Who We Are

Yet another rant, a vent of frustration to try to reconcile an experience. One side of me — the spoiled, arrogant, take-everything-for-granted white male, first world side of me – continues responding to the coronavirus actions as though everything is alright with the world and is thus annoyed, I tell you, peeved, even, about things like one day delivery requiring six days. “What in the world is with that?” that side cries in anger and despair.

The other side of me replies, “Dude, you are a jackass.”

The event in focus is my pecker meds (Tamsulosin). I always get it locally, thirty day supply. But with shit going down, I thought it prudent to get a larger supply.

First, I tried ordering it ahead of time at my regular place, Ashland Drugs. Nope, it was too soon, the system said. By then, shutdowns were announced, so I shifted to Express Scripts.

Well, there were delays. My prescription was for thirty days and I was asking for a supply of ninety days. ES contacted my prescribing urologist for approval. He, they said, in updates on their website, didn’t respond. A day passed. Two. I shifted the order to one day shipping, because I could see that this was gonna take more time than planned. Then I called the urologist’s office and explained what was going on and what needed to be done.

That worked. Presto, order was being processed.

The next day, the order continued being processed.

Ship, damn it, ship, I urged.

Yes, it shipped, on 3/31. Hoorah! Here was the tracking number. They didn’t know when it would be delivered.

Have I mentioned that the requested one day shipping cost twice as much as the prescription?

For some reason, “The Wells Fargo Wagon” song from from The Music Man began providing me background music.

I faithfully tracked the shipment from Arizona to California, and then, by truck, from California up to Washington via DHL. The road from California to Washington is a little trail that we locals call I-5. It goes past my house by a few miles.

That irrational, crazy part of me screamed, “Why can’t they just pull over and toss it to me as they’re passing Ashland?” Yes, even the irrational part of me knows how dumb that suggestion is.

By April 2 I learned that my Tamsulosin would arrive on April 6. The plan was for DHL to truck it to Washington. DHL would hand it over to the USPS up there (I imagined a furtive, midnight exchange). Then the USPS would drive it down to Ashland (probably on I-5) and sneak it to a local carrier and deliver it to me.

Okay, a plan. I like having plans. Plans are good. Problem with this plan was that I’d run out of Tamsulosin on Friday, April 3. That was my last dose.

Well, damn. Not much could be done at that point. I’d tried, I consoled myself. Now my body would just need to endure without the med.

Meanwhile, the reasonable side of me said, “You prick.”

(It seems like an appropriate noun for the situation.)

“You should be thankful that there are people out there risking their health so that you can sit on your ass in the safety of your personal space. And be thankful that someone like Express Scripts exists and that you have a computer and Internet to place the order and follow the tracking information. Be thankful, you cretin, that the drugs are there, are so affordable, and that you have a urologist to help you. Stop looking at the dark side of this, you pessimistic, selfish, jerk, and think of the bigger picture and be fucking grateful.”

To which the other side of me said, “Wow. Mean.”

So, seriously, thanks to all the USPS, DHL, and Express Scripts drivers and people working and all they’re doing to help the rest of us survive. Let me not overlook all those healthcare professionals and government employees. We do appreciate it, even if some of us act like jerks.

Please forgive us for being who we are. We are trying to change. At least, one side of me is.

Monday’s Theme Music

Gosh, for some reason, while reading blog posts, coronavirus news, and red state/blue state slants, a Pink Floyd song called “Us and Them” (1974) popped into my mental music.

Us (Us, us, us, us, us) and them (Them, them, them, them)
And after all we’re only ordinary men
Me (Me, me, me, me, me) and you (You, you, you, you, you)

God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do

h/t to Genius.com

It’s all about war and its senselessness, apt to me. It seems like it went urban/rural divide > culture divide > culture wars > political contests > red state/blue state > coronavirus front. What was it that Governor Kay Ivey (Alabama – R) said a few weeks ago? ““Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California. Right now is not the time to order people to shelter in place.”

Goodness knows what California and New York had to do with facts and information. At the time of Ivey’s speech, Alabama led California in per capita cases of coronavirus.

But anyway, the song… It starts out mellow but then cranks up the crescendo in time for you to hear, “Forward he cried, from the rear, and the front ranks died.”

