Heart Restart

October 13 to 27, 2020

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

We are starting the eighth month of our isolation/quarantine/enforced-quiet/de-socialization. This webpage is the 19th in a series that has recorded our lives, day by day. We are tired of it. Everyone is tired of it. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are increasing across the nation and experts are now saying "normal" will only be possible after mid-2021, indicating more tunnel ahead than behind. The tunnel-end light is very small and dim. I am not sure what will be out there when we emerge.

Here we go, more remarks of the mostly unremarkable.

Tuesday, October 13, COVID Day 214

The alarm rang at 4:55, early, so we could get ready for a long-anticipated trip to Kaiser Medical Center. Marianne was scheduled for a heart stop-restart process called "cardioversion" and she had actually looked forward to the process, hoping it would slow her fluttering heartbeat down to where it was six weeks ago.wlk inptient

At 6:15, I let her out of the car, posing for a picture because that's what we do for this daily record. As she walked away into the Medical Center complex, she seemed so tiny and brave to me. The pandemic protocols do not allow me to stay close, even for the waiting, another aspect of the current times I hate.

Instead, I waited at Starbucks, outside, watching the sun come up, wildfire smoke in the distance. Writing my diary there seemed almost like the old days, when the coffee shops were my office and the routine was comfortable.



Almost four hours later, I received a nurse phone call saying everything went well and I should go wait for Marianne at the maternity ward doors. I drove over, parked, and waited without patience. Soon enough, she was wheeled out the door, tired, a bit drugged, but happy that her heart was behaving and looking forward to resuming our almost-normal lives.breakfast

The first order of normal life was breakfast, a scrambled egg wrap and a cinnamon role. Breakfast of champions!

From there, it was straight home. The doctor orders had been for 24-hours of nothing but rest and the lingering effects of drugs made it an easy order to follow.

squilelWhile she rested I went about my regular day, including the delivery of the New York Times to neighbors. Vern and I talked about health (often complaints), politics (always complaints), family history, (no complaints), and squirrels (minor complaints.) Vern told me his friend George introduced the squirrels to Fresno decades ago, importing them from Sacramento because he thought they were cute. He needs to come and get them.

My at-home chores were mostly garage-related. This is part of the process of getting the place ready for a new car, since I think a shiny new Tesla deserves a clean and orderly parking space. I'm not sure I will completely succeed, but garage cleanup is something that MUST be done from time to time.

Dinner was soup and a toasted cheese sandwich for Marianne and leftovers for me. (From childhood experience, I consider leftovers "soul food".) She remained pretty beat from the hospital trip, so we postponed the Tuesday Zoom Cocktail hour to Thursday.

Eventually, the drugs did wear off and Marianne disappeared into her art hut to watch video lessons for the class she is taking. I goofed off with YouTubes of Tesla news and obscure history.

That was Day 214

(This day in our history: 2006, Monticello)

Wednesday, October 14, Mostly-isolated Day 215

I had an early start at my desk, charging two watches, two cameras, a phone, and a spare power brick. Adding a car should be easy.

The day would prove to be as quiet as usual. We did major grocery shopping for the first time in a couple weeks, spending almost $300 for eight bags. Marianne had to spend almost as much time putting things away as we did shopping. She's keeps a neat kitchen.dinner

After a first art session, she used that tidy kitchen to fix a Hungarian specialty: something-or-other-krumpli. It's kind of like refried potatoes with paprika, very tasty and in that line of dinners I would call "comfort food". We all need comfort nowadays.

knife guySpeaking of Hungary, my post-dinner errand was to get my Budapest-bought pocket knife sharpened at the Vineland Farmer's Market, where the knife guy showed up for the first time in months. His reappearance is a tiny step toward normalcy. When we chatted, he seemed most happy to be talking with customers again and sharing pictures of a pair of brand new grand babies. Normalcy.

artistBack home, Marianne had returned to the Art Hut, adding final touches to one project and doing more class work before she starts another. Rumor has it that this painting will be hanging above our bed.Rose

My small attempt at art was yet another rose-in-the-evening-light photo. It's a distraction, something else we are all needing in today's world.

And that was COVID Day 215.

(This day in our history: Last German home diary in 2012)

Thursday, October 15, Day 216

This was a busy day! We don't really have too many of those in The Current Times. Shortly after breakfast there was a video call with Dr. K., Marianne's cardiologist. It went well. He explained a pending change in medication and fall back options beyond this one. He apologized for being out of touch lately, citing travel, his sickness (not THE sickness), COVID-coverage, and ER duty. It all seemed reasonable.

After that I could spend a few hours doing fall cleaning in the yard and garage. Summers are the Fresno season when we let things slip because the heat drives us into air conditioning. It felt good to work outdoors and not boil. Marianne passed the time doing some inside an outside chores, mixed with phone calls. She and Gabby talked about the struggles of Sam and Ava, trying to survive distance learning in the fourth and sixth grades. It's not easy.

