“You don’t suppose I put the knife someplace I typically don’t?” Alf said.
“What knife?” I said.
“You know, the knife,” Alf said.
“You have so many.”
“No I don’t.”
“You have the one for scaling fish, the one for carving wood, the one for cutting down outgrowth on the bushes, and the one you use for cutting grilled steak,” I said.
“That’s not the knife I mean.”
“Then I can’t help you,” I said.
“Clearly,” Alf said.
“Have you tried looking where you keep the dog’s things?” I said.
“Why would it be there?”
“You take it with you on your walks with him.”
“Why would I do that?”
“You said you never know when you have to defend yourself from rattlesnakes, runaway horses, and lost turtles,” I said.
“I said that?”
“No, I made it up. But it sounded good, didn’t it?”
Calvin says, “And slobbering dogs looking for attention.”
What is the answer to all the evening stars in their places, shining bright. Who keeps them there?
And the flowers, does anyone tell them there’s a quarantine on, and they’re not supposed to burst forth from their places?
The cats don’t care, neither do the dogs.
The ivy continues to crawl up the fence. The rosemary and lavender give out their fragrance. The climbing roses and the fruit trees grow and shine their glory.
Here’s a recipe for contentment. To do what you’re made for, in good times and bad times. Both give equal opportunities to stand out and be beautiful.
Calvin says, “Now I know you’ve lost it. You need some people time.”
Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.
Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.
Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”
I’ve had enough of staying home. It’s been two months now and I’m feeling it.
The days are bleeding into each other. Last week I lost one whole day. I don’t know where it went. It didn’t tell me.
The nights are quiet – no overhead planes – not even a dog barking anymore or the roar of my neighbor’s motorcycle at midnight. Gone too is the noise from our neighbors who love to take their parties to the street.
I want to rush to my second-hand bookstore except they’re closed. I’m raiding my own bookshelf for titles to read. At the moment I’m reading how to do electrical wiring in the kitchen. I need a few more lights and wall sockets for my high-speed blender. I want to make smoothies with all the broccoli Alf keeps buying.
I’d like a walk by the beach, but I’m sure I’d be stopped, handcuffed and dragged away to the nearest police station.
I’m cutting my own hair and that’s not a pretty sight. The right side is shorter than the left so I’m walking lopsided to compensate.
“Do you think I’d look good in a pony tail?” Alf said.
“Better than me,” I said.
“Okay. Don’t be upset if I look furry.”
“You already look furry.”
“Your hair is migrating around your neck.”
“The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde look.”
“More like Herry Monster from Sesame Street,” I said.
“That was before my time,” Alf said.
Calvin says, “Aren’t you glad I don’t need grooming? I’m hunky gorgeous all year round.”
I’ve read the phrase Zoom fatigue. I’m feeling it. The symptoms include feeling drained after an online meeting because we’re working harder on the screen. We want to be included and heard and that means we’re using more brain power.
Most people aren’t trained to be on camera, that in itself is stressful. Then it’s learning the technology of the meeting. We don’t have the opportunity to see body language, hand movements or facial signs and that makes communicating more difficult.
Being part of a multi-person screen with everyone in their little boxes like the show Hollywood Squares forces the brain to take it all in without choosing any one person, and that is exhausting. I know. I’ve been doing this for the past six weeks and at the end of the day I’m ready for a nap.
There isn’t an alternative unless you want to regress to letter writing, pigeon messengers, and sending smoke signals. I kinda like the simplicity of that. It would soothe my brain. Of course, I’d have to buy some pigeons and train them.
Calvin says, “Or send me out there with your messages attached to my collar. I charge a slab of bacon per customer.”
I’ve heard everything now. A friend’s daughter is hosting movie nights with her buddies via computer. Don’t ask how they’re doing it, I haven’t a clue, but they have dinner together and then sit back and relax and watch the movie. I’m sure a lot of people are doing this. What an ingenious way to stay together. It’s like having family when you want it without the drama. Clever.
I have to think of something like this with my siblings, but it won’t work. We can’t agree on anything, especially what movie to watch. It’s the same with music. This forced lockdown is making me guilty that I’m not putting aside my differences in order to re-engage with them. But I know better. I spoke with a neighbor today and she’s going through old photographs of herself with her family. That might work, but I’m afraid it would bring up all sorts of things we’d rather leave buried, like the dog that disappeared, and that scar we’d rather not talk about.
One thing that might bring us together is to talk about funny memories we all lived through and see how each remembers them. It might make us realize we lived a totally different life from each other even while in the same house sharing the same DNA. Like the time we almost set the kitchen on fire. Or when we painted the bathroom blue instead of red and who was to blame for the color mix-up.
