THE BEAT GOES ON

This picture was taken over a year ago.

Whoa.

 

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FRIENDS

You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry.

Over a year. Nobody to talk to except the person/s you live with. For some people, there was nobody at all to talk to, because not all of us are lucky enough to have someone at home. Unexpected–we weren’t prepared. It was horrible. Depressing. We watched too much TV, gained weight, and couldn’t sleep. We got sick to death of Zoom.

But suddenly, the shots. The sighs of relief were heard ’round the world.

Friends. We could  finally get together with friends! For us, these are the people we have taken for granted for years and years. They knew our children as babies. They remember when we were all thin and agile. They remember babysitting emergencies, teen drinking, prom pictures, and graduation ceremonies. We have all aged together, comparing notes about sciatica and arthritis. We had these friends–and then we didn’t. All the doors closed, all at once. With a bang. It was such a long, lonesome year.

For the last two weekends, there have been friends at our house, just like in the olden days. We picked right up right where we left off. Hugged without worrying. Drank wine. Ate food. It was so wonderful. So good, that despite the fact that all my adult life I have dreaded cleaning the house and planning menus in order to have friends over, I AM DOING IT NOW LIKE A BOSS.

Every weekend from now forward, we are having company. Vaccinated company. It is the best thing, ever. Fun and laughs. Conviviality, for God’s sake!

I bet you are doing the same thing. Vacuuming. Dusting. Putting away the jigsaw puzzles. Taking off your pajamas and putting on hard pants. Texting dinner invitations. Wondering what recipes to haul out of mothballs and whip up. Actually making things that serve 4-8! Looking up recipes for those “hors” things, and giving up on the spelling, Googling “appetizers” instead. Because during the pandemic, who on earth had APPETIZERS???

So here is a recipe from one of the old friends I mentioned above that you might want to make the next time you have somebody over for dinner. This appetizer is killer, and so easy.

JANE’S “A CUP, A CUP, AND A CUP”

  • One cup finely chopped onion
  • One cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • One cup mayonnaise

Mix them all together. Put in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve right away (ok, wait a bit, because it is very hot at first) with  Triscuits.

It is so good. Then follow up with what Ina would call “a good dinner.”

Cheers. And thank the scientists for the vaccine.

 

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DEAR DR. FAUCI

Dear Dr. Fauci:

First of all, I want to salute you for all of your efforts during the pandemic. All that talking made you hoarse, and you had to have nodules removed from your vocal chords. Now that’s dedication to the cause.

Next, I have to hand it to you for standing up against “there will only be 15 cases,” injecting bleach, staying upright during all of those misguided “corona press conferences,”  and ignoring Dr. Birx as she wilted into her scarves. By the way, how did you  not try to strangle Alex Azar and his cohorts?

But there you were, on all the news programs and social media, diplomatically trying to keep all the facts straight. You said we didn’t need masks, then we did. Three feet apart, then six feet. Despite all the mixed messaging, you remained stalwart. For some reason, your credibility never wavered, despite all of the confusion about what Americans should be doing and not doing.

I have some questions that I would like you to clear up, though. How many masks are we up to now? Double or triple? Travel is ok, as long as you don’t go inside the airports, right? Still no hugging? Fully vaccinated people can get together inside a house, but not a restaurant? Dr., would you go to a movie? How about a grocery store? Are you getting into more frequent arguments with your wife–is she starting to get on your nerves? Do you have a toilet paper stockpile? Will there be another surge? Is Dr. Wallensky correct to be “scared,” or is she just a wuss?

My husband has been wearing the same disposable mask for about a month now. He thinks it airs out overnight and is just fine the next day. Should I burn this mask? Also, my husband only counts to ten these days when washing his hands. He says fully vaccinated people don’t need to sing Happy Birthday while washing any more. Should I ask him to substitute Mary Had a Little Lamb, or can I just let him go?

