A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 80

Polish dictator Wojciech Jaruzelski

Thursday and Friday, May 28 and 29

These two days have contained little but routine: a trip to the recycling center, meal preparation, dish washing, videos. I paid a telephone bill and considered whether or not other bills were due. I thought about foodstuffs we need to order—mayonnaise, goat cheese, candy. Should I try to make a pizza on Sunday? No, I would have to get some mozzarella, so we’ll just have some Progresso soup and corn muffins.

The Netflix thrillers seem to be declining in quality. Both Retribution, a tale of a family conspiracy against a murderer, and Safe, a story of a missing teenage girl, had worthwhile moments then plodded their way to unsatisfying, operatic conclusions. Each contained red herrings involving drug use. In one, the villain turned out to be an otherwise appealing police officer. 

Better than either of these is the cold-war-era Polish whodunit The Mire, with its uneasy journo-buddy principals confronting a double murder and a possible double suicide. Appropriately, the colors are dirty greens and blotched flesh tones. One journalist is old and seedy, the other, young and Clark Kent nerdy. Everybody guzzles vodka, smokes, and indulges in extramarital sex when it’s available. Citizens stand in long lines in front of butcher shops. Prostitutes only accept U.S. currency. Newspaper stories get rewritten to the satisfaction of Stalinist officialdom; reporters are made to forsake investigations of shocking crimes and encouraged to write happy-talk articles on a new cafeteria. It all makes one long for the days of Wojciech Jaruzelski.

The Rose Tremain novel The Road Home had a disappointingly happy ending. In today’s climate, who needs Pollyanna? Give me despondency and pessimism, please. 

Dinner: Balsamic and garlic chicken with mushrooms, couscous, green salad.

Entertainment: two episodes of the wacko fantasy-thriller Ragnarok.