Sunday, May 31, 2020

A librarian friend asked if I was going to the protest in downtown Columbus

I’d forgotten that she and I went to a protest a few years ago. The first anniversary of the Women's March. We marched together around the statehouse, a much smaller group than the year before in DC, when I marched with five hundred thousand. The police at that protest stood on the sidelines, placidly, some even waving at us.

I said: Not this time because of the virus.

Another friend told me this was the epitome of privilege, letting other people protest for you. But she was also the same person who asked me once why I protested. What does it even accomplish?

I used to say, solidarity. Showing up and making your voice heard. Maybe I don't believe that anymore. Or maybe she's right and I'm a coward.

On facebook some of my white friends are wringing their hands about violence, worrying more over broken glass than about police brutality, and it enrages me. A lot is enraging me lately. Part of it is listening to Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad which is all about women’s rage. At the end she says, if you’re listening to this now, hold onto your rage.

I realize that I had let go of my rage. It was tiring to be so angry all the time and people I knew were implying that I was acting crazy. I'd started daydreaming about hiding out in the country and growing lettuce and letting the country burn, but in a way that didn't affect me.

At the protest in downtown Columbus the police sprayed pepper spray at Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and two black city councilmen.

But I didn't go to that protest.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Pandemic Diaries, Week 10, Opening Up

Saturday, May 16, 2020

We go to the farmer's market! Back in the pre-plague days we walked down the street with our cloth bags and ambled along, browsing the booths, chatting with the farmers.

Today, we order on-line, drive ten minutes away to the parking lot where they're holding the market, tape our order number on the windshield, open our trunk, and slowly drive past the booths, where the farmers, masked, find our order and drop it into our trunk.

Cases in the US: 1,252,000
Deaths: 76,908
Cases in Ohio: 22,560
Deaths: 1214

Sunday, May 17

Our daughter, back from London, is fully integrated into the house. The upstairs opened up and aired out. The mattresses, where my husband and I have been sleeping for two weeks while she self-quarantined, are back up in our bedroom. We spend the day outside planting, our daughter painting rocks with herb labels to put in the garden, and for just a little while, we forget there's a global pandemic.

They're opening up Ohio this week. Retail stores, restaurants. The employees are required to wear masks but the patrons can choose not to. Because, freedom.

I am not going anywhere.

Monday, May 18

Except to the grocery store.

Everything I read about this virus points to the fact that it spreads via other people, in enclosed spaces, over an extended period of time. So, I am all about the fast, once-per-week grocery trip. At 8 am in the morning. When hardly anyone else is here except for the people personally shopping for others.

I'm masked. Sanitized. Holding my paper list, cruising the aisles in the properly marked direction. Food seems abundant. A sushi chef making sushi to go. Grab-and-go taco meal kits. But still no hand sanitizer. No wipeys. No liquid hand soap. One toilet paper per household limit. I buy one, even though my household is probably reaching hoarding level now. Please don't judge me.

Cases in the US: 1,338,000
Deaths: 80,000

Tuesday, May 19

It rained four inches last night and we brace ourselves going down to the basement, but luckily, we are dry. Other people in Columbus, not so lucky. A friend posts pics on Facebook of her and her son paddle-boarding in their backyard.

Did I mention that I applied for unemployment after being furloughed from the library? Did I mention that after spending hours on this process, I was denied? Did I mention that I applied for the federal Covid relief? Did I mention that the site where I spent more hours typing in all of my personal information had some glitch where everyone's personal information was compromised and now it's suggested that I put a fraud alert on my credit reports and also, no word if I'm approved for the Covid relief?

Wednesday, May 20

It is raining, day three, but still the basement is dry so thank God for that.

The big outing for the day is Go to the bank to meet up, socially distanced and masked, with the person who has taken over my position as Regional Advisor of SCBWI, so I can transfer all of the financial documents to her and get my name off the account. We have to do this by appointment. Wait outside the bank for the banker to unlock the door, and then I hand over the paperwork and leave.

My daughter comes along for the ride, probably to get the hell out of the house for thirty minutes. We drive through the town where we used to live, pass her old elementary school, our old house, a side trip to the bookstore to do the curbside pick-up of an order of books.

On the way home, almost feeling normal, we go through the Starbucks drive thru, and I promptly spill half of my hot coffee on my lap and my daughter laughs and laughs.

Totally normal.

Thursday, May 21

I keep trying to get through to the credit report companies to put the fraud alert on my account that was hacked when I tried and failed to get unemployment, and I can't get through and I am annoyed but trying not to be a karen about it.

