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

The COVID Chronicles

A Sheltering-in-Place Journal


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.

Day 86

Does Not Compute!

Infection Rates are Rising; Cities are Opening Up. These two conflicting pieces of information have got me … well, deeply conflicted.

I know we cannot live our lives hiding behind our doors. Still, as one just now getting over a serious illness, I’m not feeling particularly brave — even masked and gloved — ready to greet our new COVID-19 world of social distancing, manic hand washing, and avoiding touching my own face like I have the plague.

Yes, I want to go out, but the expression “Shop till you drop” now sounds ominous and as does “I thought I would die when …” and if I have to social distance when I’m in a restaurant, where’s the fun in that? Half the fun of eating out is listening in … listening in on the conversations at the tables to your right and left.

Aside from friends and family, the places and people I most want to visit are my hairdresser, manicurist, and masseuse. Yet, in terms of those three ladies, sadly, the expression, “too close for comfort” comes to mind. Of course, in my town, the option of booking those kinds of appointments isn’t available yet. So, that “will I or won’t I” angst is still in the realm of pure speculation.

As for running out for an impromptu treat, say an ice cream cone, again I ask “Where’s the fun in that?” How is something a lark if it requires a four-step safety process?

  1. Getting all suited up in a mask, gloves, and, for safety, a face shield;
  2. Talking to somebody/ordering through plexiglass;
  3. Gingerly sliding the credit card through the payment slot and dreading the placement of that now “contaminated” card back in your wallet; and
  4. Then, making a mad dash to your car to shed your protective gear AND douse your hands in hand sanitizer WHILE somehow balancing your ice cream cone;

All that before you can breathe a sigh of relief and finally, “enjoy” your slightly melty treat.

And for me, the activity I most long to do won’t begin for a long while and that is to go to live theater. So, my incentive for venturing forth faces an extended intermission.

So, from my perspective, I’m going slow in terms of re-entry into the world. I’m not typically a scaredy-cat but COVID-19 continues to spook me — big time.

Meanwhile, on a silly note, I saw an ad today for a “best-selling ‘face lift in a jar’ moisturizer,” currently on sale for only $34. The ad promised the crème would turn back time. My question: how far? I’m only looking to go back to 2019, right before the coronavirus sprang forth, and began its deadly assault on the planet. If that moisturizer turns back time just that far, put me down for a jar. In fact, I’ll take two. As they say, it’s a bargain at twice the price!

And so goes Day 86. Stay safe.

Day 85

First in Space AND First in the Ocean’s Depths

It’s Day 85 of sheltering in place in Berkeley, CA. And while I sit and ponder headlines of pandemic, protests, injustice, and massive unemployment, I finally found news to celebrate.

The news? Astonishingly, the first American woman to walk in space has also become the first woman to reach the deepest known point in the ocean.

Yes, thirty-six years after her historic spacewalk, astronaut/oceanographer Kathy Sullivan accomplished her equally historic 35,810-foot dive to the Challenger Deep this past week.

This dive makes Dr. Sullivan the first person to both walk in space and to descend to the deepest spot in the ocean.

The Challenger Deep is approximately seven miles down in the Mariana Trench, located 200 miles from Guam.

She and her fellow scientist spent about an hour and a half at that depth in a deep-sea research submersible before beginning their ascent back up which took four hours.

In a sweet touch, upon returning to their ship, they called the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, around 254 miles above the earth.

Dr. Sullivan made her own historic spacewalk in 1984.

To the Couch and Not One Step Beyond

Now, as I read about Dr. Sullivan’s daring exploits up high and down low, I admit I was somewhat chagrined. You see I have acrophobia. Last night Handsome Hubby and I saw the movie The Aeronauts, based loosely on the 1862 balloon flight which set the altitude record of more than 30,000 feet. Dizzy and shaking, I couldn’t watch most of the aerial shots. “What’s happening now?” I kept asking. As you can imagine, I missed at least two-thirds of the movie.

Just for the record, Dr. Sullivan set her latest record at age 68. By any measure, this is an inspiring person. And on Day 85, don’t we need all the role models we can get?

You can read more about her achievements here.

Day 81

Dreams on Hold

I’m in NYC or at least I am in my dreams. Yes, in the pre-pandemic world, I was scheduled to be in NYC for a few days. Then on my way to the Netherlands and Berlin with Handsome Hubby.

Now my calendar is blank. No Broadway shows. No grand tours of the Vincent Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank Museum. And no new foods to try or great German beers to imbibe.

Small worries, of course, in our chock-full of worries worry-filled world. Coronavirus, continued police brutality, protests, massive unemployment …

Life On Hold

Yet, amid the headline-making worries, I think too about the plans and dreams on hold right now — the high school graduates waiting to see if they will launch their lives as full-fledged college freshmen living in dorms away from home, the young adults who are back at home because they lost jobs and apartments when the economy tanked, unhappy marrieds who planned to divorce but had to hit the “pause” button, families set to move across the country to begin a new job … the list goes on.

So, here we sit or at least shelter in place, cooking up a storm, cleaning with a fury. Our closets have never been neater. Our cabinets never better arranged. And we’ve never played more board games since the kids were little.

In some places, people are slowing emerging from their homes — much like a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. It all seems scary and miraculous and frightening.

I went on an errand yesterday — my first. I felt so brave. So bold. So scared. It was a quick errand. I dropped something off at UPS. I actually held my breath as I dashed in and dropped off the package. What a coward! I used to be fearless! Now I’m Chicken Little. I guess a month of pneumonia does that to a middle-aged muddler!

And today it’s Friday, Day 81 of sheltering-in-place in Berkeley, Ca. How shall we mark the start of the weekend? Handsome Hubby’s TV pick or mine?

And This Random Thought

Yesterday Handsome Hubby inadvertently scared the sweet children next door. The kids brought over some cookies they had baked. They were setting the plate down on the steps, more than six feet away, but when Jon opened the door to greet them, the kids jumped. You see, Jon wasn’t wearing a mask. Some world we live in where a man without a mask is scary. Some world.

Day 80

Long Time No Write

Hello Friends,
It’s been a while since I last checked in. Thirty days, in fact. Turns out that the “little” nasty virus I had morphed into pneumonia and oh, what a month I had! More accurately, oh, what a month Handsome Hubby and I had … Read more