Culture Shock Melting Pot

Coronavirus Notebook

March 29 — Ashley Judd, Blue Muse Staff Writer Days Off Campus: 18 US Infections: 125,313; Deaths 2,197; Recovered 2,612Continue Reading

April 3 — Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 23

US Infections: 245,601; Deaths 6,068; Recovered 9,228 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 3,824; Deaths 112

Dow Jones Industrial Average: Down -.34 at 10 am

Trending: Political Cartoonists Have Their Say  

Dept. of Virtual Entertainment: Stream The Public Theater’s 2019 summer production of Much Ado About Nothing 

Since getting furloughed from work due to the virus, I’ve taken to structuring my days like a schedule for some future semester:

10:30-11:30 a.m. – Wake up.

12:00-12:15 p.m. – Think about doing something productive.

12:15-12:30 p.m. – Decide against it.

1:00-1:30 p.m. – Eat lunch.

In the early mornings, Mark Foster will drop off a box of produce he couldn’t sell at his fruit stand. Then in the afternoons, he’ll come back to watch 90 Day Fiancé on the couch with my mother––who’s also out of work––joking that, “As bad as things get, you guys will never starve.”

At 2 o’clock I’ll watch some dumb movie—Flashdance, or Mamma Mia!, or that new one on Hulu about two 18th-century dykes in love—and complain about how dumb it is, how jealous I am of these ladies who can run around the Greek islands singing ABBA without any worries. No one on screen is bound by six-foot distance.

5:00 p.m. – Make dinner.

6:00 p.m. – Eat dinner.

6:30 p.m. – Drink a bottle of wine.

Later, my neighbor Noah will come over to play Catan. I’ll lose. Then we’ll laugh and smoke cigarettes, take a long walk around an (emptier) downtown Thomaston, and discuss the businesses—and people—we think won’t make it through.

After high school, when some of us were already college dropouts and others decided Thomaston was our best shot at a mediocre future, there was this running joke, like, “You know your life isn’t that bad if you’re not walking across the bridge on Route 6.” Something about raggies. People without cars. Terryville. Societal perceptions and all that.

Tonight we walked the bridge on Route 6, bought week-expired Donettes from the Citgo, and leaned into the concept of being losers.

Tomorrow we will go down to the abandoned train station and sit on top of the old cars.

Someday, Noah will take his trip to Vietnam and travel East Asia alone.

In a few months, I will move from Thomaston to Alabama to start grad school.

Tonight, from the top of the bridge, we can see all of Thomaston below us.

April 2 — Emma Nelson, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 22

US Infections: 216,768; Deaths 5,148; Recovered 8,710 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 3,557; Deaths 85

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21,413.44,+469.93, (+2.24%)

Trending: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployments benefits last week.

Isolation Reading: Samuel L. Jackson reads “Stay the F**K at Home”

I wake up and stare at my speckled, popcorn ceiling, sighing. I know in just a few moments I’ll be refreshing my Google search: “CT Coronavirus.” This search has been a constant since the virus reached Connecticut, and every time the numbers go up there’s a hollow feeling in my stomach. The news of the empty shelves in countless grocery stores is jarring, but not surprising. As a person living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it is certainly interesting to see everyone go through what I, and many others with severe anxiety, feel on most days. This pandemic is just a worst case scenario coming to life. Hurrah.

The few places I frequent are no longer open. Mitchell’s on Main, the diner where great ideas spawn from my brain––and even greater pancakes enter my stomach––isn’t open for dine-in. The consignment store with chaotic racks full of clothes that I would roam to clear my head has completely closed. I was never one for going out—my anxiety disorder doesn’t allow it—so the few places I was comfortable driving to were the only way out of my head. Places where I could get work done, or get familiar with odd, floral cardigans worn by someone’s great aunt. There’s no place for me to go (for the time being), except for the expertly laid out paths from my room, to the kitchen, and to the dining room.

We all have to find a routine to motivate our heavy heads in the midst of this pandemic, even if nothing seems important in comparison. Oftentimes, it’s paralyzing. My family comes and goes from our home, and I can’t help but think about what they could be spreading out in the world––or what they could be bringing back. I cringe at the news of careless young people crowding the Florida beaches, and I wonder if they’ll even think about quarantining when they return. I think of the people I know, the people I don’t know, anyone who could be susceptible to this virus, and hope they keep themselves safe. I eagerly await the day where the numbers begin their descent, and the doors of suffering local businesses, schools, and homes can open back up. In all this madness I stay put and wash my hands, because it’s all I can control.

April 1 — Ryan Curcio, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 21

US Infections: 189,633; Deaths 4,081; Recovered 7,136 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 3128; Deaths 69

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 20,943.51, down 973.65, (4.4%)

Trending: Brazilian President dismissed C-19 Threat

Dept. of Late Night Reveal: Stephen Colbert and musician John Prine attempt to cheer up the world in this unseen clip from 2016. 

I work for a food distribution center, one of the few institutions which will stay open even after the state of Connecticut shuts down. I’m not totally upset; you know, job security and all that. But I can’t help but feel contempt for the people buying massive quantities of toilet paper, meat products, milk, or any other random thing they can get their greedy paws on. I hope the 15 cartons of milk they buy spoils before they can sell it for twice the price.

I drive a forklift part-time in the warehouse, but I happened to be selecting product to deliver to stores last week. That day, a coworker of mine screamed her frustrations about the amount of food we were moving.

“Why the hell do I need to grab a full pallet of grapes?”

My friend and fellow forklift operator responded to this frantic inquiry “Because we’re dying!”

This is a matter of cognitive dissonance for me––and I apologize for getting political here––but I have often shunned the left for many of its practices, be it language-policing or anti-smoking campaigns. Though, I can’t help but agree with the idea that we need universal health care right now more than ever. Clearly jobs are not bulletproof, and people need a backup plan in case of a COVID-19-like emergency.

