Herrington: Vacationing in the time of coronavirus

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 19, 2020 2:49 PM CT | Published: March 19, 2020 11:25 AM CT
Chris Herrington
Daily Memphian

Chris Herrington

Chris Herrington covers the Memphis Grizzlies and writes about Memphis culture, food, and civic life. He lives in the Vollentine-Evergreen neighborhood of Midtown with his wife, two kids, and two dogs.

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Why am I here?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself this week, during a vacation that hasn’t quite felt real. 

It had been booked for months and on the calendar for longer, and social distancing was always the intended feature, not a late-arriving bug. (Pun ruefully intended.)

Are we still doing this, we asked, up until the moment we got into the car last weekend. We weren’t flying. We weren’t going to a city or even an area with any known cases. We weren’t planning on attending any public events even if there had been any left to attend. A rented house with a kitchen, a couple of porches, a couple of nearby takeout options. Bikes to ride, books to read, board games to play. I’ve had one face-to-face conversation this week with someone outside my family: A small-business owner agonizing over closing his doors. 

Most of us don’t yet know a confirmed case. Before too long all of us will, if we aren’t the confirmed case ourselves. That’s how exponents work. Perhaps only a lack of testing has withheld that knowledge already.

But it’s probably creeping up on most of us, as it did for me this week. A relative across the country, an old friend across the state, an acquaintance on the internet. All showing symptoms. All suspicious that they have what seems to be coming for most of us. None yet able to be tested.

I can’t be the only one who’s developed a kind of COVID hypochondria. One night this week I lay in bed convinced I felt a fever and dry cough coming on. They weren’t. I did get a headache, and spent an afternoon listening closely to my own body, waiting for other symptoms to emerge. They did not. 

While I was sitting in an oddly peaceful purgatory, people close to me have lost jobs and postponed weddings. I’ve eavesdropped on conversations about how to keep people employed while also keeping them safe. 

An awful question, always operable but harder now to suppress: Who in your life will you never see again? 

Commentary comes from unexpected places. I was reading Bob Dylan’s memoir “Chronicles” and this popped off the page, Dylan writing in 2006 about himself in 1962:

“Even the current news made me nervous. I liked old news better. All the new news was bad. It was good that it didn’t have to be in your face all day. Twenty-four-hour news coverage would have been a living hell.”

And I wondered: Is Bob Dylan on Slack?

That’s where the news has come to me, via The Daily Memphian in-house editorial feed, before it’s printed. A constant drip of closures.

I’m reminded of that great magic-hour sequence in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” where the neon lights flip on one by one, a city waking up as the sun sets. But this time in Memphis, as everywhere, they’re flipping off, and once upon a time is now. 

Sitting on a rented porch a day’s drive away from home, I watched my city shutting down on my phone.

Railgarten, where not long ago we feted Memphis expat friends back for a visit. 

Billy Hardwick Lanes, where I chauffeured one of my kids for a birthday party a few weeks ago.

The Memphis Zoo, where I sat in the Zoo Camp drop-off/pick-up line twice a day only the week before. 

Tomorrow: Back in Memphis, a city I expect to look the same and feel radically different. 

Next week: Back to school, but in our home, our responsibility now, day and night, to keep a fourth- and ninth-grader on task and on pace. 

Back to work, where the job will be a different one than the one I left only a few days before. 


Chris Herrington coronavirus

Comment On This Story

Email Editions

Sign up for our morning and evening editions, plus breaking news.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions