Home - Again, Still, Forever?

*** Under construction***

August 1-15, probably, 2020

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

For the last diary of July, my editor noted "Bleak outlook. Need to do something to energize!" Excellent advice, but how?

These trotter.ws diaries span almost 22 years and this is the 141st daily COVID posting. Over the years and days I wonder why I do this. My normal answer is that we value a record of our lives and we share it on the off chance that we do something interesting to family or friends. But, until we return to "normal", do we really want a record of the daily sameness, and is there any chance of recording something interesting?

I actually don't have answers, so I am left with "What else do you have to do with your time?" Good enough for now, and I will try to be less bleak. "Interesting" will be harder.

Saturday, August 1, Isolation Day 141.

doveMy 74th birthday. Even in the Before Times I was never really big on birthday celebrations, but under lock down what can one do?

I wanted to start with a morning walk and try to find interesting birds, a hawk or owl perhaps. I cheated by getting in the car and driving up to the neighborhood where I have seen them before, but there were no telltale calls. When I first glanced up at the top of a very tall cypress, I spotted what might be a small hawk, but looking through the long lens of the camera, it was simply a Mourning Dove catching the sunrise.

My other excitement was a drive, not to a national park or the Pacific beaches, but to the farmer's market, cleaners, peach stand, bank, and sporting goods store, where I bought birthday gifts. Even these short excursions are done seldom enough that they may be worth noting, sort of my own hardly-any-contact tracing.

dessertdinnerBack home, Marianne had prepared a celebration, with a card, presents, and an extra-special dinner, including home-made ice cream sandwiches in lieu of a cake. I was glad I did not have to blow out 74 candles. Over our years together, Marianne has worked hard to improve my view of my birthdays and this year was as good as ever. Thanks.

After dinner, we went off to our own distractions. I watched a little NBA basketball and it seemed like a valiant try at normalcy. The players, coaches, staff, and media folks have gone to great lengths to safely stage the games and I appreciate it, even if my Warriors are not there. The players and teams are using the unusual season to publicize anti-racism, with messages on jerseys, shoes, and opening ceremonies. It's interesting to me that the professional team sport with the highest salaried players are being clear on their values.

Big league baseball has also started a truncated season, but I can't imagine it will make it more than another week or so. The NFL? Nope, I don't think so. And fall college sports seem doomed to unsuccessful attempts. All these failures will just add to the bleakness, so I won't continue to comment.working painter

While I was watching basketball, Marianne was working on her painting, and I mean real work. I found her scrubbing the canvas surface with sandpaper and being happy with the results. Sanding reveals layering that is otherwise hidden. The added art time of the COVID period has allowed her to learn and explore much more than a normal schedule would have had space for. A silver lining, the opposite of bleak!

And that was Day 141.

(This day in our history: Bigger birthdays in 2006 and 2008.)

Sunday, August 2, Day 142

Not all my days start with a morning walk, but I've found the better days do. In Fresno summer, conditions for outside activity worsen as the sun gets hotter and hotter and will not get OK before we go to bed. (Thank goodness for air conditioning!) According to the Wunderground website, summer temperatures peak about now, so acceptable outside conditions will gradually grow longer. Good.freddie

The neighbor's garage poster had changed to a cute quote from Freddy, "No mask on your face / Big disgrace / Spreading germs / All over the place". Sing it once and it is embedded in your head. Otherwise, the walk was a struggle for pictures, but pleasant enough.

cactus sunflower spray

zoomAfter breakfast, it was time for a big family birthday party, or what passes for a party nowadays: Zoom. This was Gabby and Chris's birthday and, of course, mine was the day before, so we celebrated. Folks checked in from Maryland (Geoff), Colorado (Jen), Albany (Tom and Kate), Monterey (Chris and Leisa), and Lake Tahoe (Gabby). Ava, Sam, Sean, Ryan, and Spencer also made cameo appearances. It's not the same as in-person, but it's something special.

