Culture Shock Melting Pot

Coronavirus Notebook


October 25— Megan Sulzinski, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 236

US Infections: 8,578,415; Deaths: 224,906

CT Infections: 66,052; Deaths: 4,577

Trending: Banning Glitter Won’t Save the Oceans

2020 Election: Trump, Biden hit battleground states as campaign enters last full week

My father is the happy-go-lucky type and shoulder to cry on for whoever needs a pick-me-up. He has a way with his words that is calming and makes you forget why you were ever upset. He has always been my support system, my rock, my go-to guy. Living in the apartment directly below mine made it easy to always keep him close. From the late-night phone calls to the nightly dinner dates—he is my best friend.

My father’s body is built solid: big biceps, muscular stomach, and fit calves. You wouldn’t notice by looking or talking to him, but he is still not in the best of health. At fifty three years old, he suffers from high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. He checks his blood sugar every morning and visits his doctor every four months, leaving my dad susceptible to the Coronavirus.

When we first went into lockdown, he was forced to quarantine. He only left his home to go to his business’s warehouse when nobody was there, while I was considered “essential” serving coffee at our local Dunkin Donuts. I went from seeing him every night to having zero face-to-face interactions. Entering the black hole of my hell, it felt as though he was nonexistent.

No more game nights, dinner dates, or in-person talks. The only way I was able to hear his voice or see his face was through a six-and-a-half-inch screen. Knowing my best friend lived right below me and not being able to see him epitomized my worst nightmare.

I ignored the rules to stay home and worked as many hours as I could pick up to distract myself from the ongoing pandemic. It was inevitable to escape, though, because of the required face masks and gloves.

The occasional knock at my door and click of lock unhinging from the latch sent me running out of the kitchen and into my living room; a curtain held in between the two rooms. My father entered my kitchen and stood in the doorway. I refused to see him—the thought of being a possible carrier and giving the virus to him was too much to handle.

My father recently started to adventure out with the state opening back up. When I saw him for the first time I was absorbed with the fear, anxious that he was going to get sick. I continue to keep my distance and limit our visits. He always says, “Good things come to those who wait.” My good thing was getting to see my dad again.

October 23— Christian Robinson, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 234

US Infections: 8,411,262; Deaths: 223,059

CT Infections: 65,373; Deaths: 4,569

Trending: Final Trump-Biden debate marked by clashes but less chaos

Dept. of Football: Daniel Jones Trips and Falls. So Do the Giants.

I lay on the couch, crumbs sprinkled on my beard and chest, scrolling through the Instagram Discover page. I watch people bake banana bread, construct a DIY shelving unit, and lunge despite their five-hundred-square-foot studio apartment. A faint weight pushes my shoulders deeper into the couch pillow. The only thing I can show for character development is the growing circumference of my gut, an expanding knowledge from video essays on movies I have not watched, and another day added since my “Last edit” on Google Docs. These short stories, galvanized by manic fits rebelling this state of prolonged indifference, have collected enough digital dust to cause the computer to sneeze.

Oh well.

I hate it here. Well, it’s not so bad. I’m safe and don’t have rent to miss that my parents can kick me out for. But it’s this room squeezing my spirit like a juicer—only pulp remains. I can’t write shit with pulp.

What’s the point?

Before, my ideas came to me while waiting in the halls for my next class, typed quickly on my phone or scribbled on my arm with a pen; or while ignoring the lectures of a general education requirement, jotted down next to my notes; or while at work, scribbled on the pages of a guest check, alternating between orders of over-easy eggs or stupid shit they don’t tip me enough to listen to; or while so on and so on.

Why bother?

Trying to write now feels as fruitless as weaving a scarf out of cigarette smoke. I wish I had a smoke. Isn’t that what being a writer is? A figure crouched over a keyboard in a dimly lit room with fingers stimulated by black coffee and a nicotine haze hovering above, dragging a story along.

Who knows?

I read this quote from the (Stephen) King himself: “There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Who cares?

Close by my house is the Whitestone Cliffs trail. It’s a very light hike, meandering through Connecticut wood and leading to a large jumble of discarded boulders. Others braver than I climb the vertical white faces, trusting nothing more than their guts and rope; I just scramble up through the boulders. I sat at my favorite vantage point, observing Route 8 snaking through changing trees. I listened to the wind-rustled cedar, creaking and moaning, as predatory birds searched overhead. I took out a little notebook and began to write. Nothing substantial or significant. Just allowed my pen to ebb and flow with the stream of consciousness, bleeding about the pages. It was a certain bliss that I had thought became foreign in these times. I was happy.

I do.

October 21— Jordan Jackson, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 232

US Infections: 8,275,168; Deaths: 221,083

CT Infections: 64,455; Deaths: 4,559

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Dept. of Meanwhile: 2,000-Year-Old Cat Etching Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru

The Art of a Birdcage

i watched the world crack—
like an old painting
with a dead artist

Time and i—
we’re closer now
stuck within a blue cage

we watch the world together—
she sits
and i wilt
painting pictures of the past
eyes reflecting the flames

the universe—
it burns slowly
and Time—she sits still

the cost of melanin
the cost of that election
the butterfly effect of a generation

flipping through memories
of scribbled pages
with a dying hope
for the blank ones

we perch in our cage
looking at the burning future
and watering the past—a void

October 18— Billie Sue McCarthy, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 229

US Infections: 8,107,506; Deaths: 219,311

CT Infections: 62,830; Deaths: 4,542

Trending: ‘S.N.L.’ Takes on Trump and Biden’s Dueling Town Halls

Dept. of Dogs: A French bulldog is wearing a different Halloween costume every day this month

A forty-five minute commute allows for mostly one thing: time. Time for podcasts or music, phone calls, or even conference calls. The highway is once again filled with traffic I do not miss, the days of COVID-19 long gone on the roads since mid-May. My commute cut to thirty-five minutes during the shutdown.

In the beginning I was hopeful. The entire country paused, screeching to a halt. My fingers crossed as I waited for Governor Ned Lamont to add construction to the list of businesses that would close to help mitigate the spread of the virus. I even would’ve taken just a week.

Perhaps I might have found myself gossiping about Tiger King on Zoom or downloading TikTok to make ridiculous dances with my quarantined family members, or maybe I might have been one of the many to try out my baking skills. I heard banana bread is delicious. And what about all of that extra time? Yes, that newfound time: the type my best friend discovered as she spent the summer in Alaska with the extra six-hundred dollars of unemployment money she received.

For those still working like myself, anticipation built and uncertainty loomed. The crews went to work, and our office quietly continued to operate amidst the pandemic. Set in the back, overlooked, and away from the frontlines. The medical industry kept people alive. Neighborhoods glittered with wooden signs painted with a bright red heart and a “thank you” posted graciously in various front yards. Even billboards lit up with giant colored hearts. I read them knowing they weren’t, and still aren’t, for me.

I, too, appreciate the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals. My aunt and cousin explained to me the new PPE policies they had to abide by and shared heartbreaking stories of what was happening inside hospitals. A handwritten “thank you” doesn’t really seem like enough to risk your life for, but saving lives is their mission.

Pouring concrete is ours. “Work, grow, celebrate”—our company mission. I pondered how the mixture of sand, cement, water, and stone would protect human beings from a pandemic, or how those working with it would somehow be immune to the virus. Maybe it was good fortune, conspiracy, or the everyday PPE that our industry has been accustomed to for years that kept our company healthy.

With September coming to a close, I no longer hold my breath hoping a new executive order will demand construction be shut down. I no longer hope to receive a bonus stimulus check to spend frivolously across the country. Being essential means being absolutely necessary, while nonessential means not absolutely necessary. And that is where the construction industry shall sustain: in the ambiguity of being not absolutely necessary, yet an extreme necessity—still without a recipe for banana bread or a “thank you.”

October 16— Amedeo Maturo, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 227

US Infections: 7,988,893; Deaths: 217,904

CT Infections: 62,028; Deaths: 4,540

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Today in History: Walt Disney Company Founded

The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 echoes the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. There are similar procedures, news reports, and feelings regarding both pandemics in the state of Connecticut. The first case of the Spanish flu came from a New London port in September of 1918; it spread to Hartford within the same week. By September 21, 1918, it was all across the state with five hundred cases. The Coronavirus started in Connecticut with its first case on March 8, 2020. From this first case, we see the Coronavirus spread just as quickly as the Spanish flu. By March 23, 2020, Coronavirus grew to nine hundred cases. One hundred sixteen of these cases came from Hartford making it the third highest county in terms of cases at this time.

The way the state combatted the flu may sound familiar to many of us. writes, “In New Britain, private homes were opened to accept overflow cases from New Britain Hospital. On October 17, Hartford Hospital began using the Hartford Golf Club as an emergency hospital for flu patients, staffing the facility with one physician and relying upon volunteers to provide nursing care.” Similarly, Central Connecticut State University opened its dorms to healthcare workers in need of residence during the height of the pandemic.

The Connecticut Magazine clarifies the similarity of both pandemics by explaining a Hartford Courant title of the 1918 article: “‘Muslin Mask for All Who Visit Theater or Crowds’ reads a Sept. 30 Hartford Courant headline about a recommendation made by New Haven health authorities. The cotton face masks soon became a common sight in the state. Some cities closed saloons and other places people gathered.” This is similar to all of the headlines we see from articles online carrying the same tune. The Coronavirus brought us a headline from the same newspaper that read, “Connecticut residents must wear face masks in public starting Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the new order.” Back then, the medical advice of masks was just as important and crucial to getting out to the public.

The public of 1918 had similar feelings about the Spanish flu as they do about COVID-19. The Mansfield Society has preserved the diaries of Edwina Maud Whitney, a librarian at the Connecticut Agricultural College. An excerpt from one of her letters written on October 5, 1918 reads, “Influenza continues to spread. Everybody alarmed. All schools in town closed. Many deaths. Willimantic is specially scourged. Several of our boys sick. I am not especially alarmed but think it best to be cautious.” The feelings of alarm and caution Whitney felt are all too real for us today.

There is a quote that sums up what is being observed today, and it comes from a former Connecticut resident: Mark Twain. He said it best when he said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

October 14— Michael Davis, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 225

US Infections: 7,859,417; Deaths: 215,914

CT Infections: 61,697; Deaths: 4,533

Trending: Trump and Biden will participate in competing town halls on Thursday night after cancellation of second debate

Dept. of Technology: Apple Announces New iPhone 12

As I look around the room, I see that most people are focused on the Monday Night Football game projected on the movie screen. Some are deep in conversation, while others look on with glazed expressions on their face. Four of my friends line up around a table for another round of beer pong. Since moving in six weeks ago, the basement has become the focal point of me and my roommates’ nightlife. Littered around the room on the shelves, coffee table, floor, etc., are more beer cans and bottles than can be counted. Some of the cans are crushed or dented, many still contain beer, and some get used as ashtrays. Perhaps most impressive is that seemingly as soon as the room is void of cans and bottles, the basement has a knack for replacing them instantly. There are surround-sound speakers, two couches, LED lights lining the top of the wall that give the room a purple glow, two mini fridges filled with beer, a popcorn machine, a bathroom, and a wall decorated with cardboard from beer boxes. The basement has a mind of its own—that’s just the nature of the beast.

When we signed the lease back in January, the thing I was most looking forward to was the college experience. Having spent my last two years commuting to Central Connecticut State University, I reveled in the prospect of walking to my classes, meeting new people around campus, walking to Elmer’s Place for a few drinks, and letting loose in all the ways that have become synonymous with college for my final year. That has not been the case, however. It is a little disheartening to sign onto my computer for a video call with my classes when I’m only half a mile from the campus and the whole point of getting the house was for school. Even Elmer’s Place, the go-to bar on campus, is not nearly the same as it would have been. You can be seated at a table inside or outside, but the vibe isn’t what it used to be. I remember the first time I stepped foot in that bar on my twenty-first birthday: my friends and I could barely hear one another over the rowdiness, and getting a drink was a near-impossible feat as the bar was lined with too many people to maneuver. Now, the closest I can get to this aesthetic is my basement.

My roommates and I have been making the most out of a bleak situation. We know we can’t throw any big parties and we limit how many people we have over at a time, but our basement has become like a little bubble for us to drink and hang out with our friends. Every night holds something different, but it always involves us having fun. Things actually feel normal for a change. I may not get the whole “walking to class and Elmer’s” thing that I was looking forward to, but our basement is still keeping that college experience alive.

October 12— Emma Warshauer, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 223

US Infections: 7,763,473; Deaths: 214,776

CT Infections: 61,377; Deaths: 4,532

Trending: Lakers run past Heat for 17th NBA Championship

Dept. of Autumn: Lyman Orchards taking precautions to keep visitors safe while enjoying classic fall activities amid pandemic

No one enjoys apartment hunting. Anyone that says they do is lying. It’s a tedious, nerve-racking, time-consuming pain in the butt.

During a pandemic? An absolute nightmare.

The evacuation from Central Connecticut State University campus in March displaced many people. I’d been living on campus for three years and had no idea where to start looking for housing; I had to move home and try to finish out my semester with a house of seven people.

Once the semester was over, it was time to start apartment hunting.

You’d think the internet would make it easier to find a good place to live. No dealing with realtor companies or driving around looking for “rent” signs, and with virtual tours there is no chance of being trapped and murdered. All you have to do is hop on Zillow and put in your price range.

The internet did help find places, but virtual tours are rare when you can’t afford to live in the fancy apartment complexes. Apartments in multifamily houses were more in my price range, so I quickly signed up for as many tours as possible.

I had to beg my parents to come with me to my first apartment tour. They were hesitant to explore another person’s home while the infection rate was so high and because I am considered high risk, but we didn’t have a choice.

I showed them pictures of the cute, rustic, three-bedroom apartment of a three-family home, right on the edge of New Britain and Newington. The farther we drove, the more disheveled the houses began to look. When we arrived at our destination, we almost drove past it. The exterior looked as if it were hit by a tornado and the only sign of life was an empty running car in the driveway. We climbed our way up the mud-stained steps and found that the landlord didn’t even own a mask. We tried to keep our distance, but it was impossible in such a cramped place. After this tour, we decided to never trust the images provided.

We went on twenty-nine apartment tours, and I can count on one hand the number of landlords who wore masks or even attempted to social distance. It was exhausting, but the tours allowed us to breathe again. We were nervous about the lack of precautions, but we had no other option and enjoyed the small sense of normalcy.

My father was able to get his energy out for the day by bombarding the landlords with structural questions, my mother pretended to be a “tiger mom” and would occasionally steal fruit from the apartments with gardens, and I was given the gift of having something to look forward to.

Even though the process took us four months and was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had, I appreciated the reprieve from the self-isolating new normal we’re becoming accustomed too.

October 10— Beth Russell, UConn Human Development and Family Sciences Professor

Days Off Campus: 221

US Infections: 7,665,266; Deaths: 213,795

CT Infections: 60,038; Deaths: 4,530

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Dept. of Parenting: Five Rule for Parents to Make Better Decisions During the Pandemic

I specialize in human development and family sciences at the University of Connecticut. I am one of three lead investigators for a COVID-19 study that focuses on the coping and mental health of citizens throughout the span of quarantine. When we submitted our first institutional review board document in March, we absolutely knew the pandemic was going to last a while. There were opportunities for our public health community to put prevention measures more systematically and rigorously in place, but that still has not happened.

We came across interesting results within the first months. While people are being good about their hygiene and social distancing, people are experiencing diagnosable PTSD in high rates. We are seeing pockets of heightened risk for severe mental health problems as time unfolds. Surprisingly, the stressors that are associated with mental health levels are not social distancing; the thing driving these impacts is financial concerns, resource concerns, and daily disruption concerns.

Extended periods of stress pose a concern to mental health due to their ambiguity and lack of control. The average person does not have a whole lot of control on the Coronavirus. So long as that is the case, we are experiencing continued ambiguity about how long we are going to have to endure this stress. A lot of people cope in relatively good ways, though some cope in not-so-good ways. The concern is that they are going to form new maladaptive behaviors. And as an interventionist, my interest is in getting the word out about healthy coping and how people can manage their mental health. If we can develop good habits, then for the next crisis, we will be a little bit stronger.

This time presents an opportunity for growth. We, and particularly the press, have a responsibility to point out that this is not just a moment of intense drama, but instead a moment for adaptive resilience. Having a growth mindset invigorates people to try, while focusing on the risks frightens people and demotivates them. As health professionals, our responsibility is to encourage people to reach for resilience. We have an obligation to use a growth mindset and not a threat-assessment mindset.

Learning to cope starts with thinking about your natural resources and how you can find new ways to access them. It is true that our social supports are more distant; we need a social distancing language, and that is important for hygiene and disease prevention. The downside to that is we take that distance too far and we forget about needing to be connected to those we love. The hunker-down mindset can feel very isolating and we want to encourage people to have fun, be healthy, be social distancing, and we also want to encourage the connections between people. The practical things that we can all do have to do with our daily routine and how we take care of ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s not just about getting through this, it’s about coming out on the other end stronger than how we went into it.

As told to Hayley Fiedler, Blue Muse Staff Writer

October 8— Amanda Fahy, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 219

US Infections: 7,551,257; Deaths: 211,844

CT Infections: 59,364; Deaths: 4,522

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Dept. of Music: Guitar rock legend Eddie Van Halen dies of Cancer at Age 65

Within the first year of college, I bought cheater glasses to wear over my contact lenses to prevent the headaches I was getting from squinting at my computer screen—that’s how blind I am. This was when I was only taking one or two online classes a semester.

