Thursday, April 2
So what do you do all day? That question may have crossed a few readers’ minds.
Below, probably to the great regret of those same readers, is an accurate, detailed, hour-by-hour and sometimes minute-by-minute log of how this particular Corona geezer spent the 16th day of his Yankee Hill exile.
If you have insomnia, this just might be the cure.
6 a.m: My alarm clock is Lil. She wakes me each morning, nosing up onto my bed and thus letting me know it is time for breakfast (hers, that is). I get up, go downstairs, start the coffee and feed Lil, Jasmine the cat, and some 35 unnamed tropical fish occupying a tank in the den. I also put a half bowl of dry cat food on the deck for the neighborhood ferals. And, hopefully, for The Dude – a neighbor’s cat who went missing more than a week ago. So far, The Dude has been a no-show. But the real beneficiaries of this cat food, I know, are skunks, raccoons and blue jays. With all critters wild and domestic fed, I grab a cup of coffee and head upstairs.
6:15: Between sips of caffeine, I make my bed, brush my teeth, comb my ever-lengthening hair and get dressed. With a nod to Kris Kristofferson, I put on “my cleanest dirty shirt.” I used to wear newly laundered clothes every day. No longer. I have no place to go, no people to meet and certainly no one to impress. But once Lil starts to complain, I promise to change my shirt.
6:30: Breakfast is often dry cereal – granola or Grape Nuts. Not today. I’m going gourmet: Organic oatmeal with chopped walnuts, sliced Fuji apples and real maple syrup drizzled on top. I eat it in the den while watching 30 minutes of news, none of it good.
7: Since 48 hours has passed since I bought the stuff, I lug in several bags of presumably Corona-free groceries that have been disinfecting in my pump house. “But what if 48 hours isn’t enough?” I idly agonize as I l carry in bag after bag. “Maybe I should have left them out there for 72.” “Screw it,” I finally conclude, casting caution to the wind as I rip into one of Savemart’s delicious almond-coconut cookies.
8: Now it’s time to freeze up some ice cream. Yesterday I noticed that a carton of whipping cream in my fridge was nearing its expiration date, so I mixed up a batch of mocha and let it chill overnight. Now I stick it in my Cuisinart ice-cream maker. Then, as it turns thick and creamy, I add coconut and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Note: This is not for guests. I get none. So it’s all for me. I’d like to think it might last a month, but a week is more realistic.
9:30: For more than a decade, I have had atrial fibrillation, and I keep hearing that medications of all sorts may be in short supply during the months to come. Although I have plenty of my twice-daily anti-arrhythmia pills left, I figure getting a new prescription now is a good idea. So I call my cardiologist’s office at Stanford. I am transferred several times, and end up at the message machine of a “financial counselor.” I start anew, finally reach the Afib clinic, and am promised someone will return my call shortly. This does not happen.
10: Yes I am nearly 74, and thus part of the very vulnerable, aging population most likely to be knocked off by Corona. I’m one of those guys who will likely be triaged out at the ER door in favor of a younger patient who has a better chance of recovery and many more productive years ahead of him. That’s OK: All I ask is that the docs give me some good drugs with which to ease my shuffle off this mortal coil.
Sorry about the dreary ramble above. Thought I’d stick it in between a couple of medical calls. The second is to my Sonora GP. I am scheduled for August prostate surgery in the Bay Area, and need a pre-operative physical to make sure I am “physically fit to undergo general anesthesia.” Anyway, a receptionist at the local doc’s office said they’d get back to me. They do not. Anyway, I sure hope I survive this COVID business. What with that prostate surgery and all, I have so much to look forward to!
10:30: Now the medical part of my day is over. Well, on second thought, the “medical part” of most everyone’s day is never over. Anyway, I call Dave, a college housemate of mine (Stanford, Class of 1969) who has retired after a long legal career and now lives in Pacific Palisades. Of course, we talk Corona. Dave and his wife, Doreen, have a houseful. “Our son Ryan, daughter Kelsey and Kelsey’s boyfriend are all sheltering with us,” says Dave. “Their college campuses are closed, so they’re studying here. So if one of us gets Corona, we’re all getting it.” But, since both Kelsey and David are earning degrees in public health at Berkeley, they’re likely to know exactly what hit them and maybe even what to do about it. I order Dave to survive, as all of us housemate-geezers (and a few companion geezerettes) are planning a long-overdue reunion up here on Yankee Hill in November. And, yes, we Stanford friends are all hoping that the second viral wave that experts say could swoop in with next fall’s colder weather does not come to pass.
