How I Spend My Social Distancing
Here it is the end of April and I’ve been in both formal and informal lockdown for what – six weeks, eight weeks now? You’d think I could manage a post before now but the sad fact of it has been that social distancing has meant a threefold increase in emails, Zoom meetings and actual phone calls. Folks checking in to see how I am holding up (Thanks for thinking of me) and folks wanting me to solve (their or our but mostly their) problems.
I did manage to do my duty as a self-employed “gig economy” artist and registered for unemployment under the provisions of the CARES act but so far, I have not seen any financial support, not even the $600 “top off” as I’ve heard it called. The MN Director of the Office of Economic Development says it is coming every time a reporter asks. When it does, it will be appreciated. In the meanwhile I have spent an inordinate amount of time on-line filing applications and reporting on my job search within a system that is obviously not designed to deal with us “gig- economy” folks.
My love affair with Zoom and specifically with Zoom as a storytelling platform is waning even as more storytellers are taking to it to tell and teach. Good on them. Good on those who look to Zoom or YouTube for entertainment and information during this time in pandemic stasis. For me, it offers a false intimacy. Yes I can see the face and often the gesture but it does not have the pheromone intimacy of being in the same space where you can sense the energy of the performer / audience building the moment together. It does not feel "live" and when I perform or teach I want the immediacy of verbal and non-verbal feedback that being in the room performance offers.
I have found a compromise however. A friend offered to pay me to call her on the phone and read a poem or tell her a story. I did and we talked about it after. She said she was curled in a chair or lying on the bed with her eyes closed and the phone by her side. It was like my voice was whispering her to sleep. There is nothing to distract from the intimacy of the words shimmering in her ear and imagination. I liked it and so am offering to do the same for whomever. We’ll negotiate a price, the number of calls, the time of day and the kind of story or poems you prefer.
Here's a testimony from Dorothy Cleveland: "I took Loren Niemi on his offer to tell a story over the phone. I poured myself a Scotch and listened to a poem and a favorite story. I closed my eyes and saw the images and heard the inflections in his voice. What a pleasure! It is the closest I can get to an in person performance. So if you are like me and need a bit of soul telling - ask Loren or a teller of your favorite story for a bit of their time to tell a story just for you. Be kind and pay them too."
Interested? A little something to ward off depression? A parable from a religious tradition to consider? Bedtime stories? Or as an alternative, you can make a confession and I'll offer a non-judgmental wholly secular absolution. Call or message me.
The other news is that my collection of Ghost stories – What Haunts Us – has been selected as a finalist for the 2020 Midwest Book Awards in the “Fiction - Fantasy/Sci-fi/Horror/Paranormal” category. Good on me. If you haven’t got a copy yet, need I suggest that it is time to do so? It is available on Amazon, from the MoonFire Publishing.com website or directly from me. Again call or message me and I'll be glad to sign and mail you a copy.
I’ll let you know whether I am going to have to order “Finalist’ or “Winner” stickers once the awards have been announced.