Columns

Codger’s column: His crisis crew

Codger credits his crew — Crone, Cur II, Cricket and Crock — for keeping him on course through the combined cataclysms of COVID-19 and Trumpism.

These entwined plagues are not anywhere near over yet, but this new year, a new president, new vaccines, a new baseball season, all offer new hope. And the possibilities of finding common ground.

That’s Crone’s goal, common ground, which Codger respects but finds optimistic, especially after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and such weak-kneed, reactionary Trumpkin responses as those of Codger and Crone’s own Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a craven clone. But finding common ground is the only hope because it’s rational, humane and the lone path to survival.

Survival has been on Codger’s mind lately, and he’s been thinking about how difficult existence would have been this past year without Crone. After they got together, 23 years ago, at a Shelter Island housewarming, he soon realized that if he should ever be marooned on a desert island, she would be his companion of choice.

He actually fancied the idea of being marooned on a desert island with her — much more than she did, he thinks.

Sometimes life has felt like that lately, sequestered without a jury, in witness protection, marooned from other family members. Zooming helps but without hugs it’s images from a sitcom.

And like sitcom characters, Codger and Crone have squabbled over the years, but never over money or household chores or the kids and grandkids, the usual suspects. It’s over their very different first responses to people and events: Codger being judgmental and confrontational; Crone giving slack and trying to find shared interests among antagonists.

Crone’s sensibilities usually prevail because elsewhere lies the kind of chaos we have been glimpsing lately.

The second critical component of Codger’s crisis crew is Cur II, a dog too large for the family bed who sleeps there anyway. He finds his common ground, thank goodness, at the lower end of the bed, rather than between Crone and Codger.

Cur II  (aka Apollo) is 8.5 years old and devoted to guarding the house against the Proud Squirrels, even if that means barking them off the deck at 5 a.m. He is also a black hole of belly rubs and back scratches, which is comforting on both ends. No wonder there are so many current COVID Canines.

Cricket, the youngest human on Codger’s crew, is also 8.5. Almost every afternoon since March 20, Codger and Cricket (known as Daniel to his parents) have met on FaceTime to read the ancient Greek and Latin adventure fantasies by Rick Riordan, beginning with Percy Jackson and the Olympians. This week, without having paused for more than a couple of days since March, they began their fourth series and 18th novel.

Despite not hugging in more than a year, Codger and Cricket have gotten closer, virtually. As they began spending more time talking about the characters’ personalities and problems, they naturally talked about themselves.

Who knew how complicated a Brooklyn schoolboy’s life can become in this remote time, stuck in an apartment with two working parents, attending 3rd-grade and after-school activities in an ever-changing in-person and online schedule.

Coincidentally, Codger and Cricket’s most recent series, “The Trials of Apollo” (the god not the dog), followed the supremely handsome, talented and arrogant god through the worst year of his 4,000-year life.

His dad, Zeus, turned him into a flabby, acne’ed teenager named Lester (gods tend to be terrible parents) which turned out to be a godsend — Apollo/Lester got in touch with his humanity, including having girls as friends and equals. Just as long as there was still lots of swordplay, magic and monsters, Cricket was happy — and began reading more and more on his own.

The oldest crew member is Codger’s best male friend on the Island, 92-year-old Crock, known to his millions of fans as Jules Feiffer, Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, Oscar-winning screenwriter, a leading graphic satirist for over 60 years.

Crock is an enormous inspiration for Codger to just keep going, plagues be damned. Crock works every day at his easel; he is finishing a series of graphic novels for kids. His new drawings about the pandemic and other works are currently being exhibited at the gallery Keyes Art in Sag Harbor.

On most Sundays, Codger and Crock breakfast together. Crock cooks. They discuss the state of the nation and world. Crock criticizes left and right, reserving total mindless acclaim only for his cats. His anger is cool, but palpable; he feels betrayed by the right-wing subversion of the American Dream that got him from the Depression to these capital times.

Friday night, with Codger side-kicking, Crock will comment and clarify on a 7 o’clock Zoom dialogue at the Library.

Please come.