Plague Diary 7: Masks and Social Distance

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It’s a beautiful mask. 

Today was store day. We have been trying – and mostly failing – to only go shopping once every two weeks. This is actually what I was doing before the plague hit and honestly, I was a bit better at it then. Now that there are two people to feed along with the two dogs and the godDAMN cat * we seem to end up at the store more than we should. Nevertheless, the plan is there and so today I went to Fred Meyer all decked out in my mask. This is the second time I have worn my newish mask – made by one of my talented and lovely friends in Portland! – and I hate it. It’s a great mask, but I hate it as much as I hated the paper mask and, even though I am totally ordering this mask because fuck yeah, guillotines, I fully expect I will hate it as well. I put the mask, any mask, on and the very first thing that happens is my glasses fog up. I adjust it to a point where they don’t fog up quite as much and then, after about two minutes in a mask, the panic begins. “You can breathe” I say encouragingly to myself. “Really, you can breathe. It is okay.” It is not okay. My brain is convinced that I can’t breathe and on some deep lizard level, that means I need to get the fuck out of where I am: if you don’t flee right now, it tells me, you will have to fight the velociraptor and the odds are not good. This is a super fun feeling when you’re trying to pick out decent onions without actually touching them.

I am nothing if not really good at beating back panic attacks with a combination of icy logic and just straight up stubbornness but still. That just gets them under control, somewhat – it doesn’t make them go away and the effort of keeping myself from just ripping the mask off my face and running screaming out into the parking lot doesn’t leave me much brainpower for anything else. So about halfway through a shopping trip I have mostly lost my higher reasoning abilities, which is to say, I have no idea why I have two packages of udon noodles now but no salsa. Yes, I forgot the dental floss and the large padded envelope. Also my glasses have fogged up completely again and so I can’t see either. Watch out, fellow shoppers. That’s me, careening wildly through the aisles, half blind and oxygen deprived. Today at the Fred Meyer I got to one of those aisle  intersections that were awkward enough before. Now, they’re pure hell. I stopped and then everyone else stopped and we all stared at each other, masked and panicky. You can’t smile politely – or apologetically, either – with a mask on. You can’t make that weird grimace that indicates: “sorry! I am from Mars!” with a mask on. All the little social cues (which honestly I am not all that good at anyway, let’s face it) have disappeared and here we all are, masked but not having fun.

There was toilet paper but no rice. I got the last package of turkey coldcuts and almost the last tofu. There were less eggs. I hear that in other places there are egg shortages and that is scaring me. Here, so far, we have eggs. There is still no yeast and hardly any flour and no ramen. The only paper towels were the huge multi packs. The cat litter was almost gone. This whole slow motion apocalypse is just so fucking weird. That’s the thing, I think, it’s just the weirdness of it all. There’s no rice and the president is urging people to drink bleach; banks are sending emails saying they want to help you, which means, I think, that they won’t help you at all; the unemployment offices have just given up even trying to answer the phones and so on and so on and so on. Working from home is not getting any easier. On Thursday I went AWOL and just headed to the beach for a couple hours. Sometimes, a lot lately, I just can’t, quite. Do anything.

In other, non plague news, the microwave died. Well, to be absolutely honest, the microwave didn’t die so much as it had an episode – suddenly, there was lightning in the microwave! Whoooeee! – and that episode made me actually look really closely at the inside of it. This is the part where I confess to being a completely shitty housekeeper; anyway, I have cleaned the microwave before, I swear, mumble mumble, last year mumble. I had guiltily assumed that the brown crud on the bottom was just horrible grunge but it was under the glass plate, so, whatever. Haha nope. I am not as gross as i think I am: turns out that the bottom of my microwave, much like the bottom of a Honda I once owned, has rusted out completely. So goodbye microwave and since the oven died about two weeks ago, that means we are down to the stovetop and the toaster oven for cooking options. Therefore, we are going to Costco and/or WalMart tomorrow for a new microwave and so the Coronacash dwindles away, eaten up by things like microwaves and two new tires and jesus christ groceries have gotten expensive.

I want to get a new gas range but somehow the whole thought of everything that will have to be done, find someone to run a gas line from the box room to the kitchen, buying a range, getting it installed, seems like an impossible mountain that cannot be climbed. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the sewer and I just want to scream, it’s the end of the world as we know it! I do not at all feel fine! And expecting us all to behave as if everything is the same as it ever was is not working! I wish it was.

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I found this on the beach on Thursday. Yes, it’s a rack from a restaurant dishwasher. It had been out in the ocean long enough to grow barnacles and seaweed and after a couple days in the back of the truck it smelled amazing, let me tell you. I put it in the recycling because I don’t actually need it but it has boggled my mind a bit and I wish I knew where it came from.

