Plague Diary 473: The Emperor’s New Plague

On Wednesday evening, I went back to the county fairgrounds and had my Moderna booster shot. On Thursday morning, I was fine – until around 10:30, when I fell asleep and stayed that way on and off for the next 30 hours or so, punctuated by bouts of fever, complaining, the vague reading of old cozy mysteries, general all over achiness and etc. You know the drill. I know the damn drill. The drill is by now so familiar that it’s almost comforting.

It isn’t comforting.

There I was again in line with my mask. I ran into some colleagues; I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since before that pandemic. And then I missed two days of work, which will get chalked up to the special code we have in our payroll software for all absences Covid related, because it’s the new normal, baby, and this is just the way it is now.

I wear a mask every day, all day long (I mostly order my masks from this wonderful lady by the way) and I figure I probably always will in public now, for the rest of my life. So will you. It’s not that big a deal, really. Yes, it’s a giant enormous change in everyone’s life but you can’t talk about it, because that’s just the way it is and anyway, you don’t want anyone to think you are anti-mask. For the record, I am extremely pro mask. But wearing one all day, every day, 8 hours a day is. . . it’s not great. I do not love it. I will do it forever but you know what? It sucks. Masks get gross. They need to be replaced; they cost money; they make your glasses fog up and the back of your ears hurt. I change mine halfway through every day which means I need a minimum of 10 comfortable masks a week and I created a whole new laundry routine. We all have our mask routines, now, we know the drill. Such a small thing – small things add up, you know – but here we are and it’s just the way the world is now.

Are you tired? Don’t be tired. What’s wrong with you?

We’re moving on. We’re all about the post Covid world. Never mind that we aren’t post Covid and we aren’t ever going to be post Covid and herd immunity is a complete myth: the hive mind has spoken and Covid is as over as Mom jeans and pleated front khakis and network TV news that the whole nation watches.

Meanwhile, of course, the numbers are beginning their inexorable shift upwards again. People just keep dying. It’s inconvenient of them, because the plague is over, but they do keep on dying, or getting long covid and staying sick, or doing something else, like mourning, that’s bad for the economy and the national spirit. Everything is open and lockdown is a dirty word and we, as a country, as a collective unconscious, have just decided that this is the way things are now. People die. People have always died, but there are more corpses now. More people than before and a lot – probably most – of them are poor, so it doesn’t matter. The hospitals are still full and medical workers are burned out and miserable but the plague is over, didn’t you hear the news? You know, the news, the consensual reality news like we had when I was a kid? The plague is over. Ignore the bodies. They don’t matter.

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In other political news, things are really really bad. So bad. The worst. Living in the End Times is difficult for the old cognitive dissonance detector. Between the plague and the onrushing extinction event – you think you’ve seen bodies, plague survivors? O climate change has such bodies to show you; we are only getting warmed up – and the rise of fascism and white boys doing less time for killing people at protests than black boys do for a pocketed joint, it’s difficult to be optimistic, or, in fact, anything much at all except numbed and silent. I am trying hard to keep my head as deep in the sand as is humanly possible. It’s probably not the healthiest strategy but in the end times, what the hell else is there?

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But life rolls on – at least for now – and my darling granddaughter is four entire months old and perfect. My job is bearable although it turns out that all those miserable novels about overwrought politics in academia were nonfiction. The dogs and the cat have clean bills of health – the cat pissed on my bed AGAIN though and so every night she is locked up in the box room forever. She is lucky that I did not hire an assassin, which I tell her every day. Harvey has taken on the job of being Perdita’s interpreter and if she needs to go out at night he comes and wakes me up. Perdita moves very slow, these days. I am gradually going bankrupt as usual. I still love living here. I’m still taking pictures AND THEY ARE STILL FOR SALE HINT HINT and I used my bottle and can money (i really really really love living in a civilized state, thank you Oregon) to buy a sewing machine! It is tiny and adorable and not intimidating, which is great, and I have already made a pencil skirt which is totally fine as long as you do not look closely at the waistband. Soon I will be making my own damn masks because fuck it, masking, as this post started with, is forever.

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Plague Diary uh 23 or something: Hi. I have it.

Well, hello again! Welcome back to the Plague! We all thought it was over, but surprise, surprise, it is not.

To recap the last four months, I got my second shot, was duly quite ill for a day or two and then went on about life. I . . . saw friends, once. Livin’ large! We had a heat dome; it sucked hard. I spent the month of July in Asheville and halfway through that month my daughter had a baby. Well, not just A baby, the most wonderful, beautiful, incredible baby EVER, or at least since her mom and her uncle were born. It was much more humid in Asheville than I remembered it being.

DOOM OF THE DAY: Climate change! Heat domes in the PNW; 90% humidity and temperatures that don’t cool down at night in the Appalachians. I never did like summer much and now? Now it’s pure doom with added doom sauce.

But the hell with climate change. One doom at a time. Let us return to our regularly scheduled doom. Plague!

I flew to Asheville*  in early July when people weren’t really talking so much about the delta variant. Masks were just beginning to come off everywhere but not on planes. That’s a good thing but, ya know what? There’s only so much a mask can do when you are jammed in between two people closer than sardines ever even get in a can. However. I made it to Asheville intact and kept my damn mask on whenever I went indoors. I was most thoroughly alone in that. Asheville was packed to the gills with celebrating people, all maskless and proud of it. I was not one of them and neither was my daughter. We wore masks. The people at the hospital wore masks. You might consider that they know what they are doing but, no. The plague is over! Celebrate! The numbers were creeping up but oh well! Stores and bars and restaurants were packed and nobody, nobody was wearing a mask.

As the plague numbers climbed and the government either stuck their fingers in their ears and yelled LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU or, conversely, and honestly I’m not sure which is worse, FUCK YOU AND YOUR MASKS AND SHOTS LET’S KILL EVERYONE, I got on another plane. Again I was jammed in closer to my seatmates than I have been to another person in like a decade. Sorry, tmi. Still. The first person I sat with was coughing and sneezing all the way from Asheville to Atlanta. That’s only 45 minutes, but, ya know, sitting on someone’s lap for 45 minutes is intimacy.

