Just One More Errand

Early in the evening between the first breeding and the second, I was sitting in the hotel restaurant eating half of a Kansas City strip steak that I intended to share with the dogs and I jokingly pointed out via text to the Bacon Provider that I could just drive down and see his mom in a quick trip of about 7 hours.

Shortly, we put together a real plan. He would fly down, I could meet him at the airport, and we could drive back together.

I was the big winner, because after driving 900 miles straight through by myself, a second driver made the drive sound easy. Ok, maybe not easy. Easier. So, Friday I did a little shopping (I had left Bedhead Hills without my toiletry bag), packed up my stuff and my sleepy bitch, and checked out. The Bacon Provider’s flight was expected at 9 p.m. in Tampa. 

The question of the trip down to Tampa was Where will We Pee, and the answer was Not Here.

I hit the same trio of delays: traffic, construction, and storms. The storms delayed the Bacon Provider’s flight as well, so in the end, he was an hour and a half late, and I pulled up in front of the airport just as he stepped outside.

From Tampa we hopped down to Sarasota, closer to his mom’s.   We stayed at the Westin, which is next to the Four Seasons, pretends to be almost as nice, and half the price. Currently, the Westin’s rooftop bar is a popular spot, and a sheriff was on the premises, riding the elevator,  both evenings we were there. As Eggi and I looked for something like grass for her to pee on, we witnessed a bar patron berating a parking valet (who barely looked old enough to drive, rattling about in his hotel polo shirt and khaki shorts) for not being willing or able to sell him drugs.

I have been going to Florida irregularly and/or regularly since I was in high school, and some of the nicer parts have been prettied up, so they no longer really look like Florida. The crummy, run-down bits are fewer and probably worse, but the jay-walking guy with no shoes and no belt, holding up his pants with one hand, hopping over some fire ants and disappearing into the bushes by the vacant bait and tackle shop isn’t as sorry a sight as the gently swaying guy in the elevator, cradling a big bag of take-out Red Lobster who smells so strongly of Kahlua you wonder if he’s been bathing in it. 

Despite the catastrophic collapse of a Miami condo, Florida is, at this moment, enjoying a frenzied real estate boom; they’re unmasked, unvaccinated, sunburned, and don’t wanna hear none of your nonsense about climate change, rising seas, ocean acidification, or worsening storms. They want all-cash deals, 20% over asking, and where’s that bartender I need another mojito. It’s ok, though, because it will all be under water by 2061.

It was good to see the Bacon Provider’s mother, anyway. She is dwindling, to be sure, and did not know me, but she said my husband’s name, and laughed some. It seems particularly unfair that someone whose life has been filled with trials, is, at the end, an enormous responsibility to her youngest daughter, who shares the job with a rotating team of carers. We can hope to see her again before the true end. The Bacon Provider hasn’t been able to visit since the pandemic began, and I guess this is another thing returning to normal, if visiting your ailing mother before she goes is ever normal.

For her part, Eggi was pleasant with the nurse, quiet indoors, and discovered lizards in the backyard, and so had a fine experience. To life, Eggi! To life!

We left the next morning hoping to outrun Tropical Storm Elsa, that was swirling into the Gulf of Mexico and preparing to make landfall on our heels.

The day we left Florida was, in fact, the Fourth of July, which is a holiday celebrated by Americans out of doors, with parades, sunburns, barbecues, and fireworks. Any excessive displays of the American flag these days should probably be met with suspicion, and this holiday doubles down with American public drunkenness.

We wanted to stay someplace interesting and break up the next leg before our stop in Virginia, and settled on Charleston, South Carolina, which wasn’t much out of the way. Charleston turns out to be difficult with dogs (there is essentially no grass anywhere in the old, interesting part of town where you might stay). But we had a nice long walk and eventually Eggi peed on a slim handful of weeds growing in an empty gravel church parking lot. 

At dinner a large we were told the hotel restaurant wouldn’t have a table for us at such late notice but in fact we were able to eat early and see a large group of partiers emerge from the elevator where they had been stuck for a good twenty minutes. When the shrieking was over, half left and the other half stayed to get real drunk. 

We soaked our feet and went to bed quite early and did not hear the fireworks at all.

In the morning we hit the road early Eggi even peed in the street like a proper urbanite. As the trip continued, Eggi became more expert with elevators, and could even use the “ding” and the light to predict which doors would open in a bank of elevators. Only once in a week did she try to defend the space from other people getting on.

We hit afternoon traffic coming into DC even though it was a holiday for most people. I guess it was everyone else coming back from the holiday weekend. And, so, another several hour stretch of bumper to bumper stop and go highway miles, and once again it fell during my driving shift. After so many days of this kind of driving, I had a cramp on my right leg. 

