Friday Fry-up

  1. Don’t recall any dreams from last night. Odd. Frees up about an hour of time spent thinking about my dreams. Has my dream reservoir gone dry?
  2. Went out on a shopping expedition yesterday, Albertsons and Bi-Mart. Our prey was cat food and fresh fruits and veggies. All saved one was masked up, although several wore their masks with their noses exposed. Do you not get it, man? Yes, I know, there’s psychology, perceptions, fears, and lies at work there. Just ask Herman Caine. Sorry, cheap shot. Ask Rep. Gohmert (Crazy-TX) instead. He’s the latest flag-bearer for the nonsense brigade.
  3. Florida friends tell us that people there don’t act like there’s a pandemic going on except to put on masks to enter stores, because the stores require them. Then I read an article about a study that said, yes, as expected, young adults and teens are working and clubbing, then going home and infecting more vulnerable people. It’s trending up everywhere.
  4. Going to have social-distancing brunch outside at friends’ house this AM. Just the two couples will be present. I’m ambivalent about it. Like them, but do we need the risk? I am resentful, too, as my wife (with perceived mocking tone) said to friend on phone, “Oh, he’s not doing anything.” Hello? Writing? WTF. She then said, “Oh, don’t tell me I’m interfering with your schedule.” I’m sounding bitter, so I’ll stop.
  5. Okay, I am bitter.
  6. Our fire warnings were raised to extreme today. Humidity has dropped to 15% and we’ve had several days of triple digit highs. We’re in a mild trough today, with an overnight low of 58 and a forecast high of 94 for today. Worrisome as dozens of wildfires are already burning.
  7. Stay safe, everyone. Wear masks and distance.
  8. Gonna get some coffee now and try to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Thursday Trifles

  1. Yes, I’m watching what’s happening 280 miles up the road in Portland and the Feds in there under Trump’s orders. Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I’m proud of Portland’s citizens and Oregonians pushing back. Bottom line for Trump: I believe it’s another ego play for him, but I also think he’s trying to energize his campaign and drive headlines away from the mounting COVID-19 deaths. I also think it’s a poor strategy for him. We’ll know in November.
  2. Went shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco today during elderly hours. All were masked and polite but the stores were pretty lean with customers on this warm summer Thursday. Yeah, I’m not complaining. Our bills startled me: $142 and $195, all food and staples. Then again, that’s most of the groc shop for the month. We’re saving half our monthly income because we don’t go anywhere. Small blessings, right? I’ll take them.
  3. We’ve reached our summer temps. A gentle rhythm has begun. Temps stat in the low nineties and slowly rise to 100, then drop to the low nineties again; repeat. This goes on for five to seven days. It cools to high fifties to seventy at night. We throw the windows and doors open, chill the house overnight, then seal the house the next morning. The office is the warmest room, so we run a small fan in there. We’ve yet to run the air con, knock wood.
  4. Our house floofs are loving the weather. Sleep all day in a comfy place, come in for dinner, then patrol the darkness, kibbling through the night.
  5. Unfortunately, with the summer weather come lightning strikes in the mountains and wildfires. We get smoky air and worries. Ten fires were covered in the news. We  have organizations and well-trained people to deal with it, for which I’m grateful. We stay concerned about them and their health and safety. Talk about some brave, essential people. I put them on that list.
  6. Got my coffee. You know what that means. One-handed typing is slow going, but I think my muses are flourishing with the slowdown. I’m enjoying the slow train, too, and how my pace lets more unfold. Okay, onward: I’m going to go write like crazy, at least one more time, but slowly.

Had a rona moment, calling today Tuesday when it’s Saturday. I mean, Thunesday. Whatever.

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.

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

Saturday’s Theme Music

So, you know, grocery shopping, and hungry. Lunch had been a few hours before, and light and healthy, and maybe a little sparse. Browsing the aisles, doing our standard shopping circuit, sampling foods, eyeing others’ carts to see what they’re buying, and judging them and ourselves for what we’re buying and not buying.

I’m hungry but skinny me is in charge of shopping today, along with healthy wife, two idealized versions of ourselves who examine everything with eyes and mind toward weight and good health. It’s a good thing, innit?

