Sunday interview: Laurie Jacoby

April 19, 2020

Laurie’s dog, Bear

Laurie Jacoby walked into a Venice loft seven years ago and knew she’d found her home. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is such a perfect space,’” she said.

Sunshine poured in from a skylight in the high ceiling that soared above a spacious living room and kitchen. Sure, it was only 1600 square feet total. And there were no doors save for the one bathroom, so whatever anybody said or listened to in the bedroom could be clearly heard at the other end of the home.

But what did she care? She was a divorced empty-nester, shedding a house in Westside Village where she’d raised her daughter and son. It was only going to be her there, and anyway, she’d be at work all week.

So she moved in, and it was everything she’d hoped and more. At times, with the beach and the bike path a stone’s throw away, it could feel like being on a permanent vacation.

Three years passed this way. Then life got even better. “I didn’t anticipate,” she said, “falling in love again.”

Fast-forward another four years, and Laurie and her boyfriend, Mark Schwarz live in the loft together. There’s family nearby and far away: her 91-year-old mother is in New Jersey, Mark has grown children in LA and Denver, Laurie’s 34-year-old daughter lives with her boyfriend a few blocks away, and her 29-year-old son lives with his girlfriend near Dodger Stadium.

I talked to Laurie last week about sheltering in a small space with the one you love.

How long have the two of you been quarantining?

I’ve been home five weeks yesterday. I went to work on a Thursday and I thought, “This doesn’t feel right.”  Mark has asthma. Because I represent journalists [she’s an agent], we have the TV on at work so we can watch our clients all day long. If something happens in the world, I will know about it. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but all of a sudden it felt like, “This isn’t going to get better.”

I ran to Trader Joe’s and ran home and said, “Okay, this is where we are. This is it.”

Did you think you’d still be here, locked down?

Ha! No, I thought it would be, like, a week or two. How long could it last?

This is so strange.

No doors. One bedroom. Two people. How’s that going, day after day after day?

If you are in one room, you can hear if someone scratches their nose in another room. We have two televisions, one in the bedroom and one in the living room, but there’s no way you can watch them at the same time.

You can’t go into the bedroom and close the door. And now I’m working at home which I’ve never really done before.

The way I decompress is I need quiet and I need alone time. I’m someone who likes to read with complete silence, so that’s been a challenge.

Does it stress Mark out too?

No, it doesn’t bother him in the same way. But really quickly, he got anxious about his health concerns. Three years ago he got the flu and his lung capacity was down to 10 percent.

As soon as I realized we’d be staying at home, I’m worried about food and stuff like that. I was like, “What series are we going to watch?” Meanwhile, he’s thinking about his asthma, reading about people having to go on ventilators. But now we’re here, we’re secure, we’re fine.

So I’m guessing you run all the errands?

Because I’m 63 and Mark is asthmatic and 67 and my kids absolutely adore him, they have been so protective of us. They’re making sure we’re not shopping. At first they were getting all our groceries. Now we’re all using Instacart and other delivery services.

It feels like I’m so young and vital and healthy. It makes this whole pandemic seems real, when they say “No, do Instacart, because this could be terribly serious for both of you.”

It’s a little like the tables are turned. They are taking care of us, and that’s sometimes difficult for Mark and me to accept.

 But we’re also so grateful. There’s this back and forth that’s happened sort of organically, people caring for each other in ways we didn’t know we would.

Okay, not only can’t you go to the office, you can’t even go to the store. What’s a release? How do you find some peace?

 We also have a 90 pound lab mix in this space of ours. His name is Bear, and we have to walk him. He’s a sweet, sweet dog. I’m outside right now, for instance, looking at the boats, and it’s lovely.

In the morning, I’ll get up before Mark does.  I take a novel, whatever book I’m reading, and I try to read while the sun starts coming up over the skylights. That’s my quiet time. That’s where I’m finding I do have some privacy. Once he gets up, I’ll have some breakfast, then I’ll head over to the counter or the big comfy chair in the bedroom to do some work.

I also had to spell out some rules. Like, I would say, “I’m going to take a bath,” and Mark would say, “I’m going to walk the dog.” It would be really nice in the bath, I’d light some candles, and then I come out and it’s like, oh, he’s back. He’s back already. No, I need more time.

So now I say, “No, here’s the deal. I’m going to take a bath and then, as I’m getting out of the bath, you’re going to walk the dog.”

We’re figuring out how to make the space work for us.

How about friends? Are you socializing on the phone? On video chat?

The thing that’s driving me the most nuts is that I’m not a friend of technology. All the Zoom calls, that much time on my screen. I don’t want it in my personal life. Usually I don’t look at my email all weekend. These days, I’m at my counter and drinking and talking to friends. That is driving me nuts. I’m making it lovely for myself, but everything is happening within my walls.

I know from Facebook that you had a birthday this week. How was it, celebrating a birthday in quarantine?

Mark sent me flowers. He made signs and put them up around the loft, saying things like “Happy birthday! No one is invited!”

On Sunday, my daughter brought by Wexler’s lox, everything bagels and cream cheese. Oh my god. I said to Mark, “This is the best lox, and the best bagel I’ve ever had.”

