1001 Letters from the Pandemic 13: A window with a view

ESSAY: Letters from the Pandemic 13: A window with a view
by Adam Karolewski

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Ken Foster, English Bay and West End, 2014

Unless your income reaches the top 1 percent per mil, so you can afford a penthouse with a helicopter pad, living in downtown Vancouver doesn’t necessary come with a spectacular view. Often the view is of the side of the next high rise, at 15 feet distance. That’s what I have. Therefore I never cared much about the view.

When the virus struck, my window gained in meaning. I mostly stayed in, as everybody did, and I looked through it — a lot. And so did the people from the other side.

When the ritual of the 7 p.m. cheer for frontline medical workers began, more people showed up at their windows, banging and clapping. Someone around the corner blew a serious horn, a trombone I think. The cheer always lasted 3 minutes. I timed it. Is there an explanation for that particular duration?

I had other observations too. Three floors above, at 5 a.m. daily, this guy — I could only see his arms and hands — hit his switches and the light from his windows flooded our side of the high rise, like a movie set. Then he re-arranged the glass containers against the inside windows of his apartment. He had lots of plants too. My guess, it was not about the light but the temperature. Did he keep spiders? Snakes? Nothing illegal though – if it had been, he wouldn’t have been so relaxed about the light from his windows. I’d been up since 5 a.m. quite often too, chased out of my nightmares by my own spiders and snakes.

English Bay and West End, Vancouver

A bigger mystery, though, was a guy in the high rise directly in front of me. He talked on his phone constantly. First I thought he was hanging with his friends remotely. Yet he never listened: he always talked. He only talked. Sometimes he got quite agitated. He was recording himself, presumably. For hours. Speaking of what? And why?

Such was the tenor of the things I learned about the world outside thanks to the virus. I’d learned much more of course via the media and social media, as everybody had, but these local rituals visible from my window stuck with me because they were odd. And they helped fill the view from my window.

Of course it’s not my business what the vis-à-vis guy was recording. Also, as proven in books and films with people spying through windows, whatever it was they assume they saw is only ever part of the larger story. I saw just one silent angle of the Constant Talker and the Glass Container Man.

While awaiting the vaccine, I should probably stop staring, keep my blinds closed, and do more reading – for example on the hazards of appearances and hasty interpretation.

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Adam Karolewski

Adam Karolewski. Born not in Vancouver (which he considers a life mistake), GLS 2020 graduate. Hopes for professional opportunities in art and entertainment industry locally, if that is still around after the virus.

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Editor’s note: to view all the “Letters from the Pandemic” in the Graduate Liberal Studies Journal, see here.

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The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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2 comments on “1001 Letters from the Pandemic 13: A window with a view

  1. “The cheer always lasted 3 minutes. I timed it. Is there an explanation for that particular duration?”
    I enjoyed this part, as it’s a good observation. My guess is: people get tired around of their incessant clapping/pot-clanging around this mark; it is, after all, somewhat arduous!

    By the way, I’m curious as to whether you ever wrote down any of the dialogue you overheard from the Constant Talker.

    1. This was fun to read, Adam. Are you the Jimmy Stewart character in Rear View Window? Like him, you are confined in your space looking out at your neighbours’ windows, as this is your view. Hopefully nothing sinister is observed or overheard! Wonderful names for your characters.

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