Indoor dining at restaurants starts officially today and it's all over the news, people out and about as if there isn't a global pandemic. We order in take out and our daughter teaches us a card game called Shithead and I don't want to play it because I hate card games, but I rally, and learn it, and win a few games and feel ridiculously gleeful.

Friday, May 22

After thirty minutes on hold, I finally reach a customer service agent at the credit report company and he doesn't believe I am Me and I go full blown karen on him, much to my husband's and daughter's amusement.

They want to order Chik-fil-e for dinner and take it to my mother's to eat outside with her, socially distant on her patio. I don't like chik-fil-e for a variety of reasons. One, I'm sort of a vegetarian, and two, I'm still mad at them for supporting anti-LGBTQ causes, but we go to Chik-fil-e and there are lines of cars wrapped around the building two or three deep, but impressively, moving at a fast pace,

masked workers scurrying around taking orders, so that the whole process takes less then fifteen minutes.

Potential business plan for Chik-fil-e: denounce your anti-LGBTQ bullshit and volunteer to help the trump administration with their pathetic Covid- testing program.

Side note: dinner with Mima turns out very well and the chicken is good.

Saturday, May 23

Back to the farmer's market drive-thru and I love the efficiency and organization (The farmer's market in Clintonville. Ohio could also do a fine job taking over the covid testing program if the chik-fil-e thing falls through.) but I miss the chatting with the farmers, the browsing and impulse buys.

People online posting videos of white people spitting and coughing in workers' faces when asked to wear a mask. The president demanding churches be opened, but he will not be going to church. He will be going golfing. I find more bamboo shoots in my flower beds and I want to set the backyard on fire.

A walk at night with the dog through our quiet neighborhood. Children biking in the street. A socially distant gathering on someone's front lawn.

Christmas bulbs hanging from the trees, shining like stars.

Cases in the US: 1,620,000
Deaths: 96,000
Cases in Ohio: 29,288
Deaths: 1756

Sunday, May 17, 2020

10 things I like about now

The third bloom on an orchid I thought had died.

A rock sculpture my husband built randomly in the herb garden.

and speaking of the herb garden, we have an herb garden! (in what was formerly an overgrown koi pond)

Sound-blocking headphones that I slip on whenever I sit down to write. Oh how I love their cocoon-y lush goodness!

The neighborhood garden group I joined on Facebook where people post pictures and ask What plant is this? And someone immediately identifies it and then someone else says, That's an invasive weed, pull it now! And another person says, I love that weed and posts a photo of it all pretty in their yard.

Funny Tic-Toc videos.

Masks my mom sewed for us.

New grass growing.

A dog wearing a shower cap.

Hot tea made in the morning for my sort of British-y daughter, for two weeks brewed and left on the stairs for her to fetch herself, but yesterday, after two weeks of quarantine, carried right into her room and set on her bedside table,

and then a long first look face-to-face

and an even longer first hug.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Pandemic Diaries, Week 8, Isolating in the Home

Friday, May 1

I have been up since 5 am worried about our daughter who's on her way home from London.

The first part of her flight looks good, she assures me. She's got a supply of masks and hand sanitizer. There are fewer than 25 people on the plane. All socially distant. I try not to think about re-circulating-airplane air as my husband and I put the finishing safety touches on our home for the Two-Week-Isolation to come.

We've decided to tuck our daughter away upstairs, giving her full use of the bathroom, so we drag our mattresses down to the living room. Pack up our clothes and toiletries. (not hard. I literally wear the same two shirts and alternate between sweats and pajama bottoms.) Clean and paint the gross bathroom in the basement. Borrow a small fridge and put it in our daughter's room, stocked with drinks and treats.

I haven't seen her since Christmas and I am so focused on not crying when I roll up to the airport that I forget to put my car in park and nearly crash into the car in front of me.

"Mom!" my daughter admonishes as she loads her suitcases into the trunk. I slam my feet on the brake and laugh like a crazy person.

"Welcome home!"

US cases: 1,066,000
Deaths: 62,653
Cases in Ohio: 17,962
Deaths: 922

Saturday, May 2

Morning and I leave a cup of hot tea for her on the stairs.

It's 70 degrees and we take a socially distant/masked walk as a family through the neighborhood. Our daughter tells us about the Chicago airport, only one restaurant open, McDonalds. No one masked. A crowd of people, one of the women wearing flip flops. What the hell, my daughter says. I made it two thousand miles from Europe and now I'm gonna get Covid at McDonalds in Chicago?