Can I throw away most of the fifty little bottles of hand sanitizer I still have in the cupboard? How many should I keep? Is four enough to get us through until the pandemic is behind us? You mentioned baseball. We can hope to attend games? I hate baseball, but I should go to a game anyway, just to get out of the house?

How soon will there be booster shots? Will we need booster shots? Will there be a pill? I heard there might be a pill. And what about nasal spray? It stops the virus in your nostrils before it can scurry down into your lungs. Will they have that nasal spray at CVS?

Are you sick of Zoom like the rest of us?

Since I see you so often, can I refer to you as Tony?

Are you having ham for Easter?

 

 

 

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DON’T KID YOURSELF. THIS HAPPENS.

I don’t have a dog any more. For this, I am thankful, because when you have a dog, you have to walk it every day. Sometimes, Fido demands to be walked after dark; you know, if he hasn’t pooped yet that day. And you have to accommodate that.

I am relieved that in all my years of dog walking, My dog and I never discovered a body. It’s in the news all the time. The headline reads: DOG WALKER DISCOVERS BODY IN THE WOODS or WOMAN WALKING DOG STUMBLES UPON BODY.

If you walk your dog, you often walk along roadsides or in the woods. Not everyone lives in New York, where dogs are trained to poop on the sidewalks. Most American’s dogs demand woods, grassy knolls, open fields, or at least large areas of grass or weeds. And this is apparently, according to the headlines, where murderers leave bodies strewn around. Sometimes they bury them (see above feeble illustration), but often they just scatter leaves and twigs over the body. AND YOUR DOG CAN EASILY SNIFF THOSE OUT. It doesn’t take a cadaver dog to do this. Dogs just have that innate talent for scouting out rotten things and rolling in them or trying to eat them. So there is another hazard: having your dog find a human bone and gnawing on it. So yes, I am not really an outdoor person, with or without a dog.

Here’s another danger: Driving. I never study the side of the road too carefully when I am in a car going along, because people in cars have also spotted dead bodies along roadsides. They see what they think is a pile of clothing or a garbage bag, and it looks suspicious to them, so they stop to investigate. I have asked my husband many times to never, ever stop to investigate anything along the road, even if it looks like money. Because it might be money, but there could also be a dead person.

This is why I also wonder about that Antiques Roadshow production on television. I never looked very hard in the attic of my old house, hoping to discover a priceless work of art leaning against the eaves. Because you know what else people find in old attics?

Bats.

 

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READING LIST

Can you believe we have reached the one-year anniversary of the entire world shutting down? If someone had told you that you would spend a whole year inside, what would you have said or thought? Whew.

So most of us watched TV, and I did that. But I read a slew of books, too. Here is a list I thought you might be interested in.

  • Circe, by Madeline Miller. I held out a long time on this, because I have always been confused by mythology. This ended a lot of the confusion, and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that if a book has thousands of reviews, you ought to read it.
  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Same as above; what took me so long?
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Again, see above. So many reviews. Such a lovely book.
  • I discovered Tana French. Wow. I am now going to read all of her books.
  • The Boy in the Field. Margot Livesay is a poet writing mystery  novels.
  • My Dark Vanessa. Dark. Fascinating.
  • Courtney Sullivan. Read all her books.
  • In Five Years. Diverting.
  • Dear Edward. Absolutely loved this one, and immediately bought it for my daughter.
  • All Adults Here. Emma Straub is a gem of an author.
  • So is Lily King.
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota. You will learn a lot about beer.
  • The Dutch House. I may have recommended this before. Brilliant.
  • Girl, Woman, Other. Man Booker Prize winner.
  • Summer Water. I just started reading this, but I love it already.

Now that all of us are getting shots, we might stop reading  and start partying. I am good for maybe one party…

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MY DAYS ARE NUMBERED

The photo above has nothing to do with today’s column, but I like this shot.

The second Moderna vaccine happened last Wednesday. Relief washed over me. All I have to do now is wait another week and a half, and I will be liberated from the past year of staying home. The days of quarantine are almost over.