Living in Bedhead Hills, which is served by a commuter train to New York City, I can imagine a scenic and relaxing high-speed rail system, with stops in New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Tampa. It could even be based on green technology, and on the 4th of July we could toast to our Independence from fossil fuels.

Today in May

This May, in the Second Year of Our Pandemic, 2021, was especially long. Certainly, it was a lot longer than May of 2020, of which I have no memory whatsoever.

I do not have any tattoos, but if I were to get a Commemorative Coronavirus Pandemic tattoo, it might be this:

A friend who lives in Europe told me recently they are anxiously still awaiting their vaccine. (Between writing the first draft of this post and publishing, I am happy to report they’ve now had their first jab).

The day before, I saw a Facebook post from someone I know here in New York who complained that “the whole world is brainwashed” above a posted graphic saying, “the unvaxxed have to wear mask to protect the vaxxinated.”

I am disturbed and haunted by it.

I can unfollow this person on FB, but I will still see them in person and regularly in real life. Someone with pets! You know, beloved animal companions, vaccinated for rabies, distemper, and West Nile?

One of my brothers is taking a break from social media; he’s missing out on the vaccine selfies, the proud graduation photos, the puppies, the ads for washable rugs and knitted sneakers, the hot takes, the old memes, and the bad news.

My mother was the sort of old school reader of books about social courtesies who believed that good manners dictate that one not point out another’s bad manners. The 21st Century extension of this rule is that one might abstain from commenting on a bad take.

I try.

The bad take in question had some enthusiastic support from friends and family (insert cringing noises here), and some genuinely concerned replies from mutuals, who hate to see a seemingly nice person humiliate themself on a rude, science-denying, loud, public fart.

I scrolled on, closed Facebook, and tried for days not to think about it.

I have not stopped thinking about it.

The brainwashed believers in a coronavirus pandemic? Includes me, and every other intelligent person I know. Brainwashed people with advanced degrees. Vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. Helping people in their lives find appointments. Anxious to get 80% of America vaccinated. Brainwashing isn’t real, but science is.

The vaccinated people still wearing masks? Me, at times. My husband, too. Out of a desire not to expose people who haven’t gotten their shots yet. Out of habit. In deference to 27,504 hospitalized people in the U.S. Out of a desire not to make anyone else uncomfortable. Out of an abundance of caution. In memory of 594,051 dead Americans. As an example.

The meme they shared? From someone who is getting attention for their contrary takes (with an extra grammatical error to own the libs). From someone who could be themselves vaccinated. Definitely something that we could use a lot less of.

I wish I could stick with my instinct to ignore the post. I record it here for my future self. To remind me of the time when the vaccine was becoming more widely available, when still not everyone had it yet, when it wasn’t something you could just ask each other about, when it wasn’t clear if enough people were going to get on board, when we didn’t know if we were ever going to be getting past some people wearing masks and others disliking it.

My brother who has gone off Facebook is happier without it (for now).

Me? If no one in my life is going to graduate from something soon, maybe I’ll have to make some puppies.

Shot

Twenty-four hours from now, I pass the invisible deadline after which I can be considered fully vaccinated from the coronavirus. I haven’t chosen my superhero name yet, and I’m wondering if a chambray cape would be too much with jeans.

When I made my appointments for the shots, it was in such high demand that if you didn’t fill out the web forms quickly enough, the appointment slots would disappear before your eyes. Now the shot is pretty easy to come by in New York, and I know it isn’t this way everywhere. We need everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to about it has that one uncle or sister or co-worker who is being a butthead about getting the vaccine. As the rare American who hasn’t the task of selling the reasonable risks of this new inoculation, I don’t have to internalize the frustration of coexisting with science deniers.

Captain says he gets shots all the time and they’re no big deal.

The day of my second vaccine was very much like the day of the first, with pilates and a horseback riding lesson, back to back.

The second time around I was much less nervous about arriving at the senior center in the Bronx and finding parking but out of habit threw on the navigon. (This is what the Bacon Provider calls it: the navigon. I always thought that “navigon” was the generic term for the category of navigational device or navigation software. I mean, he would know. I just went to look it up and discovered that it was an actual German company that made navigation devices and got bought out by a larger, U.S. competitor, who of course shut it down. He was being funny, and I didn’t know it until now. I like the word “navigon” and think we should use it to mean whatever navigation technology we use, be it software on our phones or the crummy, built-in stuff in the dashboard of a modern car.)