The rest of the day was ordinary. Marianne is still devoting considerable time to paint, learning and doing. I checked out my new exercise toys: ab roller, yoga ball, and 8 lb medicine ball. To make it seem more official, I changed into my old gym shorts, shirt, and shoes. I think it helped, although my whole program is still pretty limited compared to The Before Times. Later this week, we will add a Peloton stationary bike to our home gym, so we will have fewer and fewer excuses for not getting back in shape.

tableAfter dinner, we went shopping at Costco, or at least on their website. While we have been spending more time at home, the idea of upgrading our patio furniture surfaced. Our existing table and chairs had come with the house almost seven years ago and improvement seemed in order. I'm not SURE of the logic of adding seating for eight diners while we are limited to two, but I suppose it's a commitment to a more social future. Some day.

puzzleWhile Marianne went back to the Art Hut, my last accomplishment of the day was completion of Step 2 of my San Francisco puzzle. This second version is the current(?) city including the city expansion along the waterfront, including the Giant's baseball stadium in the lower left. This is the oldest area of the city and, in Step 3, I will add in the buildings, including the most modern skyscrapers. Stay tuned.

And that was Day 142

(This day in our history: St. John's, New Brunswick, 2010)

Monday, August 3, COVID Day 143

Sooo quiet. No walk so no morning pictures. I read the paper, shared it with Vern, came home and read my book, watched some basketball, ate dinner, read more. An entire day in 30 words. And I think it was less exciting than it sounds.

grays colorsMeanwhile, Marianne was busier, at least a little. There's normal house chores, one-meal cooking, reading, Netflix watching and, most seriously, art study and practice. The on-line abstract art course she is taking has her going back to some of the basics, including the process of mixing paints to make paint of various hues and shades. This is all part of the back story to good paintings and I trust her when she says it's not easy.

That was Day 143

(This day in our history: Perugia in 2003)

Tuesday, August 4, Isolation Day 144

A morning walk plus more of the same routines. More bird noises now, on a morning that is a bit cooler. At least that was my excuse for the pictures. Most flowers are gone, except this flashy orange and yellow item.

finch flower finch 2 jay

After breakfast activities have become completely regimented: work on diaries, read the NY Times, share news with Vern and chat. The diary part of this routine is hard because nothing is interesting or memorable. Marianne and I still think we will value this record, years from now, even if it's just to remember how uneventful life in lock-down was. I wonder if I will be able to keep notes through Day 200 and Day 300 and Day 365.

Just for the record and in case we need to contact trace, I'll note my shopping trip to our favorite international market (Lebanese, actually), Fresno State Farm Market, and Fresno Ag hardware. This really is what passes for interesting. Sheesh.

up stairsreadyBack home, the Peloton guys showed up with our new exercise bike. In the Before Times, when Gabby got hers, the delivery team would place the device, connect it, and even give a little training. Now, under COVID rules, they were not even supposed to take it beyond the front door. Thankfully, they made an exception since there was no way we could have brought the 150-pound machine up the curved stairs. Now, will we use it or will it become a clothes rack?

dinnerI got tired just watching the bike get delivered, so was not interested in starting just yet. Exercise can wait. (That's not a good sign.) Instead, we moved on to dinner: a nice pork roast, BBQ corn from the FSU store - the best in the world, salad, leftover noodles, and white wine. In our routine almost-quarantine life, this lunch-dinner definitely is a daily high point.

But, this being Tuesday, we moved right into our weekly Zoom cocktail party with Los Gatos and Santa Cruz friends Adrienne and Rita (and husbands, but we are all just decoration). A day later, I certainly can not remember the material of the conversation, but the fact of some social interaction remains a good memory.

That was Day 144.

(This day in our history: Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018)

Wednesday, August 5, Isolation Day 145

No pictures on the cameras, so I have to depend on memory for my record. Never easy.

However, our first activity did make an impression: starting up the Peloton bike. Step one was to turn it on. I did that and nothing happened. The support line person led me through the step before turn-it-on: connect-some-wires. After that it was simple enough, although the learning process for any technology is always a bit "stressy". In this case, there is not just the machine but a whole online-connected world of training sessions and worldwide tours. Fortunately, the phone support folks were friendly and patient and, eventually, it was time to get on and ride.

I started with "Beginners 101". The screen instructor provided twenty minutes of basic instruction with Peloton-required enthusiasm. I have never been an exercise class fan, but it seems I will have to change, since much of the value-added to the Peloton system is in the form of guided exercise. We'll see.

