Monday, April 27, 2020

A Drive in the Country

Yesterday, I unboxed a lot of books and organized others to put back in storage. Mostly stuff from college, or Doug's graduate school textbooks, which we do not need to have out. But you better believe my copies of everything by Sir Michael Palin, and all the P.G. Wodehouse is now on display. Our house looks much more like what I love seeing.  

Doug had accused me (he said jokingly) of having a "pathological desire to show people how smart I am" by having the books all out. 

I felt really hurt by that, because first of all, we never have anyone over - we don't have scads of friends or strangers coming here to lookitey lou all up at my bounded up papery things, so that's straight up raggedy nonsense. Thanks.

Second of all, I don't have to put books on display to show people how smart I am, they just know. 

And third, I just like my damn books, okay? I like seeing them. I love seeing their spines, bold titles in specific prints. I don't organize them by categories or colors or height - I put them all together in a hodgepodge collection. Bibles, dictionaries, Pynchon, WWI battle history, cookbooks and The Onion... they're all here for me

I only have one or two authors where I've kept their books all together - they just look bad ass together on the shelf. 

Going through the boxes in the basement, I've made more of a mess than I intended. Many boxes were pulled out of storage that are not only books, so they are being sorted through, purged (taxes from 1988? Okay I think I can burn you now). Baby things and kid art that need to be pulled into one box together instead of interspersed with empty printer cartridges and dead flashlights. 

The book project leads to the purification project. And I'm okay with that. 

After working on this both Saturday and Sunday, and just being in my moment and zone for a couple of solid hours each day, Doug suggested yesterday that we just go somewhere. It was about 3pm, too late to drive to the coast and look at the ocean. So he got out a map and picked a destination to our north, not too far away. Our destination was the Azalea Garden and Brighton Dam at the Triadelphia Reservoir. 

We found the place alright but all the parking was blocked off, and the recreation area was closed. No Azaleas for us! We drove north along the reservoir, hoping to find somewhere that you could just kind of drive up and look at the water, but all the trail heads are a bit away from the waterfront, and every one was closed and blocked off. 

It was drizzling, we drove further north and up across Interstate 70. It was woodsy, and green, still felt like very early spring even though we are deep in April coming up to May. This time last year it was hot and sultry, and so far this year we are still socked in with cold damp weather. But it was all my favorite colors of green, and showing the promises of the warmth to come, which will make everything explode into life. 

We were gone a couple hours, prepared with our bandana face coverings should we decide to go somewhere or something. But there's nothing to go to, and it just felt weird to be out with nowhere to go and nothing to do, see, touch. 

Still, it was outside of my house, outside of our many walls, and the boxes of books were waiting for me. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Saturday where we discuss the attributes of pieces of furniture

Doug thought about us taking a drive today. He pitched the idea around 1pm, I told him I'd be game. I wanted to drive over to look at the ocean in like Annapolis or up to Bel Air or something. And then he said "that's just cloud talk."

We could take a ride somewhere, but everything we would want to do is closed, including some of the hiking paths we like.

Or, if they aren't closed, they are going to be so full of people that I don't want to be anywhere near them.  And in the end that kind of depresses me. We can't just get in the car, drive up to look around say Gettysburg or over to Front Royal, and then swing into a restaurant for a bite to eat. If anything, you can get take out, but if you're 2 hours from home, that's awkward. And you're not allowed to stop and picnic anywhere so what's the point.

Staying at home is what we turned our minds to.

 I'd been asking him to help me with assembling a bookcase for a couple of weeks. After our cloud talk about a drive around, he started poking at the shelves.

We have a nice cabinet that my friend Lita gave us when she moved, it didn't come apart and wasn't going to fit in her car. So it has been sitting unloved in a corner for almost a year now. With the bookcase pieces on top of it.

We determined that the 3 ft high shelf, with the 1x4 block bookcase, and then the 6ft tall bookcase next to it would look incredibly stupid lined up that way, and would not fit in the space.

The 1x4 shelf is about 7 inches too long to just sit on top of the cabinet sideways, which would have worked in the space and brought the cabinet height up closer to the top of the tall bookshelf.

We tried a couple of different arrangements, and now the 1x4 bookcase is still unassembled, and the 6ft case is in the dining room, where I can't quite see it as it is kind of weirdly positioned. It had a twin, but Geoff took it to his room and is fond of it, doesn't want to trade it for the 1x4 unit. Doug wanted to argue with him about it and I waved him off. I don't care enough, and really, I could buy another one for cheap from Ikea.

 We turned our attention back to the cabinet, and it looked more than a bit lost against the large white wall, it really needed something beside it.

There was an empty short bookcase in the basement that I had Geoff bring up. I want to paint it to match the cabinet ("I see a brown book case, I want to paint it blaaaaaack").  Height wise they're closer together, it still isn't perfect looking but I will like it much better when there are things on it.

And the 1x4 bookcase that I wanted help assembling is still unassembled. The irony is delicous.

Also I just realized you can see my dumb feet in the glass of the cabinet door. I always laugh when I look at realtor pictures and they are caught in the reflection of the bathroom mirror or something.

Doug wants to get a good "interesting" lamp for the top of the cabinet. So when we are allowed out in the world again, we'll find something. It's actually the nicest piece of furniture we own and it deserves to be adorned with a lamp of fine style.

