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JONESIE: What’s gotten me through the pandemic (so far)

April 09, 2021 - 12:00 PM



What’s gotten me through the pandemic? Well, thanks for asking. It’s an important question, not for me in particular, but it's something we should all share.

Call them survival tactics. Mental health rescue. Boredom rehabilitation. Ideas, people.

Not gonna lie, in the early days of the pandemic, it was booze. Copious amounts. I was glad everyone was preoccupied with toilet paper, it kept them out of the liquor store.

“If they close down more stores, which would you rather be without: Booze or toilet paper?” I once said, obviously rhetorically.

Three of my four family members were home together the entire time. Every single day for now 13 months. Of course we love each other, etc but love and living together for nearly 10,000 hours straight are entirely different things. You’d have to take a poll to be sure, but I thought we all got closer.

We did a lot of cooking together, watched Contagion and Shaun of the Dead several times in the beginning. We figured out how to play Jackbox with remote players and connected with friends and family that way. We found it on the gaming platform Steam. Jackbox has some great group party games. To play, you need one computer and every player uses a phone to answer questions or draw. (We open Steam and screen share the game through Skype to a computer in the remote home so they can see it. They also play on their phones. We used a spare machine to also Facetime so we can see each other.)

The booze eventually wore pretty thin. And by thin, I mean the lining of my stomach, I think. And the threads on my pants button.

It also got a little boring and unproductive. Plus, I gained 15 pounds.

I did a hard turn, changed my habits and my diet, started working out and now I’m down 25. I owe at least some of that to my Apple Watch, which is pre-programmed by default to nag you for remaining idle. A rowing machine, heavy bag and dumbbells got me through winter. Last spring, summer and fall, we did a lot of cycling and kayaking. The only thing new about that was finishing most of those excursions in a pub or restaurant. They needed the support; we spent more money in restaurants in the last year than ever before. 

We did more gardening the last two years, finally, hopefully figuring out once and for all how to grow from seed and transplant to the garden. We’ll see. Join some gardening groups on Facebook if you're getting into this. Very helpful. 

Few things have fed me through the pandemic more than my soundtrack, which is a little strange by my standards as typically a Metallica, White Stripes and Eminem kinda guy. A friend shared a video of DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian folk band, and they’ve been on repeat since last August. I literally can’t listen to anything else. This recording got me hooked (the preview doesn't do it justice).

The band features a man and three women, playing an array of their own instruments, accordion, piano, percussion and a cello so sexy, guitars don’t sound right anymore. But mostly, it’s their vocals. The three women grew up singing together and the four of them use vocals and vocal sounds to carry most of their songs. They sing in five different languages by my count and tackle musical styles from around the world, including what I think is a rap song? They’re all entrancing and… well, I could go on at length, but let me just leave you a few more songs in case I’ve whet your appetite. BabySpecially For YouDostochka.

I didn’t do as much reading as I’d hoped, but I went back to some old favourites: Kurt Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions), Matt Taibbi (Hate, Inc), Jon Ronson (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed) and Patrick Lane’s autobiography There Is a Season. (Patrick Lane was a poet and magnificent writer who grew up in the Okanagan, more specifically Vernon/North Okanagan. This book, as well as his novel Red Dog, Red Dog, describes some shocking history from his time: abject poverty, violence, depravity and the killing of his own father.)

Of course, we’ve toured the streaming sites but so have you, so I’ll only offer some fringe looks: Netflix: My Octopus Teacher is an amazing story of how a wealthy man with beachfront property can occupy a year of his time (and an amazing look at octopuses that will forever change how you look at them, I promise). For a series, try The Umbrella Academy, a superhero series that turns the genre on its head, The Last Dance about Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls, and Snowpiercer, a longer version of the movie set in a dystopian future where the last 1,000 people on earth survive on a train with an enforced class structure.

Amazon Prime has emerged as the winner in the streaming services. Try Alone, a reality series where people survive alone in remote wilderness, some seasons in Canada. The Boys, another superhero series that turns the genre on its head and if you like that, maybe try Preacher.

I also watch a lot of hockey, but I’m a Flames fan. It has not helped my mood.

One thing I haven’t done is cut my hair, mostly due to laziness and fewer public expectations. Can’t see it staying but if my resemblance to The Dude wasn’t entirely clear before, it is now.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED

Finally, and most recently, we’ve started more home renovations: painting, flooring, stairs — luckily nothing that requires wood, because who can afford that?

It took a while, but I’ve settled into a pandemic schedule. Early nights, early mornings, less booze, more exercise. But I feel like I am hitting a wall. I think it was dashed hopes that we are moving out of this pandemic. The new variants out there should concern everyone and bring a new commitment to vigilance so this gets better before it gets worse.

Pandemic restrictions could be here for a while, yet. Help me out and maybe others too. What’s gotten you through the pandemic? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email.

— Marshall Jones is the Managing Editor of

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