Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
"Ibid", from the Latin word ibidem, is shorthand used in lists of references to mean "in the same source". I have the sense that all that will be written in this particular webpage will seem like it was drawn from earlier pages, many several times over. We continue with the diary because we are stubborn and I need things to do, not because we are expecting any new stories.
The prognosis for exiting our Coronavirus self-isolation and subsequent new adventures does not look good. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Fresno, the San Joaquin Valley, California, the US, and the world. Our country is leaderless, while international rivals China and Russia use the chaos as distraction to get whatever they want. Marianne and I, as Americans, are now verboten in our former European home.
Wednesday, July 1, Our 110th Day of self-isolation
The month started on Wednesday, weigh-in day for Marianne and me. Bad news for me, good (enough) for her. I weighed more than I had in a couple of years, so I went out for a walk, the only exercise I can get regularly.
Two doors down, Rosemarie was watering her lawn, and seemed to have added a water fountain to her system. Pretty. Out on the walk, more indication of a bad morning. I walked by a car with a broken rear window and glass shards inside and out. I hoped these were not portends of the day.
Morning was relatively active, radiation and art for Marianne (what a combination), and shopping for me. I filled the Jeep's fuel tank, keeping to our isolation practice of one-tank-per-month. Then I picked up new bike shoes for the Peloton that is coming next month and which will be the salvation of weight and conditioning problems. I hope.
Dinner was German bar food; sausage, sauerkraut, obatzda cheese on dark bread, and beer, of course. We were hoping for that Old Country, summer beer garden feel, but it's hard to do with no one around. Beer gardens used to spring up every summer in our Bavarian neighborhood, tasty food in a festive atmosphere we can only reminisce about. I wonder if they are able to operate in the summer of C19. Probably, they are outdoors and all.
After dinner, I brought the New York Times to Vern and we chatted about the world situation, although that was a bit discouraging, so we exchanged personal history stories instead. He's got twenty years on me, but I have more miles.
I could only stay awhile, since it was the 5pm cocktail hour on the Selland porch and "crowds" would soon arrive. Sadly, Marianne and I remain concerned about eating or drinking in groups, even groups of friends. We do long for garden groups and porch people.
We finished the day with an hour of hand watering, a three-times-a-week chore in Fresno summer. It's good therapy and the plants thank us.
That was Day 110.
(This day in history: I retired in 2012 and, nine years earlier, we had started a summer road trip.)
Thursday, July 2, Day 111
I'll try to do this quickly, since I am running out of diary steam. On Thursday's morning walk, I thought about black and white photography. My empty streets don't yield poignant street pictures of wrinkled people, but maybe I could shoot some of the vintage neighborhood houses and see if B&W better shows their age. Meh. I think the shots of houses need properly-costumed people or old cars. I'll try other experiments.
Later in the day, I tried some bird pictures with my largest lens (150-600mm) to see if it was practical to heft this monster on morning or evening walks. Neighbors already think I'm eccentric for always having a camera attached to my hand, but I am a little shy about looking like a lost birder. The hand-held pictures turned out ok. I was shaking quite a bit, but with a very fast shutter speed, that doesn't matter much. I'll think about a birding excursion.
While I was birding, Marianne was giving an art lesson to Ava and Sam. This remains a weekly highlight for Gigi and, hopefully, for the grandkids. Before the recent resurgence in COVID19 cases, we had speculated about being able to get together in person before the end of July, but now we don't know. It's frustrating to see many places in the rest of the world that are gaining a degree of normalcy, while we seem to face weeks or months more of disaster. American insistence on "personal liberty" is setting us behind countries with a more "common good" viewpoint.
The rest of the day was plain. A trip to the Kaiser pharmacy was a highlight. Dinner and dessert were good. (All these notations of normal events should make it easy to answer where-have-you-been questions from Coronavirus tracers, if it ever comes to that.)
And that was Day 111
(This day in our history: Finishing a 2007 drive through Hungary.)