For Marianne's first ride, the biggest hurdle was the clipping-in process. We bought real bike shoes, with "toe clips" that keep our feet firmly attached to the bike pedals. In Marianne's case, the attachment was so strong she could not disconnect and visions of an impossible challenge went through our minds. Fortunately, I discovered that the pedal grips have an adjustment and we were able to detune the clamp enough for her to get out of the bike's grip. Whew. She, too, started with Beginner 101 and seemed to get the hang of things. Again, we'll see.

The rest of Wednesday was COVID-normal: read news, chat with neighbor, Marianne's art practice, lunch-dinner, etc. Whimsical Wednesday with Ava and Sam was canceled due to activities popping up on their schedules (golf lesson for Sam and running with mom for Ava.) We received a shipment of books from Amazon and I now have enough reading material for 2020.

That was Day 145

(This day in our history: France 2011, Family Bluegrass.)

Thursday, August 6, Day 146

I am writing this a couple of days late, but with continued resolution to keep our COVID record, no matter how unexciting.

Shortly after breakfast, Marianne and I started with the new element to our exercise routine: Peloton. We each tried two different types of rides, one a 20-minute coached session, beginners level. These coached sessions are probably the key to Peloton success. They are reasonable simulations of an in-person class, taught by uniformly bubbly, enthusiastic, and well-toned personal trainers.

tour choicesm on tourThe second type of ride is simply a video of bike rides throughout the world, with the cameraman-biker doing the hard part of not hitting walls or people. We get to pedal along at whatever cadence and resistance we want, making hill climbs as easy as flat Kansas roads if that's what we are up to. For today, we both chose a twenty-minute ride through Bavaria and it was wonderful. The last five minutes were spent weaving through the old part of Nuremberg, on roads and streets we have walked a dozen times. Great fun and memories.Jayeating

After clean up, I headed over to our neighbor's for a morning chat while Marianne went to art class, back yard art class. While discussing the problems of the world with Vern, I was distracted by a tiny, scraggly Blue Jay feeding out of the cat bowl. Not a pretty bird, but cute, and not at all afraid of the cats or cat owners.

We did not solve the world's problems. Maybe another day.

black and whiteMarianne's art class has her preparing four abstracts on one paper, repeated four times in different colors. Here is black. After watching her work over the last few years, I remain confident that the end products of even training efforts are interesting and wall-worthy, once matted and framed. Of course, we have run out of walls on which to hang things, paintings or photos, but that's a later problem.

I'm sure the rest of the day was in automatic: reading, lunch-dinner, a little television, peace and quiet. It could be worse.

That was Day 146

(This day in our history: Geoff and Suzanne's 2004 wedding.)

Friday, August 7, Day 147

bird and wormAnother routine day - almost. I started with a dawn walk and caught that early bird and his worm. The stories are all true. Otherwise, the most interesting sight was the setting moon, not a full one, nor a new one, nor one with a name like "Harvest" or "Strawberry" or "Blue". Nice enough to guide me on my street walk though.class

Right after breakfast, Marianne and Claudia did their "remote learning" class together. The two artists work seriously and criticize themselves endlessly. Nonetheless, I keep my confidence that the process is good and the products will show it. Trust me.

While the artists were at work, I made my once-a-month-in-lockdown trip to Costco to fuel up the Jeep. This is the measure of just how little we drive anymore since it's easy to go five or six weeks between refills. In the Before Times we probably averaged almost a tank a week, in each car. The cost savings is fine, but I'd rather be driving to interesting places.

Later, Marianne and I worked on our new routine: exercise and Peloton rides. I do hope we can maintain our enthusiasm, because it's important on any number of levels. I know it feels good to be tired again.

Speaking of feeling good, our big event of the day was an appointment with Marianne's oncologist, Doctor Box. This appointment had been scheduled weeks ago and we hoped it would be a "you're done with cancer treatment" discussion. Well, not quite. First, the in-person clinic discussion got shifted to a video conference from the doctor's bedroom. Apparently, she had developed a headache and generalized pain the day before and, after the required nose swab, was sent home to quarantine to wait for test results and symptom progression. Where would this hyper-careful professional get the virus? Possibly from eating lunch in her clinic office, near colleagues who were without symptoms.

