Thursday, October 01, 2020

Reflections on Day 200


By my count, we have been extra careful for over 200 days to avoid catching COVID. And I mean extra careful. Until last Saturday the 26th, I had been inside with others (besides in my apartment with my husband) only when getting in and out of our building and when I got a haircut (masks for everyone, not a lot of people, did my own shampoo to speed things up) and when I got a flu shot (lots of precautions at the pharmacy). The husband had visited the doctor's office (standalone building, many precautions) a couple of times including to get that flu shot. We rode an elevator with others very rarely and always masked. Last Saturday we were invited to someone else's condo (less than a mile away in our downtown area) for a meal and drinks with two other couples to watch a virtual gala. We were a "trusted pod." Like the old times almost because we were convinced that none of us was silently carrying the virus. [I admit that I didn't quiz the others too much!]

So we have spent over half of 2020 in this mode. We have canceled trips, avoided shopping inside stores, avoided restaurants except for curbside takeout. I have followed the news on the disease. At some point, I started closely monitoring the statistics reported in my county and tried to calculate my chances of getting the disease in doing some activity. 

You know those list memes where you answer questions someone else provides? I dislike them because I find myself wanting to edit them. So I made my own for Day 200.

  • Day 1 of serious isolation behavior: March 15
  •  First trip you had to cancel. A driving trip to Ft. Worth and Dallas. Missed getting to see my aunt (the last of that generation I have).
  •  Other trips canceled. A trip to New York with a pop over to Amsterdam in the middle. A trip to Portland and an Oregon beach and other points Northwest. (It might have been smoky.)  A trip to Paris to see the Christo Wrapped Arc de Triomphe. (Which was, itself, postponed until 2021. Also, Christo died, but the event was planned and will allegedly still happen.)
  •   Last trip out of town before isolation. San Antonio. Spent two nights in a hotel and saw Bill Charlap perform at Jazz Texas both nights. Met up with friends for lunch and saw their home. Met up with friends for one performance.
  • Have you been out of town overnight since isolation? Nope
  • Furthest from home since isolation. Maybe 10 miles.
  • Last Plane Ride in the before times. Return from NYC in January.
  • Ridden plane since? No, see above.
  • Last Meal sitting in a restaurant before Isolation. Fixe, March 14. With another couple.
  • Have you eaten a meal in a restaurant since isolation? No.
  • Inside a restaurant? No, see above.
  • First event you didn’t attend due to virus. March 12---Austin Film Society Film Awards Gala.
  • First event you cancelled due to virus. House party on March 15 bought in a charity auction (with agreement from charity and owners of the house but we were very much in favor of cancelation).
  •  Date and event of last over 200-person event. March 7, Delbert McClinton at the Paramount.
  • Last live music event. March 13, Butch Miles Jazz Express at Parker Jazz Club
  • Things you are eating more of since isolation. Pasta, rice, anchovies, lamb, canned tuna, eggs, everything salads, caviar (the cheap grocery store stuff). We are eating a lot of cheese, but we always ate a lot of cheese.
  • Things you are eating less of since isolation. Amazingly chips and nachos; organ meats (because I got them in restaurants).
  • Non-perishable things you have purchased in isolation. A portable blue tooth speaker (which has already quit working), a laptop, a portable hard drive, a blue tooth mouse, an HDMI splitter and cable, masks. FFP bought an oximeter and a gadget to sterilize his phone and such.
  • What restaurants have you gotten take-out meals from? Fixe, Jeffrey’s, Wink, June’s, Cipollina, Fonda San Miguel, 68 Degrees.
  • Have you found yourself bored in isolation? No. Anxious, but not bored.
  • Have you gained or lost weight? Lost five pounds maybe. And maybe gained it back.
  • Do you feel you are in better shape or worse shape? Better. 
  • What exercises are you doing? Walking and stretching. Some arm exercises with a resistance band.
  • Do you drink alcohol? Yes! 
  • If so, more or less in isolation? About the same? Maybe more. 
  • What kinds of drinks have you had? Branched out a lot using up the bottles sitting around the apartment gathering dust. Manhattans, Vodka Gimlets, Vodka Tonics, Rob Roys, Rusty Nails, wine, wine, wine, Old Pals, one I made up called High Rise Iced Tea, port, brandy, cognac. I haven't had a lot of beer because it seems wasteful of frig space and curbside pickup.
  • What entertainments have you explored? Streaming lots of series shows especially British; old movies; documentaries. Listening to jazz and live stream jazz. 
  • Gotten into anything new? Watching NYPD Blue episodes. That’s really old, but watching old TV is new to us. 
  • What are your sources of entertainment? We seem to have all the streaming services except the one for the latest show mentioned somewhere. Seriously we have Hulu, Roku, Prime, Acorn, Criterion Channel, HBO, Showtime, PBS, other junk on the satellite and Disney+ (which we have only watched one thing on and that was the original Dumbo movie).
  • How many books have you read? Four of five. 
  • More or less book reading than usual? About the same.
  • Have you done crosswords? A zillion.
  • Played board games? Scrabble and Monopoly. We only have those.
  • Done jigsaw puzzles? Yes, two and working a third which is so hard we won’t finish by Christmas (which is the only time we usually do one).
  • Have you cleaned out some cabinet, drawer, closet, etc. thoroughly? I cleaned out some OTC and prescription medical and first aid caches. I sorted through the pantry and refrigerator for obvious reasons.
  • Did you find anything interesting? Found a metal aspirin tin and a metal Bandaid box that are ancient. Also found the (mercury) thermometer I rescued from my Dad’s things and used it to verify we didn’t have a temperature a couple of times.
  • Are you spending about the same amount of money? More? Less? Definitely less unless you count contributions to hopefully worthy causes?
  •  Done Zoom, Facetime, etc. meetups? Sigh, yes.
  • Done outside walks? Many. We often drive and walk somewhere. I miss being able to walk from our apartment and stop for snacks or drinks (and a bathroom).
  • Kept a paper journal? Since April 1 I think.
  • Followed COVID information. Yes, a lot. 
  • Sources? New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Local Dashboard. USA Facts Dashboard.
  • Had a social occasion with a small group of people you consider safe? Yes, a virtual gala dinner with two other couples in another apartment. This felt thrilling!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

