The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Plans to reopen are in the works but we still need to be vigilant, patient and in the confines of our domestic bunkers.  In the meantime here’s another breakout from the outbreak.
I went on a safari through my archives to find some photos of our animal kingdom.

“Birds were created to record everything. They were not designed just to be beautiful jewels in the sky, but to serve as the eyes of heaven.”
~ Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Bluish bird edited

Heron – Louisiana

Turkey profile 1

Wild Turkey

Duck 7x5

Duck. San Pablo Bay

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“The best offense is a good defense, but a bad defense is offensive.”
~ Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun

“The best offense is a good defense, but a bad defense is offensive.” wrote Gene Wolfe in his book The Urth of the New Sun,” unwittingly summing up the current strategy for dealing with the coronavirus.  There isn’t much choice in the matter according to Doctor Anthony Fauci, our medical covid-19 guru.  There are of course the holdouts who disagree most notably some ultra-conservative pundits, a whacky ministry of some right wing preachers, a handful of out of touch governors and all their nitwitted sycophants.  If I sound bitter, I am.  It’s these heretics that are keeping the virus alive and virulent and helping to extend the lockdown.

Muhammad Ali taught us in the Rumble in the Jungle when he rope a doped power puncher George Foreman, that a little patience and some well executed cover can tear victory from apparent defeat.

And so we remain patient and wait for coronavirus to punch itself out.  What choice do we have at this point?  A good offense would assume a cure or vaccine and those are months or more than a year away (despite the ravings of a looney president).

Rope a doping covid-19 has changed the way in which we exist in order to maintain existence.  For some, those who heal or whose occupations require serving the public the changes include varying degrees of risk.  The rest of us?  All we have to do is stay home and whenever we go out treat our fellow humans like, well, the plague.

What sorts of changes?  As I jot down notes for this piece I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of the vet’s office.  Lexi is having an ear issue that seems like an infection.  The veterinarian has changed the protocols that we’ve always followed when taking a sick pet to the doctor.  The new waiting room is my car.  The new protocol is to park, call the receptionist and wait for a tech to come out to the car.  The tech and I review the reason for the visit and then Lexi, with tail firmly between her legs, follows the tech into the office.  After the exam the doctor calls me, explains that Lexi has a slight infection that needs treatment and once Lexi is brought back to the car the receptionist calls, takes my credit card information and then Lexi and I head home.  My bank account is $200.00 lighter – some things don’t change.

For some, change includes random acts of stupidity and selfishness.  On the way home from the vet I take a glance in the rearview mirror to see a large pickup bearing down. He approaches to within a few feet of my rear bumper, swerves right, passes me and then swerves two lanes over to the far left to pass more cars.  Looking ahead I see him weaving in and out of what traffic there is doing what must easily be ninety miles per hour.  As a part of the new normal with most of the population doing jigsaw puzzles in the living room the freeways are largely empty and a few of the selfish and irrational are treating the roads like they’re NASCAR tracks.  Since the lockdown there’s been an uptick in solo spinout accidents caused by excessive speeds; accidents that divert EMTs and police and impact already chaotic emergency rooms.  Poetic justice might be to hand the reckless driver a roll of bandages, a splint, a few aspirin and let him fend for himself.  We’re too busy to deal with your stupidness.

My granddaughter Lucy turns 9 this weekend.  She was supposed to have a Little Mermaid themed birthday party with her friends at our house but of course that’s out of the question now.  And so we’ll make a video of birthday greetings for her, spread out a blanket and have pizza on the lawn and celebrate with a Little Mermaid cake that my daughter Jessica will bake.  If we’re back to a semblance of normalcy in the summer Lucy gets to have a pool party in the backyard.  Whatever happens she’ll have a helluva story to tell her children and grandchildren about her ninth birthday.

The disorder has introduced a whole new order.  Signs are all around admonishing us to practice the obvious.  Restaurants don’t hang out the welcome sign and there’s no hostess to ask how many in your party.  Still as often happens, discord brings with it acts of kindness
Stadiums and public buildings are being lit up in blue to honor healthcare workers.
Those with means donate money to causes that help those who’ve fallen on hard times.
Quarterback Drew Brees donated five million dollars to the city of New Orleans to help deliver meals.
Tyler Perry paid the senior-hour grocery bills at 44 Krogers in Atlanta and 29 Winn-Dixie markets in New Orleans.
There’s the paradox of community in a forced state of isolation.

From Wall Street to corporate ledgers to checkbook registers on the kitchen table finances are orderless, inverted and, unless you’re in the toilet paper business, turning varying shades of red.  Our own expenses have taken some odd turns.  During the severe hoarding period when we had to keep up with the hoarders our grocery bill spiked.

