Captain Kirk

On my 5th anniversary as a columnist for the Columbus Free Press, I will forgo commenting on the media and political scene and, instead, share my day-to-day reflections on the first two months of the pandemic.

It started on March 15 when I and 11.7 million Ohioans were ordered to shelter in place. I wondered how I would cope. I decided to write my way through it with a nightly post to my 785 Facebook followers and anyone else looking in on the social network.

I initially prefaced my remarks with the following: "Captain's log: Day 1 completed in ContagionNation." After a few posts, I dropped the last part and simply wrote: "Captain's log: Day _." I finally ended the posts on Day 62.

Here they are:

1. I have nothing on my calendar for the next 2 months. Not even tennis. Please do same. Stay home. Hunker down. It makes me sad to stare into the abyss of social isolation, and I'm an introvert. I, we, and you must do our duty to starve this virus into oblivion. We will. More Courage.

2. Lights out.

3. Virus 1. Vote 0. (A reference to Ohio's delayed primary election.)

4. Dogs happy. Owners home.

5. The truth not only makes you free, but also keeps you safe.

6. Beatles' haircut returning (with some notable gaps) 50 years later.

7. Mild winter ends. Never wore parka or snow boots.

8. Double feature: Gone Baby Gone and A Star Is Born.

9. Standup lecturer begins finding out Monday if he can teach online.

10. It was something other than prowling the classroom for 3 hours, but it was not unsatisfying (teaching online).

11. Easter!?

13. Let me sum it up in 6 words: STAY HOME. SAVE LIVES. SAVE JOBS.

14. Will not end anytime soon.

15. End of the world? Kirk Herbstreit say no football in the fall.

16-17. Steve Miller once sang: "Time keeps on slippin' into the future."

18. Golf courses open. Tennis courts closed. Is there no justice?

19. Newspapers need a savior. Are you listening, Mr. Zuckerberg?

20. Fifth day of 30-minute walk. I am trying to stay in shape for a return to the tennis courts. Some day.

21. Watched Hawaii Five-0 reboot finale. McGarrett takes off. Don't we wish we could.

23. I wonder how my parents would react to the pandemic. Mom would say, "Day at a time." Dad would miss sports terribly.

25. Give Dan Rather press credentials to the White House briefings.

26. What's my name again?

27. Home is the only place to be this weekend. Trust the doctors.

28. "If you are lost and alone or you're sinking like a stone, Carry on." -- .fun

Co-written and co-performed by Andrew Dost, an esteemed former student of mine at Central Michigan University. Words to live by in these troubled times.

29. Smartphone that takes our temperature, checks for symptoms, and clears us to undertake normal daily life. Needed. STAT.

30. I'd post my senior picture, but I'm 17 going on 15. Might scare little children.

31. Enough.

32. One of my favorite childhood reads was "Alibi Ike" by Ring Lardner. It was about a baseball player nicknamed thusly because instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, he made up excuses. Now our future is imperiled by the Excuse-Maker-In-Chief.

33. Amazing how being out of power brings a political party together.

34. "Whack-jobbery," a new word from Steve Schmidt.

35. Ohio's political prisoner Tom Noe is freed at long last. Thank you, Gov. DeWine.

36. Attended our first-ever virtual cocktail party.

37. 4 + 20 = (pot day allusion)

38. Halfway through Michelle Obama's "Becoming." She's VP material.

39. A moment of silence for all the moments I should have remained silent.

40. Forty days and forty nights aboard the Coronavirus Ark. Is land in sight?

41. Simple as this, via the N.Y. Times: "By closing the schools in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, only 500 people got sick. If they remained open, half of the population would be infected."

43. Lysol/Clorox misspeak may Drano the Trump Swamp.

44. At long last, we will learn from our governor at 2 p.m. Monday how we might get about getting about a bit more.

45. Factories opening but libraries closed. Retails shops opening but dine-in restaurants closed. Nonsense in "No-hio."

46. Tennis fast ends after 46 days with a half-hour of pounding the ball against the wall. Let the games and the season begin!

47. A very good candidate, Alaina Shearer, won the primary in CD 12, while a very good candidate, Mike Larsen, lost the primary in CD 4. Isn't that just the way elections are?

48. Mayday or May Day?

49. I grieve for the college and high school students, unable to live their bountiful lives. Prevented from interacting with their peers and their teachers in classrooms, offices, hallways. Barred from socializing with their peers in homes, apartments, residence halls. Barred from walking across campus, playing sports, entering bars and restaurants. Missing the learning, the unexpected inspiration, the stumbled upon insight and the stretching of the limits of minds and bodies. They are losing invaluable weeks of their young lives ... that they never will get back.

50. With apologies to my "upbringers," I miss casinos. All that said, I have reached a Facebook fork in the road. Shall I go on with these daily "grinds"? I'll count the likes on this beast and if I get to 25, I will continue. (I did.)

51. I think my first experience with social distancing occurred at junior high school dances.

52. Wearing a mask and goggles would change my fortunes in poker.

53. Facebook says, "We build useful and engaging products that enable people to connect and share."

54. The humble business card. They used to say that if you were out of business cards, you were out of business. Another staple of modern life gone the way of the pandemic.

55. If we had grown up wearing masks, it would be easier now. Will they be part of our outfits 5 years from now?

56. First trip to the post office in 2 months. All masked we were, 6 feet apart, mostly senior citizens, we advanced in the line as in musical chairs, found a clerk on the other side of the plastic sheet, used credits cards for postage, and kept our distance on the way out the door. Zombies all.

57. Revelation of the NFL's fall schedule is a prime time TV program. Mercy me.

58. I saw Forest Gump back when theaters were open. I never went to Bubba Gump's restaurant.

59. On this day when many of us can work virtually from home or anywhere and on this day when universities across the land are agonizing about holding in-person classes in the fall, I think about the second favorite of the many poems I have written. It is titled "Another F#S%ing Building." It discusses the propensity of universities to put money into building buildings rather than into educating students. (Email me to address below to request a copy.)

60. I just completed teaching my first online course in a decade. Back then, I found the experience unsatisfying. This time it felt right and plenty worthwhile.

61. 1 in 5 college students reportedly unsure about returning in the fall. Winter is coming early for U.S. higher education.

62. First road trip in 2 months coming up. Get me my drivin' gloves.

With that, I ended my pandemic diary. No fanfare. No plea for support. I thought the pandemic was about over. I was wrong.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,

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