I like furniture that is kind of "shabby chic," as it were. Camp or farmhouse style. I am not a fan of too fancy. Things get damaged, and then I feel horrible. I remember when we bought our bedroom set new, and Brodie used the footboard for puppy teething and shredded it. I kept a comforter draped over the foot of the bed so I would not see that, and it still bums me out.

Where the 6ft bookcase landed, there used to be a coat rack. It has been the battle of a lifetime for me to get people to use the coat rack instead of the back of the couch, or, like Geoff does, the top of the dining table.

Seriously, son. The top of the dining table is not where you put your coat.

The coat rack is now going to the basement, and all the coats are in the coat closet. And in the fall/winter I will return to my major grind of lecturing people to put their fucking coats in the fucking coat closet or at least on the back of a dining room chair.

My sister has been doing online karaoke with something called smule, and she wants me to join her. I am kind of like... no. Not interested. Don't want to. But she begs and cajoles. I may have to give in just to get her to stop.

Who knows, maybe I'll have fun? But for the most part I'm not feeling it.

Doug mowed the lawn and then also did a couple little projects of gluing some chairs back together, he discovered the gorilla glue I got, and found some other glue, and basically did his own little project. I'm proud of him. Maybe I'm an inspiration!

He's out for a walk now, so I'm going to use this time to vacuum. Hope your day is going well. Leave a comment if you're here. It says I get like 60 visits a day but no one ever says Hi. To quote Aaron Mahnke, "I like it when people say hi."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Little Projects Continue

Still cranking a way on projects.

This weekend, I completely scrubbed the kitchen floor. It started out as a little project, I was just going to sweep and maybe mop. But it quickly turned into a very big one.

While getting the floor swept, I noted our lower cabinets were kind of gross. I really noticed it when I came up one day from the back porch chill space, up the 4 steps into the kitchen as the morning sunlight was coming through the porch and up the stairs. Ugh.

White Ikea cabinets, man. They show every fleck of shit, and I hate them.

After sweeping the floor, and before I got the mop out, I ended up on my hands and knees (well, my butt really) with a toothbrush and toothpick scraping out the gaps and getting out all the crumbs and dog hair, and scrubbing the cabinet and drawer fronts to the point where it looked like the day we moved in.

What's on deck in little project land? 

1. I found some saved beer coasters from breweries we've been to, or from bars with craft beers. Several of the ones from Boston were in bad shape, so I pitched them and emailed Jess to ask them to be on the lookout.

In my brain I have a plan for a piece of reclaimed wood from the bottom of the box that my oven was delivered in, and a bunch of twine. I'm envisioning a grown up baby mobile of beer coasters. I even had Geoff buy me a hole punch so I could do the twine thing I want to do. I thought I had a lot more from the local Maryland breweries, but am not sure where those got to. I'll be looking through some drawers as part of the ongoing cleaning process.

2. I still have a few things in back porch chill space to do. The ladder has to get put away, some boxes need cleaned up. But this spot is coming along nicely. I am very happy to have this space!

3. There is a pile of things that need mended and sewn, including my beloved yoga pants! I'd replace them online at LL Bean, but they don't make these anymore (curses!) I found my sewing kit in a box, and am very happy to have it. I can fix buttons on shorts for both Doug and me, see if Geoff needs anything fixed. I've lost enough weight that my capri pants from the past couple of years could use just a little tuck in at the waistline, and I think I can manage that. In the other entry, I mentioned Geoff's pajama pants, but those are going into the fabric recycle bag. Maybe even the trash. They're too far gone.

4. I want to pull everything out of the spice cabinet, and reorganize it. Someone had put a honey bear into the cabinet upside down to get all the honey to the top, and that leaked everywhere, so my little basket where I keep the regularly used spices got stuck to the shelf. Even the little jars of spices all need to be washed. 

5. The pantry needs to be reorganized.

6. While I finished the cleaning off of the top of my bureau, there were several little boxes that were on the top that need sorted through. All kinds of treasures in there. We may even find beer coasters.

7. And then we can move to the basement.

8. I need Doug to finish building an Ikea bookshelf for me, then I can use Geoff's pent up bored energy to get boxes brought upstairs that I can unpack. That'll be a major victory!

My sights are set to those points so far, we'll get there, we'll get there.

40 days and 40 nights did it rain, children

Today is day 40 of my company's work from home policy. I took a vacation day today. I needed a break. Initially, my boss was very strongly encouraging everyone to take time off for sanity. I pooh-poohed it, saying I didn't want to "burn" my vacation time.

I have enough vacation time, and 10 personal hours, so I can use them. I'm not in a position where I need to use my vacation and/or sick time to get below the use it or lose it threshold that we have, but I could use a day of peace and quiet.

One of my tasks lately has been to proofread a book for my buddy Matt, and I'm literally combing through the last go through, 3 pages from the end. I have a tendency to try and squeeze an hour here or there, but working from home has made me feel like I'm always at the computer so I then do not feel like working.

I also need to find out why I can't get Adobe Acrobat reader on this computer - it is saying it's not allowed for download. I prefer to do my walk-throughs on Matt's books in Reader.

Technology. pfth. frustrating.

