Monday, May 11, 2020

“I have traveled a good deal in Concord,” says Thoreau at the beginning of Walden. I could do worse than to emulate him, I decided, so I’m learning to be a tourist in my own back yard. Yesterday I traveled to Dana Point Harbor.

Traveled is the right word. Although the harbor is a mere twenty minutes from my home, it is the longest journey I’ve taken in two months. The Dana Point I visited yesterday was eons away from the bustling boardwalks of shops and restaurants of last summer. A barricade blocked the parking lot for the Ocean Institute, the tide pools, and the pirate cave that once held such fascination for my grandchildren. Even the historic ship Pilgrim, where schoolchildren have enjoyed overnight field trips since 1981, unexpectedly sunk in March. I was a tourist in an unfamiliar landscape.

If it weren’t for the few people walking around, it would have seemed almost post-apocalyptic. Concrete barriers barricaded the baby beach parking lot, but people took advantage of the few parking places along the street. Families picnicked on the grassy areas within a few feet of the cordoned-off picnic tables and the closed restrooms, but far apart from each other.

There was plenty of parking near the shops, newly opened for pick up only. Restaurants prominently displayed “open” signs for delivery or take out, but they could not offer dining in on Mother’s Day, normally one of their busiest days.

Still it was pleasant to join the people on the walkways enjoying the harbor views and the sea air. The outdoor dining areas, once a great place to have lunch and people-watch, were closed, which was a pity on such a nice day.

We estimated that no more than 20 percent of the people were wearing masks, in spite of signs that said masks were recommended. But no wonder that those of us who spend so much time indoors want to breathe freely and feel the fresh sea air on our face. I know I did. In contradiction to recent news articles, I don’t believe this makes a political statement. It’s a question of space.

Last week in a grocery store I estimated about 95% of the people were wearing masks. So many, in fact, that when I saw someone without a mask it startled me. Out in the open air, where we are giving each other a wide berth, it is a pleasure to go without. Besides it’s wonderful to see people’s faces and exchange a friendly smile.

Nevertheless I always carry a mask with me, in case I’m in a situation that makes it hard to maintain social distancing. I’m even thinking of buying a couple–maybe a black one and a colorful one–because they look nicer than the disposable pink ones I have on hand. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I have to look dowdy. And I know I may just have to get used to it.

Next time I go to Dana Point will children be exploring the tide pools and and families barbecuing hamburgers by the picnic tables? Please make it so.

Today’s Notable Headlines:

“Beloved Ocean Institute Ship ‘Pilgrim’ Slowly Sinks In Dana Point Harbor,” CBS Los Angeles, March 30, 2020, https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/03/30/ocean-institute-pilgrim-dana-point-harbor/

“Seal Beach opens Monday; Los Angeles beaches will re-open Wednesday,” Orange County Register, May 11, 2020. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/05/11/seal-beach-has-quiet-opening-monday-los-angeles-beaches-will-re-open-wednesday/

“Are masks the next front in the coronavirus culture war?” Yahoo News, May 11, 2020, https://news.yahoo.com/are-masks-the-next-front-in-the-coronavirus-culture-war-182414248.html

“More Americans return to work; concerns grow of a second virus wave,” Reuters, May 11, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/more-americans-return-to-work-concerns-grow-of-a-second-virus-wave-idUSKBN22N1AX

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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