Back to Oregon where the weather is lovely and the government is firmly in the LA LA camp. Nobody here was wearing a mask either and I tentatively, slowly, took off my mask at work. Turns out most people have chins! Who knew! That lasted two exciting days and then we were told that masks were coming back on the following Monday. This is because my workplace is sane and also, despite the fact that Clatsop County stopped texting everyone the Covid numbers (LA LA LA IT’S OVER IT’S OVER) they were climbing at terrifying and exponential rates.

On Monday I wore my mask and I was fine.

On Tuesday I woke up coughing at 5 AM and my day went downhill from there.

I called in sick to work.

I could barely move; I was just so tired. It was like being zapped by the ennui fairy: I could not get out of bed. And when I did, I had to get back into it pretty quickly, because not only was I exhausted and dizzy, breathing was complicated.

This went on for three fun filled days.

TEST SITE!!

On Friday I went to get a Covid test at the drive through public health site. It opened at 10 am and I got there at 9:45. I was the 14th person in line. More cars started arriving and more, and more and more and the Sanitation people came over to complain at us about how we were blocking the road to the dump. More cars arrived. I tweeted at the newspaper but nobody ever replied. LA LA!

I got my test and went to get gas and then went home to bed because that was exhausting, sitting in the car and all.

They called me that afternoon and told me my test was negative.

I spent the weekend coughing and imagining all the other things I must have if I didn’t have Covid, like lung cancer or another pulmonary embolism or maybe RSV or possibly a curse, leveled by yet another angry witch.

On Monday I went to the doctor. My brain was starting to work again and I could stay out of bed for more than 40 minutes.

Congratulations! he said. You have Covid.

No I don’t, I said, the test was negative.

Yeah, he said, the tests are wrong a lot. You have all the symptoms and you SOUND like you have Covid and, hey, I’m pretty sure you have Covid. Don’t go near anyone for another week at least.

So here I am. Breakthrough Covid. Was it the plane? Was it my workplace during those two unmasked days? There is no way of telling. The only thing I can tell you is that the mild variety of Covid is no fucking joke. I’m slowly getting better, here, but I basically lost a week to the ZAP you have to stay in bed witch.

And I suspect, despite the LA LA people and the earnest Twitter statisticians asserting that it is so so vanishingly rare, that I am very far from alone in my breakthrough Covid.

I’m hearing a lot of coughing in the neighborhood.

We all have it now, kids.

Happy Doom! Ain’t life grand?

The French Broad River on actually a quite quiet summer afternoon. Usually it’s tree to tree tubers.
  • ASHEVILLE ASIDE: I found that, oddly enough, while I miss my friends and family, I do not miss the town itself one iota. See that river and those happy tubers? The chance that they will all get sick is very high. Higher if it’s rained recently, which it has, because it rains every afternoon. The locals, by and large, don’t go in the river. (There’s a reason for that. Agricultural runoff is not your friend. The locals go tubing in the Green River where it’s cleaner, not the damn French Broad.)  But it’s also a metaphor. The locals don’t go in the river and they don’t go downtown because it’s 100% tourists all the time and hellish. The locals don’t eat out because they can’t afford it and the locals don’t buy houses because they have all been priced out of their hometown and, well, Asheville is a good cautionary tale.
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Plague Journal: Vaccination, Part 1

I got my first shot yesterday! Of course I have created a small photo essay, all watercolorized because it feels creepy to take pictures of strangers getting medical treatments. That would be because it is creepy, but now that it’s art, who can object? Also the photos sucked.

The Clatsop County Health Department had put up a survey in January for people to sign up for the vaccine. It was kind of a confusing survey and I ended up filling it out at least twice if not three times, but they told me that was okay when I of course emailed to apologize. The email offering me a vaccination slot came in last week and I was so excited I filled that out twice too, which would have been more problematic except I fortunately only hit the submit button once. Hot tip, Clatsop County residents! The email looks like spam and seems to be from a lightbulb on a yellow background. Lightbulbs are not even in the top fifty things associated with Clatsop County to the best of my knowledge but hey whatever, health department, you do you. Anyway, the email leads to a web page with many appointment slots and I signed up for yesterday.

Now it was April 1 so I was a little worried that they would give out placebos – ha ha! April Fools! No vaccine for you! – but I believe it was the real deal. My arm hurts like thunder today, so it had better have been real.

The process was very simple. It was at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds; I parked across the street and walked across the bridge. There were lots and lots of volunteers everywhere, all wearing blue vests. From the entry to the actual vaccine I was briefly checked by at least ten volunteers. There is a .pdf release form with the original email that you have to fill out, print and sign. I had already done this, so it was faster. If you hadn't done it, volunteers sat you down at a table to do it. 
There are a lot of flags at the Clatsop COunty Fairgrounds. There was a lot of walking, too, which was not great for some people; the man ahead of me had a cane and I felt bad for him. For me, though, it was a beautiful day and I like walking. 
You have to walk through a couple buildings to get to the vaccine area. It would be much better if there were actual animals in the pens you walk by because hey! sheep! but alas there is only dirt and flags. The floors were all meticulously marked with tape Xs 6 feet apart and tape arrows telling you where to go. Every so often there were volunteers checking my papers and waving me onwards. 

Eventually I arrived at the actual vaccination area. There, they checked my papers again, gave me more papers, including a vaccination card and sent me to a numbered compartment. This is where I panicked a bit, because on one of the papers they gave me, it said Do Not Take Ibuprofen Before Shot! in bold letters and I, of course, had. Not for the shot, really, although I thought it might help, but mostly coincidentally. The shot giving lady, who was super nice and had really beautiful long silver hair, sighed at me. "It's okay," she said, "But definitely don't do it for the second shot! That's the shot that really counts." The shot did not hurt barely at all and it was done very quickly. 

Then she waved me through the other side, where there were more volunteers who finally took away my original papers and gave me more papers and sent me to sit down in a chair. There were many people sitting in chairs. You have to sit there for fifteen minutes while volunteers occasionally walk by to see if you are dying.

