“If I don’t read Molly Campbell’s blog, I’m grumpy no matter how much coffee I drink. What really gets me where I laugh is that she is willing to tell those things the rest of us hide. She sees someone else’s body in those three-way mirrors in the clothing store, her derriere seems to be “following her,” and she is afraid people will start describing her as “portly.” She writes about it, the rest of us go out and buy black pants and shirts with vertical stripes.”
David Lee Garrison, poet and professor, author of Sweeping the Cemetery 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on

FLOATING

Another week has passed. My thoughts are many and varied

  • I want to buy all of the items that are advertised on Instagram
  • I watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and immediately got off Facebook, but now I will never again know what every single person around the world had for lunch
  • I read an article before I left Facebook that said there are only three areas you need to wash daily, and so you don’t need to take so many showers. You know two of them. But who would have guessed that FEET was the third thing?
  • I feel sorry for the catalog people who continue to try to convince all of us who have worn nothing but leggings, sweats and pjs for months that we need to buy blazers
  • Today I put on some makeup and was stunned at how good I looked
  • This was a relief, since I thought I had aged ten years since the pandemic, when it was merely the absence of foundation and eyeliner
  • Every single person who lives in a studio apartment and has stayed there during the pandemic deserves some sort of huge award
  • Graham crackers are vastly improved with butter spread thickly upon them
  • I think Dr. Fauci sounded much more manly before he had that node removed from his vocal chords
  • My husband and I are definitely running out of things to talk about
  • I have fruit flies and so I guess I have to give up bananas
  • My husband still hates omelets
  • Pretty soon we will all run out of shows to watch on tv and will be forced to learn how to play Pinochle
  • Getting groceries online is a great way to reduce coronavirus risk, but this week I got a spaghetti squash a big bag of kale. This was a complete surprise. I wonder what the person who received my extra large bottle of Ibuprofen and the six pack of White Claw is thinking right now
  • Businesses who have had a tough time because of the Corona virus: movie theaters. Businesses that have boomed: all the Tractor Supply and Farm and Fleet stores
  • They won’t let me have a chicken in this apartment complex
  • I wish Judy Woodruff would broadcast the PBS Newshour from her kitchen instead of her study

Stay safe out there.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on FLOATING

MID NIGHT

The pandemic keeps us up at night.

When it affects me, I try to sort my thoughts into constructive sequences. I think about all the others out there who are probably awake, and I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone.

Yet I am alone. We are all alone in this. Perspective helps us when we remind ourselves that we haven’t lived through WWII and never experienced The Holocaust. The Great Depression was what our parents or grandparents knew. Most of us escaped polio. I myself escaped/survived two serious cancers, one of which required three surgeries to rebuild my face. Perspective and privilege. I have the privilege to wait out this pandemic in comfort.

Perspective is hard to come by, though, at three in the morning.

So I think about the two children in the photo above, and though I haven’t seen them in months, and may not see them for months more, they are part of me; and I am so thankful that in these days of technology, I can have face to face (almost) conversations with them often, and I can write them stories and record myself reading those stories to them.

I think about them racing down the halls of our apartment building, throwing their stuffed animals to see which one can throw farther. I think of them shouting off the balcony, and riding the elevator down to the club room to get hot chocolate out of the machine. And I laugh to myself remembering the time Birdie pushed the emergency button and two fire trucks arrived in full regalia.

They will be back. They will be older. It might not be so fun to run down the halls. But they will be back. Families will reunite. Turkeys will be roasted. Presents will be opened. It may not be in 2021, but it will happen again for all of us.

In the meantime, in the darkness, I think of those two faces as I finally drift off to sleep.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on MID NIGHT

BEHIND ALL THE WINDOWS

We are all still in. Maybe not all of us all of the time, but most of us most of the time. How many of you are sighing right now? Looking out your window into the evening darkness, wondering what all the other people are doing? Let’s talk about stuff you might do out there in COVID land tonight. Not OUT out there. You know what I mean.

What are you cooking? Bread is so yesterday. Nutrition is the one constant that we all rely on to sustain us through this. That and masks. I don’t make masks. I have bought hundreds of them, it seems like, but most of them fog my glasses. This is a digression from the topic sentence. Ahem. So. What am I making?

My partner, who  I am married to, but “partner” sounds so current–is getting tired of pasta. I cannot understand how any human can get tired of pasta. As a result, I am looking for other things to have for dinner, and I found the best recipe for Welsh Rarebit ever. Since fresh tomatoes are so plentiful right now, this recipe goes so well with them on what Ina Garten would call “good toast.” If we ate bacon, I would put that on the toast first, then the tomato slices, then the rarebit. But it is just fine without the bacon.

