May 262020
 

After a perm. 1964.  Lucky Chatty Kathy had curly hair and didn’t need one. 

May 26, 2020 — I wear my hair short, in the same Pixie cut I wore as a toddler.  My hair is unreasonably thick and unruly, and five cowlicks means it goes where it wants to go.  My hair doesn’t grow longer, just wider.  My mother — God rest her soul — tried taming it by sending me to her beautician frequently in my childhood, only for hilarious results after a permanent (which thankfully did not live it to its word.)  For me, the key is getting my hair cut every three to four weeks. And keeping it in that darned Pixie cut.  Hey, it worked out for Julie Andrews.

The last time I had my hair cut was the end of February.  I’ve looked like a Chia Pet for about two months.

Having read about all the safety features in place at my walk-in salon, I decided today would be the day.  In discussing my intentions with a friend yesterday, she suggested it’s a good time before the state moves into less restrictive requirements for salons.  At that point, other customers might not be masked and the salon might be full again.

I arrived 30 minutes before the doors opened.  Although the shop has an app for scheduling, the app wasn’t live yet.  But, I staked my place as first in line.  Three women with obviously gnarly toes (I’m just making that up) waited in line for the nail salon next door.  The door featured signs outlining the rules of the salon, mainly, without a mask no one would be served.  There was discussion and grumbling from the other people waiting at the door. One man, who said his wife was a nurse, got into an argument about gloves with another person in line.  “They don’t do any good at all,” the man said.  “Ask my wife.”  He wasn’t wearing a mask, but to get inside the salon he had no choice.  And there was no requirement for gloves, but I was wearing them.  (I realize I am not a surgeon, but what I do is wear them, try very hard not to touch my face, and douse the gloves liberally with hand sanitizer when I get back in the car. Having been unable to purchase hand sanitizer, I made my own with rubbing alcohol and aloe gel.  It smells like hell, so now my car smells antiseptic and funky.)

At precisely 9 a.m., the door opened and out came a masked woman carrying an I-pad.  She registered me and the four people behind me by our phone number.  I was immediately taken inside past a table with hand sanitizer and masks.  She told me that no one was allowed in the salon without a mask, and the salon was happy to give one to clients.  The room had been transformed since my last visit.  The check-out area had plastic barriers between the multiple registers and where clients stand.  Half the chairs had been removed.

As I started to walk to the back when the shampoo bowls are, the stylist told me, “We can’t wash any hair.  It’s gets us too close to the face.”

This face was directed to her chair.  I asked her if I needed to take my mask off, and hold it on with my hands.  She said, “No, I’ve been trained to work around the ears.”  She was all business.  There was no conversation.  As soon as I sat down, the started cutting.  I’ve gone there for four years, so almost everyone there knows me and how I like my hair (the simple Pixie cut).

In less than five minutes she was finished.  She handed me the mirror to check it it, and it was fine.  Yes, it was a little shorter than usual.  Okay, I looked like I had just been buzzed by an irritated corporal at Fort Benning before deploying to World War I.  I tipped her well and

View from the back side, 1964.

returned home. It didn’t help that when I arrived, Herman began singing “Over There.”

My hair is not a huge problem.  The longer version of it didn’t make me hungry, or in poverty, or losing my house because I missed a mortgage payment.  It was a minor irritant, and thanks to the magic of quarantine, I won’t be seeing another human except for Herman.

I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you aren’t a frontline worker, you can support them or others. Send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.

Feeding America link

May 232020
 

 

For many, a small silver lining in these months of unprecedented global disease is  time for reading.

I’m usually not a fan of fiction, and I prefer non-fiction and primarily narrative history. But since I was in junior high school, I’ve enjoyed the secret pleasure of apocalyptic novels.  Do you remember reading “On the Beach?” in high school?  Or maybe you saw the movie.  There’s been a nuclear war, and Australia and New Zealand are the remaining outposts of civilization, except for a reoccurring radio signal from the State of Washington.  The red sports car crashing, the cyanide pills, the radio signal from the Northwest United States, all of it sticks in my mind fifty years later.