Now that the hysteria has levelled off a bit we’re working down the excess inventory and the grocery bills are decreasing.  Still you find some helter skelter pricing beyond the capitalism gone wild profiteering.  You need a bank draft to get a dozen eggs but oddly enough the bottom has fallen out of the price of the egg’s BBF (breakfast best friend), bacon.  If you don’t need to watch sports to enjoy chicken wings they’re a bargain at one dollar a pound.

The Saudis and the Russians picked one hell of a bad time to get into a pissing contest over the price of oil.  A gallon of gas costs $2.89 (cheap for the Bay Area), making it the perfect time to take the road trip that you can’t take because road trips are against the new rules.  Our total fuel bill for the month should be around fifty dollars which is what I used to spend weekly on my Challenger.  Rumor has it that with people driving less some of the insurance companies are mulling rebates, a phenomenon that I’ll have to see in writing before I believe it.

“X” marks the spot; the spot where one stands in a line.  At store checkouts the floors are marked by a series of taped X’s spaced at six foot intervals to remind customers to maintain the six foot social distance.  X marks, strips of tape, signs admonishing social distancing and retail workers disinfecting shopping cart handles and customer’s hands are the nouveau protocols of shopping.

While the practice of hoarding has finally been consigned to being a breach in shopping etiquette a trip to the market is still challenging.  A recent trip to Foodmaxx got me almost everything on my list along with something I wasn’t shopping for – a 45 minute long checkout line.  Normally I would simply bail out and come back another time but I’d already invested a good hour in just finding what I needed.  Still by the time I reached the counter my frozen burritos had thawed out.

Yes, frozen burritos; part of my own new normal.  It had been decades since my last frozen burrito and then the manic hoarding began.  One afternoon as I picked through the ravaged remains of the frozen food section I saw a few scattered frozen burritos and was suddenly swept back to my younger, unmarried days when frozen burritos smothered with canned chili were a staple.  Now we have an ample supply of frozen burritos but I’m eschewing the canned chili in order to avoid being banished to the couch.  Yep, there’s nothing like a frozen burrito, and there’s different ways of interpreting that statement.

My sudden craving for frozen burritos must be my own personal manifestation of a covid era phenomenon.  People are falling back on their guilty pleasures to relieve stress. At least that’s what the news reports tell us.

The local news is also reporting a 42% rise in alcohol sales in the Bay Area which one would assume means a 42% spike in drinking.  A little Makers’ Mark warms the belly and the soul and laps away the bad news in an amber wash.  It’s the new chicken soup – “couldn’t hurt.”

The news is a crapshoot these days, one moment encouraging with a seeming light at the end of the tunnel and then in a blinking it’s gloomy with no endgame in sight.  Great news, the curve is flattening, fewer cases, no need for all the ventilators that the National Stockpile boys hadn’t stockpiled anyway.  But not so fast, don’t expect normalcy for a month, two months, well into the summer, into the holidays.

Santa Clara County executive officer Dr. Jeff Smith made a prediction that we will be lucky, LUCKY, to have sports in that county by Thanksgiving.  And if that holds true for Santa Clara why should the rest of the nation be any different?  It’s not that I’m having sports withdrawals.  I like sports but if it permanently drops off the face of a reordered Earth, I’m fine with that.  If a return to sports is a milestone for normalcy and that return might not come until the middle of the holiday season does that mean we’re going to be looking forward to Christmas before we’ve had our first barbecue of the summer?  Ugh.

When I do watch the news it’s not without a fair amount of skepticism.  CNN panders to my political leanings but that doesn’t mean that I’m all in with their reporting and so, as I wrote in a previous post, I’ve put CNN on a short leash.

If CNN is on a short leash, their anchor Wolf Blitzer (How do you get such a name? Was his dad a panzer commander?) is on a choke chain for his flair for asking questions with self evident answers.  Earlier this week Blitzer reported on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s sudden admission to intensive care for coronavirus. He went on to ask CNN’s medical guru Sanjay Gupta, “What does that tell you?”
With a slap to my forehead I turned to Cora. “Jesus H. Christ, Blitzer asks such probing questions.  Here’s what admitting Johnson to the ICU says. It says he’s fucking sick.” (I’ve seen more than I want of Dr. Gupta.  No offense to the good doctor but I figure that once his regular usefulness is gone, we’ll be in a relatively healthy place again).

