Thursday, December 31, 2020

Endings and Beginnings


We think that a New Year, our artificial numbering of the orbits of the sun since the possible birth of a son of a god plus a couple of days, is significant. That we have to stay up until midnight (in our time zone?) to "see it in." Our mayor has ordered that bars and restaurants cut it short for a 10:30p.m. curfew as COVID-19 surges in our community. The state has sued the city for trying to enforce this order. 

There are real events in time, birth and death, and sunrise and sunset. A year and its seasons. But we arbitrarily label them to give us a sense of control and order. So tomorrow is no different than today. Except that it's time to worry about taxes. To wind up our bookkeeping. To write a different number at the end of the thing we call a date. We try to wrap it up in the media with lists of deaths, lists of bests, etc.

The COVID-19 Pandemic does not respect your new calendar or planner. It surges on. And that has made me realize, more than ever, that there are no magic dates or deadlines except the natural ones. 

Since the pandemic we often drive somewhere and walk around outside, keeping away from people. We have walked in a cemetery a few miles away quite a bit. In the photo, FFP (my husband) looks at the simple headstones for his parents. The space to his right is ours. There isn't room for two coffins (no double stacking here, unlike where my parents are buried). We will allegedly be cremated and placed there. We have talked during the last months of isolation about buying a marker. But, perhaps, we won't even have one. 

There isn't much real significance to the day of your death. We arbitrarily assign it based on our system. My mother's day of death was August 28, 2002. August 28 was her younger sister's birthday. We cling to significance, though. I once read a book on probability that said that the chance a person died in the quarter after their birthday was much higher than the 1/4 you might expect. As if people wanted to and in some cases did will themselves to pass that marker. 

We don't age by years, though. We age by bits and drabs and tiny insults. We give the arrival of a new year an artificial power. Whereas the actual day of birth and death are significant events, their anniversaries are not, really, except in our brains. 

I am not religious, but my parents were. I put this bible verse on my dad's obituary. 

"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth." Ecclesiastes 7:1

While we celebrate anniversaries of days and the flipping of the calendar, anniversaries are our arbitrary triggers of memory. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Holiday Cards


The season for holiday cards is winding down. As of yesterday's mail, we have received 44 from humans not pimping a business or organization. We put them on a screen at the entrance to our apartment (with our never filled stockings) or on a desk with some decorations. I save really cool ones to put out the next year. A lot of them have family pictures. Some just have a tree, a star, etc. I enjoy getting them and, in some years, I have sent hundreds myself. This year we did a letter to print on our inkjet. I just sent the link to some friends (who did not send snail mail either). I mostly sent a printed letter after receiving something from someone. (This harks back to 2014 when I made the holiday card exchange a correspondence where I replied to cards I received, mostly with a handmade card.) I wrote in the blank space left on the letter this year a little personal note, maybe acknowledging the newsy letter or pictures included with their card. I've sent 45 so far I think. I fully realize that if everyone waited to get a card to send one that it would kill the habit pretty quickly!

I imagine I will leave the cards up for a week or two. Why not? As we shelter here it will help remind us of the outside world. We are trying to get our first dose of the vaccine in order to start feeling safer out there.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ruined by Reading


My husband looks in the window of a book shop on South Congress. It was Christmas Day so the shop wasn't open, but we wouldn't have gone in anyway. In fact, we were only on the street there because we figured we could avoid people pretty well on Christmas Day. We've bought many a book in that shop plus some artwork and posters. 

During the pandemic, we've continued to receive three newspapers, four of five magazines (including the almost weekly The New Yorker) and have ordered books a couple of times from Powell's City of Books, our favorite bookstore of all time in Portland, OR. Never mind that we have hundreds (more than a thousand?) books in our apartment. We do spend a lot of time reading, but we never catch up! Oh, and we received this lovely coffee table book as a present:

These were Christmas presents to ourselves (ordered from Powell's):

The newspapers pile up. The 'to be read book pile' grows. The magazine piles teeter. We do spend a few hours a day reading. I could get through the newspapers faster if every puzzle grid I came across didn't sorely tempt me. Sometimes I cut them out for later. Have piles of them now. I guess if the apocalypse comes and newspapers cease publication I'll be ready.

We never like to be without words. Inside this apartment, we ought never to be. We were leaving to take the husband's car to get a tire repaired yesterday and he went back in to get a book...just in case he had to wait! (I laughed, but tucked inside my backpack were some newspaper sections.)

There is solace in reading. (Or working the puzzles.) You forget just where you are in this pandemic.

Monday, December 28, 2020

I pledge, resolve and really, really mean to...


It's that time of year when people (other people mostly) usually make resolutions. [The picture above has virtually nothing to do with resolutions unless I made one to get organized about holiday cards. Which I have never done.] Oh, I've done it. Done it to death in prior years. Way back in the early days of this strange time, I even made a plague pledge:
  • I will drastically limit my own contacts as well as limit asking others to make contacts on my behalf if they'd otherwise be sheltering or not coming to our building.
  • I will use my supplies sparingly so I don't have to ask friends to search for (or share from hoards) TP or wipes or certain food items.
  • I will not share unverified information on social media or bother to rant about the performance of leaders.
  • I will not put judgmental posts up about others' behavior in doing excessive errands, shopping, sightseeing, and so forth. I will not point out obvious hoarding. Know that I am seeing this. As are others.
  • I will quit complaining about the construction crews working I can see from my perch. But I see it and if there is evidence that it prolongs the outbreak...well, I don't know.
  • I will be thankful for people adding some shopping for us to an errand they were already doing, reducing vectors somewhat. So far, we are relying on people in our own building and one on our own floor. Do the vector geometry.
  • I will limit my orders that require others to enter our lobby but be thankful for Amazon and Austin Wine Merchant and Fixe having allowed us to get some things.
  • I will realize how privileged Forrest and I are in this crisis and try to help people left vulnerable by the loss of jobs, health, loved ones, and mental health.
  • I will try to stay healthy and not fall down doing laps around the apartment or climbing my ladder to get something so that I can avoid overwhelmed healthcare for a non-COVID-19 reason.
I must say that I have stayed pretty close to these promises. We have gotten a lot of packages delivered, I guess, but less than some people. As time went by the people in our building who were doing in-person shopping and bringing us stuff have gone by the by. (One got the virus and after hospitalization and recovery never offered again. Go figure. Two left the building.) We have our cars in working order, though, and so are doing curbside pickup. I might have railed at the performance of our government leaders and I have complained about the construction continuations (and was proven right as it became one of the flash points in our community).

Those New Year's Resolutions, though. Oofta. I have mixed things up by doing Holiday Resolutions. And these make me really sad because they reveal a lifestyle I've been (temporarily I hope) robbed of. I have made the mundane NY resolutions. And years ago...I made resolutions for other people!

I think maybe I will just approach 2021 with this thought from 2012: 
I resolve to live fully in the moment at hand as best I can and to do things a little differently every day to shake things up.

