Saturday, June 27, 2020

ACK: I hugged someone!

It's dark on my patio, but my laptop gives me enough light to type and therefore the day continues. Or maybe it's the night that carries on. All I know is that this was a good day, one that got me outside, with a few people I love and it felt like the old days. You know, the days before March 18, when everything changed and we were all shut away in our little places. How many people have you touched since the middle of March? If you live with someone you like, you're lucky. At least you have someone you can hug, touch, maybe even kiss, rub their hair politely, you can even hold hands with that person. When you live alone none of that happens unless you count the dog. Which I do these days. I count rubbing Cooper's belly as touch and I count fondling his ears (they are so soft!) as a nice peaceful and meaningful contact.  Sad, yes. But true.

But I digressed there. Today Gabe and Annie and our mutual friend Amy were in my neighborhood and we went wine tasting! What a remarkable thing that is! Who knew, wine tasting.....   well from the pre-pandemic days it was a thing. Now it's a Thing, one that demands masks and reservations and six feet separation and although it could be "special" and pretentious, in this case it was simply pleasant.  Wine was good, the wine maker was kind, informative and chatty in a good way. It was an Outing, and we loved it.

Then, to top the day off, Gabe, Annie and Amy came back to my tiny place and we made use of the lovely patio with the lovely green umbrella and we ate things we gathered from local restaurants and we drank whatever wines were hanging about:  Iron Horse Sparkling, a French rose, a local Dolcetto, some more French wine, white this time.... we ate and drank and laughed and had cookies and more wine. To say it was lovely would be like saying my dog likes bacon: an understatement of immense proportion. Best evening ever, since the last time I had friends over which was June 13. But the difference was that no one argued with anyone. We just all enjoyed the company of each other.

Everyone just left, I know they will get home safely and I know they will be back. It was just too good of an evening not to repeat.  I hope for everyone out there that they have people they can trust, people that have been safe and secure and are therefore good to be with. We all miss the touch of loved ones, we all miss good conversation, good meals shared with friends and the camaraderie of friends. We all know safety comes first but love crowds that for a close second.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

The EDD Blues

Let's be clear right up front:  I am not destitute, I am a privileged white person who happens to be out of work. Privileged because I have a home, I have some money in the bank (enough for the short term) and I am healthy. No one discriminates against me unless it's because I am on the far side of retirement age. So my EDD whine is just that: whining.

Supposedly one should receive one's unemployment benefits in a timely manner, which should be ..... maybe within four weeks of correctly filling out the appropriate forms and correctly submitting them to the EDD, either by US mail or from the online site.  EDD tells us that we should receive our funds in 7 - 10 days, so I am giving them a lot of leeway by saying four weeks.

Currently there is no way to actually speak to a person at EDD.  Last week I called 16 times in a 30 minute time span, just hoping I would get on the wait list for a representative, but every time, after listening to the recorded voice drone on and on, I was eventually told "due to the high call volume you are shit outta luck. You are NEVER going to get a real human on this line."  Great.  What if I was a young Mom with kids, out of work, had to pay the rent, depending on EDD funds and NOTHING was forthcoming?  And that's a very reasonable and viable scenario, it happens all the time.

Sigh. What happens is one of two things. First, if you have fairy dust on you and the goddesses of free money smile on you, you will likely get your allotted funds within 3-4 weeks of certifying your claim, which one does every two weeks. But the second thing is not so pleasant: you do everything right and you sit in limbo with all those unsaved souls, waiting and waiting for either redemption or a check.  (Which are sort of the same thing these days.) If you are in the first category (as are almost all the people I know) you stay in that category. Your money comes to you (or the stupid B of A credit card onto which they load those funds) on a regular basis. Maybe not in the 7 - 10 days time frame but within a few weeks.

But, if you are in the second group, you have no idea when you will get anything.  I know I am in the "system" because I did get one payment in early April.  Then I waited and waited and waited.... since the only way you can contact EDD is by sending them an email from their online portal, I did that every day. I begged and pleaded, not for the money but just an acknowledgement that there was a small pot of gold out there with my name on it.  Just tell me you are going to pay me my benefits EVENTUALLY and I will be happy.  No one likes to be ignored, especially a 70 year old out of work cranky bitch.

