24 Directions at Once

Dispatches from the COVID-19 Lockdown


Who among us had ‘pandemic’ marked on our calendars?

Did you ever think a trip to the grocery store would feel dangerous or that you would long for just five minutes of listening to that annoying coworker? How many facemasks do you have hanging from your car’s rearview mirror? Where do you stash your extra toilet paper?

Written during the COVID-19 lockdown, Jim Blackwood, Jr.’s collection of 24 essays reminds us that even during a plague life continues, one thing after the other, both chaotic and utterly predictable. While for a time our worlds may have gotten smaller, some of the details of our lives have expanded.

Bookended by essays about the long confinement and dangerous COVID haircuts, Jim finds solace in the Zen of fast cars, introduces the permanent residents of dive bars, lives the sudden and slow disappearance of friends and family, reveals the epiphany of loud music, discovers a funny thing about adult theaters, tells a deep secret, walks foreboding desert landscapes, explains how memory fails us and reveals how a little dog taught him how to genuinely love.

With no place to go and no friends to share a meal or a hug, the lockdown became a gift, a way to explore what we often miss in the blur of daily life. Never waste a pandemic.