A dip into the doldrums, followed by hysterical laughing, like a hyena, with friends on a Party App — or with the kids. So it goes, or swings, in the time of coronavirus. When not meeting the social media “invasion of imbeciles”, to use Umberto Eco’s memorable phrase, I’m watching too much television news.
Fancy the clunk-headedness of protesting the Angela Merkel Lockdown Lite that has enabled Germany to avoid the worst of the coronavirus pandemic to date. Unlike, in say, Paris or London, Munich’s major parks have never closed. Consider that Saturday protests in Stuttgart, Munich and other German cities, are against a Lockdown — as it’s lifting — that has made the demos possible in the first place.
Anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and rabble-rousers of both the far right and far left, rail against restrictions on freedom of expression, and assembly, as they’re assembling to freely express.
But Germany’s protests pale alongside the moral carnage we’ve seen in the US. Though at least Trump’s popping pills against majority medical advice — his mind on the Javel under the sink? — has made clear, were further clarity needed, that putting him in the White House was a mightily chancy undertaking.
Governing, the pandemic has reminded us, is a deeply serious business, and reaffirming Trump cum November looks more than ever like the Great Non-Solution, except for those of us still angry about people better-educated; smarter; harder working and more adaptable than us, getting higher grades and better jobs, even if of the wrong sex and colour.
Observers who initially, charitably credited him with one or two good ideas, even if not his own work, must surely now see those selfsame ideas as the occasional eruption of a kind of wildcat (or wild dog?) mental grasp, blissfully free of strategy or follow-up. Shock tactics, whatever the dangers, prevent one from talking inaudibly. And while injecting bleach was not actually Trump’s idea, he quickly became its tacit advocate once the glorious thought of it lodged like a sand worm in his ear.
Strangely re-humanising as Lockdown draws to an end, is the return to more prosaic, daily concerns — like hair-cuts for the kids. My 13 year-old’s nascent, adolescent attitude, means she’s refusing to get hers lopped though now long like Rapunzel’s. Resisting my ‘bowl haircut’ offer — cutting around a rimmed bowl normally used when scrambling eggs — my 11 year-old, unknowingly impersonating Johnny Ramone, accepted that his mother cut his with the kitchen scissors, free-form. But the end result is much the same. He now looks like a small Friar Tuck.
My German is good enough to venture out to a hair salon or cheap barber across town. I know in advance I’ll choose the barber, at €11.50, and not the upmarket hairdresser just downstairs. Like any good liberal, I seek to integrate. In Germany, I won’t spend the money I’ve got; in France for many years, I’d readily spend the money I didn’t have — a kind of metaphor for the way government and administration work in both countries.
Well, if one is thickening around the gills, hair getting long and carpet-like in a stretch at the back, one can look, in profile, like the top of a ham, a thigh with a face on it, or — a hyena. Initially I was unaware of this because a second mirror is needed to see oneself from the side, and my son, when still a Ramone, broke it performing shrilly in the back bathroom. In fact, he loves opera, sings with the kids’ choir of the state-subsidised Volksoper here. He would never even have heard of the Ramones — though, as if by coincidence, he is quasi-obsessed with hyenas.
The obsession began with the marauding spotted furry ones in the humorous, cartoon version of The Lion King. But his sympathy for intensely cretinous characters, coercive politicians notwithstanding, started earlier with the expectorating Gaston, his feet up on the table, in Beauty and the Beast; haggard Cruella in 101 Dalmations, and Cinderella’s ugly sisters (who else knows their names in three languages?) — like hyenas, as it happens, part of an intensely matriarchal society.
When one sees a child behaving like a child, it can still be amusing, thank the Lord.
Anyway, the hyena interest has broadened and deepened. Friends who visit can be asked to watch hyena documentaries on You Tube (decline, and he goes into a silent funk). Or perhaps now, to join us on a planned first post-Lockdown trip an hour’s drive from here to the city of Augsburg, where he has discovered (oh no!), the zoo has hyenas.
If I don’t get my hair cut before then, they may greet me as a currently rather shoulderless one of their own.