I was having a small panic attack, hence the lack of photos. Well, and also it would have felt very rude, all those people in chairs. It’s weird; when I was having my colonoscopy they asked me what my panic attack triggers were and I was like, uh? Life? but now I have realized that it might be the fear of fucking up. I was really afraid they were going to send me home without a shot because of the ibuprofen and maybe that was what triggered it. Or maybe it was the general, sit here in case you go into anaphylactic shock atmosphere, who can say? I would not want to go into anaphylactic shock in a chair with a ton of strangers watching, so absurdly embarrassing. Thus I spent 15 minutes intently playing games on my phone, breathing gently, and convincing myself that I was not actually dying, just panicking.

I was fine later, filled with despair as I often am after these little interludes, but fine. My arm hurts quite a bit where they gave me the shot but since my other arm hurts worse (the doctor believes it is cervical radiculopathy, a fancy way of saying pinched nerve) I do not really care. Otherwise I have no side effects.

I will get the next one the week of April 26 and then. . . and then. . . I don’t know. Nobody knows. I am still wearing a mask, because I don’t know about you, but once I learned about respiratory droplets and how they travel I decided to wear a mask at the grocery store for the rest of my life, because EWWWWWW. More importantly however, I am going to be a Grandmother in July and thus for most of the month of July I am going to be in Asheville, NC, fulfilling my Grandmotherly duties of, um, I don’t know because I have never been a Grandmother before. My mother came for ten days when my daughter was born and taught me how to give her a bath, because I was so afraid I might drop her that I was mostly sitting in the rocking chair weeping. So I had better refresh my baby knowledge, since I haven’t given a baby a bath in, uh, a very long time. I already bought my ticket and now I won’t have to worry about giving my granddaughter the plague.

I’m wearing a mask on the plane because EWWWWWW strangers and also I am not an idiot, thank you. With all this going on it’s hard to believe that there are still people out there wandering around refusing to wear masks, refusing to get vaccinated and so on. The numbers are going up again because everyone wants to believe the plague is over. It is not over. Go get you some new ma/sks. We are a masked people now and that is okay. Think of what we can save on teeth whitening.

And here I am, unwhitened teeth and all. I got my shot right in the heron. 

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The Plague Year

On Thursday, I’m having a colonoscopy. That means that on St. Patricks Day, I will literally be shitting my guts out. Now, I am not going to say that this is the first St. Patrick’s Day I ever spent with my insides in a state of upheaval, but at least every other time I had some fun, if blurry, memories. It has been exactly a year now since I came home from work and stayed here. It seems weirdly fitting that I should celebrate by getting it all, as it were, out. Goodbye, shit. Goodbye, shit year.

Actually, I wanna be fair – in my personal chronicle of bad years, 2020 is hardly even a blip. It was actually not so bad. I lost a job, but I got another one, with better benefits. I got enough unemployment money that I was rich and idle through most of the summer and it was wonderful. I am mostly a recluse anyway, so no socializing was, sigh, not that big of a difference. I did socialize anyway: my brother came to visit, my old friends came to visit and I sat, socially distant, on a friend’s porch and a brewery patio. Maybe because those were the only times, they stand out in my memory in a kind of glow.

Nobody I knew died. In fact, that’s kind of a switch: I have achieved an age at which people die. One of my closest friends died in 2019. And an old boyfriend I hadn’t seen in years. And Django, my beloved old springer spaniel. 2020? Pretty much death free. I don’t know anyone who died of Covid. My brother had it, but he eventually recovered.

On the world stage, of course, it was one of the worst years ever. I did think we were going to descend into chaos and civil war – I still think that, actually, I just think it’s been put off for a while – and, of course, there is the ongoing climate apocalypse. Here, have a hail storm – nothing at all weird about that, oh no, nothing. New normal.

Joe Biden is a good Republican president and damn, I wish we had an actual functioning left instead of just AOC and Bernie’s crabbed and creaking heart. I am so poor now, with my full time job (with the benefits, unheard of in this day and age) that I am hitting the food bank at the end of the month and looking for a roommate beginning April 1. Now, look, I am privileged almost beyond belief. I have a college degree. I own my house. I owe money on it, yeah, but nowhere near as much as most people. My salary is low, but it’s not minimum wage. I’m not poor enough to get food stamps. My monthly housing payment is less than most peoples. My bills are, I suppose, ordinary. And yet not only do I live paycheck to paycheck, I cannot make it on my salary and at the age of 57 I’m going to have to get a roommate. If I can’t make it, with all the privilege in the world, then when are we going to stand up and start screaming that most people can’t make it and the world has to change?

Never, I suspect. We have normalized this idea of a permanent underclass – which encompasses the majority of the population – just the way we normalized half a million people dying of an utterly preventable disease. Everyone wants to get back to normal, now, but normal? Normal SUCKS. We have to make a new normal and it has to be better or 2020 will look like the good old days really fucking soon.

I got no solutions. I just have this picture of a parasailer I took this weekend. I feel like we’re all just balanced between the sky and the waves. Right now? It’s kind of calm. Tomorrow? Who the hell knows?

ps I got a new to me phone! And it is shiny purple, so I got a liquid silver glitter case to put it in and now it is so ugly, my heart rejoices every time I use it. I have rejoined the land of the phone having people and I have found that it is good.

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Phone Woes

I have been having a rough time with phones. I’m going to write about it so I remember and also to warn other people and also to plaintively ask, how the FUCK exactly did we as a people get to the point where we put up with this kind of treatment from the phone companies? And the cable companies and the health insurance companies and on and on – we are ruled by these horrible capricious evil corporations and they do evil evil shit to us every day. Yet all we do is turn around and take more of it. And complain, but nothing ever happens and they just get worse.

I am going to complain and whine and moan. Fair warning. Tales of phone woe, like tales of operations and dreams, are boring as hell for anyone who isn’t currently in the middle of one. It’s been a HELL month or so in the phone department here and I am a little shell shocked. I am also feeling furious and vindictive and if this post ends up costing Asurion some customers, I’m here for that. They suck. Asurion sucks. Asurion is a vile shitty company and, hey, while we are at it, Sprint also sucks. The thing is, you know, they ALL suck. We all carry supercomputers around in our pockets and we just accept that the carriers whose networks make those supercomputers run are going to suck and suck hard.

