Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Waste Not Want Not

My dinner diary seems to have gone by the wayside. I know we’ve eaten, but I can’t really remember what we ate when. Self-isolation (or in this case marital “isolation”) has made time a bit blurry around the edges. With no schedule and no routine, time is a slippery concept. It’s frightfully easy to lose track of the day, let alone the time. We seem to be going to bed early and sleeping late. I don’t stress about waking up at night because it doesn’t matter if I’m tired the next day. There is nothing I have to do. I just read for a while and eventually go back to sleep. This must be what it’s like to be retired, but most retired people usually have some sort of schedule of volunteering and or exercise.

Truth be told, current circumstances are a bit distracting. It’s hard to stay away from the news, and the news is pretty scary. We were supposed to fly to New York on April 2nd to visit my friend, Sally, who has advanced cancer. She also recently had open heart surgery. New York now has nearly 30,000 cases of corona virus. We can’t risk traveling and possibly taking infection to Sally. It’s too dangerous to her, and wouldn’t be wonderful for us, either. It makes me sad that we can’t go, but what are you going to do? Now I don’t know when we will be able to see her.

Rockland County, New York, is where I grew up. They have over six hundred reported cases and five people have died, and that’s news from a couple days ago. In Marin County it’s gotten ever closer. A man we know who lives several blocks away has just recovered, but it wasn’t pretty. He went on a ski trip to BC for a 50th birthday with ten guys. Nine of them came down with COVID-19. There is still a lack of testing here, so we really don’t know what we’re dealing with yet.

Before this all started the idea of being on house arrest sounded appealing. I even went so far as to say that being stuck at home for fourteen days (while not being sick) sounded like heaven. Be careful what you wish for. This scenario messes with your mind. There’s an expression that says: if you want something done ask a busy person. I am a busy person, not in an hysterical, stressed out way. In a one foot in front of the other, let no grass grow under my feet sort of way. I get shit done. Currently, I play on several tennis teams and captain another. I am House Director at the Outdoor Art Club which takes a fair amount of time. I’ve logged almost sixty volunteer hours so far this year. I have a large family, including three adult daughters, one stepdaughter, and four grandchildren under the age of four. I have siblings and nieces and nephews and an elderly mother. I have a husband and dog. I work as a realtor, as I have for twenty years. I have clients who need and want things. My commitments are not nothing.

Now it has all stopped, and it’s very strange. The hardest part, emotionally, is not knowing when the great American timeout will end. Our president says we should all be fine by Easter. That sounds GREAT to me. However, it’s probably wishful thinking. I’m glad we live in California where our governor is taking this seriously. It’s the only way to flatten the curve of the pandemic. We will do what needs to be done, like it or not.

We’re limiting trips out, even to the store. Last week we spent four hundred dollars on groceries. It didn’t feel like we were eating high on the hog, but we had food in the frig and the freezer and some back-up stuff in the pantry. We ate what we had and tried to be creative about not wasting any food. By last night we’d had enough of “catch as catch can”, and decided to support a local restaurant. We ordered a take-out bucket of fried chicken from Bungalow 44. The sides of garlic mashed potatoes and salad we made at home, but oh, what a treat. It was scrumptious.

Fried Chicken

We’re all coping in our own ways. By last Saturday I was getting stir crazy at home. And when I say, “stir crazy”, I am ever mindful of the fact that I’m not trying to entertain little ones at home without the usual resources. I am beyond grateful that I’m not trying to wrangle teenagers. That was hard enough when they had school and sports and could hang with their friends. But, still, I was ready to feast my eyes on a new landscape, so I headed out to the beach which ended up being an unwitting faux pas of major proportions.

Eric had gone out twice during the week and he’d had such a nice time. He neglected to tell me that the beach parking lots were closed, which might have given me pause. Instead, I started driving over the mountain and could not believe what I saw. It was a mob scene. People were walking all over the place and every place a car could be parked, a car was parked. It was like the Fourth of July, although I would never dream of going out to the beach on the Fourth of July. The traffic was ridiculous, but once you’re on the narrow, winding mountain road there is really no turning back, so I forged ahead. None of the usual spots were available so I proceeded to the large parking lot. The gate was locked which explained the mass of cars all the way up the hill.