Going into this semester, all five of my classes moved from on campus to online thanks to the Coronavirus. Now, I spend between four and seven hours a day looking at a computer screen. There is no way that sitting and staring at a computer screen for hours every day can be good for our health, but for education I guess we are all (including myself) willing to risk it.

My eyesight is not the only thing that is suffering. At twenty two, I should not have back pain. I have not had any prior injuries; the pain is simply from sitting at a desk in a chair without the proper amount of back support for a large portion of my current day-to-day life.

Before education was pushed from in person to online, society was concerned for the future sufferings that younger generations would face from constant technology use. Since education is a top priority, all those worries seem to have been tossed out the window. Today technology is a key tool used for learning, so there is no way society could stray away from its maximum usage now.

Looking at a screen for too long can cause your eyes to dry out if you do not blink enough, and the brightness of a screen can strain your eyes, causing discomfort.

After about two hours of staring at a screen, my eyes begin to feel heavy and tired. I find myself wondering if blue light glasses really work. I assume all this screen time cannot be good for my already-poor eyesight, and I cannot even imagine what it must be doing for the much younger generations whose eyesight is still developing.

Sitting should be a form of relaxation. Instead, back pain is the result from sitting for prolonged periods of time, especially if one has bad posture.

I am starting to miss the moments when I thought carrying a fifty-pound backpack full of books a half mile across campus was bad. At least that pain only lasted a short amount of time.

When up to six hours of coursework needs to be completed almost daily, there are very few ways in which we can help ourselves when it comes to preventing eye strain and back pain. There are glasses that protect your eyes from a screen’s harmful blue light, and there are adjustable stand-up desks.

It all comes down to purchasing these items. We can only hope that the Coronavirus will cease to exist soon, and so we do not want to make the jump on purchasing things that we may only have to use for a short time.

October 6— Zachary DiGirolamo, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 217

US Infections: 7,459,102; Deaths: 210,196

CT Infections: 59,120; Deaths: 4,517

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Dept. of Diversity: Marvels First Muslim Superhero

With each year, I become more accustomed to how much of the world the Walt Disney Company owns. If you have a numbered list of your top favorite films, odds are that Disney has the rights to at least half of them. Beyond Hollywood, there are the parks, the books, the games, the TV shows, the toys, the collectibles, the clothes, the costumes, the characters—all of which are glossed with the shiny gleam of nostalgia and the Walt Disney logo.

“When guests leave the store, we’re always supposed to say, ‘Have a magical day.’ If they have bought items belonging to specific franchises under the Disney umbrella, we’re supposed to tailor our speech to match the brand,” says Meghan, an employee at the Disney Store at the Westfarms Mall in Farmington, CT. “If someone were to buy a Star Wars item, you’d say, ‘May the force be with you.’ It’s all very scripted. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that.”

We are currently seated outside at Ted’s Montana Grill, masks on, waiting for our dinner to arrive. It is chilly; late COVID-19 has stolen summer from us, so here we sit, fleeces wrapped around us, trying to enjoy the final days of September before autumn gives way to winter.

Meghan and I have known each other since high school, but it was really this past year that the two of us grew close again—during the midst of COVID-19 and other stressful challenges in my life, she has been a patient listener and a solid confidante. Today, I’m curious about how the pandemic is affecting her work; after all, the Disney Store is supposed to be an extension of “the most magical place on Earth.” How does the stress of providing “magical” customer service mix with the realities of working with the public during a pandemic?

“Our speech is not supposed to be less magical,” says Meghan. “Instead, the focus on customer service has severely shifted. The Mouse still demands that guests enjoy themselves, but while before we wanted customers to browse and take their time, the current attitude is that they need to get in and get out. We want to limit the amount of time each person spends in the store as much as possible.”

It makes sense. I look around outside, then glance through the windows of the restaurant. There are double the amount of people dining outside than indoors, even on this chilly afternoon. It strikes me that a money-hungry company like Disney still cannot escape something as elusive as a deadly pandemic. I wonder about Meghan’s attitude when it comes to customer service—I know Meghan, and I know how much she doesn’t like hand-selling Mickey ears to random guests in the store. Do the strict guidelines relieve some of the pressure for her?

“Yes and no,” she says. “Of course there are social distancing measures. I’m not allowed to get up in people’s faces and try to get them to buy the newest Disney Princess shirt, which is a relief. But that kind of work has been replaced by other prompts from management. I have to monitor everyone’s masks in the store. I have to tell people they’re not allowed in because their mask hasn’t been approved by the Walt Disney Company.” She pauses, tugging at her own mask. “In a way, I have to act as the store’s bouncer. A magical bouncer, of course, with frilly sayings and the signature Disney magic, but a bouncer nonetheless.”

October 1— Megan Colleran, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 212

US Infections: 7,234,257; Deaths: 206,963

CT Infections: 57,550; Deaths: 4,508

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Dept. of Movies: Hollywood fears movie theaters ‘may not survive’ COVID-19 Pandemic

I have always favored being alone. I looked forward to the vacations, the weekends, or even just the moments when the to-do lists were done, and I could finally sit still and be alone with my thoughts.

Solitude was my guilty pleasure and enduring vice. It’s the first place I ran to when things became too much. I frequented it well before the virus proliferated across the country.

It’s where I retreated after my father passed four days before I started my freshman year at Central Connecticut State University. I guarded his loss from prying eyes, convinced that divulging such a secret would only leave me with pity.

As my mother’s health declined in the two years that followed, solitude masqueraded as a gleaming 4.0 GPA and two jobs. I was surrounded with responsibilities, anaesthetized by constant motion.

This tendency followed me into 2020. I moved back into the dorms, left raw again by my mother’s death before Christmas and ready to be consumed once more, just to have the Coronavirus strip me of the perpetual movement I depended on to remain distracted.

The seclusion I thought I wanted before coming to college was gift wrapped and placed at my feet—a cruel irony after time and trauma twisted my definition of solitude so drastically. The quiet had become too loud.

Even introverts like having the choice to leave. It’s never the first one, but it’s always there, ready to be flirted with. I didn’t like solitude when it became my only option.

The events of the past few months turned a familiar ritual into something permanent. I filled the moments of respite with music, doodles, and maybe an assignment or two, motivated by the fact that the breaks were short-lived. The indefinite pause overwhelmed me. There weren’t enough songs to fill the hours.

Still, I owe a debt of gratitude to the virus. Nothing could have stopped me in my tracks better than a mild apocalypse. When my grief, anger, and guilt abated, I recognized my impulses for what they were. Desolation and exertion sit at opposite ends of the same destructive spectrum. Healing demands a balance between the two.

I’m back on campus now. It’s quieter than it used to be, but there are still plenty of temptations. Still plenty of ways to escape. Small doses, I remind myself. I’m spending another year teaching myself how to play guitar. I’m reading a new book. I’m starting to draw again.

I don’t work as many hours anymore. I walk the perimeter of campus every few days, lip-syncing to Broadway soundtracks beneath my mask.

My roommate and I sit outside together when we can, acutely aware that the opportunity is as fleeting as these temperate days as the season turns. I watch as she paints a canvas under the shade of a tree. And I’m okay with not being alone.

September 29— Ava Couchon, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 210

US Infections: 7,150,165; Deaths: 205,091

CT Infections: 56,587; Deaths: 4,501

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Three highlighters, one pen, two tangled pairs of headphones, one purple-and-gold planner, one laptop, and one green notebook. These are my educational pawns strewn across my bed; the foot soldiers to the two stacks of textbooks looming over either side of my desktop—the king and queen. Everything you’d need for a semester of Zoom calls, Blackboard discussions, and constantly evolving syllabi; the air of academia ends there.

On my desk a change jar overflows with coins; a broken, teal antique alarm clock sits next to a pewter beer stein with the Playboy logo on it, sprouting multicolored daisies from within; a three-quarter-inch curling iron still in its packaging lays next to a deck of playing cards that have dogs on them instead of people and a bar of orange soap I learned can be used as eyebrow gel. A phone projector, three identical purple bottles of volumizing hair mousse, a blue, plastic wide-tooth comb, and a statue of a cow wearing a red cape and goggles with one of the back legs broken off look down at some deodorant, an empty jewelry box, and a brown paper bag containing all the earrings I bought during my “self-improvement” phase.

Within the universal quarantine experience, we all decided to fill our free time with retail therapy: a coping mechanism for the loss of social interaction. Being left with my thoughts without a friend there to talk me out of drastic decisions meant I filled that space with something else. It was either that or cut my own bangs. The stein and the earrings were some of my later purchases, a round of appearance changing that I thought would make me interesting again. This also accounts for three pleated skirts, two pairs of sneakers from that day I tried to convince myself that running alone could be just as fun, and two pairs of Birkenstocks. Sweaters from the men’s section at thrift stores are the result of revisiting places with happy memories—an attempt to substitute the warmth of friendship with thick, scratchy wool. A few different purses, one of which is cow print, and way too many of those necklaces that have multiples chains connected to one clasp were all purchased as conversational pieces. Once I was able to see people again, I needed them to want to talk to me. These are in various places around my room: some just on the floor, some heaped onto that chair everyone has to dump clothes on, some pressed up against the closet door waiting to fall out, some actually put away, and one of the sweaters I’m actually wearing right now. All of these came after a first wave of items I’d categorize as “activity” items.

I don’t mean gym equipment, although that probably would’ve been a more productive use of my time. No, these are crafty things that would help me pass the time; ignore the fact that the only humans I had seen for months were related to me. Two different bags with a million colors of embroidery thread sit on top of the three-by-four-foot rotary cutting mat in the corner of my room. They are kept company by a forty-year-old Bernina sewing machine, a flower-shaped box full of multicolored pins, two brass thimbles, seven different embroidery needles, one yellow embroidery hoop, some blue fabric with white polka dots that will eventually be a skirt, a miniature iron that only works on the hottest possible setting, a wooden mallet I stole from my kitchen that goes with the two separate spools of silver jewelry chain and a grommet kit, not to mention scraps of fabric and paper in every color and pattern imaginable littered across the floor from the sewing mat over to the IKEA laundry bag with a lifetime’s supply of yarn.

These things that I bought as distractions have become something that I will carry with me into the future as hobbies; no longer a short-term substitution for friendship, but a reminder that new, positive identities can be forged under trying circumstances. My room has essentially become a historical landmark for both a battle against boredom and loneliness that I lost and a war with myself that I may have won.

August 13 — Cecilia Gigliotti, Dispatch from Germany

Home Office Day: 163

Germany Infections: 221,658; Deaths: 9,217; Recoveries: 199,570

German Stock Exchange: DAX:IND 13,043.26 EUR (-15.37 EUR, -0.12%)

Trending: Germany sees biggest COVID-19 spike to date.

Dept. of Hope: Kamala Harris is the first Black woman and Asian American on a major-party ticket.

One night, not long ago, I dreamt of Sleepy Hollow: the whole of Washington Irving’s precisely two-century-old plot, nothing less and nothing more. Why I should be bodily in Europe and mentally in the Hudson River Valley is frankly beyond me. But the fact that somewhere down the line I should have broken with sense—alongside much of the world—doesn’t surprise me at all.

Come to think of it, Irving wrote this and several other stories during a stay in England, removed from his native environment. Maybe there’s a rhyme or reason there. Maybe it’s mere coincidence. I don’t know, and I’ve been too scattered to get to the bottom of it, too busy grasping blindly at a host of opportunities and possibilities which appear and disappear like my own personal phantoms.

I brace instinctively on street corners. That’s where most gatherings in Berlin happen these days—aside from the parks where there’s plenty of elbow room—because that’s where the cafés are. What was a quaint and cozy al fresco setup a year ago is now a flirtation with danger, a proximity that far too many people seem willing to risk. As must be obvious, I have yet to reach that place. I tighten my mask and weave through the crowd, trying not to think too much, though I know full well my thoughts will catch up with me by nightfall.

On Sunday, a friend and I were lounging in the park when a wasp stung me between the fingers of my left hand. In nearly twenty five years of life, I had never been stung by an insect. The new knowledge was not pleasant, but it almost felt good to know something.

My friend-cum-landlord returned at the end of last week, delirious from twenty four hours of travel on top of four and a half months in a small community outside Cape Town. He tested negative for COVID-19, and we are cohabiting peacefully until I sort out the particulars of my next living arrangement—an arrangement which is theoretical (visit, conversation) but, again, not yet concrete (lease, signature).

Yesterday I learned that the full-time offer I had since late June—blogging and social media management for a small startup—was rescinded and given to someone with a less complex visa situation. Probably not an American. This ghost had taunted me without mercy, and still, to see it finally go to rest in its grave stung worse than the wasp. The minutes I’d spent submitting change-of-employer paperwork to the immigration office and subsequent hours scouting out all available information on just how far behind they were in their paperwork, had come to naught. I had kept news of the job from most people because the details had yet to fall into place. Now they never will.

My only recourse is to turn to the trusty foundation of freelance work and clients I have amassed over months, transition gracefully into what will hopefully be a calmer life in the bright, promising flat awaiting me across the neighborhood, and apply for yet another visa. A few ghosts continue to linger, but I won’t hang my hopes on them. And I won’t go out of my way to give them room.

August 10 — Mary Anne Nunn, CCSU Professor

Days Off Campus: 160

US Infections: 5,063,770; Deaths: 163,252

CT Infections: 50,567; Deaths: 4,444

Trending: Negotiations on the Stimulus Package

It is very odd to go through days where the fundamental constitution of the visible world seems to change continuously. I say “odd” because for me, a planner, the fluctuations in the visible world seem to have paralyzed my own invisible world. I have, after more than six decades of living in this world of one, mapped a lot of it. I’ve found the spots of fertile ground, as well as the bogs and deserts, mountains one should climb, mountains to be admired from level ground, mountains to demolish, if only grain by grain. There have been tectonic shifts in those decades, but they remade a familiar topography in coherent ways. “Familiar” is hard to come by now, and the psychedelic permutations of our “now” do not last long enough to map. I am not one to sit back and enjoy the show, and this particular show is not in fact enjoyable.

One tool I’ve used to codify my own personal universe is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Myers and Briggs were a mother/daughter pair who used Jungian psychology to develop a set of four sliding scales to define pictures of sixteen human personality types. Now, is this reductive? Clearly, yes. But to me it is a useful reduction. It not only identifies the unique insights and strengths for each type, but also the blindspots and stumbling blocks—each type has both; there is no type that everyone wants to be. And more importantly, it identifies preferences—one’s type is not fate, but a recognition of the ways that one prefers to function, and that doesn’t mean one can’t function in other ways. I also have found it very useful in that it sets each type in relationship to the others—this is one reason it is used by industry for team building, as it allows a team to be constructed with global perspectives and enables the members living in different worlds to find the ways those worlds intersect constructively. It also keeps us from assuming those around us are crazy or stupid (tempting conclusions often in human relationships…).

I am a Myers-Briggs INTJ. (If you don’t know your MBTI type and wish to, I recommend this free online site to take an abbreviated version of the test: This means that I’m Introverted (rather than Extroverted), iNtuiting (rather than Sensing), Thinking (rather than Feeling), and Judging (rather than Perceiving). So I get my ENERGY in solitude rather than in company (I have NOT found the isolation of these times at all difficult—actually quite the reverse). I am more drawn to manipulating IDEAS than the physical universe perceivable by our SENSES (again, no problem with isolation there). I tend to make my DECISIONS through an intellectual process, rather than turning first to emotions (again, not really the source of my problems). But the “J” indicates that I am “ends” oriented, that I like to PLAN, to nail things down securely rather than being “process” oriented, going with the flow of shifting landscapes. Aye, here’s my rub…. 

The MBTI tells us that, under stress, each type tends to run toward those things not generally preferred.  I’ve watched SO much junk TV, just letting patterns someone else devised roll by with no “end” other than distraction—NOT an INTJ thing. I’ve reached the point, though, where this personality tourism has palled for me, but I acknowledge that this detour has not been without value. Now, though, with some welcome familiarity, as I do every year about this time, I again so look forward to the academic round, transformed and unrecognizable though its current constitution may be. This is why I find the Academy so valuable—all our isolated worlds of thought intersect, terraforming new worlds for each of us in the process. A consummation devoutly to be wished. Once more into the miasmic breach!

August 7 — Careen Watermen, CCSU Administrative Coordinator

Days Off Campus: 157

US Infections: 4,918,927; Deaths: 160,737

CT Infections: 50,320; Deaths: 4,441

Trending: Many in Connecticut are still without power from Hurricane Isaias.

My Gramma calls my new home “Peyton Place.” I call it “Melrose Place.” I’ve been here since the end of December, and I’m grateful I’ve been able to call this my home amidst the virus. There are six units: I live on the second floor on the right, nestled into the cherry blossom tree. Being on the porch was like floating on a cloud of pink petals in the spring, and now the lush leaves give me shade while I chill. My porch is my favorite place to be; I take a lot of naps out there. I have comfortable furniture, plants and flowers, and lights that give a romantic glow for when I want to read or socialize with everyone in the evening.

My neighbors and I have become close. We are confidants and caregivers to each other. We share drinks, food, advice, and laughs. We talk from our porches and gather in the front to walk our dogs daily. My next-door neighbor has a friend that comes over regularly and provides a constantly streaming soundtrack while we dance on our porches, often with a drink in hand. We have had some entertaining nights! My neighbor below is the mother hen who looks out for us all. Above me is a single mother with a five-year-old boy, and down below next to our hen is a young couple. The last family up top owns several restaurants so we don’t see them much, but they are nice just the same. My next-door neighbor has a handsome roommate who we curiously watch as all the young women on the block flock to his side while he walks his dog, Brian, apparently named from a character in “Family Guy.”