Friday, July 3, Day 112
A quiet day expected and completed. Marianne got to skip radiation, because it was a clinic holiday, a better way to start the day. I skipped a morning walk because I could. I'm retired. My morning photography was limited to one bird, one bug, and one flower, all done with my super-zoom. The bird was across the street atop a thirty-foot pole, the flower 20 feet away, and the June Bug "close", at about six feet. The rig weighs a ton and I need practice for when we return to the safari circuit. Now I'm ready, no matter how far away the Rhino will be.
Social activity started with another conversation on the porch of the Shipp-Selland House with Vern, one of the Selland kids. The Shipp family built the house in 1919 and Arthur Selland bought it in 1945, so only two families have lived here in a century.
I came back form that chat and found a cousins-at-home email from Cousin Tim. The Trotter family and associated in-laws started a how-are-you email inquiry two or three months ago, and we now have 30+ names on the list. Tim initiated the fourth round. Generally, only a handful of folks respond, but each time is an opportunity to be in touch with people we have something in common with, in addition to pandemic concerns. Spanning several decades, states, and even countries, the commonality is interesting.
Not much else was happening. Marianne did some more online art study and then she came in to fix lunch-dinner. This is a fixed routine in our pandemic life. My part is to set the table, be ready to eat, and compliment the chef. Easy work. I also am bartender for those days we imbibe. (half the time?) These diaries have documented most meals for our own record of a positive aspect of a not-so-nice period.
After dinner, Marianne returned to her studio and, eventually, I returned to the streets. Our almost-neighbor, who decorates his garage door, had written a patriotic poem from Francis Scott Key. I would not rank this as one of the neighbor's best decorations, but we continue to appreciate his effort to create change in our always-the-same neighborhood.
Coming back, I passed by Ampersand Ice Cream, a wonderful small shop that had closed in the first days of the shutdown. They are now back open for street-side pickup, so that was a good sign. In a normal summer, hot evenings produce a not-socially-separated line out the door and down the block. I hope they can maintain their discipline, spacing, and business.
Although I got back after dark, Marianne was still painting. She had moved on from online lessons and was applying color to the canvas she has under way. Although she had already spent hours, she was clearly happy with all the effort. This is all good.
And that was Day 112
(This day in our history: In 2009, we took nephew Henry on a Nuremberg tour. Fun.)
Saturday, July 4, Day 113
A big day, for sure. Well, maybe not REAL big. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite American holidays, but that's when we can gather friends and family, eat special food, drink, and generally carry on. Now, "carry on" has a somber tone and we have already ruled out any sort of gatherings. Maybe we can socialize by Christmas.
I did have Skype and Facetime calls with Geoff and Brian and caught up on their holiday plans as well. Not much, since they are as locked-down as we are, youngsters though they are. When we talk, we try to cover more than just pandemic patter, but all subjects tend to flow to that drain. Grandkids are still not able to know exactly what their next year will be like. Richard, as a high school senior, even has to worry about the uncertainty of selecting and applying to a university. The whole American education system is marked with uncertainty.
To occupy my own time on the holiday, I broke out camera equipment and practiced for future photo travel. I hunted birds and bees and even flowers with my Canon camera and big, heavy lens. I need more upper body strength to do more than about an hour of the heavy lifting and pointing. Something else to add to my to-do list.
While I was snapping, Marianne was painting, of course, until it was time for her domestic chores. She started with giving me a COVID19 haircut, my second or third during isolation. I think she's getting better, or maybe we are lowering our standards. Besides, there's not THAT much for her to work with.
Dinner came and went. It always does. The BBQ pork roast and sweet potato and beans were tasty, but not very photogenic, so no food pictures today. I do consider myself lucky to have such a good cook on staff.
As the sun set, the air cooled down enough for a short walk. The day's high had been over 100F, and after dinner we had retreated to air conditioned spaces. The cool walk was nice enough, but the surrounding sounds were like a Beirut battle zone. For the next several hours, Fresno rattled and the Fresno Fire Department responded to "at least 70 calls from fires that were caused by fireworks."