In the era of “Duck and Cover,” there were so many others, “Alas, Babylon,” the almost iconic look at post-nuclear central Florida written by Pat Frank in the fifties. I loved this book because I was remarkably familiar with Florida and could relate to their surroundings.  (An aside, I got to know his son, Patrick Frank, who was also an Open Salon writer 2009-2013 and loved talking with him about the book, written when he was a child.)  I remember my horror when reading that MacDill Air Force Base blew up.  “Failsafe” is another that was immortalized in a movie with Henry Fonda. And the book Dr. Strangelove made into the movie “How I Learned to Love the Bomb.”

Later came the entire “Mad Max” genre, the “Planet of the Apes” quintet (I watched all five of them at a drive-in one night in college), “War Games,” “The Matrix,” and “Cloud Atlas.”

These books led me  to tomes about bioterrorism, or how Mother Nature has gone awry.

As COVID climbed out of its hidey-hole and encircled the world,  I thought about all the books I’ve read during my lifetime.  Plagues have been with us forever, and people have been written about them for as long as there have been viruses.  Daniel Defoe wrote a classic book on pandemics in the 18th century, and Albert Camus wrote one in the 20th century.  In my lifetime, I started at age 12 with “The Andromeda Strain,” which was made into a scary movie.  There’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “Station 11,” “The Vermillion Strain,” “Oryx and Crake,”   There are also legions of books that deal with a combination of civilization-ending maladies, such as “The Leftovers,” “The Disappearance,” “Lights Out Cyber Attack” (by Ted Koppel), and “2030” (a strange book by Albert Brooks, of all people.)  I also recommend “The Hot Zone,” which is a non-fiction book about Marburg, a former of Ebola.

If you want to dig deeply into the subject, read Laurie Garrett’s endless book, “The Coming Plague.”  While it was written a quarter-of-a-century ago, it is still valuable reading.  I’m not quite through it yet.  I “read” on Audible because of eye problems (save my tired eyes for writing) and the book is 41 hours.  I can’t say I am even halfway through the large book.

For me reading a book about the pandemic during a pandemic is not scary.  I’ve had nightmares about real life, but reading these books is just fascinating.  I’ve learned strange details that probably only matter in a game of trivia, like Russians don’t get flu shots, they use a nasal spray.  I’ve also learned that I wouldn’t want to be on a submarine, during a pandemic, or during any normal time, for that matter.  Tight quarters.

I just finished a book called “The End of October” by Lawrence Wright.  Wright is a journalist, has written for many  national papers plus “The New Yorker.”  He is probably best known for the 9/11 work, “The Looming Tower,” about the rise of Al Qaeda.  Wright’s new book was likely written when the COVID virus was still sitting in nature waiting to jump to human beings.  But, the book is scary in its prescience.  Humanity gets a hemorrhagic flu, one that like Ebola, can cause death within 24 hours.  The virus is spread to the millions of Muslims at the annual Haj in Mecca, the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage that many in the Islamic faith attend.  Because the virus is spread through those of the Islamic faith, this adds another twist to the book, making it also a geopolitical thriller.  The hero is a CDC scientist, who was also a veteran of the Ft. Dietrich, Maryland, lab where the U.S. once worked on the most horrendous killer strains of viruses.

This book is a page-turner, but if pandemic novels bring forth your fear, don’t go there.  We all have enough IRL to keep us up at night.  For me, however, I don’t  have the same reaction to fiction as I do to the NBC “Nightly News.”

 

I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you aren’t a frontline worker, you can support them or others. Send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.

Feeding America link

May 192020
 

All Creatures Great and Small–We moved to our present home in the mid- nineties, and, it is May 2020. And what happens in May besides Mother’s Day and usually Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500? It’s the annual return of Fat Bastard, 25th anniversary season.

