Posts

Day 222

Wildfires, a Two-Headed Shark, & Food-Scented Masks

Day 222

It’s Sunday. Less than two weeks until the election. Here in the SF Bay, city officials have “encouraged” residents in our area to evacuate “if possible” because fierce winds “may” spark wildfires.

My neighbor next door grabbed her family and dog and checked into a hotel downtown by the waterfront. She urged us to do the same. We’re staying put for now but I’m nervous. Will I be like all those flood victims I watch who fail to heed evac notices of hurricanes bearing down on them? Or is this legitimately different? After all, nothing is happening — yet.

Pandemic, politics, racial injustice, and economic turmoil … it is cause for such sadness. Adding to it all, another person I know has just died. Not of COVID-19. But still, I cannot count the number of people I know who have died in the past seven months. More than at any finite period of time in my life.

OK. Enough! My Sheltering-in-Place journal is supposed to offer relief from our woes, not add to them. So, what have I got that’s light today?

Let’s see.

Item 1: I saw a story about a two-headed shark. That’s amusingly weird. A fisherman in India caught the baby 6” shark and kudos to him, he took some pictures and then tossed it back in the water.

Item 2: The latest in mask wear? Masks that smell like food!

Jack in the Box has created the fried chicken-scented face mask to promote its new plant-based offering: the “Unchicken” sandwich and Hormel Foods is offering a “Breathable Bacon” mask, which according to the company’s press release “features the latest in pork-scented technology with a two-ply multi-fiber cloth to keep the delicious smell of bacon always wrapped around your nose and mouth.” No mention if the pork-smelling mask is prepared under strict rabbinical guidelines. My guess, alas, is no!

That’s it on Day 222. Stay calm. Wear a mask, food-scented or not!

Day 156

But Thinking Back 43 Years Ago

Here in the SF Bay, we began sheltering in place for 156 days ago. That’s more than 22 weeks of wearing masks, non-stop washing hands, worrying, and trying to focus on the bright side of things.

Yet, amid this crazy countdown, I’m observing a different “anniversary.” Forty-three years ago this week, I got my first full-time adult job. It happened on August 16, 1977, and the circumstances were uniquely unforgettable.

I had graduated from college at the age of 20 with a degree in Russia Studies — Political Science and Russian Language — from Barnard College, Columbia University in NYC. Since I was a bit on the young side, I wanted to take a break before starting graduate school.

Back at home in Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew I wanted to become a foreign correspondent. So, as the first step toward that goal, I walked into the offices of the Las Vegas SUN newspaper owned by legendary newsman “Hank” Greenspun.

Somehow, without an appointment or even benefit of a recommendation from anybody in the community, I landed a meeting with the paper’s kindly managing editor Al Kolber. Kolber, if I recall correctly was a native New Yorker and loved that I was a Columbia U grad.

Al, a diminutive fellow — almost elfish in appearance if you can picture a chain-smoking elf, in turn, called the almost 6’-tall hard-charging female city editor Chris Chrystal. Chris grilled me for a while and then nodded her approval to Al. I was hired!

But Then …

We had just started discussing my start date and salary when suddenly bells started ringing. People were running in every direction and shouting at the top of their lungs. Typewriters (yes, typewriters) started tapping. And yes, the phrase, “Stop the presses” was bellowed out.

“You start Monday, kid,” Al said, rushing out of his smoke-filled office. “Gotta go.”

What was the excitement all about? What happened on August 16, 1977? Who remembers? Why Elvis Presley died, that’s what. Big news in the Entertainment Capital of the World. Big news everywhere.

That was my introduction to my new profession — where the death of a swivel-hipped rock-n-roller can rock a newsroom and the world.

So goes Day 156 — Just a silly recollection as we bide our time, waiting for a vaccine and better days.

Day 119

Battle of the Bulge

I’ve hit the over-eating phase of these pandemic times. I’ve already regained the weight I lost from my month-long bout with pneumonia. Now I’m fighting a battle not to add additional pounds to my couch potato, baked-potato-smothered-in-butter-loving body.

And I know I’m not alone. A lithe girlfriend of mine confessed she ate three portions of her sister-in-law’s lasagna’s this weekend. She did it while properly social distancing, but lamented that the only exercise she achieved was dashing to and fro from the serving bowl back to her chair across the room!

Speaking of Eating

… and yes, I’m speaking/typing with my mouth full, Handsome Hubby and I finally celebrated my birthday (post-pneumonia) this weekend. He ordered a sweet treat for me — a proper English High Tea service delivered to our home. Of course, it was High Tea with a sheltered-in-place twist. The sandwiches and scones arrived via ribbon-ed waxed paper boxes instead of elegant fine bone china and the tea was served via tea bags instead of fancy silver teapots. But still, it made for a yummy and fun afternoon. It was a lovely reminder of former elegant tea times at Brown’s Hotel in London and at the Plaza in NYC.

