Fan­ta­siz­ing about the post-pan­demic world

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - BY PA­TRICK T. REAR­DON

I’ve started to think of it as The Af­ter. I mean that time when it will be safe for me and the rest of the world to do all the stuff we used to do be­fore COVID-19 showed up and ru­ined the party.

The Af­ter is the time af­ter we’ve lived through this pan­demic — those of us who do live through it.

I sus­pect that every­one, like me, is fan­ta­siz­ing about what to do in The Af­ter. What restau­rant to go to. What theme park to visit. What bal­let to see. What singer to hear. What park to bar­be­cue in.

Bas­ket­ball is some­thing that I re­ally miss, but most of the guys I’m play­ing with and against are over the age of 60 or, like me, over the age of 70. We aren’t go­ing to be play­ing again un­til this COVID thing is re­ally over. It’s just too dan­ger­ous for us to bang bod­ies un­der the board and huff and puff around the court.

I have a fan­tasy about The Af­ter in my phone that I can check when­ever I want to.

It’s the app from The Weather Chan­nel that shows me, with a click, the tem­per­a­ture in my Chicago ZIP code, as well as the hu­mid­ity, baro­met­ric pres­sure and the fore­cast for the next 10 days.

But, with a flick of my thumb, I can be in Que­bec City or Al­bu­querque or Lon­don or Paris.

Not re­ally, of course. But by flick­ing to the left, I can see what the weather is like in those four places — all of them cities where my wife, Cathy, and I have va­ca­tioned and re­ally en­joyed our­selves.

On a re­cent day, I did this virtual travel and learned that, in Que­bec City, the ex­pected high was 91 de­grees with high hu­mid­ity and an evening low of 66.

And I could pic­ture how it would feel to stroll the de­light­ful board­walk out­side the Château Fron­tenac, the huge, 1893 cas­tle-like ho­tel over­look­ing the St. Lawrence River. Cathy and I stayed a block from there a cou­ple of years ago, and I know how the river breeze cuts the high tem­per­a­ture, at least a bit, and how pleas­ant the stroll is in the early evening when things have cooled down.

Al­bu­querque was ex­pect­ing a high of 96 and a low of 64, but we know, from hav­ing been there last year — for me to play, poorly, in a se­nior bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment — how it’s a dry heat. Even at the hottest part of the day, you can walk around in rel­a­tive com­fort, but you want to be sure to avoid sun­burn. And, for that mat­ter, sun­stroke.

A tem­per­a­ture range of 72 to 51 or so was pre­dicted for Lon­don and Paris. Very pleas­ant for walk­ing the streets of those cities, as we like to do.

Cathy en­joys go­ing to gar­dens, while I’m par­tial to art mu­se­ums. In fact, in Paris, where we’ve vis­ited three times, we have stayed each time at the same ho­tel, a block from the Louvre.

At the mo­ment, though, the idea of go­ing into the Louvre or Musee d’Or­say is ridicu­lous. I re­mem­ber the crowds queue­ing up to get in, to say noth­ing of the crowds in the hall­ways and gal­leries. To say noth­ing of the crowds on the Paris and Lon­don side­walks and sub­ways.

No way I’m go­ing to the Louvre again un­til I’m safely vaccinated and so is every­one else.

Of course, no way I’m go­ing to any of these places un­til it’s fully safe to fly.

Again, as a 70-year-old, I’m not gonna try to test things. I want a sure thing. I get the shiv­ers just to think about the lines of peo­ple go­ing through air­port se­cu­rity and find­ing my seat on a fully packed air­plane.

Still, it’s nice to dream. I’m sure every­one — all over the world — has one or maybe many lists of what to do in The Af­ter.

There may be many di­vi­sions in our na­tion and our world, but it seems safe to say that we’re all look­ing for­ward to The Af­ter.

I can hardly wait. Pa­trick T. Rear­don is a poet, his­to­rian and es­say­ist whose lat­est book, “The Loop: The ‘L’ Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago,” will be pub­lished on Nov. 26 by South­ern Illinois Univer­sity Press.


Vis­i­tors hold images of the Mona Lisa out­side Paris’ Louvre museum on Mon­day as it re­opened af­ter a 16-week clo­sure.

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