As for the discussion of Marianne's elephant-in-the-room, results seem, thankfully, nominal. There is one more decision needed on a preventative, every-six-months, drug infusion, but all the other treatment complications and side effects were expectable if not always pleasant, and treatable with medicine, therapy, and exercise. Not exactly a cancer-graduation ceremony, but close.

pation dinnerThe summer heat had abated a bit, so we could have lunch-dinner "out", complete with graduation champagne. It would be nice if the heat stayed away for the rest of 2020, but I expect we still have plenty of hot days left in August and even September. We'll enjoy it when we can.

After dinner, we joined Brian and Jen on a Zoom-conference game night. (Our Eastern Time Zone participant Geoff begged off, something about needing sleep. Understandable.) The word game "Codenames" provided the back drop for catching up on Colorado events, particularly grandson Richard's return to high school for his senior year. He will start with "remote learning", at least through September, a safe option but not one that provides the social environment he needs. There are no easy answers.

Speaking of no easy answers, Marianne's participation in Codenames was cut short by an unruly heart. It had decided to speed up and beat just a little unevenly. She went upstairs and tried the get-your-heart-under-control techniques that sometimes work: medicine, rest, yoga breathing, warm bath, and that hardest of all: don't think about it. (A return to the Kaiser Emergency Department, during the COVID pandemic, was the "it" we most needed to not think about.)

That was Day 147

(This day in our history: A 2011 drive in the Alps.)

Saturday, August 8, Lockdown Day 148

Marianne woke up with a well-behaving heart. All we could hope for.

The other good news of the day, news we received from friend Dona Barbara, was that it was our 28th wedding anniversary! Somehow, in all the excitement of lockdown, we had completely forgotten. Thanks for the reminder.

Our standard routine was upset by this being the cleaning lady day, a day where she gets the house to herself for a few hours while we try to find something interesting to do. Honestly, her job is more straightforward. With all the limits on meals out and on shopping or museums and galleries, we are hard pressed to find four hours of out-of-the-house activities.

fruit standWe decided to drive north, first to Coarsegold where the family-run Wild Fig restaurant has good food and widely-spaced outside tables. Unfortunately, when we got there, we discovered that they had gone on vacation! Maybe Oakhurst, a few miles up the road, would have a suitable breakfast place. Nope. All we found of interest was a fruit stand, good fruits and veggies, but not really a destination stop. I did buy some dried fruit treats, in case that was all we would have to eat.

1850 brewingFrom Oakhurst, we headed up Highway 49 to Mariposa, one of our favorite Gold Country stops, at least in the Before Times. In fact, a number of restaurants had created outside dining, so we even had choices. We settled on the 1850 Brewing Company, based more on table spacing than menu, but that's what's important to us nowadays.

Otherwise, there was nothing to keep us in Mariposa. The two or three small museums were closed and the touristy shops did not seem attractive. I think that is part of us becoming un-social as we try to maintain "social" distance.

Two old station wagons and a vintage Studebaker truck were decorating the parking lot so I took some pictures before we headed south, back towards Fresno.

olds chevystudabaker

A few miles out of Mariposa, we passed a sign advertising coffee roasting, a sign we'd seen many times before, but were always too busy to stop. Busy no more, we pulled over into the Mariposa Coffee Company. Owner Jerry Caputo was waiting for us, sipping coffee on his front porch. He had a great story about how he and his family have been providing small batch coffee for over 30 years. I love stories and the coffee smelled wonderful, so we left with a couple pounds of coffee, a half-pound of special Hot Cocoa mix, and a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans. At first, all we'd sampled were the chocolate beans, and they were good, but Marianne's Sunday morning coffee was with Mariposa beans and was good enough that she doubled her normal coffee allotment..

coffee pots brew sign tasters

At home, it was back to regular duties: exercise, rest, read, screen-time. Dinner was very light and very late, for us anyway. At the end of the day we remarked about how nice it was to shift around our activities, something we will have to remember.

That was Day 148

(This day in our history: Lucerne in 2011)

Sunday, August 9, Isolation Day 149

No plans and that's pretty much what we did - no(thing).