Another thing I've been trying to do is carve out time with a woman I met through the Guster fan group who mentioned that she taught herself ASL when she was in her early teens, and she uses it regularly in life, at the pre-school she works at, and with friends she has made through the years. I've always wanted to learn ASL, so I hit her up to see if she could teach me. She's given me some great handouts, we've met in person twice, and I'm pretty good with the alphabet (except the letter R which I can't seem to get my fingers to cross on, stupid old lady fingers), some basic questions, emotions, colors, numbers.

It is also nice to talk to someone not work related once in a while. And she's lovely.

One of the things I've been doing a little bit of is online shopping. I hate shopping in the first place, but we can't go buy things. I got Geoff some new pajama pants. I was going to sew them because I'm all about trying to use what you got... but his pjs are in really horrible condition. Threadbare and not just torn. So out you go. The one problem is I don't know if I bought him flannel ones or straight up cotton ones because I can't see them and touch them. He doesn't care, he told me. So he'll be happy.

I bought new Teva flip flops, and it was buy one get one free. So now I have a my super old ones for getting pedicures, and 2 new pairs for looking fly after the pedicures. And I bought a pair of teva sandals, but I'm not in love with the insides. But I don't feel like returning them, and they fit, and the old ones are barely good enough for water wear anymore. So I'm happy to have these.

I keep looking at tops and blouses online, but again, I hate online shopping if I can't see it/touch it beforehand.

Doug and I were talking about all these car commercials for buy your car online and we'll bring it to you, and I'm like "who would want to do that? I need to test drive that baby." He said that for people who maybe are familiar with specific models that they like, or rent a lot of cars for business travel, they may already know what make/model they want. I gave him that, but I'm still not convinced about buying a car off a website.

He said, they always say you can return it in 7 days... so I guess that's my test drive if I were to do that.

I've been thinking a lot about this whole work from home thing. I'm incredibly happy to have it. One of my former co-workers from 20 years ago mentioned to me that when we worked together I wanted to telecommute. I had all of the resources, a computer, two monitors, good internet, and was told the college didn't support that.

But look at us all now. Well, almost all of us. So much can be done from home, I truly hope that the thing that is learned from all of this is that your employees do not have to come into the building every day. Every. Day.

For a year, when we moved down here, Doug worked for a company in Baltimore that had a mandatory everyone in the building policy for on Mondays, and possibly Tuesdays if clients were coming through. Wednesday through Friday he was home. Other people were Tuesday through Thursday telecommuting.

No one was in the building on Thursday.  The company owner said they saved so much money on electric, water, everything, by having people not be in the building. Desk spaces were all shared so they had X amount of seats, nothing assigned, you just came in and sat somewhere. This way, they could manage the head-count in building and not have twice the amount of cubicle or office space that the amount of staff would take up on a regular basis.

At the holiday party that year, Doug was amazed to see how many people worked for this company. There were teams he never interfaced with. People he only knew from conference calls.

He had two coworkers who lived in Gettysburg. They would drive down on Sunday night and stay at a friend's condo in Baltimore. Work Monday, sometimes Tuesday, and head back north home. They loved it. I don't know that I could sustain doing that all the time, but it is only about an hour drive, especially the way they timed it, and heck, I drove in and out of Boston daily for a long time and that seemed like nothing. Highway speeds instead of sitting on Rte 1 by the giant cactus... I think I could do that.

And now look at us, where we are, everyone in yoga pants or with questionable facial hair (hat tip to my friend Tommy who is showcasing his "Trash Stache" in instagram) and home-done haircuts.

In all seriousness though, one or two departments where I work give people all the sky they need for work from home, mine does not. And we were allowed to keep our one-day-a-week work from home day because my boss said it was a hill she would die on.

Realizing, of course, I do a lot more work at home than I do in the office. In the office, I get a little ADD. I go to meetings in person, I walk around a lot, I walk to the cafe, I go outside for strolls, I play pokemon with the gang. Here, I roll out of bed and start working with that first cup of coffee in my face, and sometimes do not stop until 2pm. Maybe I make lunch, maybe Doug makes it. I don't go for a walk. My fitbit thinks I am dead. I take the dog outside, and she does her thing and we come back in.

I stop working after 6. Maybe I work a little more after dinner because it is there.

The return on investment for me working here is probably pretty high. So, once my state or DC decide to "open" again, I'm not really itching to go back. I like this.

I just wish I could go get a pedicure. I ran out of nail polish remover the last time I had a pedi, so I have this blue nail polish that has all but grown out of all my toenails, save for the big toe. It's flip flop weather almost, and here I am looking at 1/4th of each toe, lookin dumb.

But, all in due time. All in due time. I am willing to wait.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Little Projects of Operation Yoga Pants

Today is Monday, April 13th. Day 32 of Operation Yoga Pants. Allegedly, my office is supposed to reopen April 27th but I truly doubt that will be happening. I'm very happy working from home. This entire month has gone alright for me, no real frustrations with work, no real frustrations with being here. Doug is here too, but Geoff is an "essential employee," and he has to go to work nightly.

I decided at the start of the work from home period that I was going to undertake tasks and duties that needed to be done. I call them The Little Projects. It is keeping me sane. I still have a lot of projects that I want to get to, but this is the rundown of most of the things done so far.