I’ve never had an issue with social distancing. I typically avoid people as a general practice. It feels strange, though. I, like so many others, have gotten used to walking into a crowded town center with voices buzzing around my head like hissing locusts. People need a voice to soothe them in this historic moment. My main fear is that the right people have been silenced, and the wrong ones are screaming at the top of their lungs. They often shout falsehoods or misleading statements.

I just hope from the bottom of my heart that during this frightening freak show of an ongoing human catastrophe that people of all intellectual levels can remain sane, and that a solitary figure or group can rise up to keep the global population from destroying itself. No cult stuff, just genuine leadership.

March 31 — Claire Hibbs-Cusson, CCSU Student

Days Off Campus: 20

US Infections: 164,785; Deaths 3,173; Recovered 5,945 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 2571; Deaths 36

Daily Social Distancing Show: Trevor Noah (thank you)

British Royal Distraction: Harry & Meghan Transfer Brand to U.S.

It’s the first day of Spring, 2020: A day we celebrate after each long, cold winter. Annuals are popping their greenery in anticipation of bright, multi-shaped blooms. The star magnolia is nearly in full bloom, likely due to our mild January and February. Happy to indulge himself in landscaping therapy, Bob already has the yard cleaned up, edged, and mulched.

I am so very grateful that we are comfortable and enjoy good health, and that I have five beautiful grandchildren who are happy and well. We FaceTime several times a week, but miss our very frequent family fun days. It is a comfort knowing that their mothers, both school teachers, are able to stay home with them while schools are closed, helping to simulate their school-day schedules and keep up on their education. One dad remains at work as a pediatric nurse practitioner. The other, a fitness expert, is working from home now. The guys add a great measure of support to the effort.

These parents are noticing a level of resilience in their kids that may not have been fully apparent pre-crisis. The kids are more than willing to dive in and learn, almost as though in their normal routines. Online learning has become their mainstay, although having caring and invested adults by their sides is an invaluable asset. But they miss their friends.

Ben (five years old) learned to ride his bike without training wheels yesterday. He keeps everyone on schedule and spends his free time doing more schoolwork.

Evan (ten years old) will miss his little league practices and games this spring. His mom and dad will be doing their best to keep him from playing on his tablet too long.

Ava (eleven years old) is on the crew doing hair and makeup for her school play that won’t be happening for now. No lacrosse this spring either. She’ll undoubtedly keep busy with her drawing and crafts.

Jack (nine years old) is on hiatus from his voice and piano lessons, but that doesn’t keep him from singing his way through life. Plus, with dad home now, they can spend much more time cooking—their serious shared passion!

Libby (three and a half years old) is doing what most young girls do: several wardrobe changes a day between every Disney Princess gown, plastic high heels, her ballet tutus, and any outfit that makes her big brothers take notice. She, too, has educational programs online to keep her up to date with her Montessori pre-K program.

We’re in the midst of the biggest global pandemic in my lifetime, yet I have abundant hope.

My most profound wish for this world has long been that we could press pause and start all over again… and now we can.

Hope. It lives within our children. As we have come to this screeching halt in history, we have been offered a unique opportunity, no, a mandate, to hit the reset button. Right now, unlike any previous time in history, we must dial our lives right back to the basics.

Above all, we have the captive attention of our young. We cannot, and we must not, miss this once in a lifetime chance to teach our children well.

March 30 — Cecilia Gigliotti, Dispatch From German

Home Office Day: 19

German Infections: 62,435; Deaths 541; Recovered 9,211 (data from John Hopkins). 

German Stock Exchange: DAX:IND 9,477.33 EUR (-1.61%)

Trending: Berlin’s former governing mayor mourns loss of his life partner

Dept. Of Meanwhile: Berlin artists’ colony finds creative solution to shutdown

COVID-19 is an up-to-date threat with an out-of-date name. Specifically, the name of the year I earned a master’s degree and left behind all my formative identities for a job an ocean away. Centuries ago, or so it seems, but bleeding into 2020, hampering it, hindering its progress at every turn. The past has ways of ruining us if we let it.

Inside a flat in the Hinterhaus of a traditional five-story Berlin building, I am alone. My German flatmate went to see friends in Portugal three weeks ago and is getting a much longer stay than she bargained for. With EU borders closing, there’s no way of knowing whether she will return before my lease ends in a few months; with increasingly stringent social restrictions and apartment viewings postponed indefinitely, there’s no way of knowing what will even become of that lease.

As cities go, Berlin is short on traditions. Construction and reconstruction are perhaps its only constants. But in its latest incarnation you will find five-story apartment buildings like mine all over the urban landscape. Wooden floors that creak under the pas de cheval of a restless dancer, high-set windows that let in sun at all angles, narrow bathrooms whose leaky sinks wake you in the middle of the night. Cecilia-19 could not have conceived of this, not in her infancy at the top of that year. It is the only home Cecilia-2o knows.

A flautist lives one floor below me. On my hitherto occasional remote days, I grew accustomed to hearing flutter-tonguing and scales. Since federally mandated social distancing took effect, I have heard nothing.

Ten months have come and gone since I associated myself with school. Now, alone in this apartment, I confront my own becoming. The past winks at me in sweet, stinging flashes; the future lies veiled in allure and fear. But as life is halted and we are reduced to molecular, momentary living, I am haunted by my in-between, half-butterfly, present self.

My family, housebound in a small city, ease the bereavement of their ambitious schedules with board games and black-and-white films. My flatmate’s family, with whom she often spends weekends, is cordoned off in a village that is likely only getting smaller. Their English is so limited that without her they would struggle to communicate here in this city of fading German. And I suddenly thirst for the day when it is safe to venture out and speak to someone in some language and have another chance at being misunderstood.

March 29 — Ashley Judd, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 18

US Infections: 125,313; Deaths 2,197; Recovered 2,612 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 1524; Deaths 33

Sunday Essay: Daniel Mason’s Photo Assignment

Dept. of Social Distancing Innovation: Colorado Symphony Performs ‘Ode to Joy’

Three and a half years ago my father died. My family has always been very close. My aunt on my father’s side and her husband are my godparents, and, along with my grandparents, we have spent every holiday, vacation, and birthday with them. We didn’t want to lose that closeness, so after his passing we decided that once a week we would get together at my aunt and uncle’s house in Cheshire for dinner: myself, my brother, my cousins, my grandparents, and them. Then one year later, my grandfather–arguably the greatest man to ever live–passed away. But we persisted with our new tradition. Once a week, every week, for three and a half years.

