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 212

Election-Stress Disorder. I Want to Crawl into a Cave

Less than three weeks — that’s all that’s left until Election Day. But meanwhile, if the stress of it all has got you feeling like you just want to crawl into a cave, good news! You can do it AND in style!

Hotels.com is offering a rental in a New Mexico man-made cave 50’ below ground outfitted with a bed, couch, and seemingly all the accouterments of an actual — i.e. above ground — hotel room.

According to the Hotels.com website, there’s even a special election rate for this man-made cave built 50 feet below ground for a five-night stay at an “Abraham Lincoln-inspired presidential rate of just $5 a night.”

And it comes with a complimentary continental breakfast and free WiFi!

Now, the fact that many of us (all of us?) are feeling some level of election-related stress should come as no surprise. It’s been a tough four years and an even tougher (make that terrible) 2020. So, wanting to “get away from it all” and crawl into a cave makes perfect sense to even bug-and-claustrophobic me.

And did you know that election-related stress is a thing?

According to an article I read at health.com, it can disrupt your usual routine and activities. It can cause you to struggle with sleep and focus. And no surprise, it can make you hyper-vigilant about the news, constantly checking your phone and computer for news alerts.

The Result? Experts say election stress can make you cranky, irritable, and anxious. It can make you want to crawl under a rock … or into a fancy cave until the November 3rd election is over!

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 147

Obsessions!

I’ve got two obsessions on my mind today.

Obsession Number 1: Did you know you can get custom M&M’s with photos on them? I knew you could get custom messages on my favorite little color candies, but photos? How funny! How bizarre! Is this an example of not-so-passive aggression toward your loved ones? Or just candified, commercialized cannibalism?

Obsession Number 2: If you’re in need of a little renewed inspiration in mankind (and who isn’t?), then I recommend reading Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. Written by Pulitzer-prize winning author Tracy Kidder, this makes-you-believe-in-heroes-again biography tells the story of physician/anthropologist Paul Farmer with an emphasis on the doctor’s pioneering work fighting tuberculosis in Haiti, Peru, and Russia.

***

And check out my Muddling through Middle Age blog tomorrow. I’ve got more obsession-confessions!

Meanwhile, that’s it for Day 147.

Day 144

Who's Counting?

Here’s a list of what I didn’t accomplish today:

I didn’t go for a walk or do my stretching exercises.
I didn’t learn — or even start to learn — a new language.
And I didn’t sign up for online art classes.
I meant to …

But here’s a list of what I did accomplish today:

I did manage to log in some hours on my big new writing project. Details to be revealed later.
I did manage not to over-eat. Drumroll, but no jelly or belly roll, please!
I did maintain a positive mental attitude through most of the day, staying grateful for the good health of all those I love and care about.
I miraculously did avoid talking politics during three Zoom meetings and two telephone calls.
And I did write this COVID Chronicles journal entry.

So, the day — Day 144 — wasn’t a complete muddle!

See! We will get through this … not always as productively as we’d like, but still, the time will pass. Hang in there. Better days are ahead. Meanwhile, wear your mask, wash your hands, and keep your ever-lovin’ social distance!

Day 127

My Photo Phobia

Thanks to all the promising coronavirus research underway, vaccine trials may soon follow. That, of course, is great news. But with all those tests, will soon come non-stop news photos of vaccinations being administered, you know, yucky close-up shots of needles being plunged into people’s arms.

And those photos are bad news for me.

You see, I’m squeamish, squeamish to the max. More to the point, I’m vaccination-photo phobic.

I cringe when I see photos or watch movies (or simply see) people getting injections or intravenous needles. I don’t just cringe, I get weak at the knees and green in the gut.

Back in the Day

When I was a reporter, I covered Las Vegas’s health district for a time. Walking into the shot clinic, I’d shield my eyes and grab my photographer’s shirt. Eyes averted, I frequently bumped into wailing toddler-patients and busy staff! En route to an interview, I became a walking health hazard!

I did the same at murder scenes, clinging blindly to my cameraman’s shirt with one hand, holding my nose with the other to avoid the smell! Yes, a real blood-and-gore reportorial lightweight!

Anyway, enough about my ancient past.

Back to the Present

Like everybody in the world, I cannot wait for the day we have effective treatments and a vaccine that frees the world from the scourge of COVID-19. So, bring on those clinical trials. We need them ASAP.

And in terms of my needle-photo phobia, I guess I’ll be obliged to ask Handsome Hubby to screen and censor the newspaper each morning, cutting out offending photos before I sit down to my Rice Krispies and New York Times.

📚 📚 📚

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an entertaining read, I’ve got a completely biased recommendation! My friend Laura Shea’s latest novel is out and it’s a good one! Murder in the Wings is a buzzy mix of theatre, academic sardonic wit, and murder mystery all rolled into one great read. Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it.

And so goes Day 127. Bee good. (And that’s not a typo. Check out Laura’s book. It’s a clue!)

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.