One thing is for sure. We’d all remember the pets we had. Especially the flamingos.
Calvin says, “Flamingos? Now I know you’re making this up.”
I’m learning to work online these days, and be proficient in video calls. All of a sudden I have to look good on camera. I need make-up, lipstick, good hair, and something colorful around my neck and shoulders. Much like news anchors, you never know what they’re really wearing underneath the desk. I could be wearing my pajama bottoms, the ones with the mermaids, and nobody would know. But they’d know because they’re doing the same.
Nobody has told the bees, the squirrels or the birds that all work must be conducted inside. They didn’t get the memo. Life goes on for them. The neighborhood cats keep coming by and checking who has left a scent. Not so with the dogs. They have been quarantined and I don’t even hear barking anymore. That’s because they’re wearing masks.
I used to smell garlic and curry in the neighborhood, but even that has gone. I don’t see my neighbors leave their houses and get into their cars. I wonder what they’re making for dinner. I suppose the freezer in the garage has been a go-to place for the past four weeks. It’s time for the frozen edamame and tamales to come out along with the ice cream and shredded cheese.
We just heard we might be in this until middle May. The date keeps getting pushed back almost daily. This is building character I tell myself. It’s okay if you’re an introvert. You can handle the quiet. It’s the extroverts I worry about. They’re talking to themselves in the mirror and to imaginary friends.
Calvin says, “I don’t like frozen kibble so don’t even think about it.”
What would the media do without the corona-virus, Harvey Weinstein and the Democrats jostling for votes to become the candidate to oppose President Trump this fall? They’d have to fold up and crawl under their desks. Is there any news that isn’t bad news, or better put, scary news? The media thrives on crises.
Have you also noticed how shallow the reporting is? Lots of scare language but little substance. There are barely enough facts to understand anything, let alone feel you have the full story.
What’s happened to journalism? What’s being taught in these schools? I think they’re really in the entertainment business. There is no such thing as a well-balance piece about anything anymore except maybe how to dance the tango or make a plum tart.
And have you noticed how many journalists take their cues from Twitter quotes? Or video clips? Pretty soon I’m expecting some company to roll out a platoon of robots holding yellow legal pads and pencils stuck behind their ears to produce the news. They’ll be cheaper and more efficient in the long run. That is, if you don’t care about the facts.
Calvin says, “Take your cue from me. My nose is the daily paper. I learn everything I need to know there. You should do the same.”
The hoopla is over. The 49ers lost. Kansas City Chiefs won. Let’s move on.
The Iowa caucus is in chaos and nobody emerged as a winner. Yet. They’ll figure it out.
Today is the State of the Union address. Tomorrow is the end of the impeachment proceedings. Let’s move on.
I wonder what the media will do now that all the drama is gone. They live and breathe crises and fear and a heightened anxiety. They’re the reason people are on drugs for depression and high blood pressure. Big pharma is thrilled.
I say we unplug our electronic devises, the television, and anything else that has us tethered to the media. We aren’t getting the news anyway. It’s all entertainment.
Instead, let’s read a book for pleasure. Do we remember how?
Let’s learn how to make chocolate filled croissants.
How about a hike in the woods? Do we even remember what a tree looks like?
It’s time to return to the simple, sane things that give us peace. Now there’s a word that’s out of tune with today.
Calvin says, “When do we go on this hike of yours? My nose is ready. Also for the croissant.”
It’s coming to that time of the year where I peer into lobbies and storefronts for Christmas decorations on my walk to the office. These are the companies with money and they spare no expense with the decor. What makes it so striking is inside you’re in fairyland, or more precisely, Santa’s attic with his elves, gawking at 10-foot trees dripping in gold and sparkles, with beautifully wrapped red and gold presents amidst the poinsettias, and soft holiday music in the background. I know because I go in and take pictures. But outside on the dirty sidewalk you’re stepping over sleeping bodies of the homeless. The contrast takes my breath away. I wonder how many see it as they rush to their buildings clutching their peppermint mochas and early morning podcasts stuck to their ears.
I’ve noticed a woman who scoops up one of these homeless men. He sits on the street with a teddy bear. He has long grey, bushy hair and is usually reading a book. She takes him to the corner store and lets him pull down whatever he wants from the shelves. It’s usually chips, candies, coffee. I don’t know how often she does it, but she’s my hero. I know this because I’m in the same store. May her tribe increase.
I’m thinking of ways to help these people too, especially when the temperatures drop and the streets thin out because people are on vacation for the holidays.
Calvin says, “I have an idea. Send out a brigade of volunteers with their therapy dogs to give hugs and kisses. That would be a gift.”