That seems fair and maybe I can keep it. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

That Didn't Go as Expected


Well, that didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. (Sort of like all of 2020.) I said I was going to be productive yesterday. I had good intentions. I was up at a reasonable hour. Of course, I milled around getting the papers in, checking in on the computers, making a copy of the NYT Saturday crossword for my husband, getting coffee. Saturday puzzles take longer so it became time to walk but we decided to have lunch first. Then we went downstairs to the car (gear up with masks and wipes and recycling to take out, etc.) and got in the car and started to back out. Whoa. Front tire very, very flat. The responsible screw landed on top of the tire as FFP pulled right back in the spot. Well, now. We don't change tires. Even if we did, is the donut ever properly inflated? So. We still went on a drive for a walk, taking my ancient but still running 2001 Civic. Still enjoying the Christmas decorations especially those that are fun without illumination.

When we got back, I looked through the fat files on our old cars to see when we last bought tires but couldn't find it. The tires look great. FFP called AAA and went through the exhaustive process of telling them we live in a high rise, the address is on the side of the building but the parking entrance is in the back, the truck will have to be buzzed in, the bigger wreckers are too tall so don't send them, etc. We both went to the garage at the appointed time (3:19 p.m.?) and waited because FFP thought I might need to move my car. The guy was about a half-hour late but did get in and quickly changed it, getting the donut to recommended pressure. So next week we will get it repaired or get a new tire. It's always something. 

But by the time we got that done, it was sooo close to the cocktail hour that my goals fell by the wayside. I made Welsh Rarebit from the leftover sauce from Christmas Eve and we ate that with a side salad. I made myself an Old Pal (equal parts Rye, Dry Vermouth and Campari shaken and strained into a chilled glass). 

We settled in to read (me: papers; he: a new book or maybe an old one he found) and doze with jazz playing until we decided to watch a couple more NYPD Blue episodes before bed with more reading until sleep around 1 a.m. And so it goes. The bill paying and spreadsheets for tax forms for the CPA, the cleaning, the organizing will wait until another day. Perhaps...tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Break


I gave myself a day off. To do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I didn't post on this blog. I answered some emails. We took our walk as usual. That's my hubby strolling along on a street leading to South First where there is a Moonlight Tower. We walked about two and a half miles, part of it on a shopping street on South Congress we would usually avoid this time of year leading up to Christmas but especially now while trying to social distance.

I ate leftovers. And cheese and crackers. Breakfast was banana 'pancakes' (really banana and eggs cooked up like pancakes) and bacon. I had candy and cookies. A late snack of half a salami and cheese sandwich. And a cocktail. Manhattan on the rocks with High West Rendevous Rye. 

I put maybe three pieces in the jigsaw puzzle. I read papers and worked puzzles in them. We watched part of WW84. Meh. We watched a couple of episodes of "Bridgerton." It's no Downton Abbey or maybe it's just a different time. We watched an old Cary Grant movie called "The Holiday." It was amazing. Directed by George Cukor. With Katherine Hepburn. Cary and Katherine do some gymnastics. There is a New Year's Eve party if you need a holiday hook. (We watched on Criterion.) We watched some NYPD Blue.

I plan to be productive today. No really. I don't feel bad about missing a day of Holidailies because doing whatever I wanted felt good. For a while. I want to feel like I accomplished things at the end of today.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

It's Christmas Eve


Our supper was Welsh Rarebit (cheesy toast) with a side salad with sliced turkey and Bloody Marys. It was delicious. I made the cheese spread from the Fergus Henderson recipe. You make a cheese sauce with Guinness, Worchestershire, dry mustard, cayenne and let it set up in a shallow pan until you can spread it. Toast bread then spread with cheese and broil until bubbly. So good. We will snack on something else later. (Maybe a sweet. We have some candy, cookies and pie.) And have some more drinks. Maybe a glass of wine, a cocktail, a coffee drink. There is a jigsaw puzzle on the go. We are going to queue up a traditional movie for our holiday watching. Maybe "Giant." We used to watch it with our parents when they were still alive to entertain them on the holiday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Random Thoughts from the Plague Times


Puzzles are distracting. When I'm trying to match up a piece to the others in a jigsaw, I can momentarily forget that going outside the apartment is a big deal involving taking a small risk, gearing up with a mask, and making sure we have everything because multiple trips make it harder (getting an elevator alone, etc.). Same with the crossword puzzles and other variety puzzles I do (Ken-Ken, etc.). So while I'm not bored and have plenty to do there is something about puzzles in that they allow me to drift away from the current mess. (Above picture is my husband placing the last piece of a jigsaw we did.)

Other random thoughts from this time:

  • While lots of people lost their jobs I think in Austin the people in construction and landscaping are pretty well-employed. Of course, there has been a spread of COVID-19 in these workforces so that's not good.
  • I figure the companies that make take-out containers and paper sacks and all the accouterments of curbside dining and shopping are doing well.
  • Bars "operating as restaurants" by adding a food truck is a joke. A Texas joke.
  • It is amazing to get a call from someone inviting us to brunch. At a restaurant. Upon hearing that we are not doing that we hear that the person's spouse already had it (caught shopping) and so did the caller (from a grandkid). And besides "everything down here is wide open." (In their small town outside Austin.) 
  • I no longer expect much from vaccination. My hope is that people who get it won't get sick or not as sick even though they may be able to pass it around. I hope to get one so that I won't get as sick when I get it. I'll keep wearing my mask so that I don't pass it along and avoiding contact and such after I get one, but I might eat in a restaurant or shop inside more if I thought I wouldn't get as sick. (I have made one and only one inside shop since mid-March. I hope that people I have been avoiding so that I don't give it to them might get a vaccine and reduce the risk of killing them.)
  • I now realize that this situation will continue in pretty much the same way for us until it has been one year! Maybe longer. Shocking.
  • I don't know if I will ever feel the same interacting with others. I'm an introvert anyway. Don't encourage me.
  • I am well and truly never going to get my drawers, closets, storage cage, and computer files sorted and organized before I die. Having nine months to do it and making this much progress? Right.
  • Our neighborhood walks (most within five miles of here, the furthest twelve miles) have proved to me that there is an infinity in this small space. I'd love to be traveling the world but there are lots of things to see. So close. And yet, sigh.
  • My writing here on this blog, posts on Facebook, and scribbles in notebooks in longhand are not really writing or journaling. They are really just ways to keep my feet planted in the world so that I don't float away in this weird time. On paper, I make myself write the date out with the day of the week in parentheses and then Day XXX. Today: December 23, 2020 (Wednesday) Day 284. (Sometimes it's all I can write. But usually, I write what we ate, where we went, what errands we ran, and what we watched on TV.) Yes, 284 days in this isolation mode.
  • We watch so many movies and series on TV that occasionally I will not remember what we watched the night before. Or I will remember snippets from a series and can't remember where it was set or what the name of it was or which streaming service or cable channel it was on. We have been working our way through "NYPD Blue," however. So when we are at a loss as to what to watch we simply revert to that.
  • In the Before Times, I would get things done and get them out of the way so that I could travel or go out and about. Now I often think "oh, I can do that tomorrow just as well."
  • For a while, I watched the clock and when 5 p.m. rolled around I would mix a drink (or get the hubby to do it). It was kind of symbolic. Now, I'm not so interested in it. (Not that I have quit drinking. Far from it. As the recycling bin will attest.)
  • When I express doubt that we will ever again travel freely, dine out with abandon or go out to hear live performances, I really don't need to have people say "oh, yes you will." But, of course, someone always does.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

I Don't Really Like Cooking


Last night I made dinner. This isn't it. I should have taken some pictures last night. The recipe involved a lot of mushrooms and other ingredients. (Including wine and garlic...usually a good sign.) The result was allegedly Mushroom Bourgignon. It took a long time. I wasn't terribly impressed.