* the cat has taken to peeing on my bed whenever she gets the chance and I find that our friendship may at this point be ruined. Yes she’s been to the vet, no, there’s nothing wrong with her, she’s just old and fat and for whatever reason, she has decided that she’d rather pee on my bed – where she sleeps too! – than anywhere else although if she can’t get to the bed she will use the bath mat or the kitchen rugs or the dog towels or, if absolutely necessary I guess, her litterbox. ARGH.

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Plague Diary 6: Social Distance and the Beach

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Social distance by truck at Sunset Beach

There is one beach open and it’s Sunset Beach, which is to say the stretch of beach that runs basically between Camp Rilea, which is military and I think you cannot go on their beach, to Gearhart, which is fancy and I hear is closed. I have been spending a lot of time on Sunset Beach, probably four times a week at least, and while it is not my favorite beach, I think I would go insane if I couldn’t get out there. I feel deeply for those who are stuck in cities right now. I miss my friends in Asheville fiercely but living somewhere with room to roam, especially now, is priceless.  I am glad I am here, and here’s an article from the Oregonian that has some reasons why.

I have talked to myself a lot about how the pandemic hasn’t actually altered my life all that much but while, okay, I grant you that it is just vaguely possible that I wasn’t out every damn night slurping down martinis in a humming group of frighteningly cool people, it turns out even cranky old misanthropes like me can miss human interaction. Just 40 days ago, I would have gone into an office and seen my colleagues in real life, not arranged like the Brady Bunch on a zoom screen. I wouldn’t have thought twice about running to the store for paper towels – well, okay, I would have, but that’s because I’m poor, not because I was afraid of catching some deadly disease or getting the stink eye for coughing. I might have met a friend for a drink – after 15 months here, I felt as if I was just starting to make some friends. I probably would have gone to the ArtWalk last week – and so on and so on. My library books would not be stupid overdue. I would have had a dermatologist appointment. Spring allergies would just be annoying, not alarming. We all have a list. And my son would be getting ready to head to his next exotic location resort job, not here making me delicious oil free shrimp and noodle dishes (there are SOME silver linings.)

The last week has been marked by a lot of media attention to some protests by Trumpers demanding that the economy be immediately opened up again so they can get their hair done, or something like that. It turns out that as is the usual way of such things nowadays, all these protests are being organized from one mysteriously central location (Florida, unsurprisingly) and that the crowds demanding an immediate return to preplague times – specifically the preplague times where their underpaid employees were working around the clock making them money and other hapless wage slaves could do their deranged bidding – have actually been small, not huge. Not that anyone will believe this but when you do manage to back off from the overwhelming narrative, it’s kind of heartening. Not, you know, a whole lot of heartening, just a little bit, but we take what we can get these days. I am up to here, as are we all, with the neverending firehose of lies coming from the White House and being amplified by the media. I am also irritated by the giant groups of young people on the beach and the tweeted pictures of Florida beaches and the goddamned moron in charge of Georgia who is endangering my friends by reopening the state.

Meanwhile, here at home and occasionally at the beach, things blur together. Time has20200421_102333 gotten kind of elastic and peculiar; hours take forever but days go by fast and nothing gets done. When I started this post I was highly annoyed by irresponsible people at the beach partying down and also leaving tons of trash behind. They suck, that sucks, but my outrage is no longer fresh. Go figure.

For example, four days have gone by since I started this blog post. Last night, I used up the last of the tube of blue hair dye I had squirreled away and then chopped a couple inches off my hair with kitchen scissors. Miraculously, it looks – okay! Not bad! I’ve had worse haircuts (I’m looking at you, spring 2006.)

I have just signed up online to go buy some artisanal pickles from a local restaurant. I will wear a mask – thank you to my talented friend in Portland who made them and mailed some to me! – and call when I get curbside. I’m glad they’re doing this and yeah, well, more silver linings I guess. I’m not sick. Nobody in my family is sick. I do not think the world is going to return to what it was after this – NOR CAN IT NOR SHOULD IT *- but I also think, one day at a time. Today is okay. It’s all I got, just, today is okay. I hope yours is as well.

 

  • if you’re only going to read one link or one article today, read this one.

 

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Plague Diary 5: One Month

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Baked Alaska, a downtown restaurant, now closed of course. The weather continues beautiful, which makes it all somehow worse.

It is one month today from the Monday I went into the office to find out that I would be working from home forthwith. I’m still working from home, even though yesterday I called in sick. It is kind of ridiculous to call in sick when you work from home, like, okay, I cannot make the arduous 15 foot commute from my bed to my desk, but I couldn’t do it. I don’t think I have IT – I think instead it was a message from the old gallbladder, to wit, “I am DONE, I QUIT, get me OUT of here!” I guess it could have been a sneak Rona attack except without the cough, fever, or anything corona like except total exhaustion and a completely miserable gastrointestinal system. Really, in a just universe all other illnesses would be cancelled right now; the suspense is just too much. I’m really tired: could be the Rona! I’m sneezing a lot: could be the Rona! I keep forgetting shit and I can’t get motivated: could be the Rona! Or, you know, I could be freaked out, depressed, have spring allergies and a gallbladder that in the normal course of things would almost certainly have already been removed.