Our mother hen is in her midsixties and has had to take the virus precautions very seriously. Her daughter and grandchildren come to visit, and they sit on the front lawn outside her porch where they can talk and catch up in person. She sets up chairs and a blanket with toys for the kids to play. I know this quarantine has been really hard for her, but I’m glad that they can at least see each other in this way.

Four of us are dog owners. There’s Peppie the Chihuahua (mother hen), Iris the corgi (young couple), Jedi the glorious, black, silky mutt (next-door neighbor), and Brian the Australian shepherd puppy (handsome roommate). Plus there’s my sweet Rosie. She plays with Brian regularly. Living here has brought her out of her shell, and the virus has perhaps brought us out of our own shells. We wouldn’t know each other as we do were if not for all the time we are forced to spend at home.

I’m so fortunate to have such a nice place to live. Time to have lunch on the porch.

Summer Porch Playlist:
“New Apartment” by Ari Lennox
“All Night” by Chance the Rapper
“Kitipun” by Juan Luis Guerra
“Close to You” by Maxi Priest
“Don’t Rush” by Young T & Bugsy
“Las Manos del Campo” by Vicente García and Kany García
“Supalonely” by BENEE (feat. Gus Dapperton)
”The Worst in Me” by Kaytranada (feat. Tinashe)
“Do It” by Chloe x Halle
“Sara Smile” by Daryl Hall & John Oates

August 5 — Aimee Pozorski, Professor of English

Days Off Campus: 155

US Infections: 4,818,328; Deaths: 157,930

CT Infections: 50,255; Deaths: 4,437

Trending: Explosion in Lebanon

The spring of 2020 has forced a lot of us to think back to earlier times—first with nostalgia, followed immediately by a searing recognition of the unspoken privileges that shaped those early days. I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin where there is generally nothing to do after high school graduation except loiter at the local gas station and whisper conspiracies in the park. These activities are practiced without penalty, suggesting that the white kids in Green Bay had life pretty easy back in the 1990s. The worst fate imaginable for the summer after high school graduation was boredom. 

While we worked hard to overcome boredom, we did not try all that hard to obey the law. The weeks following high school graduation, my friends and I drove up to the end of the Door Peninsula and got on a ferry bound for Washington Island, a remote, wooded area where there are no cars. It was the best possible place to party: no parents, no traffic, and no police—only music, booze, and a fire pit. On the way up, we stopped at a local grocery store and ran barefoot with our little swim tops and cut-off shorts to pick up snacks—just like in that John Updike story, “A & P.” Somebody we knew would bring the beer and wine and whatever else kids party with. We played music like “Free Falling” by Tom Petty and thought it was about us. We sang very loudly late at night, arms wrapped around each other. If spit landed in a cup, someone might say “Eww!” and punch the guy next to her for getting too close. Maybe someone would cough because he was trying to impress the girls by inhaling. We were feverish with love and hope. The world was wide open. 

Looking back now, I am shocked we all survived. One time my mom and her boyfriend decided to “take a drive,” then a ferry ride, and found me in the back of some guy’s car drinking out of a paper bag. I was grounded two weeks after that, but I already lived those days I would never forget. It is hard not to see how this America, maybe even the America Updike wrote about, was unavailable to so many other Americans, and that black teenagers have rarely been able to imagine themselves so free of authority. 

Things are different now for my son, and for so many sons and daughters who would never think about partying in the woods with dozens of young people. Eliot graduated high school this past week, and I can say with confidence that he will not be partying on Washington Island. After he was called back to soccer training near Boston, we got into the car loaded with hand sanitizer, masks, and gear. I packed rubber gloves to put on when we stopped for gas to fuel a commute one hundred miles each way. Eliot chose the music—The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound” with the refrain, “Young boys, young girls / Ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.” When we reached practice for that first day back, the trainer took his temperature to check for a fever and inserted a swab up his nose to test for coronavirus. While Eliot trained, I put on my own gear for the grocery store to get snacks. Twelve people stood ahead of me in line outside the Trader Joe’s, and I was afraid I would be late getting to him. Inside the store, we wore masks and tried to maintain a distance of six feet between carts, trying to express gratitude with our eyes. When Eliot received his test results indicating it was okay to move back into the soccer residency, I faced that long drive home alone. Leaving a state with 144,000 cases in the last eighty days, signs on the highway recommended I quarantine for two weeks.  

These are different days I won’t soon forget. Pulling into my driveway, home again after one last long commute, I cried for my son. Now I think about how I will never have to worry about him dying at a party, not from alcohol poisoning, nor from falling into a fire pit when someone’s back is turned. I have never had to worry myself about getting caught breaking the law because, even if I did, I was handed a “fair warning” and a smile. I don’t have to worry about my son in that way either—both because he is a privileged white man, and because he may never have the opportunity anyway. Yet I will always worry about him getting sick, about this different risk of dying on a Saturday night—a risk, although possibly slight, that seems to unite bored young people all over the country and our world.

16 — Victoria Juniet, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Day Off Campus: 135

US Infections: 3,536,658; Deaths: 137,897

CT Infections: 47,636; Deaths: 4,380

Trending: School Openings

Dept. of Worker Safety: Best Practices in New Bedford, MA

“Normal”: an elusive thing we took for granted at the beginning of the new “roaring twenties.” We strapped on heels (slipped on fuzzy socks), cinched bow ties (yanked hoodie drawstrings), and clinked glasses, celebrating the hope that our normal would get infinitely better. The future was at our feet. We set goals. We decided on resolutions. We laid plans. 

For many in my generation, this is the decade we expect to be the shining introductory years of our adult life. No matter how much the generations before us warn that our twenties aren’t as glamorous as they sound, no one can derail us from dreaming of the years we are about to enter. Beginning our careers. Finding love. Having kids. Moving out. Partying. Forging life-long friendships—whatever your interests and aspirations are, our twenties sound pretty freakin’ liberating. 

This is when life gets exciting. 

You know how they say, “Be careful what you wish for”? 

Our boring lives became un-boring in a heartbeat. 

All we cry out for is the slightest taste of normal. What even defines our normal anymore? (I’d bet the first thing you thought of was “masks.”) The new normal we have now is vastly different from what we anticipated on the heels of the new decade. 

I’ve heard 2020 described as a “dumpster fire” of a year. I think they’re wrong. 

I think this generation needed to be stirred up a bit. We were getting a little too comfortable in our entitled ways. It was time for some change. For some history to be made. For us to stop ignoring the world around us in the name of self-care. Don’t get me wrong, I love some self-care. But our collective generation was turning a blind eye to real issues and becoming stagnant in a circle of our own self-pity. It’s time for us to face the world even if it looks a little different now. 

Mask up. We can do this. It’s only the beginning.

July 10 — Mary Anne Nunn, CCSU Professor

Day Off Campus: 129

US Infections: 3,112,252; Deaths: 133,228

CT Infections: 47,209; Deaths: 4,348

Trending: Financial Records Released

Dept. of Meanwhile: Hummingbirds on the Move

It really should have been a very good day. I rose early to clear out all the detritus from a car I’ve been driving since 2008 preparatory to delivering it to a dealer who would exchange it for a brand new one. Much as I had liked the car, it had become eccentric in unattractive ways, which I knew all too well after a whole year of trying to replace it with a newer model of the same make. But in that year, the dealership had also behaved in ways that were unattractively eccentric, holding on to a not insubstantial deposit for almost a full calendar year while doing apparently absolutely nothing. So new dealership, new make/model, a year long irritant happily ended—it should have been a very good day.

But as I paused in my trips between the car and house with what of the detritus would be installed in the new vehicle, I was about to let the dog into the backyard when I realized that there was a baby robin on the ground under the large tree. We do, suburban as we are, interface with wildlife. A few years ago a mother rabbit, in her incomprehensible wisdom, dug her nest in the wide-open middle of our backyard, complicating the management of said dog, as well as the task of the young men who come to mow with huge machines. After weeks of worry and fuss, however, I went out one day to six small miracles who disappeared into the wide world shortly thereafter.

So I followed what I thought was protocol and left the baby alone, assuming parental oversight and eventual flight. But the little one wandered within the invisible boundaries that enclosed only one square foot, pipping perpetually, and no parent appeared. At midday, I put out water that the little one never approached. Before heading down to pick up the car, I actually went out and dug to find a small worm and a few grubs, and I approached the utterly fearless, tiny feather ball that opened wide its golden throat for them. My utterly pacifistic mini goldendoodle came and sniffed it’s tiny head, and it stood unmoving with wide, innocent eyes.  

Returning in the new car, the baby was still there. A website suggested fruit as well as insects (we don’t keep mealworms in the house…). I cut tiny pieces of apple, which again, the little one accepted, but only one—others were spit out. I placed it under the leaves of a hosta in an effort to shield it from predators, but when I took the dog out for the last walk, it had hopped up and was sheltering against the door I had gone through. Somehow, though, the apparent enormity of all the complexities in our present situation just paralyzed me. I passed through the door again, leaving the baby alone.

That rather sleepless night there were violent storms. In the morning, our backyard tiny miracle lay stiff and cold on our stone stoop. I didn’t take a picture of it.  

But I have realized that a small bird’s innocent faith, proven false, that someone so large would surely sustain it, stands as a judgment against all of us who let circumstances paralyze us. The nation seems paralyzed now by a virus, but it has been paralyzed for centuries, letting precious miracles be shot unarmed, or dragged to the point of dismemberment behind cars, or slowly asphyxiated by the weight of a man, or hanged, emasculated, from trestle bridges, bestial atrocities which many someones did, in apparent pride, record on film. Unlike these perpetrators, I didn’t bear the tiny orphan any ill will—quite the contrary—but my inaction, born of a swirl of burdens that I allowed to seem not only inescapable but also primary, did kill it. Yesterday I listened to six black men describe the lives that others have not only actively menaced, but damningly also seen as less important than their own to-do lists. The corrosive recognition of my guilt must expand exponentially, but mere recognition is itself worth little. It is easy to see oneself as helpless—one tiny, flightless orphan, not to be held responsible. To do: choose a portion of the unspeakable, name it for what it is, and place it at the top of a list of those things for which one is willing to sacrifice not others, but oneself.

6 — James Austin, CCSU Professor

Day Off Campus: 125

US Infections: 2,889,303; Deaths: 129,948

CT Infections: 46,717; Deaths: 4,335

Trending: Racial Inequity of Coronavirus

Dept. of Meanwhile: Summer Reading

It’s a privilege to write. I mean that literally. 

I am sitting in new digs at a pine surface that was once a dining room table, then a work desk, and now both depending upon the day and time. I look across the living space and out the glass door where plants soak in water and sun on this broiling day. My laptop is open and I am searching for folders wherever I’ve stashed them. In trying to gather them together, I’m surprised by the number of stories I’ve started through the years. I read portions of the inchoate fiction to a friend, as doing so sharpens my focus. I feel the stirring to write again, so I set to work on a story set in a strange Kansas town very much like where I once lived. 

And you know what? I can work. The pandemic still has a grasp on us all. Many readers of this blog may know people who have lost jobs and experienced furloughs—friends, parents, extended family. There may be serious money concerns, or trepidation about safety and viability in the future. What will the fall bring?

Still, I can write. My situation is fortunate. I can work on this blog post, then enjoy lunch. This afternoon, I will work on the story that has me excited again. In the past, I would try to do so, as Isak Dinesen said, “without hope, without despair.” That quote no longer strikes true. Maybe it’s age, pandemic, this time in my life. The bifurcation in that quote, for we all write in the middle area where hope and despair intermingle, drips with privilege. I am one of the lucky ones.  

June 30 — Candace Barrington, CCSU Professor

Day Off Campus: 118

US Infections: 2,588,020; Deaths: 126,131

CT Infections: 46.362; Deaths: 4,320

Dept. of Meanwhile: South Pole Warming, Quickly

Dept. of Numbers: Story Behind John Hopkins’ Tracker

My mother died on January 12, 2020; two months later, my husband and I taught our final classes on campus before beginning our ongoing pandemic sequestration. 

Our mother’s death surprised my sisters and me. She had been slowly slipping down dementia’s slope for several years, yet she remained physically robust, bustling around her new home (an assisted-care residence she called “her office”), looking after those less mobile than her, and participating in the community’s daily activities, highlighted by Pastor Joel’s weekly sing-alongs. On that day, the day she died, she was having another one of her good days when she set down her bowl of ice cream, walked a few steps, and gracefully slumped to the floor, overcome by a massive stroke caused by multiple concussions over the years.

We knew that she had had some nasty falls. A bad fall and broken arm the year before had confirmed our instincts that she needed assisted care. We hadn’t properly calculated, though, how many of those falls also included head injuries and how much brain damage had accumulated. Our thoughts had focused on how to keep her safe and happy for the next ten years. We weren’t thinking that her death was imminent, and we certainly hadn’t penciled “Mother’s funeral” anywhere in our calendars. 

As it turns out, Mother’s death and funeral provided a last chance to walk through some doors that were soon to slam shut on me. Because her daughters and grandchildren were scattered hither and yon, we chose the long Presidents’ Day weekend for her memorial celebration—it would allow plenty of time for everyone to travel to Texas and celebrate her life in as unrushed a way as possible. 

The result was a deeply satisfying weekend with my sisters and brothers-in-law, their families, my son and his partner, and a whole slew of cousins and their families. It had been many years since I had seen most of my cousins, and longer since we’d been in one room together. That weekend I mingled and hugged and huddled around tables telling stories, laughing and eating brisket sandwiches from my favorite barbeque joint and enchiladas from my favorite taqueria. It was a golden weekend.

When we boarded an early morning flight out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport back to Connecticut, our row companion pulled out disinfectant wipes, swabbed down every hard surface in her area, and then offered us some so we could do the same. With that gesture, I realized the doors were starting to close. 

That trip home was our last flight. 

The next three weeks were filled with more “last times”: last classroom meeting, last department meeting, last symphony concert, last meal at a restaurant, last trip to the grocery store, last movie, last time friends came to our home for dinner, last time I hugged a friend. 

Losing all those things—very small in the grand scheme of life—has provided a necessary distraction from losing my mother. As usual, her timing and graciousness were impeccable.

June 26 — Susan Gilmore, CCSU Professor

Day Off Campus: 114

US Infections: 2,446,706; Deaths: 124,749

CT Infections: 45,994; Deaths: 4,298

Trending: Pulling The Reigns in Texas

Dept. of Racial Justice: James Baldwin Discusses Racism on The Dick Cavett Show

I’m wandering my neighborhood a few short blocks from my house. I’ve been over these streets more times now than I can count, remembering but trying to forget their names in what passes for adventure close to home in COVID-19 times. The calico mask my friend sewed from a free JOANN Fabrics and Crafts kit gives me cover, but also makes me feel a bit faint, slowing my normally brisk clip. I’m scanning the yards, the gardens, the sidewalks, looking for anything—ANYTHING—new when I hear “Hi Marge!”, and turn and see it’s me this stranger is hailing.

He is standing on the stoop off the driveway of a sideways house. Awkwardly tall, tousled hair, and round-faced—is he even out of his teens? Have we met? Does he know me somehow, even if he’s mistaken my name? The only two people I’ve known on this street are a middle schooler who goes by two names and once shyly asked my daughter on a date, and his cool mom who fields calls in the high school guidance office. I’ve never known any Marges other than an unfortunate junior high teacher my classmates christened “Marge the Barge,” and Marge Simpson, whose blue beehive is beyond me, so long as my quarantine hair is growing.

As a grad student, I had a doppelgänger. Strangers would come within inches of my face and pick up well underway conversations before I let them know they must have me confused with someone else. “Oh my gosh,” one woman exclaimed. “You look just like her!” And foolishly, I didn’t think to ask for a name so that I could track down my double and see our resemblance for myself. Now, I wonder who and where is Marge? If this fellow expects to see her out for a stroll, she may be just a few degrees of separation, a few carefully staked out suburban property lines away from me. How is she faring during this viral lockdown? How are any of us faring when we are so cut off not only from family and friends, but from casual yet no less crucial contact with passersby in the vicinity whose faces are familiar but whose names we never learn?

Most of this pondering I do later. It’s a writer’s trick to depict on-the-fly action as something so thought out, so premeditated. On the spot, my choice is reflex quick. Not wanting to disappoint, wanting to fill his void and mine, and to represent Marge as the amiable neighbor she must be, I wave and flash the brightest smile my eyes can shine past my mask, a grateful impostor, happy to be Marge for a moment.

June 22Connor Giveans, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Home Office Day: 108

US Infections 2,281,903; Deaths: 119,997

CT Infections: 45,755; Deaths: 4,260

Trending: John Bolton’s Book…Tellings Us What We Already Knew?

Dept. Racial Justice: Chicago Mayor on Defunding the Police

May 20 came and went, and with it a sense of normalcy returned to my life. Restaurants slowly started to open back up, so I was  able to go out a few times with family and friends; and even though there still aren’t any live sports on television, The Last Dance documentary on ESPN was a great supplement. Despite the masks and social distancing in public, life was finally starting to feel like it did before the chaos of March. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the world changed again. 

