COVID19 Diaries – Many Small Ponderings

A Tweet Blog for Future Reference

Happy 150th Golden Gate Park! Skystar wheel looking forlorn, but folks all over the place on this sunny day. Biking through felt much safer.

Blown away by a 100-year-old bee hive in a 200(+)-year-old house’s wall. Swarm leaves when queen dies but they usually come back.

Saddened at the thought of a young boy, ignored and locked in his room.

Will 8pm be the next world-wide scream moment? Will it replace New Years Eve?

I have recently asked myself, “What would Octavia Butler do?”

Always enjoy the Reddit photos of stuff people are digging out of storage.

Those health care workers facing the MAGA idiots’ car protest… our Tiananmen Square photo moment.

Right-wingers willing to die for the free market. Willing to kill others for capitalism. No surprise there!

I’m still not comfortable wearing a mask in public. I keep wanting to run from riot cops but only looking for the goat milk in the market’s cooler.

The four things always on my shopping list: dark chocolate, avocados, peanut butter, and wipes.

Woah. Michael Savage has a PhD in nutritional ethnomedicine (including epidemiology) and thinks MAGAcult science-deniers are wingnuts. 

Last night, I just didn’t want to participate in the zoom call. I’m here without you, so you can’t make me!

Low-carb mousse: whipping cream, chocolate powder, a little vanilla. Make sure you whip the chef while they whip the mix to hard peaks.

Seeing lots of past thinking posted online. I’ve been scanning my old paper ticket stubs and enjoying the ride.

You know I’m snacky when you see all the nut-butter stained spoons in my sink.

I spent some of my COVID-19 subsidy money supporting local book stores. I now have to track a package from USPS, FedEx, and UPS all at the same time. 

I usually only bike to get somewhere or do something. My pandemic rides have been towards the sun, here, there,  checking out crowds and grocery store lines.

I do not miss all the tech commuter buses, or the piles of Lyft/Uber cars. Looks like the birds don’t either.

Should I feel guilty throwing away a bag of clothes left behind on the street?

Golden Gate Park looked like a normal busy day this afternoon. The Skystar wheel wasn’t on, and no tourists were around. Don’t walk there if you’re anxious about distancing.

Eat that strawberry like it is the last thing you’ll ever taste!

Learned to play Lennon’s “Imagine” on the guitar. Loved having my Sweetie sing along with me.

A Howze man without a vacuum cleaner is like lemonade without the sugar. Sad day when the 1960s Electrolux’s on switch died. Here’s to a new vac this week!

I never thought I’d begin my day by wiping down high-touch surfaces. Now looking forward to the weekends when I don’t have to wipe down the work station.

Have had most meals at the table with my Sweetie. We thank the farmers/laborers, the animals, the plants, and the folks at the market or restaurant every time.

Buying meals from local places about every four days, including cocktails and portions large enough for several left-over meals.

I’m ordering more things online, but still haven’t given Amazon a dime. Bezos is rich enough!

New things I’m trying: working out via zoom, baking, sardines. Baking sardines while working out is not an option.

Inspired by the “Catching ‘Trane” doc, we listened to 5 hours of Coltrane several Saturdays ago. 12 vinyl sides and two albums off of Hoopla.

I’ve hopped on the Twitter train (@Russell_Laughed) but am only posting content for two people. The Other Russell is the only audience I care about.

You know you’re sheltering in place when you get excited about the exercise up and down the stairs to take all the garbage, recycling, and compost out.

My plastic footprint has gone up. So has the frozen foods in our freezer.

Now that I’m on Twitter, these simple cut/paste ponderings will keep me going for weeks.

Should I not wear my hoodie for today’s zoom meeting? Maybe I put on the heavy metal concert denim jacket instead?

A few weeks ago, I noticed that I had four screens in front of me. Felt like I was in a Dave Eggers novel.

NY Times reporting that COVID may have hit California in January. Our office had a spat of deep-chested cough sickness in early/mid February. I got it and coughed for two weeks, but my Sweetie had no symptoms. A true thing to ponder [insert chin-scratching emoji].

COVID19 Diaries – Cars Hiss By My Window

What day is it?

My idol, Mrs. Kravitz, staring in and out windows during the classic sit-com “Bewitched”. “Abner! Did you see that…?”

As days and hours blur, I am possibly fortunate to have to stare at dates on screens to meet work deadlines. Some people are not as fortunate, so a nightly news segment in Cleveland has begun to remind people what day it is. Time has still become more fluid for me, even when attempting to keep a similar schedule that I had biking to work.

In the mornings, I now spend a good 20 minutes wiping down high-touch surfaces, which is half the flat, before reading my comics, stretching, and meditating. Then I eat breakfast with my Sweetie before clocking in around 9am to get the work day going. The schedule continues around noon for lunch and 5pm closing time for work. 