It’s almost like deciding that corporations had the same rights as people was a big mistake.

Last month, as recounted on this blog, I broke my phone. I called up Sprint, who I have been with since approximately the dawn of time and they fed me a big fat pile of lies, which amounted to, “you have insurance! Everything is going to be okay!” Whoo hoo! I called Asurion insurance, the company who handles just about everyone’s phone insurance. I looked them up. They are not really an insurance company. They are an electronic waste company who makes money selling electronic junk to developing nations. If I had bothered to look them up years ago, I would have known this and been perhaps a little forewarned. At any rate, I have been paying $15 a month to them since forever, so that if my phone got lost or stolen or damaged, it could be fixed or replaced. It used to be $5. And then it was $10. And now it is $15 and the only way you are ever going to notice this change is if you are paying insanely detailed levels of attention, because somewhere along the way the phone companies stopped notifying you if your bill changed or your plan changed or anything actually changed. This is theoretically illegal! But it is not actually illegal, or something, and pay attention to this derail, oh best beloved, because it’s going to be important later on.

Asurion also fed me a big fat pile of lies, saying, we will send you a loaner phone! And you can send us your phone and we will repair it!

They sent me a mailer for my phone and a loaner phone. It’s a horrible phone – it makes bingy creaking sproing noises when you push the buttons and half the time it just shuts down, plus other issues, but, whatever, it was a loaner. I was only going to have it for a couple weeks, right? Getting it turned on via Sprint took about two hours on the phone with a nice guy who lived in a place where there were roosters crowing in the background. It was evening in Oregon. He tried but it was a total nightmare in which it emerged that nobody in customer service at Sprint had ever been trained or indeed heard of this “loaner phone” program, despite the fact that the whole thing is theoretically under their aegis. But whatever, right? It would all be okay, right?

AH ha ha ha sweet summer child.

About ten days later, Asurion sent my phone back. Unfixed. I had gotten no email, no phone call, no notification of any kind: it just appeared in the mail with a snotty printed card that said “There was an issue with your repair.” So I called the number on the card.

That number takes you to Asurion and after you get through the 15 or 20 minutes of robots trying to route you to the utterly useless website you have to enter your magical 16 digit Sprint PIN. Now I wrote my Sprint PIN down in several places long ago so, great, I smugly entered it. Well. The Asurion robot told me that I didn’t have insurance and so therefore they would not answer the phone. Click.

I called Sprint. That also took a very long time. Eons. Literally hours while I bounced from website chat person probably bot to actual human to other actual human, all of whom were based far away. It was made more difficult because the loaner phone does not really do being a phone well. At some point during those hours (I’m not exaggerating here. Hours.) I finally got transferred to someone who knew what they were doing and reinstated my insurance. Yes, my insurance had been turned off because of the loaner phone. That person, bless them, also got me on the phone to an actual human who worked for Asurion.

The Asurion dude, who I think was actually in Tennessee, told me that the reason they returned my phone was because I had not turned off my Google account on the phone. I had done nothing to the phone because, you know, it DOESN’T FUCKING WORK since it is BROKEN. He gave me steps to follow on the computer, all of this made difficult because loaner phone was blurry and it was really hard to hear him, but eventually we were both satisfied that I had done all the things and he promised me another mailer the next day. This was two solid hours. I timed it. I fedexed my broken phone back to Tennessee and in the box I included a note that said, this is my phone number. This is my email address. This is the PIN for the phone. Please contact me before sending it back unfixed!

For the next ten days, I heard nothing. So I called – I do not even know if it was Sprint or Asurion – and I got a friendly guy on the phone who seemed alarmed when I told him how long it had been since I sent my phone back. Then he told me happily that my phone was fixed! And they would send it soon! But it might take a while but don’t despair!

So I didn’t but in the meantime, about a week later, I logged into my Sprint account. There was my bill, due in early March. It was $160 more than my usual bills. I was not happy. I called customer service. It turned out that my phone call to my dear friend in Canada – who I call regularly – had suddenly cost me $1 A MINUTE. So, $106. Look, it was a long and boozy call. We’ll give you a $20 credit, said the lady on the phone at Sprint. It’s your fault. I hung up.

And then, the next day, my phone came back. Unfixed. With the same snotty note attached.

I called Asurion. I was not happy. They were not helpful. Oh well, they said, nothing we can do. You didn’t glarble the dingjoogle, and there’s a PIN on the phone and well, we can’t fix that. I CAN’T CHANGE THINGS ON THE PHONE, I said, DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT THE SCREEN IS SMASHED AND IT JUST SHOWS YOU A YELLOW RECTANGLE? No. They did not notice that. DID YOU NOT SEE THE NOTE? What note, they said, ma’am, so sorry that you feel this way. They pretty obviously had not even tried to fix my phone and they certainly did not try to call or email me. I mean, I get phone calls. And emails. All the goddamn time. I am way too reachable, to be honest. So I find it hard to believe that they were unable to reach me. But, they said, they were.

If you want to replace the phone, they said helpfully, we can do that instead. OK, I said, I give up, let’s just replace it. That will be $275, they said, do you have your card ready?

This is my phone. As you can see, the going rate for a refurbished version is about $225 and you can get one for considerably less and you won’t have had to pay $15 a month for several years first.

NO, I said, loudly and with emphasis, NO AND GO FUCK YOURSELF. Well I said it a bit more politely than that. Then I hung up and called Sprint. There was shouting. It got ugly. It continued being ugly for DAYS. That was Monday.

I will spare you the details here but eventually, after Twitter got involved – 12 hours of Twitter DMs, five shifts of customer service Twitter people – after texts, after hmm about 12 FUCKING HOURS OF PHONE CALLS, and after someone finally gave me a top secret phone number to Sprint international operations, I got the goddamn charge taken off my bill. You want to know why I had it in the first place? Because when the loaner phone got turned on, they changed my billing plan without mentioning it to me. My old phone could call Canada and Mexico for free. The loaner phone cannot. This took FOUR FUCKING DAYS AT APPROXIMATELY THREE HOURS PER DAY TO RESOLVE.

I’m leaving, I swore, I’m going to a new company, fuck this, I am done, I am finished, I am leaving. Verizon, I said, let’s talk.