Customs waved her through. All they wanted to know is if she'd been to China. The Chicago fire department took her temperature and gave her a pamphlet suggesting she quarantine herself for two weeks, but no real guidelines about how to do that. Take your temperature two times per day, it says. Wash your hands.

Sunday, May 3

People are protesting in front of our state medical director's home, blaming her for Ohio's stay at home orders. I plant herbs in the garden/formerly-known-as-the-koi-pond. Leave meals on the stairs. We face-time with our daughter and it's like she's still in London instead of in her bedroom.

Her temp is normal whenever she takes it, but what if she's one of the asymptomatic people? What if one of those idiot Chicago-airport-McDonalds-flip-flopping-wearing people was infected?

I'm still not used to seeing her in a mask. I want to hug her.

Monday, May 4

I'm swearing off the news again. This time I really mean it! Protesters at statehouses. Trump sitting like a child in a chair that's too big for him in front of the Lincoln Memorial, talking about how he always knew more than 70,000 people would die, but he's doing a great job.

I set a drink on the stairs and send a picture to my daughter like I'm a delivery person. Your Mom-Azon Prime Order has been delivered, I text her. She rates the order 5 stars.

Later, it's so nice out, we work together in the backyard, me on one side mulching the ferns, my daughter on the opposite end wearing a mask and pulling up weeds and bamboo. 

We eat dinner on opposite sides of the patio and our daughter tells us that back in early March her roommate had a fever and cough and was joking that she thought she had corona. What if she really did? Then, it stands to reason that our daughter had it too. Never mind all of the traveling she did back then. Multiple European countries and riding a packed London tube twice a day every day.

If she had it, she’d be done with it and we wouldn’t have to worry about catching it from her!

But we can’t know that because we can't get tested. The only people who get tested are the very sick and the very rich and the very trump.

Oh well.

Tuesday, May 5

I make chocolate chip scones with friends via skype. One friend reads the recipe and we all follow the instructions. It takes two hours and we have to keep pausing to search for pans or to figure out the substitution for cream or to mute because my husband is on a conference call in the dining room. The scones are freaking good though.

I sneak a peek at the news and immediately wish I hadn't. They’ve upped the death totals. Another 100,000 people by August. Do people actually want to eat at restaurants?

Our living room has become a dorm room.

Wednesday,  May 6

Our daughter takes her temperature twice a day and it’s always normal. But then I read things about people literally drowning in their own fluids. Little kids getting weird organ diseases. Can you smell things? I text her frantically. Do you have a sense of taste?

Don't worry, she tells me. I've been eating the peanut M & Ms you bought me. They taste great!

An article in the Guardian talks about plagues through literature and I come upon this quote:

"The primary lesson of plague literature, from Thucydides onwards, is how predictably humans respond to such crises. Over millennia, there has been a consistent pattern to behavior during epidemics: the hoarding, the panicking, the fear, the blaming, the superstition, the selfishness, the surprising heroism, the fixation with the numbers of the reported dead, the boredom during quarantine."

Yeah. Sounds about right. 

Cases in the US: 1,197,00
US deaths: 70,588

Thursday, May 7

People on Facebook are sharing a video that says the virus is a conspiracy and don't wear masks? and something something about vaccines? and Dr. Fauci is evil? 

I gently tell a friend it's disinformation and probably dangerous to share and she immediately unfriends me. 

I set out more mulch and bake another batch of chocolate chip scones. The Republican representatives in the Ohio Statehouse vote to strip our medical director of her powers and the governor, also a Republican, but one of the rare ones who still believes in science and facts, says he'll veto. They're phasing in opening the state and people are excitedly talking about dining out and getting their hair done. 

Nearly one full week down and one to go for our daughter's quarantine. We face-time while I make her a bowl of popcorn. Set it on the stairs. 

Cases in US: 1,250,000
Deaths: 75,000
Case in Ohio: 21132
Deaths: 1153

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

This is hard, and you're not even doing the hard part

Watching a loved one die via your phone. Working in a hospital. Cashiering all day behind a screen guard at Kroger. Losing your job. Trapped at home with an abusive parent.

No. You're eating too much ice cream and not dyeing your hair. Your husband's grown a beard and looks like a stranger. Still, you have moments of panic that take your breath away. Last night you dreamed that a woman dared you to catch a baby she was about to throw, and then she threw it before you could react. It's a corona dream, your friend tells you,

it's a thing now. 

