Eerie Air

I am waking up this week to apocalyptic scenes in the sky. Because of the wildfires raging all around us, the sky is dusty yellow and the sun comes up red. The birds are silent. The bees haven’t left the hive. There’s a layer of ash on the cars and on the street. And then there’s an eerie silence, as if no human beings are breathing and living. I’ve never experienced this before, most of us haven’t. With virus spikes continuing and now this, it’s a wonder what else is in store leading to the end of the year.

The weather patterns are wonky too. Wyoming is under a blanket of snow while Southern Oregon is up in flames.

Some states are regretting opening their schools because apparently children are the biggest carriers of the virus. Children have always been the carriers of everything. They’re children. They have no sense of distancing on a playground or in a classroom. Nor do they wash their hands that often. What did these educators in their high-tower offices think?

I’ve heard in some cities Halloween is cancelled. Why I wonder? Our masks can blend in with the costumes. So can our uncut hair and wrinkly faces. If we make sure our candies are wrapped and washed down with disinfectant wipes, where’s the harm in that? Next, Thanksgiving is in jeopardy. We’ll be told we can’t buy turkeys because they might be virus carriers. It will be an opportunity for the vegans to shine this year. Pull out your veggie recipes.

And let’s not even think about Christmas. Christmas trees will be cancelled in favor of fake ones where no human has sweated to cut them down.

Calvin says, “That means no doggy bones for me this holiday. I’ll have to educate my palate to gnaw on a cauliflower ear.”¬†

 

 

 

Penguin Goodies

Animal crackers, in the large 4 pound container, are my favorite cookies. I have to parcel them out otherwise I can eat my way through the container in a week. There are a few other foods that I love. Cheese, figs, peaches, a French baguette, grilled beef, fries, a strong cup of English tea, and yerba mate.

I’m convinced that what you loved to eat as a child stays with you for life.

Except chocolate. I couldn’t eat enough of the stuff as a child, especially white chocolate with a beehive interior. I gobbled it up every week. However, today as an adult I no longer crave it. I can easily say no and keep going into the cheese store.

“That’s because you graduated to salt better than sweet,” Alf said.

“Except for those animal crackers, they get me every time,” I said.

“You just like the animal shapes.”

“It’s the taste,” I said.

“How can you eat a penguin followed by a koala?”

“Simple, I like the crunch,” I said.

“That’s horrifying.”

“Not anymore that cutting into a steak,” I said.

Calvin says, “I’ll finish the container of animal crackers with you. We’ll have tea together.”

 

 

 

Real vs Fake

Alf came home this morning with a bagful of bagels.

“Were those bagels boiled and then baked, like the real thing?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They just looked good.”

“Now that you’ve eaten one, what do you think?” I said.

“It was light and crispy.”

“A dead giveaway. I fake bagel, it wasn’t boiled.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A real bagel is crunchy and shiny on the outside, chewy on the inside. There’s weight to it.”

“Since when have you become a connoisseur of bagels?” Alf said.

“Since my first trip to New York, years ago when I sunk my teeth into a pumpernickel bagel piled high with green olive cream cheese that oozed out with every bite. I’ve been spoiled ever since.”

“You’ve been spoiled by more than bagels my dear.”

Calvin says, “I’m soft on the outside and weighty on the inside. I wouldn’t pass for a real bagel, but you could make me one with lots of smoked salmon, thank you, please.”

 

A Chameleon Life

I grew up in three cultures – British, Mexican and Lebanese. Some days I don’t know who I am, which I’m told is normal for someone whose roots go all over the map. The customs and foods and quirks unique to each one requires a passport. Later in life I discovered I was also Jewish, so I added that to my identity profile. Being Jewish explained a lot. It informed my searching for home. My nomad existence. Never feeling I’ve settled down with any one particular place or group of people. It explained my love of Jewish music, especially the minor key.

Over the years, I’ve learned to live with the tension of identity. I’m able to live in a Latin culture as well as a British one. I put them on like a coat. I equally relish a plate of tacos as lamb kebab with hummus. There are days I need a steaming cup of yerba mate tea for comfort, but there are other times when only a mug of cinnamon coffee will do.

I’ve spent more time in the United States than anywhere else now. I understand the language, the people, and the traditions, but there are days when my heart longs to hear Spanish, my native tongue, to feel the slower pace of life, and enjoy the connections to family that go back centuries to when they too came from other parts of the world.

Calvin says, “I’m glad my roots only go back to Napa, the beagle-wine producing region of the world.”

Life on Wheels

During my escape from the house last weekend, I noticed what looked like a cooler on six wheels driving on the sidewalk in the center of town I was in. It was white and carried a golf-like flag to let people know it was coming toward them or behind them. It chirped and beeped. Clearly someone, hiding behind a tree, was navigating this contraption.