Actually, I did start with a morning walk, not long but something. My first target was the garage a neighbor decorates with messages every week. This time, I was lucky and the artist, Tom Key, introduced himself. He said he originally thought he would do the weekly chalk drawings just for the COVID period, but now he enjoys it so much, he may continue forever. I noted that "the COVID period" and "forever" may be the same thing.Tom

Otherwise, the walk was quiet. I have noticed Sunday is the quietest morning of the week. Even lockdown people rest on Sunday. Picture subjects are getting harder to find, but the morning light was good enough for a tiny flower, grasses, and the largest Crepe Myrtle tree in the neighborhood.

tinygrasscrepe myrtle

brushThe rest of the day was even less exciting: Sunday papers, garden watering, reading, art for Marianne, and art-repair for me. Friend Dale had created and sent us a charming piece made from an antique paint brush and a dozen little round faces. Unfortunately, the pieces came unglued during the trip from Bavaria. Head repair has been on my to-do list ever since and now I replace one head per day, to allow glue to completely dry. I can't wait to finish and see if the original artist approves.

That was Day 149.

(This day in our history: The Erlangen, Germany, Botanical Gardens in 2009)

Monday, August 10, Isolation Day 150

One more day, one more diary. Like most days, Monday started with no special expectations.reading

Breakfast came and went, along with my second reading of the New York Times. More COVID19 news, some of it concerning our own San Joaquin Valley where poverty makes stay-at-home either impossible or contagious or both. We are still fine on Cambridge Avenue with no reported cases, so I continue my customary NYT delivery and morning chat with Vern on his porch. A good way to start the day.

boxeslunchBack home, we needed to finish chores and lunch-dinner so we could shut down the electricity at 2pm. The 103F daytime temperature had caused Pacific Gas & Electric to declare a "SmartDay" when, for five hours, electricity is too expensive to use. Required tasks were limited to accepting a Costco delivery (new patio umbrella) and lunch-dinner. In the old days, waiting for a package was an inconvenience, but now it's a day's highlight.

peachesWe decided to leave home for at least a little of the power-off time and could only think of one destination: Peach on Earth, our current go-to for the best peaches we have ever had. They told us there are only about two weeks left in the season, so we will do our best to over-eat for the rest of August.

This errand had only used about twenty minutes of our SmartDay hours, so we headed farther out into the farm country. We drove past miles and miles and miles of orchards and vineyards. This is harvest season and trees especially are laden with fruits and more importantly, nuts. We made one more fruit stand stop and got a bag of grapes. For $1it will last me days and there was no extra charge for the leaves and stems that mark the fruit as authentic just picked from the vines and trees surrounding the store.

fruit grapes peaches

From this stand, we turned east, toward the mountains, though they were hidden by harvest haze, a nasty mix of dust and regular smog. We stopped again, this time at The Pistachio Country Store, and got yet some more treats. Here too, the trees were not far from the store.

sign pistachios cameras

At this point, we were basically lost, but had nowhere particular to go anyway, so we just headed what I thought was east. Soon we were on Raymond Road, heading more north than east, and driving through rolling foothills, not fertile, flat farmlands. The road twisted among hills spotted with California Oaks and granite rock formations. I need to go back sometime at sunset, when the red comes out and the shadows dance.

A half hour after leaving the relatively crowded valley, we hit Raymond, an authentic historical settlement. We stopped at the general store, built in 1914, and chatted with the young lady between the counter and store shelves, both original. Raymond itself is older than that, having been one of many Sierra gold rush towns in the 1850s through 1870s. Somewhere along the way, (dates are confusing in the internet record) Frank Ducey opened a granite quarry and a train line was run from Berenda on the main Southern Pacific line in the valley up to "Wildcat", as the settlement was nicknamed at the time.

The story goes that in July of 1886 (?) the town was organizing a parade to celebrate the new train and offered to rename itself "Raymond", in honor of a wealthy businessman, T. Raymond of the Raymond Whitcomb Travel Association. All he had to do was serve as parade grand master, and so he did, and Wildcat became Raymond and the quarry became the Raymond Granite company, a business that still sells "Sierra White" granite and continues as a major local employer.