Because I don’t really go anyplace anymore, it is thrilling and nauseating to hit the road for someplace new. I got on the highway headed south. Traffic was moving at a good clip, and I was listening to a book by Muriel Spark and keeping pace with the other traffic. I had a passing thought about the lack of a plan for dinner.

I did not see the object that hit my windshield, but I did see that it was flung from the tires of a dump truck slightly ahead of me and one lane over. I flinched, naturally, and heard it hit with a sharp crunch. I paused the girls of the Brodie set and let my eyes adjust to see the crack. Isn’t it funny that you can’t listen and look at the same time?

I do not know if I had been on any other errand if I would have been annoyed by the ruinous crack on my windshield, but I was not annoyed. Maybe it was knowing that a new windshield was the one thing that car insurance actually covers with no deductible. Or maybe it was knowing that the windshield gave its life so that I didn’t get my face shattered by a rock. And anyway, I was getting a coronavirus vaccine.

The Senior Center in the Bronx was guarded by a new but similar pair of NYPD and National Guard soldiers. All they wanted to see was the little paper card from last time. I was directed to a chair and as soon as I sat, a nurse in navy scrubs leapt to his feet from the chair across from me. There was no time for chatting or a vaccine selfie. The fifteen minute wait after getting the shot was the only thing about it that seemed to take any time at all. The woman with the enormous bottle of sanitizer who could not stop singing was still there, although she had at last stopped singing.

We grilled lamb skewers for dinner, and made greek salad and pita bread.

I felt a little bit achy the next day; most people I know felt pretty crummy after the second shot, with aches and a fever. I never ran a fever, but I did have some surprising intestinal track issues (which I had thought was a coincidence after the first shot). It took about a week for that to seem normal again.

They came and replaced my windshield on my driveway.

Now that my little vaccine dance card is all filled out, I’ve propped it on my desk in the center spot I save for the MVP of very important papers. Today I was asked to upload a copy of it for the first time. The Westminster Kennel Club dog show, which is in about five weeks, is asking exhibitors to either be tested for coronavirus just before the event, or submit proof of vaccination. The show is closed to both spectators and vendors this year. It is being held in June instead of February, and at the Lyndhurst Estate, in Tarrytown, instead of Madison Square Garden. Fellow qualified to enter, with several major wins, including a Best in Specialty Show last November. He has been going to shows with his professional handler during the pandemic, and it will be the first time I’ve seen him in the show ring in well over a year.

Today in April

April had thirty days in it, this year, which is the second year of our Pandemic, but this week alone it was Friday at least three times. This is why I am posting on Friday, instead of Thursday.

TikTok is great and you should waste time there instead of Facebook.

Shoutout to the 29th, which is painted on a piece of newspaper and is absolutely my favorite of the month. Also, bravo to the coronavirus vaccine effort, which has now produced 101,407,318 fully vaccinated Americans.

What Day it Was

Today is the 15th of April, which in more normal years is the day that federal income taxes are due in the United States, but owing to the chaos of the pandemic the deadline has been pushed back a month. Last year, they pushed it back six months. This year, tax preparers were promised the deadline was firm. And it was, until it wasn’t.

And no matter who said it, taxes and death are still inevitable.

I’ve got nothing specific to say today, which creates an abstractly hairy problem for me, since I am more practiced in the Art of Not Writing than I am in the Art of Writing. Not Writing was something I started doing in earnest in the mid-1980s, and gave up for stretches of time, and resumed in 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020, but am trying to avoid now.

Shall I list my pandemic accomplishments for you?

One is, I have at this point surrendered to household dust and muddy dog footprints.
Another is, my cat is now a complete attention hog.
Three: my hair is really, really long and I pretty much hate it, but maybe not enough to do anything about it.
4: We exacted a repair on a long broken vacuum cleaner brush head. Replacement parts cannot be found (by anyone, including you, no matter how good you think your monopoly-search-engine-that-is-now-a-verb search engine skills are) online unless I am willing to pay $30 to a Guy on Ebay for two small pieces of special plastic and just eat it if the parts don’t actually fit. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be doing any more vacuuming than I was doing before. This repair is temporary, because there was a spinning part and some plastic involved, and the friction of the jammed thing that was supposed to spin but couldn’t actually melted the plastic. So when the melted piece fails, it goes back to being a vacuum cleaner without a sucky rotating brush head thingy.
Five): I dropped my iron, the one that hadn’t been dropped yet, and a chunk of plastic broke out of it, as another reminder to me and you and everyone else that plastic is bad and we have entirely too much of it in our lives. Also, possibly that ironing is terrible. Unless it isn’t.