In the afternoon, she went back to Kaiser for a mammogram, a plain old ordinary annual exam. That exam in 2019 triggered a whole new part of her (our) life, but in 2020 it was nothing remarkable. Whew.dinner

Back home, it was lunch-dinner time with shrimp salad for both of us and a portion of Hungarian leftovers for me. Marianne had added four pounds in three days, possibly due to the hospital procedure Tuesday, but she was taking no chances. Salad only.

zoom cocktailsAt 4:30 we started the delayed Tuesday Zoom Cocktails with Adrienne and Rita. We covered the normal: health, politics, kids, grandkids. I think we skipped weather. (We are all in California and we don't have much in the way of weather.) We are all reasonably healthy, even Marianne, in the broader scheme of things. Politically, we can't wait for the November Blue Wave. Our kids are doing OK and all the grandkids are cute.

No sooner did the Zoom meeting end, than Marianne and I joined a video presentation by Project Baseline, the long-term medical study we both participate in. The study has been completely upended by COVID complications, as well as the untimely death of the Principle Investigator, but the new PI said annual exams should restart in November, as a combination of remote and in-person sessions. When our turn comes, we will need to make a decision about the travel involved.

Sonnennburggood foodThe main topic of the presentation was "Diet as a Lever to Improve Your Microbiome and Health", by Dr. Erica Sonnenburg. She managed to provide a really quite complete and highly technical explanation of the ecosystem we all have inside our guts and managed to make it mostly understandable. Just don't ask us to repeat everything. After an hour, the bottom-line recommendation was to eat natural fiber food and fermented food such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. (Wine, beer and cider are also fermented, but were not specifically recommended. Too bad.) The jury is out on whether probiotics help.

We came away convinced the researcher was right, so I suppose it will be yogurt and kimchi from here on.

That was Day 216

(This day in our history: 2001, Hurtigruten highlights.)

Friday, October 16, Day 217

Friday was a day of chores, a visit, and exercise. The end of hot summer has definitely gotten me energized!

stakeironMy most ambitious project, and the one most needed, was shoring up our backyard fence. At least three of the posts had become very loose and the fence was tilting toward neighbor Clay's yard. I expected to wake up some day to see it completely fallen down. At Fresno Ag, I found a pair of iron braces, specifically for weak fence posts. It seemed easy enough, but by the time I dragged out all the drills and wrenches and screws and levels, an easy job grew less so. Besides, the iron gadgets did not completely fix the wobble, so I had to add an old-fashioned wooden brace as well. Now it's good for a few more years, I hope.

shelfFrom that chore, I moved on to fixing a leak in the garage wall where garden watering led to water intrusion. This was easy enough to fix with a few squirts with expanding foam. Next, was assembly of a small shelf for better arrangement of a living room cabinet. This was the chore that earned the most honey-points, maybe because a solution had not been expected so soon. After all, the "need" was only identified a couple of days ago. I hope future needs don't have to be solved so quickly.

While I was doing all that, Marianne was out having coffee with a few friends. This occasional coffee klatch is about the only socializing she gets to do in our pandemic life, so its an event worth noting. I hope that some day things like this will happen without much notice, but until that's possible, we'll make the most of what CAN happen.

After successful chore duty, I was so inspired that I jumped on the Peloton for a pair of 30-minute rides. It was a lot, but on my every-other-day plan, I could look forward to a day off. I am glad we remain as enthusiastic about our fancy exercise bike as we are because it takes enthusiasm to continue any exercise routine.dinner

Dinner was a Friday tradition for us: a meal of snacks. Not just any munchies, but an assortment of proper, room-temperature cheese, salami, crackers, and, in response to Thursday's biome lecture, Korean kimchi. This is not a low calories meal option, and we can not do it every week, but it felt right for this day. Besides, it is a meal that we can take our time with, chatting and trying to put our lives in order. I'm not sure we succeeded, but we will talk again.

Speaking of talking, we had our Trotter Game Night, another Friday tradition, where we Zoom with Brian, Jen, and Geoff for a word guessing game. As always, it's nice to have some time to talk about how the families are doing. The three Trotter grandsons (Richard in Colorado and Sean and Ryan in Maryland) are all in remote learning environments and coping with it in their own ways. Oma and Opa would like to be able to offer helpful insight, but I'm afraid teachers, kids, and parents are all forced to learn lessons on their own.