Tourism was important to Raymond because the train also brought Yosemite-bound tourists, who would take the 21-mile Berenda-Raymond train ride and, if they were wealthy enough to afford the $45 fare, transfer to a stage coach for a two-day trip into the Yosemite Valley. Nowadays, tourists go via highways that bypass the community.

general store counters customer
old phto 1879 bar

signAcross from the General Store is a monument, made from Sierra White granite, engraved with a version of the local history. This is one of the many historical monuments in the Sierra gold country erected by "E. Clampus Vitas", specifically the ECV Grub Gulch Chapter #41-49. The original ECV was a social club formed during the gold rush for drinking and mocking the more-established clubs such as the Elks and Lions and Masons. A new incarnation formed in the 1930s and, reportedly, continues the drinking and mockery, while working in a little history along the way.

So, you never know what will happen if you have the time to go off the beaten path.

That was Day 150.

(This day in our history: Visiting Sam and Ava in 2015)

Tuesday, August 11, Isolation Day 151

antsFrom the beginning, I could tell this was a slow day, even by pandemic recuse standards. On my morning walk, the only thing I found to photograph was an anthill in a sidewalk. Nice lighting. Did those little guys bring flowers, only to discover they were too big for the door?

VernAfter that, I joined neighbor Vern on his porch. He treated me to readings from a first edition Robert W. Service, including an abbreviated performance of The Cremation of Sam McGee. As a retired jazz singer, Vern's voice is still musical, even when reading Service, who's work influenced all young men of a certain age, myself and my dad included. It's not literature; it's common cultural background.umbrella upset up

For the rest of the morning I struggled putting up our new patio umbrella. I think I did every assembly step twice, first a wrong way and then the right. Oh well, it works and now we are waiting for the new table. And then for the end of the pandemic lock-down so we can fill the patio with folks.

zoomAfternoon included dinner and Zoom for desert. The Trotters, Prindles, and Casellis were all there and we commented on VP Biden's selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Marianne and I were OK with it, but we were in the minority. That's all right, these other lefties will come along. Besides, the alternative is unthinkable.

That was Day 151

(This day in our history: North Carolina wine in 2007.)

Wednesday, August 12, Day 152

uhaulstuffA pretty quiet day. We started with sending our patio table and chairs off to Katinka and Ruben's. He and Henry and Zaiden came by with a U-Haul to take the set and make room for our new table and chairs, whenever Costco gets around to delivering. (This process was so exciting that I forgot to get pictures of the guys! I am gong to lose my family photographer license.)m and B

I don't think we did much the rest of the day. Of course I had my morning chat with Vern, but we concluded that we would not be able to solve all the problems of the world in just one sitting. On the way back, Marianne met me and neighbor Blain (and Ruthie) and we caught up on their recent road trip from Fresno to Vermont and back. It sounded like a real adventure in these days of COVID travel, especially.

PelotonAfter that, it was all ordinary: Marianne at art class/homework and me doing diaries and reading. Dinner came and went, tasty salmon as I recall. We both finished the late afternoon with Peloton sessions and then rest and television. As part of my new fitness regime, I avoided evening snacks, for two days in a row now! I just HAVE to get rid of my COVID-10-extra-pounds.forcast

ps: Upcoming weather:

That was day 152

(This day in our history: Treviso, Italy, 2003)

Thursday, August 13, Day 153

step outAt sunrise, I stepped outside for my walk and the sun was shining down by City College, so that gave me a destination. There was not much new since my last visit to the almost-deserted campus, but the fountains were still fun to photograph and the strange statues (COVID-affected students) continued waiting patiently. I threw in a flower, just because. And I ended by noting the longer than normal COVID19-testing line. When will this no longer be a neighborhood feature?

fountain 3 fountain crash flower
people lookingzoom sign
COVID test

My big excursion was going to the Jeep-Chrysler dealer to have an oil change. A more routine task I can not imagine, but in these times of COVID isolation, it took on a different flavor somehow. In fact, not much had changed. Angelo greeted me, even recognizing the masked-me, and said it would be about 90 minutes. Normally this was time to just sit in the waiting room, drink coffee, and chat with whoever was there. No socializing in today's world. I did check out the 1917 Dodge on display, but then left for an hour's walk. Maybe next time this will all be over.

