Sunday’s Theme Music

So…

Contrary to world expectations, I’ve been, um, feeling good? How else can it be put, but I’ve been experiencing a rising sense of hope and optimism. It permeates everything I’m doing and thinking.

Rationally, I can’t account for it. I can say that I’m less stressed because I’m not out there socializing and fighting traffic. I can attribute it to kind weather gods; May, June, and July have been pleasantly mild for the most part, keeping anxieties about wildfires and smoke tamped.

But then there’s COVID-19 and what it’s doing to the world. And there was the death of a sweet, shy cousin, too young, just fifty-one, dead from cancer, leaving two sons behind, succumbing to the disease after a four year struggle. In my mind, she remains bright-eyed and smiling with an impish impulse.

And there was Dad, being rushed to the hospital mid-week, Dad who is rarely sick but has a full metal jacket of stents (installed a few years ago) and moderate CPOD. He is almost eighty-eight, though, so there’s always expectations and worries. We are talking about the life train. It always pulls in at the same final stop.

Writing, though, has been a wonderful escape, of course, taking me on an unexpected ride as the characters evolve and the story goes in directions that I didn’t expect. That’s always a pleasure, innit? A good writing day can propel you over many obstacles.

So…

Feeling good. Optimistic, hopeful, even joyous.

Against this backdrop, I’m hearing “Bell Bottom Blues” by Eric Clapton (1971). Two aspects of the song stay on a loop in my head: “I don’t want to fade away,” and “I don’t want to lose this feeling.”

No, I don’t want to lose this feeling. It’s too good. I wish I could package it and share for free with everyone in the world. Others should know these sensations. They’re powerful stimulants.

Enough of my babbling. Here’s the music, a later live acoustic version that I think does more justice to the song.

Monday – Three Things

  1. $.49. That was our electric bill for last month (May, 2020, for the calendar impaired): forty-nine cents. To break it down, we used $14.99 worth of electricity, and we were paid $14.50 for our solar panel energy. The rest of the bill wasn’t as good. Twenty-six and change for water. We had a wet June this year, so our water use was about half of what it was for the same time last year, even though we planted a garden this year and skipped it last year. Our utilities (gas is on separate bill), then, were about twenty-seven dollars. The one hundred dollar monthly bill’s remainder, about seventy-two dollars, were taxes and fees. Yeah, it’s a regular rant; I can’t save much on my monthly city bill because most of it is taxes and fees.
  2. WordPress Editor. I’ve returned to the ‘classic’ WP editor. Didn’t like the new stuff. Found it intrusive, counter-intuitive, and irritating. It was a change I didn’t want. And that’s okay, as I went back to the old way. No one’s rights or safety was threatened by my move back to how it was.
  3. I can’t keep up. My muses tell me the story too fast for my mind, and waaayyy too fast for my fingers. They don’t tell it in order and they’re always filling in the gaps. I get excited by what they’re telling me and their implications, and jump up to pace off my excitement. It’s a fun road that I follow, that struggle to write.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Annual Week in Review

Yes, it’s Sunday, and time again for my recurring segment, the Annual Week in Review.

In politics, shit storms continue around the world. This week, the POTUS tweeted about Obamagate, an expression never heard or seen until the POTUS’ tweets, leaving everyone baffled about WTF he was talking about.

Arguments abound about whether social-distancing, masking up, and sheltering-in-place are worthwhile. A lot of false information is being spread. Vetting everything takes time.

My 401(k) is down about six percent (fifty-five thousand) but my personal brokerage account stayed up, as I have a big chunk of Costco in it that I bought a decade ago. My wife’s 401(k) is down about twenty-five thousand. All those accounts are investments, and aren’t needed right now, so it’s an annoyance more than anything, for which we’re fortunate. I’ve checked with family to ensure they don’t need any financial help, and have given to some charities.

Personally, I’ve been painting the inside of the house. My wife has always complained that the house is too dark. Three years ago, we painted one bathroom and the guest room with Homestead Resort Parlor Taupe. It looks nothing like taupe to me, but ecru, but, you know, marketing. Pleased with the result after three years of study, we (I’m employing the couple we here) are painting more areas.

That paint color had been discontinued, so getting more of it required having the color analyzed and mixed. It worked, though, thanks to modern technology.

I began with the foyer and progressed through one hallway, usually painting three hours a day. Much of the time was spent taping the baseboards and door jambs (which are both brilliant white) to keep it all neat. (There were seven doors in the foyer and hall, including the front door) As it looks great, two more gallons of paint were ordered on Monday and picked up yesterday (which required a masked visit to Lowe’s, known locally as thunderdome). I’ll be continuing with more rooms.