That was Day 217

(This day in our history: 2018. Kids, Art, and Health)

Saturday, October 17, Pandemic Isolation Day 218

A morning bouquet, just because.

orange pink
yellow gold

VernThis was a Juanita morning where we vacate while she cleans the house. The plan was to drive up into the mountains for a breakfast in our favorite Coarsegold restaurant. Fresno air quality wasn't great, but maybe going up a couple thousand feet would help. Before we left Cambridge Avenue, we checked in with Vern so the street watch knew the plan.Armenia

We also swung by Tom Key's garage to check the week's message. Fresno has a large Armenian community, originating with war refugees more than a century ago so the current Armenia-Azerbaijan skirmish is being closely followed, even on a garage door.

Pretty soon, we were out on Highway 41, heading into the Sierra foothills, normally a nice break from downtown air,but not today. Some of the junk in the air came from farmers plowing fields, but most of it was smoke from the Creek fire, still burning after covering 300,000-plus acres, due east. By the time we made it to Coarsegold, we were wondering if breakfast out would be worth the drive.

plow road Coarsegold


Our destination restaurant, Wild Fig Kitchen, was busy. For their sake, that was good news, but it demoted us to a table other than our favorite. We actually had to sit closer than 15 feet from other folks. Oh well, it was outside, a bit windy, and not too long a time. It's amazing how we judge restaurants nowadays. Oh, the food was as good as expected.exercise

As soon as we comfortably could, we left the smoky mountains for the just-hazy city. We could use some rain to clean the air, but it's not November yet, so there's not much chance. At home, Marianne got busy with art homework. This exercise piece will change, but it's a start. While she worked, I goofed off.souffle

Just to prove how flexible she is, Marianne took a break from art class to whip up a spinach soufflé. I have to admit that we've eaten well in our pandemic isolation and, at home, we get the table of our choice, no contagious tables nearby.

After dinner, Marianne returned to art homework and I watched television, PBS mostly. I have almost given up regular cable stations, even CNN, because everything is about the pending election. That's as it should be, I'm sure, but all this coverage makes me worry. I can't imagine America under a second Trump administration.

That was Day 218

(This day in our history: 1999, Not snowing yet.)

Sunday, October 18. Isolation Day 219

This was a quiet, weekend day. Not that "weekend" makes any sense, between retirement and semi-isolation. I started with reading the Fresno Bee and NY Times, Sunday editions. News still makes me nervous, but with newspapers, it's possible to stop at headlines and move on to non-political, non-epidemic stories. I know it's a bit of head-in-the-sand, but it's my head.

patioAfter the slow start, I got ambitious with back yard trimming and cleaning. The boxwood border needs a haircut about once a year and today was the day. The autumn leaves need removal about once an hour, but once every couple of days is all I manage. Despite being a relatively large back yard, it is not hard to maintain, because most of the ground is covered in bark chips and leaves from this and past years. Thank goodness.

PelotonStill ambitious, I followed yard work with a Peloton bike training session. My favorite trainer, Sam Yo, put me through 45 minutes of tough work, with over 600 calories burned! I can not do this more than every other day and, even so, my old joints are pretty creaky on my off days. I'm thankful that, for the most part, this still feels good at 74 years old.

Marianne's morning excitement was a trip over to her sister's house with more keepsakes from their mom. We clean our stash by bringing things to Babi. By all reports, it was a good visit, even if it was just some time spent sitting, properly distanced, on the front porch bench, chatting about small things. That's the most family gathering we do nowadays.

Marianne prepared a nice meatloaf dinner and we enjoyed the (almost) clean patio for our meal setting. After dinner, she rested, tired from a new heart medicine she initiated today. Side effects, everything has side effects and this time it is heart rate reduction and fatigue. The pacemaker keeps her heart from getting too slow, but apparently does not protect against feeling tired. She will also have ECG testing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to verify that she is tolerating the new regime adequately. More Kaiser Medical frequent flier points.

While she rested, I watched football, the 49ers and Rams. I'm not a big football fan, but it was nice to see the "local" team, the 49ers, win. Besides, all these sports teams are risking more than ever in these COVID times, just to put on a show. The least we can do is watch.

That was Day 219

(This day in our history: Flam to Oslo, 2001)

Monday, October 19, the 220th day since we started being anti-social

sell carinspect carThis morning, we started the process of selling our red Jeep, in anticipation of the new Tesla showing up within a month. We needed a bonafide offer and the easiest way to do that is to visit CarMax. They make it very easy, just show up, open all the doors and hatches, wait first for the inspector to look at everything and listen to the engine, and then another wait of 15 minutes for the paperwork and an offer. This offer came in $1,400 above the Tesla trade-in and was worth considering, but not the end of the story.

While I was at CarMax, Marianne had the first of three daily EKGs to evaluate the effect of her new heart medicine. All she knew so far was that the medicine was hard on her stomach this first day, but apparently there is some risk of too much effect on her heart too. Always something.homework

studentsBack home, she had another homework session with Claudia. The two of them really do work very hard. Now they are creating four-segment paintings to explore the various techniques their Montana-based instructor passes along. It's all an interesting process, but far more effort and dedication than I could ever muster!

