May’s begun with the promise, if that’s the right word, of another month of quarantine. Looking out the window at the brightening sky, it gets bright by five these days, it dawns on me that, there will be things that I’ll miss once the shelter in place ends. That’s if you don’t count not being able to find bleach or Cup of Noodles (some might argue that the two have the same nutritional value). Life is actually much simpler now. Makes sense. There aren’t very many choices. It’s stay at home or…stay at home or….stay at home some more. No internal, “hmm what to do today,” debate. Traffic is light, we’re not spending as much money because there’s nothing to spend it on and there’s that knowledge that we’re putting a lot less stress on Mother Earth. Maybe Mother Earth forced the issue on us but that’s for another discussion.
It’s five in the A.M. My elbow is at the edge of the bed and Lexi is bumping it with her nose. Some people have an alarm clock that makes chirping noises, others a simple traditional bell. My alarm physically butts me. I have to be certain that I don’t stretch my arms before getting up. The wrong stretch sends a bolt of pain from my torn shoulder down my arm and up into my neck. One thing that I won’t miss is the moratorium on elective surgeries. I don’t have hair to cut, I don’t care about going out to eat and I don’t play golf. I just want my shoulder fixed.
In past months when I was getting ready to go out for a run I’d turn on the early news but I’ve not watched or listened to the news for six days now. It’s like breathing clean air. I’ve decided that I’m going to step away from news for as long as I can hold out. Until around late January when the dumpster fire of the election cycle started sending foul fumes into the air waves, I’d gone months without the news.
And then the coronavirus hit along with the Iowa caucuses and I was hooked again – a news-aholic binging on Anderson Cooper, The New York Times and of course social media debates. I couldn’t get enough. I was like those pathetic guys in Mackinaw jackets who hit the dive bars at six in the morning and by seven have their heads drooping over their fourth shot and a beer. Except my dive bar was CNN, the shot was Poppy Harlow and the beer was Jim Sciutto. By late last week I decided to go cold turkey.
Still I do have a serious case of the news D.T’s; little green monkeys with Wolf Blitzer heads, pink polka dotted jackals that sound like Kellyanne Conway and mules with Trump hindquarters (some things never change – right?). For now though I don’t know the updated totals of coronavirus or the death count. I don’t know about the latest Trump bungles or outrages. Maybe most importantly I haven’t heard the latest coronavirus turnabouts, dire predictions, new strain news or conspiracy theories. I can’t do anything about those. All I can do is take care of the homestead. And I don’t know the current status of Biden and his nearly three decades old peccadillo.
Biden’s pickle has put my party of reluctant choice, the Democrats, into something of a bind. The party can’t really fall back on the old, “why did the woman wait thirty years?” argument because it was just a year and a half ago that the Democrats called bullshit on that ploy when the GOP was steamrolling Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court. Actually they’ll probably end up falling back on the thirty years argument anyway. It isn’t as if political parties aren’t unabashedly hypocritical. After all, what’s sauce for one lewd goose…
It’s about a ten minute drive to the bay shoreline and as Lexi pokes her nose out the back window I let the D.T’s take over. I think about the election that’s supposed to happen in 6 months. I say “supposed to” because the notion has been floated by some, including Joe Biden, that Mr. Trump might look to postpone it given the various stages of the coronavirus crisis.
Stages? Yes stages. You see, a few months back there was stage one when Mr. Trump said that the crisis wasn’t really a crisis. Later, and I forget exactly when, Mr. Trump said that it really was a crisis and then a week later it was a REALLY BIGLY crisis. But lately he’s been saying that soon it won’t be a crisis and everything will be comfy-dandy until, as some suspect, Mr. Trump might start calling it a crisis again around mid-October, even if it really isn’t a crisis. And then he’ll deem it a conveniently bigly enough crisis that the election will have to be postponed or outright cancelled and the Trump regime will roll along. And even if that’s essentially a coup and completely tramples the Constitution, the folks who drink his particular brand of snake oil won’t think a thing of it. If none of this makes any sense, well that’s because it isn’t meant to. It’s politics man. And that’s part of the crisis.
The other part of the crisis is Joe Biden. Joe Biden? About the best we can say for Mr. Biden is that he knows the system and he’s aware that there’s a Constitution and seems to have some respect for it, even if he isn’t quite sure where he is or what day it is. And he has a heart, bless his heart; give him credit for that.