That was Day 113
(This day in our history: Fourth of July parties and barbecues in Fresno: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016; Germany: 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2003; Kyiv 1999 and 2012 Bastille Day in Bordeaux - check the fireworks.)
Sunday, July 5, Day 114
Quiet. Read the Sunday papers. Watched the Sunday morning news shows. Got overwhelmed again with how un-great America has been made: disasters in health, economics, race relations, social structure, world relations, and, flavoring it all, politics. I gave up and studied birds and a squirrel.
We stayed in most of the day to avoid the heat. I hid in the basement doing computer and picture things and Marianne stayed in her art hut for as long as the air conditioning held out. We met back in the kitchen for dinner, leftovers that are definitely NOT photogenic, but were a flavorful German, Indian, and Italian mix.
Morning and evening we needed to water our gardens and newer trees. In the heat, and with all the extra time C19 gives us, this is a nice distraction. The shrubs and bushes and plants all thank us by getting a bit taller and darker green.
I rescued Marianne from a late afternoon art session. She was getting tired and the studio was warm. The window AC can not manage everything Fresno can throw at it. For a few minutes, we sat and watched the trees that tower over and shade our back yard, especially our neighbor's giant White Pine. Other trees were swaying in the wind, but the trunk of this monster never budged. That's a good thing, because if it ever falls, it will not even slow down as it crushes everything beneath it.
Since it was not quite sundown, we walked a little. First, we passed by the garage on Normal Street that has had a series of inspirational messages during the COVID19 epidemic. Today, it had a new take on Norwegian Edvard Munch's Scream.
As a final treat for a quiet day, we stopped by Ampersand Ice Cream. It was nice to see them back in business. We had purchased a $100 gift certificate on the day they closed for the virus shutdown, having had faith that they would reopen and now we could spend $7.00 on two small cups of dessert. $93.00 to go.
That was Day 114
(This day in our history: A 2003 ride to the top of Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps.)
Monday, July 6, Isolation Day 115
A return to schedule: An early morning walk for me and radiation for Marianne.
Before my walk, I went to the back porch to take a test picture and saw the bright "Buck Moon" above the telephone wires. Zooming in all the way (600mm mounted on my Canon D7), the shot was coming out a little "soft", probably because it was hand-held and I was wiggling all over. Then helicopter N384PH came into the frame for a second or two. A good shot to start the day.
For the rest of my morning photo walk, I passed through Fresno City College campus yet again. I snapped a guy on his riding leaf-blower, the fountain, the scary faces, and a blossom-with-barbed-wire. An assortment.
Off campus, my selection of shots was even more obscure: an empty Blackstone Boulevard and the guy who's dog tows him around the neighborhood. I have seen this pair several times and it's always amazing as he gives the pooch voice commands to turn or to stop at red lights and stop signs. And I have never seen him fall off!
Back home, Marianne had gone on her rounds, zapping and then shopping. It all tires her out, but side effects are less complicated than chemo and we are trusting that this will be the last of the elephant in our quarantine room.
I went to Vern's to bring the NYT and saw that last night's winds had weakened neighbor Steve's street tree and parts had fallen while I was on my walk. More parts fell later in the day. This is what we classify as excitement on Cambridge Avenue, during a shutdown or not.
The rest of the day settled into its pandemic pattern. Marianne mixed resting with art therapy (a scrap book of our Cuba trip a few years ago.) I did my diary thing and tried reading. I still can't seem to concentrate enough for real progress on books.
Mid afternoon dinner continued its tradition of quality: pasta with pesto (I think) and salad. A nice light meal for a hot day. After a few more chores and distractions, Marianne suggested we have a glass of wine and conversation. Our isolation pattern has a fair number of these talk-therapy sessions and we will have to remember to continue the practice when this is all over. It WILL be over, right?