After dinner I did try to look for photo subjects. There's not a wide variety of subjects I run across on my neighborhood walk: friends' houses, the often-photographed water fountain at Fresno City College and one, dried up, spiky, flower. Practice, practice, practice.

sunset painted
clear water fuzzy water spiky

And that was Day 220.

(This day in our history: 1998, Weekend in Kyiv)

Tuesday, October 20, Covid Day 221sign

Tuesday started out celebrating a parking garage. Really. Since we moved to Cambridge Avenue, we have been hearing about, and witnessing, the parking problems of the thousands of students and staff at neighboring Fresno City College. On October 20, FCC broke ground on the solution: a five-story parking structure. Maybe elsewhere, this would not warrant a gathering of college and city dignitaries, but here it did and I went to take pictures.

Annie and SamThe ceremony was attended by dignitaries from all sorts of groups that had supported the effort to build a new building, from FCC students, school management and board members, local politicians, and a couple neighbors. (Annie was our official representative.) Fresno City College is a commuter college and the largest community college in California, if not in the country, so parking matters.Carole

Dr. Carole Goldsmith, FCC President as well as a neighbor, led the string of dignitary presentations, many of whom told of their own struggles to find places to park over the past 30 or 40 years.

After the speeches, came the fun: throwing dirt. In these times of social distancing, people were masked and well-spaced, but it was clear everyone was smiling beneath the covers. (Many more pictures available here.)

drawingAnnie Carolethrow dirt

But that wasn't the only excitement for the day. I still had to work on selling the red Jeep. I had three appointments lined up coming from a click on the Kelley Blue Book website and completion of a simple form. Three dealers had contacted me in minutes, asking for appointments to look at the car. wheelchair

First, however, we needed to empty the car and do our last heavy hauling. Nazareth House had gotten back to us saying they could use Magdalena's convalescent wheelchair, but the chair would be too big for Marianne's Audi. We needed the Jeep for one more trip. (While there, we learned that NH had not had any Coronavirus cases among either their staff or residents. They are to be congratulated. Still, we are thankful that Mamo did not need to go through the isolation residents have been under the last six months.)

test driveNow I could start dealing with car dealers. Normally, not something I look forward to. The Mazda dealer had mentioned he might be able to pay a bit more than the KBB estimate, so he won my first appointment. After a brief walk-around and an even briefer test drive, the manager Tom made me an offer above the number I had in mind, so I traded my car for his check. It was actually a reasonably pleasant experience!hair

Now that we were a single-car family, Marianne had to pick me up on her way to Eric the hairdresser. I dropped her off, rushed the new check to Citibank, made a Post Office stop, and received word, and a picture, that Marianne was still being worked on. She was done by the time I got back to her and we finished our excursions in plenty of time for dinner and Tuesday Zoom cocktails with Adrienne and Rita. Fun, as usual.

That was Day 221, a pretty busy one.

(This day in our history: German Class in 2004)

Wednesday, October 21, Isolation Day 222

This was a loose ends day, mostly concerning the end of our time as a Jeep owner. First, I suspended the insurance, until I can transfer it to the new Tesla. Next was cancellation of Sirius, the satellite radio service we have gotten used to. The Tesla, unlike most cars, is not fitted with a satellite antenna, opting instead for continuous internet connectivity via the cell phone network. I'm not sure how that will work, since there are times when there simply is no cell signal, but I suppose we could do without CNN for those times. Probably better for us. In any rate, Sirius was easy to cancel and they are sending a refund for the unused part of our subscription.

Then there was Fiat-Chrysler-Jeep. I had signed up for three oil changes at my last service, thinking we would keep the car at least another year, and I hoped I could get some sort of refund. Nope, no refunds. We had also paid for an extended warranty on the Jeep, up to eight years or 120,000 miles. No chance for credit for the unused portion of that either. Then there was the map update I bought and could never get to function. Same story, no recourse. I won't even mention the $500 repair bill six-months ago that should have been covered by a warranty. I will never deal with Fiat-Chrysler again.

For almost six years, the car had been the subject of a series of recalls and complications, many stemming from software errors and failures. Every time, it meant a trip to the dealer, sometimes paid for and sometimes not, but always inconvenient. The Tesla is even more software-dependent, but they will update programs while my car is sitting overnight in the garage. The updates even introduce improvements and new features, a service completely alien to any other car manufacturer. I hope my infatuation with this new approach lasts.

The rest of our Wednesday was uneventful. Marianne had the third of her new-medicine EKGs, and a consult with Dr. K., her cardiologist. He said her heart is tolerating the new medicine just fine, but if side effects get too bad (headache, stomach pain), there are other options. The patient said she would be patient for another week to see what develops.