But Mom, said my daughter, who shares my phone account, Sprint is the only carrier who gets service at my boyfriend’s house in the middle of bumfuck egypt north carolina and I am pregnant and out there a lot and if we don’t have sprint I will have to drive 7 miles to get a signal.

There is not much you can say to that. I want my pregnant daughter to be able to make a phone call whenever she needs to make one. And honestly having at least two people on your plan just makes sense, if, of course, they pay their bill regularly.

So I bought a used phone off Amazon on my credit card today. It is purple and that is the only good thing I have to say about this entire goddamn thing. Tomorrow I’m wiping the loaner phone – that will be another phone call to Sprint! Yeah! – and sending it back to the hell from whence it came. Tuesday I will, maybe, get my new to me phone turned on – can’t wait for the phone call to do that! Whoo hoo funzies! – renew my sprint account for another two years of hopefully mostly quiet misery and this will all recede into the distance, just another 21st century story.

Can I just point out that this whole process, this whole long story, is INSANE? And everybody has a story like this one. I am not alone. We are all in this story and this story BITES. When are we going to step up and change this narrative, is what I want to know. When do we say, enough, and stop putting up with this shit?

Let me know. I have a pitchfork and a torch and the cable company just raised my monthly rate by $15 and laughed at me when I called to complain.

PS Do not buy Asurion insurance from your phone carrier unless your phone is very new and worth considerably more than hmmm, $500 I guess. The minute the value drops below that? Cancel. You’re better off.

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Cursed Camping Trip

fisheye photograph of the beach and starry sky at night
Was it worth it?

Yesterday, we went camping. This was a semi planned trip – semi, because the original plan was to go last weekend, which was a three day weekend, and go to Nehalem Bay State Park and listen to the ocean.

Well, on the way home from the grocery store last Saturday morning, the truck broke down. Just died. So that was the end of that camping trip, because, as I said, at least it didn’t break down while towing the camper down 101. That, I said, was a particular hell I never ever wanted to experience and also extremely dangerous and, fuck it, I’m just not going to drive until Monday when I can drop it off at the mechanic, who is blessedly within walking distance of my house.

Ah ha ha ha ha. In retrospect that is hilarious.

Anyway, I got the truck fixed and it was expensive but now it is smooth and quiet and so I said to my son, OK, look, it will be tight but we can go this weekend; we’ll go to Cape Disappointment, which is closer, leave as soon as I get off work on Friday and we’ll stay until Sunday. I knew it was cutting it tight – driving at night is very hard for me nowadays and I will do almost anything to avoid it – but he really wanted to go and hell, so did I.

So I dashed home on Friday – yesterday – and hitched up in record speed. Extremely record speed which meant that a lot of stuff got forgotten and we squabbled and it was still late when we pulled out of the driveway. Camping! It is not simple! I thought the hitch felt and looked a little funny but, it was working. It was not making scary clunk noises the way it did the one time it fell off the ball right after I first got it, right as I was learning how to tow it, how to turn and back up (that actually took months and months) and so on. I wanted to pull over and check it but there was somebody riding my bumper and nowhere to do it.

So we headed up the bridge. The Astoria bridge. The Megler bridge. I just went down a rabbit hole looking for a picture but the problem is I have too many. It’s an iconic famous bridge crossing the Columbia River from Astoria to nowhere in particular Washington and I have driven it many times. It is a little hairy being extremely steep and extremely narrow and extremely high but bridges are fortunately not one of my phobias so it’s never bothered me.

Before, that is.

We got around the curve upwards and we were climbing up, up, up, going very slowly now because Moby, as we know, just LOOKS like a super tough truck but is actually a sweet little truckette with a mini engine, an engine lite, if you will. Then there was a terrible bang and a clunk and a jerk to a stop and it seemed as if all was over.

And it very nearly was. The camper had come completely off the ball of the hitch and the yoke was lying on the roadbed. The camper was held to the truck only by the chains and it was straining backwards down the hill but fortunately all the brakes were holding. Fortunately we did not jackknife. Fortunately we were straight and in our same lane. My GOD we were fortunate.

Traffic was backing up behind us at a furious rate and I was, as my son has told me multiple times now, screaming. And calling 911 and dropping my phone, with velocity, onto the pavement (which proved to be the end of it.) 911, once they knew everyone was okay, sent me to OSP, Oregon State Police who promised to send an officer right away. Meanwhile, the sun was setting and the view was unbelievable and I kept thinking that we were about to die, that inevitably someone would get impatient and try to pass us and run into traffic, or we would be hit by someone coming the other way, or something, I don’t know, but I was fairly sure I was breathing my last. I wanted to take a picture, too, but it seemed wrong somehow and anyway I was shaking.

The OSP trooper came up very soon. I have never in my life been so glad to see a cop. He was very very VERY nice. The three of us lifted the yoke and got it back on the hitch ball. He said, follow me, and if anything else happens, hit your flashers. We did. It was okay. We pulled over at the base of the bridge and I talked to him a little more. I figured I was going to jail or at least going to get a million dollar fine for impeding traffic on the bridge but no! I kept apologizing and he said everything was fine, accidents happen, be careful and have a nice camping trip.

So we drove on to Cape Disappointment, about a 20 minute drive from there ordinarily but it took a lot more because I was too scared to go fast.

NOW WE GET TO THE FARCE PART OF THE EVENING

It was by then around 6:30 and very dark. We had called Cape D. to make sure they were taking walkins because we figured, hey, random January weekend! Cold as hell! Going to rain on Sunday! There will be nobody there, right?

Wrong.

I pulled up at the ranger station. There was nobody there of course but there is now a yellow phone you can lift and it will call someone so you can pay for a campsite. The dude on the other end of the phone was very mellow. Sure, he said, try site 25 or 49. The way he said it, I assumed he meant we could have it all weekend and that there were lots more as well.

Wrong.

We were shocked at how crowded it was. We looked at both campsites and tried driving around looking for empty sites but there were none, which was unsettling. Then we said, fuck it, let’s go for 25 even though it does not seem ideal. And we did, backed in, and got unhitched and my son started a fire and I hopped back into the truck with the dogs to go back to the yellow phone and pay for it.