 

But this is not a just timeline or even a remotely normal one. The weasel hit the large hadron collider in 2016 and it’s just been downhill from there.

I have taken to driving on the beach. This is something I swore I would never, ever do – I hate the people who drive on the beach, I hate having to worry that my dogs will be hit by a CAR on the fucking BEACH – but now I guess I have to hate myself just a little more. My son urged it upon me but he is right: since they closed all the beaches but one, if you want to get to a deserted or even slightly less crowded part of the beach, you must drive. That would be because everyone else is driving. On Sunday, which was Easter, the shiny new gates to the beach access road were closed to deter crowds and you had to walk in. The crowds were not really deterred. Dozens of families with clam guns were marching sullenly along the road, all to cluster together directly in front of the access. Social distancing: this ain’t it. I walked about a quarter mile south and there was only me and one distant, clever clammer. It was perfectly lovely. Why are people so goddamn weird?

It also turns out, okay, that driving on the beach is kinda awesome. It’s like driving on snow only less scary but with that same faint slippy slidy feeling, except on the beach you have way more wiggle room. The ocean is right there, the wind, the sand, the sun, the whole thing – it’s pretty great. I still think it should be against the law, though, partly because I am just a killjoy old lady and partly because I want the beach left to the birds and the wind and the sand crabs and, I don’t know, the driftwood and jellyfish, as much as it ever can be. It’s always a mistake, making it too easy for humans to get somewhere.

In plague news, we’re all getting used to it and that’s terrifying in and of itself. Bit by bit, things just get weirder and weirder and yet I feel as if I’m supposed to just go on pretending they’re . . . normal. They’re not normal. None of this is normal. I am one of the lucky ones: I still have my small, underpaid, nonprofit job, but meanwhile my son has no job and no hope of getting one and neither does my daughter and neither do squazillions of other Americans. The lines at food banks are five hours long and if you try to call the Oregon unemployment office, you only ever get either a recording that tells you the lines are overwhelmed or a relentless busy signal. The $1200 coronacash payout has not yet arrived in this household and exactly how does anyone think that lasts more than a couple weeks anyway? What are people supposed to do? Nobody knows and most definitely, nobody cares.

Day 30! It just keeps on getting weirder and not in a good way.

 

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Plague Diary 4: Comes & Goes

Today is a difficult one. It’s mildly interesting, the way the days are going – on some I am relatively productive and not freaking the fuck out all over the place and on others, forget it, I am just a bottomless pit of despair. Today is a despair day. I have managed to get some things done at work, which is a minor miracle, but the inside of my head is not a happy place. I probably shouldn’t look at Twitter at 6:30 am. The first thing I saw was a tweet about how stock in all the health insurance companies has risen dramatically since yesterday when Bernie left the presidential race and, I don’t know, I had to sit with that for a while and try not to just die screaming right then and there. Way to go, health insurance! Making bank off people dying! I’m sorry, but FUCK THE HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES. Now would be an excellent time to disband them. Everyone else is unemployed; they can just JOIN THE FUCKING CLUB. Nationalize them. Nationalize everything. Something, anything, because news flash: we are falling off a cliff into a depression that is going to make the 1930s look like a child’s picnic in the park. We are sinking. And there is nobody at the helm.

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However, there are still elk. This morning I managed to get out of bed despite twitter and hauled myself and the dogs out to the dike trail and it was lovely as it always is if I get there early enough that no other dog walkers have gotten there yet. Which is to say, before, like, 8. And I was rewarded for my energy with elk. These elk in the picture, to be specific. I said good morning to them as I always do and I was proud of the dogs, who are so used to elk and deer now that they barely spare them a glance. This is, however, why the dogs cannot go off leash on the dike trail, because I am never going to put their elk indifference to the test. Elk will kill dogs but I don’t hold that against them.

Elk aside, it’s getting a little hairy. A family member texted me their will a couple days ago. I completely get the impulse – it was, in fact, me writing my own will out* that got me to revive this blog – but the reality that we have come to this, texting each other our wills, making masks, being afraid to go to the supermarket and trying to act like this is all just, you know, life as usual in these here United States, is somewhat unsettling. And John Prine died, goddamnit, while Boris Johnson is getting better and none of our goddamn bumper crop of fascist antique politicians even seem to be succumbing. I do not want anyone to die, okay, but if somebody has to go it might be nice if it was someone who is headed downstairs rather than up if you get my drift.

We are 25 days into this thing. There are six cases now in Clatsop County, or, rather, there are six people who have somehow gotten tested – I don’t know how exactly they managed that – and come up positive. There are increasing news stories that say as many as 1 in 3 negative tests may be wrong anyway. The federal government, or the utterly inept crime syndicate that passes for it nowadays, is not going to fund any more tests because it might make them look bad, so we will never know just how many people have it. We do know, however that 17 MILLION PEOPLE – including both my children – have filed for unemployment. They haven’t gotten it yet, but they’ve filed.