This past week was a lot of things. It was the week I lost my job of four years as a full-time waitress. It was the week I filed for unemployment at the tender age of twenty-three. It was spring break? I guess? It was the week I spent on the phone with the bank, Connecticare, and the IRS. It was the week I discovered campus would not, reopen this semester, and my spring commencement ceremony was canceled. It was also the week I found out that, never mind, graduation would be held, just in December. It was the week I had to cancel my long-awaited trip to Aspen, Colorado, a graduation present to myself after years of saving.

Above all, though, it was the first week in three and a half years I didn’t get to see my family in Cheshire.

As someone who thrives on routine and constants, I am not okay. As someone who needed that little half hour drive south once a week to see my grandmother’s face, her eyes that were my father’s eyes, I am not okay. I know I am doing this for her, but it is still one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

This is essential, staying at home. But I feel like it is okay to feel frustrated and terrified of the future after this very essential thing is over.

March 28 — Allie Ross, CCSU Student

Days Off Campus: 17

US Infections: 104,837; Deaths 1711; Recovered 894 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 1291; Deaths 27

Dow Jones Industrial Average: Closed on Saturday. 

Trending: Economic Rescue the Danish Way

Cultural Diversion: Virtual Museum and Art Gallery Tours

Last week—had all things gone according to plan—I would have been preparing to board a flight home with my peers and professors, having spent nine days studying abroad in London learning the culture and adapting to opposite traffic laws. I haven’t left the country in years. I was itching to dust off my suitcase and fulfill class hours (and my goal of drinking a pint of beer in any pub I passed).

Instead, I spent the week moving money around and filing for unemployment. I work at a restaurant where doors opened at 11:30 a.m. as they did every day, only to be closed indefinitely by 4 p.m. My bills are piling up. I just started paying for my own health insurance, just in time it seems. I haven’t left the house and I looked at the London itinerary too many times, just to compare what I was doing versus what I would have been doing.

LONDON: Wednesday, March 17th would have been visiting Westminster Abbey, King’s Road for lunch, and student free time in the evening. I planned on taking to the street to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

WOLCOTT, CT: Wednesday, March 17th was four loads of laundry, cooking French onion soup, and eating a half-heated grilled cheese for dinner accompanied by both of my parents (who also haven’t left the house).

I threw out the itinerary that night, not because of wistful disappointment, but because I felt like a brat for mourning my vacation as the infection rate grew and the death toll climbed with it. I was one of the people who didn’t take any of this seriously when it began to bombard every news network’s headline. I focused my attention on the “unnecessary panic” and “mass hysteria” aspect that was scaring the public to remain indoors, and causing formerly stocked grocery store shelves to collect dust.

It took Italy’s COVID-19 statistics for me to pause and take an unhindered, clean breath. I stopped complaining from my tower of health, where my risk of exposure to this virus is nearly zero. Meanwhile my mother, sister, and boyfriend donned their scrubs, masks, and gloves, and left every morning to put themselves right in the thick of it. Then I decided to stop pouting in my privilege.

March 27 — Mary Anne Nunn, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 16

US Infections: 85,996; Deaths 1300; Recovered 753 (data from John Hopkins). U.S. Now Leads World in Confirmed Cases

CT Infections: 1012; Deaths 21

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21,636.78 −915.39 

Trending: British PM Boris Johnson has Virus

Dept. of Meanwhile: Spring Has Arrived

The sign dangling from the totally empty toilet paper shelf in Stop & Shop read: “In this time of great demand, we hope you will understand that all sales are final.”

I have to admit that, walking around the store, be-nitrile-powder-free-gloved, I had no difficulty with the general sense of how “great” the difficulties were at our present moment. The rest of the sign, however, did leave me feeling additionally incompetent to rise to that greatness.

I am not the first to note the rather puzzling run on TP in the face of COVID-19. But this is also not the first time I’ve pondered the philosophies of the market for such a product. In my classes on Jonathan Swift, I often find myself asking students to think about human elimination. In Gulliver’s Travels, our “hero” can’t seem to go too terribly long without recounting his own processes of elimination, or ending up in the land of the giant Brobdingnagians, waist deep in the product of something else’s, as when he tried to impress his titanic hosts by pole vaulting, unsuccessfully over cowpat. We talk about the rather odd human squeamishness about this bodily function and its product. We, too, note that our species seems to be alone in this squeamishness—indeed quite the contrary (said she, doting owner of a mini-golden doodle who thinks that rolling in something else’s excrement can’t be beat in the way of an excellent pastime).

I usually, then, propose to the now squirming and scrunched-faced students: if it is so disgusting, let’s all just resolve to stop doing it! But… the body asserts its power, which is why Swift’s own Age of REASON was so distressed by this irresistible assertion of the animal body’s dominance. So we, too, seem to feel that, whatever else happens, WE will not be mastered by our own bodies! This human product (intentionally ambiguous!) will keep the animal within us at bay.

But why must a grocery chain specify that sales of TP are “final”?  On one hand, Swiftian scenarios arise that I will not explore even in imagination. On the other, one must sigh to realize that human beings, literal “animals,” can also all too often become figurative “animals,” striving to assert, again, our own supremacy—not by merit, but by degrading others that we might appear to have merit (my superior hoard of TP gives me power over you!).

In writing this, I am finishing my morning coffee before turning to the wonderful comments on literature posted to Blackboard yesterday by my intrepid students on our first day of this Brave New World. They rise by merit. May we all rise with them.