  • Cleaning out the back porch to make into an officeier space but also a Cool Zone chill space for hanging out, now we need patio furniture! 
  • rebuilding the desk/table for a good place to sit
  • hanging up the map of Essex County we've been schlepping around for like 25 years (Doug found it in the trash at the college he worked at, and it has been with us since)

  • building the smaller table to put the BBQ items on to get them off the floor, and this very small piano bench we have, because it gets wet down there in the rain and the piano bench can be put to better use elsewhere in the house
  • attend to the spider plants, repot the ones that need it, and take the babies off and put into water to grow more. Picture 1 is my new office mate Pete the plant, with my coconut drink holder from Kowloon in Saugus, MA. They're my pals!

    And you can see one of my plants really had grown itself into a frenzy, so I hope it is doing much better in the new pot.

  • hang up everything that belongs in my closet instead of draping it across the footboard of the bed
  • clean off the top of my bureau

  • clean the floor and my bedside table
  • sort through the boxes on top of my bureau to find all kinds of cool treasures

  • sort all the pillow cases (I had dozens of them for some reason, no sheets matching them, ) and give the ones worth of becoming PPEs to someone local who was making them

  • hang up lights in the back porch to make it more fun

  • find the computer monitor, and order an adapter so it can work with my mac and I can do more things for work at one time (notice the awesome Gusterness for the two screens

  • fold and put away all the laundry, twice
  • wash the dog & trim her nails
  • vacuum (2x so far)
  • clean the bathroom (2x so far)
And then there is Sunday's little project. 

I set out to go through my bureau and take out all the clothes I do not wear, and put them in storage if I wanted to keep them, or pitch them if they needed pitched. 

I pulled all the socks and underwear out first. There is one big drawer that most of the socks and underwear fit in, and then four thinner drawers that don't hold as much so I had a bathing suit, a ton of scarves,  tourist memorabilia from trips we've taken. Another had my jewelry box and other miscellaneous and sundry items like bandanas which we can use to put over our faces if we go to the store (a new county ordinance is everyone needs to cover their face when shopping, but we own no masks). 

Back when we had to move out of our brown house after losing it to the bank in 2013, Doug, Geoff, and Thane were loading up the rental van with things to move to the new place. We had a table in the upstairs bathroom, and the drawer fell out of it in the driveway when it was put onto the van. They picked everything up, put it all back in the drawer, but a while later when getting organized, I noticed that my wedding ring was missing. 

Well, half of it was missing. It was a two part ring that fitted together, a big stone and a wee stone on one band, and a wee stone in the other band.  I hadn't worn it since 1998, after I had Geoff, and put on a lot of weight. The bigger part with the "engagement diamond" was the part that was missing. And that was the super saddest part. If the smaller part was missing I think I would  have been almost okay with it but still disappointed in myself for losing it.

I searched and searched, and later when the house was sold to a developer, at the closing I asked him to be on the lookout in case it slipped out into the hardwood floors, or the ground covering beside the back door. I'd gone back to the driveway and searched a few times, I just never found it, and was convinced it was still there. 

I never heard from the developer, after he gutted the place of all its colonial charm and redid the hardwood floors and put gap filler between the planks.

Going through my drawers on Sunday afternoon, I found something that belonged in my jewelry box, so I opened it and put it away, noticing the small part of the ring in there, lonely. I felt that sting of not knowing what ever happened to the other piece. 

I then moved some items out of the drawer, and found the memory card from my Aunt's funeral in 2015. Oh hello, Auntie. Nice to see you on this Easter Sunday in your pretty hat.

I lifted up the card, and there, under it, was the other half of my ring. 

I could have cried. Honestly could have cried. Slipped the rings onto my pinkie, the only finger they fit on anymore, and smiled. 

Thanks for protecting it, Auntie. This was a nice surprise.

Now, if I can find Doug's wedding ring... that'd be an extra special thing!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

What I am seeing

I live in a diverse neighborhood. Black, white, latinx, east Asian.

New Yorkers.

Old folks and families with little kids. It truly runs the gamut.

I live at a 4 way intersection. In the last two and a half years, I've gotten to know the neighbors alright but not like immersively. On cordial terms, but not besties.

Across the street to the west, there's Pat. She is a widow, her husband was a photographer for National Geographic before he got Alzheimers, and it eventually took him. She told me stories about how everyone in the neighborhood and the mail carriers all knew him, and if he got too far afield on a walk, they'd steer him home or call her. She only works a few miles away, so she could come back and fetch him if necessary.

Eventually he had to go to assisted living. She still has all his pictures and memorabilia in the basement.

I know her the best because she used to have Geoff dog sit for her, and our first Christmas time here she hosted a cookie swap, and I met some other people but I've never seen any of them since.

When Geoff started working the late shift, she switched to having the high school girls on her other side sit come to take care of the dog. The dog's name is Oliver. He's a little sausage of a Jack Russell Terrier. I adore him.

Pat is a nurse, semi-retired but not really. She and I were talking in the fall about a day trip up to New York City to go see a Broadway show. I really want to see Hadestown. I was going to ask her if she wanted to do that with me come this summer.

We talked about this in the "Beforetimes" as my friend Rakiesha calls it. She has a boyfriend. He has a really nice car. That's all I know about him.

We've got Tony and Betsy to the north, and I got to know them because of Pat. Last summer, she was getting ready for a three week vacation to Mongolia with the boyfriend. They also would be riding the Trans Siberian Railroad to eventually get to St. Petersburg. Trip of a lifetime.

