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"Apocalype Now and Then"

For the many thousands gone and Cheryl Wall in particular

When the editors concocted the thematic for this issue, we’d hoped that “Apocalypse Now and Then” would do more than corner an unmistakable allusion to the title of the 1979 film addressed to the ravages of the Vietnam War and star-studded with some of Hollywood’s iconic male actors of the era; we wanted more than a metaphor, and for reasons that generations will obsess over within the hearing of their grandchildren, we got exactly more than that. We got the real deal: the world ushered in by the new year—and who knew on that (quite loud) New Year’s Eve night in San Francisco’s “Mathilde,” with its exquisite food and buzzed patrons?—not only lay in wait, but incubated like a serpent hidden in a bank of flowers. It was only a matter of days, it seems, after “Auld Lang Syne” and right-knee-replacement surgery for me that the unthinkable happened. A disease erupts on the other side of the globe, mediated by Europe and of all luxurious loci, the cruise ship, but lacking a distinctive moniker like certain famous literary diseases—erysipelas, tuberculosis, syphilis, dysentery, or any of the great fevers (typhoid, scarlet, yellow), or diseases of old joints in old people (gout and rheumatism). This killer, sharing symptoms with the common cold we are told, borrows its name from other viruses—a few other respiratory disorders are also called “coronavirus.” But for all that, this new Bug-Thing has accomplished a repertory of fright that I’ve not seen in a lifetime, even in the Badlands of US Southern apartheid where I grew up. What we have undergone, then, since mid-March shows all the signs of what we imagine “apocalypse” entails. (Read More)

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