Besides painting, we acquired more plants.  My wife’s initial efforts with arugula, leaf lettuce, and basil went spectacularly well. I’d already weeded, turned and fertilized the raised beds, so last Saturday, we masked up and headed to our local Grange Co-op for more plants. They were well-organized there, and over ninety percent of the people we encountered were socially respectful and distanced themselves. (Somehow, I expected that from gardeners.)

Three tomato plants (of different varieties), lemon cucumbers, and zucchini were planted in the raised bed, leaving space for us to add more. More lettuce (including our fave, Romaine) was planted in our ‘green beds’ and positioned in the sun on the patio.

I’ve also been doing yard work, trimming the trees and bushes, conducting the annual battle against blackberry brambles, weeding, and cutting the grass.

Haven’t been blogging much, because I’ve been writing a lot. With or without a global pandemic, fiction writing is my escape. I’m having fun writing like crazy each day. I often don’t know WTF I’m doing, other than following the main character’s leads. I often cringe because I don’t know where it’ll all take me, and I’m constantly learning about him. Sometimes he seems like the Hulk to me (without the green skin, and he doesn’t return to being Bruce Banner). His Qiqz addiction informs his thinking and behavior; I’m still understanding Qiqz and his origins.

Meanwhile, other surprising directions include understanding the Plies (who are people who accept a specific role in society) and the egg people (who I’m just starting to explore). Did I mention this is dystopian? Yeah, I’m drawn to dystopian fiction; to me, it offers the same large canvas of mystery and exploration that murder offers crime victims, or love offers romance writers.

I usually write three to four hours a day (although goofing off (to shift into the mood) is included in that time).

My wife cooks dinner for us six out of seven nights. I cook on the other night, and sometimes try to help in the kitchen, depending on what we’re making. I have grilled us plant-based burgers a few times, and grilled chicken for myself (she’s a vegetarian). We’re each responsible for making our own breakfast and lunch. She’s also baked for us a few times.

Exercising has been more challenging. Walking is my primary source of exercise. Before COVID-19 arose in March in our area, I was walking about ten miles a day, with eleven or twelve reached a few times a week.

I now go out walking once or twice a week, going up the southern hills where people are rarely encountered (I have a mask on when I’m doing this), but otherwise run in place in the house, or use the Stairmaster. Inspired by my cats and interested in increasing my pulse each day, I’ll do a few minutes of mad dashes, racing around the house like a crazy cat. I usually pretend that fast zombies are after me or that I’m running football pass routes. Whatever works, right? But I’m only getting about seven and a half miles per day.

I’ve had three beers to date since we began sheltering-in-place nine weeks ago, and no wine or other alcohol. Not a deliberate choice, so much as I’m not interested in drinking.

I do have a cuppa coffee each day, though.

My wife has been Zooming with others. She takes a morning exercise class three times a week and a belly dance class twice a week. She has Zoom tea with friends with one group every other week, does book club once a month with Zoom, and visits with friends catching and giving support to one another via Zoom once a week. Yeah, she’s the social side of our couplehood.

Beyond all that, I kill time. I’m working on another jigsaw puzzle, fifteen hundred pieces, featuring a Corvette. Time is spent on social media and reading blogs. I feed, groom, and play with the cats (and clean their litter box and clean up their gaks), play computer games, read books, and stream television. Streaming is down; we finished “Counterpart”, which I enjoyed, and began “Upload”. I’ve been watching “The Last Kingdom Again”, building back up to the new episodes released this year, and watched the new season of “Bosch”, and a few movies and documentaries. I read a lot of news, though. Of course, I call and chat with Mom and Dad.

We have gone on two shopping expeditions, one day to local stores, and yesterday to Costco and Trader Joe’s. Since we’re over sixty, we could have gone in during the early ‘protected’ hours; we didn’t, because we were advised otherwise. It was bad intel. If we go out again, it will be during the protected time.

Oh, yes, and we voted, by mail. By mail is the Oregon standard; it is the only way that it’s done.

That’s all from my niche of existence. I know this all sounds pretty self-congratulatory. We are damn lucky, in multiple ways that I often take for granted. Hope you’re all doing well out there in cyberland. Stay well.

That is all.

Somber Experiences

Some do not want to practice social distancing. Tales from Oregon and Alaska.

Guests arrive across the street at a neighbor’s house. The neighbors came out and greeted their visitors. Hugs were exchanged.