Tony and Betsy were expecting a baby, and Pat gave them my phone number, in case of emergency. Tony's in the Navy. Betsy is also a nurse. Pat was worried that Tony would be deployed right when the baby was due, so she wanted Betsy to have a person. I was happy to be person on deck.

They are a year or so older than Jess, which blows my mind. Tony likes craft beer, so when we travel we bring some back for him and he does for us. He really likes Jam Bands, so we've talked a lot about concerts. I told them my favorite band was Guster, so he went and looked them up. Betsy said "oh yeah, that Satellite song was huge with our friends when I was in high school."

When... you... were in ... high school. Hashtag I'm the old lady next door.

Their baby, Jodi, will be 1 at the end of June. Tony was not deployed, so Pat's fears were unfounded but it was nice to get to know them, and of everyone around they're the closest to friendly neighbor-like friends I've made.

Today I was thinking about baby's firsts, and this would be her baby's first Easter. Supposed to be a photo-worthy day with some plastic eggs, some fluffy fake chicks, maybe a super cute little dress. Instead, daddy is working nights and coming home to sleep at 7am. Mommy is walking around the yard in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, holding the baby wrapped in a cute and appropriate fleecy baby blankie, looking at the new tulips that just came up this week.

Behind Tony and Betsy, there's a black family. I have only ever met the dad once, and that was when I moved in. He's a very large, imposing human, and I think his name may be Kumonte or Kubonte. I'm bad with names until I talk to people several times (see Pat, Tony, and Betsy above) I've had little opportunity to speak with them. There's the aforementioned dad, mom, grandma, the little cute girl aged between 7-9 I think, and a giant german shepherd that barks all day long out in the back yard when no one is home. I know they are all pretty much home now, like the rest of us, because the dog has been completely silent for weeks.

I do know the dog's name is Taz because he's been yelled for when he's out in the yard.

They go to church every Sunday, and I see them piling into the mini-van. They dress nice for Sunday services. Grandma always has the best hats.

Black Church, as Rakiesha and I have discussed over the years, has a certain look. I knew it from growing up (and I've been to a lot of Black Church and I love it).

You have to look it when you are the grandma, for sure. The "Aunties" in the church all have the very perfect Sunday Sensibilities. It always makes me smile.

Today, they were sitting on the porch (except dad, not sure where he was), and they were dressed for church. I don't know if they went to church, or just dressed for church to dress for church. To keep things normal. The little girl had on this adorable maroon flared top with maroon leggings, her hair done perfectly, and mom and grandma had on great hats. The dog was having a great time running around the girl, as she tried to set up a towel on the lawn to sit out on.

Catty corner from us is a Latinx family, there are a lot of children, a few adults. They all work all hours. I think mom does housecleaning, she's always putting cleaning gear in the trunk. They are very quiet, don't spend a lot of time outside. I see them mostly when dad and some other men are working on cars in the driveway. The only thing I really have ever noticed is they put a lot of trash out on Monday night. It is noticeable.

Behind me there is an older couple. I have not seen them in a month. I think they must have a second home, and they went there when all this started to go down.

Their landscapers have been here twice, and that's been the only sign of life. Usually if they're gone a couple of days, there's a guy Geoff's age, maybe a little younger, who comes to feed the cat. But I do believe they took the cat with, wherever it is. In my mind I'm thinking they probably have an Eastern Shore place. They look like people who'd have an Eastern Shore place. They also look like the type of people who wouldn't invite neighbors to their Eastern Shore place.

South of us there is Anna. And there was Bob.  Bob was very old, and when we moved in I thought they were husband and wife.

One day right before Halloween, Bob fell down coming up the steps after they got out of a taxi.  I happened to be outside, so I ran over to help. We got Bob upright, and I said something to Anna about "your husband." She looked at me and said "oh, he's not my husband."

"Are you his caretaker?" I asked.

"You could say that," she answered.

She had dropped the bags of groceries she'd been carrying, so I offered to bring it all in while she tended to Bob. She told me no, and Bob uttered the same. I offered to put everything up safely on the porch while she got him inside, and they accepted that.

Each Sunday they'd go by taxi up to the market. I offered to drive but Anna told me they liked the taxi.

I could hardly imagine why.

Taxi drivers would pull up to the house, lay on the horn, wait 30 seconds and leave. I had to only think she was calling them back repeatedly when this would happen. One day, a taxi driver was out there honking the horn over and over, so I went out in my slippers, and told him to knock it off, they'd be out when they could.

"They're old, dude. And slow. So give them a minute, they hear you, and so does the whole neighborhood so give my ears a break." And sure enough right then Anna opened the door to help Bob down the steps, and I fired the "See, I told you so" face at the taxi driver.

When Bob was feeling spry, I would see them go up to the bus stop. It frightened me to think that they had to cross 6 lanes of traffic with a very short pedestrian light to get to the northbound side of the bus route, this area is notorious for pedestrian deaths, even at well lit crosswalks. Somehow they always made it.

Around St. Patrick's day, in the Beforetimes, Anna was walking down the sidewalk alone. Doug and I were out in the garden planting bulbs, and she stopped to tell us how much she loved the daffodils in the yard (they are pretty nice). I asked her if Bob was okay, and she shook her head.

"He died in January," she told me. I was surprised and felt guilty for not paying more attention, but I am not the type to be all up in people's faces. And I'd heard plenty of taxi horns beeping, and had pretty much believed it was business as usual.