That was Day 115
(This day - month, actually - in our history: In 2006 Marianne was in California and I reported on my German activities.)
Tuesday, July 7, Self-isolation Day 116
A regular day. I started with reading the New York Times, never an encouraging start, but one with some benefit. I think I still believe that knowledge matters, but doubts do creep in. Marianne started her day with radiation, treatment 11 of 16. Side effects (rash, tiredness) seem to be cumulative and so they are ... accumulating.
While she was gone, I went on my little morning walk. Fresno City came and shredded Steve's fallen tree, giving us two exciting-for-Cambridge days. I also tracked down a butterfly three yards down. Flora and fauna.
I swung by Vernissage, the art gallery Marianne sometimes shows at. Owner Ma Ly was there with a class of five socially-distant painting students. It was nice to see some sort of activity in Ma's space because I am sure the art teaching and selling business is struggling more than almost any other business in the current situation. Ly is a very small example of struggling art enterprise today, world wide. They all deserve better.
When I got back home, Marianne was in another art conference with buddy Claudia. They are both fortunate in that, while they do sell some works, buying art supplies and food does not depend on those sales. Maybe Ma Ly and other full time artists need a resurrection of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
After this, I drove Marianne out to another physical therapy session. That tiredness side effect had caught up, I think. Afterwards, we needed to hurry home and serve the dinner that had been cooking in the slow-cooker because it was Tuesday-Zoom-Cocktails! This once-a-week ritual with Adrienne and Rita and families is a highlight, especially among our other zoom activities. (Every week, Marianne and I say that we need to save calories by ... not drinking, and then by ... not drinking much, ... and then ... who cares, it's a pandemic.)
And that was Day 116
(This day in our history: Speaking of eating and drinking, a marvelous 2012 visit to friends Pedro and Isabelle in Lyon, France.)
Wednesday, July 8, Isolation Day 117
Another regular, quiet, day. Wednesday weigh-in - no change. Wednesday yard watering - no change. Marianne radiation treatment - no change.
Ruben came to pick up a chair so we can have room for the Peloton - next month. I did a bocce court cleanup - done, with no hope of use before it needs another cleaning. I also listened to a Leica Zoom presentation about travel photography, with emphasis on treating neighborhood walks as travel. Good idea, but hard to get inspired instead of discouraged. Marianne hid out in her art hut, puttering and talking with Ava on FaceTime. THAT will probably be the day's highlight.
At 3:00, we went out on a long drive, 20 miles round trip. We started with the Vineyard Farmers Market where my coffee supplier Karen was waiting, as cheerful and smiling as ever. Marianne bought tomatoes, apricots, arrugula, blueberries, and figs, all fresh from nearby farms.
I bought a "TastyCows" tenderloin from Jeff at Riverland Farms. He swore he knew every cow by name, so I asked who we were going to be barbecuing. I think he said Myrtle. Could be. Overall, the farmer-vendors at Vineyard do not offer bargains, (Jeff's cows may be tasty, but they are not cheap!) but this is as direct a farm-to-table source as there is.
From the market, we swung by Chateau Cleaners to exchange shirts, dirty for clean. This is another little family business that is hanging on. Fancy and dress clothing are languishing in closets. Zoom meetings only require a clean shirt and that one needs changing no more than weekly. We hope the family makes it through to normal times, whatever and whenever that may be.
Finally, completing our exciting trip, we stopped at The Curry Pizza Company and ordered a large pizza, half butter-chicken and half curry-chicken, and two Bangalore beers. I know this does not sound very traditional, but I think we have become addicted. Try it!
After dinner we returned to our normal evening screens. Marianne relaxes in her mom's old recliner and looks at news or movies. I watch the screens in my office, television or computer or iPhone, and sample international news and whatever YouTube distracts me.