I don't really mind chopping. The above picture is probably chopped chicken tenders, chopped broccoli, chopped carrots, chopped onion, and minced garlic. All in a bottled curry sauce. (Was yummy as I recall.) 

Since the Plague Times began I've poached eggs in the traditional way (in swirling hot water). expertly separated eggs for my husband's Caesar salad (and saved the whites for an egg-white forward omelet that was pretty expertly done). I've made wilted spinach salad similar to my mom's from the olden days. I've chopped all sorts of stuff for salads and curry (bottled sauce).  I don't bake. I take too many liberties with recipes to bake. (Which might explain my dissatisfaction with the recipe last night.) I never roast chicken or turkey. We don't make homemade pizza.

I love to eat out. Take out is harder and requires planning ahead and also often ends up with food that needs reheating. We've been doing a lot of it, however. We always get more than we can eat because if you have to reheat anyway you might as well not have to go out again. We got takeout greasy hamburgers the other day. In spite of driving them home and having to climb the stairs to our apartment because the fire alarm had taken out the elevators, they were delicious.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Distance World


This photo is from back in the day when we went out and about in the real world. I took my husband's picture at Niagara Falls. The other people in the picture have haunted me every time I've viewed it. We were on a road trip from Austin to Maine and back with various stops and adventures.

Our forays into the real world are now limited to walks. We try to stay apart from the people we encounter. Particularly those without masks. We either walk from our building or (more usually) from a place we park in a not too far away neighborhood.

We mostly encounter others in the pets and artifacts they display outside their homes. Instead of going to a Christmas party in someone's home (we were always invited to a few) and surreptitiously looking at the books on their shelves we look in Little Free Libraries. Sometimes we take a book. Sometimes we leave one. Instead of seeing people's art and decoration in their house, we see yard art and choices of exterior paint.

We join with people on social media. I have Facebook posts that I put up to entertain and connect with people there. (Current efforts are photo journeys through neighborhoods with pictures like the above, Christmas photos from the past leading up to Friday, Monday Murals, Monday Museums, Trip Tuesday, Wednesday on the Water, Throwback Thursday, Food Friday, Saturday Strangers, and Saturday Shopping.) I put up random thoughts and links to articles. I look at others' posts on Facebook and on Twitter. 

A few people come out of the woodwork and quote unreliable sources about election fraud and such. But most people give you a view of their lives. My husband is currently producing a Monday literary thing on Facebook. We take pictures of food we make or get from take-out just like we used to take pictures of drinks and food when we dined out. (I even take pictures of my cocktails at home occasionally.) 

One friend produces a cocktail picture, recipe and historical round-up of the drink every day that he is home in his New York apartment. Many friends post pictures of food they've cooked or sometimes food they are preparing or prepping.

Friends are posting pictures of their Christmas decorations (nine trees? really?) but we are guilty, too.

So it's like being invited to a party. We look at their holiday cooking. Or everyday cooking. So much more elaborate than ours often. We see what they are drinking and how they've decorated.

People talk about their front line experience with the virus. One fellow in our building wrote about it when he went to the hospital and when he came home. A high school classmate announced that he and his wife had it. Shortly after, his wife died. A local woman talked about the vaccine trial she was in and is now promoting the vaccine on news media. Relatives and friends announce they have tested positive. Others, we learn, don't admit it on social media.

Other people take neighborhood walks and show pictures. People go on road trips (!) and airplane trips (!) and post pictures. Our travel person went to Africa and Mexico. She not only planned our trips in the past but sometimes went along. I hope that will happen again. I hope she doesn't catch the virus. The Africa trip involved pre-testing, isolation. She flew in business class, had a mask and face shield, and went to places taking precautions. Still. We wouldn't have gone. We are older. But vicariously we went along on Facebook. Friends had to fly or drive to help elderly parents. We went along with their pictures and experiences.

One fellow who is as isolated as we are always posted random pictures he had collected on the Internet and he still does it. These spark random conversations.

People talk about injuries and illnesses that are not virus-related. Someone with a heart transplant has to be hospitalized. Someone falls and is injured. People are suffering from seasonal allergies. (I guess it's the constant mask but I haven't had allergies or illness in months.)

It isn't like being with other people and going to parties. But it isn't total isolation either.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

I No Longer Believe I'll Get Out Anytime Soon

Yeah, you are there to stay, buddy. If you escaped that chain link fence you might get hit by a car. Or get lost. No sign of a collar and I bet you aren't microchipped.

I know just how you feel, my friend. There were times during the last 281 days when I thought I'd maybe get out to dine, to browse casually in stores, to travel, to go to parties. Oh, I know some of you are doing it. I read about it on Facebook. I see the numbers climb for infections. People die. (Well, they escape to somewhere,  I suppose.) 

I now see that to stay safe I will need to continue to limit my activities. I won't be getting a vaccine soon. Not essential. Not in care. Not old enough. (Although I am well past 65.) 

I see the bars near my condo when we are driving. They draw crowds. They are "operating as restaurants." Our governor won't have another shutdown. Period.

I no longer hope. I put things off. So tomorrow I will have something to do. My husband has deadlines. (He is writing a lot of the copy for the neighborhood newspaper he has contributed to for years.) I have deadlines, too. I have to do certain financial things in a timely fashion. But I put things off. Cleaning. sorting, etc. Because there is always tomorrow. And more and more tomorrows.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Second Wave


Every day, a bit after six, I will usually look at this chart for my county in Texas. Besides new cases, I'll also see if there are new deaths reported and how the hospitalizations, ICU, and ventilator numbers look. We are trying to tame vectors ourselves. We don't ride the elevators in our building with others and go to the public area downstairs (lobby, mailroom with 430 boxes, concierge desk) either very late at night or not at all. (A kind concierge drops things at our door.) We walk outside where there are fewer people. We get everything curbside. (Save my one trip to Costco which, I'm happy to say was a couple of weeks ago and at the elderly hour.) We were just out picking up takeout at a restaurant and a few things at the deli downstairs. All dropped in our trunk. We don't want to catch it. And we don't want to pass it on. So we reduce our vectors of exposure.

I hope those numbers go down to September/October levels soon. I hope the dip today isn't just lax weekend reporting. Or the fact that UT students took their positive tests home. 