The beaches were closed and then they reopened and now they’re going to close for weekends and I can’t keep track of it, so we went ahead and headed to the beach this afternoon. It was cold and windy and amazing. Much better than the Riverwalk, where we went yesterday and where people have not gotten the memo about masks and social distancing. I have not gotten the mask memo myself, so I get that – I have that one paper mask that I wore to Costco, which seems like 30 years ago but I think was just a couple weeks – but it’s all I got and it should have been thrown away a year ago anyway after I wore it to sand the floors, so I am saving it for, I don’t know what. A ball maybe. I asked Metafilter if I could paint it and the answer was resoundingly NO with a unsubtle undertone of you are a dangerous dingbat who should probably be locked away for the good of the party. Metafilter is nothing if not relentlessly virtuous.

The social distancing thing here in Astoria seems to be limited to people over 30. Kids and teenagers are running loose – my neighborhood has always been full of free range semi feral children and the number has if anything increased with the pandemic – but bit by bit the reality does seem to be hitting home. I stopped by a weed store the other day and they were being extremely cautious, signs and lines and gloves and bandannas. You have to pump your own gas now, which I cannot believe was weird for me, after years and years of pumping it myself, but it was. Gas is cheap as hell but there is nowhere to go. You still can’t buy flour anywhere and I’m out of flour now.

I am scared, now. I wasn’t scared before but now I’m beginning to freak out a bit. I’m not worried about catching it and dying, although I probably should be: I’m more sort of low level with occasional spikes worried about the end of the world. I don’t even know what that means in this scenario but whatever it is, I’m worried about it. And I suspect we all are, and should be.

Stay healthy, y’all, this is the beginning of my weekend – giant sigh of relief, working from home is not getting easier either – so probably there will be another update soon. I am going SHOPPING tomorrow; it is payday and I need another giant bag of pretzel crisps. Snacks and sweats for the slo mo apocalypse; it’s a peculiarly American end of the world as we know it.

* in longhand, and I am fairly sure that the reason i did that instead of just typing it on the computer like a normal 21st century person is that I once read some mystery where the entire plot hinged on a will written out by hand, like, that was the legal will but if it had been typed? Bye bye millions. Or, in my case, bye bye 2006 Ford F-150, sorry kids, but the more I think about it the more I suspect that this half thought out knowledge from the back of my brain is actually wrong. What may have been true when Miss Marple roamed the crime ridden streets of Little Flake Eel, Notting, Sussex in 1933 may in fact not be true in 2020 Oregon. Go figure. I sorta doubt the texted will would hold up in court either but what the hell. It is what it is, which is disturbing as fuck, or, in other words, perfectly normal for the dulcet spring of 2020.

 

 

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Plague Diary 3: The Dream

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Here is a random city shot on film from some time during my travels in 2017 or 2018. I am not sure which city it is actually, SF maybe?

I finally had a pandemic dream. I knew it was coming and as is usual when my subconscious is trying to make a point, the symbolism is heavy handed, like Hallmark card heavy handed. I dreamed I was driving my truck through a city. This is the same city that always shows up when my dream brain is looking for City and I find that kind of interesting, like I have a Platonic Ideal City floating around in my head somehow. However! In the dream there were big medical tents set up in the median of a avenue that I was trying to merge onto via a traffic circle. There was lots of traffic and European police officers in faceless round helmets and bright hazmat suits milling around by the tents and in the street. There were abandoned cars pulled up haphazardly with the doors open. There was a big iron fence with spikes on one side and a huge thorny rose vine on the other with tendrils trying to reach into my window. It was nearly impossible to thread the truck through all this without disaster and in fact the effort woke me up.

 

SO yes we are all trying to gently thread our way through this complicated landscape with heartbreaking dangers on all sides. I am disheartened today by the sudden avalanche of stupid crazy people denying that this is happening, saying it is a conspiracy (seriously, WTF? Why? What would a conspiracy on this scale even begin to hope to achieve? Like maybe there’s a Batman villain out there who hates small restaurants and wants them all to close? It makes NO sense at ALL.) and saying that we should immediately restart daily life as if nothing had happened, was happening, is happening. These people are useless idiots and there are way too many of them, lead, of course, by the idiot in chief.

I cannot go on or I will utterly lose my shit. Why is that orange creature still in office? Why are people surprised that the working class actually does make the world go around? And so on. This has been a colossal failure on the part of the disaster we call a federal government, a failed government in a failing state. Pretending this is the greatest country in the world is not helpful.

That’s really all I got today. I am going to try to make sweet potato and kale calzones fromthis website – pretty much everything I’ve made from there so far has been pretty good with the caveat that you need to about double all the seasonings but all of it is vegan and fat free, so awesome – and then I will go for another walk around the neighborhood along with the endless parade of everyone else walking around the neighborhood. I still think closing the beaches was a terrible idea and Harvey agrees.

