Living in the Age of Disease • Part 2

This is day #38 of Quarantine.

I escaped yesterday into a semblance of my previous life. I drove the car across the big bridge (something I haven’t done in about 10 days), and over to San Diego’s Sports Arena area, which is named after a big, antiquated facility more famous for the swap meet that sits in its parking lot each weekend than any given sporting event or team. Neither the swap meet or sports are active right now. I went out to get gas, because, let’s face it, gas is cheap right now, $2.55/gallon, which is alternate universe pricing here in Southern California.

And I went to Target. Ah, Target—my regular Friday date night—how I’ve missed you. This particular one had no lines to get in, relatively few customers (I had to dodge and weave a little, along with muttering “wear a fucking mask, you morons” quite a bit), but I found pretty much everything I wanted, even the much-coveted toilet paper, in my favorite brand. I have never been the type to buy anything in bulk. A) I like shopping, for the most part—it gets me out of the house when such behavior is allow, and B) I just don’t have the space in a one-bedroom apartment to store 12 rolls of paper towels without repurposing them as furniture.

Even though it’s my Target of choice, I hadn’t been to this store much lately. it was undergoing one of those extensive remodels, which make it different every time you visit. And while it may seem strange to hear me rave about Target for a few paragraphs, let’s face it: A trip to Target is, in essence, a return to some kind of normalcy. I also threw in a pop-in to Ralphs, a large grocery store a few doors down in this particular strip mall, and take-out lunch at Habit, a SoCal burger joint chain that has good, cheap, burgers and fries. It was as close to a “normal” Friday as I could come, even though it was Saturday.

As local and state government officials weigh the possibilities of “reopening” life as we know it, I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to do something normal. Five-plus weeks into quarantine, with only a few walks and trips to local stores and restaurants for supplies and take-out food have been more than enough for even an introvert like me. (Actually, I prefer the term “bitter recluse,” but that’s just me, I guess.) We had a couple of days last week that seemed like summer: mid-70s, clear, blue skies, gentle breezes … enough to make me clean off my balcony and get back to sitting outside. But now it’s cloudy and cool again, so the promise of an imminent summer has diminished a bit.

I continue with my daily routines, as we all do. Today, it’s my normal Sunday laundry and cleaning, followed by a movie (I’m considering watching all of the James Bond movies again, at least all of those I can stomach … I’m not a fan of the Roger Moore ones, to be honest, even though I find him to be a very likeable actor. But, who knows? I recently watched Diamonds Are Forever again, the last Sean Connery Bond, and it wasn’t as horribly bad as I remember. Bad? Yes, but not horribly.) I work Monday through Friday, and have a major work-related project coming up, even though we are essentially shut down from presenting our normal “product” this year. I’m grateful to have season six of Bosch to watch, even though I only have two episodes left. And there’s always something to read … I’m currently on a non-fiction kick, having read Erik Larson’s excellent The Splendid and the Vile, about Churchill’s first year as prime minister during the beginning of World War II. I’m reading two great pop culture oral histories, Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized History of James Bond, by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, and The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene.  Both are fascinating looks at these two pop culture touchstones. I love the oral history format, where interviews tell the behind-the-scenes stories of all the 007 films or The Office season-by-season. But next, I want to get back into a mystery/thriller. Two of my favorite writers right now are British: William Shaw, who writes two different series, one set in present-day England, the other in late 1960s London, with both series having a very interesting … well, let’s call it cross-pollination. The other author is Lisa Jewell who writes standalone novels that I categorize as “urban paranoia,” which may diminish them slightly. I’ve read four novels by Jewell in the past year, and I’m anxious to start her latest, The Family Upstairs. Shaw’s latest features his character DS Alexandra Cupidi and is called Deadland. His 1960s series features Breen and Tozer, a pair of mismatched coppers. The American editions of the Breen and Tozer books have music-influenced titles, such as Play With Fire, She’s Leaving Home, and A Song for the Brokenhearted.

Life, such as it is, beckons. There is laundry to fold, lunch to be eaten, a movie to be watched and a nap to be taken. And let’s face it … those last two episodes of Bosch aren’t going to watch themselves. I hope wherever you are, you’re safe, well-stocked with the essentials (food, books, toilet paper, books, binge-able shows, and of course, books). And I hope life somehow, someway, someday returns to some sense of normal for all of us.

More later (maybe).

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Living in the Age of Disease • Part 1

Everything old is new again. Last week, I sent a letter to a dear friend. I don’t think I’ve written an actual letter to anyone in years. And today I’m writing something for my blog, which is almost exclusively a place where I post photos. But years ago I blogged incessantly, almost daily, ad infinitum, on a different platform. (You can visit that ancient blog by clicking on the “My Old Blog” link at the top of this page.)

I’ve been wanting to start writing again for a while now. It’s kind of like an itch in the back of my mind, something minor but vexing, something clamoring to get out. “It’s the perfect time to do so,” I mused. (Yes. I muse sometimes.) “ … what with being cooped up and quarantined.”