The difference is a bit obvious: I am keeping a schedule, but I don’t leave the house much. I’m not getting enough exercise or sun. I do go on bike rides that usually happen after sunset. Our apartment only gets direct sunlight in the kitchen and front windows, so my Sweetie tends to follow the sun like a cat with a zoom account. I have recently started taking breaks to stand in the sun, next to the 4 windows that let the rays in.

Which brings me to my ever present window gazing and loitering. Catching the zeitgeist, The Onion wrote a hilarious headline April 2: “‘They’re Doing Something to the Street,’ Reports Nation Staring Out Window.” That something was a work truck making a hole. Prior to the COVID-era pandemic, I spent a good deal of time staring out our windows. There is always something exciting going on out on Divis and Turk! My Sweetie started calling me Mr. Kravitz, after the always-nosy-and-staring-out-a-window Gladys Kravitz from 1970s rerun staple “Bewitched”. Though her husband Abner tended to not stare out the window, I do as part of my Mr(s). Kravitz avatar. 

You name it, I’ve probably seen it out our windows: DPW work, DPT work, car wrecks, fights, a drunk driver getting cheered on by dumb ass youngsters, drug addicts losing their minds, birds, trees, wind, rain, fire trucks, cleaning crews, etc. Just like Jim Morrison wrote, cars, buses, trucks, not only hiss by my window, they chug, whine, rattle, bang, rumble, and shake outside my window.

After COVID, the stories out my window are about the same with less cars and trucks, and a Lyft/Uber trickle rather than a stream. The absence of tech buses has made Divis more quiet and less polluted. Our building also doesn’t shake as much as it used to. Over the past few weeks, as the days and minutes melt into a consistency of grilled cheese, I’ve made a list of some things that have gone on outside my window. Some items are things I stared at prior to the pandemic, but worth mentioning. 

Mr. Kravitz’s COVID19 Window-Gazing list

  • blue skies, clouds, passing birds
  • sunrise over downtown and city lights at night
  • maintenance man across the street blowing off sidewalk more than he usually does
  • possibly the last 31 bus turning up on Turk before massive MUNI cutbacks
  • random angry screaming and arguing pedestrians (usually happens, happening right now!)
  • work crew spraying off parked cars (not sure why)
  • rain and water draining patterns down the hill
  • random aluminum beverage cans rolling down Turk, some getting crunched
  • other people’s TV sets
  • waiting for the delivery truck, and other delivery trucks off loading
  • the fascinating tapering off of tech commuter buses, Lyft/Uber, construction trucks, and the appreciated quiet it brings
  • sunsets behind the hill with painting-like colored clouds
  • water trucks (hosing down gutters) preceding sweep trucks instead of DPT ticket writers
  • sweep trucks on and noisy, but just driving by since cars don’t have to move
  • fnnch’s honey bear, before spring leaves cover up the view
  • pollen’s migration patterns
  • the masked, the avoidant, the groups larger than 2 people

COVID19 Diaries – The 2 New Sacraments

I was maybe 15 people in front of the great Chris Carlsson, but he shopped fast enough to exit with me. We caught up a bit as I walked to my bike (see the still-long line in background), which I locked at the earlier end of the line. Of course, we took a distanced selfie, and I got encouraged to write about this pandemic for the amazing FoundSF history wiki.

Wednesday, March 25

After a few visits to local markets, I had to visit the Rainbow Coop. I texted a friend who works there to ask a few questions. Rainbow has changed policies to respond to the pandemic, and to protect the worker/owners and customers. Entry is controlled, many of the bulk items are not available, and Rainbow sent out an email saying wait times can be up to 30 minutes. My friend said that midday is usually a good time to go, but the line wait can vary. They have also reserved the first few hours for folks over 60 and immune-compromised, and their hours have been cut back.

After a few days of trying to get there, I showed up around 2pm today. The line was around the corner on Folsom, just at the edge of 14th St. People were standing about six feet apart and the line moved somewhat regularly. Across the street at Food Co., the line looked about 20-people long. Rainbow was at least twice that long!

Fifteen minutes into my wait, a Rainbow worker/owner, masked and gloved, handed out this era’s new sacrament: hand sanitizer. The store had bought a large bulk supply of hand sanitizer made with natural ingredients (even the alcohol), and bottled it themselves to sell 2 per customer. It went onto my hands creamy, smelling better than the mainstream products. 

My wait lasted over an hour. The people in line were quiet and respectful of the distance, but other people had to walk by us all down the sidewalk. The corner of 13th and Folsom proved to me to be the stressful place to stand while folks walked by to cross the street. There seemed to be too much traffic on Folsom and 13th. Are all these people driving somewhere essential? The bike ride down had light car traffic, but now it seemed busier.