Serve it with what Ina would also identify as “good salad greens.” Now, in my case, since I am ordering my groceries online, I take whatever greens I can get, good or otherwise. Furthermore, since I don’t excel at salad dressing, sometimes I skip the whole salad idea and move on to frozen peas.

So. Here is this recipe, and you can send me hundreds of emails using the contact form on this blog to thank me.

WELSH RAREBIT

2 T butter, they say unsalted, but really, I am not Ina–use any kind

2 T flour

1 t Dijon mustard, and yes, the Poupon

1 t Worcestershire sauce (spelling that took three tries)

1/2 t salt–Ina would just throw some in, and it would be Kosher salt

1/2 t freshly ground “good” pepper–my pepper is just average, to be honest

1/2 porter beer–my husband hates porter beer, so I just use beer

3/4 cup heavy cream and DON’T USE HALF AND HALF OR MILK HERE

6 oz. or 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, and yes, Ina, good cheddar. Here I just have my husband grate a small mountain of cheddar and use it all

2 drops (come on–3 won’t kill you) of hot sauce

Toasted rye bread or any kind of GOOD bread you like. But I can tell you that Wonder Bread does not cut it in this recipe

 

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. This is so confusing if you just moved and got a new electric stove. These stoves are SO DAMN HOT. So be careful not to get it ramped up too high, or you will burn everything. Gradually stir in the flour, and I mean GRADUALLY, or it will clump all up and make you so nervous. Cook the flour paste for some seconds so that the raw taste goes away. Ina says to do this, so I do, but actually I have no idea how long it takes for flour/butter to not taste raw, because I DON’T TASTE IT.

Now. Gradually stir in the beer. Let that sort of thicken around. Gradually add the cream, and bring to a simmer until the entire sauce is thick. Add the mustard and the W sauce, which I am not going to spell AGAIN. And the hot sauce. And the pepper. Cook for a while, until you think it is time to add the cheese. Add that gradually as well, and stir until it melts. Sometimes I add in a Sargento cheese stick or two as well, for the whole thoroughly cheesy, melty experience.

This stuff will be very thick. So thick that you might be worried that you went overboard. You didn’t.

Butter the toast, put on the tomatoes, and ladle the rarebit over that. Dish up the peas along side, unless, of course, you are a salad maven.

We have wine with this, but of course it’s Bota Box. Ina would have Cabernet or something.

Try this. It will make your evening at home. Afterwards, look out your window and gloat.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BEHIND ALL THE WINDOWS

HOLED UP

Despite the fact that bars are crowded, students are going back to campus, and Governors are opening states up like crazy, the virus is still out there. It never went away, actually. A lot of people think it is now ok to go out there and “act normally.” These people are, in my opinion, foolish.

So, we remain very low profile. We are old, and we want to stay alive.

I have done very little except read. And as a service, here is a list of books that I think you will like.

  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal. You will learn all about beer, but this is also a terrific story about family.
  • Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. I loved this book and this writing so much.
  • The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett. Family. A house. Why is the house so important?
  • Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub. Can you go wrong with any of her books? Nope.
  • His Bloody Project, by Graeme Macrae Burnett. A Man Booker Prize winner. Not my usual read, but compelling.
  • Separation Anxiety, by Laura Zigman. She wears her dog. Need I say more?
  • You’ve Been Volunteered, by Laurie Gelman. Very fun and diverting. Just like her other book about being a parent, Class Mom.
  • Gown, by Jennifer Robinson. A wonderful novel about the women who made Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown. Nostalgia at its best.
  • The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy. An unforgettable memoir.
  • The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake. I love family sagas. This one is just so good. I wish I could write a book like this.
  • Defending Jacob, by William Landay. The book is so much better than the series, although both were “edge of your seat.”
  • Limelight, by Amy Poeppel. Fun.

Stay in. Stay safe.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on HOLED UP

UP AND DOWN

 

The days. The nights. The news. It’s all bad. Some days are worse. How can we be living in this nightmare? No matter how many cute masks I buy, no matter how sunny it is outside, the truth sometimes manages to knock me right down.

Four years ago, none of us could imagine what would transpire. Few of us were politics junkies. Nobody worried about getting too close to another person in a check-out line. How did things go upside down so fast?

I stay sane. I stay home. We watch a lot of television, so much that we are running out of shows. Mealtime is the most exciting part of the day. My apartment is clean, all of the time, because Swiffing is now a daily activity, something to pass the time.

Then, I go out to pick up my curbside groceries, and I see people walking in clusters, chatting and laughing, not a mask in sight. Parking lots at the shopping areas are full. People are going to salons and getting pedicures, while my feet get gnarlier by the day. Who are these carefree people? How are they managing to avoid being scared to death?

We live near University of Dayton. The students are coming back. I bet they are bringing COVID right along with them. I wonder how the shops near campus feel-they are happy for the renewed business, but afraid of their customers?