And I won’t even go into expanding on that line.

Mask Up

Sharing a story. Yeah, anecdotal, about a bus driver, a coughing passenger, and a COVID-19 death. The bus driver is the death in this tale. He was fifty years old.

Wear masks, people. Wear masks. They can save you. I was out yesterday, had to make a supply run. While I was masked and gloved and practiced social distancing. We’d ordered online, and the purchases were delivered to the car’s trunk. While sitting there, I watched the scene. First, I was dismayed by how many were out, looking as if it’s business as usual. Social distancing? What’s that? Counted twenty-seven people as I sat there, awaiting my delivery. Counted five with masks. One with gloves and masks.

When a twentyish employee brought the order out, she wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves. Her arms were bare. I cringed with speculation about her condition.

Oregon — my state (yes, I bought it a number of years ago, so it’s my state — still have the warranty) has over eight hundred cases. Jackson County, where my experience took place, has almost thirty.

First case in Oregon was announced Feb. 29. My wife and I took measures after the possibility of the first case emerged in our area, March 14. Since then, more evidence of the value of masks has emerged as data has rolled in, showing how poorly people are responding to social distancing. My county got a C. I could see why when I was on my supply run yesterday.

Lot of folks were out. Not as heavy as a normal day, no. But less people would’ve been out if Oregon U. were playing a football game.

Yes, I know, some are essential. Thank you to all of them. To the rest, think about why you’re out. Sometimes, we have a need. But if you’re out, take precautions, for your sake, my sake, all of our sake.

The groceries are in the car’s trunk (boot, if you need a translation). There’s nothing perishable. They’ll stay in the trunk for three days. After that, I’ll fetch and clean them, and clean the car. We bought them for the long term, deciding to stock up now rather than waiting for when there are more cases in our area.

Changed clothes in the garage when I returned home, too. Yeah, given all the vectors possible for transmitting something to us (my wife and me), we’ll probably contract it, if we haven’t already. We’re trying to buy time for the world to come up with the resources and vaccines to combat this thing. We’re also trying to keep from spreading the thing.

Hope you’re all doing well at there. Take care. Wear masks. That is all.

Thursday’s Theme Music Twofer

An old favorite Jethro Tull song came to mind this morning as I thought of self-isolation and the coronavirus social-distance shuffle. “Only Solitaire” is a short ‘un.

Brain-storming habit-forming battle-warning weary
winsome actor spewing spineless chilling lines —
the critics falling over to tell themselves he’s boring
and really not an awful lot of fun.
Well who the hell can he be when he’s never had V.D.,
and he doesn’t even sit on toilet seats?
Court-jesting, never-resting — he must be very cunning
to assume an air of dignity
and bless us all with his oratory prowess,
his lame-brained antics and his jumping in the air.
And every night his act’s the same
and so it must be all a game of chess he’s playing —
“But you’re wrong, Steve: you see, it’s only solitaire.”

h/t AZLyrics.com

As it’s so short, my mind jumped to a 1966 Neil Diamond song, “Solitary Man”. (BTW, Johnny Cash did an interesting cover of this song in 2000.)

The song has that pop sound of transition during those days (mid sixties). Featuring a horn section that was often used as pop went electric, becoming rock and more mainstream, the song has a sound that I associate more with adult contemporary. Interesting though, that this sound is being used by several groups now as a retro sound. Think, for example, of Portugal! the Man. WTH, I’ll include that, too. You don’t get a twofer, but a threefer.

That is all. Good day.

FIFO

We’ve begun our third week of isolation. Our state, Oregon, has done well on containment. As of today, we stand at 538 confirmed cases and 8 fatalities. No fatalities have been reported in my city, Ashland. Nineteen cases are reported for Ashland. Our city hospital been set up as a COVID-19 county treatment center for mild to moderate cases.

The first two weeks of being sequestered at home, we cleaned, inventorying supplies on hand and reviewing recipe and meal ideas.

(Okay, when I say, ‘we’, I’m using the couple we. My wife has done 99.9% of this. My input has been almost negligible.)

My wife suggested first in, first out eating practices. The oldest stuff should be consumed first, if we agree it seems edible.

