Plague Diary 11: High Risk

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I may bitch but I have been able to walk alone in places like this almost every day since this all began and I know how incredibly lucky I am. 

Finally, my gall bladder operation has been scheduled: June 26, which is to say, 13 days from now. I went in to see the surgeon for a pre op appointment – my second pre op appointment, because the first one, which was just as everything shut down, was deemed too long ago. Things have changed a bit. It turns out that if you must have surgery during the plague times, then you must also get a covid test 72 hours before the surgery and then isolate for those 72 hours. This is because if you have covid-19 while you have surgery, the survival rates, which for gallbladder surgery are like 98%, plummet to about 50% or less. Ha ha! Don’t worry! It will be fine!

WELL YES I’M FUCKING FREAKED OUT AND SCARED NOW.

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Fort Stevens has reopened (yay!) but they are rebuilding the jetty and this is where I used to walk every day. I am unenthused. 

I have been trying to be fairly smart about the whole pandemic / quarantine thing without going completely nuts. I keep thinking of a Bruce Sterling line from a 90s sci fi novel that offhandedly mentioned that people with indifferent hygiene practices had all been eliminated by the first wave of pandemics in the 2020s. I may have mentioned this before. It has been floating near the top of my cluttered junk shop brain since early March. Anyway, to be completely honest and out front: I am not the greatest at hygiene. My house is usually kind of a mess. There is dog hair. There is cat hair. There is what I call dog silt, which is a sort of grunge that builds up on things – I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t want to know. The floors are a bit sticky pretty regularly and they occasionally sprout those black blobs my darling friend Noelle used to call floor cancer. I do not vacuum enough. Sometimes the dishes sit for 24 hours. And etc. Basically, let’s face it: I am just not the kind of person who is capable of cleaning all her groceries with bleach. After one attempt, which led to despair – there is nothing like sitting on the kitchen floor, surrounded by groceries, with a bottle of bleach spray, crying, to bring the whole damn thing home – I gave up. I have made my peace with that reality and tried to be smart: masks and social distancing and washing my hands a lot and not having a social life, which, frankly, I didn’t have much of before the plague anyway. And so far, so good, or at least I think so good. I am on blood thinners, which makes me sort of high risk, but I’m not 60 yet nor will be for a few years, so I thought I was basically okay. Now, however, I am suddenly high risk and I must reassess.

This is complicated because my co-quarantiner, my son, has returned from several weeks of being not exactly the most quarantined person in Oregon. He had adventures and I’m glad for him, but not really glad enough to kick the bucket. He is back to help me out with the whole surgery thing but if he has brought covid with him, it is obviously not so good. So he needs to quarantine as well and take it seriously and I am not entirely sure this message is getting all the way through. It is difficult to get the message through when almost everything is open, the tourists are descending on us like locusts and the general feeling in this godsforsaken nation is that hey, plague time over, party time on! Or, as my son darkly just said, may the best immune system win.

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My sign, less artsy than some I have done but to the point. It got wet at the protest because Oregon. 

The US has apparently decided they are just going to let people die, which shouldn’t really be surprising, since it’s what they decided long ago about BIPOC (which, it turns out, does not mean Bi People of Color, but Black, Indigenous and People of Color, which I guess includes bi people of color, so, excellent.) We haven’t yet quite gotten to the point where people with covid are encouraged to die, but I won’t be shocked if we get there sooner rather than later. Too dark? Well, think about the BIPOC who are continuing to die every day at the hands of police while the protests are continuing. The USA is pretty goddamn dark right now. I can only take hope from the fact that the protests are continuing, that people have not yet given up. But as someone on Twitter pointed out, the protestors are pretty much the only people wearing masks right now. The people in bars, the people partying at the beaches – and the tourists are full force at Fort Stephens, it’s terrifying – and the people shopping their cares away are unmasked and uninterested in social distance. When Ross Dress for Less reopened I went to the health food store next door and looked on as Ross shoppers tossed their masks on the ground when they walked out. We are so screwed. I went to the new Grocery Outlet in Seaside when it opened on Thursday and masks? There were very, very few but high risk people? There were many. I give up.