From Long Ago But Oh So Appropriate

I clipped this from my old, self-maintained blog. I used to have a little corner where I wrote a little free verse (as in no one would pay for it) reflecting on the day. In 2002 this appeared. It perfectly reflects how a feel over 17 years later. It never ends, does it? Although saving actual clippings is not something I do as much. Still, there is a clipping from The New York Times about museums in the south of France on my desk at this very moment.

I have been remiss about Holidailies. But that broken 'resolution' is not what is making me depressed today. It is just the general feeling, on the first day of a new year, that I wish I could roll back time and do lots of things differently. But the past doesn't work that way.

Today I made soup with some leftover stock from one of FFP's soup making forays. I hope it's good because it's part of dinner. We walked to the bookstore. (How lucky we are to be an easy walk from BookPeople, a large independent book store that has a sale every New Year's Day.) FFP started a book and put on some jazz. I bet he's asleep in his chair. (Nope, just checked, still reading.)

We had a nice NYE. We went to our favorite restaurant, sat at the bar and had dinner and a drink. Then we took a rideshare to a party. Left just after midnight and quickly got a rideshare home. Slept well.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Collections, Acquisition, Gifts

We didn't have to deal with many gifts this year. And by 'deal' I mean find a place for them, write 'thank you' notes for them, etc. Does that seem crass and ungrateful? In the past, I collected things or was interested in things and these collections inspired gifts. Same for my husband and I as a couple and him separately. Same for our parents (whose effects we had to dispose of from 2002-2011).

This year we allowed each other to buy things 'for Christmas.' My husband got a sports coat and, I think, a book. I got a page-a-day French word and phrase calendar. I'm going to order a gadget from Amazon eventually. He bought me a beautiful winter scarf and I bought him an expensive tie (which he'd admired). Gift exchange (and disposing or saving wrapping) took minutes. We received gifts from my niece by mail. An interesting book (mentioned in an earlier entry), a rocks glass with an etching of an NYC map and some comestibles (mentioned in an earlier entry as well). We've mostly consumed the edibles. I've read about half the book and enjoyed the pictures of aging people. The glass awaits a Manhattan on the rocks for me or a guest. The truth is we have lots of fancy glassware some on display (as shown here) and some tucked away in a small bar, a console and cabinets.

All this stuff has to be maintained. Dusted, sorted, occasionally given away. The little cart above contains a remnant of an old collection of deco barware. It is a drinks pump with little glasses. It's never been used by us. It's just decoration. We have other barware decorating some bookshelves. This particular piece was found by my sister who had my dad buy it for us. Collections are like that. People add to them. Folks used to give me bendable figures with some regularity. Also, above you see several Welcome Kitties. My husband saw one in a bar, ordered one off eBay and then acquired a few others. So it goes. One year a friend sent a Welcome Kitty Christmas ornament after seeing a video of the Welcome Kitties welcoming with their paws. It usually sits with its animated buddies but currently is part of the Christmas decor with the only other glass ornaments we have. (We don't do a tree.)