I had a Zoom conference concerning a Sunpower solar power system and that was informative, but not conclusive. I think this is a partial solution to the increases we see in our electric rates, but it requires a long-range commitment, and we may be entering into a more short-range part of our lives, at least our life in this house. Marianne is not too keen on another big expenditure right now, and she may be right. (She often is.)

dessertThere were almost no photos today of anything except our dinner's dessert course, served in the living room. This was as close as we could get to "dining out".rose

The only other photo on any of my three or four cameras was a yellow rose. I think I am losing inspiration.

That was Day 222

(This day in our history: Oslo, Norway in 2001)

Thursday, October 22, Semi-lockdown Day 223

Pandemic Thursday proved even less exciting than Pandemic Wednesday. Is this a trend?

magnoliaI met with Vern on his porch for the first time in a few days, but there was nothing new either of us could report. We are both worried about the election and just want the Trump administration to be OVER. Obviously, we would also want the COVID cases to trend down instead of up. After those biggies, we commented on the Magnolia seed pods that the squirrels were picking. Squirrels, disease, and disaster: that's what's matters on Cambridge Avenue.skylight

After the porch excitement, I came home and sat at my desk and paid bills. Not exciting. Then I went outside to clean the yard of fall leaves. Still not exciting. Cleaning up in the garage, I looked up and saw that the skylight was split open, something else to fix before the annual rains. Maybe I should just have the area patched over and cover it with solar panels.

On her side, Marianne did some inside chores and art hut lessons. Not exciting. Together, we went to The Market to buy coffee, maybe our more exciting activity of the day. Sheesh.

At 6:00 pm, Marianne tuned into the last presidential debate. I kept my nose plugged into YouTube channels that allowed me to block the ramblings of the current president. I just can not listen to him, even when I am certain every word is one more nail in his political coffin. Twelve days, and counting.

That was Day 223

(This day in our history: Local travel, guests, and a pacemaker. 2014)

Friday, October 23, COVID Day 224

PelotonOur only plan was a visit to the Fresno Art Gallery, socially distanced and masked, but first we needed to do chores and exercise. For me, that included desk work and then an hour of exercising, including a twenty-minute tour of Cinque Terre, Peloton version. (We had our own trip there in 2003, but todays photography was better!)

Marianne did her chores as well, including a Zoom class on applying cosmetics. It's interesting how we've become accustomed to these group "distance learning" opportunities. Before the pandemic, "zoom" was just a noise a little boy made with his toy cars.

Chores, exercise, and classes out of the way, we headed over to the Fresno Art Museum. Marianne had scheduled us an appointment at 1:00, as now required. The docent said there was a limit of ten visitors to the museum and everyone needed a scheduled time. For our hour, no one else showed up, so except for two or three staff, we had the place to ourselves.

Overall, FAM is almost a perfect art museum, for size at least. The galleries are open, spacious, and not-too-many. This was our first art fix in over seven months, so we might have been overwhelmed, but no, just satisfied with an hour spent seeing everything. In that hour, I saw and snapped plenty of pictures, but I'll limit the diary entries to just four artists.

The first artist was Bonnie Peterson and her stitchery, a form she calls narrative art. Her textiles are based on time spent backpacking in the Sierras, depicting maps, trip notes, and even a 500-year record of the Sierra snow pack. This is quilting like you have never seen!

Peterson map 1
Mono Map Mono detail snow pack

The next room held selections from a single family of artists. Richard Amend, Susan Stinsmuhlen-Amend, and their son Wyatt Amend. It was Wyatt's sculptural ceramics he called "propulsion drones" that drew much of our attention and my pictures. (From the bottom side, one drone looked like the giant "murder bees" that are getting attention lately.)

M looking
drone 1 drone 2 drone bee

The largest galleries at the Art Museum were devoted to "Here She Stands - Women Artists in the Permanent Collection". There must have been works from a couple of dozen artists, many of whom had a Fresno connection. Every piece was worth noting, but I'll only highlight the work of two. Also worth noting were the messages on the walls about how underrepresented women's art is in museums in the US and around the world. Seeing what FAM was showing, that needs to change.

women room stats


California-born and Fresno-raised (at least in part), Marguerite Zorach's career started in the early 1900s as a student at Stanford University, but then she abandoned her California university studies for immersion in the art worlds of Paris and New York. She painted "Sunset Colorado" in her late 70s, after a lifetime as a New York City artist.

My favorite work of the day was in the next gallery and was also by a Margaret: Margaret Lazzari. In her 60s, she painted "Purple Orange High Horizon" while still an art professor at the University of Southern California. She and her husband also operate Lazzari and Evans Public Art . (Interesting that HER name comes first!). I show a detail of one patch to illustrate the "layering" and "depth" that Marianne is working hard to learn in her own abstract art studies. It is far harder than one might imagine!