Make no mistake about it: George Floyd was a black man murdered by a bad cop helped by three other bad cops and an even worse system that made all four of them believe what happened was okay. Not too long ago, I was someone who thought Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting our military when he knelt during the national anthem. I was someone who believed police officers and departments when they said they only used necessary force. I was someone who said, “All lives matter,” and didn’t get why people thought that was racist. So maybe it’s just the white guilt I never used to believe in talking, but I feel like I need to do something; posting black squares on Instagram and retweeting protest videos isn’t feeling like enough.

With no job and money tight, donating something substantial isn’t really an option, so I’d like to protest. But when I see those crowds packed together, sometimes witnessing many people without masks, I pause. Despite the new feeling of normalcy in the midst of the pandemic, I live with my dad who has one kidney, and I don’t think I could forgive myself if I put him at risk. With his permission I’d probably go to a protest, but is that a situation I want to put him in? Is that a decision I want him to have to make?

For now I continue to sit at home, listening to those who know more than me and amplifying their voices any way that I can. So many people want the world to get back to normal, but a flawed normal is what put us in this mess in the first place. The world is no worse than it was before George Floyd’s death. All that has changed is that more people, myself included, are more aware of the injustices that have plagued our country since before its founding. As broken as the world feels, I try to remember that the protests are a good thing. This time it really feels like change is coming, and it should. Whether during pandemic, protest, or peace, the world has to remember that black lives matter.

June 12Steven Ostrowski, CCSU Professor

Home Office Day: 98

US Infections 2,023,690; Deaths: 113,822

CT Infections: 44,461; Deaths: 4,146

Trending: Minnesota Tackles Police Overhaul

Dept. of Meanwhile: PGA Golf Returns Without Fans

Some Journey Fragments

I’ve responded to a hundred student poems in forty-four hours and now I reel like I myself am a poem made of flesh.


I look up, stare out the big glass backdoor and watch a Cooper’s Hawk wait ominously on a limb at the border of the woods for something smaller than itself to devour. Today, everything seems hungry. Unsettled. Urgent.


I’m concerned about the unjust world, but closer to home, I’m worried about somebody I love.


Worry is useless.


The plan is to convert worry into doing: if I am a noun, then love must be my verb.


I’ve been learning how to breathe all my life, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Out in the world, though, there are people who can’t breathe, people whose breath is stolen from them.


Right here, right now, at this big window, I breath alone.


Having read so many poems, and so many of them so honest that the tears they’re written in distort the paper they’re written on, so many poems about the hundred forms so abandonment, the thousand ways a heart is dared to beat despite everything, the million miles the blood must flow from heart to brain to hungry mind to deliver a single insight—having read all these poems, I feel like a man made of poems.


I close my eyes, breathe. Now I’m a man staggering along a river of images. Some are dark and shadowed, masks of fear; some are torn down the middle like America. Some are life-sized question marks made of human bones. One out of ten, though, is an image of hope. Something natural and gorgeous in the woods, lit by a sunray. Something tiny but singing an aria. Joy-in-air.


An insight that might have been born a lifetime ago takes its course through darknesses and questions. It arrives at last and lights my mind: yes, love is my verb, but I is not the noun I need; the noun I need is we.        

June 5Cecilia Gigliotti, Dispatch from Germany

Home Office Day: 86

Germany Infections: 184,924; Deaths: 8,645

German Stock Exchange: 11,586.85 EUR (-194.28 EUR, -1.65%)

Trending: From bars to gyms–what’s reopening in Berlin in June?

Injustice Felt Around the World: Thousands protest Floyd killing outside Berlin’s U.S. embassy

My former quarters emptied out little by little over the course of a week and a half. My roommate (and dog) took off again, this time for her parents, but not before helping me move the first half of my belongings into a new space in the trendier Friedrichshain district. The space had gone unoccupied since mid-March: it’s tenant, a guy I befriended on a job I used to have, is trapped with his family behind South Africa’s closed borders until further notice. As my lease was due to end and he remained responsible for his rent, he and I figured we could help each other out.

Even now I write from a newly nearly vacant room—my voice and footsteps have a foreign echo attached—and I’ll be ensconced in my short-term digs by the time this reaches you. At the very least, I hope the term will be as short as possible. For now we project two months, and with any luck, I’ll be forced to relocate yet again in exchange for the pleasure of seeing him face-to-face, out of the hollow anti-light of Zoom.

Back in the country whose grip on me has yet to loosen, dwellings and businesses also empty out as the streets fill up. I trace the Twitter trail of revolution. I read headlines about a different kind of virus, one which we’ve suffered far longer and for which we still seem to be without an effective vaccine despite generations of effort and blood. I donate and sign what I can. I contemplate the word “trauma,” how the German traum (“dream”) is bound up in it, the dissociative episodes that often mark it. I, too, dream. I wake at six, five, or four o’clock in the morning with a whirring brain and a feeling of total impotence, nothing to do but watch the first strands of sunlight trickle into a bigger and bigger room. I keep “Street Fighting Man” on repeat and consider my displacement; I’ve been known to go on a Rolling Stones kick as summer temperatures set in, but it’s worse this year already.

Nervous exhaustion is written large across people’s faces in the park and on the bus. Eye contact is a rare commodity: terrible as that virtual anti-light may be, it gets me my fix of truly seeing and feeling seen. The other day I laughed and cried in alternation, wondering if the neighbors would worry about me. I’ve only met the ones to our left once. And now I’m leaving. Where I’m bound, I’ve heard snatches of English in the complex and on the sidewalk. If a group of us in a comparable cultural boat can dissociate together, even if only for a moment—even if the ship sinks—it will be a welcome relief.

May 30 — Sam Elderkin, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 80

US Infections: 1,747,087; Deaths 102,836 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 41,782; Deaths 3,868

Trending: US to Pull Out of World Health Organization

Writers That Matter: James Baldwin On Race

Show & Tell: Real Art Ways Online Social

A small, dark wood cabin sits surrounded by the massive Alaskan forest, separating the mini paradise from the bustling town twenty miles south. Warm flickering light pours from the windows and onto the freshly fallen snow, illuminating the bare branches stretching toward the cabin walls. The crackling warmth of the fireplace seeps through the bottom of the door, heating the ice-speckled porch.

A tiny old cottage straight from a fairy-tale stands secluded in the damp, mossy terrain of an Oregon forest. Vines grow up the sides of the angular roof, stretching to touch the low-hanging tree branches. Flowers and herbs thrive throughout what could be considered a front yard, or just part of the forest. The house, with its chunky shingled roof and rustic wood details, feels more like a part of the forest and less like a home. Secluded in the trees, the cabin and its occupants happily hide from the outside world, basking in the battle for dominance between the scent of coffee and the aroma of cedar.

Not surrounded by a moat like a castle, but by massive jutting rocks, a stone cottage lays for none of the world to see. On all sides overpowering stone guards the outer walls against the wandering tourists of the Scottish Highlands. The cottage, with its moss-decorated rock sides, stands with a wall of windows displaying shelves and stacks of books littering the house; those piles of history shielded by the walls of green rocks and the other barriers just beyond them. One side of the world cascades out onto an ocean view, the salt from the crashing waves linger in your mouth the second you walk outside. The intimidating vibrancy of the blue sea seems to crawl into the midday sky, reaching toward the deep green forest standing guard on the other end. Hundreds of years of growth and protection stand tall, warning those who stare into it.

I’ve spent the past month dreaming of a life secluded, surrounded by nature that is allowed to flourish. The screams of children playing in the apartment parking lot have been drilled into my nightmares, as have the horrific parades of honking cars driving by, just because they can send my house into a fit. My two elderly animals jump up and cry to me when the barrage of horns wake them from one of their daily naps. I wake up at 3 a.m. just to write in silence some days, but the comforting chirp of crickets has faded over the years and the screech of cars is still present.

But people always tell me to look on the bright side; stop focusing on the negatives. The only bright side I’ve found is the push I needed to work for my dream of a hidden oasis where I can be that stereotypical writer: the one who hides for months on end, moving from room-to-room with a laptop and a cup of coffee. The writer who thrives with the noise of pages turning instead of voices.

I don’t think that’s the positive people had in mind, but here I am.

May 23 — Jotham Burrello, Blue Muse Executive Editor

Days off Campus: 73

US Infections: 1,604,189; Deaths 96,125 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 39,640; Deaths 3637

Trending: Summer Reading

Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

“The new normal.” Massachusetts’ Governor Charles Baker used that phrase to describe the re-opening of the Bay State. Massachusetts has been hit especially hard by COVID-19. Of course, there’s plenty new (and canceled), but none of it is normal. The phrase irritates me. It implies we’re taking it all in stride. The death toll, suffering, and economic havoc of C-19 is historic. As summer sun beckons, and now Memorial Day weekend is underway, Americans are growing bored and restless; there is worry we’ll snap off our masks and dive into a mosh pit. We all feel the pain of isolation. After two months of online classes a student of mine remarked, “forced reliance on technology has created a greater demand for physical experiences.”

Over the summer months Blue Muse will continue to gather short essays on this emerging new (unprecedented) normal. Sadly, we’ll do this from a distance of more than six feet. We’ve asked past contributors to write updates once a week through August. Perhaps there will be a canceled cancellation? A job offer for recent graduates? Reflections on isolation, and humility? A V-shaped economic recovery? A vaccine breakthrough ? A socially distanced love connection? Our coverage of the human curve of COVID-19 will continue.

As of today, there is no coherent plan to end our hiatus from campus. East coast Governors’ new normal includes plenty of speculation about flattened curves if we all follow the rules. That’s a big if. (Daily there are reports of buckheads flipping the bird to their fellow man, some of them carrying assault weapons. Yikes.)

Lastly, a tip of the hat to the CCSU administration for their steady flow of updates. They’re working to bring learning back to New Britain. But if classes start online in the fall, the Notebook will continue documenting a world and student body on hiatus, trying to negotiate the new normal of 21st century life.

Be well. Be safe. Be curious.

May 21 — Saba Algozy, CCSU Student

Days off Campus: 71

US Infections: 1,552,594; Deaths 93,471 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 39,208; Deaths 3582

Trending: Unemployment Claims Surge

Dept. of Meanwhile: The Artist Project at Met

“I feel like my chest is being clenched. I feel dizzy and I can’t breathe,” my mother says. My mind fumbles, not knowing what to do with my sick parent during a pandemic. I hesitate, seeing her pain, and deciding we have no choice but to head to the ER.

I grab her jacket and put it over her gown, then adding her scarf, gloves, socks, and shoes. What happens if they will only take COVID-19 patients? The thought poisons my mind, but I say nothing. My hands shake as I run back to the room to take her medical cards from the drawer, put them in her purse, and  strap it across my chest. I click for an Uber on my phone.

“Looking for a driver nearby,” the app says.

“Is it here yet?” My mother asks, discomfort growing on her face. What if there are no Ubers? How am I supposed to get my mom to the hospital?

“Connected. Maria will be at your location in 15 minutes,” the app says.

As we wait in the kitchen, my mother moves rocks back and forth in her chair. I don’t know who is shaking more, me from my nervousness or my mother from her pain. The Uber driver finally arrives; a nice lady with a clean black car, a mask on her face, and gloves. My mother and I wear gloves but no masks, so we cover our faces with our scarves.

Approaching the emergency room I can see from outside, nobody is in there. Usually the hospital is crowded, but not a single patient is in the waiting room. There are precaution signs everywhere: “Wear a Mask,” “Cover Your Cough,” “Wear Gloves,” and “No Visitors Allowed.” I see a nurse, a security guard, and a receptionist in front of the entrance, all wearing masks, protective glasses, and gloves.

“My mother is in pain right now. She’s having chest pain, trouble breathing–”

Before I can finish my sentence, the nurse says, “Let me check both your temperatures.” She runs the thermometer across my forehead, then does the same for my mother. No fevers. “Any coughing or travel outside the country?”


“Okay, you can leave and your mother can be checked in.”

“Why do I have to leave? I need to be with her to translate for her; I am always with her.”

“Because of the Corona there are no visitors allowed, only patients can be inside. You can help her get registered and speak to the triage nurse but then you have to leave.”

“Can’t I at least wait here if anything happens?”

“No, you have to leave after. Sorry.”

“So what am I supposed to do? I can’t leave her.”

“Wait in your car!” the security guard shouts at me, interrupting our conversation.

”We don’t have a car.” I respond to him.

“What are they saying?” My mother asks. I translate the conversation to her in Arabic and she is clearly worried. “But what if I need you?”

“I will tell everything to the nurse, and you can call me if you need me.” I hand her the cell phone and her medical cards.

The receptionist wraps a band around my mother’s wrist. I walk with them with the triage nurse. The hospital seems empty; I don’t see any patients, just a few nurses and a doctor.

I walk up to my mother. “Call me if anything happens, I will wait outside.” I make my way out to the main entrance and see the nurse, security guard, and receptionist again. “So can I at least wait in front of the door outside?”

“You have to go all the way to the street.”

“The street?”

“Yes, you can’t wait outside the entrance.”

I shake my head and proceed to walk out. “How long will it take?”

“I don’t know.”

I walk up to the street with my cell phone in hand, and observe a camp of rectangular buildings clearly set up as extra hospital beds for Corona patients. Someone sees me from inside the camp and closes a window. I shiver in the cold despite wearing a coat. I see the city from a distance, with some houses lit up. I don’t feel safe; the streets are empty, and only a few cars are around. I hope the nurse or someone is keeping an eye on me even though it is hard to see me from the emergency entrance. I finally get a call from my mother. She tells me in Arabic that the doctor is there.

“Hello?” the nurse and doctor introduce themselves, and I tell them the exact same story for the third time. “Okay we will run some blood tests and chest x-rays. We will give her pain medication.”

“How long will all of this take?”

”A couple of hours.”

I thank the doctor and nurse, deciding I should Uber home at 3:00 a.m. As I see the car lights approach me, I call my mother.

“Hey mom.”

“You’re not asleep yet?”

“What? No. I am still getting in the Uber right now…”

“You didn’t go home yet?”


“You’ve been outside this whole time?”

“There were no drivers until now.”

“Okay, I’ll call you later since the Uber came.”

“No stay with me on the phone.” It’s funny how my mother is ill in a hospital bed, but I am making her stay with me on the phone because I am scared. I get into the Uber; the driver isn’t wearing a mask or gloves. My mother is still on the line with me. We speak in Arabic now, each understanding the other.

May 17 — Kristin Lenz, Dispatch from Michigan

Days off Campus: 67

US Infections: 1,497,244; Deaths 89,420 (John Hopkins)

MI Infections: 50,504; Deaths 4880

Trending: Obama Speaks for Commencement

Sunday Morning Song: The Soldier and the Oak

My daughter is a hugger. People, animals, or trees. She’s been a snuggler since she was a little kid, and this hasn’t changed now that she’s a high school senior. Somehow we skipped over the surly stage of adolescence. Sure, she has her ups and downs; she spends plenty of time in her room, but I know she needs her space. Especially now when it’s the three of us at home all day, every day. 

She politely declines my offers for walks together, opting for solo bike rides instead. She puts her phone away if I join her for lunch, but I know she’d rather watch one of her shows. Her favorite time is midnight when she can sing and dance around the empty house while we sleep. Yet, she shuffles out of her room in the mornings and greets me with a hug. She slips into my office and rests her head on my shoulder after her frustrating AP French Zoom sessions. She glides into the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner and wraps her arms around me from behind. 

Last Fall, she was determined to stretch herself and make the most of senior year. She performed in the school musical, protested with the environmental club, traveled to New York with dance classmates, and applied to out-of-state universities. She was gone more than she was home, and we started to get a feel for what life would be like when she left for college. Then with one swift strike, the pandemic knocked school, sports, and her social life off the table. Special senior year milestones have disappeared, her summer job is questionable, and college on campus in the Fall remains uncertain.

She should be with friends now. Her theater friends who drape arms over shoulders, lounging and laughing. Her dance friends who sweep each other off their feet. Her soccer friends who huddle for support and slap sweaty high fives. 

Hugs to congratulate.

Hugs to console.

Research has shown that people thrive with human touch, that hugs reduce our stress response and actually boost immunity. How ironic that this virus has interrupted our innate ability to protect and heal ourselves.

Yesterday evening, my daughter climbed into my bed and asked about the book I was reading. She nestled into my shoulder and asked questions about politics, healthcare, and inequality; questions about death and why Detroit has been hit so tragically hard with COVID-19. We wrapped our arms around each other and squeezed.

We talked about college and living on campus at her chosen school, the University of Vermont, a ten-hour-drive from home. Our dog jumped up on the bed and she scooped him into her arms. Then she asked,

“What if my college roommate isn’t a hugger?”

May 16Andrew Jacobs, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 66

US Infections: 1,445,867; Deaths 87,643 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 36,085; Deaths 3285

Trending: J.C. Penny Files for Bankruptcy

Saturday Dance Party: Uptown Funk


As I toiled with ten gallons

of my customer’s pandemic project,

I considered how easily denotations

can change as past begets present.

This may simply be a moot point,

until you understand that the adjective

moot should mean debatable,

rather than lacking significance.

And so, I used much of my time to peruse

through original word use, knowing

all the while that peruse is technically

to read or examine closely, not casually.

Bemused, I wondered at how biweekly

can mean every two weeks, or twice a week;

how flammable means inflammable;

how facetious is not quite sarcastic.

Has my research begged a question?

No, because it’s not trying to prove anything

based on unproved premises. For me,

though, it has raised a question.

What the f–– does essential mean?

In this case it should mean absolutely

necessary, indispensably requisite,

though house paint doesn’t seem so.

Presumptive, I had thought I was

non-essential, and that was presumptuous.