There isn't much I can do about it. Except, you know, what I'm doing.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Presents


Some time ago Powell's City of Books in Portland, OR had a big sale. We ordered the books shown and they arrived this week. Two for me, two for him. That is the extent of our Christmas presents except that I ordered a new Page-A-Day French language and culture calendar. (It arrived today.) We did send some stuff to our friends in the NW, ordered over the internet. Other than that no gifts. No wrapping. I've started distributing some Christmas decorations around the apartment like the bendy Santas above. And our tree. That's up. Some of the stuff on the little bar left for size reference.

The little packages are tiny empty wrapped boxes probably created as decoration by child labor in Asia years ago. Tiny ornaments and tiny rubber trinkets abound. Since we have no real presents under it there is nothing to dwarf it but the liquor bottles.

In the spirit. Uh, no. May be drinking the spirits, though. I did make up a Christmas letter to print. Then had to do hand-to-hand combat with my printer today when it started acting up. Maybe I'll just point people to the online version. And they can imagine I wrote them a personal note in the white space.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

I've Never Really Like the End of the Year


The holidays are fun and all, usually, but you have to bend over backward to do everything and worry about the year-end stuff. We paid our property taxes today. (Online.) Oooof. Since we have this little business we have all sorts of year-end tax things to worry about between that and the personal stuff. I always worried about getting gifts for people (when I did that and I did at least for the parents when they were still alive). This year there are no parties with great food and decoration and booze to relieve the dread of year-end. We used to walk around downtown and look at all the window displays and hotel decorations, but this year it doesn't seem worth the risk of wandering through a hotel lobby to see a giant nutcracker.

Usually, we go to the performance of the "Nutcracker" that Ballet Austin does at the Long Center but this year we watched it online (a recording from last year). We almost always go on Christmas Eve to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and see Christine Albert and Chris Gage. It's canceled this year.

We aren't big celebrants of New Year's Eve but we usually do something with other people. That's my husband and two of our good gal friends at one of our clubs for a low-key dinner to celebrate.

So it seems the end of the year is drained of everything but starting to worry about taxes and winding up the year. At least we don't have to take the Required Minimum Distribution from our IRAs. Thanks CARES act. And we don't have any elderly parents left to worry over. We have food and shelter and it's certainly a time to realize that not everyone does.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Outdoor Recreation and Relaxation


As we have driven around and explored close-in neighborhoods, I have noticed a surfeit of outdoor recreation equipment as well as outdoor furniture, firepits, and such. Above you see fabric suspended from a tree allowing, I assume, kids or adults to perform those aerial dance routines. That was the first sighting of such. But I've seen a ton of trampolines (see background above), basketball goals (some even on trampolines), monkey bars, slacklines, come-alongs between trees strung with handles and swings and such for the budding American Ninja Warrior, badminton nets, rebound nets, soccer nets and more. Traditional swings are around but four-point swings with a bungee-cord woven seat seem especially popular. Lots of people have chairs and tables out. In the summer there were blow-up pools. Now you notice fire pits and chimineras. I've seen paddle courts drawn with chalk on the street. Lots of yards have all sorts of balls laying around. Some of this equipment looks used, up a while or recently dusted off out of a corner of the garage. But a lot of it looks pretty new, maybe bought for this stay-at-home time. I guess the strangest recreation was the (well-fenced) yard with three thick, wood targets obviously for ax throwing. A month or two later we walked by again and they were pretty chewed up!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Degrees, Honorifics, Misogyny and Books I've Read


I have a BA. A Bachelor of Arts. In Mathematics with a minor in French. My skills in those two subjects being woefully absent in my old age, I don't brag about it too much. I wish I remembered more about differential equations. I wish I'd ever even studied topology. Occasionally I read popular books that touch on mathematics and desperately try to revive something of my training. I have mastered enough French to never stumble over ici, mer, and such in my crosswords. Every year I buy a page-a-day calendar with a French sentence or note about something French six pages a week. (You only get one page for the weekend. It's a cheat.) I went back to college for classes in mathematics, accounting, and business. I never completed any other degree. Therefore, you won't find me bragging about my education or using a title or honorific. And I didn't attend Harvard or anything for that one degree. North Texas State University. Now the University of North Texas. (Why the name change? I don't know.)

Much has been made on social media about an editorial by Joseph Epstein in The Wall Street Journal in which he excoriates Dr. Jill Biden for using the title. It is dismissive of her because she isn't a medical doctor, has a Doctorate in Education, and wrote a dissertation he described as 'unpromising' perhaps because it mentioned "Community College."

In this editorial, he admits that he has only a BA and an honorary doctorate. He excoriates his honorary doctorate a bit, but also that of others. He brags about, despite his lack of real degrees, being a lecturer at the prestigious Northwestern and the editor of The American Scholar. 

In a world where we have so many problems that should light up the editorial pages of our major newspapers and social media, this editorial should never have been written. It smacks of misogyny, elitism, whatever. He might have missed that Jill, married to a politician all these years, might want some way to say "I am a woman who has accomplished something in my field, education, not just by getting an advanced degree, but by furthering student's accomplishments."

But. No, there's not really a but. They shouldn't have published it. It just doesn't matter what he thinks about her use of the title. Like his lack of an advanced degree doesn't matter. 

However. Yes, maybe there is a, however. Around 1999 or 2000 I picked up a book while browsing in a bookstore. "Narcissus Leaves the Pool" by Joseph Epstein. I loved the title and the cover. (Above.) I might have glanced inside at some of the essays. (The title one is about growing old and accepting that one's body will eventually betray our 'getting better every day' mantra.) I read it while we were on a staycation at a local Bed and Breakfast. I loved it. His way with words. His choice of topics. I hadn't thought about it until this controversy arose and, I confess, I didn't remember many specifics about the essays. I never bought another of his books or read him elsewhere that I remember.

I hunted up the book. Now, I remember. One essay "So to Speak" was about mispronouncing words and names and how embarrassing that can be. I related to that. I grew up maybe reading but never hearing a lot of words. I was excoriated for my Texas accent. I did mispronounce things and it embarrassed me greatly. Once, in Canada (eh) I told my students in a class about Natural Language for a computer system, that the system 'parsed' the words they wrote in the language in a certain way. Someone said I meant passed, haha, and I said 'no, parsed.' Because this person was ignorant of the word parse and they could hear an accent of some kind (eh) they assumed I was adding an 'r' to pass. And yet if they hadn't also been ignorant of accents they would have known that Texans didn't add and subtract 'r's like Bostonians. See how fast we can lash out at others because of our own failings and sensitivities?

In another essay ("Trivial Pursuits") he talks about giving up watching sports. As some of you may know, I started boycotting football at every level about four years ago. I don't watch news reports (unless it's about the reasons for the boycott) or one down of any game or any ads associated with such broadcasts. I know that it makes no difference. However, I no longer feel complicit in the horrors of the destruction of young men (CTE, joints, undervaluing education), the overshadowing of academics in schools, the turning the other way when crimes are committed, the societal implications that the sport is the ultimate and therefore that women, who only cheer or play an instrument or dance at half time cannot be the best. I feel better for my boycott. I wonder now if this essay allowed me to start the thought process that---after fifty years of watching football (and, yes, enjoying it) and sometimes living and dying (so to speak) with the fortunes of these boys or men---led to this turning away which has been very pleasant.