Here in this tiny town, the protests are continuing but given my scary new status, I am sadly not going to be participating. This sucks so I will say, if you can protest, please do. Protest for me. I will get better and be back out there, I swear, but for the next three weeks at least, I’m doing what I’ve been doing plus some: staying home, walking the dogs at times and places where social distancing of about 300 yards is a given, and, uh, for a change, cleaning. Oh, and exploring the world of curbside grocery pickup.

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Home is where the plants and dogs are. 

 

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Plague Diary 10.5: Death Snitch of Benson Beach

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Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment in its usual postcard amazingness beauty. 

This has very little to do with Covid-19 OR with the waves of civil unrest currently sweeping the country. Therefore, I will keep it short and to the point: the dogs and I went to Benson Beach today, which is to say the beach at Cape Disappointment State Park (it was another amazingly beautiful day) and we saw a DEAD ELK. Fortunately, nobody rolled on or ate any of the dead elk.

OK! So, about 20 months ago when I first moved to this area, I lived for about 3 months in my tiny camper with two large dogs, a cat and eventually, my son, who slept in the back of the truck. It was a suboptimal situation. We moved back and forth between Fort Stevens, where you can stay up to two weeks at a time and Cape Disappointment, where you can stay up to three weeks at a time. And once we went to Newport and for the three days before the closing on this house we stayed at the KOA and swam in the heated pool like billionaires, but that is neither here nor there.

The thing that IS here or there is that the first time I found a dead seal on the beach on Cape Disappointment, I promptly reported it to the rangers. I felt that I was doing my civic duty of, um, exactly what I do not know. Look, I grew up near the Atlantic from Charleston to Connecticut and points in between and I never saw a dead seal before.  It seemed important, somehow. And I don’t know what I expected the Cape Disappointment rangers to do, hold a funeral? Conduct an autopsy? They looked at me in mild pacific northwest wonder and said, yeah, animals die. It happens. Then they waited and I waited and when it was awkwardly clear that that was it and nobody actually cared about the dead seal, I left.

Now that I have lived here on the coast of the Pacific for twenty entire months, I am a seasoned veteran of dead seals and dead sea lions and dead birds and once, a sturgeon and often, smaller fish, although not often enough, because I want to make more gyotaku prints. I have seen – and chatted with! – lots and lots of live elk. But I have never seen a dead elk on the beach or anywhere else. This elk, to my eye, looked quite recently dead. There was blood on her face. She had not been torn open. She was not covered with vultures. So after we had looked briefly at the elk – and took a picture yes, of course – and then went on the rest of our beach walk (on leash this time because JESUS, please, no more rolling in the dead things, I’m out of dog shampoo) I stopped by the ranger station and reported a dead elk.

“Yeah,” said the ranger, “We know, it washed up a couple days ago. Washed in and out, then up.” We looked at each other and I, at least, thought about that image. “Okay then!” I said brightly, “Washed up, huh!”

And I left, realizing that in my late middle age I have become the Dead Animal Snitch of Benson Beach. Dead animal? Got a dead animal on the beach? I’m telling the authorities, by Jove! I’m REPORTING IT.

oh god.

The thing is, though, I doubt his story. Washed up? From where? How would an elk wash up on an ocean beach? Elk don’t go surfing. Elk are not noted for their oceanic prowess. Where did it come from? And that elk was in pretty good shape for something that was washing around in the ocean for a couple days. Now, I grant you that I am not an elk pathologist and IN FACT all my experience with dead anything comes from reading way too many bad mystery novels but STILL. And also granted the ranger had no reason to lie, I mean, none. But STILL. I do not really think there is an elk murderer running loose and being covered up at Cape Disappointment. BUT. Who knows, eh? Who really knows?

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OK look this is about as tasteful as a photo of a dead elk on the beach can get. 

 

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Plague Diary 10: I Am Not Hopeful

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the shining city on a hill where I live, which, like the rest of this country, needs to examine and fix its own institutionalized racism. 

