In many popular songs, an interlude is an instrumental passage that comes between sections of lyrics in a song. In musical terms, the lockdown was marked by long interludes of softer, muted tones, the raucous rhythms of urban life like the rat-a-tat-tat of a jackhammer silenced, the varying pitch of street voices infrequent, the tempo of daily living constrained to a plodding pace, like an adagio movement in a symphony.
However, in the late afternoon and early morning hours the lyrical quality of birdsongs would crescendo more clearly than ever in a temporary triumph of Nature over human encroachment. As a musician, I attempted to emulate the rhythm, pitch, and tempo of those melodic sounds almost daily. The alternative was jamming with dead musicians on YouTube (no offense to those who are still alive). For the first time in memory, there were no gigs to pursue, no live music venues for jam sessions with other musicians.
The hunt was on for alternative activities. In the nearby park, the homeless population had increased fivefold, from one person to five. When I offered them rice left over from lunch, I received immense gratitude, with a customary “wai” and a gleam in their eye. I imagined a radically contrasting response from the homeless in my native New York: “Wtf, rice again? Get me some f***** noodles and a bottle of wine!”
A stray cat in the park saw my food giveaways and solicited me for food too. So I bought some cans of sardines in tomato sauce to feed the cat. After a few days the cat was thumbing its nose at that, so I switched to mackerel, then tuna, finally roasted chicken. By the end of the week, the cat was fed up with the menu and disappeared.
Occasionally, I had food delivered to my residence. Ordering by phone with my iffy Thai pronunciation and the order taker’s suspect English comprehension can render dubious results. A few years ago I called to order a pepperoni pizza. Thirty minutes later, the delivery guy showed up with the pizza. I opened the box for inspection and started sneezing uncontrollably. Taped to the bottom of the box was the bill, with the words, “Pepper only.”
During the lockdown my body began to atrophy from lack of exercise. Lifting a spoon and fork at mealtime wasn’t cutting it for muscle toning, and there were no weights or pianos around to bench press, no beaches open for swimming. On the rooftop of my building is a chin-up bar, and I wore that bar out. I could still ride my bicycle around Phuket Town for an aerobic workout in the virtually vacant streets, which provided added visual pleasure to the historic Sino-Portuguese architecture in the Old Town.
Smuggling & Snuggling
Where I live, building management imposed some rules and restrictions under lockdown. One was the disallowance of bringing guests into the building. This was a restriction made to be broken by “Only The Lonely.” For a couple of nights I plotted to meet a lady friend at the nearby 7-11 to avoid being spied by anyone in my building. Prior to the meeting, I texted her instructions to not utter a word until we were in my room, and to follow behind me into the building lobby where I would open the glass door to the elevators with a key card. The security guard sitting by the glass door was fast asleep. No, I did not drug him. A month later she visited me again and the security guard barely raised an eyebrow, assuming that she lived in the building (wearing a mask helped). For both occasions it was just under curfew time, with no other residents in sight.
Having lived alone for the past 23 years, I’ve been social distancing for a long time so the lockdown was not too taxing in that way. Of course I missed playing live music in front of an audience, I missed swimming at the beach and my normal exercise regimen, and missed dining at many restaurants. Now that the lockdown has been lifted, I miss the environmental serenity when almost everyone stayed at home. But overall, music still rules the roost in my life, and it was a joy this week to play a birthday party gig in a return to live performance.
In light of celebrating the end of the lockdown, I leave you with my top 5 list of COVID hit songs:
You Make Me Sick (Pink)
Dancing With Myself (Billy Idol)
Stay Away From Me (Bill Monroe)
Who Was That Masked Man (Van Morrison)
The Toilet Paper Song (Klaus)
May the farce be with you!