Joseph Epstein writes good essays. (And has been richly rewarded, it seems, for that.) He could have written an essay on the sometimes meaningless honorifics and degrees without the ad hominem attack on Dr. Jill Biden. It's obviously something he has thought about a lot since he 'only' has a (real) BA. Like me. When I first worked in computers in the early seventies, I had just graduated from college. But over the years I met a lot of people (especially women) who got into the field from 'traditional' women's jobs in companies that were just acquiring computers and went on to careers every bit as successful as mine or the younger people with degrees in Computer Science. (My university did not offer such a degree when I was there.) This unbalance in potential success and degrees or advanced degrees is a worthy topic. Since Jill has studied Community College education, it is one that she is probably prepared to address as well. 

When the firestorm over this OPED started my husband located this book (which he had never read) and wanted to get rid of it. After having glanced through it to see why I had, in fact, enjoyed it, I think I'd like to read it again. No offense to Dr. Biden. 

Monday, December 14, 2020



They pile up. I am loath to toss them into the recycling bag until I've glanced at them. If a section contains a crossword I haven't worked, I feel compelled to try to fill it in or cut it out for later. At the beginning of the plague time, I would cut them out, thinking that if times got hard the newspapers would stop printing and no more puzzles. Yeah, that hasn't happened. I suppose we could run out of money to subscribe to these tree killers. But that probably won't happen either.

We get The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Austin American-Statesman. (I'm not even going to talk about the magazines we get including the 50 or so times a year The New Yorker.)

Eventually, they find their way into recycling. Sacks and sacks of them. But not before I've actually read a few articles completely, read a lot of headlines, made notes of entertainment we should see. I always look at the Obits. Not just to see the lives of people, but I like to see the cause of death. And, yeah, complications of COVID-19 is one we now see. The New York Times even has a feature about these deaths.

I have been collecting links to articles during the plague. A lot of them are about the virus. At least peripherally. This week there was an article in the NY Times about a shortage of, wait for it, antacids!

By the way, I didn't write yesterday in the blog. Maybe I'll write more today. My excuse? I was trying to read and get rid of some of the newspapers!

Saturday, December 12, 2020


There are things to break up and distinguish one day from the next during this self-imposed lockdown. But there is also a routine. I get up around 7 a.m. no matter how late my bedtime was the night before. (It is usually around 12:30 a.m.) This is so I can spend two or more hours doing the following: (1) fetching the papers out of the hallway; (2) getting some coffee; (3) checking the computers for anything urgent; (4) copying the NY Times puzzle for FFP to try his hand; (5) writing a few lines in a paper journal; (6) working the puzzles in the NY Times and maybe reading anything of interest in the Arts Section in which they appear (except for Sunday when it's in the magazine and I make a copy to work); and (7) checking social media and reviewing my memories on Facebook. I do that last one last to avoid being sucked into the vortex of social media and neglecting my puzzles, etc. Two hours? Yes, usually. I may tidy up something in the kitchen. (Like washing my cocktail glass from the night before.) I'll have some more coffee. I may have a discussion with FFP.

After this, I usually walk. 

We may go outside to walk. This involves getting on our outside shoes, hats (for the sun and to cover increasingly chaotic hairdos), and masks. We take along an antiseptic wipe to use to touch buttons and door handles. We may take out the trash to the chute or some recycling to the parking garage. We almost always drive somewhere and then walk. We don't get in an elevator with others and by driving instead of exiting our building through the main exits we avoid a lot of potential human contact. Plus other non-downtown neighborhoods are less dense with people coming and going. If we go outside to walk, I map the walk with an app on my phone and take pictures of interesting things along the way. I post this on Facebook to entertain my followers. [Do I owe my followers entertainment?]

I may walk and exercise indoors. I mapped out 130 steps or so around the apartment. I count these laps and try to get in enough steps this way. I may intersperse a few stretches and arm exercises. I may do this inside exercise as an adjunct to the outdoor stroll which usually doesn't qualify as "enough" exercise. Increasingly, if I don't get the outdoor exercise then I don't do anything more. I need to rectify that.

When I walk inside I leave the computers on my desk on and they go into screensaver mode. I have this set for displaying some of the tens of thousands of images on the disk. Each time I make a lap I see a few pictures. They remind me of people and places and events. Some are from the last few months of isolation. Many are scans from the past, old photos many decades old. People pop up that I had forgotten. People pop up who are no longer with us. Here you are in our neighborhood, here in Paris or London or Dublin. This picture is of a shop window somewhere. This one has strangers in it. Our attention is drawn to people but sometimes, especially as pictures age, it's the cars or the furniture and artifacts in the room that grab us. Here are my parents, on a ship, near the Big Island of Hawaii. Oh, and there are pictures of exquisite food and many shots of drinks, particularly the whiskey drink I favor, the Manhattan. Oh, and pictures of Manhattan, the borough, too. Many of the Empire State building from back in the day when we could stay in a room with a great view of it. Back in the day when we could go anywhere at all and stay in a hotel. There are pictures of museums and the artifacts in them and the people visiting there. There are murals, some you can still find and some long lost to coverings or construction. There are many pictures of the view from our window and the balcony of this apartment where we have lived for twelve years. There are pictures of couples who are no longer together. There are pictures of exquisite food and other people's tattoos. Of parades and performances. Of people's homes and yard art. Of the construction of many buildings with cranes reaching up to points where the building will eventually rise. There are odd cars and odd things found abandoned. Passing this parade of pictures makes me think of life outside this bubble and how I lived it. There are also pictures of shelves inside this apartment and our old house, crammed with books and artifacts and souvenirs and photos. There are many photos of my husband as he walks in front of me. There are flora and fauna, statues and stores. There are many views of our old house and yard.

When the evening hours come I start thinking about dinner. And drinks. I've not drunk much at home in the past. It seemed we were always out in a bar or restaurant. FFP is my go-to for making my Manhattans (on the rocks), my favorite drink. But, during our isolation, I've branched out. I have him make me Bloody Marys. I have opened old wines and drunk the ones that were still drinkable. I have perfected my recipe for vodka gimlets, "cornered" bottles of cognac and Scotch, bought tonic water for vodka tonics. I am not a gin drinker and imagine myself unable to drink it without consequences but I've been tempted by a few bottles around. I've tried to use up what is here but we've gotten curbside pickup on vodka, Rye, and white and Rosé wines, and mixers. I've made Moscow Mules and Old Pals. After drinks and dinner, I usually check the Travis County COVID numbers. If it's up, I'm sad. If it's down, I don't think it's down enough. If people have died (and they usually have), I wonder who they were. Then we watch movies and television series while reading. I work more puzzles, perhaps. We get The Wall Street Journal (six days) and Austin American-Statesman (seven days) and they have puzzles, too. It's only with the puzzles that I lose myself and lose the sense of where I am and where the world is going.