service badge 1917 dodge
park flower

paintingava samBack home, I checked in with Marianne. She had spent the time painting, of course, and significantly modified her work-in-progress. There must be twenty layers on this piece by now, and I wonder when she will declare victory. She had also spent time on the phone with Gabby going over Sam and Ava's first day "at" school. Our five grandkids are all starting with remote learning, with the strain of a new process, new for grandkids, kids, and grandparents. Hopefully, this will end before another year passes.

cardMarianne then went off to her sister Katinka's house for her grandson Zaiden's birthday. He's a cute little guy, but his new school process is made more complicated by home uncertainties, so we all worry. And differences between the sisters' view of COVID protections added another layer of tension. Hopefully again, this too can pass before Zaiden's next birthday. (Meanwhile, our old patio furniture looks good in its new home.)

Zaiden Katinka crew

That was Day 153

(This day in our history: Marianne's 2005 farm house.)

Friday, August 14, Isolation Day 154

Another milestone - our first house guest since our isolation started 156 days ago. Marianne had invited her friend Dana over for a morning coffee and we spent as much time getting the backyard ready as we would have for a brunch of dozens. We are so out of practice!


The rest of the day was as usual: read the NYT, chat with Vern, Marianne worked with paint, etc. It's hard to remember just what we did! dinner

I put in another session on the Peloton and wore myself out. It felt good, however, and I am getting more comfortable that buying the expensive machine wasn't just a whimsical splurge. Now, it we can just keep it up. Meanwhile, I am struggling to keep my weight down. After a few days of no alcohol and no between-meal snacks, I thought a pound or three would have gone away. Nope, only a few ounces, maybe. Now I need to work on the even harder part: limiting meal portions, especially of good new recipes like Friday's potato salad.

zoom gameWe seem to have a new Friday evening tradition: game night with Colorado and Maryland. It's great, because we think a little, have some laughs, and catch up on family status. In The Before Times, Brian and Jen used to organize a local game night, where the several participants gathered around a table, in a poorly-ventilated room, and played for hours. That may never happen again. Well, maybe not "never", but it won't be soon.

That was Day 154

(This day in our history: The Italian Dolomites in 2003)

Saturday, August 15, Isolation Day 155

Not much remarkable about Day 155, but I still need to be "not bleak and interesting". Good luck with that.

ATTWe stayed home, because that's what we do and because AT&T had an appointment to install a new fiber optic cable for our internet. Did we NEED "1,000 gigabits", of course not, no home does, but the company was offering it with free installation and no more per month than their current (too-high) fee. Mostly, I'm a technology geek and the idea of being able to run the world from my desk sounded worthwhile. At least, if we ever have a houseful of guests, everyone will be able to ignore each other while looking at their no-buffering screens.

Today was the part of a very hot week, hot enough that California initiated rolling blackouts. It will stay extraordinarily hot for another five or six days, so I'm sure there will be more blackouts, in addition to our semi-voluntary SmartDay cutbacks. In other times, we would use the excuse to visit family in cooler Monterey or Monte Sereno or even Albany, but not with stay-at-home restrictions. Even escaping up into the Sierras is out, because of crowds up there.

I had plenty of time to read, finishing Empires of the Sky, a story of the duel for long-distance air travel between German zeppelins and Pan American airplanes. The contest was only decided in the late 1930s, decades after zeppelins had made cross-Atlantic air travel relatively routine with European flights to Brazil. A good read for fans of aircraft.

Then I moved on to One Day, a collection of short stories of what happened on December 28, 1986, an arbitrary day selected by the book's creator, Gene Weingarten. Each story is essentially a detailed news report, as would be expected from the Washington Post editor. So far, it's a great read maybe because I had forgotten how easy it is to read short stories.

DVWhile Marianne worked in a too-hot art studio, I worked on a Peloton tour. I was not up to a trainer-directed session, but a half hour ride through Death Valley sounded about right. It was. Part of the simulated ride was on small roads we had driven in our visits, but much of it was up and down trails so steep and narrow that I worried about falling off my (stationary) bike. (By the way, Death Valley will be 125F or 52C today. The Peloton ride was more reasonable.)

That was Day 155

(This day in our history: Richard, Ava, and Sam in 2015)

Working to be not-bleak and interesting.

As this webpage may have grown too large, I will start another one tomorrow. Maybe.

John and Marianne