Why I Made The Corona Chronicles A Series

Casey's Corona Chronicles — How to Outlast Your Kids in the Midst of a Global Pandemic — Empty Grocery Store Shelves
Is this what the world’s end looks like? Credit to André Proulx.

What do you even write about when the whole world’s burning down? Multibillion-dollar sports empires ended their seasons early. The travel industry shut down in one fell swoop. I didn’t start talking about COVID-19 right away because it was all anyone could talk about, but as soon as we closed schools down for three weeks across Ontario, how could I not?

When I first published The Corona Chronicles on March 13th, though, I was so short-sighted. I called the three-week quarantine “March Br3ak”, thinking this would all somehow resolve itself by April. I didn’t jump on long-term prep right away, figuring I could do some catch-up once things calmed down a bit.

But then our businesses shut down on the 16th. Travel another four days later. We learned that this was no small thing—we needed to learn a “new normal” with a very uncertain future ahead. This was no three-week ordeal.

And as the days dragged on and I kept writing about the experience, it only grew clearer there was more going on than a single post could contain. I needed a full series.

So here, in week eight of The Great Quarantine, I’d like to welcome you to The Corona Chronicles: The Series, where we talk about life as a family in Toronto, trying to stay sane each day as we find new ways to adjust.

I, for one, look forward to returning to some semblance of normal soon, but until we do, you can expect me to keep writing about it.

Be well, everyone, and keep doing what you need to to make it in these times!

Until the next, I remain,

cep wrap-up logo

Casey Palmer x BN3TH Present: How to Dress Your Best When You’ve Got Nowhere To Be.

Question: can you make underwear so comfortable that it barely feels like you’re wearing underwear at all? That’s the question BN3TH hopes to answer!

Casey Palmer x BN3TH Present — How to Dress Your Best When You've Got Nowhere To Be. — Casey with a Superhero Pose in BN3TH Underwear

I first got into upscale underwear in 2012 when I started winning them at tweetups. They were a vast upgrade from the boxers and tighty whities that came before them, and a step closer to becoming the kind of Dad who doesn’t sacrifice style just because the world thinks we should.

See, I want to make fatherhood cool again. Suits, not sweats. Dividends, not debts. Letting our children enhance our lives—not learning to live with regrets.

Popular media’s vilified Dads for who knows how long, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. We’re not buffoons. We’re not aloof. There’re plenty of Dads putting their hearts, minds and souls into raising great children, and it’s a story we need to dive into far more often. I want to show that we don’t need to exchange the things defining our character to hold up our ends of the parenting bargain—we can kill it and still hit the gym. Or rock a three-piece. Or keep travelling, indulging and enjoying fancy foods without somehow feeling like we’re betraying our kids.

It’s time we shift the narrative around fatherhood, and BN3TH very much agrees.

Nine Things I Learned from the Ninth Dad 2.0!

Nine Things I Learned from the Ninth Dad 2.0! — Casey with Canadian Chips
When you go to Dad 2, come bearing gifts!

The Dad 2.0 Summit is a different kind of conference. Sure, it has many of the moving parts that make a conference a conference, but they all come with a twist that makes them unique. Sponsor presentations like the man who understood how divorce and being there for his daughters made him a better Dad, or the company whose creative director went undercover as a teenage girl to ferret out sexual predators online. Fathers who’d take the stage and share what it’s like to lose a wife to cancer or the things they discover as they think about their children and the lives they lead. Each time someone spoke, it peeled back another layer, leaving hundreds of Dads forever changed by the time they found their ways back home.

But then, one might argue it’s a bit masochistic. That we convened from clear across the continent to face the parts of ourselves we couldn’t share in our everyday lives, and the demons we never seem to shake. That we come out knowing more of the things that go “bump” in the night and the dangers around each corner if we lose sight of our kids for a second. Why would anyone in their right minds want to subject themselves to this?

Because we must. Because it’s all important. And because if we dads with the platforms to share messages to the people who need them most can do a little more today than we could with what we had before Dad 2.0, then why would we not?

Let me show you a little of what Dad 2.0‘s all about.

The Corona Chronicles | Day Four | Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 | You Know I’m Trying to Work Here, Right?

If St. Patrick’s Day happens and everyone forgets that it’s St. Patrick’s Day, did it even really happen?