In essence, the non-essential can still be

essentially essential. I just want to go home.

May 15 — Karen A. Ritzenhoff, CCSU Professor

Days off Campus: 65

US Infections: 1,419,998; Deaths 85,974; Tested 10,341,775 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 35,464; Deaths 3219

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,685.42, +60.08 (+0.25%)

Trending: Right and Wrong Way to Reopen USA

Dept. of Totally Random: First Genome Analysis Chart Early Man

Dead mice; they smell horrible. That vile stench gets under your skin––the scent of something once living, now dead. Warmer weather makes it worse. The rot accelerates. This is disgusting, even if little mice look so cute when they are still alive and rushing across the asphalt on our rural driveway. When I peel them out of the cheap 99 cent mouse trap, their eyes are frozen into a frantic glare. A gaze destroyed by the brutal death sentence of the snapping wire. I have tried different traps. The big black ones where you only see the limp tail sticking out are more “humane.” But they are five times more expensive and I do not want to venture out to a hardware store during a pandemic. I stocked up on the cheap traps before the global health crisis started.

We were paying quarterly for exterminators––aptly named Envirocare because they limit use of harsh chemicals––to come to the house. But I terminated their service two years ago because I thought it was a waste of money, until I discovered that our basement was an amusement park for mice. They were chewing through sweaters, eating the stored cereal boxes, munching on old cookies, leaving droppings and little abandoned nests. The smell was not as intense as when they were dying in the kitchen. Maybe because their bodies would dry up before I found them. I would rather throw out dried up bodies than the freshly killed ones; the ones that smell. 

How will the bodies in New York smell now? The ones that they found in abandoned rental vans outside overburdened funeral homes? The smell must be otherworldly.

Needless to say, Envirocare had to come back. I diligently pay their services from now on. When the burly guy showed up, he brought a shoebox filled with those cheap mousetraps, and a jar of peanut butter. He told me not to touch the dead bodies, but to pick them up with a rubber glove and throw them in the trash. I try not to touch them. Yesterday I took one outside to dispose of it, and it plopped into the woods. I left it there. I hope not to step on any later, that the bodies will be claimed by the wildlife quicker than the next makeshift burial.

The way we die and are buried has gained a new significance lately. How do we decide who deserves a proper funeral and who doesn’t? This question was unimaginable three months ago. Some patients who succumb to the virus are not getting their own coffin, urn, or proper funeral. In the Amazon Rainforest there are mass graves, and misery.

In Covid-19 isolation units, in hospital across the country, Americans are dying alone, unable to breathe, with no family to comfort them. Then they’re gone.

May 14 — Cecilia Gigliotti, Dispatch from Germany

Home Office Day: 64

Germany Infections: 174,098; Deaths 7,861

German Stock Exchange: IND 10,420.28 EUR (-122.38, -1.16%)

Trending: Restaurants and cafés to reopen May 15

Dept. Of Entertainment: Netflix’s ‘Hollywood’ is oversimplified–and enjoyable

The roommate arrived just after 3 a.m. on Saturday, a dog in tow, adopted from the shelter outside Lisbon where she’d spent most of the past two-and-a-half-months. “It was the best lockdown ever,” she told me in the morning, dedicating herself to the group who cared for the animals. She cried on the flight home. The dog, Maxie, is gentle, lean, with big brown eyes, never socialized in an urban environment. In these few days he has taken his first excursions on the metro, through the city parks. I wonder if it all makes him nervous.

For my part, I watched the impressive cleanliness into which I’d scrubbed the flat give way over a matter of twelve hours to the disarray of the return of the mistress of the house. But I was already glad to have someone around again; another voice, a presence to rescue me from my own. Even if hers is mostly directed at Maxie, while she self-quarantines after travel and adjusts him to his new home.

Elsewhere people are talking to themselves. Not that I imagine they weren’t before all this—I can’t have been the only one—but it’s spilled out onto the street, into the public sphere, or what used to be the public sphere. Now I can hear them. A couple nights ago on a trip to and from the corner store, I was faced with a young man muttering to himself, and an older, scruffier man ranting to whomever happened to glance his way. We are still together, and we are still alone. I’m not convinced we know the difference anymore. I’m not convinced there is one.

There’s a particularly brilliant streetlamp toward the end of Emdener Straße: it casts a halo of white light on the cobblestoned stretch beneath it; almost asking for a pensive character to step in for a soliloquy or a solo dance number. Like much of life these days, it bears an air of romance which ultimately rings false. Besides, with monologues delivered left and right and seemingly at random, who can tell whose story this is?

May 13Conor Breen, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 63

US Infections: 1,370,460; Deaths 82,391; Tested 9,637,930 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 34,333; Deaths 3,041

Trending: Cal State Goes Online Fall 2020

Indie Music Distraction: Mac DeMarco, Chamber of Reflection

Working at a grocery store, I knew that I was at a higher risk of getting COVID-19. But like other twenty six year old’s, I thought I was invincible. All that changed on the evening of April 20. I felt a little under the weather. I knew that my boss hadn’t been feeling his best the last time I saw him, so I decided that the best course of action was to start self-isolating to make sure that, if this was COVID-19, the rest of my family would be safe. 

By the time I had an appointment with my doctor on April 23, I had developed a cough, fever, chills, and it was hard to take a deep breath. My doctor told me that we had to assume that I had COVID-19, and that he would mail me a prescription for a test. In the meantime, I isolated in my bedroom. As much as I like being in my room, after four days of isolation I was already running out of things that I wanted to watch, and not knowing when I would be able to leave only added to the anxiety.

On Sunday, April 26, I woke up exhausted. There was a bird outside my window, and its constant chirping was really starting to get to me. I figured if I got up and took a shower, by the time I got back maybe it would have flown to the next tree to annoy my neighbors. When I was in the shower, I felt strange, so I got out and sat down. The next thing I know I’m splayed out on the floor of the bathroom, and my brother is yelling through the door: “Can you hear me? Are you okay?” When I finally realized what was going on and I was able to stumble back to my room, that damn bird was still there. 

I finally got a test on Wednesday, April 29. My mom’s friend who had already recovered from COVID-19 offered to drive me to the drive-through facility in Middletown—and man, they really stick that Q-tip way up your nose. The nurse warned me it would be uncomfortable, but I was completely unprepared. I imagined I was a dead Egyptian Pharaoh and they were trying to pull my brain out through my nose. 

Within 24 hours of getting a Q-tip shoved up my nose, I was already starting to feel better. My fever, which had topped out at 103.6 degrees Fahrenheit, had finally subsided, and I was able to get more than a couple hours of sleep. By Friday when my doctor called to give me my positive result, I was starting to get back to my old self. No more passing out in the bathroom after a shower, or coughing up who knows what; just regular old me. 

Looking back two weeks later, it’s hard to really remember what actually happened. Barely sleeping for two weeks while your temperature hovers from 99.5 to 103.6 degrees Fahrenheit makes for a strange time. I remember waking up at 2:00 a.m. and just sitting on the edge of my bed wondering if and when I was going to start feeling better. I wanted so badly to go downstairs and see my family, but I knew that I couldn’t. 

Not being able to see the people who were within shouting distance was a strange and uncomfortable feeling that only made me feel like I was ten miles away. I was the sickest I had ever been, and I was fighting it alone. I was scared because I didn’t know when it was going to be over, and lonely because I hadn’t seen another person in two weeks. There was nothing I could do but just sit and wait for it to end. 

May 12 Aimee Pozorski, CCSU Professor

Days off Campus: 62

US Infections: 1,351,248; Deaths 80,897; Tested 9,382,235 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 32,984; Deaths 2,932

Trending Local News: Complete Sheet Metal Expanding in Berlin

Dept. of Reading: Pulitzer Prize Committee Has Recommendations

“Can you believe this is really happening?,” my doctor asked me the day before campus closed for good. If it were any other appointment on any other day that week, you would have thought she was referring to COVID-19. In fact, with a chart in hand, my gynecologist had just confirmed what I had intuited for the past several months: That the absence of my period in the last year meant conclusively that my reproductive life was over. Could I believe it? Of course I could. I had been looking for a way to explain why I wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, forever anxious, or even a little fuzzy in my head.

In any other context in March of 2020, those symptoms—the heat and sweat indicating a fever, anxiety that feels like a boot on your chest, a brain flooded with hormones—could have been interpreted as symptoms of the Coronavirus. Now I wake up feeling fevered and think to myself, “Oh, good.  It’s just menopause.” 

I was away at college when my mom experienced her changes. But I remember Grandma Pozorski’s well. She was very dramatic about her hot flashes—removing layers of clothing one by one while my grandfather looked on affectionately. Every Friday during the summer we visited Ruth at the hair salon. Ruth would wash Grandma’s hair and dye it a magnificent chestnut color, then pin it into an upsweep worthy of Hollywood. When Grandma sat under the turquoise blue dryer, Ruth talked to me about makeup and my own hair—a chestnut color like Grandma’s new dye. Often when we got home, Grandma would change into a housecoat with matching slippers.

Now, in Coronavirus times, I will not have the opportunity to visit a hair salon to cover up my changing hair. I now have a thick streak of silver running down the right side of my head. I like to think it marks a superpower, like Storm’s. What are my superpowers? Clarity of mind, patience, an internal monologue that drafts full poems and essays while I sleep. Like Grandma, I now spend most of the day in what she might call a housecoat. With nowhere to go and no one to see, I also wear slippers most of the time.

But I never thought about myself as “old” the way I started to think about my grandma after menopause. When I look in the mirror, I still see the sixteen-year-old I was when Grandma asked me about boys. When I tell my friends that my reproductive life is over they say, “No, but Aimee: It is too soon. You are so young.” I repeat that to my doctor who says that yes, I am young, but it is not too soon. I have to admit that it feels soon. I continue to hear accusatory words or phrases like, “selfish” and “strange,” and “such a waste”—things people would utter to my face and behind my back when I told them I planned only to have one child.

And now when I turn on the news, I hear conservative politicians talking about the aged among us: people we can “afford” to lose, who can sacrifice their lives for the economy because their work already has been done. I am one of those people now—disposable.

I have heard about the freedom one feels when all of it goes away—the raging hormones that can lead to anger and tears; I have heard about the promise of going anywhere at any time dressed any way you want. But that time is not now. I have nowhere to go. I feel as though I am trapped between two worlds, as Matthew Arnold once said: “one dead, the other powerless to be born.”

But mostly I miss my friends: Carrie, Katti, Candace, Kat, Heidi, Jen, Fiona—the circle of women I built around me when my son was an infant and I started my work at Central. We offered support for each other during coffees, hikes, lunches, concerts, plays, dinners, wine—lots of wine—and laughing, and some crying, too.  We talked each other through breastfeeding, promotion, miscarriages, tenure, the terrible twos, committees, the teen years and . . . I guess I thought I would have them here for me now, too: To tell me that I am okay, that I am better than okay, even though I am not what I once was. I wonder if they wake up, flushed, thinking it is a fever but then realize it is “only” menopause. I wonder what they will say when they see that my hair is silver now, and how they will welcome my future self, even as I look to the past.

May 10 — Mary Ann Nunn, CCSU Professor

Days off Campus: 60

US Infections: 1,309,541; Deaths 78,794; Tested 8,709,630 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 32,984; Deaths 2,932

Graduation Season: Virtual Ceremony from SNL

Annals of Mother’s Day Music: Flowers for Mama by George Jones

The pulse oximeter arrived much more quickly than Amazon promised. It weighs so little that in this pretty typical (if overly-book-stuffed) suburban home, we have no device capable of weighing it. It runs on equally tiny batteries. If you clip it onto your finger, it tells you the level of oxygen saturation in your blood. Another piece of technology I cannot comprehend.

Born just past the middle of the last century, landline telephones still tease me out of thought. All the way back in a prior national crisis, one of my graduate students found she was pregnant 4 days after her National Guard husband had set off with his unit to Fallujah, where they ran and guarded a fuel depot. Separated by the Atlantic ocean from her other family, we became surrogates of a sort for her at this difficult time. The time did indeed become acutely difficult, however, because the unit her husband commanded was the one that featured in a scam perpetrated by a stateside husband. Wishing to pursue an affair while his wife was deployed, he manufactured the news that the fuel depot had been struck by enemy bombs and his wife had perished. He did not, apparently, gauge very well how electrifying that fake news would be, as it quickly went national. As it hit, my student was in a hospital, standing by as a birth coach for another army wife whose husband was deployed. Unable to call him herself, she called me and asked me to call her husband in Iraq to see if he was alright.

I had step-by-step instructions. At one point “a little man would come on the line and speak in Arabic.” I was told to ignore him. I was told the likelihood was very high that I wouldn’t get through. Truth be told, I cravenly hoped that this would prove to be the case. But, following each step carefully, sitting in the living room of a Cape Cod only a few years older than I, on a day that included nothing more critical than this phone call, I managed to wake a young man I had never met at 2:00 a.m. his time, in a tent in Iraq when his cellphone (I won’t even go there…) pipped. The first moments were, to say the least, surreal for both of us. Of course, the fact that he answered was first and foremost—and as he shook off the confusion of interrupted sleep (that he needed), he said, no—no explosions. 

The ensuing conversation was among the oddest moments I’ve spent in my life, but I was able to give him news that his friend’s wife was in labor, that his own wife was safe and well and that we were watching over her, that he was missed and prayed for, and that I hoped he’d get back to sleep. As I hung up, the enormity of that call hit, and indeed I have yet to process it. (It also occurred to me, given the eyes around us, that a call to a war zone from a quiet suburban home was almost certainly noted somewhere, and it still gives me some satisfaction to know that whoever was set to watch as a result has been pretty bored for all these years).

Blessedly, the pulse oximeter was purchased as a hedge against an eventuality we sincerely trust will never manifest. I don’t understand it, but then again this Notebook post clearly reveals that there is so much that I don’t understand it is perhaps hardly worth mentioning my puzzlement at this newly purchased Lilliputian device. Based on past experience I do expect to look back on these confounding days still confounded, but I thank my human calibration device (which I also don’t understand) for helping me persist despite confound-itude. 

May 7 — Carl Stuckey, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 57

US Infections: 1,231,943; Deaths 75,573; Tested 7,759,771 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 30,995; Deaths 2,718

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,875.89, +211.25 (+0.89%)

Economic Pogo Stick: Oil Prices Rebound

Dept. of Financial Aid: Student Loan Forgiveness

As a student and writer I find myself in a mental purgatory, or, better yet, a stagnant, stifled, and vexed state of mind. There’s not much to do other than talk to family and friends also stuck in quarantine. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. But after six weeks there’s a lot to be said about not being able to sit down at a restaurant and enjoy the atmosphere, whether it be the actual scenery, the food, or close company. In a quest for new outlets to clear my head, I have found myself frequenting the state parks with my camera.

Park: Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden, Connecticut

I arrived around noon with my friend Heather, her dog Stormi. and my dog Jewel. The sky above was clear as we stood at the misleading base of the mountain; it seemed easy enough. Little did we know this was just the beginning of our long walk. But what else was there to do? We were intrigued by this new environment and so were our dogs.

At this point we were about a quarter of the way through the trail. I’d been snapping away, turning my friend and our dogs into my subjects. This had been one of the nicest days of the year thus far, and the environment was practically begging my camera to capture its glory.

Some things in life only come around at a certain point in time. At this point we were about a third of the way through the trail, and I found this gem. I took a series of pictures, but this one was my favorite; it appeals to my senses. On first glance there are many things to pay attention to, from imagining the texture to understanding its complexity. What really makes the image stand out are the lighting and shadows, not to mention the contrast in colors.

This picture was snapped just around at the halfway point. At this stage in the trail, you could actually see people at the top, and even a man rock climbing. Behind the beautiful view an important question loomed: How are we going to get up there? The trail had been easy so far, but Heather and I both had this premonition that it was about to get difficult rather quickly…

…and it did! Neither us nor our dogs expected this steep, rocky climb. We were challenged by this grueling task, but we completed it. I remember mustering up all my ambition to do this because amid this quarantine, somewhere along the way, I lost my motivation. When we reached the top the feeling was incredible.

Though incredible isn’t the word to describe being at the peak, it was surreal. I snapped many photos, but for this blog I will end with this. To look back down at where you came from and see the people going on the same path, it allows you to draw a parallel. We all walk along the same road and go through our own individual battles, but with determination and strength you can get to where you want to be.

May 5 — Conor Breen, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 55

US Infections: 1,181,885; Deaths 69,079; Tested 7,285,178 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 29,973; Deaths 2,556

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,128.82, +379.06 (+1.60%)

Where’s the Beef?: Wendy’s Burger Shortages

For The Love of Any Game: Korean Baseball Returns Minus Fans

“Get a real job!” It’s one of the many nice things that people would yell at my coworkers and myself while crossing the picket line to get that bag of chips. That was April 2019. It was strange because even though we were on strike, we did have real jobs. We were all real people, who up until April 11 at 1:15 p.m., had been doing real work stocking, bagging, baking, cutting, cooking, and supplying food for our community. And it wasn’t just us: thousands of other grocery store workers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were on strike as well. 

Our anxiety levels were through the roof and we didn’t know when it was going to end, if at all. With continuing reports that union leadership and store executives were making little to no progress in their negotiations, it seemed like it was going to get much worse before it was going to get any better. And we were bracing for the worst. 