Right now most surfaces have some of my Christmas (mostly bendable) figures collection. (See also the barware on this shelf.)

And books. Oh. My. Books. We buy them, we get them as gifts. And we have trouble weaning the collection. (We did give away over a thousand before moving from our large house in 2008.)

The stuff. The 'collections.' Fun. But sometimes overwhelming. At one time or the other, I dabbled in collecting things besides bendables and barware. There were the old globes. There was the vintage toy collection. There was dabbling in fake food. I accumulated pastis pitchers for a party decoration. And then there's the glassware (we still have most of that). The collections don't seem to inspire gifts as much anymore.

Fortunately, we receive very few gifts at all. This year my last remaining aunt sent a 100 dollar bill in her Christmas card. We decided that we would go hear a band and instead of our usual twenty-dollar tip share the C note with them. And we did. We got our money's worth. We explained the tip to the bandleader and how we felt spending it this way gave us the most possible psychic income.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Girls

These days I like to take my picture in blurry reflections. I can tell it's me, but one doesn't have to look closely at wrinkles, blemishes or, should I happen to have one, my black eye. (Just theoretically, you know.)

Today is an annual holiday lunch I have with four friends. We talk about being "the girls", but one is 65 (the youngest), two are 70, I'm 71 and the oldest is 73. We have known each other for a long time. None of us have children. Two have never been married and one was married and divorced before I knew her if I'm not mistaken. Everyone lives here in Austin save one and she visits from California this time of the year because she is close to one of the others. (In honesty, it doesn't feel like her good friend lives here either because she is gone a lot of the time.)

Once we exchanged presents. One year after we'd sort of ceased the gift exchange I took a grab bag of swag junk to pass around. It was not looked on favorably. Some years the oldest, from California, brought candy for everyone. I briefly considered wrapping up some 'white elephant' gifts for today's lunch, but I'm glad I dismissed that idea because we chose a place that is less than two miles from here and the weather is agreeable so I walked over there. Almost the longest way mostly on the hike and bike trail. I needed the exercise. Also, walking is a time for thinking.

We ate and talked for over two hours. I told the story of my black eye which was only noticeable to the one friend who saw it when it was more obvious. (Or so they said.) My story is getting better and better although still true. One gal told about some Christmas giving in her family. She bought two gifts at Goodwill on the cheap but forgot to take off the tags. Her niece was delighted. Her sister insulted. She said that one great-nephew (or do you say grand-nephew if it's the kid of a niece? I never know) got a 3D printer. He's ten. We talked about kids and screens and gadgets and books. One gal took presents for all the kids at her family gathering: those old school holiday 'books' with Lifesavers inside. Kids loved them. Who knew they still made them. We discussed racial segregation when we were growing up. We discussed college degrees and our careers. (Everyone is retired.) We discussed measles and other childhood diseases and how the woman who survived Multiple Myeloma that's to a bone marrow transplant lost her immunity to the drugs but can't be reimmunized for some things because it's a live virus or something. We discussed how a measles case had been identified that 'contaminated' the Austin airport. We discussed glaciers melting and revealing bodies. We discussed tennis. Three of my friends played at one time. One was quite good. No one plays except me any longer. The one who was so good uses a cane due to nerve damage from a botched surgery. She and I discussed Vic Braden and his 1977 book Tennis for the Future.

As I've mentioned in these last days I haven't been daily with Holidailies. It's funny about habits. When I retired I wanted to do a lot of things, maybe master some stuff. Relearn and master French. Learn German, maybe Italian. Learn some new computer skills. What I've become good at is Suduku, Ken-Ken, Jumble and, especially crosswords. Not really a marketable skill. Not that I wanted to market my skills exactly. But still. At lunch, we were discussing mythology. I mentioned that in Junior High English I refused to study the mythology lessons because "they weren't true." After flunking the test on that unit, my teacher and my mother made me cram and retake the test. I still didn't retain it. Whenever I come upon one of those Greek/Roman/Norse god questions in a puzzle I regret it. Even more than I regret not listening to popular music or watching news and talk shows on TV. (These things are frequent questions in puzzles, you see.) Honestly, though, I wish I'd developed some habits of learning languages, exercising, learning things that are somewhat useful.

