Dispatch From Florida

Janet Flanner, born in Indianapolis, was a famed writer for The Indianapolis Star and, later, The New Yorker magazine. Moving to Paris in the 1920s, Flanner became one of “The Lost Generation,” befriending the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, e.e. cummings … the list goes on. Flanner spent her days at Les Deux Magots and her nights with fellow expats in the famed apartment of Alice B. Toklas. Under the pen name Genêt, Flanner wrote a semi-monthly column for 50 years appropriately titled “Letters from Paris” sharing details of a faraway land.

In some ways, I have a lot of things in common with Janet Flanner … although, sadly, transcendent literary talent is not one of them. We went to the same high school, I wrote for a local newspaper for a time, and I am borderline obsessive about Paris in the 1920s. I even wrote a capstone paper in college on Genêt and her ties to Paris and Indianapolis. So naturally, when asked to share my thoughts on our current COVID-19 quarantine situation, why wouldn’t a comparison to a hundred-year-old column on post-war Paris be my go-to? Here’s why: To share my musings means I need to discuss my current surroundings, which are decisively not in Indianapolis. Stay with me here.

As soon as the schools closed earlier this month, and before we realized that perhaps we shouldn’t cohabitate with my 70-year-old parents (we can discuss that idiocy later), my husband and I decided our girls were better off riding out this storm in the warmth of Florida. Indianapolis has been cold, dark, and rainy, and I had been watching CNN day and night, getting more scared with each passing second. Why not get out of town, where at least I can be scared in the sun?

And that’s how I came to be smack dab in the middle of A LOT OF BOOMERS and a few spring-breakers in South Florida.

As I sit here in the middle of 16 workbook pages of Singapore math, my daughters are practically crawling back into my uterus. We simply CANNOT GET ANY CLOSER. We go outside to run, bike, or swim (chlorine kills corona, I checked), but other than that, we are camped out in my parents’ house. But let me share with you some tidbits about Boomers, or at least the large percentage of them who are “Sun Birds.”

Call this “Letters from South Florida Where No One Seems To Get It” (we’ll work on the name—there just isn’t a whole lot one can do to compete with Paris).

Now that I’m here, I can semi-explain why news reports are showing Boomers still out playing bridge and Gen-Zers acting like total assholes on the beach. I’m not sure what it’s called, but there is some sort of psychology involved in how a person acts and feels in sunshine. Call it “vacay mode,” “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” “rosé all day,” whatever: Living in the warm glow of sunshine makes a person feel like things can’t be that bad. The trouble is, things really are that bad.

Sunshine is giving people down here a false sense of security. They don’t get it because there is so much to distract them from real life.

Case in point, my dad tried to take my kids to Ben and Jerry’s the other day. I Clorox-wiped his mouth just for saying it.

Also, a girl at the pool told me (from 6 feet away because I kept backing up) that her mother-in-law didn’t buy chicken at Publix today because “it’s going on sale tomorrow so I’ll just go back.” SALE CHICKEN? First of all, NO. And secondly, why aren’t you getting it that you should stock up as much food as possible, ONE TIME, so you don’t have to go back?

In the meantime, in the townhome next door, I can see five college students literally doing shots and playing Spike Ball from grandma’s lanai.

I haven’t been in Indy for several days, but I know what all my friends are doing. They are hunkering down, not leaving their houses. Their kids are trying to crawl back in too. They are pulling out baby books, making “ice cream in a bag,” taking showers with their dogs (true story). They most certainly are not still playing mah-jongg at the club and drinking champagne in the pool (also true).

So here’s a love letter to you, Indy. While I know you aren’t ALL practicing social distancing, I think you are doing a helluva lot better job of it than people down here. While you may not have the sunshine and warmth, you can rest assured knowing you are doing your part not to further spread “The Corona” (as my 6-year-old calls it). Keep at it, hang in there. And if you’re bored, maybe you could start learning French? Bonne chance!