LazzariLazzari Detail

All in all, this was a wonderful re-introduction to the world of art museums and galleries. Now, we need to be able to do more.

porchAfter the museum, Marianne and I returned to our normal activities. She puttered a little in the studio and then went shopping. I spent time watching YouTube, learning about the Tesla "Full Self Driving" option. The company is in the process of releasing a significant upgrade to "FSD" and selecting the option is still possible for our pending Model Y order. The technology is amazing, allowing the car to navigate on highways or city streets, with (almost) no human intervention. This could make us seniors among the best and safest drivers on the road! Something to think about. I'll talk to the porch people about it.

zoomlyThe last event of the day was a family Zoom gathering. Normally, we have a Friday "game night", but this time we skipped the game and just chatted and sang Happy Birthday. The celebrations were for Rich's 18th birthday and for Marianne's more-than-18th on Sunday. As usual, we got to catch upon what the families were doing in Colorado and Maryland and it was not so much. Pandemic, you know. Rich is going into person-to-person school twice a week, an improvement for him. Ryan and Sean are still remote-only. We all hope the grandkids do the best they can.

That was Day 224

(This day in our history: 2015, Back in Fresno)

Saturday, October 24, Lock-ish Day 225

officeThe weekend started with a diary session at my regular Starbucks because I wanted a taste of the old days. Of course this meant getting up early, before the sun, and sipping outside. The barrista noted that this store now had widely spaced indoor seating, but I said our family rules prohibited such luxury. Outside would be fine, with plenty of space for my laptop, my Vente coffee, and my bottle of hand sanitizer. And a view of car lots and street traffic.

roseAfter writing, I tried a short neighborhood walk to see if any of my normal photo subjects had changed. They hadn't. Tom's garage drawing was the same as Monday. Most flowers were gone and there were not many birds or bugs posing for pictures. One backyard rose was an exception. I did get a chance to chat with neighbors. Professors Ethan and Blain, and their two schoolgirls are all surviving with distant teaching and learning, probably for the next 10 months. Like for the rest of us, I think it's just a day at a time.

Across the street, the porch crew was digesting the morning newspaper and checking up on everyone's plans. But there were hardly any plans. Our announcement that we would go to Sacramento on Sunday for dinner at Vern's son's restaurant was big neighborhood news. Otherwise, we talked about grocery shopping and hoping the election goes correctly. I think everyone on Cambridge Avenue has already voted and we only wished we could vote again and again.

Our own home activities must have been unremarkable, because I can not remember what they were. This is happening quite a lot lately. I presume Marianne did her art homework, since she's pretty disciplined about that, and I goofed around at my desk with bills, paperwork, and YouTube. The last is my new waste-time choice and it seems I have more time to waste. cookiesspagetti

Marianne made linguini and clam sauce for dinner, and cookies for dessert. There was probably salad too, but healthy food didn't make the cut for a picture. After dinner we had more time killing for me and Netflix for Marianne. And, a start on packing for a trip!

That was Day 225.

(This day in our history: 2010, Grandkids in America)

Sunday, October 25, Marianne's 75th Birthday and Isolation Day 226

A birthday, a road trip, and two meals out!

Marianne's birthday celebration started with coffee in bed, just like non-birthdays, and opening of cards, greetings, and gifts. Physical cards are nice, of course, but all the electronic wishes were welcome too, even from folks who were reminded by the Facebook algorithm. Dozens wrote and each one prompted a "How nice" or even "Wow". There are worse uses for algorithms. The favorite cards were probably Ava's and Sam's.


pathWe had plans: a two-day trip, with still-fuzzy details. We knew we had enough time on Sunday to take a long drive and avoid California Highway 99, a horrible place to drive. Highways 41 and 49 take twice as long, retracing the route used 150 years ago during the Gold Rush and initial settlement of Northern California. We have done this route a few times, so we didn't expect much new, just a test of our ability to drive for hours and hours. Seriously, we have gotten out of road-trip condition! The stress of hours of driving prompted a discussion of Tesla Full Self-Driving and may have convinced me that it will be worth it to keep us able to drive long distances, something we most certainly want to do when this whole pandemic pause is over. We'll see.Wild Fig

counter orderOur first stop was Wild Fig Kitchen in Coarsegold, a regular breakfast destination for us, but normally this is a far as we go. The place was packed, or at least filled to their (outside) capacity. Inside dining was available, but no one was taking the risk. Interesting. It was good to see them getting a good amount of traffic despite tourism in this area being down.