I countered: we want to use our fresh produce so that it doesn’t go to waste.

A compromise was agreed: FIFO would be employed one day, and a fresh meal the next. Whenever we do a FIFO meal, we’d add fresh produce, if it made sense. Smoothies would be consumed each day.

It’s been going well. We were well-supplied with staples. My partner baked. A can of old pumpkin was sacrificed (along with old cream cheese and an extra sweet potato) to make a pumpkin roll and pumpkin muffins. A quarter was consumed; the rest were frozen for future eating.

She slices and freezes bananas that become overly ripe (they’re used in smoothies). But when we’d had a large supply of them established, she made us banana-pecan muffins. Again, a few were consumed, but most were frozen.

Vegan split-pea soup followed, then roasted vegetable soup. Each lasted us several days.

Along the way, we’d been eating salads, which is our long-established habit. As COVID-19 practices and projections took shape, we began thinking in longer terms. While grocery stores have taken precautions and special hours set aside for people like us (over sixty years old), they also report supply chain issues. My wife has RA and is considered vulnerable. She didn’t want us going out if we could avoid it. But more supplies were needed.

Enter Instacart.

I created an Instacart account and explored it. Instacart supports four chains in our area: Safeway, Albertson’s, Fred Meyers, and Costco.

Costco! That’s our go-to place.

First I logged into Costo.com to check supplies. Out. Out. Out. Out.

I figured that resupplies would eventually arrive. I made it a daily practice to check. Finally, on Friday, bingo, several items that we wanted were now available. We also wanted fresh produce, for example, romaine, blueberries, bananas, celery, potatoes. Ah, that was available, but only if we shifted the order to Instacart.

Prices were compared. One, shopping groceries online with Costco is more expensive than shopping at the warehouse. Kind of expected, and they weren’t gouging us. Two, prices with Instacart were just a little more. Three, you tip your Instacart shopper.

Okay. We discussed it. Seeing that our supplies were going down, that cases in Ashland were going up, that the whole situation was unstable and uncertain, we put an Instacart order in last Friday.

The process itself was simple and well-organized. In fact, I consider it one of the better online shopping experiences that I’ve gone through. I was never confused about what was happening. They would tell us immediately if an item wasn’t available in our zip code. With some items, such as eggs, they warned us that they were in short supply, and brought up options. Cool.

Next were delivery instructions. Well, we didn’t want to break them directly into the house. We couldn’t leave them outside, either. I came up with an option: move one of the cars out of the garage and set up a table in there. When they were in route, we’d open the garage. They’d put the stuff in there.

The garage usually runs 48 – 52 degrees F at this time of year. We were only ordering one frozen item and a few refrigerated items. We’d put ice on those things and let everything stay out there overnight. Then, we’d clean it off and put it away.

Once the plan was established, we entered those instructions into our order and selected a delivery time. Delivery times were two hour windows on Saturday. They began at 2 PM. Well, we weren’t going anywhere… We selected two to four PM.

The order was received and processed within minutes. The system told us that we could change it, removing or adding things, until shopping was underway. After considering it overnight, we decided some of the stuff we’d ordered was too much, and removed them.

Next came our first ‘issue’, and it as small one. Our delivery window was moved to Sunday morning, 11 AM. Bummer. We were looking forward to it coming on Saturday. With little else to do, we were sort of focused on that happening. Oh, well, though.

Time passed. On a whim, I checked on the order.

Gadzooks! It was on the way. According to the email, it’d be arriving in about ten minutes.

Scramble, scramble, scramble! We were dressed, but had to follow up on our receiving plan. That done, a few minutes later, the delivery arrived.

Alicia P was our shopper and delivery person. She had an assistant with her (he was driving, citing the changing weather conditions as his reason for being). Everything went off without a hitch. Only one item didn’t make it: pasta. We have some pasta. I’ll do another order for Albertson’s via Instacart this week to see if that can be ordered.

Instacart recommended a five percent tip, which worked out to just under nine dollars. I upped it to fifteen. I figured Alicia P deserved it, and it was cheap at that. I acknowledge, yeah, we’re lucky. We have the financial wherewithal to do this, a Costco is in range, and people like Alicia P are willing to work for Instagram under these conditions. And, yes, part of my reason for pushing my wife to do an order on Friday night was that Instacart drivers were talking about striking on Monday, 3/30. The other reason was that stuff was at Costco, but how much longer would it be there?