Now, alas, to atone for all this non-stop gluttony, I’m going to sign off this COVID Chronicles entry and huff and puff my way out the door for an extra-long walk.

So goes Day 119. Please stay safe. Don’t overeat. Perhaps I should wear a mask INDOORS to control my eating. Perhaps I should self-quarantine away from the kitchen. That would serve two purposes — control my eating AND save me from the dreaded chore of cooking. Wait a minute! It would also save me from the equally dreaded chores of cleaning the kitchen AND grocery shopping. This plan is starting to have some real merit. Humm …

Day 110

Happy 4th of July

A strange holiday this year. Fireworks are canceled in most places to prevent gatherings and the spread of disease. You cannot dispute the wisdom of this course of action.

Still, it is a historic day for our nation. So, my good wishes to all as we contemplate the way forward in terms of battling this dreadful disease, our political future, and an end to racial injustice.

On a personal note, July 4th is a historic day in the life of my family. My parents met on this day 88 years ago — on a blind date — at Coney Island. He was supposed to be my mother’s best friend’s date, but he took one look at my mother and that was it! They married seven months later.

And so, here we are on Day 110. As my friend Rachelle wrote on her Facebook page, “Mask Up or Stay Home.”

 

Day 108

A Lack of Hospitality

For the past two days, we’ve had workmen at the house, working on the roof and in the garage on a solar battery installation project. Ever energy-efficient Handsome Hubby’s was in charge, but still, normally when people work at the house, I introduce myself, offer coffee in the morning, cold drinks in the afternoon, and make random chit chat during the course of the day.

But not this time …

This time I avoided the men, as the expression goes, like the plague. Yes, in these oh, so cautious times, I’m afraid that I’m afraid of strangers.

One man didn’t wear a mask. What the hell? Should I complain to his employer? Or is it none of my business?

All I know is if this is the new normal, I don’t like the “new me.” Cautious. Inhospitable. Scared.

Meanwhile, an unrelated observation …

Do you know how people complain about how they can’t stop working since they started working from home? Well, that’s how I feel about housecleaning. I can’t stop cleaning!

Last night after dinner, I could not resist the urge to use one of those Mr. Clean abrasive wall scrubber-sponge thingies to tackle those tiny scuff marks that inevitably appear here, there, and EVERYWHERE! Why at 7:48 p.m. did this become an itch that had to be scratched I cannot tell you.

And so goes Day 108.

And about those workmen, it really was a shame about my lack of hospitality. I made a batch of brownies — killer good. Too good, too plentiful, and way too caloric for just Handsome Hubby and me. It would have been nice to have shared them. Man, I need to, as the kids would say, “get a hurdle and get over it!”

Anyway, onward to more hospitable days.

Day 100

Thanks, but No Thanks

I got a call from the lovely lady at my nail salon a couple of days ago telling me she was open for business, asking if I wanted to book an appointment. It was good to hear her voice. I’ve missed her. She’s been one of the stalwarts of my somewhat solitary writerly existence since we’ve moved to Berkeley. So, it was nice to get the call. We chatted briefly, caught up on family news — happily her 100-year-old mother is doing well, but then I politely declined to schedule an appointment and vaguely said I’d see her “in a while.”

Manicures and pedicures are supposed to be relaxing and amid rising infection rates in California, the nation, and the world, my heart just isn’t in sinking my toes into a pedicure bowl and chatting it up with the girls while wearing a mask and observing whatever safety measures are in place in a manicure shop. It just doesn’t seem worth the risk. It just doesn’t sound fun.

So, instead of booking that appointment, I ordered some non-toxic, vegan nail polish to apply at home. It’s overpriced, but a sheltering-in-place, cautious girl’s got to have some fun! And besides, after 100 days, I’ve got my self-applied manicure mojo down pat! I’ve even assembled my own manicure kit complete with basecoat and orange sticks. Remember orange sticks, ladies? Still, I admit it is not nearly as much fun as gossiping with manicurist Cindy from Vietnam at the nail shop every two weeks.

While I can do my own nails — and toes, sort of, what I cannot replicate at home is live theater. I’ve been watching streaming performances from my beloved Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Lincoln Center, and other companies far and wide, but it is just not the same. It will be a long time till we all get to walk in, sit down, and enjoy a live show. But I for one cannot wait.

I’m sorry this isn’t an upbeat journal entry. I don’t have it in me today. Frankly, I’m worried. I’m reading too many alarming reports about rising infection rates and I fear we’re opening up the country too quickly. I can only urge people to be careful. Wear masks. Wash their hands. Keep their hands away from their faces (which somehow seems the hardest thing to do). Religiously practice social distancing. Be patient. AND every day, find something to be grateful for. That may sound Pollyanna-ish, but I think that part is essential too.

That’s what I’ve got on Day 100. Good wishes to everyone. I’m grateful to have you all in my life.