For the most part, people stayed away during the strike. The parking lot of the store I work at in Colchester, Connecticut, is usually packed, but it was a ghost town. However, when people did come to the store, they weren’t happy to see a group of store strikers wearing big, laminated signs that read “WE’RE ON STRIKE” in big red letters, like we were warning that the end is near. Some of them made sure that we knew it, but we stood our ground and a compromise was reached.

This year, we’re all feeling a similar feeling with the looming threat of COVID-19 and the effects it’s starting to have across the globe. Grocery stores around the country have been marked as essential businesses, so when most people are being told to stay home, we have to keep going to work to make sure that people have food to eat. All of a sudden, those people who were telling us to suck it up because we weren’t really that important are changing their tune. Every day, people come up to me and thank me for what I’m doing (from six feet away of course). 

To be quite honest, I never thought that putting ricotta, butter, and juice on the shelf was anything to be thanked for, but this pandemic is really starting to show just how essential some people are. It’s funny how things can change so quickly. Last April we were lazy, unimportant workers who should get a real job, but this April we’re essential workers who are more important than ever. Who knows what we’ll be next April?

May 3 — Careen Waterman, CCSU Administrative Coordinator

Days off Campus: 53

US Infections: 1,134,058; Deaths 66,415; Tested 6,816,347 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 29,287; Deaths 2,436

Trending: Widening Racial Wealth Gap

Flowers Feed the Soul: Garden Tips and Advice

Sunday with Yo-Yo Ma: Bach Cello Suite No. 1 – Prelude

I miss dancing the most; ballroom dancing, Salsa, and bachata dancing. As someone who lives alone, this is what gets me down. It is key to my mental and physical health.

Dancing is about so much. It’s exercise and expression, it’s feeling. It’s a human connection. The energy created when two people dance together can be magical. Dancing makes me feel free.  I can be sassy, sensual, playful, strong, or poised and elegant.  I feel the most like my true self––the self no one sees in my day-to-day life. 

I dance and practice in my living room. “One, two, three, cha-cha-cha!,” I say to myself. Some nights I do a group class on Zoom with my dance studio. It’s not the same, but it’s nice to see the faces of all my dance friends, another extended family of mine. I got a little teary when I said goodbye to them last week. I didn’t want to click “leave meeting” at the end of our session.

My dance teachers call to check on me. They know I live alone. We chat about my dance goals for when I return to the studio, but we also talk about cocktails we like to drink and how we spend our time on the weekends now that life is so different. Laundry and cooking––nothing too exciting, of course. One of my teachers has issued me a Tik Tok challenge. Am I too old for that? Is it too silly? I decided, who cares.  My teacher thought this would be fun for me, so I’ll try. “I’m a savage. Classy. Bougie. Ratchet,” sings Megan Thee Stallion. It’s hard! There are so many moves, but YouTube is my friend and I’m moving along.

My friends and I keep talking about when we’ll be able to go salsa dancing again.  We miss our fun nights out and human connection. It seems so far away right now. So while we wait, I’ll just keep “Dancing on My Own.”

May 2 — Jillian Maynard, CCSU Librarian

Days off Campus: 52

US Infections: 1,104,161; Deaths 65,068; Tested 6,551,810 (John Hopkins)

CT Infections: 28,764; Deaths 2,339

Trending: Fourth Press Secretary Makes a Promise

Today’s Your Birthday: It’s My Birthday Too Yeah

My son turns two today. It was going to be a Sesame Street-themed party. Our biggest concern was how many guests we could invite given the size of our house. What a non-issue. The weather is almost mocking. It’s going to be a spectacular, sunny day, perfect for a party that will now be a drive-by “parade” and a family Zoom meeting to blow out candles on a cake that only the birthday boy, my husband, and I will get to eat. My heart aches. My precious, sweet, perfect little boy does not understand that it’s his birthday, most likely. But what does he understand about why––on the rare occasions people “come over” to hang out in the front yard––his family backs away from him if he comes too close? The people that gave endless hugs and showered him with kisses now can’t. They have a foreign panic about them, giving a nervous laugh and backing up as I chase my boy around to steer him in another direction. What does this feel like for him? What does he think about the fact that he used to go to daycare down the street every day or play with his friends, now just blowing kisses to Theresa’s house as we rush by? How does he feel when the stress manifests on mine and my husband’s faces as we try to do our work while also feeling incredibly guilty for sticking him in front of Coco for the 126th time that day?

My new mantra attempts to recognize the “silver linings,” and I repeat them constantly: we can work from home, we are still getting paid, we are safe, we get to be together, he’s not in school yet. Yet today I’m miserable. Is this grief? Is it okay to grieve despite our many privileges? I feel the constant pain of anxiety in my chest lately (which of course then creates a whole new set of worries in my head––is that pain the virus taking hold in my lungs? I should take my temp again, just in case).

It’s probably the rainy gloom doing this to me, or because I can’t go outside with my son and bask in the sunshine on nicer days. It’s probably because his birthday will be so different from what we had imagined. It’s probably because my baby has gone so many weeks now without being around his extended family, without their hugs and kisses, family dinners, and playing with cousins. It’s probably a lot of things.

May 1 — Cecilia Gigliotti, Dispatch from Germany

Days off Campus: 51

Germany Infections: 164,077; Deaths 6,736

German Stock Exchange: 10,861.64 EUR (-246.10, -2.22%)

Trending: KaDeWe and Karstadt may Reopen Stores

Dept. Of Meanwhile: New Berlin Airport Set for Takeoff Nine Years Later

Remembering life as it was even two weeks ago has presented me with a new kind of challenge. Not the events themselves, but the state of mind; it seems entirely faraway and foreign. The afternoon of Friday, April 17, I finished my work early—having edited my half of a two-person, hundred-and-twenty-something-page document—and laid down for a catnap. Across the courtyard the opposite building was bathed in late-afternoon sun, the pale concrete turning a pleasant gold, the rooftop a rusty red. Against the cloudless sky it looked like a Spanish mission. I drowsed in a distinct sense of being just where I was supposed to be.

At the following Monday’s weekly meeting, the CEO of our small startup, appearing washed-out and sickly in a way Zoom could not accomplish alone, announced a sudden round of layoffs. All the economic volatility was affecting our industry and our investors more than anticipated. An hour and a half later I hopped on a brief, clinical video call from which I emerged jobless. Our creative teams had suffered terrible losses, and to stave off the rising panic I huddled with my fellow exiles in an ongoing Facebook chat.

That week subjected me to multiple stages of grief, often simultaneous, often nonlinear. I spent uninterrupted stretches of hours on the phone with family and friends, pondered the many questions I had for my former superiors that I knew would never be answered satisfactorily, and tried to piece together a plan to forge ahead. For my last venture to the office (to sign severance papers) I wore a black dress and red lipstick, aware that a curtain call demanded a costume. It all seemed staged: the sky, again cloudless, the empty brick expanse I crossed to reach the street of my ex-workplace–as if the eyes of the world were upon me, waiting for one false step. A man even trailed me out of the metro, waving a camera, saying I was beautiful and could he take my photograph? I felt like a disgraced queen, like a strange pseudo-German Marie Antoinette. I could hardly respond with a complete sentence: “Dankeschön, aber.” Thank you, but.

Since then the jilted, jolted sensation has faded, although the control has not returned. My priorities are rearranged, my efforts redirected toward freelance work and attendant visa alterations. Everything that can go wrong will, and, by this point in the human race, arguably has. Still, whatever twisted production we’re staging, it must—and does—go on. It’s long-running, and it’s all we’ve got. One of the first friends I made on the job, who survived the cuts, tells me Berlin isn’t finished with me yet. I’ll do everything in my power to prove her right.

April 30 — Steven Ostrowski, CCSU Professor

Days off Campus: 50

US Infections: 1,040,488; Deaths: 60,999; Total Tested: 6,026,170 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 26,767; Deaths 2168

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,345.72, -288.14 (-1.17%)

Trending: Rising Unemployment Claims

Wordplay: Take Merrian-Webster Vocab Quiz

Dept. of Home Art Curation: Take the Getty Challenge

You are home alone these days because your wife had to fly to Florida to be with her elderly mother who has just been hospitalized—not with the virus, and thankfully not with anything that will turn out to be too serious. When you’ve been part of a couple forever, it’s weird being alone, especially now. Fortunately, there are many things to be done today.

For one, your students await feedback on their lesson plans and long poems. You take your students’ work seriously always, but these days you take it extra seriously, spend more time with each piece. Being something of a luddite, you’ve only had a few online meetings with your classes; mostly you email them assignments, make them due in a few days, and respond to them by printing out the work, writing comments all over, and sending back pictures of the comments. Responding will take up a good part of today.

But you can’t respond to papers all day, so you go on Facebook and try to resist posting or reposting political diatribes. Because you are FB friends with many of your high school friends, most of whom support Trump, you find yourself in arguments that always go nowhere, but usually end with, “Have a great day. Stay safe.” Sometimes you abandon your own posts immediately after posting, only to discover later in the day that a thread is three miles long and that your various politically-divided friends are threatening to do bodily harm to one another. You feel a little sickened. You delete the post. You wonder if you will ever learn.

Needing solace, you walk into the corner of the living room where your guitar rests on its stand, and you play songs that are either fifty years old or that you yourself have written over the years. You sometimes post your own songs on FB and YouTube. If you depended on more than a few people listening to them, you would certainly have given up posting them a long time ago. No, you do it because it’s a harmless fantasy. If you ever had expectations that someone would say, “That’s a great song!” or “Somebody should record that!”, such expectations are long gone. You post them and nobody gets hurt—not even the ten folks who do actually listen.

Putting down the guitar, you climb up the stairs to your converted painting studio and gaze at the two or three unfinished paintings you’re currently working on. You choose the less promising one, put it up on the easel, and proceed to cover 80 percent of it with black paint, leaving only the six-inch squared section with the swirly yellow and blue hieroglyphs that still look interesting. You start again, let your hands do the work, and keep your brain out of it. And by God, after an hour’s work, the painting looks rather wild, like some heretofore undiscovered language written in hybrid color and bizarre shapes. You’ll keep it… for now. 

Time to get out of the house. During a long, solitary walk in the woods, you are struck by the thought that here, in this untamed place, you are a guest of the trees and the boulders and the laurel bushes and the little streams. They are all most gracious in inviting you to look about, to listen, to take everything in, to wander and to wonder. The natural quiet here is positively orchestral.

You could easily overstay your welcome in the woods, but after an hour you wander back home. You’re anxious to call your wife, to ask about her parents, and about how she’s faring in Florida. Then you’ll tell her about your day, about how, despite these strange circumstances, it was actually pretty sweet.

April 29 — Sam Elderkin, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 49

US Infections: 1,014,568; Deaths: 58,471; Total Tested: 5,795,728 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 25,997; Deaths 2012

Dow Jones Industrial Average: Dow Futures: 24,460.00, -106.00 (-0.43%)

Trending: California’s Reopening Plan

Dept. of Total Random: Britney Spears’ Back Catalogue Re-examined

After 47 days off campus I have cut my hair, dyed it neon yellow and orange at the root, and slit one of my eyebrows only to dye it neon orange. That was my attempt at self-care during a time when the world is overwhelmingly loud. 

The news is rife with constant idiocy and rising death tolls, The calls of punk revolution that I usually fight for have overwhelmed me. I go to bed at 7 p.m. when I can, just to get a smidge of quiet.

I drink two Venti cold brew concentrates every day, close to 1500 mg of caffeine before noon, waiting for the day I can go back to work and have my name and pronouns used again. It’s shocking how much I miss the chaos of barista life, but maybe the sound of my deadname has just ripped me to shreds. Even when a customer screams at me, at least they say Sam.

I take almost all of my WebEx classes outside now, trying to pretend like all of those days I silently pleaded for class in the sun finally came true. Some days it keeps me sane, some days I zone out staring at an ant crawling across my leg. Then I think about how ants are probably living the life right now. Less humans stepping on them, less children kicking over their hills, oh to be an ant.

The piles of homework have gradually become a mountain and I have no idea where to start. In a desperate grasp for structure, I’ve started making a to-do list every day. Today’s has eight assignments and a shift at work on it. I’ll be lucky if I cross two things out before my brain leaves all responsibilities behind, wandering to a space that I should be writing about. Instead, I end up writing a story about being boiled alive in a witch’s stew because I would rather be in a witch’s stew than live in a world where I need Jeff Bezos.

I ordered six books off Amazon to add to my four-hundred-book collection that I desperately try to hide from my classmates. I realized I had twenty pages of creative writing, four book reviews, and three final papers to write within the next two weeks. But maybe a five-hundred-page 1920’s spiritual horror novel with LGBTQ+ and POC representation will make those papers easier. Maybe Libba Bray will be my inspiration to keep going, do my homework, and figure out how to start freelance writing. 

I don’t know if it’s the Senioritis that’s killing my motivation or the idea that I’ll never get to see the professors that have kept me going in person again. But I miss their offices, the smell of coffee, and too many books. I didn’t realize how much CCSU’s English department had given me, and I miss them more than I could ever put on the page.

April 28 — Alixandrea Tremont, Former Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 48

US Infections: 989,357; Deaths: 56,386; Total Tested: 5,593,495 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 25,997; Deaths 2012

Dow Jones Industrial Average: Dow 30: 24,101.55, -32.23 (-0.13%)

Trending: Job or Health? Restarting the Economy

Dept. of Meanwhile: Virtual Musical Theatre

Calling all Twi-hards, new or old: now is our time to shine. What better time to binge all five Twilight movies or reread Stephenie Meyer’s iconic series than in quarantine, with literally nothing else to do? Reminisce on a simpler time when our only worry was choosing between Edward or Jacob (Team Edward, always) and how weird the CGI baby looked in Breaking Dawn: Part 2 (very creepy). Relive the golden age of tween cinema from the comfort of your own home, where no one can judge you for obsessing over the vampire vs. werewolf dilemma in the year 2020. Post your unpopular opinions all over Twitter (see above: Team Edward or Team Jacob) for the world to see, and watch everyone argue endlessly. This quarantine marks the beginning of a much needed Twilight renaissance, one that will either make or break us as a society. Only time will tell. For now, kick back and watch each movie on repeat until you physically cannot stand to look at Kristen Stewart’s blank face or Robert Pattinson’s semi-constipated expression any longer, safe in the knowledge no one will judge you for your questionable taste in movies.

April 26 — James Austin, CCSU Professor

Days off Campus: 46

US Infections: 941,628; Deaths: 54,024; Total Tested: 5,184,635 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 24,582; Deaths 1862

New Yorker Funnies: Caption Contest

Pop Song Distraction: “Sunday Papers” by Joe Jackson

Sunny pandemic days are the best pandemic days. 

My daughter Fiona explores our modest front yard overlooking a busy street. Passersby acknowledge us ruefully from behind masks, scurrying a beat faster than before. Their eyes linger. City bus drivers ferrying commuters from Wethersfield into South Hartford and back again wave and honk their horns as my daughter jumps and waves back. Everybody, it seems, hungers for a moment of socially distanced connection. 

Maybe these are meager bridges back to normalcy.

Earlier she became upset because recess wasn’t happening on the schedule she associated with school. This wasn’t just a first grader’s intolerance: she misses her routine, her burgeoning schoolgirl self. Her eyes were magnified behind glasses, filled with tears. She kept the tears from spilling out, and smoothed her wavering voice. She took deep breaths, calming herself. She swept her upset out of sight and mind. She got herself together. 

She is seven.

I am not religious, but I’m ready to make a pact to help her through this thing. 

Outside now, she is fascinated by the cracks in the sidewalk and the small rocks that emerge from crumbling concrete by the suffering worms abandoned on hot surfaces. We ferry the worms to a shaded, muddy area and watch them make for leafy cover. She follows a single black ant mounting one blade of grass after another. She is wary of the bees, drunk on sunshine.

Fiona cares for the earth with surprising depth. She becomes upset at finding abandoned bottles in parks, along roadsides. She resists the childish urge to tear the worm and smash the ant. She’s better than her old man. When I was a boy, I pulled legs off of daddy longlegs spiders, watched them limp and struggle. They must have been in such pain. I wedged small frogs found in our yard beneath car tires. My parents would unwittingly back over them. I’d loom over their flattened bodies in fascination.

My curious, precocious daughter is absorbed in every detail of this modest yard. I am sitting on the porch, sipping coffee, thinking idly of my last cigarette smoked at a picnic table in Minnesota in 2004. 

I hope my girl is spared from illness—hers, mine, those of family and friends. I have believed since I was a little boy in the power of unstoppable forces, forces that work their will with terrible purpose and indifference. I have been such a force. 

She approaches with a purple and white weed flower, and tucks it thoughtfully behind my ear, smiling in the generous sunlight.

April 25 — Kim Rivera, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 45

US Infections: 905,333; Deaths: 51,949; Total Tested: 4,940,376 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 23,921; Deaths 1764

The World View: Australian Headlines

Dept. of College Finance: “How to Ask a College for More Aid

On a recent, chilly April morning I was riding with my parents to the grocery store. It was eerie, seeing the once busy town reduced to barren greyness. Even on sunny days, the sunshine is dull. Driving through Bloomfield, down Granby Street, we saw an odd huddle of people. They weren’t in one big group, but separated in twos, like Noah’s animals. As I was trying to capture what was going on, I heard my mom gasp “Look!” She pointed out the passenger side window. My jaw slowly fell, my eyebrows furrowed. I pressed my forehead against the window. There was a black cherry casket with white flowers draped over the top and dripping down the edges. My eyes followed the casket to two people standing directly in front. They were dressed in their finest black attire, heads held low. They must have been freezing in the seemingly arctic spring breeze. At the front of the casket, a bald head was elevated by a pristine white pillow. In a bat of an eye we drove past my first outdoor funeral. My mom and I had discussed how funerals may work during this time; we got our answer. I feared that families wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to their loved ones; that these people would be dying alone and in silence, without a hand to hold or brow to kiss. To see the scene for myself was a different feeling. The enormity of our situation set in. This is real.  