However, no matter what, we end up thinking about COVID-19 and how it has changed the world, including our little part of it. We are reasonably OK with being shut-ins, today's 20-mile excursion notwithstanding. Visiting Ava and Sam and their parents remains our next goal and deciding when it might happen is hard. A week ago, I tentatively decided that we would not be able to consider a visit until new California and Fresno virus cases were going down to something near April or early May levels. Since then, California cases (7-day average) are up 27% and Fresno County's are up 40%. "Down" seems so very far away.
That was Day 117
(This day in our history: In 2000, Mamo visited us in Kyiv.)
Thursday, July 9, Isolation Day 118
More of the same sameness. Marianne had another radiation session and these sessions are starting to wear on her. Just one more this week and two next.
I walked early, in part because I saw the ten-day weather forecast. For added upper body exercise, I took my big camera lens, intending to shoot whatever happened along the way. Flowers happened. Bees happened. Birds happened, including a big gray owl at the top of a very tall Italian Cypress tree.
Marianne came back from her errand and, as I recall, went upstairs to rest in the big recliner. She's allowed. I finished the NYT and delivered it to Sellands and hung around for chit chat with Vern. It does both of us good. Because it was hot by now, we met inside, just about the only time I have spent inside with friends or family in four months. I have to remember to visit earlier in the day, before Fresno becomes summer-Fresno.
The afternoon was the same as always, puttering and then a good meal: TastyCow steaks, Fresno State Corn, and wine-soaked peaches for dessert.
After dinner we did something, but I can not remember 40 hours later what it was. Safe to say, it was something we had done before and would do again before this is all over.
That was Day 118
(This day in our history: A 2011 visit to Trier, the oldest city in Germany, with friends Nancy and Steve.)
Friday, July 10, Day 119
This was a very regular day. I walked early to avoid the heat, but took no pictures worth presenting, even though my standards for decorating this diary are not high. Coffee, breakfast, and reading the NY Times came and went. Regular.
Marianne went to the clinic and came back with no detours, because we needed to be in place for a Zoom conference with the Rahimi family. Mamal, Gabby, Ava, and Sam were all up in Martis Camp, near Truckee, enjoying the mountain air. It was fun seeing everybody on the same screen, but it's a limited substitute for a real visit. I'm afraid Zoom is the best we can do for now, however, as California still has not gotten our virus-suppression act together. (With about an equal population, Canada has a tenth the number of active C19 cases as California. Japan, with three times the population, has one-tenth of that.)
After the call, it was off on a multi-stop excursion that five months ago would have been unremarkable but now is a highlight of the week. We strung together a stop at Kaiser and then to four shops in Villaggio Shopping Center. Marianne got croissants at Sierra Nut House while I bought a couple of puzzles at Professor Toy and a new camera gadget next door at Horn Photo. At Total Wine we added a couple of German wines for our stock and a bottle of cachaca, a Brazilian booze I'll explain later. Finally, we passed through Whole Foods for $100+ of something or other. I'll admit that, with our restaurant bill almost zero, we do not budget for groceries. (And, yes, we realize we are fortunate.)
Back home, Marianne started dinner preparations, but first we needed to sit and talk over an aperitif. The Fresno heat had put me in a mood for a Caipirinha, the lime-sugar-ice-and-cachaca drink of Rio de Janeiro. We talked. We sipped. Pretty soon, I had to make a second pair. We talked some more. Sipped some more. That's the way of Caipirinhas and summer heat. Pandemic seems to fit right in.
When I fixed the third pair, we knew we needed to get the meal underway. In no time at all, Marianne had set out taco fixings. (When I lived in Brazil, tacos were unheard of, but they go well with the lime-and-cachaca drinks in any event.) We ate and talked some more.
Marianne retreated again to her mom's recliner and watched Netflix. I settled in my oversize Stickley recliner and tried watching T news. At sunset, I joined her and we talked some more. We are grateful for the time and inclination to talk. It's a large part of what carries us through.
My final pandemic shutdown activity was to open one of the jig saw puzzle boxes I bought at Professor Toy, a colorful 1,000-piece challenge. Because I suspect I will be short on diary-reportable material as these "regular" days pile up, I will report on progress.
