Day 32: Monday

April 28, 2020

One day, this will be over. Right?


And I’m going to want to know how these days went. As in, what were we doing, and when? How did we get through them?

With that in mind — for whatever it’s worth, to future me and current you, here is how I spent Monday.

Rolled out of bed around 6:30 a.m. and caught up on the life contained in my iPhone — overnight emails, top news on the New York Times app, birthdays on Facebook.

By 7:15 a.m., Georgie (the dog) and I were out the door. Because we did a no-incline walk to the park, and I didn’t talk to anyone, either in person or on the phone, I didn’t need much oxygen and could virtuously wear my mask the entire way. It’s light pink with darker pink dots and didn’t clash with my black outfit. I bought it for $16 from the guy up the street who used to make a living selling Crossfit straps to exercisers around the globe. Now Nicko sells masks to neighbors. I also have one in sky-blue with Day-of-the-Dead grinning skulls on it, and another one with Superwoman cartoons set against a royal blue background. He sells them out of his garage. I can browse, make choices. This is deeply satisfying.

While we walked, I listened to this story from the New York Times, about a restaurateur who had to close her place, Prune, in the East Village, due to the pandemic. I was in tears by the time I got home, not because I was so sad, but because I was so grateful that someone so artistic and true lives in this world.

I had to be at my computer by 8 a.m. because that’s when I log into Zoom and say hi to my friend, Deborah. She’s in Silverlake. We catch up for about five minutes, then hit mute and write for the next two hours. During that time, I live in 2010, in a world of people I control. Best two hours of the day, no contest.

Time for a workout. I used to go to the Bar Method studio on Sawtelle, near La Grange, twice a week. Then I got sick, just as we went on lockdown, and I could barely make it around the block, much less lift weights. Now I’m working my way back up.

Afterward, I showered and changed and straightened up the house, and headed out to look for dishwasher detergent for my 81-year-old mother, whose finicky dishwasher only tolerates powdered soap. But this is one of those items that simply cannot be had in late April, 2020 in Los Angeles. I hit Ralph’s and Staples and Rite-Aid on National. I looped through Vons and CVS on Sepulveda. All that stood on the shelves, between vast expanses of empty white, were packets of Powerballs, little rounded cubes of gel and detergent sealed in plastic. Has our obsession with plastic really come to this, that we must seal detergent in it rather than figuring out how to measure it ourselves? Can no one approximate a tablespoon’s worth just by eyeing it?

Of course, I wasn’t merely entering and leaving stores. I wore an N-95 mask. When I got back to the car, I wiped down my hands with hand sanitizer, then pulled a generic-brand, Clorox-type wipe from a blue plastic tube (just like the guy said in “The Graduate,” the future [much to our detriment] is in plastic) and wiped down my purse straps, my glasses, anything else on my person that I inadvertently touched in the stores.

After the last stop, I ripped open a packet of M&Ms caramels I’d purchased at CVS, and practically poured half of it into my mouth. This is the only possible reaction to visiting five stores in one hour in April 2020.

Came home. My middle and youngest children were ordering poke on Postmates, out of their own funds. If I ordered for me, I’d have to pay for it, and that didn’t appeal. So I made scrambled eggs with tomato, basil and orange bell pepper for lunch. Pink sea salt. Yes, it was good.

I’m in between work assignments, so since nothing was screaming at me, I started to balance our checkbook on Quicken. But soon came 3 o’clock and the Puppy Party down the street. My neighbor brought an 8-week-old puppy home over the weekend, a few weeks after her elderly dog died. My mom, who has hardly seen anyone except her live-in boyfriend since the lockdown began, loves dogs. So she drove in from Westwood and my daughter and I walked over from two houses away and we all stood in my friend’s front yard and cooed at the puppy from six feet apart. In case you were wondering, I sported the Superwoman mask. The puppy’s name is Ziggy and the world is new to her. She had to be scooped up when she mistook pebbles for food.

I had picked up some gel detergent at CVS, in the hopes it would work for my mom, but she’d since read online that it would ruin her dishwasher. We gave it to the neighbor instead, and I called our nearby Whole Foods. They had powdered detergent, not in a box like my mom and I like it, but sealed in plastic pods. “You could just cut the pods open if you wanted,” the manager pointed out. Ahh, we said. Right. We decided we’d drive over there in separate cars. I’d go in and get it for her while she waited outside.

But first, she needed a mask other than her N-95, which she’s come to detest because of its bulk and awkward fit. So we walked up the street to Nicko. Out of all the masks he had — at least three dozen varieties, maybe more — she picked the same one as my daughter did, light blue with white piping. Genetics.

We went to Whole Foods and I stood in a ten minute line and the entire time, no one talked to anyone else. We are all angry at no one, tense about everything.

They had the detergent in the plastic pods. Hallelujah. I also picked up two tubs of Bananas Foster ice cream with caramel swirls, one for me and one for my mother. Because I don’t leave stores these days without some form of caramel in my bag.

Waved Mom goodbye. Came home, finished up the blog post I’d started the day before, and posted it. Got on a Zoom call with three girlfriends who live right around me but who I now only see on screens once a week. I found out two of the three of them may be furloughed or laid off entirely at the end of June. What do you say to that? There’s no adequate response. The other two of us don’t have that problem — because we’re both freelance.