March 26 — Taylor Carazzo, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 15

US Infections: 69,197; Deaths 1046; Recovered 619 (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 875; Deaths 19

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 22,552.17, +1,351.62 (+6.38%)

Dept. of Meanwhile: Happy Belated Birthday Andrew Lloyd-Webber

My life has changed more in the last week than in the past year of my life. A week ago I was in Virginia Beach sipping on orange crushes, and enjoying my time away from school and work. Fast forward a week: on Monday, my grandmother sadly passed away after her courageous fight against lung cancer: on Tuesday, Central officially sent the email saying graduation is postponed and the rest of the semester will be online; and on Thursday, my boss made the call to close. Everything has changed.

Of course we want to honor my grandmother with a funeral for her, but because of COVID-19 we are unable to hold anything. Luckily, she wanted to be cremated and when things calm down we will have a celebration of life. That was more her style anyway. But things feel left unfinished. I work at a small business called the Fresh Monkee mixing fresh fruit and protein shakes, and last week I worked as much as possible knowing our hours of business were dwindling. Gloves had become part of uniform and hand sanitizer, a new best friend. The customers were unsettled. As I worked my last eight hour shift, saying goodbye to customers who have been with us since the start was hard. Saying goodbye to my co-workers who feel more like family was even harder, and not knowing when we will see each other again was the hardest.

Now as I sit inside my one bedroom apartment while my boyfriend is at work, I’m forced to come to terms with everything that transpired in the last week: grieve the loss of my adored grandmother, re-imagine the end of my senior year, and brainstorm where my next paycheck will come from. For a girl who doesn’t like change, I’m handling things better than expected. I think it’s because I know it’s all out of my control. All I can do is be optimisticーenjoy the pause, find the good, and take it one day at a time.

March 25 — Katherine Sugg, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 14

US Infections: 55,225; Deaths 802; Recovered 354 (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 618; Deaths 12

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21.200.55 (+2.39%)

Trending: US Pols Reach $2 Trillion Aid Deal

80s Movie Flashback: Top Gun Redux

Time has been running together this past week, which is often how “breaks” from the semester grind can feel (spring, winter, etc). It’s easy to lose time. But I’ve decided that it’s also okay to let it go, in the way of the latest missing sock or favorite pen—mine is any Uni-ball Signo, preferably with blue ink.

So, I’ve watched my computer listlessly as my wonderful colleagues send flurries of emails about how we’ll continue our work, at least some of it, and share online pedagogy tips in the coming weeks. I managed to send my classes and advisees a chirpy note to set up appointments, class plans, and check in on how they are doing. No one seems to be in distress as of yet, or at least not any distress they want to tell me about. I am trying to take that as a good sign.

This spring break, like everything else, was supposed to be different. A colleague and I were set to take our two classes to London. For months we’d been plotting the plays, historic tours, museums, hidden gem neighborhoods, and yes, pubs, we’d enjoy exploring with them. Now though, the whole idea just seems foolhardy and, in darker moments, I worry some of those things won’t be available to do when, or if, we make it back (to London, I mean).

But then I watch my son land what looks to me like an insane skateboard trick on Instagram—or in the driveway—and later he laughs with his sister as she pulls out yet another batch of midnight brownies. In the evenings we sit down for dinner and share snippets from the day, and our phones.

I always knew that face-to-face time mattered, and now that it’s in such short supply I’m even more grateful for what I can get of it. On Friday my writing group convened our first weekly virtual happy hour, and those two hours of sketchy visual and audio connectivity were a godsend. Later I video chatted with my oldest son and his fiancée, sequestered in Colorado. We joked about our respective online learning adventures and worried about their summer wedding. No one knows what will come, but a bit of laughing—and lots of TV and movie recommendations—really do help.

March 24 — Derek Blais, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 13

US Infections: 46,548; Deaths 592; (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 415; Deaths 10

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 20,704.91 (+11.37%)

Pop Music Escape: John Prine and Iris DeMent “In Spite of Ourselves

Isolation Virtual Travel: Visit the World in PJs

Working from home update: My parents make poor co-workers.

It didn’t hit me when the public schools closed, or when my manager told me to pack up my desk and work from home for the foreseeable future. It didn’t hit me when my favorite little dive bar, Sporty’s Café, announced “last call” at 8:00 p.m. on a Monday, not knowing the next time they’d serve a pint or a buffalo wing again. Not even when I saw the Facebook posts about the mobbed grocery stores, the empty aisles once filled with toilet paper, or the memes about selling Purell on the black market. It definitely didn’t hit me when I booked a $99 direct flight from Boston to Sacramento to see my best friend while he goes through chemotherapy; I truly thought I got the deal of the century.

It didn’t hit me when it was deemed a global pandemic, when they canceled sports (Every. Single. One.), or when my dad gave me the combination to the gun safe: “You know, just in case shit hits the fan.”

It hit me on Tuesday afternoon, when the CSCU office announced that all campuses will remain closed for the remainder of the semester, and my thumb scrolled past the sentence that read, “The usual in-person commencement ceremony is canceled.”

You know the feeling you get when you cook a delicious meal for your friends and family? You read endless Pinterest recipes, pick out the freshest produce from the store, and dice the onion exactly like Gordon Ramsey does in that YouTube video. You watch them take the first bite and hear them say, “Wow, this is awesome!” Multiply that by four years (or sixー19-year-old Derek wasn’t exactly motivated). By endless studying, by dozens of research papers, lab reports, tests, group projects, presentations. By the shitty retail job you had to work just to afford gas to drive to campus. Literal blood, sweat, and tears.

Take that feeling and multiply it by a billion.

When you look up into the stands and see your own personal fan club: your mom and dad, your siblings, your girlfriend, your grandmother, your aunts and uncles, and you hear them cheer for you as you reach for your diploma… When you get back to your seat and you fist bump your best friends because you finally fucking did it when most of the time it felt like you’d never reach this moment.

When all of it floods into your brain and into your bloodstream, your throat closes a little and your eyes water… I just can’t describe that feeling.

My heart breaks for the class of 2020.

March 23 — Candace Barrington, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 12

US Infections: 35,225; Deaths 471; Recovered 0 (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 327; Deaths 8

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 18,321.62, -852.36 (-4.45%). Down nearly 40% since last month. 