So. Now I have to decide what to do with my new freedom. Having vaccinated friends over for dinner is a no-brainer. That has already been scheduled. Dr. Fauci says we will be fine to joke around, eat, drink wine and be jolly without masks. I am so excited about this, it will be hard to sleep the night before. Like Christmas Eve!

But what else can I do? Flying is out, because so many unvaccinated people remain. Dr. Fauci is still saying we have to mask, mask, double mask. Keep our distance. Shoot. It sounds just like before.

So what will I feel comfortable doing? Will I be able to go to the grocery, browse around in my mask/s, without having a panic attack? Will it still seem so dangerous? The variants. What about those? Good God.

No restaurants, not yet. Fauci says those are still off the table (see what I just did there?). And apparently, the nail salons and gyms are still a no-go. Movies? My Lord that seems like an invitation to disaster. 

So here we all are, those of us who have had both doses. Freed but still a bit terrified. If we venture out, will we see our own terror reflected in the eyes of the other pale and flabby pandemic survivors venturing out for the first time in months? Will we tremble as we pass one another?

Or will it be the opposite? Stimulation starved humans, rushing outside, eyes squinting in the glare, rushing around in search of small talk? Elbows bumping frantically in greeting? Spewing jokes that we have seen on Twitter, having saved them up in hopes of once more having another human to interact with? Pretending not to notice how fat everybody has gotten?

I suppose my life will gradually get back to what it was like in 2019. Maybe I will actually hug somebody other than my spouse. I might shake hands. No–that’s going too far. Maybe  it will seem ok to stand next to a person in line without mentally estimating the number of feet between us. There may come a day when lowering my mask will seem harmless.

But my gosh. I will really miss Dr. Fauci.

 

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THE REAL WORLD

Pandemic. What do we do with our time? We watch television.

With all of this viewing, I have been unsettled. No, annoyed at the portrayal of life on tv. We don’t live the way people on tv do, and I simply don’t understand why the television and movie people think that we operate the way they do in their shows.

I have, of course, compiled a list of things that real life people actually do:

  • When we sit down to eat a meal, and someone says a distressing thing, we never lose our appetites.
  • As a matter of fact, when we sit around the table and converse, we manage to eat as well. Tv characters never do this; their food gets cold, they never pick up a fork.
  • I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any cut glass decanters of whiskey with matching glasses on a silver tray.
  • Speaking of liquor, I also don’t have a bar cart in my living room.
  • I don’t artfully lay my robe (I don’t even have a robe) across the bottom of the bed at night so that I can put it on the moment I arise.
  • When I make dinner, it consists of more than chopping red peppers.
  • When I come into the house, I close the door. For some reason, people in shows forget to do that.
  • When I take a pill, I wash it down with some water. Who takes pills straight up?
  • I look a hundred times worse when I get up than I did when I went to bed the night before. Onscreen women never have bed head.
  • When I am driving with a passenger, I am unable to look at that passenger full in the face for longer than a split second. Because cars crash into other cars if you aren’t paying attention.
  • I am not stupid. I would never voluntarily walk home from a bar all alone, choosing the darkest alley as a short cut.
  • I have an electric toothbrush. Nobody on tv or in films seems to know these exist.
  • Be honest. How many of you can stand it if your spouse wants to go to sleep while spooning? Don’t touch me; I am trying to go to sleep, damn it!
  • I do not know my husband’s phone password. And I would not be able to figure it out in less than five seconds, the way the wives do on tv. I am sure it isn’t my birthday, for God’s sake.
  • I have never seen a hot guy in the produce section.
  • I have never had a dressing table.
  • After an argument with my husband, it would never occur to me to got out for a jog.

And if a crime were committed, and a detective interviewed me, I would have no idea what I was doing at noon last October 12th. 

 

 

 

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THE AFTERWORD

During these past months of tribulation and isolation, many of us “of a certain age” feel that perhaps we have been robbed of a year of our lives. The isolation and the lack of social contact have been painful. The pandemic has stolen a big segment of our lives.

