"Avoid contact with others."
“This could get very ugly. Extremely brutal with much wailing, gnashing of teeth and other wanton displays of grief.” I tell my young daughter as the stewardesses aboard Delta flight 119 with direct service from Charles de Gaulle to Los Angeles International deliver the “welcome Bellinis.” Peach puree for the children. It’s a nice touch, bringing some upper class to the petit bourgeois here in the back, and why Delta is now the number one US carrier, leapfrogging both United and American this past year.
“…there are reports of six to eight hour waits in the airports back home while medical folk scramble to take temperatures and give comprehensive interviews to those returning from the Schengen, which hasn’t been this dangerous since 1944.” I continue, after we toast. “It’s all very poorly designed at chaotic and could be grotesque. Endless serpentine shuffling with the sleepless, jet lagged, face mask’d hordes. Do you care?”
She takes a sip and shrugs.
This whole adventure to shred Europe’s Coronavirus Zombie Apocalypse has truly turned her into a little Arab, an honest practitioner of the “Inshallah Life.”
If God Wills.
There is nothing we can do to change this arc so we might as well sit back and laugh when and where we can, shrug when and where we can’t.
Her mother, on the other hand, has the unique ability to bend fate to her liking. She is why we’re drinking Bellinis while hurtling toward Los Angeles instead of on our way to a Caribbean prison island. Why I’m not weaving palm frond hats for us both.
And who knows what happens next? Paris went into complete lockdown two hours after our final steak frites. President Macron, furious with the French for continuing to live their lives in pink, closed all restaurants, bars, cinemas. Mimes forbidden from miming. Le Tower Eiffel darkened. Chanel, Dior, Hermès boarded up as if preparing for a hurricane.
Germany shut its land borders for the first time since World War II.
New reported cases, and the death toll, continue to rise as Europe is now Coronavirus “ground zero’ but this madness is coming to the United States next once people actually start getting tested. Cases will leap from the hundreds to the thousands overnight threatening to take the stock market all the way to zero.
Wild, crazy days ahead.
We watch Happy Death Day together and 10 Things I Hate About You before she pivots to Blue Crush and I move over to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I had seen it in the theater upon return from Paris last time and had slept through the entire thing.
It’s a fine film, worthy of all the praise but I’d find myself glancing over at Blue Crush often, forgetting that Noah Johnson surfed for Kate Bosworth in every single scene and become mesmerized by the grotesque oddity of big man legs paired with the most petite face.
And then we are circling LAX. The stewards and stewardesses, as confused as anyone, had delivered hastily printed “United States Traveler Health Declaration” forms but had no idea what anyone was supposed to do with them. Midway when the plane was over Nevada they had announced, over the intercom, that health officials would be boarding the plane, conducting interviews and tests and everyone should stay in their seats.
This news is reconfirmed as we wait to land, circling. I get a taste of the hardships those cruise passengers had to endure. The ones floating at sea with no port willing to take them and am forced to order one more vodka soda and watch the introduction to Bethany Hamilton’s Unstoppable.
A surf journalist to the very end also unstoppable.
After a few minutes we are given permission to land. Everything normal except for people actually staying in their seats once the airplane reaches the gate. Another announcement is made, this one stating we will all be getting off instead.
“Time for travel nightmare hell.” I tell my young daughter.
We walk off, down the corridors into a custom’s hall so overstaffed with medical personnel in face masks and officers that it takes all of ten minutes to reach the street outside. An LAX customs record. The medical personnel welcomed us warmly, asked if we had symptoms, took our temperatures, (young daughter 97.8, surfer-father 98.1) and gave us a card that read:
“Health Alert: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
You have traveled to a country with an outbreak of COVID-19 and are at higher risk. Stay home for the next 14 days and monitor your health. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and watch for symptoms.
We are now officially enemies of the state, forced into the internment camp of our home but I’ll obey the rules as I’ve already infuriated enough people with my “ruthlessly cavalier” attitude toward a pandemic. Heedlessly dragging my young daughter along for misguided kicks. My mother-in-law let it be known she is “extremely angry.”
Well, how does this damned Coronavirus spread? By having other people cough in your mouth or touching faces with Coronavirus tainted hands. Through other people. My young daughter and I paddled out into a virtually empty European lineup, two of very few at every fabulous restaurant. With only slightly more at churches, zoos, parks and palaces. Many feet apart from all.
Much natural social distancing but joy everywhere.
It was an unbelievably surreal experience, something I am so beyond happy to have shared with a person who will grow into this crazy world and have to choose her own way to approach the next apocalypse, whatever and whenever. To play in these margins together. To dance down the Seine by night, dance through the Tiergarten by day and toast Bellinis at the end.
She amazed me in every single moment, always looking for the adventure, always one step ahead and I am humbled.
Humbled in the same way marquee athletes are “humbled” by smashing their competition with a dazzling show of unique skill and bravado seeing as she’s my own flesh and blood.
That li’l champion is, without doubt, going places.
In fourteen days.