Thursday, September 17, 2020

Life in the Time of Virus - Under the Smoke

Railroad Sunset by Hopper

Month Six, in which the outdoors has been taken away from me.

You have seen the news about California being on fire and San Francisco looking like a set from Bladerunner. The fires in California and Oregon (mostly brush, not forests, mostly lightning-started, not gender reveal parties) have pumped a lot of smoke into the air, which has drifted north into our neck of the woods, leaving the land consumed by an acrid-tinged fog. My neighbor has a smoker, and I would often return at night to the smell of alderwood or hickory in the air. This is nothing like that. It is the entire Puget Sound area in a toxic smoker, with relief tantalizingly offered by the weather report, then denied.

As a result, I am approaching full shut-in status. No longer can I spend the after-hours on the back porch, sipping Cuba Libres and reading the New Yorker. Well, I can still do all that indoors, but its not the same. Even checking the mailbox leaves me a little wheezing. Winter, I can tell, will be difficult.

As seclusion continues, my bad habits are slowly re-instituting themselves. I am reading five books at a time again, as opposed to finishing one, writing about it, then moving onto a new volume. Currently reading a collection of Hammett's Continental Op stories, a slender volume from Michael Chabon, a book of pirate fantasy short stories, something by Frederick Brown, a Nisi Shawl, and the occasional chapter of Mary Beard's book on Rome. Books are scattered through the house. Should any of those conclude I will post about them. 

Part of this recidivism has been the result of my latest COVID project - reorging the hardback shelves. When we moved in 20+ years ago I had them organized, but twenty years of pulling stuff out, and putting things back in the approximate location has taken its toll. Have actually taken a Marie Kondo approach to this. Does this book bring me joy? Does it feel like something I will go back to, either for research or for enjoyment? Does it spark a pleasant memory? A lot of big thick SF novels are meeting their demise this way, along with some of the lesser books by Hunter Thompson and other authors I have accumulated by habit. Could not get rid of all the Garrison Keillors - my Lovely Bride would not let me, and I still have way too many Stephen J Goulds still stacked on the shelf. But there is actually blank spaces on my shelf (awaiting more books, of course).

Look, Honey! Tile!
As far as Kate is concerned,  HER big project has been putting tile behind the stovetop. When we lived in Lake Geneva, we re-did the bathroom in tile, and she saved the remains of the tile and shipped them out here to eventually do something with them. So she found something to do with them. She still has to grout them

Our largest cat, Keckovar, has been scratching his face open, and as such is now being medicated and wearing a pink "Cone of Shame". He is not amused, but has forgotten that his head is now three times as wide as before. Kia, the small ninja kitty, is amused by this turn of events.

Despite the smoke, we are continuing our Plague Pod of six people, almost all (except the Lovely Bride) who work from home. We usually gather at Sacnoth's backyard, but with the smoke and shrinking daylight have moved the festivities to our living room, where we push the sofas back against the wall for social distancing.

I realize how important the Internet has been during our seclusion We lost it briefly over the weekend because of laundry. OK, let me explain. The Lovely Bride was folding laundry while watching Tivo. Tivo is not updating. In the process of trying to reset the Tivo, we brought down the entire wifi system, and spent four hours resetting it (ultimately - unplugging everything and plugging it back in). During that time I kept picking up my iPad, intent on checking something online, and realizing I was totally isolated. Surprisingly frustrating. So, yeah, the Internet should be a utility.

In the outside world, we are aware that there are still shortages and reductions of the variety of items. The latest short supply has been in canning lids (A neighbor ran out and could not find them, but we ALSO had a supply, brought from Wisconsin over 20 years ago). Cleaning supplies are also a case of not getting your preferred brand. The good news is that whenever I get to the local store, masks are aplenty and worn correctly. 

The local newspaper, the Seattle Times, is hitting its own challenges. I am very aware of the fact that the (two) sections are smaller, and the margins are larger. With Sunday, the area of the headlines is carrying a lot more whitespace. The good news is, with the return of soccer and pro football (both without crowds, the noise pumped in), they have other things to write about. 

And so we row on. Working from home continues. The browning grass is revealing exactly were the septic system runs. Pedestrian passing our frontage are fewer. And the smoky fog is with us, yet to dissipate.

More later,