Photo Essay: The Great Empty, our world without us

Isolation Cooking Class: How to Cook Beans

I find myself thinking of the paradoxical curse May you live in interesting times.

For thirty years, I’ve studied and taught a piece of literature that emerged out of “interesting times”: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Though it begins by invoking the sweet showers of April and the joys of going on pilgrimage with groups of strangers, it is haunted by the Black Death, the great bubonic pandemic that swept the Eastern Hemisphere in the fourteenth century. Generally, it’s been difficult for students (and me, if I’m honest) to grasp the horrors of the Plague’s rapid sprawl across Asia, Europe, and Africa. Many of the great social upheavals of the next few centuries can be tied to the demographic, economic, and political consequences of the sudden and terrifying deaths over a hundred million adults and children—somewhere between 35 and 60 percent of the population.

One of those who survived the Plague was Geoffrey Chaucer.

Perhaps because he would have been a small child when the Plague reached London in 1348, his literary works are more concerned with depicting the consequences of the Black Death than the plague itself. The one exception is “The Pardoner’s Tale.”

The tale is prefaced with a lengthy (and self-incriminating) sermon on greed before the Pardoner launches into a tale explicitly set during the fourteenth century’s Great Plague, described as a pestilence that has slain thousands. Personified as Death, the Plague sneaks up on the unwary and kills them without warning. The tale zeros in on three young men who spent their hours at bars and brothels singing, dancing, gambling, drinking, and igniting the “fires of lechery” (my translations from Middle English). Feeling immune to the Plague’s menace, they continue in this fashion until they learn that the Plague has struck one of their chums “as he sat on his bench upright.” Along with this news, they are warned that “it is necessary / To be forewarned about such an adversary. / You should always be ready to meet Him.”

Enraged by this news and ignoring the warning, the partiers declare their unbreakable brotherhood and decide they will seek out and kill “this false traitor, Death.” Of course—the partiers being who they are and Death being what it is—both the brotherhood and its ambitions are thwarted. The three end up betraying one another over eight bushels of gold, becoming murderers and the murdered in one stroke.

Chaucer’s tale about greed, the Plague, young people disregarding caution, and our debts to one another is on my mind as I move my courses to an online platform. One of those courses focuses on Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. In the past, I’ve asked students to read “The Pardoner’s Tale” early in the semester. Although embedded in a complex series of rhetorical slights-of-hand, the core tale of the three rioters pursuing Death is accessible to students newly introduced to Chaucer’s fourteenth-century English. (In fact, the tale is so accessible that is has frequently been anthologized in story collections for children.)

This semester, however, we aren’t reading the tale until after spring break, when classes resume online for the rest of the academic year.

By then, my students and I will have had experiences that make us much more astute readers of “The Pardoner’s Tale.” We will have seen the perils of greed and the rewards of generosity. We will have learned that “being ready” with a well-stocked pantry and a good Internet connection is not enough. We will know deep down the dangers of being let loose from our jobs, the fears of contagion, and the loneliness of isolation. We might have a bit more sympathy for the Pardoner’s three partiers—and for one another as we come together (in whatever ways we can muster) to share our love of literature and to learn what the crises of the past can help us understand about our own “interesting times.”

March 22 — Connor Giveans, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 11

US Infections: 26,747; Deaths 340; Recovered 176 (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 223; Deaths 4

Dow Jones Industrial Average: (Thankfully) Closed. 

Isolation Hobby Idea #1: Carve a Spoon!

Pop Music Escape: Poi Dog Pondering, “Living With the Dreaming Body

My mom has said a few times this past week that the last twenty or so days of March are supposed to be like Christmas for my dad and me; that this “Christmas” peaks in one four day stretch when there’s nothing but college basketball on for at least twelve hours a day. So while the NBA suspending its season was a wake-up call, March Madness’s cancellation was when I finally came to grips with just how serious this virus is. Now I’m not really sure what to do.

It’s not like I can’t be productive. Even though it’s spring break, I have schoolwork. With classes moving online I should try to get ahead. Even though the world has stopped, I still need to apply for internships. Especially considering the summer camp I’ve worked at the past few years probably won’t risk running. I could even do something small like go for a run, but for whatever reason I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not helped by the fact that I’ve eaten more chips this past week than I have the rest of the year combined.

My whole house is in a funk. We’ve stayed civil for the most part, but I think my family is one cough from an uncovered mouth (looking at you, Dad) away from tearing each other apart. The fact that none of us have any excuses to leave the house for an extended period of time is weighing on us all. The new Animal Crossing just came out, though. Maybe trying to pay off my mortgage to Tom Nook will be enough of a distraction to keep me out of any fights.

Now that I think about it, a new toy, seasonal depression, ignoring responsibilities, eating junk food, not being able to go outside for long, and trying to avoid fights with the family? Maybe I got my Christmas in March after all.

March 21 — Gil Gigliotti, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 10

US Infections: 19,624; Deaths 147; Recovered 260 (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 194; Deaths 4

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 19,173.98, -913.21 (-4.55%)

Trending: Cannabis sales explode as Californians become homebound

Dept. of Meanwhile: Country Musician Kenny Rogers dies at 81

This past Tuesday at 8 a.m. “Frank, Gil, and Friends” didn’t air on WFCS 107.7 The Edge. And the weekly Sinatra show – which I’ve been hosting on CCSU’s student-run radio station since December 17, 1993 – will not air again until May at the earliest (and, given the word coming from the medical experts, et alia, maybe far later than that) since the campus has been shut down due to COVID-19.

The sealing of the campus is what’s new here. “Frank, Gil, and Friends” has often aired on a Tuesday morning when the campus has been closed by weather and only the formerly “essential” (and now “Level 1”) staff were required to report. For most of the first decade of the program I lived close enough to campus to walk, so difficult driving conditions never stopped me. Bundle up, pack up some LPs, CDs, and, back in the day, even cassettes, and march off to the station. If classes were only delayed, I was already there when they’d begin. If not, after a stroll home, I could play in the snow with my daughters in our backyard.