But if Wolf and CNN are on a short leash, Fox should be put down for being the diseased, rabid beast that it is.  Earlier this week on Sean Hannity’s show, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly dismissed the dead and dying victims of the coronavirus, saying that they “were on their last legs anyway.”  How very Karl Brandt of you Grupenfueher O’Reilly (Karl Brandt was tasked by Hitler in 1939 to implement a program of involuntary euthanasia of people considered to be incurably sick or as the Nazi’s liked to say, “life unworthy of life.”).

With shelter in place some of the news, particularly local news, is being broadcast from newscaster’s homes.  There’s a common formula for the reporter’s backdrop, that being a neatly arranged bookshelf.  No slap dash stacks, no half eaten sandwich on a plate, no half empty pint bottles of cheap vodka or random toys left by a bored child.  Most certainly the books that show up on camera have been preselected to reflect sophistication, intellect and enlightenment.  No ‎Jacqueline Susann or other trashy fare.  Is it a downside or an actual benefit that I find myself distracted from the actual broadcast by browsing the book collections?

Covid-19 has mainstreamed terms and concepts that most of us used about as often as we’ve used Latin, which is to say, never.  “Social distancing” is the practice that will help us “flatten the curve.”  What exactly is THE curve?  THE curve is an exponential curve which to someone who was a history major means absolutely nothing.  After an internet search I found that the graph with the curve that we see every hour of every day represents the two equations, y1 = abx1 and y2 = abx2.  This could be true or it could very well be an alternative fact because during my school years I avoided math as if it were a virus.  Every website explaining the curve might just a well have been written in hieroglyphics so I picked one that looked legit.  In any event we’re told that things won’t open up and show some semblance of normalcy until sometime after THE curve has been flattened.

The scientists are calling for robust testing to determine the proper time to, as Trump likes to put it “open the country.”  Trump is dismissing the notion of testing as the final barometer yet continues his puffing about testing in the U.S. during a press briefing.  “We have a great testing system. Right now the best testing system in the world,” brags the man who stood stock still and looked around confusedly when the starting gun went off.  When he touts the two million tests performed I turn to Cora, “Well, only 298,000,000 more tests to go, because way back when he told us in no uncertain terms that, ‘Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.’”

When Trump was asked what metrics he would use to make the decision on reopening the country he pointed to his own head, “The metrics right here. That’s my metrics.”  The blood ran cold and I wondered if my will is in order.

In the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali let big George Foreman pin him to the ropes and pummel him for seven rounds.  In the eighth round only after sensing that Foreman had punched himself out and was vulnerable did Ali pull himself off the ropes and hit Foreman with a barrage of punches that ended the fight.

We don’t know what round we’re in and we don’t know when we’ll get to our own eighth round. We don’t know when we can get off the ropes or what our counterpunch is going to be. We have capable, dedicated men and women working on that counterpunch.

Ali had one manager, the great Angelo Dundee. In our fight we have a committee of managers that more often than not seem to be at odds.  In the end it seems that it will boil down to either the scientists or Trump and his clique.  The scientists want us to keep up the rope a dope for as long as is necessary while the president seems to want us to get up off the ropes, put down our guard and risk getting hit with a knockdown blow.  I think we’re best served to rope a dope rather than heed a dope.

“They call it the rope-a-dope. Well, I’m the dope. Ali just laid on the rope and I, like a dope, kept punching until I got tired. But he was probably the most smart fighter I’ve ever gotten into the ring with.” ~ George Foreman

We’re just beginning week four in lockdownland in the Bay Area. The imminent Doctor Brix, one of the few rational voices on the Trump coronavirus team has strongly advised people to stay away from the grocery store and pharmacy over the next two weeks and I’ve taken it to heart.

I’m limiting trips from the house to no more than one per week (preferably 10 days if possible) but running is not included in my outing ban.  There are ominous signals that even getting out for a run might be put on the out of bounds list.  A recent article in Riverside County’s Desert Sun reports that county officials would prefer that individuals do not leave their homes, even for a jog around the block, but will not arrest people for doing so. Continue reading

Inspired by our new coronavirus normal of stepping back, physically and in the way we now find ourselves living our lives, Patti has chosen “Simplicity” as the subject for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.  Follow the link to Patti’s original challenge post.

When it comes to simplicity we can take a lesson from dogs.  Dogs have simplicity down to a fine art.  Eat, play, make us smile and sleep.

Lexi running dog park 2

Lexi romping in the park

Rainey padre pio

Rainey peek’s from under the table

Going

Lexi catching some Z’s   

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We’re establishing a routine in the midst of the abnormal.  Order out of disorder.  A calm within the chaos.  Welcome to the homelife of covid-19.  Put up with being pent up.  Pent up physically and pent up frustrations.  In fact I’m not aware of any frustrations within our home.  We seem to be coping well.  Maybe for Cora and I the shelter in place isn’t so much of a departure from our retirement routine.  We’re fortunate here within our little domestic circle.  We’re at less risk than many others and for that we’re thankful.  That’s not to say that we’re completely free of angst.