That was Day 119
(This day in our history: Showing Mamo our "new" house project in 2005.)
Saturday, July 11, Day 120
I started the day, like most Saturdays, with a Skype call with son Geoff. It's always good to see how the Maryland family is doing, and they seem to be doing "well enough". Geoff works mostly from home, although his patent attorney office has just reopened for one day a week. Daughter-in-law Susanne is shifting jobs, in part to be more flexible as the question of schooling is looming for Sean (8) and Ryan (13). There are no good options facing them or other American parents, but the prospect of sending kids and a teacher into an environment (a dozen people, inside, for hours) that would not be acceptable even for soldiers, makes little sense.
Next, I visited neighbor Vern, early to avoid the summer heat. Nothing new there, but we agree that those younger than us probably have more challenges from the pandemic than we old duffers, even given the health threat disparity. No work. Few responsibilities. Willing and able to stay home. Lots of memories to draw on. But, we also agree, that we would prefer to make new memories too.
Marianne and I had to leave home early because Juanita was coming to clean house and we all agree it's just better to not be around. We used the opportunity to dine out, outside in a Starbucks parking lot. We miss our old quick-breakfast standby, but would prefer something more festive than just a shady parking space. Oh well, the seats are comfortable enough and there was plenty of social distance.
Next we wanted to shop at Sur la Table, in hopes of finding bargains from their just-announced bankruptcy and store closing. However, they were not open yet and later, when they were, too many others had had the same idea. Maybe tomorrow.
This did give us a chance to try a farmers market we don't normally frequent and right away we found Katia and Mats Hellgren's Brazilian-Swedish bakery. The goods looked tempting enough and when we spoke a word or two in Portuguese, Katia told us the whole story, from Bahia to Sweden to Fresno. Great story and I was reminded of the phrase "beim Brasileira", meaning "very Brazilian", for a friendliness that has been hard to top in any of our other travels.
Back home, we settled in to a hot day routine, Marianne working on a Cuba scrapbook in her art space and me catching up on diaries in my (much cooler) basement "cave". With temperatures projected to be in the 100s(F) all week, it is nice to have a cool option.
Overheated from her hot little hut, Marianne escaped to the kitchen, cool enough thanks to air conditioning. We are entering the season when the electric bill soars to several hundred dollars a month, but we gladly pay. Much of the year our home requires neither heating nor cooling, so I figure it all evens out. Mostly I don't like the summer heat because it chases us inside except for the very early morning. Oh well, this too will pass.
In the evening, we continued to make use of cool spaces. Marianne finished the scrap book, while watching TV news at the kitchen table. I stayed downstairs, puttering with pictures, until Marianne took over the space for a Skype call with Klare, aka Monterey Mamo.
The other big news for the day was the emergence of twin Mourning Doves in our back porch aviary. Like newborns anywhere, they arrived hungry and mom (or dad?) was kept busy in the beak-to-beaks baby-food transfer. This makes three pairs we have seen hatch since we started the pandemic stay-at-home. I wonder how many more generations it will take before we can go see something more interesting.
That was Day 120
(This day in our history: The start of a wonderful 2003 Italian trip at Villa Emilia.)
Sunday, July 12, Isolation Day 121
A quiet Sunday, not unlike all the other -days. I pushed myself out of the house for a walk at 6am. The temperature was pleasant and the streets were absolutely empty. I made it the two or three blocks to Clinton Avenue, the only time I remember this thoroughfare quiet. This gave me a chance to really look at the little bungalows that line the street and imagine how cute the neighborhood would have been decades ago, before extra lanes were added to Clinton and heavy, noisy traffic showed up.
At one address, I caught glimpse not of a bungalow but what must be an old world California mansion, with a century-old cedar shake roof. The wall and hedge around blocked everything but the roof line, but back home, I checked out Google Earth. The overhead shot shows a compound spread over six normal lots, with a large grass court for leisure. Tennis? Croquet, more likely. It was a croquet-in-white-cottons-type compound.