My last show, a little salute to the Coronavirus (with songs like Ethel Merman’s “I Still Got My Health,” Dick Powell’s Depression-era “Young and Healthy,” Thompson Twins’ early-80s “Doctor Doctor,” and Sinatra’s takes on “Body and Soul” and “Ill Wind”) was show #1178. Why had I missed those, on average, seven shows annually? Family vacations, course-abroad trips with students, academic conference travel, and the recovery periods from two open heart surgeries (my own) and a remarkable variety of pediatric cancer treatments (our older daughter’s). In short, if I’m in town really big things have to keep me from my weekly appointment with “Frank, Gil, and Friends” because it has always been an outlet for fun, escape, and connection.

But now, despite both being in town and still “young(ish) and healthy,” a new kind of really big thing is denying me that outlet – as is happening to everyone’s outlets, as well.

Sure, I could use the time to assemble playlists for future shows, but those past themes have tended to grow organically from the week or day of the show and not been pre-packaged. Or I could plan future interviews, but who can plan anything at this moment?

The show needs to be quarantined for the time; a socially-distanced radio program. As Sinatra sings in the 1929 Schwartz and Dietz song “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan”: “Before I knew where I was at I found myself upon the shelf and that was that.”

And “that was that” indeed.

See you all on the B-side; plan accordingly.

March 20 — Susan Gilmore, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 9

US Infections: 14,250; Deaths 205; Recovered 121 (data from John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 159; Deaths 3

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 19,173.98 (-4.55)

Trending: All 40 million Californians to shelter-in-place by order of Governor

Dept. of Meanwhile: 2020 World Happiness Report Published. What country do you think is the happiest?

My mother is in a nursing and rehabilitation center—in New York, in Westchester County, with its first coronavirus case—and she’s in excellent spirits. “Your mother has an admirer,” she laughs. “There’s a man here at the ‘hotel,’ and you know what he said to me? He shouted, ‘Hello there, gorgeous!’”

The “hotel” (my mother’s irony is intentional) has done a piss poor job letting families know what protective measures they are taking. I don’t know what my mother knows, so I ask lamely how things are going. She tells me, “They have us in isolation here. I have a good book, and we get our meals three times a day—room service. I mean, how bad can things be if every time you open the door you get a meal? It’s just as well. That man tries to sit next to me at lunch, but I can’t have that. The other women here would be jealous. Now if I leave the door open, they have a fit.”

We discuss books I can send her to pass the time. She doesn’t want depressing stories, but she does want a thinking woman’s read. “It’s funny,” she tells me. “Some people here expect us all to be old, ignorant, and dumpy. They aren’t expecting an educated woman. They run out of the room with their tails between their legs. They think I’m a spook!” What, I ask, does she do to scare them off? Her answer: “All I have to do is open my mouth, honey!”

Back to books, I double check, “You don’t want romance novels, do you?”

“Oh no,” she replies. “We have enough of that around here. That’s why I’m so happy with the isolation—because that man can’t bother me anymore. The last thing I said to him was ‘Oh, I have to go to my room.’ It was all I could do not to laugh. I couldn’t turn around or he’d see me laughing in his face.” My mother laughs at length, takes a breath, and then suggests, “You can do a nice skit of your mother in this place. You’d have to be careful though—we don’t want to get in trouble.”

I keep our conspiracy going, telling her we won’t use any names. My mother laughs some more. I may as well too.

March 19 — Caitlyn Banks, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 8

US Infections: 9,477; Deaths: 155

CT Infections: 97; Deaths: 2

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 20,087.19

Pop Song Escape: Genghis Khan” by Miike Snow

Trending: For the first time since the Coronavirus crisis began, China on Thursday reported no new local infections for the previous day.

It felt like an action movie after it was announced; the university was closed due to a potential case of the Coronavirus. Once I left the building, crowds were hurrying to the garages. I had work in a few hours at the Student Center, but apparently not. I hurried to the Welte garage, seeing the fear and worry in people’s eyes. Many were calling their loved ones and telling them what was going on. Cars pushed to get out but traffic was jammed. Before I got to my car, two people almost backed into me with theirs. My first evacuation experience was successful.

The first time I traveled on my own became a cautionary tale. I was initially excited to go to San Antonio, Texas for the AWP Conference, a place for writers and publishers to meet and hone their craft. But it was barren, multiple panels were canceled, some that I was especially excited for. The virus kept people away. Hand sanitizer was at every escalator. My colleagues and I had to be careful in a city where someone had already tested positive for Coronavirus.

I’m glad to be back home but now we’re all in self-quarantine. I had so many things I wanted to do when I got back, but to be safe I can’t. I finally got the tickets to a Broadway show that I wanted to see ever since it first came out, but now Broadway is shut down. As I’m sitting here on the family couch watching the news, I see the two major airports I went through filled with thousands of people rushing to get home. Thousands that are in close proximity to each other. I came home at the right time and I hope that this self-quarantine helps stop the spread, and hopefully a vaccine can be found soon. Last I heard, Canada may have found one.

March 18 — Brian Folker, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 7

US Infections: 7,038 Infections; Deaths 97

CT Infections: 68 Infections; Deaths: 0

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 19,520.70 (-8.08%) 

Trending: U.S. and Canada agree to close off border to nonessential traffic.

Isolation Art Project: Lunch Doodles with Mo Willams

Both my wife and daughter were supposed to fly to Hawaii this week. Jennifer, a political scientist, was going to attend the annual International Studies Association conference. The executive offices of the ISA are right at UConn, and my daughter Kat works for them as a Program Assistant; she was going to attend the conference too.

The conference was cancelled early last week, so we knew Kat wasn’t going. But Jennifer was working on a project about the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement and has spent the last six weeks arranging meetings with activists and movement leaders. She was planning to go right up until this weekend when the worsening travel situation finally made her reconsider. She spent Saturday cancelling her appointments and trying to undo bookings. Most (but not all) places were willing to give her a credit through the end of the year. All told, we figure the aborted trip cost us about $1,500, and when we saw the Sunday headlines about the crowds at airports, we considered ourselves lucky.