11:30: John, from Mother Lode appliance, knocks. Keeping my distance, I show him into the laundry room. One of the ribs on the tumbler of my 15-year-old Maytag’ came loose last week. Last time I tried drying a load, the clanking drove me crazy. I called for help, and today John goes right to work, He somehow gets into the tumbler and dredges from its innards a colossal amount of ancient lint, a small screwdriver, random fragments of clothing and a few bucks in coins – including several pennies that had worn to nearly paper thin. After he is done, the old Maytag runs almost silently. “But don’t get too comfortable,” John warns. “The next time something goes wrong, you’ll probably have to buy a new dryer.”
1 p.m: OK, I have a therapist, and our hour-long phone session begins now. So, yes, I do have issues, problems and dilemmas, and it helps to talk them over with a pro. Also, I’m not about to reveal those innermost secrets to friends who might otherwise think I’m a charming, witty guy without a care in the world. But I do tell my counselor about anxieties and insecurities I so deftly conceal from others. In today’s hour-long session, of course, we talk about Corona. It’s on everybody’s mind. It’s the lens through which we now see everything. “Most of my clients are doing pretty well,” she says. “They’re getting by.” I tell her I’m taking the forced isolation one day at a time, limiting my news intake for the sake of mental health, keeping a diary, and getting exercise. “You’re the therapist!” my counselor exclaims. “That’s exactly what I would recommend.” As always, I feel better after our talk.
2:05: This just occurs to me: I paid exactly the same amount to John the dryer guy and to my therapist for their services today. And, no, I’m not going to discourse further on this irony. It’s just something to think about.
2:30: I switch a load of laundry to the newly silent dryer, start the dishwasher and set out on my favorite part of each day: taking a walk with Lil. Today’s weather is glorious. The dogwoods are coming out, wildflowers are blooming and we see only one person in our more than two-hour trek. My neighbor Bobbi stops to say hi as she drives down Mountain Boy Road. “But back off a bit,” she warns after lowering the window of her Subaru. “You’re not quite six feet away.” I backpedal, then we exchange greetings from a medically correct distance. After that, the six miles of Mountain Boy, Five Mile Creek and Yankee Hill roads, all dirt, are all ours. When our two-and-a-half-hour trek is over, according to my all-knowing phone, I had logged 13,119 steps and 6.1 miles. I’ll credit Lil, free of her lead for most of the walk, with at least twice that.
5:30: My younger son, Nick, calls from Chico. He is a planner working in Butte County on rebuilding Paradise, destroyed by fire in 2018. He loves his job, but is now anxious about possibly getting laid off. “Nobody at work is saying anything about it,” he says. “But we’re all thinking about it.” His larder is also bare, but he’s worried about going into a perhaps contagion-laden supermarket. “Try showing up 15 minutes before closing time,” I advise. “Might be nearly empty then.” And as for layoffs? “Really not a lot you can do about that right now,” I say. “But me? I’m just happy to be retired.” Which, I realize, is of absolutely no help to Nick.
6:30: Here comes my day’s-end housekeeping: I empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry, feed Lil, Jasmine, and the fish, then scare up and eat a quick tamale dinner. Then, of course, I have a bowl of homemade ice cream for dessert. Finally, I make tomorrow morning’s coffee.
7:30: I begin pounding out what will be a very long, very detailed, accounting of this day in the life of a Corona shut in.
9:30: As I write the very words you are reading now, the clock hits 9:30. In this so-called “creative process,” I’ve had two realizations: 1. I had no idea I could do this much stuff in a single day. I’m tired just thinking about it. 2. And I will never again write another hour-by-hour account of any of my days going forward – for which readers who managed to get this far will no doubt be grateful. And my next diary entry? I’m shooting for 500 words or so.
10: I head to bed. And after grinding my way through another half-hour of gritty, unpleasant TV news, I find refuge in a good book. And, then, in a deep sleep.