Rowenta iron with a plastic bit busted out of it, shown in its natural habitat: among sewing tools


6- [redacted for boringness]
SEVEN, I am keeping track of the days and/but learning little from it. Most years, as spring gets underway, I start feeling abstract dread around the middle of March, and count down the days until the 13th of April, which is the anniversary of my mother’s death. This year, being the second of our pandemic, I was so over-focused on what day it was I failed to remember what day it was, and I only remembered when my brother texted me about it late in the evening. I went on to have hospital nightmares. Or one, long, hospital nightmare. One in which I was there with a lot of dogs, all vizslas, and they got away from me (of course), into the hospital, and I had to try to find them and catch them. And in my search I came upon every hospital room I have in my memory, including some recent ones where I visited sick people, some old ones, like where I saw my father in the ICU, and the corridor where I spoke to my mother before her first brain surgery, and also a room where Home Alone 2 is on the TV, where we spent a late 1990s Xmas eve in the pediatric ER, the rooms where I recovered after foot surgery, and all with those curtains and the LED-paneled equipment, and the pale-colored, forgettable walls, and also dream vizslas under all the beds and drinking from the toilets and galloping the halls and getting tangled in the mops in the janitors’ closets.

  1. I have a list of titles for future posts; if I were feeling accomplished, I might call these things essays. I mean, “blog” is really sort of –you know– kind of an unappealing, little made-up word, a cutesy clip of a portmanteau, and I’m not ready to like it. No, not even after a dozen years. Maybe I’ll stick with “post.” Anyway, good for me for dipping into the list of topics a couple of times so far, but this time everything on it is either not ready yet (looking at you, “Pandemic Quilt Number Two”), or rather mundane (ahem, look alive, “The Quest for Clear Ice”), or just not enough of an idea to get me going (yeah, get your shit together, “Pencils”).
Vizslas, leashed

Nine. In addition to watercolors, I have remembered how much I love to cut things out and glue them to paper. And, in a stroke of improbable luck, I found a stack of labelled boxes in my basement that contain the loosely organized papers I was using to make collages before I had kids. These boxes survived seven moves, some short and others across the country, over thirty years, their contents preserved where other more valuable boxes (thinking of some high end audio speakers and all my cookbooks) vanished. Yesterday, I spent two hours in the morning and perhaps eight more interrupted hours in the afternoon and evening cutting out letters and numbers and gluing them down and making a satisfying mess.

Last Friday, the Good

Woman in mask at vaccination center

Last Friday, April 2nd, in the Second Year of Our Pandemic, 2021, was Good Friday, and also a good day.

The night before, of course, I had a stressful dream about how my friend Allison and I narrowly escaped the flood, freed the refugee children from her attic (but abandoned the elderly people), and tried to organize everyone into two large rowboats. I woke up when Allison climbed into the boat I was supposed to row, pushing her half of the crowd of children out into the floodwaters without an adult or a second oar.

I got up early to make my Today is watercolor.

I am very excited by painting with watercolors right now, and have nearly used up an old block of watercolor paper that I received as a gift when I was in junior high school. I am even using the backs.

Then it was time to do the pet feeding dance. Schwartz and Eggi are easy these days (although Eggi is on a bit of a diet because bitches have hormone cycles and boy, does she). Captain had a sour tummy in the morning so I was pressed to add something delicious. Fellow was away for the weekend at a dog show.

cat sitting on yoga mat
Schwartz has his own mat

Then I had pilates with the cat.

Then we had a riding lesson which was very amazing (I mean, riding horses is very amazing. Prehistoric people probably would have eaten all the horses if they hadn’t figured out how to use them as engines, and together we went on to invade almost the whole earth, and then about a hundred years ago we quit on the horses and switched to gas-powered internal combustion and heyo, I guess, sorry about the greenhouse gasses to the whole earth and all its inhabitants).

Then I came home and changed out of my riding clothes and printed out an appointment ticket I found lurking in my email and headed to The Bronx.

One thing about living in Bedhead Hills is that it is 1977 here, so in order to get to places like North Dreadful, where it is 1957, or New York City, where it is 2021, you must also time travel. I do not know precisely why, but going backwards in time is easier around here, and you can do it in your car, but going forwards in time usually requires taking a train. Otherwise, the length of your journey can vary from an hour, to many hours.

I took the precaution of listening to a fully dramatized Hamlet in the car, so there were ghosts and a mad scene and the clang of swords on the Hutch.

I should probably say that New York’s Governor for Life Andrew Cuomo announced that people over 50 without pre-existing conditions were eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in the state in mid-March, but at first I wasn’t able to find an appointment for a shot within two hundred miles. Eventually, I took an appointment that was about a hundred miles away, and then, checking and refreshing the Am I Eligible page on the website at odd hours of the day and night, was able to improve my arrangement, finding something both sooner and closer. And despite the fact that people I know all over Westchester County have been able to get appointments at local pharmacies or at the mass vaccine event being held in White Plains in the convention center, the best I could do was a senior center in The Bronx.