Over the course of the last few days, I, like most Americans, have been watching in despair as Minneapolis – and Atlanta, LA, NYC, etc., everywhere – burns. If you know me at all you know that my sympathies are wholly and utterly with the protesters, with Black Lives Matter, because they do, and with all of us who are angry and poor and suffering and dying in what I suspect are the death throes of the fever dream that was the USA. Turns out you can have all the noble ideals in the world but you can’t build a shining city on a hill when the hill is made of POC bodies and oppression.

We’ve had a lot of chances to fix this over the years and we’ve fucked every single one of them up until we finally got to now, when we have an openly racist grifter in the White House egging the violent police on against journalists and POC. There is nothing I can say, really: as a white woman in a small rural enclave far from the riots I am pretty useless. I could send money, but I don’t have any; I could drive to Portland and be useless there, which seems counterproductive – I am in the land of thoughts and prayers and we all know just how helpful they are. So all I can do or say is, well, this is overdue and I hope some justice comes from it but I am not hopeful; I wish I was. In a small action I will virtually march with Rev. Dr. Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign on June 20 and I hope you will join me, even though, again, I am not hopeful.

I am very conscious of my own privilege right now: I live in what I think is probably the

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Everybody deserves a patio and a place to snooze in the sunshine. 

most beautiful place in the country if not the world and all through these days of plague I have been able to leave my house and walk along the ocean or the river or into the woods. I’m poor now but I have been rich in the past and even my poverty is not so bad: I have a house, I have furniture and food and even healthcare (OK I haven’t paid any of the bills and I don’t know how I’m going to do that, but I was able to access it when I needed it) and all of this is mine only because I was born an upper middle class white child in the 1960s in the USA. That’s it, that’s all, that’s really the whole reason I live pretty comfortably in a place I want to live now. Luck of the draw, just as my access to decent education and good housing and so on is also luck of the fucking draw. It is important to recognize that and to try to use that privilege so that everyone, everyone has the same: a place they love, a home, food to eat, healthcare. Human rights should not be assigned to only a few at birth.

 

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In other news apparently the plague is over. Wow! And all it took were thoughts and prayers! Isn’t that special! Add that to my list of things I am not hopeful about: I somehow do not think that the coronavirus has gone away just because Americans got tired of staying home. But everyone is saying that it is gone and certainly acting as if it is gone, so I suppose it is gone. Just a bad dream! Just another little plot twist from 2020, the most interesting of times! I do not know if it is gone or not but I do know I’m still wearing a mask at Fred Meyer and that’s not just because I got a couple of quite chic ones with galaxies on them from Etsy.

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Cape Disappointment! 

In local news, another beach has opened up: Cape Disappointment is now open. I took the dogs there last Wednesday on an utterly beautiful day and it was perfect: sun, sand, waves and no people anywhere. Only bones. Those bones – on the left, below – at least were sun polished and mostly bare (I thought about taking one but quailed at the logistics, which would include touching them because ewww and also I do not carry a bone saw, I am so useless) but the bones from yesterday – on the right, like you couldn’t figure that out, ewwwwww – at Sunset Beach were still covered with, uh, alien flesh and horrible bits of fur. Harvey naturally found that corpse of whatever the hell it was before I did and got a couple of good rolls in. Whoo hoo! I covered this on Twitter and on Instagram but let me just say again that the smell was really quite indescribable and it is not, alas, quite gone. After all the excitement of yesterday morning it rained all afternoon and both the dogs slept all day, which is probably why Harvey started bouncing around at about 10 pm. He had horrible gas – I could hear his stomach from across the room – and he was whining so my anxiety decided he had been poisoned by the Dead Thing and was dying. I mean, what else could it be? And that’s why I gave him activated charcoal at midnight, which, thank the gods, doesn’t seem to have had any effect on him whatsoever: he’s fine and I am tired.

My camera is broken and I can’t even think about that, so I’m not. My desktop computer is in the shop – I am writing this on the laptop, which is fine but sloooooooow. I still don’t have an oven but! I do have a sourdough starter. Yes, I jumped on the bandwagon and I am about 9 days in of making my own starter outdoors. It smells amazing in a good way and I have named it The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but I call it The for short. I am looking forward to baking a small loaf of sourdough bread in the toaster oven with it sometime soon. And this week I get to find out when my gallbladder will go away, so that is all good news, to end on a precarious high note. I hope you and yours, whoever you are, are all well and that we weather these storms and come out stronger. Unfortunately I am not, well, very hopeful.