So, I’ve gone from expecting two weeks without family to anticipating at least two weeks with nothing but family. Kat worries that we’ll go the way of the Torrances in The Shining, but my new friend Delbert Grady says we’ll be fine.

One place where I didn’t expect to meet people was on my usual run. Fellow Ashford resident Jotham Burrello can probably confirm that it’s easy to travel the back roads between his house and mine without seeing a single car, let alone another pedestrian.  But on Sunday, I encountered four other runners. Lots of gym memberships going unused, I imagine.

March 17 — Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 6

US Infections: 4,226 Infections; Deaths: 75

CT Infections: 41 Infections; Deaths: 0

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21.237.38 (+5.20%) 

Trending: White House Seeks $850 Billion Aid Package

Dept. of Meanwhile: Quarterback Tom Brady Says Goodbye to the Patriots

I’m not the kind of person who takes care of herself. I smoke and don’t exercise; I never say ‘no’ to a drink. The floor of my bedroom is covered in used Juul pods and the empty bladders from too many boxes of bad red zinfandel. That said, I never get sick.

I’ve always lived life on the premise that anything terrible will happen years down the line—like, when I’m seventy and nothing matters because no one looks at seventy-year-old women anyhow—but Coronavirus is tangible. It’s now.

Last week, I attended an international conference in Boston and then hopped a plane to the University of Alabama in a matter of hours. People sat on the floor wearing masks. Every time someone coughed, the air in the room tightened. In Alabama, which I visited for “Accepted Students Week” at the University of Alabama’s MFA program, the graduate director refused to shake my hand and the meeting room buzzed with the news that, “AWP was a total bomb.”

I’m not scared for myself, but I wonder: is it selfish to travel during a pandemic? Is it selfish to crave human contact, to wish to see friends who have self-quarantined? To go to the grocery store or go to work at the bank where I touch money and see old people every day? I don’t know, but I do know that the quarantine is driving me insane. I love concerts and public spaces and bars and college classes. I hate hypochondriacs. I hate fear.

When I was eighteen, I was one of the lucky few to get E. Coli from Chipotle. In the car ride home from the West Farms Mall I puked all over my Subaru Forester and then fell down and shit myself at home in the shower. But I’ve never had the flu and I don’t catch colds.

My co-worker, Brian, says COVID-19 comes from bats. Others say it’s a government conspiracy or a psychic prediction or God’s reckoning on a secular world. It doesn’t matter where it came from, but it does matter that we’re isolating ourselves—cancelling classes and closing libraries and buying enough toilet paper to survive three years of explosive diarrhea. We can’t stop living. And we, with our disgusting, hearty immune systems and lack of sympathy or caution, never will.

March 16 — Aimee Pozorski, CCSU Professor 

Days Off Campus: 5

US Infections: 3,800+; Deaths: 69

CT Infections: 26; Deaths: 0

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 20,843.01,  −2,342.61 (10.10%) 

Trending: Restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. tonight in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. 

Suddenly, from inside, came an oh! of pain

—Elizabeth Bishop, 1971 

We are four on a banquette near the window in a downtown Boston coffee shop: a middle-aged dad, two small children, and me. You might think, looking at us, that we are a family. But a closer look shows I am too old to have such young children, and the man is too nervous for them to be his own.  He looks askance as the toddler, a girl, hangs over the edge of her seat. She stares directly at me—blue eyes blazing a cheerful hello. The boy, a few years older, is more oblivious. He is too young to know the Coronavirus is here and too important to care. Their mom, a few feet away, stands in line waiting for bagels. 

March 16, AimeeWe four gaze out the window together, the two grown-ups sharing glances, hoping the children do not lose their balance and fall. Their mother returns with lunch, then ducks away again for napkins. In the background, our president is overheard telling lies on national television; I am afraid. As I open my mouth to try my sandwich, the young girl shrieks an oh of joy.

I drop my pen as the boy retrieves his bagel from the floor and puts it in his mouth. We will go on and on and on, I think, and then for a brief moment, feel the joy of the children too. May there always be a small girl dangling on the edge of a dangerous precipice. May there always be a young boy in a café eating a bagel off the floor—just as on this very day on Newbury Street, in the year of COVID-19.   


March 15 — Mary Collins, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 4

US Infections: 2700+; Deaths: 41

CT Infections: 20; Deaths: 0

Dow Jones Industrial Average: No trading on Saturday.

Trending: Pope Closes Holy Week Celebrations

I am supposed to be on an airplane to Paris right now: a place I’ve visited in novels, movies, in my mind, but never in person. The idea of the city has influenced me over the years when I think about what it means to live a cultured life. Somehow the French know how to linger in cafes, talk about art, literature, politics; all the women wear lovely scarves when they ride bicycles down the avenues.

March 15
Eiffel Tower Closed on Friday

Of course, I don’t know any of this to be true. But right now, hiding in my house under self-quarantine while recovering from the flu—which makes me especially vulnerable to the Coronavirus that has sent us all scampering—I follow these stories in my mind’s eye. How can I bring Paris to me now? I plan to invite friends over for a French dinner and build an Eiffel Tower out of Lego; to read a good novel, perhaps revisit Hemingway; to start a new artistic project that will require skills I’ve never used before. I am grateful for Paris’s deep imprint on Western culture because I can “visit” my idea of it anytime I want.

March 14 — Samuel Sandoval, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 3

US Infections: 1,629; Deaths: 41

CT Infections: 8; Deaths: 0

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,185.62 +1,985.00 (9.36%)

Trending: Apple will temporarily close most of its stores worldwide

A couple months ago I bought these bus tickets to see my girlfriend in Washington, D.C. over spring break. The night before my departure, my mother, the average worrier, seemed particularly bothered with me for still going on the trip. I reassured her that I was prepared to follow protocol: Purell frequently, don’t touch your face, distance yourself from all persons, young and old. While I admitted that I was an unfortunate traveler, I had to remind her that I wasn’t entering the horrific heart of darkness she was so quick to imagine. I couldn’t tell her how I was really feeling, though, because I didn’t know how to feel. Amid all the panic, I found it easiest to be ambivalent.