So, we’re set again.

I slipped outside for a few minutes, taking out the recycle and getting the mail. We decided we’d pick up the mail every Sunday morning.

It was balmy and drizzly, a lovely day for a walk, except for the hidden killer that could be lurking in the air. Sadly, I returned to the house via the garage and followed sanitizing precautions.

Hope you’re all doing well out there in webland. Good luck, and stay well.

Cheers

Political Rant

Sorry, but I’ve reached a saturation point with the POTUS and the coronavirus. I need to vent before I bust a spleen (yes, a new phrase that I just made up). (Yeah, that’s a lie; it’s an old expression.) (And I’m not going to bust a spleen.)

See? Consistent. Exaggerate; I own up to it. Lie, same. Consistent.

But, here in the last two days, we have Trump telling the states that they don’t need as many ventilators as they claim.

Trump downplays need for ventilators as New York begs to differ

Meanwhile, he’s berating (and threatening) Ford and GM for not making more ventilators, fast. (Side irritation, as part of that, he’s demanding that GM open their Lordstown, Ohio plant, a plant that GM sold in 2019. Always on top of things, that dithering Donald.)

Trump lashes out at GM, Ford over ventilators

Even as he’s claiming that too many ventilators are being requested and that GM and Ford must make more faster (and sooner), he’s telling states that he won’t give them more unless they’re nice to him.

‘It’s a two-way street’: Trump suggests federal coronavirus aid will be given to governors who ‘treat us well’

Yet, even as he says these things, he said a few weeks ago, “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” (March 10, 2020)

Prepared? Doesn’t sound like it. Doesn’t look like it.

These statements do not align; they are not consistent. Some might claim that it’s part of a dog and pony show for the public’s consumption, but the inconsistencies don’t strike me as such.

Today, the United States took the lead in total number of cases, almost reaching 97,000 as I write this, surpassing the totals in China and Italy. We’re fortunate to have not met their death totals, but with this administration acting in its mercurial, disorganized ways, it feels like that’s just a matter of time.

The rant is over. That is all.

Out

A soft drizzle played with light and horizons outside the car windows. Across the valley, sunlight was reflected over new spring growth — wineries and fields.

We drove about. What businesses are open? How is traffic?

The Subway sandwich job was open. Yumberry Yogurt. Grocery stores (Albertson’s, Safeway, Shop n’ Kart, Market of Choice, Minute Market). Pizza places and coffee shops had open signs annotated with “Take Out”. The grocery stores were moderately busy. Didn’t see customers at the rest.

Deer were plentiful, as if they appreciated people not being around. Cars plied the roads (maybe like us, or maybe people still working), but it was about twenty percent of what we’d usually see, making it pretty empty. (No traffic knots today.) (We don’t really get ‘traffic jams’ in our small city, except when roads are closed for parades.) The schools were silent and shut. A few pedestrians walked the sidewalks. Runners (in their twenties, males). We wondered, are those runners related? They’re not six feet apart. What’s their take on the coronavirus and flattening the curve?

We’d communicated with relatives in Florida. They’d spent the previous day visiting with friends and walking the beach. Had they stayed six feet apart? No. They’d had dinner at another friend’s place. We’re shocked. Yet, more came: a friend, bored up north, had come down and was staying the night with one. SOH. 

Up Laurel, past a church. People were lined up. Backpacks were on many. Some looked like a shower or bath would be welcomed. In the church’s courtyard, a table was set up, the line’s terminus. Hundreds of stuffed brown paper bags filled the table. Two women stood behind it. Meals and supplies being given out to the needy, we assumed.

Around the corner, and then we descended into the park. More deer. One man walking. Three porta-potties had been set up, along with two wash stations.

Up to the plaza, onto the main drive. Businesses were closed and dark (except for a few restaurants). Parking was plentiful (yeah, dark humor).

The streets and sidewalks seemed clean, tidy, and expectant, as if they waited for everyone to come back. When would that happen? We wondered, driving home, the short tour ended.