The funny thing about me forgetting about St. Patrick’s Day, in particular, is that I’d bought a green shirt from UNTUCKit on my recent trip to DC with the express purpose of having something thematic to wear when the day came along.

But COVID-19 changed everything, and I forgot all about it.

It probably has something to do with the childminding not ending up as equitable… or as easy as either of us initially imagined.

The Corona Chronicles | Day Three | Monday, March 16th, 2020 | A Strange and New Normal

And so begins the first day of a strange and new normal.

Casey's Corona Chronicles — Casey Holding Some Toilet Paper

Working from home isn’t entirely new to me—I’m fortunate enough to work for an organisation that values flexibility alongside productivity—but I’ve rarely done it with my kids underfoot, constantly seeking entertainment and asking for something new every five minutes. I don’t quite know what I expected—perhaps that with how well I knew my job, I’d be able to do it all without a problem.

But if this first day was a taste of what things could look like in the weeks ahead… we might be in for a problem.

The Corona Chronicles | Day Two | Sunday, March 15th, 2020 | The Last Days of Normalcy

Day Two had me feeling a bit more like an outdoor cat trapped indoors, clawing away at the screen door for the world he thinks he’s supposed to be in.

Casey's Corona Chronicles — Day Two — Selfie at the Park

The weekend’s over and tomorrow will be the first real taste of just how much the world has changed for many Ontarians. For those of us not working at home, or employed by one of the numerous services already shut down in the province, it won’t be a regular Monday, and will start to set the tone for the next few weeks ahead. But rather than dwell on the negatives and let them burrow deep inside us, we should look at all this as a challenge to our norms, giving us new ways to do the things we’d always taken for granted.

The Corona Chronicles | Day One | Saturday, March 14th, 2020 | So You Find Yourself Under Quarantine…

The Corona Chronicles | Day One | Saturday, March 14th, 2020 | So You Find Yourself Under Quarantine… — Chicken WingsIt’s Day One, and things are still a little surreal. We still went forward with our plans, shopping for furniture and taking a leisurely lunch while our kids’ godmother looked after them at home. We’ve shut down just about anywhere where 250 people or more could gather, but it was clear there’s still several of us not quite ready to shut ourselves off from the world.

This is only short-term, though. The restaurants and small businesses operate in constant fear of a national lockdown, barring doors and keeping everyone at home, so we’d better enjoy it while we can, right? But I’m taking every spare moment I can find to jot some thoughts down, sure they’re a lot better here than jumbled inside of my head.

I think I’m trying to hold on to a sense of normalcy as long as I can, fully aware that it could all get a lot worse before it gets any better. But the most important thing we can do right now is prepare, and that includes what we’ll do while the kids have nowhere to go.

Live from the 3.5, 2020 #5 — The Trouble with Tokenism: No, I’m NOT What You Expected.

Tokenism.

One of those things the Black community doesn’t talk about nearly enough, tokenism is what happens when someone’s in a group where everyone else is completely unlike them.

Much of my life had me as the token Black guy, navigating spaces unfamiliar to me again and again as I defined my identity. Black Canadians make up 3.5% of the population now, but there were even fewer of us around in the ’80s and ’90s. You rarely saw Black faces not already connected to your parents from their ties back home. Over in the suburb of Mississauga, Ontario, I could go to school near one of its few Black neighbourhoods, and there were still only three of us in my French immersion class.

Live from the 3.5, 2020 5 The Trouble with Tokenism — No, I'm NOT What You Expected — Young Casey Palmer Trying to Look Mean
Even a young Casey thought he had to fit a certain mould….

Fact is, I didn’t understand how differently my parents were looking to do things.

The thing is… you don’t really know that you’re Black as a kid till someone points it out for you.

And I don’t just mean your skin colour—it only takes one look in the mirror to tell you that—but how you come off to everyone else as a Black person, with someone always willing to call you to account if they don’t think you measure up.

Too “White” for the 3.5%, too Black for the rest. This is Casey Palmer’s Trouble with Tokenism, and it all started with one little test.

What’s The Trouble With Tokenism?

“And every Black ‘You’re not Black enough’
Is a White ‘You’re all the same'”

— Childish Gambino, “That Power”, Camp (2011)

One of the problems with being Black in Canada is that we’re often grossly underestimated—that our economic, social and situational disadvantages are somehow due to a lack of intelligence instead of a lack of opportunity.