I told her that I was sorry, and she told me not to be, that she was "free" now. She then told me a long, wild, unbelievable story about their situation that is better saved for some other day.

The neighborhood is very quiet lately. There are people out for walks with their families. Sometimes people see two fat white folks walking up the street playing Pokemon Go (that's yours truly and Mr. yours truly). Sometimes they have an old, addled, elderly dog with them. Sometimes he's walking alone without the wife or the dog.

That's happening right now, so I can have a moment of solitude, and write this post.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

At the Grocery Store in the time of Coronavirus

For about 3 weeks, I didn't have any alcohol.

Not to brag or anything, but continuing to try and lose weight, I know that wine or beer are empty pointless calories, and that I'm not getting my steps in as heartily as I was before things changed.

Last Sunday though, I really wanted a glass of wine. Very much so. Just. Some Pinot Grigio from a big black box.

County liquor stores were closed, and I wasn't sure if our usual beer and wine store was open. But we have a little supermarket in town that has beer and wine. After debating if I should go out or not, we realized that we needed cheese for the chili Doug was making. I volunteered to go out.

I didn't wear a face mask, don't have one. And I didn't put a bandana across my face. The cashiers and employees at the market were not covered up, but the registers have plexiglass separating the customer from the till.

Aisles are supposed to be one way but were not clearly marked. I got to the wine aisle and there was a couple shopping. Taking forever. I stood and waited for them to pick their wine, and eventually they noticed I was waiting to come down the aisle. A woman came down the other end of the aisle, not caring that they were there. I sighed and waited for all three to clear out so I could go get my big box of wine.

Get two, I told myself. Who knows when I'll be able to come back out.

I got Fritos for the chili for Geoff, because he likes that. And shredded cheese.

Then I hit the beer aisle.

This little market has a great selection of local craft beers, so I was happy to grab a few six-packs of the locals. I kept my distance from a young black man, tall and thin in a white tank top and baseball hat resting askew on his head. He had a black bandana across his face and looked at me as I pulled some Oscar brewing company beer off the shelf.

"Excuse me, ma'am?" he asked putting his hand up in a "whoa" kind of gesture, an assurance that everything is okay. "I don't want to freak you out, like, I'm wearing a bandana and stuff but I have a question."

I looked at him and smiled, no bandana on my face. "You're not freaking me out, in this the age of the virus and all that, I know exactly what you're wearing that for and it's cool. What can I help you with?"

"That beer you picked up," he gestured to the shelf. "Is that a good one?"

He explained that he's trying to get "more into local craft beers," but they're kind of expensive so he didn't want to waste money on something and not like it.

Oh honey, you asked the right strange old lady about beer. I told him I hadn't tried it yet, it was a new release. "What kind of beers do you like? Are you into really strong flavors, hoppy beers, stouts, fruity gose beers?"

"I'm not sure yet," he laughed. I asked if he liked things like Sam Adams and he said he did. So I pointed him to a local beer that was a nice ale, and another IPA that wasn't too hoppy with a good flavor.

I showed him the ABV percentages, the three different Dogfish Head beers at their "hours" corresponding with their alcohol content. I explained what an APA, NEPA, and DIPA were. I said the fruity summer beers were coming out, the shandy styles and the nice berry gose sours were good for the summer.

"These are expensive," he mentioned. I agreed, and laughed. They are.

"They aren't for chugging, or party beers if your goal is to drink a lot. A DIPA will get you there faster, but what you can do is buy some of these good ones to start and then move on to lame beers like Bud or whatever to keep the party rolling.

He laughed and picked up two sixes of the locals. I told him when this all blows over he should go up to the wonderful Brew Belly, or up further to Olney to the Beer Farm or up to Waredaca and watch the horses run while enjoying one of their great beers.

You can tell when someone is smiling.

I actually thought of saying "Are you on Untappd? Want to be beer friends?" But I thought that would be crossing a line, even for me.

I put a lot of beer into the cart, with the wine, and then 4 bottles of their cheap discount reds that Doug likes.

"You having a party?" he asked. Nope. Just ... being prepared.

We waved goodbye, and I was happy to help him.

I started thinking about how he opened the conversation though, and then I felt incredibly bad that he had to preface his question with assuring me that he wasn't going to kill or rob me. It swept over me, I was really bummed out that it is literally so hard to be a young black man, or heck any POC at all sometimes, in the first place and not to mention the whole "I have a covering on my face to protect me" thing.

I really wanted to go back and ask him to be friends but again did the whole "That's weird even for YOU" speech to myself.

I hope he liked the beer.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

The New Normal, doesn't have to stay this way

This time of year is when we've got things buttoned up for what we're going to do for our anniversary.

June 1st is a good time to celebrate a wedding. Not a lot of things are in full season yet. We have taken some lovely trips, especially when we lived north of Boston. A favorite was our trip to Quebec City and Montreal for number 25.

This is number 29, which still kind of blows my mind. 

As much as I'd love a long weekend in a cabin in Vermont, or yet a tour up to Prince Edward Island, there is a great deal to discover down here and I need to kind of embrace that. The whole first year here I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything. I was far more depressed than I ever wanted to let on. A couple of trips to Annapolis, and down to Charlottesville and poking around up to Gettysburg have given me renewed interest in the area.