We stay up too late. Maybe I have another drink (although lately I seem to be drinking less) and maybe a snack. Finally I go to bed with some water and a book. I read a few pages and doze.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Take-Out is Not the Same


We are lucky. We have plenty of money to weather the crisis. We were living on our retirement income, but we have income beyond Social Security. We own our condo outright so the sum of taxes, insurance, HOA, and utilities is quite reasonable for basic living. We don't have any debt. We got refunds for some of the trips we'd scheduled. We normally eat out a lot. And drink out. And buy meals for friends even. 

So we have cooked, yes. And spent a lot more on in-home food and drink than usual but it's still not a huge hit.

We get take-out, but it's not the same. By the time we get it home, it needs plating and reheating sometimes. The offerings are limited to less-exotic things. We have to drive and receive the food in our trunk, leaving and returning from the sixth floor of our parking garage. Or walk to get stuff outside the restaurant. We don't get deliveries because one has to go to the main lobby of our busy building at a busy time to retrieve it (after securing an elevator we don't have to share).

Above is a picture from a restaurant about twelve blocks from our apartment, snapped in the restaurant in the Before Times. It is a preparation of sweetbreads. I love organ meats. They are not offering them for takeout. No surprise. Organ meats are not everyone's cup of tea. To mix a metaphor with a, well, I don't know. In any case, dining at a restaurant and is not the same as bringing it home. It never will be. But we aren't willing to sit and eat and drink, unmasked, around others that are similarly bare-faced. 

We even got takeout when our favorite greasy burger joint opened for takeout or outside dining. We'd hoped to get it in the trunk, but the phone number wasn't working. I didn't appreciate even waiting at the outside window with people dashing around, some unmasked. But we got the polar opposite of exotic organ meats. And it was delicious. And tasted all the better served from a plate.

Thursday, December 10, 2020


At first, it was an adventure. Digging through the pantry and finding cans of black olives from Costco, supplies of condiments, cans of soup that sounded good but were past their best by date. Getting deliveries or having friends in the building to drop off produce and bread and eggs. Cooking rice and pasta shoved back in the pantry. We discovered (through one of the friends bringing us food) an Indian simmer sauce that dressed up vegetables and chicken and salmon by turns. We stocked up on nacho makings but, oddly, didn't have them too often. We made salads. When friends bringing food brought more of something than we bargained for, we looked up recipes. We clipped recipes and found them online and drug out the few cookbooks we preserved from the big move twelve years ago. I made Welsh Rarebit after securing the Guinness from the deli downstairs that is needed in the Fergus Henderson recipe.

We had spaghetti squash, lots of spaghetti and sauces, wilted spinach salad, Caesar salad, a ton of tuna salad. 

We don't go inside the deli downstairs. Instead, we order and pay on the phone. Drive down from the garage, get food placed in the trunk. That's almost the only beer I've had save a can of Shiner left in the tiny house we rented for July and August by our friendly host. When I'm ordering groceries I don't think to get beer. What beer would I get? I'm too busy getting bread and eggs and such when making grocery orders online or calling the deli. I used to enjoy looking at the choices. In a store. I haven't been inside a store for so long.

Now I have ordered some special foods, though. Caviar. (Well, cheap roe anyway.) White anchovies. I swear if the grocery stores that were taking my online orders had sweetbreads or foie gras I would order them and attempt to cook them. I have a fantastic sweetbread recipe somewhere, that I copied out of someone else's cookbook and then made some adjustments.

We look around, though, and say we have some baking potatoes, cheese, butter, green onions. Make a baked potato dressed in the microwave. I like to add yogurt if I have some and FFP hot sauce since he can't eat yogurt. Say we have an apple, some eggs, and canned tuna. Tuna salad it is. Hopefully, there is some dill relish and mayo or it just won't work.

It gets tiresome. We save the frozen stuff for an emergency. We get a pound or two of ground meat. Will it be burgers, a meat sauce and spaghetti? Or chili. Two pounds of ground pork we got makes an outstanding Texas chili.

If you are inside 270 days plus then (for us) that is over 800 meals (I don't eat breakfast) and snacks. That's a lot of planning and shopping (that has to be done online or over the phone or through messaging friends). FFP usually has oatmeal and almond milk for his breakfast. But, for a while, he switched to eggs. This upset the egg allocation.

We were the eating out elite before this pandemic lockdown. We would have meals at home (especially breakfast and lunch), but, if we felt like it, we would sit in a restaurant for dinner. Lunch even.  We'd take walks and in the middle of it stop for a meal or snack. What a luxury.

I worry about getting the right nutrients, of course. I order V8 and fruit. I get broccoli and other veggies. I get mandarins to get some vitamin C. I put raisins on my salads. And we have lettuce. And BLTs, too!

Getting V8, though, inspired the Bloody Mary phase wherein I tried to use up the vodka we had around. Ah, COVID drinking. But that's another story.

The good news? I have lost five pounds.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

We Will Move Beyond This...of Not


My husband has never willingly had a beard. Ten years ago he had operations on his face and couldn't shave for a bit. Here the nerves in his face were still coming back so he was also a little lopsided. This was taken right about the time he found out there was no cancer in his sentinel gland. I figured we would get through it. Time would heal his body, things would change, we would get older. Things were somewhat in our control around that. 

I felt the same way about the virus and our country back in March. We'd isloate. Others would. Protocols for testing, treatment, and vaccines would march along sanely. Today? I'm not so sure. There is only so much we can do in a world gone mad with our attorney general in Texas suing other states over the election results and with vaccinations, even if people will take them, far off for most of us.

At least we still feel reasonably healthy even as we struggle with what safety protocols are necessary. And we have taken extreme precautions. It doesn't feel like it's up to us. Not at all. Cancer had an idea ten years ago and there was only so much we could do, but our path was pretty clear. Getting the sentinel node biopsy as part of a clinical trial allowed us to know the cancer hadn't metastasized. It allowed him not to have treatments that are destructive and be pretty sure the surgery was enough. We had the doctors and a plan. If it had gone another way it wouldn't have been because other people were interfering. And, at the time, the president of our country spoke in coherent sentences.

I don't see a path for us, really, from here to a reasonable facsimile of our old life. But I keep hoping.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Indoor Shopping


Remember indoor shopping? Remember browsing in shops selling various and sundry, old and new, looking for cool stuff for yourself or friends? 

Before today I hadn't been inside a shop since March. And, of course, I won't be prowling the narrow aisles of a shop like the one where this window display appeared years ago. (The shop is only recently gone after having umpteen moving sales.)

But today. I went to Costco. In the Before Times, I'd go a few times a year. I'd pick up small electronics, batteries, wonderful cheap cheese, snacks, toilet paper, paper towels, antiseptic wipes, garbage bags, toothpaste, non-perishable food items, etc. Since I rarely went I'd peruse most of the aisles looking for bargains, gifts, things I didn't know I needed. We are still using the paper towels and toilet paper I had on hand from the Before Times. (Some things I never buy at Costco because they come in too large a quantity. But paper goods can go in my storage.)

