Friday Evening Videos (Plague Edition): “Dancing in the Ruins”

What a week this has been, eh? After months of more or less ignoring what was happening overseas, the average American finally got the message that there’s a pandemic in the offing and began panic-hoarding toilet paper while public venues of all descriptions shuttered themselves. (I think it was probably the news that America’s Dad, Tom Hanks himself, tested positive for COVID-19 that tipped us over the edge.)

My own workplace had a scare yesterday when the mall that lies below our office tower shut down its food court for a thorough disinfecting, ostensibly because someone who shopped there three days ago had tested positive for the disease. Now today the office is mostly deserted, and a young graphic designer who sits near me keeps asking the people around her about COVID-19 and the Black Death, obsessively checking websites for the number of reported cases in Utah, and muttering under her breath, “We’re all going to die.”

I’ll confess that I’m wrestling with a certain level of anxiety myself. Deadly pandemics are a personal boogeyman of mine — let’s just say that The Stand is the one Stephen King novel I don’t see myself ever reading again — so I know what she’s feeling. But I feel bad that she’s so scared. So, like any man of a certain age who’s confronted with a scared lady who’s young enough to be his daughter, my protective impulses flared up and I tried to make her feel better. I told her she’s right to be concerned and to take precautions, but not to let it all drive her too crazy, because we Gen Xers have faced imminent doom any number of times, from our teenage certainty that we were all going to be incinerated in a nuclear holocaust before we could lose our virginity to the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, when the planets would align and magnify the usually balanced gravitational forces of the solar system, tearing everything to smithereens. Then there was Y2K; the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012; the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the ’90s; a couple of near-miss asteroids… it seems like there was something in there about a comet, too, but I don’t recall any more. And of course a new plague every few years just to put the fear of the invisible into everyone. And yet, for all that… we’re still here. Most of us, anyhow. (I didn’t mention the AIDS epidemic to her, which really did wipe out a generation of gay men; I figured that one would not have helped her see the point I was trying to make.)

Ultimately, I don’t think my show of generational bravado helped her much. And I’m not sure it did much for my nerves either. But ever since, I’ve had a song running through my head that seems rather apropos for this particular moment in history: Blue Oyster Cult’s 1986 hit single “Dancin’ in the Ruins.” I’ve posted this one as a Friday Evening Video before, so I’ll just repeat what I said then:

The song’s generally upbeat sound overlaying its fatalistic lyrics seems to match my [current] emotions, which have been a weird rollercoaster between existential dread, weary resignation, and fuck-it-all euphoria.

And that’s really about all I’ve got to say right now. So just crank the volume and enjoy as we head into the weekend. Everything crumbles to dust in time, so we may as well have a party, right?

How’s that for GenX atttiude? Keep washing your hands, folks. And keep a close watch on your toilet paper…

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