Although to confess, I have gone out a bit. Oh, not the carefree, drunken whirlwind my life usually is … if you consider “carefree,” “drunken,” and “whirlwind” to mean a live-on-the-edge weekly trip to Target or numerous book and/or comic book stores or a movie at ArcLight or happy hour with a friend. And I miss all that stuff … dearly.

We all have touchstones in life. Mine are simple, and I miss them all. I miss bookstores, Target (yes, TARGET!), lunch or dinner with friends at some of my favorite places (Lobster West, Banker’s Hill), the simple pleasure of a long walk without a mask. I thoroughly realize I am one of the very few lucky ones; CNN mentioned today that only 29% of the US population can work at home. I am still gainfully employed. I have a comfortable place to live and am currently not wanting for anything. I feel reasonably safe, secure, and sane (that last one is up for debate with some of my friends and co-workers, I’m sure). On a scale of 1 to 10 on how comfortable I am with being alone, I’d say I’m a solid 7, maybe even an 8.

I’m used to being alone. I’m what you’d call a loner. No, not the kind that ends up on the evening news after he (or she, let’s be fair, it’s a crazy world) slaughters half the apartment complex and the other half says, “He was a quiet guy … a bit of a loner. Always said hi, though … “ I have been a non-psychopathic loner most of my life, so staying at home is no big deal. I have books. I have TV and movies. I have naps. And I have work.

2020 was always going to be a turning point for me. It started as the year I was going to retire. I had made that decision years ago. It’s the year I turn 65. It’s the year that most sounds like THE FUTURE, whatever that means … but when you grow up in the ‘60s, 2020 is some Buck Rogers vision, way off on the horizon, flying car and jet pack shit, at the very least. And it fulfills my OCD tic for numbers ending in “0” and “5.” 65 in 2020? PERFECTION.

And then, I was offered this “extra” job at work, a great opportunity, something worthwhile and maybe even my own “vision” for the future, so I took it. And my body and brain almost immediately told me, “Whoa … hold up. You’re too old for this shit,” and they both kind of rebelled on me and told me to slow down a bit and take it a little easier. Four months later I’m still trying to work that out, and both my physical and mental conditions have gotten better, I’m happy to say …

And then this all happened. Somehow, some kind of virus made its way around the world and here we are in America, at the worst possible time, leadership-wise, confronting a pandemic of epic proportions with a reality TV “star” at the helm of the nation, a man absolutely unfit for office who is more concerned with money and his own self-image than trying to save anyone’s life.

So here we are. The country is in lockdown. People are dying, and at the same time people are risking their lives to save lives, and to do simple, mundane actions, like delivering groceries or a pizza or books, things that bring some kind of joy or sense of normalcy to other peoples’ lives. People are rising to the occasion and becoming quiet, everyday heroes, despite the absolute lack of any kind of leadership on the federal level. I’m lucky to live in California, which has a governor who acted quickly and decisively from the outset. (I sometimes think my state, along with Oregon and Washington, should just secede from the Union and start our own country, but that’s talk for another day. Like maybe in November.)

I am on day #32 of quarantine. I occasionally go out for walks. I venture to the grocery store a couple times a week (I’ve given up on “delivery windows” and online ordering). Yesterday, I picked up a pizza. I wear my mask. I veer wildly to the side like some drunken sailor on shore leave every time someone comes near me. I “tsk-tsk” and “tut-tut” at people congregating and standing close, discussing their lives, especially the idiots who live down the hall from me who seem to have a balcony party every other day. I sometimes do something wild (this term used loosely) and look longingly through eBay at odd hours of the night, hoping to recapture some nostalgic item that will bring me some small amount of joy when it comes in the mail. I—rather morbidly, I suppose—started the process of doing an online Last Will and Testament, because—let’s face it—that’s something everyone my age should have anyway.

I know all of this will pass, I know there’s some light at the end of this dark tunnel that we’re all hurtling through on a speeding train with a questionable engineer at the throttle. I personally know no one (knock wood) who has this disease. But there are still days I feel like Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, up at the top of this post, sighing his way through life. I’ve always kind of identified with him, from his messy relationship with inanimate objects (kites, athletic endeavors, etc) to his obsession with redheads (“It’s my only weakness,” said Dr. Pretorius).

I’m guessing it will be June until we all come outside, take a deep breath, turn our pallid faces to the sun, and maybe start to feel just a little bit safer. I know that the world on the other side of this will not be the same as it was before. I know that 2020 will go down in my own personal history as one of the worst years of my life, if not THE worst. But I also know that this new world, with its own new rules and way of doing things, is a time to maybe start fresh, with a clean slate, and to get on with the rest of my life, bolstered by the fact that we survived something horrible.

I hope you find that fresh start, too.

More later (maybe).

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