Bamboo has taken over the backyard of your new-old house, and every afternoon, you dig and pull. The roots stretch and crisscross. When you yank them up, the weedy grass peels up in sheets. It's a decent workout. Okay, you lied before when you said you didn't lose your job.

You weren't surprised when you got the email, but still, it felt like a punch in the gut. Pulling bamboo is a multiple step process.

1. You find where a shoot is coming up and position your shovel under it.
2. Jump hard on the shovel.
3. Lift. (It helps if you position a rock under the shovel for leverage and you've got plenty of those!)
4. Here's where you'll also lift up the root.
5. Pull the root until it breaks off somewhere ten feet away from you. 
6. Find another shoot. Repeat.

Why do people plant bamboo? How long will the library stay closed? How many bamboo roots are there in this yard? What about that elderly woman on the last day the library was open, the regular patron who came in every few days to check out one book and who usually chatted with you, who saw the chaos of the library, the people clearing the shelves of videos and carting baskets of books to the checkout counter, the woman, who when it was her turn, came up with her one book and asked, softly,

What's going on here?

We're closing for a few weeks, you told her, just a precaution, because of the virus, and then in your brightest customer service voice: Why don't you check out a few more books, just in case?

She didn't.

The bamboo runs under the fence into the neighbors' yards. You have no idea how you will stop it. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Pandemic Diaries, Week 5, Masked

Friday April 10

Up early dealing with the airline. In an alternate timeline, I'm jetting off to London tomorrow and It's time to check in!! Meanwhile, in this crappy timeline, I'm trying to get an e-voucher for another flight. Whenever that will be.

But woo hoo, I finished writing my book today. I have this thought that I'll write in a virus subplot, but then decide that I can’t put that in the book. This is supposed to be a rom com and in a rom com there will not be a plague.

Total cases in the US: 463,600
Total number of deaths:16,695

Saturday, April 11 

We watch a movie called Contagion about a virus and we critique what they get wrong. People looting stores on like, day four, but everyone's wearing an N95 mask. Yeah, right.

But speaking of masks, my mother has sewn some for my husband and me. We visit her, keeping the prescribed six feet away, and try not to look like bank robbers.

Total cases in Ohio: 6187
Total deaths: 247

Sunday, April 12, Easter

Trump wants to let the post office fail. Religious fanatics are defiantly gathering in churches.

Our family does a cross-time-zone group video message chat. It's brunch in San Francisco with our son and his girlfriend, lunch for my husband and me in Ohio, and dinner time in London with our daughter and boyfriend. We swap recipes and talk about how we're entertaining ourselves and this is the first time I've felt semi normal in weeks.

Monday, April 13

I go to the grocery store at 8 am wearing my mom-made mask and it's not horrible. The store has arrows on the aisles now to keep things flowing in the same direction. I still always feel like crying when I pull into the parking lot. When you wear a mask, people can’t tell if you’re smiling. My nose itches and I have to do a zen meditation to keep from scratching it. Worse, the hot flash I have in the toilet paper aisle.

Unpacking the groceries, bleach on hand, I have a moment of panic: Will the country collapse? Will we get sick? Will we lose our jobs? What will the world look like in one month, if now, one month in, it already looks so different?

But then I talk myself down from the ledge. I planted lettuce seeds over the weekend. In one month, I know this:

we will have lettuce.

Total cases in the US: 555,371
Total deaths: 22,056
Cases in Ohio: 6881
deaths: 268

Tuesday, April 14

Trump says he has total authority over the states. There are outbreaks in nursing homes and prisons. In Ohio protesters want the governor to reopen the state because they don't understand viruses. Or math. Or reality.

I started listening to the audio book The Library Book by Susan Orlean about the fire that destroyed the Los Angeles library in 1986. It’s fascinating and sad. Half a million books destroyed. It happened the same day that news of Chernobyl broke, which is why most people never heard about it. I’m afraid I'm going to lose my job.

Wednesday, April 15

A story in the paper about a man with Down Syndrome who died on his birthday. And then his mother died. They were each other’s life, the article says. Trump wants his name on the stimulus checks people are supposed to receive this week. They’re delaying sending the checks so they can add his name to the memo line.

I meet up with my best friend to take a socially distant walk. I worry that we won't be able to hear each other talk if we're wearing masks. But we can.

Total cases in the US: 606,800
Total deaths: 25,922

April 16, Thursday? 

One of my FB friends is seriously talking about taking a cruise because the prices are so low. More people are protesting for their right to go back to work and die I guess. It's suddenly cold again but everyone in my neighborhood is out walking.