And then I think about the election, the Post Office, and the disaster that trying to sort out who will be the next POTUS-will that take months to figure out? How will we know if this election is legitimate?

Too much. So I go for a walk, pet the kitten, and make macaroni and cheese for dinner. Salvation may be measured in carbohydrates.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on UP AND DOWN

THE ENUMERATOR

If I had to describe my husband, Charlie, in one word, it would be gregarious.

He can walk into a room full of strangers, stay one hour, and come home and tell me that

  • One woman there had shingles last year and still has the scars across her shoulders from them.
  • Another person has a grandson who lives in Alaska and actually likes the taste of blubber.
  • There was a young girl there passing around hors d’oeuvres who majored in English at Oberlin, has a dog named Grover, and her mother was actually Miss Illinois.

These are just a few examples. My husband has never met a stranger. This is why I think the United States Government has made a huge mistake in hiring Charlie to go door to door asking people who have not yet filled out the census to do so “with him.”

Because Charlie is going to be paid by the hour. A large stipend per hour. And this is where the Government is going to be in trouble. Because in addition to all of the Census information that Charlie will gather, he will also find out

  • Every single individual’s favorite color.
  • If they have ever been to Florida.
  • Do they like their coffee black, or with cream?
  • Does wearing a mask fog up their glasses?
  • Are they dog or cat people?
  • What are they having for dinner?
  • Have they ever seen a bald eagle in real life?

He will track his mileage, he can’t work over 40 hours a week, and he has to observe all the proper pandemic safety procedures. But none of the trainers at the Census Bureau realize that when they send Charlie out there, they will be getting so much more than they bargained for.

Charlie has already bought a stapler and three boxes of staples. Because all of the reports he sends in will have addendums.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on THE ENUMERATOR

LIFE FAILS

I envy all the real grown ups out there. Some grown ups I know are barely out of their teens. Others are appropriately mature considering their age. I have been watching a lot of news lately, and I see adulting all around me: Politicians who when asked about the current administration, reply with diplomacy-veiled candor, managing to criticize yet remain within the bounds of decency. Protesters who are gassed, abused, and still continue to address wrongs, despite it all. People who manage to politely ask those crass ones who aren’t wearing masks to put one on, somehow doing this without offending the maskless. People who are given very poor customer service and manage to “talk to the manager” with their inside voices.

As my daughters and husband will attest, I am not one of these people. I want to be one of these people.Yet, time and time again, I have triggering episodes that cause me to

  • SHOUT
  • Threaten to close my account
  • Use goddamnit
  • Honk my horn more than the socially acceptable two beeps
  • Roll my eyes as rudely as possible
  • Ask the offending party “WHAT DID YOU SAY JUST NOW?”
  • Fail to take the other person’s point of view into consideration
  • Assume that the person sitting at the help desk isn’t really listening to me and tell that person so
  • Ask “Are you kidding?” in a very sarcastic tone
  • Turn tail and walk out
  • Give my husband the silent treatment

I would like to think that the pandemic is causing me to sit and reflect upon my shortcomings. I want to take a solemn vow to be more polite. I hope to learn how to mince my words. I feel that this time of solitude should result in me emerging from quarantine a more balanced, sane, and calm individual.

However. The leopards and spots thing…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on LIFE FAILS

WHAT TO DO WHEN SHUTDOWN

Oh, man. How many months has it been? A hundred? I am certain that those of us who are still in the “alive” category remain at home for the majority of the time. We don’t participate in the street parties or bar hops. And for those heroic people who go to the marches and get shot with rubber bullets in order to change our sick culture, my mask is off to you, with great admiration.

But meanwhile, back at home, where I have memorized every inch of my apartment, things are predictable and boring. What is my daily schedule, you might wonder? Even if you don’t wonder, here it is:

  • Wake up at six. Check phone for important messages. There are never any important messages. Roll over and go back to sleep.
  • Get up and make bed. Husband is long gone to his workshop, where he can work on projects and play his accordion.
  • Wander into the kitchen. Make coffee. Toast 2 pieces of bread that will ultimately taste like cardboard that is crispy. Low carb.
  • Do a lap around the apartment. Dust something. Put in a load of wash.
  • Go out on the balcony to water the plants. My God, another hot one.
  • Wish it was cool enough to walk outside, but since it isn’t, put on a podcast and walk around the apartment until it is over. Never listen to podcasts that last more than thirty five minutes.
  • Do some online grocery shopping.
  • Pick up curbside groceries and curse (in the safety of my car) at all the people out there not wearing masks.
  • Come home, wash hands while singing “Happy Birthday,” and vow to just start counting to twenty, as this song is insufferable.
  • Put away groceries. Wash hands again. Birthdays will never be the same.
  • Sanitize counters.
  • Wander around the apartment. Put clothes in dryer.
  • Read something on the Kindle.
  • Wander around the apartment.
  • Go out on balcony. Still too hot.
  • Nap.
  • Wonder what to make for dinner.
  • Pet the kitten, who is absolutely the most adorable soul on the earth.
  • Make dinner.
  • Eat it.
  • Watch Netflix.
  • PRAY FOR A VACCINE

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on WHAT TO DO WHEN SHUTDOWN

IN ROOMS ALL OVER AMERICA, OR MAYBE JUST AROUND MY BLOCK

It’s months into this pandemic. We are all, well all of us who want to remain alive, inside–still. The above is the view from my balcony. All of those windows are where people are living. I like to imagine who they are and what they are doing.

