So far, shelter-in-place has been one long, strange trip. The news and images coming in are cinematic, and at times graphic enough to require a NC-17 rating. For this reason, we should dub the quarantine “Quarantino” after the Quentin Tarantino film oeuvre — violent, perilous, not appropriate for underage viewers. Except the news stories and images streaming via satellite from the outside world into my small, university town of Moscow, Idaho, are in stark contrast to any news arising from within our idyllic little town.
What does a day-in-the-life of “Quarantino” look like if you’re living in a charming, university community like Moscow? A town that has more in common with an episode from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood than Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds? Where instead of “Once Upon a Virus in Hollywood,” I think “Once Upon a Virus in the Neighborhood.”
Here’s an example: In the first week of March, a friend in Marin County, just outside of San Francisco, missioned posthaste to their local Costco to stock up on food and supplies for the imminent coronavirus outbreak, while I took a leisurely trip to Staples to stock up on printer ink and paper clips. No one can ever accuse me of not having my priorities straight.
The second week of March, I ratcheted it up a notch and battened down the hatches, which is nautical sea shanty speak for “Git in the cellar, Ma!” The boyfriend brought home extra toilet paper, I bought bleach and alcohol wipes. You’ll know I’m taking current events extra seriously when I suddenly care about how clean the bathroom is. I’m a stay-at-home writer, and the boyfriend took leave from his day job to avoid contaminating me. I’m sassy, but not sassy enough to kick coronavirus’ ass.
What does one do to pass the time in the proverbial Mister Rogers’ neighborhood in the middle of a “Quarantino?” I recall with fondness a favorite game from childhood called Stowaway. I would hole up in the nook beneath the stairway in my parent’s house, next to the cobwebs and storage boxes and pretend I was stealing passage within the cargo hold of a sea-faring vessel. I highly recommend this game, especially for parents with active children during this pandemic. Bring a cocktail shaker and some vodka with you and you can hide from your family all afternoon.
By the third week, our larder was running low and so we ordered groceries for delivery like a couple of bastard millionaires. I welcomed the distraction, to be perfectly honest. I had been purposefully vague about quantities and brands, opting rather to be “surprised.” I wasn’t disappointed, the lemons were big as softballs, the bag of onions the size of kumquats. One has no idea what’s left on the shelves, and the substitutions can be rather amusing. When was the last time I had millet? Never. I don’t even know what millet is. I thought it was a haircut preferred by rednecks and tiger kings running big cat zoos in Oklahoma. No cantaloupe available? How about a durian instead? Sure. Life’s an adventure.
As the days shutter by, and self-isolation is my new normal, it makes sense to refer to shelter-in-place as “Quarantino.” I think of his vampire movie From Dusk till Dawn till Dusk till Dawn till Dusk till Dawn till What the Hell Day is it Now? Who can keep track, anymore? And there are nights we don’t go to bed until 5 am. But then noon comes around and I’m back in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: I check Facebook and a friend is offering to drop homemade cookies off. Yes, please.
That’s the big trend I noticed on my socials — everyone, and I mean everyone, is baking. The rush for flour might explain my millet substitute. I’ve been spared from panic baking, except for the banana bread I microwaved in a cup, which hardly counts as baking. Frankly, I’m concerned about this baking craze. I mean, how do we know that these innocent-looking “sourdough starters” gestating in kitchens across the U.S. are not the work of aliens with evil plans to colonize Earth? Whatever floats one’s boat, whatever makes the lambs stop screaming.
Speaking of screaming, by the fourth week of Quarantino, the president’s daily press briefings are a new kind of torture. When the president speaks, a Morgan Freeman voiceover follows:
Trump: “The coronavirus is under control. Everything is under control.”
Morgan Freeman: “But, in fact, nothing was under control. The situation is very much out of control.”
Trump: “I’m doing an incredible job, our administration is doing an incredible job, no better job has been done in the history of jobs, ever.”
Morgan Freeman: “But, in fact, the president is not doing an incredible job, his administration is not doing an incredible job. Worst. Job. Ever.”
In keeping with Quarantino, change Morgan Freeman’s voice to Samuel L. Jackson’s. What could be better than Samuel L. Jackson reading America a bedtime story, his voice conveying the necessary urgency our president lacks, “Stay the F—- at Home.” ♦
Tiffany Midge is a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. She is the recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, the Kenyon Review Earthworks Indigenous Poetry Prize, a Western Heritage Award, the Diane Decorah Memorial Poetry Award, and was awarded a 2019-20 Simons Public Humanities fellowship. Tiffany is a former humor columnist for Indian Country Today and the author of “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s.”