April 24 — Marina Capezzone, CCSU Student

Days off Campus: 44

US Infections: 869,172; Deaths: 49,963; Total Tested: 4,692,797 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 23,100; Deaths 1639

Dow Jones Industrial Average: -1% open

Trending: Ramadan Under Lockdown

Dept. of Meanwhile: NFL Draft Goes Online

Audio Postcard

April 23 — Matt Maguda, CCSU Student

Days off Campus: 43

US Infections: 842,624; Deaths: 46,785; Total Tested: 4,482,434 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 22,469; Deaths 1544

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,515.26,+39.44 (+0.17%)

What History Teaches: 1921 Immigration Restriction

Dept. of Coping: Therapist Esther Perel Counsels a Grieving Nation

Outside My Open Window

Bright black light bellows from the night.

Cicadas hum into haze-covered hues



& dripping on pavement

from cirrus clouds.

Stars pinprick the cloud shrouded sky.

Tiny bullet holes of neon spill

over on to glowing grass.

Inside –


behind bars – we watch the horizon unravel.

Hands dig into shattered stone,

uplifting fingernail & bone.


white rubber suits stomp on by,

spraying out the sky.

April 21 — Samuel Sandoval, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 41

US Infections: 787,960; Deaths: 42,364; Total Tested: 4,026,572 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 19,815; Deaths 1331

Dow Jones Industrial Average: -2.25 at open

Trending: U.S. Gov’t “Temporarily Suspends Immigration

Dept. of Automotive Update: Time to Buy a Used Car?

I want to start taking walks through my town; waking up early and taking the scenic routes through neighborhoods hidden in dense bowers and sneaking behind houses to empty parking lots. I haven’t given much thought to time, doing schoolwork from late at night into the sunrise and walking through Meriden, then going to bed at around lunchtime. I don’t know if I’m looking for human interaction or avoiding it. I never thought of the circumstances where I would get to know my classmates and professors by their rooms as superficially as I would get to know them by their attire. I wear sandals now––sandals or moccasins.

Around six-thirty after being up for a few hours, I decide to go on a walk. On my way to the park, I see painted rocks in the grass with “Please Take One” painted on the first rock. I stand at the top of Johnson Avenue, looking over what I can see of Meriden, mute as ever. From here I go to Hubbard Park, where the annual Daffodil Festival is hosted, but this year is, of course, canceled. Castle Craig towers over the defined cliffs and is in clear view from the road I take to Hubbard. There are streams and trails around the park where more people are hiding in athleisure attire and masks. I keep moving through the park, taking photos of the section where tall, bony trees hang over the lawn. But I rush myself at the thought of being watched by a scrutinizing drone. I stand at the many short bridges placed around the park and doze at the rush of the streams. On my way home, I find more rocks with positive messages, chalk art powdering the pavement, yard signs of thank-yous, and passive expressions from neighbor to neighbor.

During class I think about my walk. I’m lucky; I grew up in a town built out of a forest with secret entrances to branches of trails leading from one side of the city to a web of others. I turn up the volume on my laptop, but then I daydream. If William Wordsworth lived today in New York City, in an apartment on the thirteenth floor, he would let his dishes pile up so he could spend his afternoons listening to the running water. I nod my head at the meeting or the thought, and I take notes on my newfound calendar. My routine continues, but now I know what day it is.

April 20 — Victoria Juniet, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days off Campus: 40

US Infections: 760,570; Deaths: 40,690; Total Tested: 3,882,002 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 17,962; Deaths 1127

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,688.58, -553.91 (-2.28%)

Dept. of Semi-Good News: CT Reports Second Day of Decrease in Hospitalizations

Glenn Miller Diversion: Get “In The Mood”

Anyone else’s eyes getting really tired of staring at screens?

You’d think Millennials and Gen Z’ers are used to all this screen time. Sure, we’re glued to our phones, but I’m realizing (and I think others would agree with me) it has NEVER been this much. My first full day of online life following spring break felt rough. After signing off my last video call commitment for the day, I crumbled to my bedroom floor grasping my head as it pounded, screaming at me for putting it through such incessant electronic exposure.

Quarantine life has brought me WebEx classes, Zoom calls with extracurricular club friends, church livestreams, more FaceTime calls than usual. Let’s not forget my everyday social media use, general TV entertainment (Netflix, ABC, Disney Plus, YouTube, etc.), and ALL of my school work online: papers, lectures (when my professors don’t feel up to navigating WebEx), lecture responses, peer editing (#writingminor), and ENDLESS emails.

Almost everything in my life has been replaced by an online equivalent. Don’t get me wrong—I am quite grateful for the ability to keep connected with semi-normal life despite the circumstances, but I’ll be very excited to see people in person once again.

I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for simple things: extra devotion time, taking walks on nice days, going for drives to nowhere in particular, sunsets, time with my parents (who even braved the world of Tik Tok to join me in doing the “Blinding Lights” dance last week), solitaire, singing karaoke by myself in my parked car—and did I mention the gorgeous sunsets?

There are so many people risking their lives right now or living through infinitely more difficult situations in general. I realize I’m blessed to be where I am, and I thank God for everyone out there caring for those of us at home. As you stare into the abyss of a screen that you read this on, keep reaching for the light at the end of the tunnel, even if all we can see right now is the retina-searing pixels before our eyes. There’s a better light ahead.

April 19

Days off Campus: 39

US Infections: 735,366; Deaths: 39,095; Total Tested: 3,723,634 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 17,550; Deaths 1086

Dept. of Public Opinion: Poll on the Lifting of Restrictions

Sunday Diversion: NASA TV

Last night is snowed in Connecticut. Today the temps will rise to nearly 60. The planet continues to mess with its inhabitants. We invite members of the CCSU community to share their stories of adaption in 200-400 word essays. Email you blog submissions to Be safe.

April 18 — Claire Hibbs-Cusson, CCSU English Student

Days off Campus: 38

US Infections: 706,832; Deaths: 37,087; Total Tested: 3,574,392 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 16,809; Deaths 1036

Trending: Michigan Governor Stands Tall

Ghost of Sport Heroes Past: MJ Doc on ESPN

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed collecting some of my favorite things in life. Hummingbirds are a symbol of the strong bond I had with my mother as a child. Recipes… who can have enough recipes? Many of which will live in stacks of cookbooks or online files never to be made. Photographs by the thousands jam up my computer space because I can’t even delete a blurry image of my grandkids. (Uh oh, am I a hoarder?)

But here we are, in the middle of a global crisis, home alone with so much time we can’t even imagine what to do with it all. Here’s a thought: why not make everyone a little more crazy and post a bunch of ridiculous lies about preventing and curing COVID-19? Yeah! And who knows? Maybe one of them will turn out to be true. (I’ll be RRRRRRRRRRRICH!)

OK, so I’ve started a brand new collection… Viral Myths. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. 5G mobile networks cause COVID-19. (So throw away that $1,200 Apple Watch you just bought.)
  1. Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 77o F can prevent COVID-19. (Note to self: move to Aruba.)
  1. If you can hold your breath for 10+ seconds without coughing or feeling discomfort, you don’t have COVID-19 or any other lung disease. (Or you’re a dolphin.)
  1. Drinking alcohol can protect you from contracting COVID-19. (I got this!)
  1. COVID-19 can be transmitted in hot and humid climates. (Wait… what?)
  1. Cold weather and snow kill COVID-19. (Now you’re just messing with me, right?)
  1. Taking a hot bath can prevent COVID-19. (At least do it for your housemates.)
  1. COVID-19 can be transmitted by mosquitoes. (Why doesn’t it kill them?)
  1. Hand dryers can kill the virus. (If you just washed your hands like you’re supposed to, there’s nothing left to kill.)
  1.  Spray alcohol or chlorine all over your body. (You’ll be so sore and itchy you’ll forget why you did that.)

Here’s some good ones: 

  1. Drink industrial strength alcohol. (Hmmm…)
  1. Don’t eat ice cream. (GET REAL!)
  1. Eat garlic. (Support social distancing.)
  1. Cow urine… not sure. Drink it? Bathe in it? (NO! And NO!)
  1. Sanitize your hands with Vodka. (A sinful waste.)
  1. Drinkable silver. (Where on earth would you find that?)

And last, but definitely not least…Don’t eat bat soup. (OK, one less recipe to store.)

April 17 — Four Home Classrooms

Days off Campus: 37

US Infections: 672,293; Deaths: 33,325; Total Tested: 3,423,034 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 5,884; Deaths 971

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23537.68,+33.33 +0.14%

Trending: Which Mask Is Right For Me?

Dept. of Puppetry Arts: Actor Micheal Shannon Reads Frederick by Chicago Children’s Theatre

Home classrooms of Jack, Claire, Taylor and Raeven.

April 16 — Judy Flynn, Owner of The Fresh Monkee

Days off Campus: 36

US Infections: 639,664; Deaths: 30,985; Total Tested: 3,261,611 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 14,755; Deaths 868

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23537.68,+33.33 +0.14%

Trending: Jobless Claims Exceed 22 Million

Dept. Of Post-C-19: Gov. Lamont’s Panel on Re-opening CT

David Sedaris Fix: 2011 Excerpt from “Jesus Shaves”

Greetings from isolation. I am just one of over 30 million small businesses affected in the United States. 

Connecticut is a state that has been “fortunate” enough to have New York as an example of what must be done to keep this virus from wiping us out. As difficult as it is, I made the decision to shut down my small food business until this is over. What does that mean for a small business exactly? I’ll tell you. 

It means laying off fifty people (including Blue Muse staff writer, Taylor Corazzo) that depend on their paycheck for rent, transportation, school, children, food, and life. It means putting whatever cash is left in both business and personal accounts into the bank to pay last weeks bills and payroll. Why? Because what food establishments make this week is what we need in order to pay last week’s bills. It’s just how it is. Margins are tiny and getting tinier. Small business restaurants, if they are lucky, make just enough to cover costs and provide a small income for the owners. More likely, there’s debt because as a small business, you’ve dumped in what you can just to get your doors open and keep them open. 

It means running numbers over and over again. It means apologizing to staff for not being able to stay open and feeling badly if you did because the staff doesn’t feel safe working, but can’t make the choice not to because they need money. It means scrambling to get in line to apply to all the loans you can, hoping to what? To go further into debt just to reopen your doors? To have your credit score hit multiple times as the SBA and banks consider the loan? That each hit costs points on your credit score which will affect you for years? To pay staff to stay home while there’s zero income coming in so that the state doesn’t have to pay unemployment? But wait! If you take them off unemployment they won’t get the extra $600 in stimulus, so now that “forgivable” loan just gets added to your debt sheet? Okay. I’ll do it because I won’t let my business die or my staff be jobless. The risk of business and personal bankruptcy is real.

Never before have I felt so lost, financially desperate, and scared, while at the same time feel horrible for those businesses that already know they won’t be able to reopen. Horrified for those that have lost loved ones to this monster. Disgusted at the political games being played at the cost of peoples’ lives. Astonished at the bravery of our first responders and frightened about the unknown. All while realizing we are all experiencing our own hell within this hell, which somehow tempers the gut punch because I know I am not sitting in isolation alone.

April 15 — Li Ying Lu, CCSU Student

Days off Campus: 35

US Infections: 609,685; Deaths: 26,059; Total Tested: 3,120,381 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 13,989; Deaths: 671

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,504.35,-445.41(-1.86%)

Trending: Retail Sales Set Record Drop

Dept. of Reality TV: “Deadliest Catch” Star Sig Hansen on C-19

During spring break I was supposed to go to Yellowstone National Park with my sister. Days before the trip, we decided to cancel since the coronavirus was starting to spread across the United States. Since then, I’ve returned to working almost full-time at the compounding pharmacy I’ve worked at for the past three years. Pharmacies are among the few businesses that are to remain open during these difficult times. Even though we aren’t a retail pharmacy and don’t interact with as many people, we have also taken certain precautions. Besides those of us in the lab, every single person in our small business has to wear a face mask—to protect not only us, but also the medications we make. We are reminded to constantly wash our hands and not to go to crowded places after work. The doors aren’t locked, but patients aren’t allowed inside the pharmacy. When refills are ready, we give the patient a call, and leave it on a table outside when we see them pull up. These are strange times. 

In my family of six people, only I am working during this time. I’m the only one going in and out of the house everyday. Every day I go to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., then I come home, hop in the shower, and do my laundry immediately. Then I do my schoolwork. For everyone else it almost looks like an extra long weekend or a vacation, but because I’m still working, this quarantine doesn’t have much of an effect on me other than the fact that I can’t go to Target and buy whatever I think is screaming at me. Gas prices are also down! In the not so distant past, a full tank of gas for my car was $35. This morning, after three weeks of not filling up, it cost me $22. Weird. 

It isn’t all bad. I’m lucky to be still working. I’m lucky to be making money to pay bills. I’m not sick. No one I know is sick. I spend hours playing Animal Crossing because pandemics (usually) don’t appear in video games. Everyone seems to be in good spirits despite the situation. We can only wait for tomorrow.

April 14 — Jotham Burrello, Blue Muse Executive Editor

Days off Campus: 34

US Infections: 582,594; Deaths: 23,649; Total Tested: 2,964,726 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 13,381; Deaths 602

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,390.77, -328.60, (-1.4%)

Trending: Northeast Governors Plan for Post-Iso Life

Last Night at Home: Trevor Noah and Bill Gates

Pop Music Distraction: “Young man, There’s No Need To Be Unhappy.”

6:30 a.m.: Yappy puppy pulls me from dream: delivering acceptance speech at National Book Award ceremony (make eye contact with Joyce Carol Oats [Is she hitting on me? Again!]). Pull pillow over head and pretend to sleep until someone else wakes to take Noodles outside to pee. Wonder: Should I shower today?

7:30 a.m.: Coffee. Inspect deer fence around tulips for breech. F—ing deer. Talk to neighbor John about health of sick neighbor just off ventilator as he walks his crazy dog (really, just making small talk so I can ask to borrow another of John’s tools [my neighbors have killer tools!]).


8:30 a.m.: Post daily C-19 Notebook blog on class online magazine, read bad news from the Times, more coffee, hope wife makes pancakes, shout at 9-year-old to wear headphones during Zoom class, remind teenager, that yes, he needs to get out of bed and “attend” school, text sister in Chicago.

9:25 a.m.: Start online class with students, encourage them in their childhood bedrooms, wonder if any have slept. Deflect questions about returning to campus in September. Wonder how this experience is making us closer.

10-12 p.m.: Edit student essays, wonder what I actually do for a living.

12-12:15 p.m.: Lament (in no particular order): fate of world, hours kids spend on computers, cancellation of everything, missing sports, affordability of private school next fall, cancellation of faculty search I’ve dedicated 4 months, fate of CT Festival, why I don’t exercise more, if my novel will find readers, who really shot J.F.K?

12:15-1 p.m.: Lunch with family. Pour half glass of Chianti and think about my Italian grandfather tending his garden. Argue with my middle son about getting him a new phone, thank wife for keeping us all together. Then run to hardware store just cause, and buy stuff didn’t know I needed. Check retirement account, consider working until 90.

1-3 p.m.: Busy work/more class (how can I be so busy? Why so many Zoom meetings? Who ever thought virtual reality could replace the real thing? Probably same genius who invented Coke Zero.)

3-5 p.m.: Farm work: weed, rototill, repeat, and fix fence and machines that broke over the winter…damn cooler!

5-8 p.m.: Dinner (is anyone else getting fat?), card games, board games, Wiffle ball game, watch puppy eat chicken poo, construct Thomas Train track, win at ping pong, again, check in with mom at nursing home about her imprisonment, share pot of Earl Grey with 9-year-old. 

9-11 p.m.: Netflix, read some fiction, skim more bad news on the Times, Zoom cocktail with friends, forty push-ups.

11 p.m.: Spy on sleeping kids. Know I’m lucky. Heart aches with love for them.

12 a.m.: Zzzzzzzzz

April 13 — Aimee Pozorski, CCSU Professor (and amateur photographer)

Days off Campus: 33

US Infections: 558,526; Deaths: 22,146; Total Tested: 2,821,149 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 12,035; Deaths 554

Trending: How to Restart the Economy

Dept. of Japanese Traditions: elaborate Kabuki performance

Stanley Quarter Park, New Britain, Connecticut

April 12 — Candace Barrington, CCSU Professor (part II)

Days off Campus: 32

US Infections: 530,006; Deaths: 20,608; Total Tested: 2,688,766 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 11,510; Deaths 494

Dept. of Lack of Leadership: Who Knew What When

Funny Distraction: Saturday Night Live (At Home)

Live! from Vatican Media: Pope Francis Celebrates Easter Mass

Traditionally, “red beans and cornbread” was Thursday night supper because Friday was payday and Saturday was market day. By Thursday, all the fresh meats and vegetables had been eaten so that evening’s supper had to come from the pantry. Preparation began the night before when the beans were sorted, cleaned, and put to soak overnight. The next day, after the morning chores were done, the beans were moved to a pot and boiled, flavored with a good dose of salt, several shakes of chili powder, and (if times were good) a slice or two of bacon. By mid-afternoon, the house would be filled with the beans’ delicious aroma. By suppertime, the beans would be mushy, the pot liquor slightly thick, and the cornbread hot from the oven. In our home, mother put a small dish of pickled jalapeños on the table. Everyone had their own way of eating red beans and cornbread. My mother ate her beans and cornbread separately; my father preferred his beans ladled atop his cornbread and a jalapeño on the side. Me, I wanted mine like my father’s but with a drizzle of jalapeño brine. Dessert was a glass of crumbled cornbread covered with cold milk and eaten with a spoon. 