We pointed the GPS next to Mariposa, another gold-mining-turned-tourism town along Highway 49. Along the way, we passed by the place along the road where a year ago we got the phone call confirming Marianne's lump was cancer. Both our thoughts turned to that moment. PTSD for sure.5th street

We only stopped to check out the gaudy pink hotel we will be staying in next week during our second big pandemic trip, but that's another story.

valleyThen we left Mariposa and drove for hours. I had forgotten how long and mostly empty this drive is and, scenic though it may be, I think we will return via evil Highway 99. We counted presidential campaign posters along the way and this rural area belongs to Trump fans two-to-one. Maybe that's why we didn't stop. It felt a bit like foreign enemy territory. (We have to confess we also passed by friends' homes off Highway 49, in part because we had not planned well and also because current times are so complicated. I wonder if Ted or Barbara will read this and scold us. Maybe.)

The far north end of our long drive was Rocklin, California and a large Tesla service center. Our excuse for a stop was to look and see if they were selling Tesla stuff Marianne might want for her birthday present. Due to Covid restrictions, they weren't but we kicked the tires of some Model Ys like we have on order, just to chat with fellow Tesla fans. It's a religious sort of thing.

Amber HouseroomFinally, we found our way to the Amber House Inn in downtown Sacramento. We had stayed here once or twice before and liked both the old feel and the convenient location. The rooms are comfy and old-fashioned. In today's environment, I'm not sure we would not have preferred more antiseptic. A lesson for future booking?

Our evening goal was "OBO's, Italian Table and Bar", one of five or six restaurants operated by neighbor Vern's son, Randall. At the beginning of 2020, he was turning over management of the string of very successful Selland restaurants to his son Josh. A couple of months later, everything was closed, even the Michelin-starred flagship: "The Kitchen". All but one have since reopened under Coronavirus rules, serving take-out and outside at first, but now adding well-spaced indoor tables.

Our experience was good. Because of a cold wind on the patio tables, we even opted for inside dining, our first inside dining since mid-March. The tables were spaced and separated by thin dividers, but more importantly the room was very large and seemed to be well ventilated and, we picked a table next to the door. (In the before-times, we would have avoided such a drafty spot. We have changed what we value.) The food was excellent, living up to our high expectations.

enter spacing
dinner dessert

OBOAmber House

We left OBO and arrived back at Amber House just after the sun had gone down, always a better time for pictures. The dinner had been as good as we might expect, in these times, and the B&B romantic, if not completely sanitized.

That was Birthday 75, Pandemic Day 226

(This day in our history: Marianne's 70th Birthday, 2015)

Monday, October 26, COVID Day 227

living roombreakfastI was up early for Starbucks and then back to the Amber House living room to work on diaries, a reminder of before-Covid travel patterns. Breakfast arrived in the room at 8:00 and here the memory was of previous visits when the meal would be shared with other guests in the dining room. The old way was better, but the tray service with real plates was nicer than the boxes others have resorted to. path

We have done most of the tourist stops in Sacramento before and returning to museums and galleries was either impossible, or not worth the risk of indoor spaces. Our solution was to wander through neighborhoods on the way to a stop at the zoo. We were again impressed with the neighborhood we saw as we drove from the city center and the zoo. The area was not unlike our own Fresno Tower District, and indeed part of it is even called "the Tower District", both theirs and ours being named after old motion picture theaters. But the Sacramento District was more well-kept, a sign of the relative wealth that comes from being a state capital and more in line with California prosperity.

entranceSaczoo mapAll Sacramento Zoo admissions are with reservation and advance purchase. We arrived a bit before our chosen entrance time, but were allowed in nonetheless. One never knows about the strictness of new health-induced rules, but "Saczoo" was not at all crowded on a Monday.

This is not a giant zoo, but I managed to take 200+ pictures anyway. I think we use photography as an excuse to linger around each cage or paddock and we end up with a better sense of each resident. Saczoo is not large, so the extra time merely stretches a visit to a pleasant couple of hours.

Here is some of what we saw:

Coconut the snow leopard may have been my favorite photo subject.
She watched us as much as we watched her.
Lion Kamau, on the other hand, just enjoyed a sunny snooze.


Long-necked giraffes and ostriches kept eyes on us too.
The littlest giraffe was just one month old, but was already more than six feet tall.


A River Hog, a koala, and a zebra all seemed to take in the dusty day without complaint.

River Hogkowalazebra

In the chimpanzee cage, this fellow worked hard to get the liquid from a bamboo container, repeatedly dipping the stick inside and finally just tipping the whole thing over.


Marianne braved a ride, with an American Alligator named Patrick looking on.


The colorful, beady-eyed, flamengos are fun to photograph.
We hung around long enough to observe that the birds are really quite
aggressive and angry toward each other. Or so they seem.

flyer beedy eye
fight different bird

The Black Crowned Crane won the best-plume prize.
The pair stood near the fence and posed, proud of their finery.

crane 1 crane 2

The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill ate lunch while we watched,
chasing a little mouse and tossing it down in a single gulp.

meal swallow

Photographers always look for eyes to focus on.