Only to find, from a different and significantly less relaxed dude, that they had sold my campsite to somebody else while I was lollygagging around unhitching the damn camper.

So I said, ok, we will take 49 and I was raging and damn near crying and they wouldn’t give me a discount and THEN he told me, oh, by the way, you have to leave by 1:00 tomorrow, the entire campground is booked tomorrow night unless you want a dry site, we have a couple of those but not many. No, I said, no, I do not want to boondock when it is 32 degrees outside goddamnit I want water and sewer and all the comforts of home and most particularly I DO NOT WANT TO UNHITCH AND HITCH THE CAMPER UP AGAIN TOMORROW OR POSSIBLY EVER.

So the upshot was that I paid a small fortune ($45 for fucks sake, in January) for site 49 and I drove back to find my son standing happily by a raging fire and I said, put that out, we have to move.

This was an unhappy conversation and I was trying to back the truck up in the darkness and again nearly crying and that was when our savior, Lynn, appeared.

Lynn is the camp host and she is a GODDESS. Lynn said, I just talked to those yellow phone guys and they shouldn’t have done that. So the people who took your site showed up and I found out what happened and I moved them to 30, which is empty even though it is reserved.

Then we had a lot of back and forth about who had paid for which site and that all became extremely confusing if sort of hilarious in a hallucinatory way. Lynn also said that she has been the winter camp host at Cape D for 11 years and it has never ever been this crowded and isn’t it crazy.

And yes, it is.

Then my son said, where are the veggie burgers? And I said, I thought you got the veggie burgers.

And that’s why we had supermarket potato salad and onion quesadillas for dinner, although I personally mostly had wine because JESUS.

But the sky was amazing, we survived the whole thing, it was cold but lovely, the sound of the ocean all night was so much better than the ocean setting on the white noise machine, the dogs had long long walks on the beach and most of all, I put my foot down and we came home today. I towed the camper back over the bridge, which was completely terrifying but I did it and then we were home, where the cat had decided to piss all over the bathroom to express her displeasure at not being invited.

Since we got home it is like it all just happened or maybe never happened or possibly it happened, but 6000 years ago. I think it’s a delayed trauma reaction but I feel floaty and out of it and I don’t think I have ever been so, damn so, glad to be home.

Cheers! We’re alive!

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Seven Years – Time Again for Photo A Day

I gave up on the plague diaries, not because the plague has ended (oh ha! ha ha! How wonderfully naive such a thought would be!) but because it is just how we live – or die – now. If this blog is the only account of 2020 you can find, oh traveler from the future, then a) sorry about that and b) it was worse than you can even imagine. The country fell apart. It is continuing to fall apart as I write this, two tremulous days into a new year. There are vaccines but the federal government has not, of course, bothered to figure out how to distribute them; people are refusing to take the vaccines; people are still refusing to wear masks and on and on, while the cases rise and rise and rise. 57 confirmed tests here in little Clatsop County in the last three days. Three days.

But we’re all about opening up and keeping the economy going! I, myself, got a job, a good, real full time job where I have to wear a mask all day. I get to work from home a couple days a week, usually, to sort of try to minimize my risks, but it is probably only a matter of time and I’m terrified. And exhausted. The day in, day out, yes there is a plague, wear a mask all day, work all day, try not to be terrified of the grocery store, try not to freak out about the unmasked oil change guy, oh and, by the way, try not to be alarmed by the slow, slow coup which the “president” is still attempting and the news, all of which is dire, and so on. I have retreated into my turtle shell and I just gave up even trying to blog about it.

However! That is not what this is about! This is about a New Thing, or, rather, an Old Thing reborn. In 2007 I did a Photo A Day project and while the photos are no longer available on the internet (it’s a long story in which I do not come off well, so we will skip it, but suffice it to say that I am a goddamn idiot sometimes) I do have a softcover book. In 2014 I did it again and you can see it right here on this blog. And now, it is 2021 and I am doing it yet another time.

In 2007 I had to take photos with my camera – my old Canon Rebel, already old then – because my phone was not a camera then. I had to upload them to Flickr. I had to then connect them from Flickr to my old blog, The Hangover Journals. (damn, it’s still there, whoa.) You can look for them there but it’s all disorganized and they weren’t all posted. It was like walking three miles to school in the snow! Uphill! No. No it wasn’t, it wasn’t hard at all, but it got easier when I did it in 2014 and I could just email photos from my phone to the desktop computer. It is the same now, but my phone takes much better pictures. So much better that I think this time around I will not use my actual camera for this project. I think I want it to be snapshots. Immediacy, that’s the watchword, immediacy and square format and here is my daily life, 365 photos to come: a new life, in a new place.

So I have created a new page which you will see up there and I have put up two pictures from two extremely wet rainy could have been miserable walks. They were not miserable though because I kind of like rain and I especially like coming home from the rain and getting dried off and having a glass of wine and thinking LO FOR I AM MIGHTY I have walked in the motherfucking RAIN like a WARRIOR. A really dumb warrior who didn’t just stay home like a sensible person, that is.

It is 2021 and here we go.

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Plague Diary 16: The World Is On Fire

A couple weeks ago I started a blog entry about supermarkets, and how we have all just managed to get used to the idea that the stores are going to be out of things regularly. I feel like it’s important to remember that up until oh just six fucking months ago this was unheard of, by and large, and stores, big stores, did not regularly have big empty spaces on the shelves and weeks that went by when you just couldn’t get x (in my case, plain seltzer in cans, WTF?) But now that happens and we all just act like it’s normal because it is, now.

Oh well! that no longer rates a whole blog post. It probably should!

Meanwhile, the first week of September I loaded up the camper and the dogs and we went up to Olympic National Park for a couple days of camping. It was mostly awesome but I was hoping to do a bit more hiking; unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take dogs hiking at Olympic National Park. I need to do more research before I blithely strike out for parts unknown, clearly. So we stayed by the beach, which was beautiful and actually it was great; no phone! No computer! No internet! I read and reread a whole bunch of Joan Aiken and I wrote actual letters on paper.