Baby Fat Bastard, Spring 2019, Current Residence, Inner Mongolia

As my husband gazed out the kitchen window this morning, there was the re-incarnation of Fat Bastard, the wretched varmint that has tormented us since we moved here. Because we attract so many varmints here, Herman has named the place Squirrel Vista. Greg The Ground Hog Guy has been summoned and will commence the Varmint Relocation program tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Fat Bastard arrogantly stood on his hind legs glowering back at us. I’m praying to all that is holy that it is NOT a mama and that we do not repeat the Great Ground Hog Migration of 2019 in which a mama, a papa, and four little Fat Bastards bothered us for weeks. Greg ultimately helped the critters enter the secret relocation program, which he said was thirty miles away. (Or up the street in the woods, who knows?) Strange times, indeed.

Not Another Tequila Sunrise–I am not much of a drinker, though I may have the occasional margarita or champagne drink. By occasional, I mean about three times a year, at weddings, or a random Thursday. Last night we ordered from a local establishment and I ordered a cocktail. Because of state law, the mix part is sent iced, in a plastic cup and an airline-sized bottle of Jose Cuervo accompanies it. (I am not dangling, I mean the bottle of tequila is the size of an airline drink, not the actual airplane, though it has been done. See below.)

When I got home, I took the lid off the Styrofoam cup with the mix and ice inside, opened the tequila and poured it in. It poured out over the top, so I picked it up and drank from the cup. This was not a good idea. Turns out they had given me a frozen margarita, not the rocks one I ordered. It was so cold that the tequila just sat on top of it. So for the first time in my life, I drank a tequila shooter by accident. Needless to say it was a surprise! I can’t say I enjoyed it straight. There was a little bit of tequila left in the bottle, so I stirred up the frozen concoction and sipped the rest. Lesson learned.

I know there are people reading this who will remember a certain party on October 22, 1980 where Jose Cuervo was present all evening in the form of many, many tequila shooters. A person, who will remain nameless, flew across the room at one point, later falling into the bathtub after failing to pull up pants after sitting on the throne. This person received a gash to the head and was rescued by another member of the party (who later described it in great detail). This injured person was unable to attend classes the next day, and has a tiny scar too near the eye, to remember the event. For the record, I was already graduated and living 90 miles away. My record of No Tequila Shooters stood until yesterday. Strange times, indeed.

Who the Hell are you?–Even though of us lucky enough to have first world problems have lost our minds a little bit. My brother, now retired, was sitting in his living room one day last week when a knock came to the door. He answered and saw a masked woman, a tall, slender woman with long hair. Her eyes twinkled as she handed him a box and said, “I brought you some candy.”

Brother, whom I called “Bother” as a child until I knew it was the wrong word and still sometimes call him that, said to the woman, “Who the hell are you?,” a greeting that would have made our late mother cringe. Mom swore exactly one time in her entire life. Once. (I was there, I heard her say it.)

The woman at the door turned out to be Bother’s daughter-in-law, his only son’s wife. In my mind, this brings up a lot of unanswered questions. Is my brother used to attractive, masked women knocking at his door? Why was he unable to recognize his DIL? Had he been day drinking tequila shooters? I admit, she lives two hours away and she was certainly out of context.

She revealed herself. She was traveling with a co-worker back from a business trip to Cincinnati and had stopped to buy candy at a candy store in Lebanon, Indiana, a family favorite. Strange times, indeed.

Nearer My God to Thee–Meanwhile, my nearly 90-year-old father managed to lock himself inside of his Luxury Liner of a Car, a late model beige Buick Park Avenue. (If you want to see what this car looks like, visit any senior facility. Three-quarters of the resident’s cars will be late model beige Buick Park Avenues. Trust me on this. These low riders are incredibly uncomfortable and move like a Sherman tank through the city.) Dad has been on lockdown, and shouldn’t be driving because of poor vision. But, he is concerned his battery will go dead.