When I arrived in The Bronx, I found myself in the car dealerships/car repair/window tinting/tires neighborhood, where the streets are wide but crowded with rows of double-parked cars, so a driver must proceed like Alice, at the beginning of her adventures in Wonderland, where she follows the rabbit (who is late) down the hole and begins to fall, very slowly, and for a long time. I passed the best parking spot and had to tootle around the block looking for another.

It was then so easy to find a parking spot I walked away thinking that it might not be a legal space to park, but if my car was getting towed, so were several other even larger cars. And owing to the length of the trip, and the time travel, and the meander past the weaving cars requiring new tires and window tinting, I was on the verge of running late myself. It was easy to see where the entrance was, with Stand Here circles on the sidewalk, two ambulances, and a police officer. As I approached the entrance, a very man came from the other direction, striding and swaggering in such a way that even the molecules of air moved out of his way, and as he got closer, his legs got longer, his stride lengthened, and he got even taller, or maybe I got shorter, or maybe both, and, but, so that when we reached the policeman at the same time, I was practically invisible and the much larger man went first.

As the large man stepped to the doors, I was confronted by a surprised NYPD officer, who hadn’t seen me approach, and demanded my ID and appointment ticket. My Westchester friends have relayed tales of going early to their appointments, but in The Bronx there are large signs out front making clear that you cannot be early; you must be within 30 minutes of your appointment.

I followed the enormous man into the building and startled another screener, who let the man go but gave me a stern but muffled lecture about keeping my ticket handy. A man stopped me and took my temperature, and gestured that I was to proceed onwards. I followed the arrows on the floor. A woman with a clipboard said something I did not understand, so I wandered forward and sat in an empty folding chair. A woman at a desk with a computer asked me for something so I produced the ticket. She didn’t want it. She wanted my ID, and she kept it on the desk in front of her while she furiously typed.

Then a National Guard solider in a desert-camo uniform and cap, crisply creased pants tucked neatly into pristine tan boots appeared with a small plastic tray. A nurse in navy scrubs took two syringes, and two cards from the tray, one for me and one for the next person.

The nurse told me to take off my sweatshirt, which I did, and she reached for my right arm. I asked if we couldn’t use my left arm. She asked me which arm I wanted. I said left. She reached out and grabbed the deltoid on my left shoulder, pinching it hard, and told me to relax the muscle, which I attempted to do and no sooner had I made that attempt there was already a needle in my arm and it was done. It didn’t hurt at all.

She slapped a bandaid on me and was gone in a flash

The woman with my ID completed her furious typing and examination of the object of interest. She placed a sticker on me with the time I was free to leave written on it, and with my license gave me a sticker and the precious white card with the details of my Pfizer shot. A sticker. I got a sticker.

I rose with my winter coat bundled in my arms and went to find my way to the waiting chairs, following more arrows and stickers on the painted concrete floor. There, a woman in a traffic safety vest with a lanyard and ID badge wandered through the grid of chairs, singing volubly. She held a gigantic bottle of spray sanitizer, which she applied to chairs after people left.

“You can sit anywhere,” she said, with the same sing-song cadence to every person who emerged.

An older man circled the chair in front of me, and was encouraged by Safety Vest to have a seat anywhere. He sat. They must have exchanged other words, but I was a little lost in my own head. The ceiling was very high, with frosted glass panels set into a frame, so the enormous room was filled with natural light. I wondered what the enormous room of the senior center was normally used for; table tennis? Safety Vest told the man in from of me, “Jesus is my boss.”

He replied, but I couldn’t hear him, and she said, “I’ve been singing and dancing my way through my whole career in New York.”

When it was my time to leave, Safety Vest came to me, looked at the time on my sticker, and said, “If you feel ok, you can go.”

I looked her directly in the eye and burst into tears. I had to explain that I was fine, just emotional. A year ago, we didn’t know how long the pandemic would be, and vaccines were something people talked about as something hopeful, something possible, but a big if. I’ve felt so much worry about when the vaccine would be available to us, and so frustrated with trying to find an appointment, that here I was, crying tears of relief. “We’ve had a lot of that today,” she said, and went back to singing.

I exited just behind the every tall man I entered behind. His great strides slicing through the air had gotten him his vaccine only a moment before I got mine. On my way back to my car, I saw a big pile of poo in the grass, and I do not think it was from a dog.

On the drive home, Hamlet was captured by pirates.