Ah, well. So it goes. I think I'll go work the crossword in the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day

I think Boxing Day has something to do with charity. Not for me, however. We have a Boxing Day party to go to tonight. It is about frivolity, I think. Maybe Boxing Day should be about boxing up the decorations like the ones on this table with the fast-failing plants. Plants don't live here. We cycle through fresh flowers but plants are doomed in our care. Anyway, now the decorations are just a burden, something to be put away until they, maybe, come out next year. I have to go through the cards and annual letters, too, and toss most of them. I keep neat ones to put out next year. Every year fewer and fewer actually arrive in the mail.

I wrote a year-end letter. So far I've sent 54 of them. We received 50 cards and letters (that weren't from businesses or charities).

My husband and I exchanged gifts yesterday. He gave me a lovely wool scarf. I gave him an expensive tie he'd admired when shopping for a sports coat at his favorite store. (Which was really one of his 'presents.') But we each had a surprise for Christmas Day.

Spent all day inside. We watched "Five Came Back" on Netflix. It is about five Hollywood directors who went into the service in WWII to make films: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. The series is based on a book by the same name. (Which we've owned for ages but neither of us has read.) We watched "Giant" which we have on DVD. It's a holiday tradition with us and, although it's not a Christmas movie, it has a great Christmas scene. That is a movie George Stevens made after he came back. Then we found we could stream "The Best Years of Our Lives" on some service that streams free with random commercials inserted. That is a movie William Wyler made after he came back.

We had banana 'pancakes' (actually banana and egg mixture fried up) and bacon (which we rarely eat at home) for brunch and taco chicken nachos for dinner. (Chicken cooked in taco seasoning atop cheese and onions with jalapenos.) I had one Manhattan and some nuts while watching all that tube.

I woke up today determined to 'get stuff done.' I wrote a couple more letters, worked crosswords and Ken-Ken and such in the papers, read some sections of the papers, drank four cups of coffee and it's getting toward eleven. I haven't been keeping a daily for Holidailies, but I don't really regret it. I have at least done more than since the last Holidailies. pay some bills!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Where Have I Been?

I can't seem to post every day. We do that on Austin Daily Photo at least. What have I been doing? Hmm...let's see. I played tennis Saturday. We went out to dinner, to hear music, to have drinks with friends who've moved to Seattle but were here for family holidays. We tried a new restaurant. Meh. We went to a tried and true restaurant with some friends. Yum.

I read and I worked crosswords.

We wrote our Happy New Year letter to send to people who sent holiday cards (and some who didn't). I still have to print,  write personal notes, address, stamp and mail. But we send lots fewer than we used to send so there's that.

We will go to a Christmas party tomorrow. A Christmas bazaar and out to eat on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day we will sit around in our sweats and enjoy reading and TV.

And so it goes it retirementville.

I have started thinking about writing about a few subjects while not posting daily. Which led me to read a bunch of my own writing (and some other things) on those subjects. Which somehow stopped me from actually writing a new post.

And so it goes. The holiday cards keep coming. And if they are from people (not businesses or non-profits and such) I'll send them a Happy New Year letter. I can't believe it will be 2020 soon.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Gifts Hall of Fame

Gifts. Some are particularly bad and ill-chosen. I shudder when I think about them. Some are so sweet and inspired. A lot are predictable. Not unwanted, but nothing to inspire for the ages. Bottles of wine and booze. Gift cards (if you actually want to patronize the place). Food baskets. But what if you don't like what's inside? Chocolate? Cheese? And who needs so much fruit it rots before you can finish it? The small selection of comestibles shown arrived from my niece. Colorado gourmet products. That will keep until we sample them.

I have two cutting boards in my kitchen. (Shown above.)
One, a wooden one, has the edges trimmed like a book. It was a gift from our long-time bookkeeper. (Who died in 2006. And who loved to order gifts from catalogs. This one, I think, is the only one we still have.) The other is a sort of glass affair with a photo of peppers and green onions made to look like a mouth. It was a gift from a couple that used to live in Austin and may again. They seemed particularly astute about gifts. It's funny: when you keep a gift for a long time you remember the people who gave it to you in a found way.

The book shown at right also arrived yesterday from my niece. It is a wonderful book of essays about these centenarians and super-centenarians accompanied by fantastic portraits. I'd never seen this book, but I'm delighted with it. Just the intro (by the 'young' Norman Lear) is a delight. A gift you like that you didn't know existed is wonderful.

Tomorrow I am going to go through my old blog entries and find some more things to say about gifts from past entries.