Every three or four days, he ventures outside the facility. While he can see his car outside his first floor window, facility rules mean that he has to walk up to the front of the very large campus and go out the front door. All residents are tracked, and to date, there are no COVID cases in the facility which houses multiple units including memory care, rehab, skilled beds, assisted living, patio homes, and independent apartments, where Dad lives.

Last Sunday he went out to start his car. He didn’t tell anyone he was going out, but the front desk knew. The car sits in an unlighted carport, and it is difficult to see if anyone is inside the car without being right on top of it. Dad got inside the car, started it up. The battery was dead. Dad started to get out of the car, but the electronics in this old car kept him inside. The door locks stayed locked. The horn didn’t work. Dad was stuck inside the car. When he told us this story later, he didn’t tell us whether he was inside the car for five minutes or five hours. We are quite thankful it was not a hot day. Rescue came at an unidentified time from an unidentified person.

When things happen, Dad will “test” his story on me, probably because I live 200 miles away. He tested the story the same day on our adult son, who lives 1,100 miles away. Our son gave it to him good, and Dad promised to tell a friend when he was going out again. My brother and I talked about totally removing the car to my brother’s house two miles away as he has an extra bay in his garage. Dad didn’t want that. My father has been large and in charge all of his life; he doesn’t see that changing. I get that. I don’t like changing things in my own life, either.

So, for now, his great ship stays at his dock, awaiting the day this pandemic is over. Strange times, indeed.

Stepping Off the Moving Sidewalk–At the end of this month, my husband will be officially retired from the university where he’s been a research librarian and faculty member for 32 years. When I retired in 2017, it was a dramatic change. It felt like one day I was riding or running on one of those moving sidewalks at the airport. I jumped over the side, and do you know what? The sidewalk kept right on moving, as if I had never been there. My husband’s retirement is completely different. On March 6, the world just stopped for him. While he consulted with students and faculty online for the balance of the semester, it wasn’t the same.

Since he can’t hear very well, he wasn’t able to hear my screaming ,”Get the hell out of my house,” which only lasted a few weeks. (Think Munch’s “The Scream.”) We’ve spent our lives together since college, so we are used to each other idiosyncrasies (not that I have any.)

Life at this stage is more interesting. I can’t see well, and he can’t hear well. He opens jars; I find the spoon for him that’s been in the same drawer for 25 years. He kills the spiders; I clean the kitchen. We both clean the toilets and do the laundry. We laugh almost all the time, at each other, at the world, at our ridiculous selves that seem much dumber than when we first met in 1977, sure of our place in the world.

George Lindsey as Goober Pyle from “The Andy Griffith Show”

Typical conversation from the last five minutes,

Me: “Was there any mail?”, noticing he was coming into the kitchen from a door that leads outside.

Him: “No mail today.”

Me, “Hmmm. Must be a national holiday. Maybe it’s National Goober Pyle Day.”

Him: “What?”

Me: “You are deaf.”

Him, “No, I just don’t know what the heck you are talking about.”

Happy National Goober Pyle Day. Judy. Judy. Judy. Strange times, indeed.

I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you aren’t a frontline worker, you can support them or others. Send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.

Feeding America link

Next to Godliness

Next to Godliness

I wasn’t really clear on how dirty our old world was, until we entered this new normal. Now, everywhere I look, advertisements try to convince consumers that their service or product is the cleanest. What does this say about our former life? The car dealership where I bought my last car is running a commercial […]

Testing, Testing, Testing

Testing, Testing, Testing

Not opening business will cost more lives due to suicide and drug overdose — POTUS May 2020. Is it any wonder we stay up late at night and watch hours of “Fraser” on the channel with the disgusting lovey-dovey romance movies? The news is bleaker with each passing cycle. Flipping channels this morning, I heard […]

Random Thoughts from Paradise

Random Thoughts from Paradise

Week Seven or is it Nine of Quarantine here in beautiful Paradise, Indiana. Who knows what day it is? Those of us privileged to be retired live in a haze of “no time.” But getting a prescription involved contact with the Real World Out There. I have various problems with my lungs, so I am […]

