Hello 6000 Onions! Long time! I am back – I am dismantling my other blog, Mobile Hermitage (no point in linking, it will be gone soon) on the grounds that I am no longer mobile and no longer in a hermitage. (Also it costs money; this one is free.) Of course, now we are all in our little hermitages just a-hermitin’ away. Welcome to my world, fellow plagueys! I moved to the coast of Oregon in the fall of 2018 and so my dispatches now will feature way more marine life and less Appalachia.
On a more serious note, I do want to keep some sort of plague journal because, as every email and news article and printed bit of info floating around Facebook is letting us know in these exact words, these are troubled times. Troubled historical times, at that, and so here, for posterity, starts my own plague journal. So let’s make a timeline!
During the second week of March, my internet home Metafilter had gotten me a head start on the national panicking. My boss, however, was having none of it and as late as March 13, the world was going along more or less as usual. By March 15, though, the local supermarkets were running out of toilet paper, flour, rice, dry beans and, of course, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and lysol. Not to mention masks and gloves. I didn’t take it seriously either. Ha ha, I said, I think I have an old dust mask in the toolbox.* I know I have a little bottle of hand sanitizer around somewhere.** I just bought toilet paper a couple weeks ago! I said, laughing like a damn fool. ***
On Monday, March 16 I went into work to the news that I had been deemed inessential and told to clear out my desk and prepare to work from home. Everyone was sort of panicked and freaked out, understandably. By Wednesday we had closed the Advocacy Center to drop ins and by the following Monday, March 24, everyone was working from home and Zoom video meetings were the new normal. On Sunday, March 23 my son came home to Astoria Under Quarantine: by Monday, March 24, the governor had issued the Stay At Home order. This was in large part triggered by everyone treating the shut down like a snow day and flocking to the beaches to party on. The coast responded with an outraged squawk so loud they heard it in Salem and closed the state parks on Wednesday. This, by the way, has made my life exponentially harder because Harvey**** needs a ridiculous amount of exercise and we rely heavily on Fort Stevens.
Today is Wednesday, April 1. April Fools has been cancelled, a small thing but a telling one. Over the last few days I have been out of the house too much: to Costco, to Fred Meyer a couple of times, and, more excusably, to Sunset Beach, which is the closest beach still open. It feels like a slow motion wave: first the stores were all the same, then the staff started wearing masks and gloves, then the crowds took all the toilet paper away, then the staff ran out of masks and gloves, then the stores started rationing toilet paper and then, suddenly, in the last couple days, plexiglass shields have sprouted on check out lines, Time to Sanitize! plays across the loudspeakers and the few shoppers move quickly away from each other.
Downtown is a ghost town, like a scene from The Road my son says, and only the houseless folks are there, walking down empty streets with shopping carts and luggage trolleys piled with trash bags and broken rolling suitcases. It is easier, somehow, to overlook the scope of the housing crisis when the downtown streets are full of people and the houseless are just part of the crowd. Now the rest of the crowd is gone and the cracks in the social contract are in pretty fucking high relief.
I am working from home. I am working RIGHT NOW actually – no, really, I’m writing a fundraising letter at the same time as I’m writing this; it actually helps. I’m one of the lucky ones: my daughter and my brother were both laid off with no guarantee that there will even be jobs for them to go back to. My chef son, who would ordinarily now be applying for summer season jobs at resorts doesn’t know if there will be any resorts for him to go to and the resorts don’t know either.
I’m scattered and scared and, well, I guess I’m doing okayish. I have some health issues that are making this difficult: gallstones, which means I am on a NO FAT or INCREDIBLY LIMITED FAT diet that’s making stay at home very trying – although less trying I guess than it would be if there were restaurants open, since I can’t eat anything at any restaurant. I also had a pulmonary embolism, unexpected and so far inexplicable, that showed up with the gallstones. So I am on blood thinners, extremely expensive blood thinners. The hospital gave me some for free and we – the doctor, an adorable RN named Ron who I have only met on the phone (plague times!) and me – have been trying to get Big Pharma to give me a few more months worth. There have been hiccups in this process and anyway right now I’m supposed to be giving myself injections of, I kid you not, pig intestinal lining in the stomach, or, as son said, “what the hell kind of dark crazy magic spell is that?” It’s fucking horrifying and every time I do it – twice a day, two awful times a day – I freak the hell out for about 30 minutes.
Well! First plague journal of who knows how many? 6000 Onions, indeed. I’m back. Weird fucking times indeed. I don’t know either, y’all, I don’t know. All I know is here we all are, in this strange new world and I hope we all make it through to the other end.
* I did indeed have a mask in the toolbox! In fact I have 2, N-95 masks from the before times when people casually bought such things to sand their floors. That’s why both these masks are a little, uh, dusty. Also the rust from the bottom of the toolbox has made them unlovely indeed. So I’m not going to donate them; I’m keeping them for us.
** I found two little bottles. They’re almost empty now and I guess that will just be it. That is going to be a big old bummer; I keep one in the car and one by the door.
*** We just made it – still had a roll left when toilet paper showed back up at Costco. I have never bought a giant thing of toilet paper from Costco in my life before but hot damn, I did last weekend. It fills up the entire closet. It’s ridiculous and I am ashamed but strange times call for strange measures.
**** Harvey is my new dog, my Oregon hound of indeterminate origins. He looks a little like Perdita, who is still with me but white at the muzzle and stiff in the joints. Harvey is about 3 years old and prone to bouncing off the walls; he is very smart and very ADD. I love him but he is making my life lest restful for sure.