While delivering food to shut-ins, a volunteer was accosted by one shut-in who refused to recognize the six foot distance and had to be admonished several times. According to the volunteer, he seemed to be taking malicious glee approaching her.

Friends were out walking. They encountered a forty-ish woman with a teenage female. They refused to move. Both parties stopped. My friend explained, “We’re practicing social distancing.” The other woman threw her hands up. “That’s such bullshit.”

Another friend, out shopping, encountered a person in an aisle. She stopped at one end, waiting for him to finish. He noticed her. “Oh, what?” He smirked. “You waiting for me to leave?”

“Yes.”

The man proceeded to dawdle, clearly to irritate my friend. Shrugging it off, she went to another section of the store.

He followed her. More, he began trying to sneak up on her. Not wanting to give him satisfaction, she ignored him as she could and moved away. But after twenty minutes of this, she finally snapped at him in a loud voice. Her expletive loaded tirade brought store personnel to the scene. One had observed what’d been going on (so why didn’t she step in, everyone asks) and vouched for my friend and her experience. The man was ordered out of the store.

Let’s be careful out there. Some folks are stupid – and we know how dangerous stupid can be – and some are just dicks.

That is all.

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

 

 

Measures

The coronavirus is creeping into our area (Ashland, southern Oregon). A case was confirmed in the county a few days ago. Friends forwarded information to us early Friday morning. Medical professionals, they’re sharing stories from the hospitals.

“…saw 6 cases of bilateral pneumonia in folks 60-80. All had to be
admitted…have NEVER seen 6 cases in one shift.
Absolutely no way to test them for Covid-19. All negative for regular flu.
One woman 60 yr. on Methotrexate. Very sick. (Asante ER)”

Testing kits aren’t available. We’re over sixty years old. My wife suffers RA. She decided to self-isolate and skipped her exercise class at the Family Y. With the chain as it is, that requires me to self-isolate with her.

We’re people who generally stay stocked up on supplies. We have a freezer chest to support our approach, and a pantry. A case of bottled water is kept on hand. We don’t use bottled water; this is for emergencies.

Portions of our philosophy can be ascribed to our parents’ attitudes, but we also went through typhoons and lived in earthquake-prone areas, and now live in a wildfire area. We want to always be prepared. Besides those factors, I’m a guy that always thinks that you should never run out of staples. You know you use it, you see your use rate, buy more before it’s gone, if you have the means and it’s available. Just common sense to me.

An inventory was conducted. Have thirty-six rolls of toilet paper on hand. There are two of us. Don’t need more, thanks. Several boxes of tissues, and cough drops. Enough coffee for about six weeks (yeah, we’re Costco shoppers).

We have personal hygiene products, and no need for more. Cleaning supplies are aplenty. Cheese. Tortillas. Guacamole. Romaine lettuce, onion, carrots, and celery. We also have frozen pizzas with cauliflower crusts on hand from Costco. Frozen blueberries and mangoes. So far, so good.

Lots of pasta (could use some sauce), rice, soup, wine and beer (a few bottles of each), black beans, lentils, bread (several loaves frozen as reserves), peanut butter (three extra large jars on hand), potatoes, jelly, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cane sugar.

I ended up buying more fresh fruits and veggies (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, bananas, pears, spinach, grapes), doughnuts (comfort food) (just a small pack), more frozen fruits for smoothies (my wife makes them for us several times a week), cat food, and eggs. (Seems like we can never have enough cat food on hand.)

Entertainment shouldn’t be an issue. We have the ‘net, broadcast and streaming TV, books, and jigsaw puzzles. We also bought painting supplies for a new project, and have yard work to do.

I can go for walks for exercise, we agreed, as long as I don’t contact others and clean up when I arrive back home.

The stores weren’t bad. I was worried as the parking lot was full. Cars were parked anywhere that was possible. As a man finished putting everything in his car, I made a deal with him; I’ll take his cart back for him, since I required one, and I’ll take his parking space. Yeah, wiped down his cart handles.

Inside the store (local place, Shop n’ Kart) everything was well-stocked. Not many shoppers. I did my thing without issue. All check-out islands were open. A cashier was immediately available. She was using disinfectant on everything.

She told me that I’d just missed the rush. When she’d come into work for the eight AM shift, it’d been a madhouse. My timing was golden.

Back home, we settled down to read the news and talk about new developments.

Here we go, life in the time of COVID-19. Be safe out there.

 

Wanted

I used to be such —

Ah, ‘used to be’. Famous words that begin many tales.

I used to be a model. I used to be a salesman. I used to be very flexible. I used to drink more coffee, stay up late and party, and go to work early.