 

 

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Plague Diary 2

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So I found this written in the sand yesterday morning and now I share it with you, because we are all not freaked out enough already and we need some truly creepy The Stand kinda stuff in our lives.

I suppose I am a Stay At Home expert now: I have had a Zoom happy hour and I have mask envy.

Yesterday afternoon, they closed all the remaining beaches. Fortunately, I had gotten up early and spent an hour in the morning at Sunset Beach, where I found a plastic bottle colonized by mussels* and a piece of sea glass that looks as if it has been melted. Hopefully it is not from Fukushima and wildly radioactive although, given that we just seem to keep sliding into the the most unlikely timeline, it probably is. Harvey tried to eat it for some god only knows ridiculous dog reason but I got to him in time and brought the piece of glass home to radiate slowly on the windowsill.

Then in the afternoon I found out about the beaches. This was just as I was madly cleaning the house for the Zoom happy hour with my friends in Asheville. ZOOM! It went really well! i got kicked off halfway through because my internet is chancy but I got back on and it was just so lovely to see all their faces. They all looked great. I, on the other hand, look like Jabba the Hutt in a blue gray wig on Zoom. Every time we have a Zoom meeting – and we have at least two a day at work, at 9:30 and 4:30, which has nothing to do with them checking up on us and making sure we’re working, no, nothing at all – I have a sudden startled moment of cringe when I see my giant face on the screen. My GOD my NECK! Or, uh, what used to be my neck. When I had a neck.  Actually though I like the zoom meetings. I like seeing my coworkers and pretending I’m being just as productive at home as I am at work.

I’m trying but it’s hard. On one of the nonprofit facebook groups I belong to someone said, remember, you’re not really working from home. You’re experiencing a pandemic, an unparalleled disaster in world history or at least in living memory, and you’re trying to work through it. It’s okay if you can’t focus. That was good to know because boy howdy, I cannot focus. First of all it’s tough at home because it’s too easy to go, oh hey! I should really mop the kitchen floor real quick! And make soup! Possibly also bread and while I’m at it, I need to sort those papers. And second because, ya know, PANDEMIC. Here we are. We are in the middle of a fucking pandemic. It is so insane that it makes me stop, just stop and freeze and stare into space. That is usually when my son will emerge blinking from his room and say, PANDEMIC. COVID-19! What are we going to do?

I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do except what we are doing, which is wear soft pants and eat too many pretzel crisps.

I have a hierarchy of soft pants now. There are pants that I can wear outside and pants I cannot.

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This is just a nice picture from a year ago – the before times – about 3 blocks from my house.

OK, I know, standards have changed but I’m still not wearing my sheep print pajama pants to the supermarket no matter how comfy they are. I have worn them on morning dog walks around the neighborhood but every time I seem to end up also wearing my purple plaid warm waterproof jacket and about halfway through the work I become uneasily aware that that’s a lot of purple pattern. And to think I wondered why that jacket was so cheap. I have two pairs of purple soft pants as well and the same goes for them. I’m not ready yet to be Purple Lady. Soon, no doubt, soon I’ll be purple lady and have a small dog in an old stroller plus some other accoutrements too depressing to think about. But for now I am still only half purple and I have two large dogs and okay, yes, i do talk to the neighborhood deer. Good morning, deer! I say, Hello! They seem to appreciate it.

Today I had to go to the supermarket again – it is where my pharmacy is and I had to get a new supply of loaded needles to stick into my much abused belly fat. I’ve gotten much better at stabbing myself with needles but fortunately I will not need this skill for much longer: I got approved for a big pharma plan for poor people and I will be getting a 3 month supply of blood thinner in the mail on Monday. Whoo hoo! I am grateful that such programs exist BUT allow me to point out that if we had fucking national health care like a civilized real country I would not have had to spend hours on the phone over the last week begging and proving that I was poor but HEY we can’t have that! ARGH. Anyway, i was at the supermarket, and there were quite a few people actually wearing masks now. Some of them were quite fashionable cute masks and I am jealous. I tried that no sew tutorial mask thing that I have been plugging and found that, alas, it doesn’t really work well – it hurts my ears and still fogs up my glasses. Sigh. There is still no rice or flour or yeast or plain seltzer in cans. The cat litter is suddenly all gone, like the entire cat litter aisle is empty, which is very strange. The cashiers and bag people are still unmasked and ungloved. They are spraying the carts with disinfectant as they come in now.

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Harvey a couple weeks ago, before they stopped allowing us to have fun.