And the kids were really sweet. All four of them [her daughter and son and their partners] showed up in our parking lot, and they have a happy birthday song playing from the car. They’re dancing, because they know I like to dance. The six of us, we’re all dancing in the parking lot, with six feet between us, and it’s so sweet. My son made a sourdough bread for me. He dances into the middle of our circle, and puts it down. Then I dance into the middle and get it. People would walk by and one of them would call out, “It’s Laurie’s birthday!”

We also ordered in dinner. It was only the second time we’ve done that (since the lockdown started) because we were nervous about that at first. Mark ordered in Italian food, including pizza, because he knows it’s my favorite. I looked at him and said, “This is the best pizza I’ve ever had.”

It was the funniest kind of birthday. In a way, it was one of the best. The littlest things made me so happy.

Any other bright spots in this dark time?

I’m taking a bunch of dance classes – I’m a Lindy hopper!.      

Sometimes I take my music and class outside. There is an office building next-door and the front doors are all glass – acting as a mirror.  So I’m basically dancing on the sidewalk and no one seems to care!  THAT is freedom.  

Featured photo of Venice by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

Day 13: Georgie

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Because the coronavirus and all that surrounds it is hard and distressing, here is a story about my dog.

We’re that kind of edgy around here that even little changes make us jump. So when I was putting away laundry in my closet on Sunday, and I heard our labradoodle trying to get up in the hallway, her paws unable to find purchase on the hardwood floor, I ran out of my room.

“Georgie?” I called. “Georgie?”

I saw her tail whisk around the corner. I raced into the family room to find she’d planted herself in her brown doggy bed and was sitting there, wide-eyed, shaking slightly.

I looked up and down the hallway. Was there some small creature who spooked her? (she can run short on canine instincts) But I saw nothing.

I asked my daughter, whose room was right there, if she’d dropped something that might have startled the dog. Nope.

I went back and stared at Georgie. She was lying down now, her expression an indecipherable mix of alert and Zen. Her head bobbed back and forth, an odd kind of palsy. But otherwise, she seemed fine. I returned to my laundry.

An hour and a half, one long phone call and a bad migraine later, I walked past the dog on my way to the bathroom to get some medication. She was in the same place she’d been 90 minutes before. Not just in the same bed, but in the same, exact position.

Huh.

After I took my migraine pill, I lay down on the living room couch and I waited for the meds to work. Georgie’s just sedentary, I thought.

But she’s not that sedentary.

I called to my daughter, and asked her to take the dog on a walk. Usually, those words alone are enough to pop our pooch to her feet. But I didn’t hear any movement.

My daughter got the leash, called the dog’s name. Georgie wouldn’t move. I got up, stumbled into the family room, called to the dog. She just stared at me, her head doing that same Jello-wobble. My daughter and I looked at each other. Then, since it was Sunday and the regular vet was closed, I called the animal ER. Bring her in, they said.

The boys lifted her into the car and my daughter and I took off, Georgie slip-sliding back and forth across the floor of the minivan. Her legs seemed like they couldn’t quite bear up underneath her. But she didn’t moan, or cry out in pain. She didn’t actually make any sound at all.

When we got to the veterinary ER, we called the front desk and a broad man in a black face mask came out and carried her in the building. The last glimpse we had was of her tail, wagging lazily, as the sliding doors closed behind her.

Five minutes passed, then ten. “Do you think it’s kind of bad?” I asked my daughter at last. “Or just bad? Or really bad? I think it’s only kinda bad.”

“Mom!” she said, turning to face the car door. “Stop it! You’re stressing me out.”

Finally, my phone rang. It was the vet. She asked me to repeat the story of how we got here. After I did, she asked a question. “Is there any chance,” she said, “that there’s marijuana in your house?”

“Um…” I started to grin, picturing the two young men we’d welcomed back this month from college. “Maybe?”

The dog, she said, was showing “classic signs of marijuana toxicity.” But not to worry, Georgie would be fine. Leave her in a dark room. Let her sleep it off.

“She’s just high,” the vet said.

I started to giggle. My daughter asked what was going on. I put the vet on speaker, asked her to repeat the diagnosis. A smile spread across my daughter’s face. We said goodbye to the vet, then the two of us laughed until we just about cried.

When they brought the dog back to the car, my daughter, still giggling, covered her in kisses.

“Stoner dog,” I crooned to Georgie. “You’re just a stoner doggie, aren’t you?”

As for what she ate, apparently it was a cookie with more than just flour and sugar to recommend it. One person left the cookie out on the counter in someone else’s room. The person whose room it was failed to throw it out when the night was over.

And in the morning, when no one was looking, the dog’s excellent sense of smell led her to discover what others had overlooked.

It’s Tuesday, and Georgie seems to have forgotten any of it ever happened. And look, these are stressful times. The dog feels it, too. She’s got that little limp coming and going, the one that always shows up when she’s tense. But for 24 hours or so, the limp disappeared. It wasn’t intentional, and we don’t plan to repeat it, but for a little while, Georgie got to chill, as if none of this coronavirus stuff was even happening.

The edibles, I’ve been told, have been put away. Hopefully, far, far away.