Today's trip started before 10. I think they only let old people in before 10. They didn't challenge me. Ha. Go figure.

I had $220 worth of chits that could only be redeemed at the register. I had been buying shredded cheese in eight-ounce and sixteen-ounce packages from grocery pickup over and over. Their Mexican blend shredded cheese is something we call 'magic cheese' in this house. I figured I'd get a few things to see us through the next few months because things are surging even here in Austin (we've done better than some areas) and a vaccine looks far off.

I armed myself with an N95 mask and set out. Most of the aisles were sparsely-populated. I rarely had to get anywhere near others and then only briefly. Masks all around. I bought toilet paper (no wipes or paper towels seemed to be available), toothpaste, dental floss, fish oil, canned tuna, coffee beans, the 13-gallon garbage bags that go in our trash chute, canned pitted black olives, two two-packs of the magic cheese, two blocks of good basic aged cheddar, some vegetable chips, some Boursin cheese spread, some sliced turkey, a package of 20 gel pens (I have been writing in a paper diary at least a little every day and, with the puzzles I work, have run a lot of pens dry during the pandemic), AAA and AA batteries (always good to have in bad times and on sale), and...a WEB cam. (Latter is a whim purchase. Figure I might replace my husband's laptop with a desktop that doesn't have a camera. Plus on sale.) 

Came home and unloaded and felt like I'd done a day's work. Now, in fairness, it was really easy, but I don't like essential shopping in the best of times. In any case, no wait at the register, and really seemed safe and quick. They had rearranged some things for COVID, but I still found most things. I have made myself a little calculator for the chances of getting the virus in various situations and I think this adventure clocked in at less than 2%. Probably less. I hope.

I don't think we will do any inside shopping for a while. And for sure no antique browsing.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Material World


It's that time of the year. You buy presents. You wrap them. Kids of a certain age expect presents from Santa. Maybe you dream of getting just the right thing to make your world click. Maybe you dream of giving everyone on your list the perfect present. I was once very caught up in this. As a kid...I dreamed of stuff. I pored over the 'wish books.' Toy guns! Oh, swoon! Toy trains, construction sets! All the things in metal boxes with pictures of little boys on them playing with the wonderful toy.

I am way over it. There is no material thing that, if I felt I wanted it and it was available that I wouldn't just purchase. I just don't want much. I don't really want anything I can't afford. I don't buy a bunch of physical presents these days. I give some people money. It's rare that we send people a gift and it will probably be something consumable. I will most likely not wrap a single present this year. (Although sometimes my husband and I will comb our bookshelves for some forgotten tome and wrap it up for the other one.)

One Christmas over forty years ago my sister and brother-in-law and their children and my parents were visiting us for Christmas. We agreed with them and my in-laws that we would not buy presents unless they were secondhand, something we had tucked away in our closet and thought we should pass on or something we made. I think a couple of my unmarried aunts participated in this. What I remember most is that my mother-in-law bought a box of sparklers at a garage sale for a nickel and gave it to my nieces.  They were maybe six and eight. They had such a great time with them that night in our driveway. One of my aunts gave us the aluminum glasses that we had drunk many an iced tea out of at their house over the years. I think I still have them. It was a fun exercise.

Stuff just seems to get in my way these days. I have to move so much around just to clean. Of course, we love having things. But the thrill is really gone. 

There will never be a thrill like the Christmas that I got a Polaroid camera. Something which seemed genuinely out of reach and then miraculously appeared. I had read about them, the different models and I wanted this specific expensive one. I was about sixteen. I actually tried to collect enough Green Stamps (remember those?) to get one. It was impossibly out of reach. But my mom found the money to get it. That gift realized my hope for it, too. That's so rare when you want something and, yes, it turns out just like you imagined. It gave me many family pictures with that rich chemical Polaroid depth that still looks great in a scan. I used it for almost ten years, I think.  The one below is my sister laughing at my niece trying to chew on my dad's fingers. The picture is over fifty years old. I finally gave the camera away on Freecycle a few years ago to a camera collector. It had ceased to work. He wrote to me that he repaired the bellows and had it functioning again. For a while, the film was not available for it but I think it is again. And one point about twenty years ago an artist friend and I used it to make transfer pictures from the film chemicals by shooting slides with a special device. I will have to find a scan of one. 

Santa can stay home and stay masked as far as I'm concerned. But I hope he fulfills everyone else's dreams.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

I Have a Problem with the Truth

No, I don't mean I'm a compulsive liar like some politicians and pundits. No, I mean I hate to say or write anything that isn't exactly, precisely as true as I know to make it. I understand there are subtleties. I once mentioned this on Facebook and said that a novel I read had the characters going to the Neiman Marcus store in Las Vegas. I was stymied from the flow of reading wondering if there was a Neiman's in Las Vegas. Now, yes it was fiction. But that's a real store. (Which started in Dallas.) One Facebook friend offered that there is a Neiman's in Las Vegas. I was, of course, reading this book before the Internet. (It might have been "Desert Rose" by Larry McMurtry. I'm not sure. And I hate that I'm not sure.) So, of course, I still wondered was the store there when the novel was written. (I could not easily find this on the Interwebs and it doesn't really matter.) Yes, it's fiction. Couldn't matter less. Real city, but could have imagined an imaginary store. Or a real store not located there. But it illustrates the trouble I have trying to pin down the elusive truth which, we all know, is an illusion. Oh, people try. That Polifacts column tries to judge things true, false, mostly true, mostly false, and "pants on fire." 

For Food Friday yesterday on Facebook, I shared this picture taken in the Alsace in 2004. I then placed a picture of the front of a trout restaurant and a picture of a serving of trout in the comments. I asserted that the pictures were connected. But, on further thought, I decided that I took this one on a street in another village. Maybe. I was tempted to try to clarify this. But the post was really all about these fun images. It just didn't matter. And yet it bugged me.

It's a disease, I tell, you. The struggle is real. And in 2004 the camera didn't record GPS coordinates. Isn't that great, that now some of this info is recorded with your picture? I remember when GPS didn't exist. This assertion sent me off on a quest for the timing of public GPS availability and widespread adoption in gadgets. This is why we can't have nice, off-the-cuff entries in this blog. ("No one cares," I tell myself. "I do," the little diseased fact-checker in my brain replies.)

Friday, December 04, 2020


A lot of things on my 'To Do' list can be just as easily done tomorrow. Or never. 

