which, for me, was the night I went to Ralphs after work and it had essentially been cleaned out - being legit scared about what the future might hold.

I worried that getting food might be a problem (And since people were hoarding toilet paper early on, what I might have to do if that started being an issue).

Then, a week before I was supposed to start back on Shameless for the last season, "The Biz" shut down altogether (And then I worried a great deal - prompted by one-too-many predictions of what things would be like when production eventually resumed - that my role might end up greatly reduced, or eliminated altogether).

Then a couple months after that, I was laid off at Weight Watchers, my day job - and my main source of regular "people contact" - for the past dozen years.

(I'd never applied for Unemployment before - And it was impossible to get anyone on the phone to talk to - so figuring out how to make that happen was an adventure all by itself.)

And beyond what was happening to me personally, there was just general anxiety, and outright fear, in the air - There was no direction on what to do coming from on high (This was exactly the kind of situation people like me, who didn't vote for Trump, were afraid of) so people looked for leadership from people like Dr. Anthony Fauci and progressive governors like Anthony Cuomo in New York and Gavin Newsome here in CA.

(Early on, it was even a challenge getting the masks we were told were needed to stop the spread of the virus.)

The whole issue of masks and quarantining and common-sense preventive measures got turned into a political issue, and conspiracy theorists started having a field day (Egged on by the Idiot-In-Chief, who'd been all about keeping people divided and afraid and aggrieved since Day One of his presidency, and who saw no need to change gears just because people were dying on his watch).

...and I think, overall, it's that last bit that's had the biggest impact on me, at least emotionally.

A lot of my initial concerns didn't come to pass (At least they haven't to date) - the food chain held, I'd hoarded enough toilet paper prior to the pandemic that I made it through that madness unscathed, and when Shameless started up production again (About six months after things had shut down), my character wasn't a victim of the pandemic (Particularly, pandemic-related budgetary concerns) as I feared he might be.

And while I worried early on about myself and my small circle of friends, I haven't gotten sick or lost anyone to the virus (Fortunately for me, transmission of the virus turned out to be almost entirely airborne, so the fact I wasn't washing my hands nearly enough or washing my groceries at all, in spite of instructions to do both, didn't end up getting me sick or killing me).

In ways that are a little funny - and a little sad - I was actually oddly well-situated to weather a pandemic; I've been alone almost my entire adult life, with no family and few friends, so being in a situation where I'm holed up by myself was not a big issue.

Similarly, with no social life and doing very little in the outside world beyond going to work and getting groceries, it wasn't a huge imposition that restaurants and barbershops and gyms and movie theaters and concert venues were shut down.

Initially, I joked about it - Telling the world, "Welcome to my life...!" - but in all seriousness, it's a little sobering to think that my everyday existence would essentially constitute "being in quarantine" for a normal person (The aspect of the situation that was most debilitating to people - to not be able to "hug a loved one" or "spend time with family or friends"? To me, that's life).

At times, I've actually felt guilty for not suffering more than I have during the Pandemic - I've had some anxieties, as I've laid out (And gained a good 30+ lbs), but by no stretch of the imagination have I "suffered".

I still fear, maybe more than ever before, that "the bottom is going to drop out" eventually...but with that said, in ways, the pandemic has been - dare I say it? - good for me.

While getting laid off at Weight Watchers was a blow to my self-esteem, and has led to me being more alone on a daily basis than at any time since first hitting LA almost 20 years ago, it's not like I wanted to work a low-paying day job (where I felt perpetual guilt for being a good 40 lbs overweight) for the rest of my days.

It's not how I imagined this going, but for the first time in my life, I'm "living the dream" of just being an actor. I was probably never going to make that happen on my own, but circumstances made the decision for me (The anxiety kicks in when I think about making that stick once the Shameless money goes bye-bye and the savings start draining away. But that's for another entry...)

And with nothing but time on my hands, I've reconnected with drawing, drawing more in the past year than...maybe ever, gaining enough confidence or self-esteem or whatever to actually post my drawings on social media (And make gifts of them to Jane R. and Mark and Jane Z.). I don't know if I'm ever going to get good enough to "do anything with it" or if it'll just be a hobby - like this - but it's meant something to get in touch with that side of myself again, and whether I ever get paid for it or not, to "put it out there" that "This is who I am".

And I started trying to make a podcast happen - It's just me talking about myself (Cause I don't really know what else to do) and not a lot of people. follow it, but again, it's me doing something that probably wouldn't have happened if I didn't have "all the time in the world"...and a motivation to "find something I could do" that isn't "working another shitty, low-paying, go-nowhere day job".

Another thing I've learned to do during the pandemic, by necessity, are self-tapes - It was something that would come up sometimes pre-pandemic, but I deeply resented it and would either impose on a friend to help me with it or go somewhere and pay someone to do it for me. It never once occurred to me to learn how to do it myself.

But now it's just something I do. And while I haven't booked anything from them yet, I've gotten close enough that it feels inevitable I will at some point in the hopefully-not-too-distant future (And considering where I started from, that's saying quite a bit).

So the Pandemic hasn't been all bad for Yours Truly.

The biggest "damage" it's done - along with the recent election, and the Trump presidency in general - is to my generally optimistic feelings about the country, my fellow Americans, capital-d "Democracy", and so on and so forth.

It's maybe a good thing - maybe it's good to discover I was only able to think of racists and sexists and homophobes and general "Deplorables" as a "fringe element" because of my lifelong "Straight White Guy" status - but it doesn't feel good to think "There are way more people that really-and-truly suck as human beings than I ever realized...!".

It's discouraging to think that we can't get together en masse, as a country, to do anything good anymore, that some of us aren't willing to sacrifice anything, no matter how small, for our fellow citizens, that "we" just barely outnumber "the bad guys" (And "the bad guys" are willing to go lower than I would ever have imagined at even my most cynical).

But again, maybe that's a good thing to know - Not a happy thing to know, but a good thing.

Good things aren't going to just automatically happen because they're "good" or "right" - They have to be fought for.

(And whether I'm up for fighting for anything these days is, again, a subject for another time...)

But this second day of 2021 does find me somewhat optimistic - Trump is on his way out, vaccines are on their way in, Jane R. will be (Good health permitting) taking up part-time residency here in LA, the documentary will make its debut, and with any luck, I'll land on my next series before the year's out.

Nothing is guaranteed - If 2020 taught us anything, it should have taught us that - but there's reason for hope.

And for the moment, that's good enough.

Till next time...



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