We’re still in a quarantine in Chicago but restrictions have loosened up a bit—Quarantine Lite™ I guess you’d call it. I’ve ventured on a few train and bus rides and yesterday I was able to visit my family (from a safe distance) for the first time in four months. On top of that, I got a haircut on my fire escape.
I should be able to return to work soon, thank the deities, because working from home in isolation is doing a number on me. I know I’m not alone: 2020 is basically a world-wide mental health stress test. One of my coping mechanisms to to observe my own mental state and report back on it to myself, like a journalist or novelist. I wish I could have a more interesting main character in my drama, but other than HOB and our cat Shinto, I’m all I have right now (if you don’t count the inch-high heads I meet up with in endless Zoom calls).
In brief, I am having a hard time processing information. There’s just so much coming at me that is stuck in a brain lag. Even reading, my lifelong pastime, is difficult. I feel intellectually slow, like one of those people who used to get labeled “low IQ” back when we were uncivilized and shamefully did not treat folks with intellectual disabilities with the respect they deserve.
I’m so puzzled when people continue to talk about IQ’s these days. For example, a relative had recently posted on social media about a certain politician and then two of his friends joined in an argument of the probable IQ of said politician (like getting specific about the number) and the one friend accused the other of having low IQ. How do people know these things? Are people just constantly getting IQ tests and then discussing the results with each other? Is it like getting a cholesterol test where if you forget to fast and eat bacon for breakfast you’ll get a low score? Can you take a six week class and study a workbook to raise your score? Do people stand on street corners like those Christian Scientists luring people into wood paneled rooms to take IQ tests?
So what if you find out you have a high IQ? I once had a neighbor, A, who was a member of Mensa, all of us neighbors knew about it because she received lots of mail from Mensa and even though we have mailboxes her Mensa letters would sit out for long time under the mailbox cubbies. All I could think was A’s Mensa membership got her a one bedroom apartment in the same building as me and didn’t do much for her self-dramatizing and generally unpleasant personality. Anyway I always preferred my upstairs neighbor V, who is not a member of Mensa but (before Covid) we’ve had lots of conversations about cats and sometimes she leaves me gifts of banana bread and fudge. I think she finds my personality more agreeable too, though it could just be our mutually low IQ’s discovering and leaping towards each other like in those Visitation Renaissance paintings of Mary and Elizabeth where the fetuses of Jesus and St. John meet each other and leap in recognition.
So here I am in Quarantine Lite™ stuck with a slow brain and I’m frustrated as hell. However, social isolation does apparently come with some mental perks. While my ability to process intellectual information has slowed down, my visual processing is at an all time high. I go outside for a walk and everything is so damn vivid, it’s like I can see 10 times and much and appreciate what I’m seeing like never before.
These last few months I’ve started to look at mid-century modern architecture with intense interest. Not those precise international style buildings that we specialize in downtown Chicago, but the kooky vernacular style that populates the north side (and the northern suburb of Skokie). Much of the architecture is referred to with the derogatory term “Four Plus One” which is a kind of depressing, cheap apartment building, heavy on the concrete.
Somehow my quarantine brain has woken up to these mid-century wonders and they’ve become my favorite kind of building—I enjoy them more than any lovely historical architecture. In particular, the entrances have an extreme appeal.
Here’s a sampling:
So what do you think, friends? Are levitating concrete zig zags a perfect match for your quarantine IQ? Let’s start a mid-century Mensa and impress all our neighbors!