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.”

 

 

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.”

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.”

 

 

 

A Jungle Out There

I’ve been in lockdown since the end of March. Like most of us, it’s taken a bit of adjusting. My daughter came over to do laundry. She wore a mask and gloves the entire time and stayed in the garage. We talked in muffled sounds.

I’m getting to know my backyard quite well. That’s where I walk two miles a day. I look like a robot, back and forth, until whatever phone call I’m on is over. I’ve watched the maple tree sprout its tender leaves. Flowers are poking their heads up from the ground. Squirrels are snickering up and down the fence. My rose bushes are bursting out all over and the bees are deliriously happy.

Speaking of which, while I was doing my walk I suddenly heard a loud hum overhead. At first I thought it was my neighbor’s lawnmower. But when the sound came swirling around my face and almost into my ears I ran inside.

“Do I have any bees stuck to me?” I asked Alf.

He put down the paper and looked at me. “Do you mean the buzzing kind or something else?” Then he saw what was happening out the window. Hundreds of bees were swarming in circles in front of our eyes, taking up every inch of airspace, like a convention in the sky. We stood transfixed. Not one bee was bumping into another. They had their flight path well mapped out. The buzzing was almost deafening.

“There goes the neighborhood,” Alf said.

We continued with our projects and soon there was silence. It was as sudden as the humming. We looked out the window and the bees were gone. Not a one lingered on a flower or a tree.

“Where did they disappear to?” I asked.

“To the local pub for a drink,” Alf said.

The following day the same episode happened at the same time of the day. By then we had become pros. We left out some cut oranges on the picnic table in case they needed a snack. Instead, the squirrels pounced on the slices and flicked their tails in excitement.

Calvin says, “Thank God my doghouse is inside. They would have moved right in with all my smells.”

 

 

A Short Divide

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.”

 

 

 

(Un)Expected Gifts

There are three Indian families that live across the street from us. They have elementary school age children. At night they come out of their houses and talk with loud voices. It sounds like a party with everyone speaking at once. A friend of mine who visited India for the first time said, “It’s so noisy here, day and night, I can’t think.” The funny thing is they don’t talk to each other. It’s as if invisible walls were wrapped around each house with a no trespass sign. I don’t know why because they don’t talk to me either. It’s a shame because one of them has a prolific tangerine tree in their backyard and I’d like some.

On the other hand, my neighbors to the right have been friends for  years. They have fig trees. Anybody with a fig tree is my best friend for life. As a child, my grandparent’s fig trees were my daily treat. At nap time, I’d climb out the bedroom window with a chair and gobble figs until I couldn’t breathe. My neighbors give me their crop in exchange for my lemons and oranges. To the left of me, there’s not even a hello from the front door. It’s just as well. She has no fruit trees. Two doors down a Portuguese family lives with Sunshine, the American short-hair cat, Nigel, the chihuahua, nameless chickens, and a persimmon tree that is so beautiful it takes my breath away. Every year we receive a box full of those beauties at our doorstep. Across the street from them is a family with teenagers and their revved-up cars that go zoom at midnight, sending me to the ceiling and back. In the front of their house they have an avocado tree. I’ve been tempted to snag a few as a consolation prize for putting up with their noise.

Calvin says, “Lucky you. Sunshine and Nigel bring me nothing but turds.” 

All That Spooks

Thursday night is when all the things that go boo in the night come out. In my neighborhood, that means lots of kids in intergalactic costumes with their parents peering out from our bushes so as not to look like hovering parents, which they are of course, which is a good thing these days, and especially on Halloween night.

I lock Calvin up in his crate and away from the front door, otherwise he’d swoosh out and sniff the kids to death. He doesn’t like it one bit. He feels it’s his night too. But I can’t trust him to behave himself like a decent beagle that he sometimes can be, but not on this night.