Then we came back to Astoria and shortly thereafter the fires started. We are lucky enough not to be near any fires but unlucky enough that the wild west winds that started the fires in the first place – no, you goddamn morons, it was not “Antifa”, we are smart enough not to burn down the places that we live, unlike you – blew all the smoke to the coast, where it has mostly remained. We are better off than Portland and other places in the middle of the state, but not by much: our air quality is hovering around the 200 AQI mark, which means it’s very unhealthy and you shouldn’t go outside. I have a Harvey so I have to go outside and I can feel it, a heaviness in my chest, my eyes start stinging, I get a headache. And the air was yellow, now is white, but you can’t see very far and everything is muted and thick. It sucks. I hate it. It has kicked my anxiety into high gear and I can’t do anything at all. The recommendations, such as they are, even tell us not to vacuum. I have never been forbidden to vacuum before and it turns out it’s a sure way to make me yearn to do it.

I followed the advice of this tutorial and created an air purifier and I dipped into savings and bought the cheapest HEPA air purifier I could find on Amazon. It turned out to be tiny so it’s in the bedroom. If I spend an hour or two in there I can emerge with a little energy, unlike the rest of the time when I just want to lie on the couch and play fish game (fishdom, don’t do it, you will end up like me, on level 972 and actually caring that you have been demoted yet again to silver league) or watch weird reality TV. Yet again things are piling up undone and I get the uneasy feeling that I have slipped out of the depressed, but coping section and into the depressed and not coping one.

But what the hell does it matter? The world is burning. In the fire zones, there are armed people stopping traffic and accusing others of being antifa, as if anyone with a brain and a heart isn’t anti fascist. The cops are continuing to shoot black people with impunity. The protests in Portland have gone on so long they no longer mean anything. Homeless people are stuck breathing poison air and there is nowhere for them to go. We’re all breathing poison air; the skies are yellow or red; you can look directly at the sun without hurting your eyes. And the seagulls, last week, slept all through the dark day.

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Plague Diary 15: Things Do Not Get Better, But Worse

My daughter informs me that I have become longwinded with age and so nobody can read this blog anymore. She is right! It is true! And it is even more true in this time of decreasing attention, when none of us can even muster up the concentration of a goldfish. It is hard to maintain interest in more than a paragraph when your morning doom scrolling is so, well, doom laden. My doom has been interrupted by more doom! I no longer remember last week’s doom! From now on, I’m going short and choppy. Like the headsman’s axe.

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Visitors!

A family member came to stay for 10 days. Yes, thank you, I know we are not supposed to be traveling and I don’t want to hear about it. Like lemmings, we’re all going off the cliff together. At least we’re doing it the public mask wearing, socially distant way.  It was good to see them and it was fun to play tour guide and they were impressed, as who could not be, by the scenery and the cool breezes and the obligatory drive down to Nehalem Bay with a stop at Cannon Beach and the crabs and crossing the river to Cape Disappointment and Josephson’s Smokehouse and the eclectic mix that is downtown Astoria on an Artwalk afternoon. Then, out of the blue – the literal blue; the weather has been unsettlingly beautiful, just clear, clear blue skies, day after day – two old friends from originally Baltimore and then Western North Carolina (they’re going to have to move here, we’ve been moving around each other for twenty years; can’t stop now) arrived with their dog Chauncy. They only stayed overnight but we drove up to the Column and did some driving around Astoria and then a morning beach visit and it was lovely. I like showing off my house and my adopted home town.

 

And, well, hopefully none of us will die from this. None of us are actually particularly social even in the non plague times, let’s be honest, so we are probably somewhat less at risk than many. It’s worth it, maybe: even crabbed old hermits like me enjoy speaking with other humans now and then and humans who have known you most of your life are a special kind of beloved. I don’t know. I do know the campgrounds are packed and the beaches are busier than you would think they should be and there are lines around the block for the Bowpicker just like any ordinary August, so, here we are in the sixth month of the end of the world as we know it. Add a few middle aged people sitting outside on the patio and chatting to the mix and, yes, doom, doom, doom but at least we go with love in our hearts.

 

Of course when another friend called and asked about coming down for the day in the middle of all this I howled NO. Then two days later when I put the last visitor on the train in Portland I called her back and said, I am so sorry, yes, please, I was just having a company overdose. Introverts unite! She completely understood. And I am ready now for more people. I’ve had three days of glorious solitude: lying on the couch, eating too much, drinking too much and talking to the dogs about politics.

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okay maybe we did have one day with mist in the morning. Look! Friends!

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Weather! Plants!

1O0A5228The sun just keeps on shining. I miss the fog and rain, to be honest, but I’m weird. Meanwhile, I am harvesting cucumbers – you can, in fact, grow cucumbers in a deck box perched on top of a rickety 7′ wooden fence – and I even got one relatively decent, if small, tomato. I have dill coming out my ears and there is a birdbath with a working fountain in the garden! I did that before the plague dollars stopped coming but it still cost only $40 – half for the tacky ass white plastic birdbath and half for the magical solar ever burbling fountain – and an afternoon of painting it and filling the hollow plastic base with concrete so that it looked better and would not fly away in the first gust of wind. I am mightily pleased with it, myself, although I have yet to see a bird making use of the facilities.

But it is too hot. I hate the heat; I still get hot flashes; they apparently will never end. I lay here last night and thought I was going to die in the heat as the hot flashes took me over, 82 degrees in the house and I feel like I’m dying. Pacific northwest houses are not built with heat in mind; they have no idea of airflow, no fans, no shutters, no ways to beat this kind of heavy weather.  I watched some v shaped flights of small birds this morning, heading due south down 101, twittering – no, in the old sense, not, I think, on tiny phones – and I thought, please, yes, draw in the days, bring back the long fog and the gray mist and the soft autumn rain.