Doug had suggested we head into the mountains of West Virginia. He had his eye on New River Gorge and that area and had found a couple interesting Air BnB spots. One was attached to a barn so the animals were right literally next to your head. I wondered if it was a stinky or noisy option, albeit gorgeous and pastoral based on the photos.

West Virginia also supplied a convenient way for us to go away but also still be able to get to Western Pennsylvania too. Doug's aunt Mae passed away a few months ago, and the family had all decided to wait until good weather for a gathering and for her funeral (she was cremated, which makes that wait easier). So heading into West Virginia was a great idea.

We were going to head out May 30th, stay somewhere like Charlottesville, Lynchburg, something along that side of the mountains, and spend our anniversary where there are nice restaurants or a fancy something.  Not that I don't think there's fancy something in West Virginia, but I think it gets rural fast, and a roadside Waffle House on the highway near Beckley isn't my idea of 29th Anniversary Quality.

From somewhere in Virginia, we'd continue to the Gorge  via Beckley, stay a day or two at some barn cottage or rock cabin. Then head to the north, to Ohio, maybe Columbus or something, and then over to the homeland north of Pittsburgh for the family gathering on June 6th.

I don't know that we're going anywhere or doing anything at this point.

I'm not crushed or depressed or freaking out over this, I'm slightly disappointed because I haven't gone on a nice trip or vacation in a while. I'd have to go back and look through things but I think the conference in New Orleans was the most travel I had in the last year. Thankful for that, and for that time.

Work has been busy but not unmanageable. I'm not under pressure to do MORE MORE MORE the way I feel some of my colleagues are. I am feeling balanced and healthy mentally. I use my little projects to get through my days with some semblance of home vs. work and a balance thereof. 

But I want to do neither of those things for a little while. I want to do no house little projects, and no work, and just go somewhere different for a bit. And I wanted to do that with Doug. And right now I feel like if we're able to get Thai take out for June 1, it'll be a miracle.

I'm listening to people bemoan things like this or actually freak out over them. I've watched my friends' kids absolutely losing their minds because Senior Weekend is canceled.

I think as a nation our coping mechanisms are being tested hard, and our expectations of what we deserve and getting what we want no matter what are being taxed.

Another friend who is a therapist for battered women had recently said that when people are freaking out about things, they are grieving. They are in mourning. I get that. I do. But I also am thinking I'm not Anne Frank sitting in a wall for two years unable to speak aloud. I'm not in a bunker in London hoping for some great leadership speech from Churchill.

There has to be a balance. Missing Senior Weekend or having your graduation ceremony and "walking" canceled sucks really bad, but some things cannot be helped right now and your reaction, our reaction, has to be a little bit stronger, tougher, and better.

It's okay. You're okay. I'm okay. We're okay. We're going to make it. I believe we will. There are things we are totally going to miss out on, landmarks and touchpoints of what we expect as human developments. But look to the next one and say "I'm hopeful for the future.

Everyone is referring to this as the New Normal, but I don't think it is the way life is going to be forever. I don't think there is going to be a time in the future where once again I'm counting rolls of toilet paper to make sure I know kind of how much we've got left. I believe I'll go back to work at my office. I don't think this normal is here to stay.

I think that some mental adjustments need to be made to living this way now, but I also think some adjustments need to be made when we do go back to the way it was before. I think being more aware and listening better needs to happen. I think responsiveness by ourselves and our government needs to improve.

I think taking things for granted will hopefully no longer be a thing, and I can look at planning Year 30's trip with a joyful heart.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Riding On The Metro

I take the DC Metro to work, usually.

These days, my commute is free, I can usually sleep until 8:30 instead of sitting on the couch, dressed, ready and pre-work working while waiting for Doug to get ready.

The DC metro has been reliable, if not kind of dingy and dirty.

I mean, Boston's T is kind of super filthy in some places (hello, Red Line Downtown Crossing...). But I've found that aside from the occasional service outage, or the work they've done where they have to close actual stations and provide shuttle buses (hello 90-120 minute commutes!)  it's pretty reliable.

I can be at my Metro stop at 9am (because always late since Doug drops me off as I'm too lazy to walk), and at my desk at 9:30, or 9:45 if I take my time and play Pokemon Go while walking from my metro stop to my office. It's not a bad deal. It's about 3.50 each way.

I listen to podcasts. I listen to music, and sometimes I listen to life around me.

Sometimes in DC it is best to not tune it all out and have the earbuds shoved in good and the sound cranked up. I've seen some assaults, I've heard some fights, I've maintained my distance safely, I've always hoped for the best for the parties involved, or I've been personally relieved when I see someone else calling for help because I fear for my human form sometimes.

I've talked to strangers, I've had some great conversations. I've ridden to work with co-workers, sleepy and not yet ready for the day. I've come home late. I've used the metro to go to shows downtown instead of driving into the city and dealing with parking.

I like the newer cars, all silver and shiny. I groan a little bit when the old models come around.

In the newer cars, I like to sit right by the door, where the giant windows aren't flooding my face with the sunlight, and giving me a headache. I know that sitting way toward the front of the train on the way to work gets me dropped off at the top of the stairs at my destination stop. I know on the way home, sitting three cars back gets me right across from the tunnel to head to the elevators at my home stop.

I've gotten to know the system.

In the past few days I've been thinking about the Metro, and the not riding it, and the not going to work. I've been thinking about all the people that I haven't seen. And I've been thinking of once we're back on the Metro, and how I'm looking forward to seeing the humans.