Our abnormal normal should be easy for families like mine to adapt to but if they’re like us then they feel the same lingering anxiety.  It isn’t anxiety over the virus itself.  I feel, strangely I guess, that I have some control over it.  Stay home, stay clean, cover my ass figuratively and mouth and nose literally and I think we’ll get through it.

It’s those things that I don’t have any control over that I brood over.  It’s the other virus that floats around in the news.  It’s symptoms are anger, confusion, fabrication, obfuscation, discombobulation and incompetence.  During the past week we’ve seen a nationwide manifestation of those symptoms. Continue reading

Covid-19 will be written in the history books, largely in cold numbers with equally cold facts; your typical who, how, why, what, when and where.  While they have their value, cold facts and numbers fail to present the human stories of fear, loss, hope, bravery, perseverance, discovery, love and all the joys and heartbreaks of daily life in hard times.  It’s the personal stories that put the meat on the bare bones of cold facts.  This Covid Chronicles series is my way of leaving my own personal narrative.

Today The Covid Chronicles is taking a short detour and frankly I need it and my readers could probably use it as well.  It’s hard and it’s going to get even harder and it gets tiring and after the news of the last few days I need a rest.

My daughter Jessica blogs in fits and starts, that is to say that she’s a busy young woman with two children and a job so blogging is often placed on the far back burner. That’s an unfortunate thing.  I believe that beyond being thoughtful and level headed she is an extremely talented writer.  I would like to say that she gets it from her dad but I think that the writing flair jumped a generation from her grandfather (my dad) directly to her.

Today she took to her keyboard after a slightly more than 2 year hiatus and wrote a timely, heartfelt piece which I encourage you to read. If you feel the urge to comment on her piece I encourage you to comment directly on her site (you may if you wish to, copy your comment to my site).
Click on Hotmess Mama to read Jessica’s piece.

Another breath of viral free air to celebrate the beauty of America with some favorite images of mine (some previously posted in earlier pieces).

Maine.
Our time in Maine last summer was unfortunately cut short when Cora became seriously ill and we had to fly home. During the few days that we spent in Maine we were treated to picturesque harbors, classic lighthouses and local color.

Boats Pt. Clyde

Port Clyde Maine

Marshall Point Light

Dawn at Marshall Point

IMG_1667

Lobsterman’s Buoys

Port Clyde Maine

Port Clyde Maine

 

Mendocino, California
Cora and I visited the coastal towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg during their annual salmon festival. Mendocino was originally founded as a logging town in 1852. Fort Bragg, a few miles north of Mendocino started out as a military garrison in 1857. Today both towns are popular for their festivals, views of the Pacific, hiking and whale watching.

Mendocino Beach

Town of Mendocino from the banks of the Mendocino River

Foggy sunrise

Foggy sunrise at the mouth of the Mendocino River

Below, Fort Bragg Salmon Festival.  Salmon on the grill.  Flipping fish.

 

Louisiana
Three years ago Cora and I drove south from Mississippi through Louisiana. Near the town of Lafayette we took a swamp tour and then headed south to New Orleans.  Swamp panorama edited

Bluish bird editedGator on log

Louisiana swamp

Washington DC and Virginia
In 2015 Cora and I travelled to Washington DC. It started out as a short vacation to watch the San Francisco Giants play the Washington Nationals for a weekend. We turned it into a two week trip, seeing more of the nation’s capital and the state of Virginia.

Nats Park

National’s Park

20140824_065932

Detail Women’s Vietnam Memorial

USMC sunrise 2

Marine Corps Memorial 

Arlington changing of the guard 4

Changing of the guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Chancellorsville 3

Sunrise Chancellorsville Civil War Battlefield 

Gravestone Fredricksburg

Union soldier’s gravestone Fredericksburg VA

Rural farm VA 2020

Rural Virginia

Below, Music at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia. Hiltons is a tiny town deep in the woods of southwest Virginia.  The Carter Family Fold is a music venue dedicated to the preservation of old timey and bluegrass music.  Janette Carter of the famous country music Carter family (June Carter was the wife of Johnny Cash) founded the Fold.  Drinking and smoking are not allowed and musicians are not allowed to play electric instruments.  The rule against electric instruments was set aside for performances by Johnny Cash.  Cash played his last concert at the fold 5 months before his death.

Carter Fold 1

Monticello View

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Mabry Mill VA 2020

Mabry Mill, Virginia

Be safe, keep your distance and soon we’ll be travelling again.