Meanwhile, unhealthy me is noticing, look, they have cake! Look at that cake! Oh, and that cake. And suddenly it seemed like everybody in Costco had a cake in their cart. I escaped Costco without a cake, though. On to Trader Joe’s. Back to get some healthy non-fat yogurt! See, it’s right there, by the CAKE and DONUTS. And breads.

We ogle the cake and donuts and talk about Trader Joe’s need to sell single donuts back there, that you can buy and eat, right there. They’re not, so we pass, moving on to the breads, which we fondle for freshness, sniffing them through the package while talking about good how they are.

I don’t speak of my cake desire to my wife the entire time. The cake desire has acquired the specific shape of carrot cake. Yeah, it’s my favorite, especially if it’s spicy with raisins. That’s like, yeah, orgasm. But I don’t pursue cake, don’t speak of it, etc.

Of course I dream of it. There’s cake everywhere in my freaking dream. I’m in a hallway with cake. I’m being offered cake, being told by a woman wandering, “Take whatever you want.” Every time that I go to get a piece, some event diverts me. I awake wanting cake for breakfast.

Which, while thinking of yesterday, talking to my rumbling stomach today, and reviewing my dream as I pursue my healthy oatmeal breakfast, brings the musical group, Cake, to mind, so here’s “Long Skirt/Short Jacket” (2000) just cuz I like it.

And, you know, cake. It’s a humorous video, listening to people’s comments about the song as they listen. Cheers

The Paying Dream

I slept fantastically well this week, but had so many dreams. One that stayed with me, though…

I was shopping. At first I thought I was in a department store like Macy’s, and then I thought I was in a mall. I was looking at clothing and shoes, and picked a few things up for myself. When I went to pay, I couldn’t figure out where to pay. That exasperated me. I debated with myself in my dream, should I put this stuff back, just leave it here, or go on? Watching others didn’t help. I didn’t see anyone paying, and didn’t see any clerks, cashiers, or registers.

Without embracing a decision, I wandered, and found myself in a grocery store. Hanging onto my previous selections, I found a shopping cart, and picked up some produce. Spying a register, I hurried to it to pay for everything, hoping that I could there. When I arrived there, I pulled out my money. There was a register but no cashier. Maybe it was self-pay, I thought.

Then, a nasally female voice came over the loudspeaker. “We just learned that you’re not supposed to pay.”

I paused to consider that announcement. Was that directed to me, or someone else, or everyone? As I pondered, a young woman came up and told me, “We’re paying for you. It’s already been taken care of.”

“Who paid for me?”

She was busy collecting materials and doing things, as store personnel often are, and scarcely paid attention to me. “It’s been taken care of.”

“Who paid for me. I want to thank them, at least.”

The young woman waved her hand. “Don’t worry. It’s been taken care of.”

I remained mystified. She went away.

End dream.

A Dad Dream

I dreamed my Dad and I were in a store, but a few caveats are needed to qualify this. Much younger, I was taller than I’ve ever been. Dad wasn’t my true father but a colonel I’d worked for in the Air Force. This colonel and I didn’t get along well. Fortunately, he wasn’t in my chain of command. He was the Deputy Base Commander, though, so I had encounters with him almost every day. Another colonel that I was buddies with told me that the other colonel had changed through the years. He said, “He used to seem so happy and had so much fun. Now he barely wants to smile.”

That was my Dad in this dream, not at all like my real Dad. Dream Dad was retired, and I was still active, and outranked him. Neither of us were in uniforms, though. These were matters that I knew.

We were at a Home Depot shopping for plants. Dad wanted to plant flowers at his house. I was there, assisting, following him around. Dad had become forgetful and clutzy. He kept knocking things over. I was concerned, amused, and exasperated as I followed him around and watched the Home Depot personnel cleaning up after his messes.

Dad and I were chatting through all of this, mostly about what he was doing, from what I remember. I began suggesting that we leave but Dad wasn’t ready. It went like this, me following him around as he carried a basket, looking for plants and knocking things over, until I quit following him and drifted away. After I did that, I heard a loud crash. Knowing that he was behind it, I trotted into another area.

A clerk stopped me. “Some hazardous stuff has been spilled,” he said. “We need to clean it up before anyone can go in.”