OK. I cannot resist! Here’s some news that made me chuckle and cringe: Actor Dennis Quaid just got married again. The detail that got me? Quaid is 66. The bride, 27. I guess who am I to judge? But I don’t know. I just don’t.

Day 95

Best Headline of the Week

“Pandemic may end talking to nude men”

The news is usually grim, but the above headline has had me chuckling all week and I had to share it with you! It comes thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle. I thought of not explaining it. After all, it’s so delicious as is but I guess that’s not fair. So, here goes:

The headline accompanies a story by Chronicle sports columnist Scott Ostler who’s delivered a eulogy of sorts for a “great American sports institution …facing extinction”: the locker room and clubhouse interview.

Yes, because of coronavirus safety concerns, it appears those interviews will be no more. In his column, Ostler then details a few of his more memorable locker room interviews and the players and coaches he’s talked to. It’s a fun story and you don’t have to be a sports fan to get a laugh or two.

But oh, it’s the headline that’s still got me giggling. You may recall I covered organized crime as a reporter. I thank my lucky stars I never interviewed any of those guys naked! That would not have been a pretty sight. Oh, no, it would not have been!

That’s all I’ve got for Day 95. Have a good weekend. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Day 94

New Friends ... with Masks?

We all long to spend time with loved ones. An inescapable and aching fact. But what about the thrill of making new friends? How do you make friends when you cannot see their faces? Their smiles? Their full expressions? How do you take the measure of a person when they are masked? The Lone Ranger wore a mask so as not to reveal his identity. Ditto Zorro. How do we discern the full and true nature of new friends? And I’m only talking about friendship. Thank goodness, I’m not searching for a date or a new mate!

Yesterday a carpenter came over for some cannot-wait-for-the-pandemic-to-pass repair work needing to be done. Essential, at least in Handsome Hubby’s eyes. The carpenter is a blast. Not only skilled but funny and nice. I think I’d like to become friends with her but how to commit to friendship without knowing what’s behind the mask? It feels weird. Plunging into a new friendship is always an act of optimism and trust. Doing so without a full facial frontal seems astonishingly bold — and I’m not even factoring in the health risks even with social distancing.

I don’t know. I guess I’ll just tap dance into the night to the tune of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” even before the fledgling friendship starts.

But, to paraphrase the oft-quoted line from Casablanca, it could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Oh, well.

And so goes Day 94. And remember, despite the inconvenience, keep wearing YOUR mask. Also, if you’re having problems breathing while wearing it, the New York Times offers some tips to help.

Day 92

There Ought to be a Law

Workmen on the roof (or Santa Claus is up there clogging). The noise is making it hard to concentrate. So, here’s one quick marital tempest in a sheltered in place teapot!

Using lemons from our massive lemon tree, my next-door neighbor Kimberley regularly makes these “to die” for lemon bars. I don’t really like lemony desserts, but every time she makes them, Handsome Hubby goes into raptures over them. He gets so “swoony” over them, I fear he’s going to file divorce papers, dump me, and propose to the lemon bar lady next door.

So, in an act of wifely devotion, I made a fancy lemon pudding. Now, this may not impress you but the instruction to “fold egg whites gently” is as weighty, frightening, and consequential, as being told to perform brain surgery.

To me, the successful folding of egg whites is a near-impossible feat requiring great skill, good karma, and the perfect alignment of the stars.

Well, to my utter surprise, karma and stars came together. The dessert was a feathery perfection. It was so perfect, I went swoony. It was so perfect, I the non-lemon dessert-eating person inhaled two portions. The only person who didn’t go into raptures? You guessed it. Handsome Hubby. His comments: “Not bad. It’s OK. It wasn’t that hard to make, was it?”

Mock my dessert. Mock me. After 90+ days of sheltering in place, I was the one ready to serve something else, perhaps HH’s head on a platter!

Disheartened, I tossed the recipe into the trash and scrubbed up my sugar-flour-butter strewn kitchen in a major sulk.

The next day I brought the lemony leftovers over to my daughter who also likes tart treats to see what she thought. Even before arriving home, I received the following text message: “The lemon pudding is Life Changing!”

I dashed to the trash can at the curb, but I was too late. The garbage had already been picked up. Now I’ve got to search the Internet to find the damned recipe!

So goes Day 92! There really ought to be a law! Oh, and HH is swoony again. Kimberley just dropped off a fresh batch of lemon bars.

Happy, Healthy Galentine’s Day

Late for the Party. But Who Cares?

Galentine's Day

I know I’m late for the party, but I’d like to wish a sincere Happy Galentine’s Day to all my girlfriends. Let’s make that, a Happy, Healthy Galentine’s Day.

Yes, I’m a little late. But in the midst of these scary, challenging days, I’m hitting the pause button on full-fledged silliness. Instead, I want to express appreciation to all my friends — and dear Muddling through Middle Age readers, too.

Do you know about Galentine’s Day? Read more