 

Monday, March 30th, 2020
The Butcher’s Bill 11:00 AM, PDT (only a momentary snapshot)
World
Cases: 725,300 Deaths: 36,900
United States
Cases: 158,400 Deaths: 2,919

It’s National Doctor’s Day today.  They should make 2020 National Doctor’s Year; and nurses, lab techs, researchers, janitors, hospital and doctors office and healthcare workers in general, first responders, truckers, delivery drivers, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and anyone else who keeps our shit functioning, cashiers, stock clerks, transit workers, daycare providers, foodbank workers, those helping the homeless, teachers trying to keep their students engaged, factory workers, farmers, ranchers and other food producers, therapists helping those who are having trouble dealing with these difficult times and of course toilet paper manufacturers.  If I’ve left someone out I apologize for the omission. Continue reading

Sunday, March 29th, 2020
The Butcher’s Bill 10:30 AM, PDT (only a momentary snapshot)
World
Cases: 691,867 Deaths: 32,988
United States
Cases: 130,478 Deaths: 2,314

Misleading Stats
Most mornings I get up, put on the coffee and look at the numbers.  Nationwide they still go from bad to worse.  I try to take some solace in our own county numbers but when I realize that they’re faulty any semblance of consolation disappears.  Most of the time I’m in a no man’s land between hopeful fantasy and heavy reality.

Contra Costa County runs along the shoreline of San Pablo Bay on the west and north.  It’s about 65 miles from Richmond in the west to Discovery Bay on the eastern edge where Contra Costa opens up to San Joaquin County and the swath of farmland that helps feed the nation.  From the shore of San Pablo Bay and the C&H Sugar Refinery in picturesque Crockett in the north to the upscale homes of Danville at the southern border it’s roughly 30 miles.

The population of 1.5 million runs the spectrum from the rich and famous such as celebrities like baseball star Buster Posey, money ball’s Billy Beane and Vince Neil of Motley Crue in Danville and the southwest corner of the county to society’s forgotten ones or the ones much of society would like to forget.  Those are the ones who live in the shadow of the refinery, downwind from the landfill and astride the big railyards; the rundown neighborhoods served by mom and pop shops because any supermarkets pulled out long ago.

Out in the Danville area you’re probably more likely to get tested for coronavirus than if you live within sight of the refinery stacks.  That might be a mechanism of the fact that as Bob Dylan once said “money doesn’t talk it swears,” and if your money swears loudly enough you’ll get your test.  It might also be a mechanism of the relative lack of medical services out on the west side.  That’s all despite the claim made by Trump a little over 3 weeks ago that, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is,”

The president’s bottom line is just another fabrication.  The real bottom line is that my nephew and his wife returned from the Philippines and found out that they may have been exposed to someone with the virus while there.  They asked for a test and were refused because they didn’t yet have symptoms.  Trump’s tall tale of testing continues today with the assertion, “We have more cases because we’re doing far more testing than anybody in the world.”  It’s a fabrication of course if you take into account the more important per capita statistic.  The U.S is testing 1 in 366 people compared to Italy where 1 in 133 people are being tested.  That the county has 168 confirmed cases of the virus and 3 deaths should give some solace.  Truth is that there’s no comfort in those numbers, particularly if you’re one of the 168.  The dearth of testing makes the numbers just another administration shell game.  Continue reading

Saturday, March 28th, 2020
The Butcher’s Bill 6:30 PM, PDT (only a momentary snapshot)
World
Cases: 663,037 Deaths: 30,851
United States
Cases: 123,498 Deaths: 2,211

With the exception of Bio-Rad most of the businesses in our little town of Hercules exist to support the residents who commute elsewhere. To call Hercules a town is overestimating . Hercules, or more accurately the town’s planners and low rent politicians want our little berg to be a player.  Hercules started out in the 19th century as a company town for a dynamite manufacturer, the Hercules Powder Company.  Since then it’s become a bedroom community.  During the three decades that we’ve lived here a string of mayors and city councils has left in their wake a series of half baked schemes meant to turn Hercules from a spec on the map to a dot.  Most efforts have resulted in massive expense with minimum results.
Our own home is in the Refugio Valley, which starts at about sea level and gradually works its way a few hundred feet up over about a two and a half mile stretch. Our home is typical of 1980’s developments; two stories on a slab sitting on a smallish lot at the upper end of the valley.  Here at the far end of the valley we’re not exactly isolated but we’re not in the midst of it all either. And given the current viral state of affairs I’m more than happy that we’re in the far reaches of a speck on the map rather than a dot, or a splotch. Continue reading

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