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COVID19 Diaries – Less Cars, Less Jobs, Less News

Bike rides during shelter in place have been fun and fascinating. As this shot of Lyon St. shows, blocks and blocks of the City can be car-free, allowing for longer gazes at views and architecture, swerving around, and jumping empty red lights.

Monday, March 23

Six days into the shelter in place order and things are hard to comprehend beyond the WFH situation. I am in good spirits, but a strange spectacle happened outside my window today. The DPT stopped traffic on our block while several workers sprayed the parked cars with a kind of backpack pump. None of the workers were keeping a safe distance from one another, and I didn’t want to open my door to ask them what they were doing. Later in the day, my partner went on NextDoor to see if anyone knew what they were doing. There were only questions (and still no answers over a week later).

The economic fallout is starting to feel closer to my own situation. I have friends that have been laid off, artists I know who have lost all their work, and a niece who was sent home from medical school. My other niece has lost all her contract photography work and my sister’s new business has been shut down in South Carolina. Other friends are already stressing about the upcoming rent and mortgage payments, while one friend is surely freaking out in his jail cell in New Jersey. My elderly uncle is now stuck in his room in a care home and two of my cousins have developed COVID-19 symptoms in the UK. Their daughter is currently stuck in the US since she cannot fly home to London.

I’ve been obsessively looking at the news up until now, marveling at the dramatic historical swings of the stock market and not surprised at all with the federal government’s slow and sad response regarding testing, bailing out the people, and all the other balls they’ve dropped. Democracy Now has been giving cold, hard facts about the growing curve in the US and in New York, while those in the front lines are starting to feel the wave as it pushes into every state. Twitter feeds cover the rising rent strikes and worker walk outs that are starting to happen across the country.

In normal times, there is too much information to follow. Now I’m overwhelmed. I promise myself that I’ll back off on the news streams while I settle in to the shelter in place routines and now wait until the afternoon to click the news feeds.

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COVID19 Diaries – Luck Has Been Cancelled

Tuesday, March 17

The morning was spent dialing up my new WFH station and staying in touch with coworkers. My Director decided to buy a laser printer for my set up in case I had to mail service copies, etc. out (I work for an environmental nonprofit that mostly sues government agencies). We also have a petition to file with the Ninth Circuit today, putting Impossible Burger and US FDA on the grill for shady ingredient approval. We also had two other big filings coming up this week, so this first-ever week WFH will be busy.

My first day WFH went quite smoothly, and went by fast. Since San Franciscans can leave their shelter for essential exercise, I decided to take an after-work walk around my neighborhood up to Alamo Square. The first thing I noticed were the lack of tourists. There were none! “San Francisco is tourist free,” I mused. The hill across from the famous Painted Ladies held maybe a dozen people. One small group, others appeared to be distancing, were wearing green. Ah. Today is St. Patrick’s Day. No pubs were open for the amateur night. The parade had been cancelled. Peter Kuper had tweeted a great cartoon about it: One poor leprechaun marching down the street, with “Luck Has Been Cancelled” under the image.

I had a few anxious moments on the walk. Runners passed me a bit too closely a few times, making me avoid anyone that appeared to jog my way. I assumed the huffing and puffing could be a vector to the COVID-19. And I noticed that the dog owners were not being distant enough in the dog play area of the square. Another possible social vector for spreading the virus. Distancing is going to be tricky.

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COVID19 Diaries – SF Shelters in Place

[B]eing an avid reader and writer of history, tomorrow was going to be an unprecedented announcement that the whole world would hear about. I had to experience it firsthand.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

There was an 11pm call tonight from someone we know. “Don’t tell anybody. Don’t post on social media,” the call began. “Tomorrow at noon your mayor is going to announce a shelter in place order. The whole Bay Area is getting it. Go do your grocery shopping now!” We were already in bed and don’t have a car to go to a 24-hour supermarket, if any are left in the City. But we had a serious talk about the near future.

We knew that the Coronavirus pandemic was getting worse, and that things weren’t being taken that seriously here in the United States. Prior to the March 11 pandemic designation, a coworker of mine had travelled to Taiwan for the holidays and said that this was a major epidemic. She had also self-quarantined after someone in her Bay Area family had potentially ben exposed. Another friend is married to an MD specializing in contagious diseases and also agreed that Coronavirus was going to hit the world in a big wave. Prior to tonight, my partner and I had been taking more trips to the local markets, and the Rainbow Coop, to stock up on a stash of food and medicine in case one of us got sick.

But tonight, we felt helpless, and a bit buzzed from the stress chemicals just released in our brains due to the serious call we couldn’t share. I slept lightly, knowing that I was going to go to the office of the environmental nonprofit where I work Monday morning. My work-from-home set up was not complete, and I needed to go in to pack my bags for the long haul.

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