I looked into the room and saw my dream father standing to one side not far away. Clerks and customers were standing around the perimeter, arms folded, leaning against shelves, as two others cleaned up a mess in the middle.

“Just tell me this,” I said to the clerk. I pointed at Dad. “Did he cause this?” As the clerk nodded, I smiled and said, “That’s what I thought.”

The dream ended.

Lane Envy

Lane Envy – anxiety and desire to be in a different lane, often associated with driving and shopping.

In use: “Seeing the other lane going much faster, lane envy struck, prompting him to contemplate moving, but he knew the shopping gods were playing a cruel joke on him. As soon as he changed lanes, this one would go faster, so he stood where he was and bridled his longing to go to another cashier.”

The Speed of Time

I’m returning to a favorite topic, the speed of time, because I’ve discovered more about about it.

The speed of time is not universal. As everyone knows, according to the School/Work Principle, time’s speed isn’t constant. When you’re waiting for the school or work day to end, time not only slows, but sometimes goes backward, forcing you to repeat several minutes. Some movies, are like that, too.

Learning of this, the NFL manages to employ this in their football games. The last two minutes of an NFL game often takes as long as most of the rest of the game. My wife can attest to that. She’s endured it. “When are we leaving?” she asks.

“As soon as this game is over.”

“How much is left?”

“Not much.”

That waffling, of course, warns her. “How much time is left?” she asks.

“It’s the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.”

“Okay, I’m going to go bake some cookies.”

Using that as a basis for my research, I confirmed that traffic-jam time drags almost as slow as the final two minutes of an NFL game, or the last ten minutes of work or the school day.  Shopping time remains the slowest of all, though. Even the NFL has not been able to slow time like shopping will do. Figuratively speaking, shopping time can literally last an eternity. I’ve endured several election cycles while I’ve been shopping. I found that having a Fitbit helps deal with shopping time. It doesn’t change the rate of speed, but I can get a couple of million steps in while I’m walking around, waiting.

Waiting in line time is almost as bad as shopping time. I’ve had clothes wear out while I’ve been standing in line to pay for my purchases, especially at Costco. Costco cashier lines exist in a weird time zone of their own where time gets very sluggish. I’ve spent hour-minutes in line, gazing at what others have bought and comparing them to our purchases.

On the other end of it, I’ve discovered some periods of time that pass quickly. Sleep time is very fast. I don’t know how many times I thought, I’ll just sleep for a few more minutes, and then close my eyes, and, snap, forty minutes have elapsed.

Writing time is frequently often as fast. I have three hours to write, I think, and a cuppa coffee. Then I begin, and the next thing I know, writing time is ended, and I still have coffee.

Which is sort of weird. Coffee time by itself seems to flow at an ideal pace. That’s not true for all beverages. I can tell you, beer time goes fast. Sit down to have a beer, and next thing you know, it’s hours later.

Heartbreak

I knew heartbreak yesterday when, like many people, I was afflicted by shopping cart envy.

Oh, don’t deny that you haven’t experienced it in one form or another. You know what I’m talking about. Some of you have felt it when you’ve seen a cart filled with riches that you don’t have the money to buy. Others experience it when, like me, they look into another’s carts and see the stuff that you don’t eat because it’s not healthy for you, but you want to eat it.

I am a chronic sufferer of shopping cart envy these days. When I was younger, I could eat anything. Eating anything caught up with me as my activities and metabolism slowed and the speed of my waist line’s expansion increased. Ice cream, pizzas, burgers, milk shakes, sandwiches, steaks, cake, pie, doughnuts? Pass them over. Anyone want that last cruller? I’ll eat it.

Yes, I went through that period when I said, “I’m an adult. If I want to eat ice cream for breakfast, I will.”

Then I became, “I am an adult. What responsible adult eats ice cream for breakfast?”

Waistlines change. Diets change. Attitudes change. Yesterday, in Costco, I saw another man’s cart. He had a case of beer, cheesecake, a large pizza, and other treasures. I can’t describe more, as my mind went blank at the dazzling sight. I think I wandered, for the next thing I know, I was standing in a pool of my own saliva in the bakery section with a box of cookies in my hands.

I wasn’t alone.

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