Finally, two days ago, I got six weeks of payments. Now, they don't actually notify you when that happens until about two weeks after it happens. You have to keep checking the EDD online site to see if they funded the stupid B of A credit card.  Once they do that you then need to go onto the B of A EDD credit card site and attempt to get those funds transferred into your checking account. (You clearly do not need to do this but does anyone really want a B of A credit card? We want that $$$ in our checking account!)  This is ostensibly not difficult except for the fact that the site shuts down 9 times out of 10 as you are trying to use it. So it literally takes about 30 minutes to make the transfer, which should really take about one minute.

Again, I am not complaining. I got my money, and it was a hefty chunk of $$$.  (I do hope everyone out there in EDD Land understands that we are all going to be paying taxes on this windfall come next year. Ain't no free lunch kids, especially to the tune of that extra government gift of $600 a week.)   It would just be so nice if the system worked a little more swiftly.  But as long as that pile of cash is out there in EDD Land with my name on it, I will continue on.

Good night, good luck, be safe and be happy!


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Black and White rights

And the gray area. I cannot pretend to address what's happening right now with the protests, the inequality of race, the anger and hatred and frustration.  I cannot pretend to understand how people of color feel at this moment in time.  I can only listen and watch and hope more lives are not taken in this struggle that should have had some resolution years, decades ago. I have no answers to any of this, only wide-eye wonder at why it has taken so long for a catalyst. 

Someone asked me this week if I thought it was right to take down statues in the South, statues that have been there for a hundred years as testament to .... to what?  To white power?  To suppression?  If there is a monument, a statue, a building in our country that perpetuates the servitude of anyone, then it should be destroyed, taken down, burned, ruined.  Therefore, yes, statues of slave owners, statues of blatant racists, monuments to slave auction blocks, statues of Confederate heroes, all those should be removed.  They all glorify oppression. Even if that "monument" is a police station in a city that has a long, long record of police brutality against people of color, then that station should rightly be burned.

The above statement could be taken to mean war on cops, on police stations. It could be taken to mean anarchy, to mean an acceptance of violence against order and law. That statement could be taken in many ways and I do not care how you take it other than this: if George Floyd was your brother, your cousin, your nephew, your friend, and you watched him being slowly suffocated by those white cops, wouldn't you want to burn that cop house down to ashes?  Would the police station be any kind of a barrier to your grief, to your actions, to your need for justice?  

Do I condone random looting, like breaking into a small restaurant to see if there's booze in there, like breaking into a Victoria Secret store to steal underwear?  No, I don't condone that. But I hold no animosity for those who are burning cop cars, police stations, banks, white-owned businesses. We white people have let this go on, we have stood silent and passive for far too long and it might be time to pay for our white privilege. Do I want someone to torch my house? No. I don't want fires in my 'hood, I don't want to be afraid.... but that's just another part of my white privilege speaking. I am safe. Many people are  not.

No answers are forthcoming from me.  But treating people of color like garbage has been going on for hundreds of years. It must stop.


Monday, June 8, 2020

Some things to be happy about.

My last post was sad and angry. No apologies, that's part of how everyone feels right now. That and confused, uncertain, anxious and lonesome. It's our world. It may be that way for quite some time. 

But this week also had some good things in it, at least for me. Two wonderful evenings:  Thursday night my "extra family" came over to enjoy the swimming pool on my property and have dinner. A family of four, all sequestered for the past many weeks, needed a break, needed some socialization and the two pre-teen boys needed to frolic in the pool. It was a hot day, in the 90's, frolicking was appropriate. We grilled some chicken and veggies and sat outside and enjoyed the evening and each other's company. Was it risky?  In my mind it was a lot less risky than going to the grocery store.  People with children are extremely vigilant about who their kids mix with. In this case, those two boys had mingled with just their family and the adults were working from home. I had zero fear about having them at my home. It was one of the best afternoon/evenings I have had all year.  Happy laughter, the warmth of love and friends, the delight that comes from being part of a family. All of it was joyful.

Then, another great evening followed!  Friday night my daughter picked up dinner from Valette, an exceptional restaurant in Healdsburg.  We had perused their take-out menu earlier in the week, ordered and were totally happy with our selections. Jenn and Dar set up a table in their garage, it was another beautiful evening, and with two of their good, local friends, the five of us had Valette cocktails, first and second courses and dessert by candlelight.  Lots of laughing (no hugging, however) and not really a lot of social distancing, but again, these are people who have been very careful about who they see and meet with. I had no hesitation about being in their company.  The evening went on until the late hours with music, singing, talking and simply sharing each other's company.  That kind of an evening has been in short supply lately, as we all know.