Off the call. Back to the kitchen. Made one of my favorite recipes, Greek chicken soup with lemon, using up leftover rice and chicken, and called everyone in to eat. That’s when I remembered that when two of my three children decide to order lunch out, they should ALWAYS check with their missing sibling to see if he wants some too, even if he’s out on his bike, and it seems like it might be dangerous for him to pick up the phone. Otherwise, guaranteed, there will be a fight at the dinner table.

But everyone eventually made up. My husband had them all laughing by the time I left for yet another Zoom call, this one with a different group of friends who also live nearby, whom I now also see regularly on my computer screen. We shared our favorite quarantine books and TV shows. One woman, though, was quiet. Finally, I asked her if she had any recommendations. Turns out she wraps up her day by watching Trump’s coronavirus briefings. Weeks in, and they still boggle her mind. Sometimes she throws in Governor Cuomo for variety. This would be my personal recipe for insanity, but to each her own.

Here’s how I wrapped up my day: scrolling through the NYT app, reading about how home schooling is driving parents bonkers, how ‘quarantine fatigue’ has people heading outdoors, and how Trump is now back at his coronavirus podium after a weekend away. Then I curled up in bed to finish a marvelous novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon, and lights out just before 11 p.m.

If you’ve read this far — thanks! And a question: what about you? How are you spending these days?

Day 20: Ironic, Part II

April 14, 2020

At 8 p.m., I published a post about my languid pandemic afternoon, and plopped down on the living room couch to scroll through Facebook.

Thirty minutes later, my husband came in and stood across the room from me. Then he took a step backward.

He’d just gotten a call from work. They’d told him he was at risk for developing the coronavirus, and needed to self-isolate.

It’s a long story, but here is the outline: a patient came into the hospital last week, when my husband was on service, for an illness other than coronavirus. The patient had an emergency on Monday (a week ago yesterday) and received an intervention from my husband as well as other doctors and nurses. Since then, the patient was discharged from the hospital. Days later, he was readmitted with COVID-19, and is now quite ill.

But that’s not why my husband’s colleague called. She called because one of the nurses who also took care of the patient just tested positive.

It’s been eight days since he last had contact with the patient. It seems like an awfully long time to be symptom-free and yet still at risk for getting this disease.

And yet. From now until Sunday, the 14th day since contact, he’s going to wear a mask around the house. Wash his hands whenever he touches anything. Sanitize everything he touches. And he’s sleeping in our daughter’s room. She’s moved in with me.

That’s how this thing is. That’s how this time is. You stop to notice the bloom on the roses, the chirp of the birds in the trees. And then the virus reminds you that’s not the point of spring, 2020.

The point is vigilance. Even when it’s been eight days. Even when you think it’s already made the rounds in your house. Even when you believe he must be immune by now.

Snap on the mask. Wash the hands. Wash them again, and again. Six more days to go.

Day 5: Tests

Today, our president told governors on a phone call that he “hasn’t heard about testing in weeks,” presumably because lack of tests and delivery of test results is no longer a problem.

As with so many things over these last three, excruciatingly long years, Mr. President, you are wrong again. Only this time, for me, it’s not theoretical. My family and I live every day with the consequences of this administration’s dilly-dallying and cavalier attitude towards mapping and diagnosing coronavirus infections.

As I’ve written before, I got tested for the coronavirus on Monday, March 23. Eight days later, I still don’t have a result. The latest word I heard is 10 days out from testing, which would have the answer landing in my inbox on Wednesday. But then again, I just heard of a guy who tested in mid-March, and is still awaiting results.

Meanwhile, I’m getting better. By the time I actually hear whether I had COVID-19 on March 23, 2020, I may be completely healed and back to my online Bar Method workouts and two mile dog walks. But still, it matters.

It matters because I’ve spent the last week and a half going, Do I have it? Don’t I have it? Inspecting my symptoms. Second-guessing myself.

It matters because at first it seemed so implausible that I was sick with this famed illness that, even after I tested, my family and I took the notion half-seriously. I mostly stayed in my room. I mostly wore a mask when I ventured into the rest of the house. My daughter lay down next to me on the bed and rolled her eyes when I ordered her to get up. My husband continued to sleep next to me until my coughing at midnight sufficiently freaked him out enough to switch rooms.

Then on Saturday, our daughter and younger son both got sick, her with a hacking cough and minor fever, him with dizziness, coughing, fatigue and vomiting. Even the oldest kid had a sore throat. By today, 48 hours later, the younger two are healing and the oldest completed a 27-mile bike ride. Only my husband has remained symptom-free — and freaked out, wondering if it’s still coming for him, and if so, how badly?

My husband got tested the day after me, and received his negative result 16 hours later, because as a healthcare worker, he went to the front of the line. But that only means he didn’t have it on March 24.

If my test result was back, and I tested negative, then he would know I hadn’t exposed him to the coronavirus. If the test wasn’t so precious, and the kids could get tested, too, then we’d know whether we’ve all had the same thing, or one or more of us has yet to face down COVID-19.

It’s not much. Only peace of mind. Thanks to the bungling of this administration, it’s not to be had around here.