It turned out it came from the local market and it was their delivery system. Inside the cooler I’m sure there were cut-up veggies, a cluster of red grapes, gorgonzola cheese, sesame seed, gluten-free crackers, and of course lots of Chardonnay on ice. This made perfect sense in the middle of Silicon Valley. Where else would you find a robot delivering your dinner? Now if it cooks, serves and cleans-up, then I’m in.

Alf says, “It should also sort through old tech books and re-arrange the garage.”

I see the many uses it could have like getting the dog to the groomers, picking up the dry cleaning, going to the mall for that cute outfit that was on sale, walking your children home, mowing the lawn, and keeping you company if you’re desperate. I don’t know how many languages it speaks, but that could be an added feature. It should also play jazz and be able to read Shakespeare and Hebrew.

Calvin says, “No way you’d shove me into that thing. I’d look ridiculous with my ears flapping.”

 

A Pitiful Reality

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.”

 

 

Pounding the Pavement for Flour

I wanted to make scones and went shopping for flour, but couldn’t find any. I traveled around the city only to discover the shelves were empty. Even at the Dollar Store. That’s what happens to women who are quarantined, they bake. Every day. There has been a rash of videos showcasing their pan dulce, nan, and challah.

While the shelves are well stocked at the stores with bread, buns and cookies, milled wheat is gone. Who knew that flour mills would be in such demand for their product. I will need to travel to the nearest one, a few hours away, park and plead for a trunkful of their best.

This got me thinking. Maybe I should grow my own wheat and mill it myself in the high-speed blender I’m making smoothies in. But the process would be so laborious that I would welcome a a fistful of animal crackers instead.

It’s fascinating to see the products that disappeared from stores in our lockdown situation. First it was toilet paper. Then disinfectant wipes. After that, hand sanitizer. Now we’ve gone from hygiene to food. Comfort food as in bagels, donuts and croissants. What is that telling us?

Calvin says, “It’s telling us we’ll have new bakeries in the neighborhood when we open up with doggie treats.”

 

 

 

A Hornet With My Toast

The amount of people promoting their expertise online is staggering. From writing books, creating paintings, selling on social media, doing better business, to cooking shows now that everyone is home and needing to eat. I’m tempted to say yes to everything. But then I’d be up most nights watching their videos. I’d be making bagels at 2 am, pizza at 3, and marmalade at 4 am. So I decided to chuck it, and go to bed. I’ve lived with less than stellar meals for years. Beans and rice is a favorite dish of mine. Half the world lives on it, why not me? I’m a tea drinker and I discovered¬† several boxes of English tea in my pantry I forgot I had. I’m good for a few months. Fresh veggies and fruit are quarantined in my fridge. I’m well stocked.

I did try making lemon marmalade and it turned out better than my orange marmalade. It’s tart and sweet, a combination hard to beat. Of course I need lots of buttered toast for that, and my cup of English tea, and then I’ll eat and sip in my rose garden, dreaming of Scotland.

“Watch out for the hornets,” Alf said.

“They don’t like lemon marmalade,” I said.

“Yes, and much more. They’ll take a bite out of you if you’re sweet enough.”

“Should I put on my bee outfit?”

“Might be smart.”

“But then I can’t eat my toast or drink my tea,” I said.

“I can cut a window straight to your mouth,” Alf said.

“Don’t bother. I’ll just sit here admiring my roses and watch the ravens nose dive the squirrels.”

Calvin says, “No hornet will come near me, I smell, I haven’t had a bath in months.”

 

Adjusting

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.”

 

 

 

Add a Heart

I hate it when a warehouse store moves its shelves around and I can’t find the items I typically buy. It’s torture. It adds extra minutes to my shopping. I walk my 10,000 steps just trying to find the peanut butter. They should pay me for confusing me and making me go around in circles.

Being the day before Valentine’s Day, vendors were parked at every aisle handing out chocolates, cheese, and ravioli bites. Perfect ingredients for your loved one. How come there’s never any samples of bagels, lox and cream cheese? Or champagne and lobster tails for that special someone? But there’s always the man with the high-powered blender ready to make you a green smoothie.

I’ve noticed the book aisle is now shoved by the back wall where you can’t find it. I guess books are not money makers even if you are James Patterson and Clive Custler.

The clerk at the check-out told me a story of a family with a six-year old daughter. It was the child’s birthday and nobody showed up to celebrate it. So the family scooped her up and brought her to the store for pizza and cake. I wondered how many miles they had to walk to find those items. They were moved to make way for buckets of roses and heart-shaped cookies.

Calvin says, “The stuff you fret over. What’s wrong with a bone and a snuggle?”