I very much want to look at everyone and say "How are we doing? Are y'all okay? So good to see you here!" I want to make eye contact, and see smiles. I want to hear sighs of relief that we're all going to be okay.

It's going to be okay.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

When this is all over...

My dog paces the house and stops on the side of the bed to "tell" me that she needs to go out. She doesn't issue any whimpers or whines, but her feet stomping like a herd of hippos on the hardwood floors alway wakes me up. Usually she will just give up and go back to her doggie bed and flop down. Last night, well, last night was different.

We had an epic adventure at 3am, wherein she had an accident and wherein I had to use cleaners and a mop to fix things. There is nothing like the smell of household cleaning materials at 3 am to get you all the way, wide awake. And I was.

After all was said and done, and she was back on the doggie bed snoring away, I was in bed staring at my bureau and just thinking. I didn't get back to sleep until almost 6 (I kept checking the time).

While thinking, I started to make mental lists of all the things to do when this is all over. Here is a partial list. In my head, it was all a lot more poignant and poetic. Exhausted this morning, it isn't quite as flowery and delightful and if more things come to me I will add them. But here are some of the things.

Also, here is a photo I took of myself yesterday (it is backwards from Selfie mode because I forgot to flip it). My cousin Jimmy asked for signs of life and how we are doing. I thought this would suffice.

Note, I cut my own bangs a week or so ago, and they actually came out really good, so there's a tiny victory.

When this is all over, I am going to spend more time with my friends.

When this is all over, I am going to hug you.

When this is all over, more concerts and more fun. Right now though, my bank account is very happy with me because we have not been eating out, there have not been concerts, and I have not exercised any retail therapy extravaganzas. And not just Guster, but of course, Guster.

When this is all over, I will still bear my dislike and uncomfortableness with large crowds in public, but probably even more so because it'll feel like PTSD, and I will relish more time in wide open spaces. I will go on more trail hikes. We will visit more places. We were really getting into that, and with spring arriving, I was so looking forward to going places and doing things. Winter just feels like it is still heavy around my head.

When this is all over, I am going to the ocean as soon as I can. I'm finding a place on the Eastern Shore, or Annapolis, or Delaware, and I am going away to be with the ocean.

When this is all over, I'll probably go back to church. We kind of picked one but never went. We drive past it and Doug says "oh, there's the church that I don't go to." I miss the fellowship, and I know that when this is all over, not while it is happening (I'm really pissed off at churches that are insisting on being open during all this!) I'm going to be comfortable entering back into that kind of a relationship.

When this is all over, I am using my vacation time. I have a lot of it. I was talking to my aunt in Arizona. It's been 5 years since we visited there and I really want to go back. She's terrified they are not going to make it through this. I told her to keep the faith, and be patient, and that I'll be sure to come see her.

When this is all over, I'm for sure going to Oregon to see Aaron and Serena. They're expecting a baby in July, and I want to see that baby. As well as them. Maybe it'll be on the same trip. Not sure. Maybe I'll take two different trips. But no matter what, I'm going.

See that note up there about more fun. And my bank account will start hating me again.

When this is all over, I want some of you to come visit. You know who you are.

How goes it by you?

How are my friends doing? How goes it with your soul? I've reached out to a number of people and have had all kinds of different conversations.

Some of my friends are unbothered by all of this and life is normal, perfectly normal, they're just waiting to go back to their offices and biding time at home twiddling their thumbs (I'm kind of in that mode). Others are freaking out all the way to 11. One is afraid they are going to be pulled over by the police for being out driving around on errands. Another is afraid for their business, and having to possibly furlough or lay off staff permanently. Others think this is all bullshit, that there isn't going to be a "surge" in the next three weeks, that over 100,000 people are not going to die. Another feels that it is going to be a lot worse than 100,000 and by a lot, they feel ... a lot.

Some are doing the teacher parent thing incredibly well, or their students are actually the ones to congratulate in all this. One colleague says her daughter gets up every day, comes to breakfast, and immediately starts her school work. They do lunch and recess (which my friend loves because otherwise she'd just stay put and work so they are going running together). And the daughter says "Mama, the faster I finish my schoolwork, the sooner I can play Stardew Valley!" And she's right. Another friend tweeted "Raise your hand if you were *the worst* school teacher today."

Others have had vacations ruined (me, as well). Others are out of wine (oh yes. Me, as well). Friends who are fighting to be clean and sober in the midst of all this have caused me to stop saying or even thinking "I picked a bad time to drastically cut back on alcohol consumption." The picture up there is of me with a beer, and instead of a nightly relaxation after a long, hard day at work this is a once a week thing usually reserved for Friday or Saturday. The Maryland Craft Brewing scene is gonna crumble because of my prohibitions.

And I'm honestly worried for one dear love who is drinking way too much, all day, even when working, because self-medication is the goal in their life. I am worried for them when this is all over, how will they undo what they are doing to get through the days?

I can't fix how anyone feels, or how any are reacting.  I can extend love and grace, and hear you when you're frustrated with your kids or scared of the police pulling your mom over when she is on her way over to your house to babysit so you can do countless hours of Go To Meeting or Zoom conferences.

If you are reading this and want to skype, FB chat, anything - hit me up. Let's schedule some time. Your introverted extrovert who is riding an even keel is here for you. And happy to hear you.