I had driven all the way out there and was determined to find somewhere to park, which I eventually did. I walked onto the beach and it was as beautiful as ever. There were lots of small groups, but everyone seemed to be maintaining appropriate physical distance. I nestled into a sand dune with my book and was at least fifty feet from the nearest other person. It was only later that my outing was revealed to be not so benign. The locals were furious that so many people had descended on the coast towns. They felt overwhelmed and frightened and worried about their own safety. I get that, but I also understand that many people live in small apartments with no outdoor space. They’ve been cooped up with their families without fresh air or exercise. To me, the beach felt like a safe place. There are no hard surfaces. I was able to park, sit on the beach, take a walk and smell the sea air without a risk to me or endangering anyone else.

Other people were lined up for ice creams at The Parkside like it was a summer Saturday. The restrooms were closed. The infrastructure couldn’t deal with the demand. Later, I understood all this, but in the meantime, I decided to take a side trip to Bolinas, which I almost never do. I was on my way home and wanted to stretch out my excursion a bit, so I went in search of a cup of coffee. Bolinas was its usual welcoming self. The first large sign read, “This is a pandemic, not a vacation. Now go home.” Around the next turn another hand-painted sign was tacked to a tree: Bernie, We Believe. And finally, in downtown, one said: Respect the elderly. Now go home.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being told what to do. I wasn’t some tourist from San Francisco. I’m a forty-year resident of the county. I’m not endangering anyone by getting a coffee. I sanitize my hands every time I get in or out of the car. I’m extremely careful about germs, even under normal circumstances. I went to the Coast Café and ordered a coffee. I bought a cinnamon donut to go with it. I was happy. The fresh air and change of scene had done me good. I sat on a curb in front of a parked truck to enjoy my treat.

About eight feet from where I sat another pick-up truck rambled in. It had bumpers held together by band-aids and duct tape. You get the idea. The driver was an older, wild looking, white haired man who looked like he wouldn’t say no to a drink. He got out of the truck and came straight for me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, at first, but I did catch something about you may not be from around here. It was Bolinas! Of course, he would lead with that. He got so close he stood over me and I stood up and backed away. It seemed he was worried I could get hit by a car (or truck?) since I was sitting on the curb, but I don’t believe he was worried. He wanted to agitate about something. I kept saying thank you as he moved towards me and I moved away. Finally, I pointed out that he seemed to be worried about my safety, but he wasn’t keeping a safe distance from me. I took my coffee and went back to my car. I sanitized my hands and tried to let it roll off me. The experience definitely took the joy out of sitting in the sun on the curb with my coffee and my donut.

We’ve had some strange adaptations to the quarantine in our neighborhood. One neighbor began to fly his American flag and suggested others do the same. It hasn’t really gone viral. Others suggested putting Christmas lights back up and many people chimed in that they would, as well. Noooo! Some people have literally just taken them down. The fact that all the holidays are blending together is a major pet peeve of mine. It used to be that we would decorate for one holiday at a time which was wonderful. Now people layer the decorations. They don’t take anything away. First come the pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn in the fall. So far so good. Autumn wreaths go up for Thanksgiving. Then Christmas arrives and the pumpkins remain on the porch with the poinsettias. There’s no “out with the old, in with the new”. I’m not sure what good Christmas lights will do now that it’s staying light so much later, and we don’t go anywhere at night, anyway. How are we to see them?

The strangest new ritual has been the human howl. At eight pm every night people all around town are going outside to howl at the moon like a pack of wolves. I cannot believe this has caught on. There must be a LOT of frustrated extraverts out there looking for connection. Do what you have to do, but I find it a little creepy. Carry on, stay safe. As for me, I’ll be here sort of dreading eight o’clock.

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