Thoughts about the election bring on a nagging annoyance that I’ve not been able to shake. Like coronavirus this annoyance was laying dormant, albeit for four years and now I’m getting hit by the next wave. I’m annoyed about another “all hands on deck” election. You know the ones. How can you miss them? They’ve been coming around every four years for decades, DECADES; the elections in which the other guy is so horribly bad that you’ve just GOT, just GOT to vote for the one who’s only marginally bad – just GOT to. “I know you’re sick of it and I am too,” goes the admonishment, “but this one is different. The whole future of western civilization depends on it.”
The day’s just begun and I’m annoyed because I can’t get it out of my head that we’re going to be back to voting for the neo-liberal placeholder du jour. “But don’t fret,” the party will say, “because the REAL change Democrat, the REAL progressive is only four years away.” I’ve got news for you – old news. The last real change Democrat was 56 years ago in Lyndon Johnson. Only problem with LBJ was that he couldn’t keep his big schnoz out of Southeast Asia which overshadowed everything else he got done. (For you younger readers a schnoz is a nose not a dick and LBJ had a big one, a nose that is – I can’t nor do I want to speak for the other. During his college days LBJ was known to brag about the size of the other member which he’d christened “Jumbo.” Only Lady Bird could corroborate that legend and she’s, well, she’s dead.).
And I know you’d like to say that Obama was a real change guy but he sort of disappointed. No fault of his own really because he had a Senate that put up roadblocks. LBJ didn’t have that problem because he was in that very august chamber of knaves for a very, very, long time, long enough to know where the bodies were buried. Obama wasn’t a senator long enough to turn over enough dirt. And he was nicer than LBJ.
And just as I park the car I decide that once again, just as I didn’t vote for HRC, I’m not going to vote for the party nominee. Maybe I’ll write in AOC (aka, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). And even if she isn’t old enough to be president I really would like to see AOC in the White House. She’d shake the shit up for sure. Just in time for our run and I’ve got a smile on my face.
The run has a standard formula. Set my phone for a given duration and then usually keep going beyond the halfway point so that the run lasts longer. Today I set the clock for 35 minutes but I’m thinking it’s going to be 45. It’s always the usual cast of characters that I see during the run. There’s the two Asian women, each woman holding a leash and each leash with a droopy old basset hound on the other end. I veer off the sidewalk into the street when I pass; social distancing you know. There’s the bearded guy with the golden retriever and the scowling guy wearing headphones walking a little yappy dog.
Occasionally I run into Michelle (not literally, that would be violating social distancing protocol). We’d met on the far end trail about a year ago. She stopped me and asked how much further the trail went and I told her, “Just over that rise and you’re at the end. We stopped and talked for a while. She was taken with Lexi and fed her some treats. Now whenever we meet I stop my run and we walk for a bit and talk. Her dog Duke, an older yellow lab and Lexi became friends. Lexi can sniff out when Duke has been on the path and starts pulling – hard. Or maybe Lexi’s caught a scent of the treats in Michelle’s pocket
The last time we talked, a couple weeks ago, was the first we’d seen each other since the coronavirus landed. She asked if I needed any masks – she has the coveted N95’s. I guess she scored some from her company, Bio Rad, a healthcare manufacturer, when the coronavirus was just a Chinese thing. Those masks are well travelled. She sent some to her mother in China and by the time mom received them the virus was waning in China and flourishing here. So mom sent the masks back to Michelle. Anyway I told Michelle that we were okay on the mask front. A little more chatting, more treats for Lexi and we wished each other good luck and good health.
This morning and just about half way through, I decide to turn the out and back run into a loop. Instead of sticking to the shoreline I head through a neighborhood called Victoria by the Bay. It’s a quiet neighborhood of rolling hills, a subdivision of McMansions that go for a mil or more. The homes themselves look nice enough, some with stone or brick facades. Others have nice balconies that don’t look out over anything picturesque; not the Sierra Nevada, not the Champs-Élysées, not even San Pablo Bay. They look over a street of similar homes all shoehorned next to each other. Not much in the way of neighborhood social distancing when the houses are so close that you can sit on your commode and chat with your neighbor sitting on his own throne. During the Bush recession more than a few of these homes were left to the bankers when owners found themselves under waters deeper than the Marianas Trench.
