A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 136

English Breakfast tea in the afternoon.

Sunday, August 23

It’s amazing how much time we spend planning. Currently, we have to ponder three matters: things we want to have delivered on Wednesday for a few days’ meals here, foodstuffs we can take back to NYC with us on Monday the 31st, and what stuff to bring back to East Hampton when we return from the city. 

Of course they have groceries in the city, but it may take a couple of days to figure out non-risky ways to acquire it: venturing down the elevator across the street to the Food Emporium and back home vs. getting Instacart deliveries? It seems a bit preposterous to give so much thought to matters that I once performed routinely. But we’ve been very careful during the lockdown weeks since early March, and we’re likely to continue our cautious approach back in NYC.

Our current plan is to drive back to the city on the day of Emily’s mammogram appointment, then after I drop her off at Weill-Cornell Hospital, I’ll somehow park and wait in the car for her. That way, when she’s done she won’t have to get a taxi or face the daunting task of taking a subway down from East 61st St. to Union Square. Unhappily, this also means we will be returning around 7:30 or 8 p.m. to an apartment that has been uninhabited since March 5. What will we find there? Dust…desolation…withered plants? Hot and airless rooms? Rotting food in a smelly refrigerator?

I think I have been extra dutiful in paying bills for stuff we’re not using there, such as electricity or cable TV. So nothing should have been shut off—but there will likely be something unexpected.

Back here, we got a new bread machine, which I am now taking for a maiden voyage. Several inadequate loaves made with the old machine persuaded me that we ought to just get a new one. So this is an “Amazon Basics” machine, delivered on Friday. It seems like a VW Beetle of a machine, basics indeed.

As an anniversary present, Emily got us two hand-thrown pottery mugs for afternoon tea. Pretty nice, as you can see above.

Dinner tonight: an onion-and-cheese frittata, wok-charred snow peas and scallions, and bread-machine bread.

Entertainment: the concluding episodes of Netflix’ Alta Mare, season one.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 91

MISSING!! If seen contact either Hardy or Emily at this address.

Thursday,  June 11

Gusty winds are blowing the beautiful pink blossoms off of our rhododendrons. Oh well, they don’t last long anyway—and then they just wind up as brownish clutter on the ground. Another metaphor for the human condition, as if we needed another one.

Emily is already concerned about the next plague: a mosquito-borne illness called eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), which causes severe brain inflammation and seizures. The sickness is rarely transmitted but results in death for 40% of those infected. And climate change is likely resulting in a proliferation of mosquitos in the east.

“Viruses are a paradox of civilization,” writes Oscar Schwartz, describing EEE in his highly literate article on the science blog OneZero. “These protein-ensconced splinters of DNA — animate only when infecting a host body — are so primitive that scientists cannot quite agree as to what side of the living/nonliving border they belong on. As our species has acquired dominion over nature, these zombies of the microscopic realm, devoid of thought and culture, emerge from nowhere to upend our lives, as if to remind us that our achievements are fleeting and fragile….” Schwartz’ digs deeply into the history of EEE, which first seemed to take effect in the 1830s among horses in Massachusetts. Unlike COVID-19, one human cannot give it to another, but let’s avoid mosquitos, O.K.?

Our rabbit has once again disappeared. On a given day, he’ll be around for a few hours then absent for a couple of days. I suspect that at some point he’ll just be gone for good. But it’s reassuring just how much he has seemed to like our yard, especially the tall grass, even if he didn’t get along with the fractious squirrels.

This morning, I’m trying a different strategy with the bread machine, which has been failing to produce nicely risen loaves. The usual recipe calls for adding the yeast after the water, honey, flours, and gluten. Today, imitating the approach I used in making pizza dough, I’m combining water, sugar, and yeast and allowing them to bubble up a bit before adding them to the machine and topping with dry ingredients. Stay tuned. (It turned out great.)

Damark’s market was not crowded at 10:30, and I got lettuce, radishes, eggplant, onions, and eggs but no charcoal. Maybe later, they said.

It’s looking a lot like rain. It’s supposed to be heavy this afternoon, says the weather service.

Dinner: one final installment of steak, plus capriccio salad (mozzarella, olives, tomatoes, celery, and balsamic dressing), and a little leftover potato.

Entertainment: House of Cards, American version via Netflix.