From that little bit of exercise it was Sunday standard. We watered extra to fortify our garden against the 106F temperature that was forecast. I read two Sunday papers, the Fresno Bee for a few local tidbits and the NY Times for everything else. I treated Marianne and me to a better-than-a-restaurant Sunday breakfast. All in all, a decent start.
Son Brian called on Facetime and I chatted with him and his family. Like all other parents in America, they are waiting to see how their son, our grandson Richard, will manage school. It will be his senior year in high school, and it does not seem like there are any good options. And making a decision on college or university is more daunting than usual. EVERYTHING is more daunting than usual, for him, for them, for us, for everybody.
Sunday dinner was good, but simpler than Mamo would have classified as a "Sunday Dinner". Worked for us. For a treat, we went shopping for kitchen gear at going-out-of-business Sur la Table, another victim of the current times. Our limited purchase of cake mixes will not give them a new life.
And that was Day 121
(This day in our history: A 2012 tour of a brandy distillery in the town of Cognac.)
Monday, July 23, Day 122
Other than medical things, Monday promised to be even quieter than our Sunday. And it was.
Going out for my morning walk was a struggle, so much so that I took the car. I simply was not energetic enough to get somewhere where I wanted to take a picture or two. My first stop was the garage on Normal Street. Nothing deep and serious and that's OK too.
Then I drove north into Fig Garden and the canal where I can always find some birds and a few flowers, nice in the morning light. The baby ducks have gotten much older and finches have taken over a tree or two. No social distancing. Sunflowers continue to show off. I especially like the crowded centers.
I did a few bad pictures of hawks. The first few raptors were so far away the photos are grainy like on old-time high-speed film. The last one was closer, but he stayed hidden in the pine tree. I lost patience before he did.
Marianne ran off on her errands, three out of four of which were medical. She would come back tired.
I talked with guys, starting with neighbor Vern. I asked him about his interest in jazz singing and he said it started with his dad asking three-year-old Vern to sing Country and Western tunes for visitors. Vern got the performing bug, but as a high-school singer opted for better music. And so he continued for 70+ years. Nice story.
I owed my cousin Tim a call, since we had exchanged an email or two, but agreed phone calls were better. That was right. We compared isolation notes and exchanged how-to-stay-sane advice. I was jealous because he can shoot pictures of birds in Golden Gate Park while I make use of the banks of an irrigation canal. We laughed about the current world, because crying does not work on real-guy phone calls. The sound of it reminded me of chatter between his dad Pat and my dad Bob, 50 or 60 years ago. We've become them.
Not long after Tim's call, friend Ted called to ask about my reaction to Governor Newsom's latest re-closing of Fresno and other counties. I admitted that I was glad he had done something, because the current growth in cases was frightening. Later, I looked more at Fresno and California case growth and wondered if the gov was again doing too little, too late. We'll see by my birthday, August 1.
When Marianne made it back, she was indeed tired. After a rest, she prepared open-faced tuna sandwiches and an excellent chick pea soup. (Think of drinking pureed garbanzo beans.) I opened a nice bottle of German Riesling. This was the perfect meal for our 106F afternoon.
So, that was Day 122, the end of our Month 4.
(This day in our history: A Monterey visit three years ago, to cool off from Fresno heat. We need a repeat!)
Tuesday, July 14, Isolation Day 123
No morning walk. No morning pictures. It's getting harder and harder to be disciplined and interested.
Besides, we had an event: Marianne's final radiation treatment. Forty weeks after her mammogram and biopsy, the surgical, chemical, and radioactive attack on breast cancer had come to an end. As warned, this had been a marathon, with the road ahead still containing hormone therapy and various treatments' side effects. But, today, a certificate.
