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Never has a year seemed longer than 2020 or shorter, quieter or more disquieting, more sad or promising, thoughtful or numbing, hopeful or disgruntled. It's the Sunday after Christmas and I realized that the single thing in my life that has changed most during coronavirus times is Sunday morning and the combination of the New York Times and eating at a diner, usually sitting at the counter, with pancakes and one egg up. And coffee. That was my Sunday morning for decades. Now, it's breakfast at home before going to get the paper.

The year for me had started out fairly normal with ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia and College Art in Chicago. I spent a couple days in New York City before and after Midwinter. My journal entry as I flew back from Chicago does mention that there's a virus in the news. The rest of my conferences through the year went virtual or were cancelled. On the other hand, one can attend plenty of artist talks and other programs online, live or recorded. That has been pretty exciting.

My indexing job is about the same this year as last, once the library opened enough to fetch the journal issues that aren't electronic or that I don't have on personal subscription. The indexing is all done remotely in Voyager on a Columbia connection. The Alfred University libraries have been partly open for pickup of requested items and to use computers, printers, and scanners. No stack access which is frustrating for our patrons, particularly the art students. No print reserves which is frustrating for our patrons but also means considerably less traffic at the circulation and reference desk.

I don't think I've read more books this year than last. A couple dozen books, probably split about evenly between fiction and non-fiction. Current book is The Overstory by Richard Powers. I remember when my NYC book club discussed his Galatea 2.2 that the women found it misogynistic or guy oriented. There certainly are bits in Overstory that are male. My favorite Powers book was Three farmers on their way to a dance. Or did I just like the title? I am not sure which of 2020's books was my favorite. I really enjoyed Washington Black, The great believers, and The Mussolini canal among the fiction titles and Midnight in Sicily and How to be an antiracist among the non-fiction.

Alfred has been having weekly Black Lives Matter demonstrations, mostly quiet and vigil-like, since the summer and the murder of George Floyd. The summer and early fall demonstrations included up to 50 people some times but last week it was just three of us. We do get way more thumbs up and support honking than middle fingers and noisy smoky muffler blasting.

I was reading an older Arts & leisure section at breakfast (before going to Wegmans to get today's paper) and there was an article about the Black playwright Jeremy O. Harris who then had two plays in near readiness to open Off Broadway. They were both at theaters where I had subscriptions (New York Theatre Workshop and Vineyard Theatre) when I lived in NYC. Someday theaters (and cinemas) will be open again and that will be grand. And maybe now I could actually see one or both of those plays in a filmed version. Someday maybe they'll resurrect the bus service between Alfred and New York City.

How'd I get this far without mentioning streaming? I switched from two discs on Netflix to one disc and streaming in order to watch "The Crown" and plenty of other stuff. Loved "The Crown" but also discovered the joys of "Schitt's Creek" and went around that circuit seven or eight times. It was satisfying to be in a place where diversity, inclusivity, and love are the expectation and norm. It was also pretty nice to have the universe of Netflix streaming selections for impulsive viewing.

I have now been living in Alfred for eleven years since retiring from NYU. I still miss New York City and its museums and galleries and busy streets. It has been easy to socially distance in Alfred, especially when most of the students are not on campus or around town. I should have used the lockdown and isolation to sort the many files that are piled up around the house. I should take a lesson from Marie Kondo and downsize my stuff. As a step in that direction, I have decided to distribute some of the cards that I've gotten in fundraising mailings from charities. I do recognize I'm just distributing my recycling and/or refuse, not really sorting anything for disposal.

The new year starts soon. May it bring you and yours, and all of us, plenty of health and good stuff ... whatever that means. Surprise us.

Sheman Clarke
33 South Main Street
Alfred, NY 14802


... go to Sherman's miscellany page ...