I also had to go to the vet. Harvey (who has his own Instagram account now because why not) woke me up this morning freaking out about his ears. He wouldn’t let me look at them and while I tried to put some enzyme ear cleaner in, it didn’t go well, so I called the vet.  Vet appointments, along with everything else in the world, are different now. Now you drive into their parking lot and call them and tell them you’re there. Then they call you back and get you to explain why you are there in detail. Then a vet tech (a perky vet tech; why are they always so perky?) comes out in a mask and gloves and you open the car door while they stand 6 feet away. They bring their own leash and clip it to your dog’s harness and then they take your dog inside. You wait in your car. Then they call you and if your dog is like Harvey, they tell you that he will not let them look in his ear, which, if you are me, will cause you to wonder just why the fuck, then, am I here? Are you people not the experts at looking into dogs’ ears? Even Harvey’s? But you are friendly and polite and anyway, the upshot is that they think he has an ear infection so they gave him a one dose big antibiotic in his ear and sent him on home with me.  If it isn’t better in a few days he will have to go back and be sedated this time so they can look in his ear. About an hour later they called to get my credit card number so I could give them $105 which COINCIDENTALLY  is almost EXACTLY as much as I got back from the state of Oregon this morning so goodbye, tax return and Fortuna, oh somewhat mean spirited goddess, why?

I have rambled on! Let me just close by sharing this extremely depressing clip and reminding all of us that this is probably the time for a socialist revolution in this country or, at the very least, MEDICARE FOR ALL RIGHT THE HELL NOW, ALONG WITH WORKER PROTECTIONS FOR EVERYONE. I don’t really want to eat the rich – I’m vegetarian, and anyway ew, have you SEEN the rich? Unappetizing. – but I do want them taxed at a level that will support the USA entering the 21st century in a sane, kind, sustainable way that cares for all its citizens and not just the 1%. This, comrades, is the time to achieve that. Solidarity!

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I miss the beach. I miss the damn beach. This is from a year ago.

 

* mussels really like plastic bottles. I don’t know what that’s all about but I have found a lot of them now. Also these are weird looking mussels and I suspect they might be the evil zebra mussels or some other kind of mussel we probably shouldn’t have around here.

 

 

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Plague Diary 1

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This has nothing to do with Corona virus but it is a good picture of where I live now.

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.

IMG_3682

In which Perdita has really Had It with Harvey’s shenanigans.

 

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MOVE!

OK! It’s UP AND RUNNING!  Don’t worry 6000 Onions isn’t going anywhere, it will continue to be sadly neglected – I might post stuff there that has nothing to do with the Mobile Hermitage, like rants about the end of America as we knew it and stuff like that – AND I think, at the moment anyway, that it will continue to hold a lot of my darkroom photography. Everything is in flux right now so it’s hard to say what will happen. But anyway, welcome to the MOBILE HERMITAGE, where all blogging AND PICTURES and MONETIZATION TO SUPPORT MY NEW HOBBY OF DRIVING AROUND LOST related to my ongoing journey can be found. Or will be found soon, because I’m in a Starbucks in a Giant in Delaware and I have run out of patience and knowledge to keep working on this damn thing.

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Giant Changes

We’re going to take a break from James Bond. I watched The Man With The Golden Gun a couple weeks ago with my friend Jay, and it was good, despite technical difficulties (the fucking DVD player fell through a stupid time hole again and decided everything was going to be black and white only from now on; that’s what I get for messing around with century old technologies) but shortly after we watched it, I decided to completely upend my entire life because WHY THE HELL NOT.

I quit my job and, if all goes according to plan, I’m leaving Asheville in mid June for a year. A year spent touring around the country in some form of vehicle, taking pictures. YES I AM FINALLY DOING IT. Oh and in other news I’m having a solo show at the DeSoto, which actually has been in the works for a year now but is opening on Thursday, May 4!

flight 4

OK! I’m super excited and also nervous and also freaking out that I won’t be able to find an actual vehicle and will be reduced to sleeping in the back of my 19 year old Saturn station wagon Batly. This is a bad idea, because despite the undeniable fact that Batly is the BEST CAR EVER, she is growing old and would like to retire and long road trips are now only fond memories of her youth, much like cartwheels are of mine.

I have been doing all this crazy research on what kind of vehicle I want. It’s hard to find. I am too damn old to sleep on a futon in the back of a pickup and shit in a bucket. But, I am too young, ornery and poor to want to live in a gold plated 50 foot bus. What I need is something in between. I want something nobody will look at twice. I want to extend my largeish middle aged lady invisibility to what I’m driving. I want to go stealth, slip under the radar and park wherever I feel like it, in the cities, the burbs and the woods of America. What I want, in short, is a truck camper. I thought I wanted a van, but then I started looking for a van and it turns out that while I wasn’t paying attention camper vans went from being plentiful and cheap to being made of diamonds. They are trendy now and newish ones go for like EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. That is slightly outside my budget.