We celebrated with cinnamon rolls, eaten outside, at spaced tables. However, the rolls were not as good as we remembered and we do get nervous around people, masked, partially-masked, distant, not-so-distant. Four months of being careful has altered us, made us anti-social, or at least uncomfortable in small crowds. We will not be part of large crowds until COVID-19 stops killing.
On the way home we stopped off for necessities; new bicycle shoes for Marianne (getting ready for the new Peloton) and office supplies (to organize art lessons). We record all these stops as part of our own "contact tracing", in case it ever becomes appropriate. Hope not.
At home, Marianne disappeared into the art hut, no more risky public contacts. Meanwhile, I delivered the New York Times to neighbor Vern and, after he finished signing tax forms and a check to the U.S. Treasury, we went to our normal venue, the porch outside. He tolerated a number of my work-related stories, mostly about expensive failures that had added to my education and wisdom. He contributed his own stories and we agreed: "Too soon old, too late smart."
Soon it was time for another good dinner, roast chicken this time, with fresh puddings for dessert. Soon after, we had our Tuesday Cocktail Zoom session with Adrienne and Rita and spouses and Gabby with a late cameo appearance from Ava. Everyone congratulated Marianne on her milestone. The hour zoomed (hah, hah) past, as we mostly tried to solve the problems of the virus, especially the return-to-school problem. Four retired teachers and one front-line mom all had thoughts, as did we amateurs, but no one has answers. Indeed, we seemed to agree, there are no good answers. In the end, we will be saved by the resilience of youth. You heard it here first.
That was Day 123, the start of Month Five.
(This day in our history: A pair: 2012 Bastille Day in Bordeaux and a break in Würzburg a year later.)
Wednesday, July 15, Day 124
This is the end of the line for this webpage. I'll start another, but I am hoping for inspiration to change, at least a little. We'll see.
This Wednesday started like most Wednesdays, with a weekly weigh-in. I gained two pounds while Marianne held relatively constant, reminding me that I MUST stop between-meals munching, and maybe, even the few-days-a-week wine.
The day then moved on to a short walk, with camera. These too are discouraging, with the flowers of Spring gone, and even birds less prevalent than they were just days ago. Colorful sidewalk drawings, so cheerful in the beginning, have faded since April and May, like the other novel challenges of this not-so-novel-anymore virus.
My morning filled up with more standards: chat with Vern, pay bills, read the NYT and internet news. I find myself guilty of "doomscrolling", bingeing on bad news. Another new habit I need to break. It may even be related to weight gain!
Marianne was more productive, and social. The art hut is pleasantly cool in the morning, so she hides out. This morning she had two appointments, a Skype call with Dale in Germany and a Facetime class with Ava and Sam. Dale tells us Germany is returning to some sense of normalcy, with plenty of outdoor dining. Beer gardens and such are so traditional in Bavarian summers and we are jealous, just as we are any other summer!
The kids' "Whimsical Wednesday" art class proceeded as usual. This week they were making little illustrated books, good practice for writing, drawing, and imagination. Eleven-year-old Ava is very much into the activities and nine-year-old Sam tolerates them. They now know they face at least a month of full-time online classes when school restarts, and even more Zoom and Facetime classes for the rest of 2020. Kids are resilient, so they will learn, but the distortion of normal life won't be easy. We wish them well, our grandkids and everyone's grandkids.
Dinner was leftovers, but as good as ever. Afterwards, we went on an exciting-for-the-times excursion to Walgreen's drug store and Fresno Ag hardware. It doesn't get much more exciting than that. Unfortunately.
We checked in on the back porch dove hatchery and caught mom and dad in shift change. It's a cute little family and their babies are looking more like real birds as the days go by. I expect they'll be around another week or so, before they go on that dangerous first flight. We wish them well, too.
That was Day 124
(This day in our history: A stop in Barga and Lucca on our 2003 Italian adventure.)
Everything from chaos to a new normalcy is on the table. What will be served up in the next couple of weeks? Months? Fall? November 3rd? 2021?
Stay in touch,
John and Marianne