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Plague Diary 9: Layoff

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Clouds on the horizon! Happy clouds or scary clouds? Who knows! The symbolism, it is heavyhanded here.

Well, my employer and I have negotiated a parting of the ways. It was a mutual decision, an acknowledgement that a Volunteer & Event Coordinator is not exactly a crucial, essential position in Pandemic World, where there are no events and there are no volunteers. I am both sort of excited: hey look! I too am participating in the 2nd Great Depression! Also I will finally have time to putter around the house to my heart’s content! Which is a LOT of puttering! and abject fear: well, I’ll probably never get another job which means I will end up pushing a shopping cart piled with trash bags through ruined streets lit by trash fires forever. In the short term, however, before the trash fires and the haunted empty windows and the shopping cart, I may be in better shape than I was before. The CARES act extra unemployment (they are paying us, I suspect, to keep us from rioting and part of me wishes it wasn’t working) will add up to more than I was making working almost full time – at least through the end of July – and with a little luck from the social services gods, I may be able to get on the Oregon Health Plan. That, the closest thing this benighted country has to civilized healthcare, will probably pay for my upcoming gall bladder surgery and the tests that I still need to figure out just why the hell exactly I ended up in the ER in late February with a pulmonary embolism for which I had no risk factors at all.

On Monday I am having a telehealth conference with my doctor – oh brave new world that has such, um, telephones in it! – and at that point I will gingerly bring up the possibility that this crazy fucking virus has been known to cause sudden inexplicable blood clots and my entire office was sick as hell through mid February with at least one colleague with pneumonia and, huh. Probably he will laugh it off or maybe not. Either way it doesn’t matter, because as usual there are no tests – no antibody tests, anyway – and all the tests we do have are notoriously unreliable. Also, they are not free. The county is now holding drive through testing at the city dump (ha ha! The new world, it delivers such jokes!) but, while the administration of the test (a harried CNA with a long swab, I suspect, making $12 an hour and no benefits, but essential) is free, the processing of it (AKA the lab fees) is not. So if you do not have insurance, or if you have the kind of jesus christ don’t you people know the meaning of shame insurance I do, it might or, as we like to say, probably won’t, be covered. This must be why they’re doing it at the dump – if you’re poor you can just jump on the trashpile and save the gravediggers the trouble.

As many more serious and eloquent people have now pointed out, the entire REASON for

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America! Fuck yeah! This bird would be a much better president than Trumpacabra!

the last two months of all of us staying home, going slowly stir crazy – my son just WASHED THE DOG without prompting; look for the silver linings and ignore the 2″ of water in the bathroom is our current national slogan – was so the country could create a plan, make tests, make PPE (that’s personal protective equipment, an abbreviation nobody knew just 2 1/2 short and vastly long months ago) and so on. Well. Of course none of that has happened and Cheeto Benito in the White House just gets crazier and crazier, accountability falls by the wayside, the states form coalitions or don’t, the governors are on their own and a bunch of racist Nazi MAGA assholes from hell or Vancouver, WA, whichever, are due to descend on Seaside, Oregon – aka the next town down – tomorrow to protest the closed beaches which are reopening on Monday.

It is difficult to convey the actual rate of crazy nowadays! I don’t really know who I am writing this blog for – in a fit of hubris I shared the URL with my now ex coworkers yesterday, so, uh, hey – but most of the time I think it is just for some undefined posterity. The world has gone insane and it seems as if I should chronicle that for my nonexistent grandchildren or some monk in a Canticle for Leibowitz type scenario in 800 years.

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Look at that dignified matron. You would not believe she could do anything wrong, would you?