During this time in “suspension,” I have spent hours thinking about my own legacy. Have I done enough, accomplished enough? Has this “lost year” been simply weeks of nothing but reading books and watching television, interspersed with laundry folding and looking out of the windows?

What will people remember me for?

I remember attending the funeral of a woman who was known to be unpleasant. She was accomplished, and she did a lot of things in her life–work in the community, church choir, volunteering. She kept busy and was well known in the community. But she was a virago.

I was brought up short at her funeral.  After the minster gave the customary glowing but generic remembrance,  her son went to the pulpit to eulogize her, and he obviously had a struggle coming up with positive things to say about his deceased mother. He looked around at the folks in the pews, cleared his throat, and told us that the thing he most remembered about her was that she always made really good Sunday dinners. Chili was mentioned, as I recall.

There wasn’t a ripple in the congregation, but I felt as if I had been hit by lightning. What would my children say about me at my funeral? Would they have to resort to saying how much I liked cats? Would they say I made a good tuna sandwich?

I have felt at a loss this past year, as I have not been very productive. I wander around the apartment, looking for projects. I color my own hair now, and do my own manicures. I have a book going, but not well. My mind is full of politics, pandemic concerns, and thoughts of my own legacy.

I never knitted a sweater. I didn’t bake anything from scratch. I was never a room mother. I fell asleep reading bedtime stories. I was never known for my patience.

But I loved my children and supported them, from speech tournaments to horse shows. I sat in waiting rooms, signed permission slips for tattoos, and kept my mouth shut about dubious boyfriends.

I wrote things. Those things turned into books. I gave some talks, tried to be inspiring, and most certainly failed. I wasted a lot of time daydreaming. I furnished at least a hundred different homes in my imagination, and even traveled by myself. I fell in love with New York, and wrote part of a book in the New York Public Library.

I stood by my friends, some of whom did not stand by me. I remained true to my marriage, despite many difficult times. I made a salad every night to go along with dinner. I did a lot of hugging.

But when I read about people like Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, or read a book written by Margot Livesey or Ursula K. Le Guin, I feel deflated, less-than. What have I been doing with my time, for heaven’s sake?

It’s something that haunts me. At my funeral, all I can hope for is that nobody will remember me for my tuna sandwiches.

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COMMERCIAL BREAK

I don’t like to promote myself too often. It gets old.

However, this time, I will. The photo above is of the second edition of my third novel, The World Came to Us. It is a very interesting and of course, irreverent story of a mother and daughter who decide not to leave their house for a year.

This seemed like such an unusual premise for a book, before the pandemic happened. Who on earth would choose such a thing? As it turns out, virtually the entire population of the planet in 2020. However, this isn’t a pandemic story, and I think if you haven’t read it yet, you would enjoy it. It could just take your mind off the vaccine waiting lists, N95 masks, how dry your hands are from all of that washing, and if burpees really do reduce pot bellies.

I had a very good time writing this book. I had to rewrite it three times, due to the fact that I had the very best editor in the world working with me on it. The general public doesn’t perhaps realize that absolutely NO books make it to market without extensive re-writes. If only all a person needed to do is type around 100,000 words, have a proof reader check for comma splices, and then it shows up in bookstores and Amazon.

Nope. An editor reads the manuscript, thinks about it, tears it to pieces, and then sends it back to you. You sigh, remove thousands of words and add hundreds more. It takes months. Then, happy,  you return it to your editor, who does the same thing all over again.

What readers read is the end of a very long and arduous process. Every book I have written has taken two years. I admire the terrific writers who can turn out a book a year–they are masters of discipline and creativity. I am just a slogger, doing my best, taking long breaks, and wishing I were a better plotter. But that is just the way it goes.

So. If you haven’t read this, go to Amazon and buy it. Read it. Laugh. Post a review on Amazon. I would be so appreciative!

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