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The World At Large

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the world might end but there is always cannon beach

Yeah, okay, this is the end of the world as we know it. The plague dollars are gone; we’re all desperately poor now except for the people the ruling party cares about and they’re rolling in the dough. When I finish posting this blog I am going to apply for foodstamps. And for jobs but I have more hope for the foodstamps, honestly. People are dying every day in the hundreds, the thousands, of Covid 19 but the schools are reopening, because the rich have realized that this plague isn’t really touching them except for Herman Cain and he’s tweeting from beyond the grave anyway. Mammon must be appeased with the bodies of the poor and Herman Cain. The rest of the world wants no part of us and all the borders are closed so there is nowhere to flee. The battles continue in Portland and they are being taken up at Stone Mountain and elsewhere; the cops have come out for Trump, surprising exactly nobody, and the current scandal is the evil dismantling of the Post Office. They can’t DO that, shout people, disregarding that we are about four years into them doing exactly what they want with no accountability whatsoever – turns out that running a government on the honor system doesn’t work when the real crooks come in – and here we are. Is there going to be an election in 80 days? Do you believe, like I do, that he stole the last one? Do you think he’s going to steal this one too? Does it even matter because the planet is dying? Why is Biden such a drag? What about Harris? Does the VP even matter? Are we going to vote for them anyway with grim desperation? Should we have dismantled the electoral college in 2000 when it robbed us of President Gore and a chance to stop the arctic from burning? YES, is the fucking answer to the last two and for the rest, I despair and all I can do is lie on the couch, drink sun tea and read terrible novels on the iPad, enriching Jeff Bezos by $10 a month so I can lose myself in unending streams of poorly written paranormal cozy mystery romances. Bring me a goddamn werewolf, somebody, anybody, and together we will take on this mess. Or at least flee together, our hair: perfect.

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and also there is cape disappointment which would be an awesome place for a getaway with my werewolf lover

 

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Plague Diary 14: Solutions

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Prints available for sale. Apropos of our times, is it not?

This morning I figured out how to open schools safely. I did this in two hours while lying in bed trying to get back to sleep without falling back into nightmare (my dreams are reflecting the world outside my head again and it’s not. . . pretty.) My daughter just called to tell me that she solved the world’s economic crisis and also that she has been exposed to Covid – again, but quite definitely this time – and is getting tested again.

Gods forbid we stop reopening the bars and restaurants and everything else; the rich might be inconvenienced. They might lose a tiny fraction of their wealth if the serfs aren’t out there every day dying for the economy.  In just a few short days, the extra unemployment goes away and then people will begin to starve. More people, that is. There are a fair number already there.  And there are federal troops disappearing people in Portland and soon, Trumpacabra promises, there will be more: in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Philadelphia, in Oakland, in LA, in NYC. In everywhere, actually, that might be counted on to vote against the idiot orange criminal in DC. Including, of course, DC.

I cannot think about it. I want to go to Portland and join the Moms – I too am a Mom, after all, and it’s only two hours away – but I have no one to watch the dogs and I need to take my immune system, or current lack thereof (between the blood thinners and the surgery three weeks ago, I basically don’t have one) seriously. Which sucks. I feel helpless, hopeless and terrified and I don’t have any solutions. Except for the schools, that is.

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Foggy mornings at the beach lately. Yay!

Hear my school solution! The answer is this: we must hire hundreds of thousands of teachers. Everyone who is unemployed and seems reasonable should be hired. Me, for example. I actually have a background in education that I’m not using and I can’t be the only one. Schools get broken into bubble groups of 8 – 10 kids. The parents and neighbors and so on get a say in who is in their bubbles, thus lessening the chance for outside contamination. Each bubble group of kids has 2 teachers. All the school buses get turned into housing for the houseless (hire more people to convert them) and we buy fleets of 10 passenger vans, one for each group, or, okay, two groups can share one, I guess. The bubble groups go all over the place, learning about nature out in the woods, about construction on construction sites, about trains in the trainyards. The unemployed people at the airport get to show them the airport and the planes. They go out on fishing boats. They go to farms and volunteer. They go, if they are in Baltimore, to the Golden Eggs of Poo, a beloved and memorable field trip for many young Baltimoreans. Meanwhile, set up big tents around the schools. That’s where your bubble group goes for meals and reading time – each kid has their own reading beanbag to lie on; it travels with them. The bathrooms are port a potties. Each one is cleaned between kids. That’s the worst job, so the person who does that makes the most money. The school day runs from 10 am to 4 pm. When the weather is too cold to be outside, then school is over until it gets warm again. The school buildings get turned into a combination of intensified social service agency – we also need to hire thousands of social workers – and emergency family housing.

Now we have revolutionized education in a good way.  However, that’s the solution for younger kids. For high school kids, we go full metal Hogwarts. High school kids and their teachers go to boarding school. Everybody lives there. Nobody leaves, nobody comes in. Where are these schools? Hotels. Mansions. All nationalized for the greater good and now an educational Covid free zone! And what do the kids do all day? They farm, thus ensuring that our food supply doesn’t go away (this incorporates my daughter’s plan, which involved paying the unemployed to farm.) They go on massive nature oriented field trips and multi day backpacking adventures. And, they do WPA style infrastructure projects, learning trades in the process. Who cleans up Flint’s water? High school kids! Who converts massive plants to solar? High school kids! Who converts all those school buses to housing? High school kids! And every day they work is applied towards college tuition, so when the pandemic is over, if they want to go to college, they can go for free.

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Eligible bachelor elk.

I believe this all has a chance of being enacted roughly equivalent to that of the proverbial snowball in hell. This is too bad, because the course we are on is going to kill hundreds of thousands more people and the trauma of that is – already has – going to permanently scar a generation or two. And the hell of it all, the true hell, is that all of this could have been avoided if we had fixed our fucking rigged election system after Bush the Second. If we truly lived in a democratic society and truly had one person, one vote, then I honestly believe we’d have a sane adult human being in the White House right now and representatives in the Senate and Congress who actually gave a shit about the people they are supposed to be representing.

But, you know, that would have inconvenienced the rich and we cannot have that.

PS in other news, I can and am walking again, huzzah; the bachelor elk herd is in Fort Stevens with fuzzy new immense antlers, see above; I have decided to bake all my own bread, which is not going swimmingly – I had to off my sourdough starter and I nearly cried; I think naming it may have been a step too far – and I have discovered that I can, in fact, eat All the Fat now and this is not, probably, a good thing. But oh gods grits are just better with cheese and tofu is better fried than baked, oh yes it is.

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