On March 13 I boarded a fifty-eight seat Peter Pan bus at six thirty in the morning alongside seven other passengers. Before leaving the station, we listened to the driver standing at the front of the bus.

He spoke into a microphone, addressing good hygiene and explained the itinerary for transfers. “Just wanted to let you all know that we’ve cleaned the seats, the hand sanitizer is refilled, and there’s a bag back there for your trash, alright? Now, for transfers, the schedule on your phones might say that you’re gonna have an hour layover and that’s just hokum, considering. But you don’t have to worry. We’ll get you where you need to go on time, just sit back and we’ll be off shortly.”

It was like we were at a sad karaoke bar where all the songs were written by an HR representative. Still, his optimism on that rainy morning put me at ease. For a moment, I forgot the demonic eyes that would flit around when someone cleared their throat, the look of frantic, chapped hands making sure every crevice was thoroughly disinfected, and my worried, itchy face until I saw it in the reflection of the window. I sat back, applied some hand sanitizer, and held my breath as we drove off through the deserted highways toward our nation’s capital.


March 13 — Jotham Burrello, Blue Muse Executive Editor

Days Off Campus: 2

US Infections: 1,215; Deaths: 36

CT Infections: 6; Deaths: 0

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21,200; S&P 500 closed down 9.5 percent in its worst day since the 1987 stock market crash

Trending: NCAA Cancels March Madness Tournament

Yesterday at 10:42 a.m. CCSU closed, effective immediately. The fourteen editors of Blue Muse were in our Bassett Hall headquarters assigning copyediting jobs when the computers froze.


This is a time for calm, compassion and patience. We just received word that a CCSU student has had potential exposure to an individual who is currently being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

As a precautionary measure, we are closing the campus immediately. 

The student editors remained in class for ten minutes to finish their copyediting assignments. As coats were wrangled and computers stowed, we wished one another good health. We had no idea when we’d see one another again. (We are off campus until at least April 5). Commuting students trudged to their cars, and students living in dorms had just a few hours to clean out their rooms.

As I headed back to the English department after the class dismissed, a security guard reminded me that the campus was closed. I told her I had left my keys in my office. Upstairs I stuffed my bag with books and student work, everything I might need for the next month. Professors stood at the copier scanning readings for future classes. Our chairperson sat in her office firing off missives to the department. Emails piled up from IT on WebEx training, and faculty posted online tutorials: a community coming together in a confusing crisis.

On the drive home, my phone buzzed with news alerts: travel bans, blaming Europe, canceled NCAA tourney, suspended pro leagues, stimulus negotiations, the president’s hyperbole, and not enough COVID-19 test kits. I stopped at Walgreens for some Purell—sold out. Instead, I got a long overdue flu shot. My wife texted me a grocery list: pasta, flour, lemons, garlic, strawberries, bananas, cheese, bread, soup, and a case of beer. (That last one was my addition.)

At home, more cancellations: school trips and driver’s ed. By day’s end my sons’ schools had announced the cancellations of classes for two weeks and plans for online classes.

Early in the week I experienced a 9/11 déjà vu—stock market crash, national paranoia, shaky leadership, plenty of blame. But this is different. We have been watching this hurricane in Wuhan, China, since January, but we didn’t run to Home Depot for generators. We had mistaken a category 5 for a tropical depression. A commentator on NPR encouraged listeners to make substantial sacrifices now so that in two years we can say, “Remember that whole virus upheaval,” versus demarking this time as we do 9/11, “America before the virus and America after the virus.” For the second time in twenty years, our world may be changed forever.

Blue Muse editors and guest writers will post updates during our hiatus from campus. These may be newsy, personal, or irreverent. We hope to capture the costs, discoveries, and acts of kindness we experience during this devastating pandemic.

Stay healthy. I hope to see you on campus soon.


Blue Muse Magazine is a general interest literary magazine published by the students of the English Department at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut. We publish poetry, fiction, and a gamut of creative nonfiction on anything and everything the blue muse inspires us to write.

6 comments on “Coronavirus Notebook

  1. Mary Collins

    I arrive again to this wonderful clearinghouse of CCSU stories in the time of Corona. Ashley, Allie, two of the latest authors posting, really impacted me emotionally with their powerful candor and hard facts about everyday living when jobs disappear, things get delayed, routines dissolve. Thank you so much for using your fine writing skills to reach us all. And Cecilia G., thank you for giving us the overseas POV. To Burrello and all of the students running Blue Muse, thank you so much for this platform!


  2. Mary Collins

    I try to visit this site every few days and each time I am so heartened by the humor, candor, and sense of community that the Blue Muse class and Professor Burrello continue to build with CCSU’s online magazine. It reminds me how vital the arts remain in hard times and I only hope the Federal Government sees that when they piece together aid packages.

    Hugs to Taylor as she processes the loss of her grandmother; hugs to Dr. Suggs who couldn’t go to London but has the good humor to appreciate her son performing a skateboard trick; and a shout out to Derek for his thoughtful reflections about that it means to lose the chance to have a commencement in May in person with the people you love and want to celebrate with.

    Please keep it all coming our way. Thanks to all who have posted.


  3. Mary Collins

    I continue to check the Magazine and welcome these stories from students, colleagues and friends of the English Department. So many have flashes of charm and wit. Thanks to all for posting and to Jotham Burrello and his Publishing class for keeping this going!


  4. Prof Gilmore: This must be tough to have someone in a place where information is slow while concern is huge. A happy observation from your post… Your mother is a hoot! She could be a short story character 🙂 Imagine the tale, complete with suitor and all! My mind is working overtime with a convalescent home romance… Thank you for sharing!
    Peace to all…


  5. I’m really enjoying your posts.


  6. Aimee Pozorski

    Dear Prof Burrello and the Blue Muse Staff: Thank you for keeping us going — and together — while we all work from home for a while. Sam, I am glad to know you made the trip. Mary, I am so sorry about Paris. I hear that Kathryn is up next. I can’t wait to see what is in store for us. fondly, as ever, Aimee


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