We are supposed to be in Stage One of Reopening starting, uh, today. Certainly there is more traffic and the really good Mexican restaurant down the street seems to be open, but otherwise I am not sure exactly what that means. Granted I have only left the house to spend the morning at the beach with Harvey. Perdita did not get to come along because yesterday evening, when we went to the beach so I could drink a gin and tonic while walking along the ocean and committing my last job to the waves – goodbye, office! Goodbye, the great things I was planning and the bitter taste of my own failures! Goodbye, all that work shit that sits in the back of your head muttering! – Perdita took off for 45 entire minutes and just when I had given her up for dead she reappeared literally and liberally coated with elk shit from head to toe. She is more than 12 years old and one would expect more decorum. Therefore she did not go on any walks today. I know she doesn’t get the connection but it makes me feel better and also, after her wanderjahr she was limping badly, so she needed a day of rest.

That was Friday and now it is Saturday. Day 61! Last night I made vegan pesto – which is really really good, this is the recipe, the nutritional yeast is not optional – and potato salad with fat free mayonnaise and tabbouleh with half the oil the box requests and it was all extremely yum. I am thinking about putting together a cookbook tentatively titled “So Your Gallbladder Doesn’t Work.” This morning I made strawberry pancakes and the leftover strawberries are simmering away on the stove, turning into syrup or jam, depending on how long I leave them there. Maybe later there will be cake. Or not.

I went looking back through my pictures because #lastnormalpicture is trending on twitter and I was a little dismayed but not surprised to find that my pictures have not changed in these 61 days. Empty beaches with distant tiny people: yup, got it covered. Here for all your empty beach needs!

I have new masks. I finally got the one I ordered from Threadless and I got the gaiter mask with skeletons and guillotines on it that I ordered. I love it. The gaiter masks are by far the most comfortable – so comfortable that it almost feels like cheating, like, are you really doing your part if your ears aren’t bleeding? Unfortunately it was expensive so I can only have the one, which means I should be washing it all the time and, honestly? Not going to happen. I have good intentions but when we get right down to it I am bone lazy and washing things is a big pain in the ass. But I have it, I have worn it to Fred Meyer, where, by the way, as in all supermarkets across this nation of ours, grocery prices have had their steepest rise in 50 years. That is FIFTY fucking YEARS. As usual this is getting little to no coverage because it would mean admitting that people are poor and grocery prices matter and we cannot do that, we are all eternally rich and we laugh at such minor details. It’s a problem for the poors, alright! Over to Kathy with the weather.

And that’s all I got, right now. Day 61 since the world changed! Here we go, once more into the breach, I guess.

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PS I burned the strawberry jam.

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Plague Diary 8: Birthday

IMG_4015Yesterday was my birthday. I took a couple days off – staycation! All the cations are stay now, no more vay. Ordinarily I would go out to dinner or go out drinking or, you know, ideally both! But of course here we are, day 48 or whatever it is, and nobody is going nowhere. Which is fine with me, honestly, because we suddenly shot from 7 cases in this county to 18 and I do not want to be number 19. The national drumbeat of open up! open up! Kill your grandma for capitalism! is increasingly loud – but I am not listening. I am not alone in not listening either; polls and so on keep right on showing that most people are in fact sane and do not want to reopen the country just yet, as people are dying in record numbers. But the attention all goes to the lunatic few. I don’t know. This country is at this point I think irreparably broken and I have no solutions. Well, I do, actually: a Green New Deal, medicare for all, tax the rich until they scream for mercy, break up big tech, stop giving corporations a voice, universal basic income, free college and so on. The usual progressive laundry list which would, you know, work. But I don’t think any of it is likely to be enacted soon. I don’t know what will happen. But I seriously think (and have for some years, although my belief gets stronger all the time) that I may well outlive the USA as a country. And I am not young. This is one of the reasons I moved to the Pacific northwest and while I try to downplay that, since I know it sounds bonkers, and also it is just one of many reasons, still, there it is: I think the country will break apart soon. I don’t know how. I don’t know what will happen, but I do not think we can go on like this – divided, antagonistic and nobody at the wheel except a third rate crime family doing their best to sell off the Republic for scrap – much longer.