Back in the car, the car’s interior and outside door handles were wiped down. Gloves, shoes, and jackets removed. We hadn’t been outside, just in the car.

Still, we hear, something could be in the air and settle on the surfaces. Better be safe.

Measures Learned

We’ve been in coro self-isolation for a week. Not really isolation, but coupling. (Yeah, it’s not as sexual as that sounds; we’ve been married over forty something years.) I’ve gone out for walks; my wife and I shopped together twice in that period (keeping six feet away from others, not touching our faces, wiping down the shopping cart handle, wearing gloves), replenishing products and adding new items as we map out a longer term strategy and sort what we have. Some small matters have been learned.

I struggle to write fiction at home. I’m married to my walking-coffee shop-writing process. Like an old married couple, I feel it when the other isn’t present. A vacuum ensues.

I need to bridge it, and I’m working on that. Interruptions are the issue (which I’ve always known): cats visiting, wanting attention (sure, just shut the door, right? Ha, ha!), and the spouse speaking to me to share news or ask questions. Besides that, I developed the WCW process, deliberately training myself to shift to the writing mode.

I’m muddling through, sorting energies and times, trying to make my writing side work. I’ve wondered, though, if the muses haven’t also gone into self-isolation.

Beyond the writing issues, things are working out well. Our place isn’t gigantic, but it’s big enough for a couple and four cats (three residents and a perpetual visitor) that we’re not always on top of one another. We also have the yard, and can escape to it.

In many ways, we’re enjoying ourselves. The coro has united us in focus and intentions, providing structure. We’re working on a jigsaw puzzle together (it’s a good one) and have fun with that. We were doing that before coro struck, though.

I reflect on how our isolation is different from other times. I’ve gone through typhoons, where we stocked up but had a general idea that it would last only a week. Tornadoes were shorter and much more intense. We prepared for earthquakes (we have a disaster kit for fleeing) and wildfires (have N95 masks on hand) (and wish we could donate them to the med professionals because of the mask shortage, but they’ve been in our home for at least a year). We went through several years of drought here where we cut water use, and stayed inside (or went out for limited periods, wearing a mask) because of wild fire smoke. We lived through water rationing on Okinawa, and gasoline rationing in America.

This period, in fact, reminds me of our early married years. I was a young, low-ranked enlisted person. With little money, we were on a strict budget. We never ate out and saved money for treats (HoHo’s could be purchased for one hundred pennies in those days). We didn’t have a television (or a telephone) in the first few months. VCRs (and DVDs, etc) and the net, with its streaming options, didn’t exist. It was just us (with one cat) in the house, entertaining one another with card games, eating simple, inexpensive meals, and reading books.

So, this situation is somewhat better, if you discount the threat of getting sick and dying. We have the net. We have a phone, and several televisions (yeah, way too many, but when you buy one, getting rid of the previous is difficult; I’ve given away many working televisions…but anyway), and streaming options.

And we have money! And an extra freezer! And rooms! And toilet paper! And coffee! (And some wine, beer, brandy, and a few other things.)

We’re damned fortunate to have these things. (Yeah, nice not being poor and having a decent cash cushion.) (Sorry, not gloating just stating facts.) We have the net to entertain us (like reading others’ posts) (and writing my own) and a multitude of news sources (and entertaining animal videos). I love the humor I can find on FB and in posts (like MyDangBlog and “Signs of the Apocalypse”.) People’s comments on my posts, especially about Floofinition and floof rock, divert and amuse me. I love that they address these matters with the same tongue-in-gravity that I apply to them, building on the ideas and adding new material.

Although, alas, there’s not much good stuff to stream right now. Going from source to source last night (Prime, with access to HBO, Showtime, STARZ, etc), Freeform, Hulu, Acorn, and Netflix), it struck me that most streaming services are just like the old cable system that we fled. Lots of old reruns and syndicated old television shows on, and not much new (that we we enjoy) (yeah, we’re picky).

We also have a phone, and email. Jokes fly on email. So does good info. We hear from our extroverted friends and relatives, trapped in their homes, looking for an outlet. My wife handles those calls, except for my family.

Not bad, so far. Yeah, it’s early days, innit it? Hunker down, children. Fingers crossed.

Cheers

 

 

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