As Lexi and I leave the shoreline and hit the neighborhood we startle a flock of wild turkeys. Fucking birds trot in a military precise line down the street in front of us and Lexi’s pulling me like a sled dog. Once we’re clear of the turkeys the road bends south and we head up a fair hill towards San Pablo Avenue, the main drag that runs from Rodeo all the way to Oakland (Wikipedia says 8 miles but I’m not buying that. Gotta be further). San Pablo crests and then drops us back to Hercules and the car.
It’s breakfast time and Lexi races through the garage towards the house stopping at the dog food bin. She’s learned how to open the bin with her nose and stick her head in. All I see is a dog’s body and all I hear is the crunch of kibble. “Outta there Lex, your breakfast is in the house.”
I let her in and she skids around the corner of the counter to her bowl. Food’s gone in a minute or less.
When I get home, Cora knows to turn off the news radio that she listens to all day. Morning coffee in the usual ceramic mug, and a slice of French bread toast.
I used to take my coffee while watching Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefing but I’ve fired the good governor as part of my own personal news purge. Coffee is taken in front of the computer while I listen to a lecture for my online class, The Moral Foundation of Politics. Right now we’re studying John Locke and the period known as The Enlightenment, that period in history also known as the Age of Reason, when science became king. Maybe we should try that again sometime – soon.
After the lecture I turn to Shapiro’s text of the same title as the class. It’s interesting reading but it can be drier than the Mojave during a drought year. It’s typical college stuff that, while you have to plow through it, you’ll eventually harvest some good information.
Late in the morning I cajole Cora into going to American Soil and Stone to pick up some slabs of stone for a patio area in a small alcove of the front yard. It’s part of my “satisfy the front yard Nazis of the HOA” project. I love visiting American Soil. It’s acres and acres of flat slabs of limestone and slate, accent stones, boulders and ledge rock.
We settle on a limestone called French Vanilla and 168.00 dollars and a few hundred pounds later we’re done for the time being. Today’s purchase only takes care of a curve in the patio and is only about ¼ of the total size of the project. I’ll be buying more and adding on, each trip a hunt for just the right sized shapes and sizes of limestone. It’s like putting together a big heavy jigsaw puzzle buying pieces bit by bit.
After lunch I would normally watch the daily Donald J. Trump storytelling and propaganda hour but I’ve given those dog and pony shows up along with Wolf Blitzer, the Cuomo’s (Andrew and Chris) and Doctor Fauci. Instead I spend the afternoon going through some photos that I took at the beach over the weekend.
Below, weekend photos of San Pablo Bay shoreline
No, it wasn’t that beach, the one in Southern California that, according to Cora, made the news. This is a stretch of shoreline along San Pablo Bay between Hercules and Pinole. It’s a little strip of sand on the San Pablo Bay shoreline between Hercules and Pinole. Just a strip, sandwiched between the lapping water and a patch of pickleweed and assorted scrub. This is a pretty time of the year. The scrub is still green from the spring rains and the path leading to the beach is an aisle surrounded by walls painted with the bright yellow of wild mustard. California poppies add dots of bright orange and an assortment of other wildflowers add a sprinkling of purple and white. Beyond the vegetation is a stretch of railroad track that carries commuter trains and an occasional freight. The tracks are pretty quiet during these COVID days since commuters are a rare breed.
Hardly anyone goes to this little beach. The coarse, almost rocky sand, is littered with bleached driftwood. It isn’t the kind of place you picnic at or bring the umbrella and lounge chairs to. A few burnt bits of driftwood tell the story of kids or transients having evening bonfires. The best you can do at this beach is to set your butt on an un-charred driftwood log.
And that’s what I did, planted my butt on a driftwood log, looked at the bay and watched Lexi enjoy herself. I would’ve loved to let her off leash but I’m not sure that I trust her just yet. Instead I put her on the 25 foot Flexi and let her romp around, hopping through the pickleweed and sniffing in the weeds and gopher holes. She inspected a rock, pawed at it and jumped back when the stone turned over. Warily, she examined the lapping water. She stuck her nose out to get a sense of the riffles and then jumped back when a little swish got too close. She looked back at me as if asking for an answer to that mysterious moving liquid. And then she found a patch of shade, my shadow, and laid down next to me and we both just watched the bay and listened to the birds.
Sitting on that little beach you forget all about the coronavirus. As I looked around and took in the lapping water, the flowers along the trail, the ducks frolicking in the water and the sounds of the shore I remembered what Cora often says about the coronavirus. While she prays nightly for it to end she sees the virus as putting us all on timeout and letting Mother Earth be “happy again.”