A Stranger on the Call

I couldn’t understand the man on the phone.

“What did you say? There’s too much noise in the background,” I said.

“Is this better?” he asked.

“No, now I hear a screaming child. Are you on the street?”

“In the market, on aisle 7.”

“What’s aisle 7?”

“Bed pans, medicine, and cotton balls,” he said.

“In a market?”

“They cater to all needs,” he said.

“Well, in that case I need something for my lower back, my toes, and my right arm. It all hurts,” I said. Then I realized I wasn’t sure who I was talking to.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Alf, your husband. Remember me? You sent me to the store.”

“You’re in the wrong store, I need you in a pharmacy,” I said.

“This is the pharmacy. Do you think I would find spinach and papaya here?”

“Yes, in aisle 8,” I said.

Cavin says, “And in aisle 1 you’ll find the doggie treats. Right as you step into the store. They know how to position the important stuff.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Little, Add a Little

I live in my garden these days with the squirrels, the ravens, the bees, and the occasional butterfly. The butterfly bush is exploding with flowers, ready for a butterfly invasion, but none have arrived. Maybe they’re staying away and quarantining on eucalyptus trees in Pacific Grove. Or maybe they got smart and flew to Mexico instead. So I turned my attention to the house.

I’m cleaning out clutter and distributing it to friends who want more. There are people who always want another book or music CD. I’m happy to oblige. The vision for the house is to give it a minimalist look, with only the essentials in their place. Of course I’ll have to do something about the dog’s seasonal food dishes, multi-colored leashes, and hypo-allergenic beds. He has as many possessions as we do. With all these, he still prefers to eat at our table and sleep in our bed.

Then there’s the garage. It’s filled with camping gear we no longer use, old shoes for when it rains and gets muddy, hiking jackets and hats, and a bowlful of golf balls Alf brings home from his hikes. What golf balls are doing scattered on the mountain defies the imagination. And why Alf picks them up and brings them home is a mystery. He’s not a golfer.

“I’ll give them to someone who plays the game,” he says.

“We don’t know any golfers,” I remind him.

“There’s always the future.”

And so it goes. I clear, Alf fills it up. The story of our lives.

Calvin says, “Hey, what about the ice skates you never use? Maybe there’s an Olympian in the neighborhood.”

 

 

 

 

Survival Plans

I dug it up. It had been struggling to survive for years. I re-planted it in a pot that was hanging from the apricot tree, except there is no apricot tree, just the trunk, which now holds several potted plants. Alf and I killed the apricot tree by pruning it too much. What did we know? We’re not farmers. The transplanted plant should be worried. We don’t know what we’re doing.

Our garden plants grit their teeth behind our backs. They hold whispered meetings at midnight, while we sleep, planning how to survive in spite of what we do to them.

The oleanders are the senior members, well established after many battles, and are now too big to die. They’ve gone through the worst of it, from neglect to over-watering. They now give advice to the youngest inhabitants. “Keep your water reserves if you want to live,” they say.

The roses are faring a bit better because they’re pretty. Beauty wins out every time. It’s what saves them from death. Nobody likes to see a withered bush, it speaks ill of the owners.

The lavender and rosemary have the best chance of survival. They’ve been bred to withstand heat and drought.

The jade, the newcomers, beat their chests. “We’ll outlive you all,” they say with a laugh.

The citrus trees roll their eyes. “We’ve been here 80 years, and we’ve seen it all. If it wasn’t for the rainy season we’d be gone, and so will you, so don’t be cocky because that will be your demise,” they say.

Calvin says, “You’ve murdered a nursery-full since I’ve been here. I’d have a warrant for your arrest.”

 

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.”

 

Hair Day

On Saturday I went to see my hairdresser. It was a clandestine trip. We parked two blocks away, put on our masks, I looked like a pirate in my red bandana, hair blowing in the wind, and walked to the salon. It was in darkness. My hairdresser had shut the blinds so nobody could see in, he also had the lights turned off. He gave us the secret knock – three and a half raps on the door, like in the movies. He opened up, and we squeezed in. He was wearing a mask and looked thinner than before the quarantine.

“An operation like this requires a drink and a piano,” Alf said.

“And your wife is Ingrid Bergman,” my hairdresser said.

“Of all the salons around here, we walk into yours,” Alf said.

“Play it again, Sam.” My hairdresser turned up the music on his computer.

“We’ll always have Carmel,” I said.

“Here’s looking at you, kid. What do you want done to your hair?” he said.

“Whatever you want, since this is what every hairdresser wants to hear,” I said.

“Ingrid, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship,” he said.

“And when you’re done, work on my head, we must look good for our transit back home,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “I’ll round up the usual suspects and walk off into the sunset.”¬†

 

 

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.”

 

 

I’ve Had It

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.”

“I do?”

“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.”

 

 

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.”

 

Shared Greenery

“It’s time to cut the lawn,” our neighbor told us today. We agreed it was looking a bit furry, but we thought it gave the front of the house some character. Plus it looked like we do, two months without a haircut.

“Let’s wait til May,” Alf said.

“By then you’ll need to hack your way to the front door,” he said.

“Come on, it won’t be that bad,” Alf said.

“Yes it will, it’s all the watering you do every morning that’s causing the jungle to spring up.”

Truth is our neighbor keeps his lawn as short as a barber’s haircut and ours was irritating him.

So after a lot of back and forth, Alf allowed the mower to come across our driveway and into the front lawn.

Our neighbor did a fine job of hair cutting. The equipment made all the right rumbling noies and the blower whined throughout the neighborhood. It was done in less than fifteen minutes.

He was satisfied with the results and took his mower back to his house, went inside and we won’t see him for another month.

We guess this is his way of coping with the lockdown. Every leaf has to be a certain height and no higher. He turns on a fountain every day with a yellow rubber ducky bobbing on the surface. The basket of flowers at his front door are artificial and look grey around the edges. Everything else is real, including a rhododendron tree that explodes with purple flowers every spring.

Three fig trees line up tall between his property and ours. He doesn’t like figs so we get the harvest. I love them. We in turn give him oranges and lemons from our trees. A polite exchange.

Calvin says, “How can he not like figs? I like figs, and that’s crazy because beagles hate fruit.”

Release

I’ve heard people going to the beaches, opening up their businesses, and gathering with their relatives even before California opens up again.

People are fed-up. Living at home day in and day out is not the best way to live a life. People need people. Even if it’s people they don’t typically want to spend time with. Nowadays, even those look attractive.

We’ve hit a wall. We definitely would not thrive on an island. Or even on a cruise ship anymore. We’re made to roam in forests, on beaches, and on mountain tops.

I’m not sure we’re ultimately made to live in high-density cities like New York and Tel Aviv. Cities like these are made for commerce, not humans.

We need to see green things, breathe fresh air, walk for miles, and feel the sun on our faces.

After this lock-down is over, we’re going to be streaming out of our houses like ants from an anthill and heading for the country. It better be ready.

Calvin says, “Don’t forget us, we need to run and bounce and chomp on the clover fields too.”