Captain’s Log, April 9, 2020

Today, we walked a mile again in our neighborhood. I have gone from walking at least two miles, five days a week and burning at least 600 calories each visit to our gym — now shut down — to walking a mile 4–5 days a week. This is an internal battle I need to win. I must do at least two miles a day, and furthermore to climb that 10-degree hill near our home that stretches for a quarter mile. I will keep you posted. No pain, no gain. Also, no pain — gain.

As Dylan Thomas wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Old age should burn and rage at close of day.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I am pretty sure Dylan not only urges, but commands us to fight aging. On my last day, I am envisioning parachuting, parasailing, shooting the curl and gliding. Hey, a person can imagine — or, maybe just being able to take myself back and forth to the bathroom.

Notes from my Zoom book group online meeting: one member says she is thrilled by blue skies and clean air and also says “I am hearing sounds in my house I have never heard before — like a clock ticking.” This reminds me of the line, “If a tree falls in the forest…”

Another member has a daughter due to graduate high school this spring who cries in her room every day — no graduation and no prom. These are markers in our lives. In 25 years she will sigh or laugh. Right now it hurts, badly.

Another member shared photos of her firstborn.

One of my group members reads literature in two languages, Spanish and English. I’m not worthy.

Day 26 of no new frames. During my last eye exam I was told that legally I needed glasses to drive. I’m down with that, but apparently helping people see is not an essential business. How else am I to explain no new frames?

Stuff I learn from Facebook: There is a German word, kummerspeck, that literally means grief-bacon, or excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Heretofore, I considered bacon one of the four food groups, so I am less likely to ramp up its consumption even during traumatic emotional times. I select only thick bacon and I choose very carefully, looking for the leanest package. Even then, once home and adding to some dish, I trim off at least 20% of the remaining fat. So, if there is such a thing as lean bacon, I am using it. The more appropriate term would be leaner bacon. Regardless, bacon will not make you leaner. Oink. Overall, be more like Jack Sprat of limerick fame.

Today was forage day. Just to get our France-based daughter to stop carping at me, I took my son along and gave him a grocery-shopping 101 course. The plan is to send him foraging instead of me. Some of the basic lessons:

Check every egg

The fresher packages are in the back, like milk.

Some brands have longer sell-by dates, like cream and ½ & ½.

Pay more attention to the price per ounce, not the actual price, even if it means buying a larger quantity.

Most canned goods have a no-salt or reduced salt option. Buy them.

When buying Mexican, buy the mild, because — his mother.

Buy the softer lemons and limes and the thinner-skinned ones.

Never buy soft avocados unless I am using that night.

Avoid wrinkly-skinned bell peppers.

Turn packaged berries over to check the deterioration.

Climb every mountain, ford every stream. Oops, wrong fatherly advice meme.

He took a lot of photos as I pointed out items that would be on the list on a future forage.

I warned our son about buying meat from a store like Vons. I never buy hamburger anymore from any store. I buy sirloin (and sometimes chuck), grind it at home, and freeze. Today, I wanted to replenish our ground beef supply. I pored over the USDA Choice Sirloin selections and was not comforted, noting the varying coloring, and knowing I could not see underneath. Still, I bought five pounds. At home I began slicing the sirloin. Sure enough, just under the reddish veneer was a thin brownish layer. The smell was still okay so I still carved the meat into small chunks, ground them into hamburger, portioned them into one-pound portions and froze them. Stop it, Vons.

Still no garlic — immunity maniacs are even beginning to discover the hard-to-find shelving for jars of chopped or minced garlic. Soon, the maniacs may hoard those as well. A pox on them.

These are the days of mood swings. I never did figure out whether men had anything physiologically equal to a woman’s period. I have concluded that being a shithead comes naturally for too many men. Regardless, this may be my fifth mid-life crisis — one per decade — the first while in my thirties.

I am fortunate to have my writing projects. But I have rarely been a 1,000-words-a-day writer, even if laser-locked on a novel. This book of nonfiction is germinated and fueled with the expanse of life’s experiences, even if it is only my life. Social contacts and being out amongst the living make great fodder for raw writing material. Today, those limitations are smothering, as if something as stifling as Fascism had taken over America, snuffing out creativity and individuality. Okay, that may be too draconian, but pandemics cast a pall. And for the record, the number of Fascists or Fascist wannabes in this county is far more than I would have guessed ten years ago — maybe not spreading as rampant as the coronavirus, but unhealthy nonetheless. One word — men.

I now devote more time to planning and mentally rehearsing dinner—and thinking about writing. As a prolific songwriter friend recently said to me, “I don’t write everyday, but I think about writing everyday.”

I am not feeling depression, at least in any clinical sense. But I am feeling malaise, sprinkled with bouts of anxiety, and moments of dread. Writing humor in a time of a pandemic borders on perverse as morbidity rates soar. Writing humor, wry or otherwise, centers me. And I have long been self-effacing. I refuse to stop now especially since, often, I am my best material.

Today’s home county count, 1138 infections to date and a running daily average of 61 this past week. USA count has passed 500,000 infections. USA! USA! We’re #1! We’re #1! Deaths are approaching 20,000. Worldwide infections are approaching 2 million with over 100,000 deaths.

Cocktail hour might have to move up to 3:00.

Writer of books, columns and blogs; historical fiction, humor, satire, social commentary. Cook (the good, bad and oops). Disaster relief volunteer. Traveler.

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