There are dangers everywhere: the grocery store, the post office, passing someone on a walking trail. Since mid March we have all cocooned ourselves away from danger and most of us have avoided the virus.  Yes, having two evenings in a row with people I love might have been chancy but it was a chance I was willing to take and will take it again if those circumstances are repeated.  

So many things we will not be doing very soon: going to a play, to a movie theater, flying on a plane, eating in a restaurant, going to a ball game, even joining a large group for a wedding or birthday celebration. If we can have small, intimate gatherings of five or six people now and then and feel safe and good about it, then that's what we are going to do in order to maintain some semblance of human contact.  Some of us are okay with being alone a lot but no one is okay being alone all of the time.  We need a tiny bit of socialization just to reboot our emotional stability and stay sane.

It's a new week. Take a deep breath, dive into whatever is making you happy these days and stay healthy. 



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Nothing good to say, nothing at all.

Everyone I talk to now is feeling the same: sad, angry, confused, frightened. There is little joy in our world at this moment. People are edgy and emotional. The future, even the future of tomorrow, is so uncertain and so bleak. Later this week, more protests, more riots? More virus outbreaks? More meanness and lies and deception by POTUS?  

Everyone I know is alright, they aren't in the middle of a riot and they are healthy and they have food and a good place to live. But no one is immune from this darkness that seeps around the edges of all our lives. It was bad enough two weeks ago when we were all antsy because of the Shelter in Place and we were all sad because of so many deaths. Now we have huge protests and riots because of the unending disparity between races and the total injustice of the treatment of black people and there is simply no way to fix this right now. Much like there is no way to fix the spread of the virus other than the small measures of masks and social isolation.  Both are pandemics: both the virus and the systematic destruction of black lives are diseases rife in this country. 

Add to that the millions who are out of work, without means, out of food, soon to be without homes, without any hope in sight. I personally am not destitute but I have not received any unemployment in over five weeks.  Yes, I file, I certify, I do everything necessary but for some reason my money is not coming to me. What if I was a mother with small kids, out of a job, rent to pay, groceries and utilities to buy, and no unemployment benefits forthcoming?  There is no one to call, absolutely no way to answer the question "Where is my money?"  The system is so broken, so overloaded, and yet there is no one to speak to about it, no one at EDD answers the phone, no email messages are returned. We are at the mercy of the bureaucracy and that bureaucracy show no mercy at all. We are impotent in the face of this idiocy. 

All we need now is an earthquake. Or a wild fire. That would be more icing on the rancid cake. At least those kinds of disasters have a foreseeable end.  What we are in now, this hurricane of horror, of hate and violence and disease, if there's an end it sure ain't obvious.

Be safe out there. Speak up, speak out and be strong. 



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Writing in the daylight

Rarely do I write this blog in the daylight hours. Writing seems more like a night-time thing to me, or perhaps, if I was a real writer, in the pre-dawn hours.  (It's obvious that I am not a real writer because I have NEVER wanted to get out of bed before dawn to write.  Ever.)  But here I sit, at 10:00 in the morning, blogging away like I do it every day!

Of the three people who read this on a semi-regular basis, one is my friend Margaret who chastises me (nicely) when it has been too long since I produced a blog post. It is because of Margaret that I am writing at this moment, while the sun is shining and the air is heating up and my stomach growls for breakfast.  Part of me wants another cup of coffee, the other (larger) part wants someone else to make it for me along with a toasted english muffin with a smear of peanut butter on it.  Breakfast of champions. But my stomach will need to growl some more before that happens. 

As is everyone else in our current situation, I am both tired of this lock-down and grateful for it.  There's nothing more to say about it than that.

Currently I am totally enjoying watching "Mad Men" on Netflix.  For some unknowable reason, I never watched it when it began in 2007.  But it is so good and so addictive!  Everything about it, from the stellar acting (and over-acting), the costumes, the sets, the portrayal of that 1960-1970 era, all of it is fascinating to watch.  Social, economic, political issues of that decade are dealt with, the advertising business is dissected like a lab rat and the outcome isn't very pretty.  The characters are flawed and often proud of those flaws. I could go on and on but if you haven't seen it, you better start watching soon.  In two weeks from today it will be gone from Netflix forever.