My husband and I order pizza and hammer it down while watching the daily briefing with the governor and Dr. Amy Acton. You may be experiencing the five stages of death and dying, she says. It's okay to feel denial, anger, grief.

She holds up a mask.

Friday, April 17

Total cases in the US: 667,945
Total deaths: 30,665
Total cases in Ohio: 8858
Deaths: 401

Saturday, April 11, 2020

London! (here I don't come)

In January I start planning a trip to London to visit my daughter who is living and going to school there for a year. I have never been to London and I want to do it right. See everything London-ish. Take in a High Tea. Look at the Crown Jewels. Whatever else is in London.

I want to see the White Cliffs of Dover, I tell my daughter during one of our daily conversations.

What are the white cliffs of Dover? she says.

From the Matthew Arnold poem "Dover Beach," I explain, where the ignorant armies clashed by night and the lovers swore to be truthful to each other. And then some other writer made a satire version of the poem called "Dover Bitch." It's really funny. You should look it up.

Okay, she says. Where are the white cliffs of Dover?

I don't know, I say. Dover? I pull up a map online and Dover seems kind of close-ish to London. But I'm not sure of the map scale. It looks like driving from Columbus to Cincinnati, which should be doable.

Ooh, I say, noticing other familiar literary-sounding places on the map. I want to see the moors where the people in Wuthering Heights haunted each other. And Bath, where the Jane Austen people took vacations. And Stonehenge! Can we go to Stonehenge?

My daughter laughs and reminds me that there's a ton of things to do in London. Hyde Park is right across the street from her apartment and where she goes to school is next door to the British Museum. But keep looking for other things that interest you too, she says.

I order books from my library right away. The latest Rick Steves' England 2020 and London 2020 because I love Rick Steves. When I went to Prague with my friend Lisa, I read her entire Rick Steves' Prague and the Czech Republic to see what kinds of things Lisa had planned for us.

Side note, I never plan trips and I am happy to let other people take the lead. My husband is the total trip-planner in our family, and he has gotten it down to an art, complete with excel spreadsheets of the daily itinerary, sights to see, hotels, gas mileage.

But back to Rick Steves and why I love him, because one Monday morning, when Lisa and I were on our way to visit a castle, after she had negotiated the complicated train ticket transactions (based on Rick Steves' advice) and gotten us off one train and onto another much smaller one, (also with Rick's help) I read the chapter on the castle and noticed the disclaimer that the place was closed on Mondays.

But no matter. Rick Steves helped us out there too, with a description of the only cafe in town and the hiking trails in the area. He really does think of everything.

Another reason why I love him is because I heard him speak when he came to Columbus last year. My library and all of the other libraries in the area organized a visit and I dragged my husband downtown and we got to hear about Rick's various trips around the world and how you should always step off the beaten tourist track and mingle with the locals, and when you do that, you'll see what's the same about people and not buy into the crap the politicians want you to believe about Others. Also, always try the local food.

While I was waiting for his books, I checked out the audio book of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, which is about his life as an American living in and traveling around England. I listened to the book while I painted the master bedroom in our new-old house, getting excited all over again about going to places like Dover Beach and then crossing Dover Beach off the list because Bill Bryson said it wasn't that great of a place to visit. But that was in the 1970s when he visited, so who knows. I would need to check with Rick Steves.

But by the time his books did come in, there were rumblings about a virus and people started asking me if I was still going on my trip, and I assured them I was, and I would bring a lot of hand-sanitizer and cleaning wipes with me. And then I'd make a joke about how nothing was going to keep me from seeing my daughter, and also, haha, I want to stay in the apartment my husband and I have in London.

About that apartment: when our daughter got into her grad program, we told her we'd help with the living expenses and that turned into renting an apartment for a year. I got such a kick out of telling people I had an apartment in London and if they were planning a visit, they could stay there, in our apartment.

Which I know sounds like bragging, but the truth is, every time I said something about the apartment in London, I would think: we have an apartment in London? Because how crazy is that?

Meanwhile my daughter got us tickets to see Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theater and planned our two-day trip to Bath, and I was trying to find hand sanitizer and not finding any in the stores and researching how to make my own...

The flight, after quite a few changes, left early this morning. Without me on it.

While I chat with my daughter online, she takes a picture of her lunch set out on the balcony of (our!?!?) apartment. It's a lovely warm day in London and she's allowed one walk in the park across the street.

She'll give me a call later when she takes it.