Words of memory, ‘used to be’ invokes a sense of gentle passing on what was, a point to pivot onto the current moment. In my case…

I used to be such a desirable customer. Oh, the offers that came in the mail. First were the weekly avalanches of credit card and banking offers, magazines, and book and music clubs. They all wanted me. Every day, I considered and rejected suitors. No, you’re not for me, American Express. No thank you, Delta. I’ll pass today, Discover. Come back another day, Book of the Month.

Ed McMahon and American Family Publishing dropped in sometimes, delighting me with the news that I MAY HAVE ALREADY WON. I didn’t win, but I appreciated their optimism. Sometimes, Publishing Clearing House also came by to tell me that I’m a potential winner. Both wanted me to buy magazines. I did, once, because I was a newly appointed young adult, with an income, and I liked car magazines. They billed me later.

Dating services targeted me for a while. I guess they thought I was lonely. Then came ways to save via coupons on buying new checks, eating out at restaurants, getting my car repaired or painted, my carpet cleaned, and my windows washed.

As we passed into the last half of the past decade, suitors come less frequently. Maybe they were giving up. Their pitches changed. Cruise lines and vacation resorts showered me with beautiful people having wonderful times in beautiful, exotic locations. Politicians solicited my support and donations. I started hearing from hearing-aid companies for a while. A few companies wondered if I had enough health and life insurance. Others wanted me to plan for how my loved ones and I were going to be buried. Concerned investing firms approached, offering to buy me a meal while worrying whether I had enough money saved for retirement. I appreciated their efforts, but gently tore their offers in half and deposited them in the recycle bin.

A few realtors approached, asking if I wanted to sell my house, telling me that I could really make some money because they already had buyers lined up. The Great Cable Wars brought more offers for a few years in my late fifties as satellite dish companies sprang forward, trying to gain market share. Sometimes I received three offers in one day from them, three, I tell you, in one day. Yep, I was a wanted man.

Alas, I’m no longer a young adult. The mail suitors have disappeared. Oh, some have changed with the times and approach me via email, notably AARP and Viagra, competing against Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the DNC, all who beseech me daily to give, give, give, along with urgent requests to sign petitions. Then,of course, they’ve called, too, but with caller ID, they soon learned that I don’t answer the phone.

Now, they’ve all stopped trying, it seems. All that remains is Spectrum. Having taken over Charter, they’re trying hard to win me. They’re doing it the old fashioned way, too, first with people coming door to door (charming young men) asking me how much I pay for my phone service and what Internet service provider I use, assuring me that I’ll do much better with them.

Then came the mail pieces, one every day, (except Monday, a holiday), but a piece came Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Tears of memory sprang to my eyes as I realized, Spectrum wants me. It’d been so long. I almost hated tearing up their offers, and held off for a few minutes, thinking about their kindness, reaching out to me for my money, just like the old days.

“Thank you, Spectrum,” I whispered, and then tossed the offers away.

It feels good to be wanted.

Tuesday’s Theme Music

Yesterday, someone said, “I waste too much time. Every night, I think of the things that I wanted to do that I didn’t do, and think of the time that I wasted.”

I didn’t agree or disagree. I understand what’s he saying. When he said he was wasting time, he meant that he’d planned to accomplish things that day and didn’t. He did other things instead. In answer to my question about that, he said, “Read, watched the news, read more, ate and drank beer.” He laughed.

Was it really wasted time? No, just not time used as planned. But people get the sense they’re running out of time. They’re coming up on deadlines, end of life, a new week, month, or season.

I’ve drifted away from that. Part of my drift is because so much of what’s on our lists are impermanent matters given amplified importance. You got to sort through these things and decide what’s really important, and what’s just being driven by the ghosts of the past called tradition, or the demons of expectations.

Meanwhile, the conversation naturally kicked a song into the stream. Several, in fact. One that surprised me leaped in from 1972 and an album called Eat A Peach, when I was sixteen. That Allman Brothers album, released after Duane Allman’s death, had a lock in my playlist for over a year, joining another Allman Brothers favorite, At Fillmore East, a double live album.

The song that jumped out was, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”. It really came, again, as I stepped out and called in a cat last night. I looked up for the stars. The cat was right there, but clouds obscured the stars. From there came the song’s lines,

Lord, lord Miss Sally, why all your cryin’?
Been around here three long days, you’re lookin’ like you’re dyin’.
Just step yourself outside, and look up at the stars above
Go on downtown baby, find somebody to love.

ht to AZLyrics.com

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