20200504_135222-01Downer Debbie! I will stop! Yesterday I had a fight with my son in which he accused me of being too negative, which is to say, good lord, hello pot, kettle, etc. But he was right. We had planned to celebrate my birthday by cooking out on the beach. In Oregon, you see, you can not only drive on the beach, you can have fires on it. It’s crazy! To an east coaster such as myself it feels just shocking, that the beach is not hemmed about with rules and regulations. But then there are a lot less people here than there are in the east. Thank the gods. Anyway, we had these plans but then we, or rather I, got off to a slow start yesterday, partly because I was opening my birthday presents from my daughter while on the phone with my daughter. She sent me a big box full of wonderful stuff!  Including this fantastic T-shirt, which says Collards and Cornbread (I want my daughter to move here. She wants me to return to North Carolina. We are both really stubborn so we keep sending each other passive aggressive gifts like this one 😀 ) and a magnet that says Cherie Berry Lifts Me Up, which you will understand if you are from NC,** and socks with pickles on them and, wonder of wonders, the horribly grotty but much beloved blank book cookbook that I have been writing recipes down in for the past decade or so. I left it with her but decided I needed it back and here it is, hurrah!

Then I puttered around in the courtyard, which is coming along. I got the little flower garden in the center of the yard all cleaned out and mostly planted on Sunday and my butt is still killing me. Yesterday it was much worse and just another reason I was moving a little more slowly than usual and also being, okay, a bit more cantankerous than usual. Then I decided I was making a swiss roll cake, despite never having made one before and by god I was making the jam for it too.* At any rate, the hour grew later and later and the sky grew darker and darker. I had by this time decided I didn’t really want to go anyway but at the same time I did. That is the danger for me in social distancing and staying at home: I like it too much. I like it so much that it starts to get really hard for me to leave the house at all and when I do, I get scared. Agoraphobia! Fear of the marketplace and nowadays, yeah, the marketplace is in fact terrifying.

Despite the threatening weather and my moaning, we loaded the truck and set out, me kvetching all the way. The rain started coming down. Now the20200504_190057 coast of Oregon is really not unlike the mountains of Western North Carolina in that weather often tends to be highly localized, as in, don’t like the weather? Drive for five minutes. This time that trick, well, didn’t work so much. It was also raining at the beach. We stopped for charcoal and gas and a few other things, which felt just wrong, simply dropping by the supermarket for less than two weeks worth of stuff, but, okay, needs must. Somehow, in all this, we forgot matches or a lighter and this small fact did not come to light until we had not just gotten to the beach but driven down it some considerable way. I pitched, at this point, a small fit. This sucks, I said, or words to that effect, and it is cold, and windy, and raining, and I have to drive so I can’t even drink too much, and I don’t want to sit outside on the beach in the cold wind and rain. I don’t want to drive back to Wal Mart and then back. Waaaaah, I said. This, said my son, is the Pacific Northwest you wanted to move to, and if you stop being so negative you will see that it is beautiful and that this is great.

20200504_192115-01And he was right. It didn’t take very long to go get a lighter. When we got back, there was a heron! Wading in the surf! And a tiny bit of sunset crept through the clouds. The rain came off and on and yes, I was soaked, but then I took off my wet raincoat and my wet hoodie and put on the ski sweater that I am so glad lives in the truck and it was fine. The dogs had a wonderful time, even Perdita who hates the rain but was delighted to have the truck right there to jump into whenever it started coming down again. Harvey was a very very good boy; the grilled chicken was amazing (somehow I am slowly getting less vegetarian lately, still 90% though) the grilled veggies were amazing; everything was totally beautiful and we had a lovely time. Then we came on home in the dark and then today everyone, including the dogs, has been just wiped out tired and that’s been okay too. It was a really good birthday.

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  • * the cake was horrible. Like, inedible horrible. Like tennis shoes horrible. The jam, however, was fantastic.
  • ** Cherie Berry was for decades the secretary of something or other, in NC. Somehow her job entailed inspecting all the elevators in the entire state, or, well, I don’t think she personally inspected all of them, but at any rate in every elevator in North Carolina there is a certificate of safety inspection and on that certificate is a little picture of Cherie Berry and her signature. So every time you ride the elevator, if you are me, you read the certificate and look at Cherie Berry because really, what else is there to do in an elevator?
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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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