When I was six, my Mom wanted me tested for gifted education, thinking me capable of more than what my school offered. And so she did what any concerned parents would do and asked the school board to make the arrangements to make it happen.

And they refused. They thought my shows of intelligence little more than a phase I’d outgrow if they gave it a little time. But my Mom wasn’t one to takes things lying down, fighting them until they let me take it, doing better on it than anyone on the board expected.

But that just might be part of the reason why I wouldn’t see many Black faces for the next ten years—in a country that didn’t expect much of us, it took a lot just to get through the front door.

I was lucky, though, to have a mother who believed in me even when others wouldn’t—to have me rise to the challenge even when others thought I didn’t belong.

I just wish I understood all that sooner.

Live from the 3.5 2020, #4 — Canada’s Dance with Diversity (A Toronto Does Not a Canada MAKE.)

“Why’s your skin so dark?”

— an eight-year-old boy from small town Ontario at the Canadian National Comic Book Exposition, 2003.

When a little White boy asked me why my skin was so dark at my comic con table, I wasn’t ready for it at all. As a Mississauga kid, I knew diversity. I knew a public aware of all the races, never dreaming of a situation where people wouldn’t know about people who didn’t look like them.

But that also meant that I grew up in a bubble, thinking the Greater Toronto Area a reflection of how things worked across the country instead of seeing it for what it is—one big Canadian anomaly.

Many Torontonians make the same mistake (after all, being steps away from an international airport makes cheap trips to the Caribbean far more alluring than costly domestic travel), but I wanted to show my kids more of the country than I’d ever seen myself. In those journeys, I realised something:

This country is white as hell.

And, Toronto? This might come as a shock to you.

Yes, we have Black people in Canada. No, they’re not LOST.

Embed from Getty Images

For a long time, people were surprised we have Black people in Canada, sure it was a country full of White people living in igloos and travelling by dogsled through a wintry tundra.

And they weren’t entirely wrong.

But before Drake came along and showed the world a different side of what a Canadian looked like, there were always Canadians who’d run online to our country’s defence, telling everyone that they’d be stunned if they knew how diverse our country was. We have representation from every corner of the world. Canada embraces people and weaves them into a cultural mosaic instead of having them assimilate as the United States does.

And their hearts were in the right place—if you look at our urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, this is indeed the case, as vast proportions of our BIPOC population calls urban Canada home. But it doesn’t take much travelling outside of those metropolitan hubs to understand just how homogeneous the rest of our country is.

Live from the 3.5 2020, #3 — Examining Blackness.

When I started this project, it had a straightforward premise—to let Black Canadians share their stories, seldom seen in our history books.

And that worked at first—interviewing my fellow creators and weaving our stories together into something everyone could understand—but what I didn’t realise was how much I’d learn from them, the breadth of our experiences slowly reshaping the way I think.

In the beginning, I worried about the perception—how others would view my brand if my work grew too serious. But the deeper I dug, the less I toed the line—I wrote and wrote and wrote again until I had but one deceptively simple question:

What is Blackness, exactly?

The Quest for Blackness.

Live from the 3.5 2020, #3 — Examining Blackness. — Black Self-Reflection
Source | Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

“You made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.”

— Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between Me and the World (2015)

Blackness. What is Blackness? What is this thing we know is flowing through our veins, making us a little different from most of the world around us even if we can’t quite define it ourselves?

To most people, Blackness is just a label. It’s the thing that defines a people darker than themselves, a people connected to basketball, hip-hop and Spike Lee joints. They might not ever stop to think about it, but what so many see is just what’s on the surface, not understanding everything underneath, because they’ve never had to live it.

But what of the 3.5% of us who do? For us, it could be anything. Where you come from. How you think. It’s a web of traditions, experiences and unwritten rules, continually shifting but ever-present in a world that sees us as different. But with the discrimination, dehumanisation and just plain racism that happens every day, sometimes the Blackness is all that we’ve got. And though we’d like to think this couldn’t possibly be true and that anti-Black behaviour is a thing of the past, it only takes a little digging to find a story with a very different take on the matter.

The Difference Between Black History in Canada and the US is That There’s Very Little Difference at All….