In condo 4c, Chris and Franny have just taught their Pitbull Estelle to roll over. It took two days of intense treats, which Estelle knew exactly what were for, but she stretched the whole training thing out. More treats, you see. Estelle is white, mostly, but she has the most adorable black patch over her left eye. It looks like an eyebrow and that Estelle is giving them an arch look all the time. It’s bonkers. Chris and Franny think Estelle rescued them, instead of the other way around.

In 1A, Howard lives alone. He isn’t terribly sad about the pandemic, because Howard has never enjoyed lots of people. He lives in his head, mostly, and now that he has been working from home, he has really enjoyed ordering succulents online and making a window garden. He has even started water gardening, with hanging globes filled with the iridescent roots of his various propagation experiments. He looks out over the river, and wakes up early, puts on his mask, and strolls along the bank, waving from a distance to the runners and bikers out there. He likes to make these vague inroads into sociability at a distance. That suits Howard fine.

Ruth lives with her teen daughter Simone over on the other side of the building in 10D. They are on the top floor, and I can see their apartment from my balcony. They have fairy lights on their balcony. They look festive. Simone hates being cooped up, and she is getting totally bored of Zoom. She is hoping that she will be able to go back to school soon at least part time, but things are looking grim. Ruth worries that if Simone goes back to school, she will take off her mask and hug all of her friends. Ruth has asthma, so this keeps her up nights. Ruth is afraid that heedless teens might signal her demise.

My favorite is Marva in the first floor apartment facing the water. Marva, who is thanking her lucky stars that she is a retired teacher, has spent her pandemic time planting a perennial garden in the tiny plot allotted to her outside her apartment. Marva put in all kinds of sun-loving plants, and she also tried to plan her tiny plot so that something will be blooming from spring until fall. When she is finished out there and has scrubbed all of the dirt from under her fingernails, she works on the puzzle of Mount Kilimanjaro that her son  Kevin sent her. She has also begun making cheese grits with shrimp for her husband Ron, who so far thinks they are delicious, but need hot sauce.

Steve and Susan are retired. They live in a loft. They have a jetted tub, which they both fit in, and they like to soak in it right before bed. Steve reads poetry aloud to Susan, to help her relax. Susan holds his hand in bed.

Over at the Bright’s condo, Alfie and Rose spend a great deal of time on their roof deck, drinking gin and t’s and playing cards by lantern light. They keep a running score, and so far, Alfie is just barely ahead. If the games go on too long, Rose has the advantage, however, as Alf gets a little blurry after his third drink.

Back over here, in #522, it’s a little different. I am dying to make scones, but damn it, CARBS. The kitten refuses to stop jumping on the counters, and I worry that she might get burned on the electric stove that never looks hot. So I have to lay cutting boards all over it for protection before we sit down to eat whatever meal I cooked out of our subscription box. Last night it was Ratatouille. It required three pans, four different knives, unpitting Kalamata olives, and when all was said and done, it was meh. At #522, the days stretch long. I am here alone a lot, and I have no home projects, as everything here is new. I exercise in the morning, and then sit with coffee and the newsfeeds, which plunges me into despair before noon. Napping happens. Nothing much else goes on, except inside my head.

Here is what I really wish. I wish I could play cards with Alfie and Ruth. If Steve would call and read me a poem, I would be thrilled. Marva could just leave a Tupperware container of  shrimp and grits in the mailroom with my name on it; that would be the best. I would love to tell Simone to shut up and get with the program–she damn well better keep that mask on if she goes to school! I would love to ask if I could walk Estelle, and we would toddle over to Howard’s with our masks on (well, maybe not for Estelle), and Howard could pet Estelle and tell me why my jade plants keep dying.

If only.

Next time, I might tell you about the Breens. They live in that renovated old office building that I see when I look out from the other side of my balcony. I imagine they might be musicians. And Josie Breen might just have two Siamese cats. Her husband might play the marimba and take medical marijuana. Josie might want a parrot.

I might tell you about them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on IN ROOMS ALL OVER AMERICA, OR MAYBE JUST AROUND MY BLOCK