A sign showing a figure inside a house with the caption SHELTER IN PLACE

The COVID Chronicles

A Sheltering-in-Place Journal


Day 126

My Friends

I hate to say it, but my friends are a little boring. They have nothing new to say. How can they? They’re all living in a pandemic-enforced rut, repeating the same routine day in, day out.

Ask what’s new and the replies are the same. “Oh, I hate Zoom.” “The Internet is slow.”

Many of my friends have taken to drink to mark the end of the “workday” and the start of the official “at-home” portion of their sheltered-at-home day.

They’re all “sorry to complain,” adding apologetically “I know I have nothing to complain about.” They’re not sick. Nobody in their family is sick. Nobody is unemployed. The bills are getting paid. Everybody has a roof over their heads. They’re grateful. But still …
My friends all say the same things about politics: They’re “outraged,” “filled with despair,” “can’t believe the state of our country.” They’re angry that people refuse to wear masks. They’re heartsick about racial and economic injustice. They’re right, of course.
Yes, my friends are kind of boring.

But it’s OK. You know why?

I’m boring too.

How Boring am I?

I spent Sunday handwashing Lego creations, built decades ago by my children, and still displayed on my bookshelves. Yes, I laboriously filled basin after basin with soapy water and gently dipped Legos replications of the Taj Mahal, New York City landmarks, the Death Star — to name just a few. It took all afternoon and I did it contentedly, until I broke my favorite, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, on the last rinse. The real Fallingwater has withstood 85 years of the natural elements, but my child’s creation could not withstand my handling for one minute. I cried out in actual pain. So, who am I to judge who is boring? Who am I to say who needs to get a life?

Still, it is fair to say that my friends and I are all the lucky ones — the immensely lucky ones — living sheltered-in-place lives of remarkable ease amid terrible times. Sure we’re “inconvenienced,” “bored,” “restless,” and “listless,” but we’re OK. We’re more than OK. We’re fine.

And so goes Day 126.

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 103

Strange Cravings

I’m starting to have visions. Not religious visions. No, more like sugar plums and other sweets plus a few savory treats to round out the picture.

Yes, like someone lost midway through the Sahara Desert or shipwrecked (or pregnant), I’m starting to have intense and highly specific food binge desires.

I close my eyes and see specific dim sum delights — bar-b-que pork buns (don’t tell my rabbi), steamed pork buns (again, please, don’t tell my rabbi) and steamed shrimp shumai (same rabbinical request). Perhaps I could make these delights at home, but a. I don’t have the patience of a Zen master and b. I want to select these treats from steaming dim sum carts racing past me and share them with my nephew Ryan in a jam-pack Chinatown restaurant, either in San Francisco or NYC.

I also yearn for a salty, icy Margarita served with a huge bowl of chips, salsa, and guacamole. These items I can whip up at home, but again it’s about the ambiance, the friends, the crowd, the fun, the background noise.

Ah, well. It’s not like I’m starving. It’s just fun deferred.

But still, these intrusive visions are a bit alarming! I guess as long as the baked buns don’t start talking to me, I’m OK. Right?

And so goes Day 103. Hang in there. May all your cravings be satisfied! Now or not in the not-to-distant future.

Now, fess up! What are you jonesing for?

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.