So I am looking for a used truck camper and a used truck, because like my wardrobe, truck campers are composed of separates. This is not easy.  Truck Camper Magazine, my new bible (I now subscribe to Truck Camper and the New Yorker and I think that basically says everything anyone needs to know about me) recommends buying a camper first, but there are hardly any used campers out there and most of the ones that exist are far, far away. The logistics and the money are complicated. I thought I had this enormous budget but really it is not very much to buy a camper and a truck, even though I have already upped it. It is discouraging. But I have six weeks to find them and make them mine and DAMN IT IT WILL HAPPEN. In six weeks, the kids will be taking over the house and the animals, and I will be on my way. In six weeks, I will have put a bunch of stuff in storage, cleaned everything out, moved into my new camper and I will be heading off to parts unknown! Yikes! Yay! Oh hey all my widely scattered old friends I am coming to visit and use your shower!

Meanwhile, I’m frantically framing art for next week.  I hate framing.  I keep telling myself to put the camper on hold right now, stop endlessly refreshing craigslist and just clean the damn glass, but it’s tough. I’m excited about the show but there is so much else going on it’s tough to focus. Still. SHOW! Come and see it. Come to the opening. The opening is also my birthday, so it is PARTY PARTY time with a vengeance.  If you do not know it, the DeSoto Lounge is on Haywood Road right off 240. The sign on the side of the building says ElDorado. The opening is Thursday, May 4 from 5 – 8. Hope to see you there!

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Live and Let Die

Well! I watched this a couple of weeks ago and took copious notes. I would have gotten it written up sooner, but first off, I went to Ikea in Charlotte with my friend Jennifer and bought way way way too much stuff – some of which was super random and I am not sure what the hell came over me – and some of which I am still slowly assembling into the world’s most hygge living room ever. I mean it is so ultra hygge. It is hyggey. It is, even, hyggeriffic, or it will be once I get two strong people over to lift the furniture so I can cram the rug underneath and once I replace the tabletop because I forgot to double check the fucking dimensions and got one that is too small, DAMN IT. I mean it’s so simple to remedy, I get to Charlotte easily twice a decade or so. ARGH. And I don’t want to make a tabletop because it will be like the usual kind of thing I make – halfassed sort of hippie crap only black with, possibly, skulls. I’m too old for spraypainted splintery plywood tables. I embrace hygge now. I want a real table top.

okraSo the living room is almost done but remains a bit in flux and then I caught not the flu but a “flu like illness” which is apparently indistinguishable from the flu in the lungs, ears, eyes, throat, nose and feverish brain of the sufferer. I have spent the last week in bed, which is super sucky because, among other things, I started a photo class at AB Tech last Tuesday night. I need to get my technical chops up to speed, I think, and also I need a bit of a kick in the ass because I feel like I’m slipping back into a rut. Therefore, class, and I came home Tuesday all excited about shooting pictures every single day for my homework and then woke up Wednesday in total misery with a fever.  Then I spent five days in bed, like, literally in bed, sweating, coughing, unable to think or read anything heavier than Angela “pity she was such a fascist because she’s just so damn amusing darling” Thirkell.  Hence pictures like this one, Compositions in Cat and Kleenex.  I went to the doctor this morning and now I’m on steroids for my wheezing lungs and some mysterious cough pill for my hacking cough and tomorrow I get to go back to work, lucky me. I went in for a while on Sunday but didn’t last long.

ENOUGH OF THE PROBLEMS OF TEDIOUS REALITY.  LET US RETURN TO THE LAND OF BOND.

Live and Let Die – a new Bond, a new decade and man, it really shows. This movie is different than the earlier Bonds. The 60s bonds were aspirational, sort of – they reflected this oh so cool sophistication and glamour. Did it really exist? I don’t know, maybe? Sort of? But there was an overall aesthetic there of elegance and smooth, polished surfaces. Very Mad Men. With this movie, though, that’s over and instead it’s all IN YOUR FACE wild and let’s do a lot of drugs and let it all hang out. The whole feeling is different. It’s hard to pin down, exactly, but the pace is more frenetic, there’s a ton more slapstick and there are a lot of rougher edges, rougher streets, just a sort of less sophisticated feeling. There’s also an offhand acceptance of mysticism – Tarot cards, psychics, Voodoo, general magic – that you wouldn’t find in the earlier, or, for that matter, the later films. I think this is sort of the fantasy Bond film but I also think that was so much a part of that decade, much more so than even the 60s. And then, of course, there’s the terribly, sadly, obvious fact that Roger Moore is, well, no Sean Connnery. He’s not terrible! He’s fine for who he is, which is Roger Moore! But he’s not the borderline psycho, extremely tightly wound yet chillingly competent Bond that Connery was. He’s more sort of, I don’t know, puppy Bond. He’s friendly and he’s trying very hard.