TMI

TMI

When this Whole Nasty Bidness started, I did what any other red-blooded American would do, I ordered a boatload of coffee. We can do without a lot; but we cannot do without coffee. Perhaps I should have studied more chemistry, because I failed to consider the properties of matter in my decision to buy only […]

Bored

Bored

If my brother or I complained that we were bored as children, my mother went off on a tear.  “You aren’t bored. You are boring. Look around you. You have every possible way to entertain yourselves from dozens of toys to the great outdoors.”  (Or something like that.)  Her point was that being bored is […]

It Ain’t Walton’s Mountain

In the small town where I grew up, many people had access to multiple generations, aunts and uncles, grandparents, second cousins once removed.  My maternal grandparents lived six miles away on a farm, but were away a few winter months, as snowbirds in Florida.  It certainly wasn’t Walton’s Mountain, at least for us, but there […]

Happy Birthday, Dad

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father’s 89th birthday. He’s outlived his mother’s death age by three years; his father died 84 years ago when Dad was five. He’s outlived all five of his siblings, even a nephew and niece and several grand nieces and nephews. Dad is a person who is bound and determined to squeeze the […]

Snow Day

Snow Day

We are on the south end of the Polar Vortex, and our lowest temperature yesterday was just above zero, with the “real feel” wind chill temperature around minus sixteen. To ice that cake, we got a few inches of snow early Wednesday morning. My husband works as a research librarian at a small liberal arts […]

Consequences

Consequences

My son works for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. Thankfully, his employment is not threatened by the now month-long government shutdown. I innocently asked him (rural dweller that I am) if he enjoyed a more leisurely Metro trip into work from his Silver Spring home. He reminded me that Metro depends on rider revenue. He […]

Letting Go

Letting Go

I did not start drinking coffee until I went into direct sales. I had no idea what I was missing. Both my husband’s family and my family were religious about their coffee. I was embarrassed once when my brother-in-law came to our house after visiting my husband in the hospital, and We. Had. No. Coffee. […]

Shocked and Shaken Prince Philip

Shocked and Shaken Prince Philip

Ninety-seven-year-old Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, flipped his Land Rover on one of the family estates earlier this week. Reports say he was uninjured, but two women in a Kia sustained minor injuries. While no fault was cited in reports, MSN notes “Witnesses told the BBC Philip appeared’very shocked’ and shaken after […]

Goodbye, Landline

Goodbye, Landline

For the past year more than half of our calls have been spam — telemarketing calls, health insurance, the service desk for a computer I don’t own, and the like. Most of the time I don’t answer the ringing phone, something as a child I could not fathom. We are contemplating getting rid of our […]

September

The hummingbird feeder hangs empty next to feeders full of safflower seeds. In summer, the tiny birds fed for their long trek south. Now, the hummingbirds are gone. Wiry finches bounce back and forth between three feeders. Birds coast from the outstretched arms of the trees, gliding smoothly for their respite. Bluebirds attend to mealtime […]

The Treasures Within

The Treasures Within

July 22, 2018 — Several years ago my father paid to have all of his color slides put on disk for us.  He had taken more than 500 slides between 1955 and 1969.  I’m not sure why he stopped, except that my brother and I both had Brownie cameras by then and I suspect he […]

Father's Day Tribute 2018

Father’s Day Tribute 2018

Published in the Sunday Evansville Courier & Press – Father’s Day 2010 — On the day I was born my father bought a new ’57 pink Chevy. I want to believe the color was in honor of his first girl-baby; frankly, it probably wasn’t. My father—now almost 80—is a pragmatist and most likely bought what […]

I Have This Bridge for Sale, and It’s in Brooklyn

May 5, 2018  An original piece published on Humor Outcasts by Amy Abbott People often ask me how I spend my time now that I no longer fly on the corporate trapeze. As a dinosaur with a landline, I gab with Rachel from Card Services and “Brian” who wants to help me with my Microsoft […]