Of all the things that spook me on this night are:

  1. why this country has embraced this “holiday” that isn’t a holiday
  2. resorting to this in order to get free candy
  3. skeletons sitting in the passenger areas at the airport
  4. substituting harvest festivals for Halloween in religious settings – what’s the difference? The candy is the same
  5. Alf retrieving his favorite candy and hiding it in a pumpkin jar
  6. Calvin howling his head off and making the kids think we’re killing him

Calvin says, “You are killing me with this lock-down, and you don’t even toss me a Snickers bar, my favorite.”

 

Bring It Down a Little

They say it’s global warming. That’s why today’s temperatures are almost to 100. And this is Northern California. It’s not supposed to feel this way. We’re not Arizona. We’re in the Bay Area where the fog rolls in at night and cools everything down. Except there’s no fog. It’s crept on its silent little feet to another state where it is being warmly welcomed.

We don’t have air conditioning in the house. Alf and I have never needed it, until now. But I know how this works. The minute we invest in AC in all the rooms, we’ll have global freezing and we’ll be stoking pot belly stoves in every nook of the house.

So you really can’t win. Best to wait it out, plug in some fans, drink lots of sweetened iced tea like they do in the South, and sit in the shade. It’s a good opportunity to chat with the neighbors who are outside like you.

Like Reynash across the street. He says this is cool weather for him coming from India. Or Angela next door who is soaking up the sun because her doctor says she’s low in vitamin D. She’s from Brazil. And good old Simon, the accountant, who lives indoors with a scarf wrapped around his neck and hasn’t noticed the climbing temperatures in months. Meanwhile his cat is sprawled out and panting on the back of the living room couch.

I suppose weather changes affect different people in different ways. For me, I can’t make enough ice, I feel lethargic, and I’m certainly not walking the dog. I’ve given him a fan of his own until the temperatures drop to a normal cool.

Calvin says, “I like the fan breezing over my tummy. But I am putting on pounds, you know.”

 

 

Three Cat Stories

Walking to work today I saw a man running across the street before the light changed. He was sporting a long red beard and a beanie and what looked like a black scarf in motion around his shoulders. But that was no scarf. It was a jet black cat with a diamond collar gripping his jacket to stay on for the ride. I tried to catch up to find out more, but they moved at a clip and disappeared around a corner. I’ve seen parrots on people’s shoulders, but not a cat like this.

I’ve had my fair share of cats over the years. One, a Russian Blue, walked out on us one day and disappeared. She didn’t even leave a note. Weeks later our neighbors two doors away, we lived in an apartment complex at the time, knocked on our door one night and said, “Did you own a Russian Blue?” I noticed right away the past tense of that question. Immediately I thought of bad news like they ran over her. “She moved into our home, we just came to tell you.”

On another occasion, another cat, this one a Siamese with an attitude, packed her bags and left the house when we adopted a second cat. She wasn’t going to have any part of it, so she walked across the street to our neighbor’s house, climbed a tree and hopped onto their roof. And there she stayed for weeks. She’d come home for food and then leave again. Fortunately for her it was summer with warm nights. As soon as the weather cooled down, we found her in our house again, curled up in front of the fireplace, without giving an explanation.

There’s something about cats that I respect. They’re really in charge even if you think you are.

Calvin says, “A bunch of rot. Cats are vermin. Good for sniffing into oblivion.”

 

Gems in the Flowers

Easter bounced in and out last Sunday.

I didn’t see many rabbits on the street. Only one.

He was dressed as a squirrel and scampered into the backyard.

He flicked his tail and chirped madly to himself

when he discovered the eggs wrapped in pastel foil  unnamed (1)

hidden in the flower beds.

 

I was worried. The foil could kill him.

The chocolate, too if he reacted like a dog.

Dogs can die if they eat chocolate. Maybe squirrels, too.

I felt a few seconds of remorse, then

I got a gleam in my eye,

from the light bouncing off an egg.

 

Calvin says, “Your nasty is showing.” beagle