The movie starts off with death by earbud at the UN and then shifts promptly to death by jazz funeral in New Orleans and then, naturally, to a voodoo ceremony somewhere in the Caribbean. Voodoo. Voodoo. Voodoo. SNAAAAAAAAAKE!! The song is by Paul McCartney. I knew that. I mean, I know the damn song, it was long ago implanted into my subconscious mind forever, but I don’t think I quite realized that it was actually a James Bond movie theme song until I watched it. It kind of blew my mind. Then came the titles, which my notes say were different but not how, so I don’t remember and then there’s a note about how much I begged for a digital watch like that myself. Digital watches! We are introduced to  the new Bond in his oh so amazing bachelor apartment with to die for polka dot wallpaper in the kitchen and a sexy Italian lady spy in the bedroom. M & Moneypenny show up and Bond is dispatched after a little slapstick to the New York City of my childhood, which is to say, kinda edgy, grimy and possible even a bit scary. There’s an extended car chase in cars which I just cannot, no matter how hard I try, see as desirable fancy or even nice cars. They all look like hooptys to me, even the fantastic white pimpmobile with the side mirror armaments.

OK! Turns out the bad guy is also a UN delegate who has lots of super cool masks, a very freaky psychic girlfriend, a main minion with a hook for a hand, lots of hideouts that change into restaurants in Harlem and, dude, lesser minions galore in super high waisted bell bottoms and afros! The menu in the Harlem bar and grill is painted on the wall which is red like the whole groovy place and everything is under $1. And, at some point, Bond asks for somebody’s name and they say “Names is for tombstones, baby.” Yeah. Oh yeah. Anyway Bond gets captured and then rescued and then he’s off to the Caribbean, where he hooks up with a young CIA lady spy who seems a little easily spooked for her chosen career. Bond flames a snake with a can of aerosol aftershave – aerosol aftershave? WTF? – and wears a powder blue leisure suit, oh my god, he looks like an idiot. See? Declasse, the 70s. The CIA lady is this movie’s obligatory dead girl so Bond promptly runs off with psychic freak Solitaire and her deck of magic Tarot cards. There’s an extensive chase through what are supposed to be poppy fields (pretty sure they’re hops; poppies don’t look like that) and then a long crazy car chase sequence in a double decker bus with lots of cool island village shots and then they get captured again, told the whole evil plot – it is, briefly as follows –

  1. Give everyone free heroin.
  2. ????
  3. Profit!!!!!

and taken to New Orleans.

In Louisiana they try to kill Bond by feeding him to a bunch of alligators which of course will not work, particularly because the villains, in a foolish oversight, don’t stick around to make sure he dies. I mean, duh. He escapes via cigarette boat and then the hook hand villain, plus a bunch of other minions, chases Bond for a long time, a very long time, in another speedboat. That scene, which goes on forever – did I mention how long it was? – is the one that we adored as children. There’s a caricature redneck southern sheriff, perhaps THE caricature redneck southern sheriff, who joins the chase, out to get both of them. They career all through the bayous for hours. Days. There’s an alfresco dinner party and a wedding that both get crashed through by the speedboat chase. And then, there’s the one quite nasty and overt bit of racism in the movie, on the part of said sheriff. It’s sort of devolution into farce with a soupcon of racism and, um, well. I loved it when I was a kid and I missed the racist part, or, more likely, it was just so much part of the surroundings that it went without mention, in passing, just the way things are. Ugh. But the sheriff’s car gets blown up and hook hand gets away, then, so, serves him right.

I should mention here that pretty much the entire cast of this movie is African American except for Bond, Felix Leiter, the creepy comic relief redneck sheriff and maybe Solitaire, the weird psychic Tarot card wielding love interest (she is sort of ethnically ambiguous and possibly interplanetary.) That is quite cool and it’s awesome to see all these black actors, some of whom are seriously chewing up the scenery – I am looking at you, crazy laugh Voodoo guy – which is the right attitude to Bond. So it is very fun. Is it exploitation? I’m not enough of an expert to say. It only made me acutely uncomfortable that one time, but, I’m a white girl from the 70s: I don’t even know.

OK! Bond returns to the Caribbean to rescue Solitaire who is going to be sacrificed at a Voodoo ceremony because why the hell not (turns out she can’t be psychic after she has sex with Bond) and it gives the filmmakers a chance to really go for it with the giant snake and almost virgin tied to a stake scene.  Turns out under all the voodoo graveyard stuff there is an entire underground lair! OF course there is! Complete with uniformed minions although why you would bother with uniforms if they’re just going to be underground with nobody to see them except other minions, I don’t know. Why a giant grow op needs so many minions, I don’t know either. There is a fat bored minion who is totally great! There is Kananga gone completely over the top unhinged, also great! Kananga is a great actor. There is the shark tank from Thunderball, the monorail from You Only Live Twice AND, after Kananga is somewhat messily  disposed of and all is well, Bond and Solitaire leave on the train from With Russia With Love! All bases covered, here. Hook dude returns but to no avail and the happy couple chugs off to, um, who knows, with Baron Samedi Crazy Laugh Voodoo Guy sitting on the caboose.

This movie is now straying into the realm of movies I actually remember fairly clearly, so I was obviously growing up when I watched this on TV. It’s not terrible. It’s not the best thing ever, either. I think it’s a solid B-.

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