In Iowa: Finding hope in the time of coronavirus

Nassor Cooper (right) on April 15, 2019, explains an arcade game console to Nathan #x201c;Tiny#x201d; Brashaw at Cooper'
Nassor Cooper (right) on April 15, 2019, explains an arcade game console to Nathan “Tiny” Brashaw at Cooper’s bar, The Rewind, 1010 Second Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Saturday is my birthday. It’s a small thing in the light of all that is happening in the world.

I know people who have had to cancel their weddings; others who have lost loved ones but aren’t holding full funerals to say goodbye. Still others have family members with new babies they cannot travel to visit.

I am still employed. No one I know is sick with this virus we are all facing. A birthday, really, does not matter.

Still, it is the accumulation of a thousand things that don’t really matter that will make this strange new world of keeping our distance from each other start to wear. The missed playdates and regular dates and parades and parties that together comprise the everyday fabric of our lives, in between the momentous things that matter a lot.

We’ve only been doing this for about a week now, and we don’t know how much longer any of this will last. We will have to dig deep, into ourselves and into the spirit of common goodwill that has pulled humanity through crises time and time again. We make these sacrifices not just for ourselves, after all, but for those who are most vulnerable and for our society as a whole, which relies on our health care system not being overwhelmed with patients. Remembering that we do this as a community, for our community, is what we will need to carry us through.

Last week I spoke with Nassor Cooper, owner of The Rewind bar, not long after Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered bars and restaurants closed to dine-in customers.

Cooper doesn’t serve food, so he has no curbside meals to sell, and so he has closed his doors. He opened his 1980s-themed bar, at 1010 Second Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, only about 10 months ago, and at the time he told me opening it was a dream come true. So I expected him to be depressed or anxious about the situation.

Instead, he told me he was enjoying the beautiful weather.


“Honestly, it’s been a much better day than I really expected it to be,” he said. “What I’m going to do is just not panic, be thankful I have a place to sleep, a comfortable place to sleep. I have food. I’m not going to stress about it today. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and deal with it in as straightforward a way as I can.

“We don’t really know how big this is and how long this is going to last. So let’s try to have good attitudes going into it, because if we wake up tomorrow with a bad attitude, we’re still going to have to deal with it.”

I’m taking hope from that positivity, and I’m taking hope from the hundreds of posts I’ve seen online, from restaurants that donated all their food before closing or are offering free lunches to children who are out of school, to musicians and artists and authors livestreaming free moments of creation to the world, to people volunteering to run errands for the elderly and vulnerable neighbors.

We just welcomed the first day of spring Thursday, and in my yard, tulips and daffodils are pushing up through the soil. I’m hopeful, on this strangest of birthdays, that despite the disquietude of the season, beautiful things will bloom.

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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