Red beans and cornbread formed the core of our culinary identity. When my uncle returned from a year in Vietnam, his first request wasn’t a T-bone steak, but red beans and cornbread. My grandmother obliged, throwing in a slice or two of bacon to mark his homecoming. When I miss my homefolk, I put on a pot of beans for a long simmer and bake a pan of cornbread. 

As I prepared for our long spell of self-isolation, my first impulse was to stock up on dried beans. Now, come what may, we are ready. Through my dried bean repertoire basic recipe used by my grandmothers, aunts, and mother.

Red beans have extended significantly beyond the beloved pinto bean, “red beans and cornbread” remains central to my dried bean cooking, and it will see us through the many meals separating one market day from the next. 

In case you purchased several bags of pinto beans but don’t know how to prepare them properly,  here are  the ingredients: pinto beans, 1 pound, Water, Salt, Chili powder, Bacon (if diet and finances allow)

  1. Sort and clean the beans. Place in large bowl and fill with water. Soak overnight.
  2. Drain beans. Place in large pot. Fill pot with fresh water. Add salt. Bring to boil, then turn down to bubbling simmer.
  3. After simmering for an hour, add chili powder and bacon. 
  4. Cook for another 1-3 hours until beans are mushy and bean liquor is thick.
  5. Serve over (or with) cornbread.

If you need to upgrade your cornbread recipe as well, here’s the one that’s been in my family for five generations. Cornbread Ingredients: 1 ½ cups sweet milk, 3 teaspoons baking powder, ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons salad oil, 2 tablespoons sugar, Enough cornmeal to make thick batter

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Combine all the ingredients.
  3. Heat small amount of oil in cast iron skillet. (I use a 10-inch skillet.)
  4. Pour batter into hot oil.
  5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean).

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how to boil the spinach and open the canned peaches. Good luck finding decent canned jalapeños. (Mine are safely stashed away.)

And no matter what those fancy New York Times recipes might tell you don’t throw away dried beans just because they’ve patiently waited a couple years in the cupboard. There’s no such thing as a dried bean that’s too old. It might need a few extra hours to cook on the stovetop, but (as my mother and aunts knew deep in their souls) a dried bean never ever becomes too old to cook and serve to those you love.

One is from the early 1970s that features my mother, grandmother, aunts, and one great-aunt—around a table filled with desserts. No red beans and cornbread, though. The women would have been cooking in my grandmother’s un-airconditioned kitchen and still faced the task of cleaning up while the men watched a baseball game on the television.

April 11 — Candace Barrington, CCSU Professor (part I)

Days off Campus: 31

US Infections: 501,615; Deaths: 18,777; Recovered: 29,191 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 10,538; Deaths 488

Poem of the day(s): National Poetry Foundation (thank you)

Dept. of Easter Tradition: Easter Egg Dyeing 101

At the beginning of our COVID-19 self-isolation in March, I spoke to one of my Texas cousins—in truth, all my cousins are Texas cousins—and we lamented that our mothers weren’t around for the pandemic. They had spent their lives honing the fine craft of food hoarding, and now they were missing their big chance to flaunt those skills. Children of the 1930’s Dust Bowl and the Great Depression—a double whammy that clobbered rural Texas families and taught them never ever to be unprepared for the next disaster—our mothers knew how to feed a family for months without a trip to the grocery store. Even as our mothers each slipped into the grip of Alzheimers, they held tight to their old ways. Whereas their mothers had kept the cellar filled with jars of home-canned meats, vegetables, and fruit, our mothers filled their pantries and freezers with store-bought food, ready for disasters or guests (who were sometimes both), when no disasters loomed on the horizon and no one else joined them at the table. 

The month before our quarantine began, while we gathered for my mother’s memorial service, my sisters, cousins, and I mischievously compared notes on what we’d found in our mothers’ pantries, refrigerators, and freezers when the time had come to empty them. We all nodded our heads when one told about the dribs and drabs of unidentifiable leftovers frozen in unlabeled I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter tubs. About the dozen boxes of cake mix (for the next time company came) and uncountable jars of fancy pickles (also for the next time company came). About the spice cabinet with dusty tins of mace (who uses that anymore?) and greying oregano (when was the last time she made lasagna?). About the refrigerators stuffed with condiment bottles and jars, each with a tablespoon or two of catsup or relish or mustard or sauerkraut. For the most outlandish food fossil, we conceded victory to Aunt Dorothy’s canned tomatoes, with expirations predating the birth of her grandchildren, that her great-grandchildren lobbed across the driveway and watched explode. 

One thing we all hated to throw out was the most durable bags and boxes and bins of dried pinto beans, simply called “red” beans by everyone I knew. Paired with a pan of cornbread, red beans provided a penny-pinching family with a complete protein. Add some frozen spinach and some canned peaches, and a housewife could serve a balanced meal that had been waiting for months (maybe years) to be consumed. 

“Early 1950s, with my mother’s parents and their five children (plus a son-in-law). My mother is wearing the blue-and-white polka-dot dress she made for her high school graduation. She would be heading to college in a few weeks. After nearly fifteen years of hardship—the Depression lasted until the 1940s for Panhandle farmers, just in time to deal with the WW2 rationing—things were improving for my grandparents. Nevertheless, I can almost guarantee that my grandmother had a pot of red beans bubbling inside the kitchen on the other side of that screen door.”

End of Part 1. Tomorrow Candace shares her family’s receipts for red beans and cornbread. A perfect C-19 self-isolation Sunday meal.

April 10 — Noah Hulton, Former Blue Muse Staff Photographer

Days off Campus: 30

US Infections: 466,299; Deaths: 16,686; Recovered: 26,522 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 9,784; Deaths 380

Dow Jones: Closed for Good Friday

Trending: CT Schools and Nonessential Businesses Closed through May 20

Dept. of Arts and Crafts: How-To Make Cloth Face Mask

CCSU’s campus sits empty on a Tuesday during a beautiful spring afternoon.

Father and son ride their bikes through the desolate Westfarms Mall parking lot. The mall is not due to open back up until after April 30th. (That could change.)

April 9 — Cecilia Gigliotti, Dispatch from Germany

Home Office Day: 29

German Infections: 113,296; Deaths 2,349; Recovered 46,300 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 8,781; Deaths 355

German Stock Exchange: DAX:IND 10,332.89 EUR (-23.81; -0.23%)

Trending: Berlin Startups Get Creative to Ride out the Corona Crisis

Dept. of Meanwhile: 5 Ways Germany Makes You Greener Without Even Noticing 

Sunday afternoon, roughly 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., was the longest consecutive period of time I have spent in the open air since at least three weeks ago. I met a friend at the Volkspark Friedrichshain, Berlin’s largest green space—not unlike Central Park with its rocky inclines and winding shaded trails—and we sopped up as much sunshine and oxygen and conversation as we could. I was grateful not only for the continuous motion in my legs (I’ve been getting my share of in-house exercise) but for the length and breadth of the area we were afforded to travel. It felt like progress, like moving forward, not like chasing our tails.

Seeing my friend’s face was also the first time in about as long that I did not feel at least a twinge of fear at the prospect of human contact. Of course we only air-hugged, and maintained a few feet of distance as we walked and talked; but, out in the mild weather with this mild-mannered person, even my heightening concerns seemed mild. By now I experience a full flash of anxiety whenever I open a door to pass through only to find someone passing through from the other direction, or whenever I accidentally run into a neighbor at the mailboxes. Proximity is possibility, and my threshold is plummeting.

Plenty of people were taking advantage of spring’s onset, but never in groups larger than pairs, and never engaged in activity that might bring them closer than necessary. If there was paranoia, the sun blotted it out, or the wealth of leafy trees overshadowed it. It was different on the train, everybody pulling up their makeshift masks like bandits and avoiding one another’s eyes. Only then did I realize I’d forgotten to buy a metro pass for the day—no consistent need to spend money on those these days. That said, there were no transit officials around either, probably out of caution about overcrowding cars. Life is lawless.

April 8 — Victoria Juniet, Blue Muse Staff Writer

Days Off Campus: 28

US Infections: 399,929; Deaths 12,911; Recovered 22,539 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 7,781; Deaths 277

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,433.57,+779.71, (+3.44%)

Trending: General Motors will Provide 30,000 Ventilators by End of August

Dept. of Music Legends: Folk Singer and Songwriter John Prine Dies 

Suggested Reading: Writing Thinks Back to Other Difficult Times

Since the shutdown of all things social, I’ve gone nearly three weeks without makeup—probably the longest stretch of time since actually starting to wear it halfway through high school. I can’t count how many memes I’ve seen littering social media about unshaven faces, untended-to dye jobs exposing brunette roots, and chipping nail polish. I, too, was getting quite fed up with my hair, chock-full of split ends. Reluctantly, I prepared to accept that my hair was going to look like crap until this was all over.

One evening, however, I felt particularly spontaneous.

That’s it. I don’t mind being home all day, wearing a constant uniform of sweatpants, and never shaving my legs. But I will NOT go another week with such an overabundance of frayed hair shafts.

I hastily tapped “how to trim your own hair” into the Google search bar. Tutorial videos embedded in beauty magazine articles danced across my phone screen. With that, I fired up my flat iron, whipped out the clippers from my dad’s grooming kit, parted my hair straight down the middle, and gathered my now pin-straight locks into a ponytail under my chin.

Grasping the chrome scissors, I steadied them in front of my face and leaned toward the mirror.

“It’s now or who knows when.”

Snip. Snip. Snip. 

Aha! Success. A little evening out (and maybe a tiny snip or two by my mom in the back where I couldn’t see), and it was done. Within a half hour, I had a positively presentable trim that both satisfied my resentment for split ends and provided a cure for my idle hands. For the first time since this quarantine, I felt like I was in control.

April 7 — Noah Hulton, Former Blue Muse Staff Photographer 

Days Off Campus: 27

US Infections: 368,449; Deaths 10,993; Recovered 19,919 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 6,906; Deaths 206

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 22,653.86,-26.13, (-0.12%)

Trending: Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy ‘Essential Workers’ in New Zealand

Dept. of Working Fictional Government: What Would President Josiah Bartlet Do? 

April 7, Noah Hulton
A woman plays tambourine outside the window of an apartment in downtown Thomaston, Connecticut. Not pictured are the sounds of an electric guitar jam session.

April 6 — Mary Anne Nunn, CCSU Faculty Member

Days Off Campus: 26

US Infections: 337,971; Deaths 9,654; Recovered 17,582 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 5,675; Deaths 189

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 22,679.99,+1,627.46, (+7.73%)

Trending: One-day death toll in N.Y. falls for first time from 594 from 630

The Other Global Threat: How CO2 is Coupled to Climate

I’m a Romanticist. I have studied and taught the poetry of 19th-century British Romantic authors since the last century. One of the odd phenomena one finds in the Romantic canon is a whole collection of extraordinarily complex and beautiful poems complaining that the stricken poet has discovered that (almost invariably) he can no longer write complex and beautiful poems…

I mention this having just sent out a complex (I’m devoted to parenthetical asides [indeed nested ones {as the above paragraph attests}]) email, to colleagues in a reading group who had proposed a virtual meeting, to say that I was utterly buried in work and couldn’t take time to meet. But I could, apparently, take time to write that masterpiece of an email saying I had no time, and I can, apparently, take time to craft this “egotistically sublime”* analysis of my own struggles in this alien landscape to which we’ve all been transported.

Which leads me to another Romantic preoccupation: perception. Yes, I do think I have some bragging rights in terms of the superiority of my difficulties (tomorrow will be the last day of amoxicillin for the [admittedly neither current nor sexy] strep throat I woke up with some 8 days ago…), but on the many other hands** I am so fortunate that I really should be ashamed of myself for writing this––all consideration of the investment of time aside.

So, coming belatedly to the substance that is the only thing justifying anyone’s reading of this—if you find yourself in an alien world, recognize that old rules don’t apply. Yes, for anyone fond of routine (myself included) this is disorienting, and there’s a very strong resistance to acknowledging that usual patterns are now actually gumming up the works. But if one stops enumerating all the woes, one discovers the wonders. All whining aside, I actually enjoy crafting these “classes,” here in my own warm, comfortable (if cluttered…) home. Pressed? Yes. Entitled to sympathy? Well, for the strep, yes, but not for the largely fictional notion that I’m suffering professionally. I’m different-ing professionally, and personally, too. Maybe I’ll try to make time for that virtual reading group after all.

*A dis the younger Keats hurled at Wordsworth’s concept of his own greatness.

**The reading group looks at Science Fiction, so just fleshing out the “alien” part of this present world!

April 5 — Makenzie Ozycz, CCSU Student

Days Off Campus: 25

US Infections: 312,249; Deaths 8,503; Recovered 15,021 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 5,276; Deaths 165

Dept. of WTF: Zoombombing

Sunday Reading: NYT Book Review 

It’s been three weeks and four days since I’ve pet my dog. She’s an over-sized, drooling goofball who I usually nudge away with my knee for fear of unwanted slobber. She is also at the tail end of her life expectancy, something I had not yet come to terms with until I was physically unable to see her.

The word essential sits heavy on the base of my skull as I stand at the register, causing another migraine. I bag up the “life or death” items sitting on the counter in front of me, trying hard not to roll my eyes: a chocolate bunny, Splat “Euphoric  Blue”hair dye, Wet n Wild nail polish, Smartfood popcorn, three cans of Red Bull, Rolling Stone Magazine, and a Mother’s Day card.

I try to be assertive as the gentleman behind my current customer, delicately balancing three cartons of strawberry Häagen-Dazs ice cream and printer paper, steps over the line of tape I had strategically placed on the floor hours earlier at a six-foot distance from the one in front of it. She notices him sneaking up, whips her head around, and glares. I fight back the urge to laugh at the passivity of it all, and wonder why either of them left the house to begin with.

My usual customer service face has been, for the time being, removed and shoved into my glove compartment before entering the doors of my job. I pull on my powder-blue, sticky, nitrile gloves, and face the day, ready to silently judge every item deemed necessary that comes in and out of my hands. Hands that later might make it hard for me to breathe, or unable to see my loved ones for weeks at a time. Hands that later might make me, or someone I know, a statistic.

I push this out of my mind. If I think about risking my life, the safety of my family, or the fact that I might never pet my dog again for someone’s can of Red Bull, I definitely won’t make it out of this without completely cracking like a walnut.

April 4 — Jotham Burrello, Blue Muse Executive Editor

Days Off Campus: 24

US Infections: 297,575; Deaths 7,100+; Recovered 10,032 (data from John Hopkins). 

CT Infections: 4,915; Deaths 132

Trending: Curve Flattening in Italy

Dept. of Puppetry Arts:  Japanese Puppet Master Koryu Nishikawa V

Three weeks into our exile from campus and we’re hunkering down at home during this national health crisis. Thank you to everyone who has contributed stories to the blog. Tip of the hat to our copyeditors Emma Nelson, Kristiana Torres, and our resident Blue Muse consultant Anne McPeak. Please follow our Instagram, prepared each day by Blue Muse’s social media maven Victoria Juniet.

Writers in the CCSU community can submit their 200-400 word blog posts via email to We’ll publish what we can. We’re moving beyond the initial shock of the pandemic to entries about day-to-day life during the Corona epoch. (In tomorrow’s post student Makenzie Ozycz writes about her front-line job at a grocery store.) In the coming weeks Blue Muse writers will start posting features started before and after the outbreak.

This Stephen King novel we are all living in will end. Keep safe. Keep reading. Keep the faith.

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: 20,934.14, -479.30, (-2.24%)

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 Corazzo, 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, Aimee

We 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.

13 comments on “Coronavirus Notebook

  1. Mary Collins

    Jordan’s poem and image of the world cracking like an old painting really grabbed my attention so I kept reading and scrolling down the Blue Muse Covid collection. Burrello’s hilarious headers, like Department of Meanwhile or Department of Dogs, brought a welcomed light touch to my day! And it was so great to see field notes from Billie Sue about her life at her family’s construction company. Billie Sue drop me a note and let’s catch up!


  2. Mary Collins

    Emma, thrilled you found an apartment. Thanks for posting a story packed with details, just the sort of real-time record that makes this Journal so valuable.


  3. Mary Collins

    More good postings. Love the angle on Amanda’s piece on the physical toll of the virtual life and, of course, Zach’s wonderful voice in his work. Keep these good pieces rolling in!


  4. Mary Collins

    Wonderful to see the next edition pop up this Fall. Great work on all counts!


    • Megan Colleran

      Thank you for being a loyal reader! Glad you’re enjoying the new updates. Plenty more to come. 🙂


  5. Thank you, Jotham and all, for keeping this going and sharing experiences.
    Although apart, I feel connected. Peace.


  6. Mary Collins

    Candace keep sending the amazing dispatches from the past and the recipes! As I read, I feel I am beside you. Your whole persona springs off the page. Just lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 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!


  8. 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.


  9. 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!


  10. 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…


  11. I’m really enjoying your posts.


  12. 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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