  1. Take some stuff to storage to get it out of the way in the apartment. (Our storage cage is in the garage area of our building, but, of course, everything is harder now that you have to mask up and try to ride the elevator alone.) I need to do this because the bathtub we use as a closet is stuffed with, well, stuff that needs to be reconsidered or stored although some of it is supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, and wipes. 
  2. Bring up the Christmas decorations and decorate the apartment. (The picture is from last year. That is our foot-tall tree decorated with little rubber animals. Most of our decoration consists of bendy Santas and other Christmas figures.) But why? I can just post last year's pictures!
  3. Dust the shelves and cabinets in the office and vacuum. (This requires the ladder, moving a lot of stuff around, AND that my husband not be sitting at his computer which he seems to be doing all the time now.)
  4. Clean the rest of the apartment. Some days I do a bit or a lot of this. But no one is coming over and as long as it doesn't get TOO out of hand.
  5. Get some of these newspapers and magazines sorted for recycling. I am constantly doing a little of this usually as an excuse for not doing other things. As surely as there is the printed word and puzzle grids, though, I get distracted.
  6. Print, address, and mail people our Holiday Letter adding a little personal note in the space provided. I've only sent a couple. I have an Access database with 740 entries (although only 226 have a Y in the XMAS column and only 79 appear to have been sent last year versus 74 received). Wow, did I really get 74 cards or letters? And send 79? Well, this year I've received two and sent four. I'm really not feeling it. And, of course, it doesn't matter, does it?
  7. Sort and Organize some of the 80,000 images on my computer. (And I wonder why I can never find that perfect shot!)
And the list goes on and on. Of course, there are things that have to get done. Paying bills. Taking out garbage and recycling. And today I had to put fresh linens on the bed because even though I didn't feel like doing it. (I have a little headache, maybe allergies.) I had already told my hubby to strip the bed and wash the sheets which he had obediently done. And yesterday (or was it the day before?) I changed a lightbulb. (The ladder is involved.)

I am still not feeling perfect so I think I'll just use that as an excuse to not accomplish anything more today. But my Holidailies entry? Done!

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Reining in the Roaming


Our travel since February has been limited to a ten-mile radius from our downtown Austin condo. But for the Pandemic, we would have been in New York City, Amsterdam, Paris, the Pacific Northwest and, at least in Dallas-Ft. Worth!

We used to take frequent walks, setting out on the streets and trails within a three-mile radius of the apartment. That provided lots of variety. (Not to mention a lot of fun stops for snacks and shopping. Oh, what a pent-up demand there is in my mind for indoor meals and shopping!) Since we have gone into relative isolation, however, walking from here is both a little more fraught (too many people around especially construction workers) and confining (we can't walk three miles away and return without, ahem, a comfort stop). Early on we had a little car trouble with one of our cars so sometimes we just stayed inside and walked around the apartment. (Which has the advantage of hydration, bathroom and snack stops made easy.)

For a while now we have taken out our 'good' car (fourteen years old but it works and the AC works which was important through the summer) and driven to another neighborhood (within a ten-mile radius and often less). We park somewhere and take a walk. In circles if necessary. I have in my mind that we will eventually have walked all the walkable street miles inside that radius. (One of my many thought-of but not executed projects is to take a map and mark up our progress. And, yes, I know I'll never make it before the pandemic or I end at less than three miles a pop.)

Anyway...while we walk I take pictures with my iPhone 6 (yes, still using it). I then post the walk on Facebook without really identifying the neighborhood. My friends (over 1000) and my husband's (over 4000) and friends of friends may see them. Discussions ensue. Guesses as to the neighborhood. Sometimes people see their own house or one they used to live in! (Sometimes we do this on purpose.) Yesterday we walked in an old, diverse neighborhood that is, nevertheless feeling the Austin real estate boom with infill. There are still lots of fenced front yards fiercely protected by dogs, a bit of trash and hoarding, and some inoperable vehicles (we parked behind a van with no license plate).

There were also soaring infills where the property was more likely to be protected by security cams.

In the ensuing days of Holidailies I may just pick a picture from our daily walk for this blog. In you are a Facebooker, you can find me here as well as in this blog. In real life I'll be within ten miles of downtown Austin!

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Christmas Letter


A List Meme for the Plague Times

Book I'm currently reading.

When we passed day 200 of our personal pod isolation,  I made a meme list of questions for the occasion and actually posted on my blog for the first time since January 1 (end of Holidailies last season). Now that we have passed the 250-day point I thought I'd update it.

  • 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. Since Day 200 we also bought a new cheese grater, a mincer, a square cooking pan, and books. (Actually, I might have conveniently forgotten that we ordered books before day 200, too.) 
  • What restaurants have you gotten take-out meals from? Fixe, Jeffrey’s, Wink, June’s, Cipollina, Fonda San Miguel, 68 Degrees. Since Day 200 we have gone back to FIxe and Fonda San MIguel and Cipolina. All these are more or less 'local' spots. 
  • 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. Still on that yo-you now.
  • Do you feel you are in better shape or worse shape? Better. Maybe. Wish I could play tennis. Gave it up to not be around so many people at my club.
  • What exercises are you doing? Walking and stretching. Some arm exercises with a resistance band. I feel like I'm falling down on this.
  • Do you drink alcohol? Yes! 
  • If so, more or less in isolation? About the same? Maybe more. Some days I don't drink. Most days I do. Had one beer last night because...Mexican Food.
  • 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. Have been opening old (and I mean old) bottles of red wine and, if they are good (or passable) drinking them up.
  • 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). Recently we watched "Hamilton" on Disney+. I didn't think I would like it. And I didn't. Back to jazz live streams!
  • How many books have you read? Four of five. Finished a couple more. Reading one now called "Flaneuse" by Lauren Elkin.
  • More or less book reading than usual? About the same. (I only read books, generally., right before falling asleep. Read newspapers and magazines during thee day.
  • 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). Recently we finished the hard one. (Which was custom-made from a photo of a painting that used an iPhone photo I took out of a plane window as the reference.) We received two as gifts. We started the easy one and will finish by Christmas. The harder one should carry us through the new year. We don't work too assiduously on them.
  • 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. Since Day 200 I have spent a little time sorting through liquor and mixers but I really, really need to start the drawer and closet and cabinet and storage sorting everyone seems to be doing! Before my year in isolation is up, maybe.
  • 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. I am kind of over these especially galas. We do have a Zoom wine tasting coming up this month.
  • 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). I usually record my outside walks on Facebook.
  • Kept a paper journal? Since April 1 I think. I'm still doing this even if I just write "December 2, 2020 (Wednesday), Day 263." I do it first thing in the morning after getting a cup of coffee, retrieving the newspapers from the hall, copying the NYT crossword for my husband, and checking the computer backups. This ritual grounds my day. (Which usually starts around 7. Unfortunately, I don't usually do anything more productive until ten or so because  I get absorbed in the NY Times puzzles and reading the Arts section.
  • Followed COVID information. Yes, a lot. I'm not liking what I'm seeing today!
  • Sources? New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Local Dashboard. USA Facts Dashboard. Oh, and I also get an email from the Washington Post. (We have an online subscription.)
  • 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! But...we have not done it since.
  • Did you vote? I added this one and the next now that the election is past tense. Except for runoffs. Yes, I did.
  • In Person? On Election Day? I voted by mail as those over 65 are allowed to do in Texas.