SellandsTeslaAfter two hours of walking around not-so-wild animals, we were ready for our lunch-dinner, this time at Selland's Market Cafe on Broadway. Located in an old Safeway super market building, the cafe is similar to last night's OBO's, with less pasta and more American standbys like meat loaf. (As we arrived, so too did a Tesla Model Y-Performance like the one we have on order: a sign of good taste!

Inside, we read at the wall menu and looked at glass cases filled with tasty-looking offerings. We both opted for sandwiches and french fries. One sandwich was great, one was not-so-much, but the fries and desserts ended the lunch well. Now that we had purchased two meals, Marianne signed up for a "Friend of the Family" card for the restaurant chain. In our case, we really ARE Selland family friends, at least of the oldest generation.

food meal card

signcemetaryAfter all these calories, we wondered how we could spend the next hours without being tempted with more food. The answer was a walk through the Sacramento City Cemetery, just across the road. This is an old landmark, especially by California standards, having been started with a donation from Capitan Sutter in 1849 in the earliest days of the 49-er Gold Rush.

The variety of long-term guests was interesting, from Capitan Sutter himself, to the banker and California legend Calvin E. Crocker, to families whose fame has long been forgotten.
people Sutter Crocker

Here, a family lies, with mother and father having outlived a middle-aged son
and (not-shown) young grand(?) daughter.
A nearby plaque honors the 17 doctors who died in the 1850 cholera epidemic,
a reminder that pestilence was even more deadly 170 years ago. (How many doctors could there have been in 1850 Sacramento? Did ANY survive?)


There were ethnic sections of the cemetery, including one with Southeast Asian families,
Indians from colonial India.
One monument was built by a Swedish immigrant as a tile fireplace (a "kachelofen", not unlike what our own living room had a decade ago), perhaps to warm him after losing his fiancée Georgia, just four days before their planned wedding.

Indian kachelofen Georgia

We ended our day with an evening walk in the neighborhood and a beer on the Amber House porch.

That was Covid Day 227

(This day in our history: 2002, Normal Frankfurt Life)

Tuesday, October 27, Isolation Day 228

This should be a quick diary because not much happened and yesterday's entry ran too long!

This was a standard return-from-travel day, although we still had time for an early Starbucks run, diary-writing, and in-room breakfast. (Tough Belgium waffles. Tasty, but pretty durable.) Then it was time to leave the Amber House, disappointed that it did not live up to our earlier visits, but realizing Covid has negatively affected everything dealing with travel. We wonder when (if?) it will ever be fun and easy again.

trafficSoon, we hit Highway 99. The drive was three-hours of very uninteresting road, sometimes crawling traffic, sometimes, perilous construction zones, and sometimes just a flat drive past farming industrial infrastructure. As we got closer to Fresno, the air became thick with dust and dirt, stirred up by Fall plowing as the farmers put their fields to sleep.Gabby's

As we neared Fresno, we stopped at Chase's Chop Shop for meat and Gabby's Fruit Market for fruits and vegetables. Both are traditional stops for us coming south.

At home, we unpacked what little we had brought on the two-day trip. In that process, I discovered I had lost my hand-held GPS that I depend on for "geotagging" my pictures. This was just one more example of us losing our traveling discipline! We need more practice.

I also had to report to Vern Selland how the two Selland restaurants had served us. Of course, the report was positive. Vern still worries about his son's culinary empire, a business that was flying high eight months ago, but has had to go through near-collapse. Hopefully, the numbers we saw at OBO's Italian Table and Bar and Selland's Cafe Market will be enough to survive the downturn.

At 5pm, we still had time for an important event: Tuesday Zoom Cocktails with Adrienne and Rita and Peter. We reported on our Sacramento excursion and they reported on their lives in the past week. Everyone is pretty much stay-at-home, so a trip to the Saczoo sounded exotic.

After Zoom, Marianne went back to Netflix while I diverted to YouTube. With our boring and tiresome drive down Highway 99 fresh in my mind, I watched several "You-tubers" demonstrate drives with Tesla's latest software for "Full Safe Driving". Even though the software was just "beta", meaning it was under test by a selection of the general public, the car's ability to drive (almost) by themselves was fascinating. This convinced us to purchase the not-inexpensive option, because it may keep us driving and independent farther into our dotage.

Day 228, done and dusted.

(This day in our history: Vaxjo, Sweden, 2001)

I will stop this page and start another for October 28 and beyond. I do this when a printed version is 25 to 30 pages for an arbitrary effort at consistency.

Keep your heart in the game. We are all running a marathon here.

John and Marianne