Reading:  fun,junky books (Robert Crais' Elvis Cole Private Detective series), old school books (Agatha Christie), memoirs ("Untamed" by Glennon Doyle , "The Sun is a Compass" by Caroline Van Hemert), poetry (Billy Collins),  pseudo-science fiction ("The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell), books off my shelf (Laurie Colwin again, Anne Lamott, Kate Atkinson) and books I have been slowly reading for some time ("Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harai)  ...... I am reading everything.  There was a little time, about three weeks ago, where my attention span faltered and I couldn't read for more than 15 minutes at a time.  But my reading rhythm has returned, thankfully.  Especially this week, when it is so bloody hot outside (close to 100 degrees yesterday), there isn't anything to do but read. Too hot to sit outside, too hot to walk the dog past noon.  Friends have sent me books, dropped books off on my doorstep and I have learned to download books from the library to my phone.

Baking: for the first six weeks of the Don't Leave the House order I baked.  A lot.  Like every day.  Bread, cookies, pies, cakes, crackers.  Over and over, rinse and repeat.  I would give the results away to anyone close by or drop them off at friends and acquaintances homes, but one cannot bake without tasting the product, of course.  Sadly I realized I needed to stop baking for a few weeks and eat things that did not have flour and sugar in them. Things like fruits and vegetables!  Baking will return, but not for another couple of weeks.

Drinking: along with the baking, I was totally happy to make new, experimental cocktails and eagerly consume them.  I didn't overdo it, but like the baking, too many calories get consumed.  I have tapered that off for the next couple of weeks as well, limiting myself to one liquid libation a day.  Sad, yes, but better for my liver in the long run. And who knows how long that run will be?  Certainly not a marathon length. More like a 10K run.  Doable, good for the soul and body but not that strenuous.

That's the rundown for now.  Hope everyone is trying to be safe and happy.  Be careful out there.


Monday, May 18, 2020

Traveling again, I'm ready.

Why is it that when you can't do something, it's all you want to do?  Right now all I think about is taking a road trip to the Eastern Sierras, to Bishop, Tom's Place, Lone Pine, Convict Lake and the list goes on and on.  But no. Not now.  Get those thoughts out of my head!

For years my friend Tom and I traveled as much as we could.  The Tuesday after Thanksgiving we would fly to Europe for two weeks.  Around January 15 we would do it again.  Some of our journeys were pre-Euro and the value of the dollar was very high so the expenses were quite reasonable.  (A lovely hotel in Paris was around $40.00 US.) After a few years of double trips to Europe we cut it down to one, but we usually went someplace else after our Europe excursion:  Michigan, Wisconsin, Death Valley, New York, Montreal, Chicago.....  we traveled!  Counting small countries like Vatican City (its own country) and San Marino (nestled in Italy) and Andorra (between France and Spain) I can truthfully report that I have stepped foot in over 20 countries.  One of those was just an airport stop but all the rest were at least an overnight, (with the exception of the three minuscule countries mentioned above, those were a drive-through) and most were more than one night.
And most of them were with Tom.

My mind is flooded with images right now. The tiny island of Lipari, off the coast of Sicily, the gorgeous Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal, the long train ride from Vienna to Venice that ended with both of miserably sick in Venice, fevers, hallucinations, mysterious disease.  So many meals in Italy, many in tiny places with no English spoken, one in Sienna that was memorable: snow falling outside, a cinghiale ragu, an incredible bottle of red wine.  The best bolognese in Bologna, lamb tagine in Tunis.  Getting drunk on a night train from Paris to Bologna, sitting in so many windows of hotels drinking red wine. Driving through fields of lavender in the south of France, dealing with frozen windshield wipers on the way to Rothenburg, Germany, driving in a blizzard in the south of Italy, unable to see the road, snow blind, hands gripping the wheel.  Seeing fireflies for the first time at the age of 40 something after a Friday night fish fry in Wisconsin. In Istanbul, the call to prayer, the sanctity of the mosques, the best oranges I have ever eaten bought from a street vendor. On my own, dodging scooters in Vietnam and eating pho for the first time in a local Hanoi cafe. Crossing the bridges in Lyon, sitting in outdoor French cafes, staring out so many windows at so many cityscapes.

It will be a while before I get on an airplane again but as soon as we get a green light, I will be in my car driving. I want to feel that hot Eastern Sierra wind in my face this summer, smell the heat of the sage in the desert. To see new places and revisit the old ones. I'm ready.