A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 261

Words of local wisdom.

Tuesday, April 12

Just over two years ago, I amped up this blog so that it became a journal of daily life and current events under the then-new Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. 

At that point, then-President Trump was denying the seriousness of the infection, there were a mere 2,100 deaths across the U.S. and 124,000 infected, with one-third of the deaths happening in New York City. 

The Times had begun a special obits section devoted to Covid victims, it was difficult to get face masks and toilet paper, and it would be almost a year before any vaccinations took place.

As of today, 984,000 Americans have died.

And nowadays, many people are tentatively welcoming the return of “normal,” as the daily average number of new cases hovers around 30,000.  And yet…coronavirus cases are ticking back up. One month after lifting an indoor mask mandate, Philadelphia has reinstated it.  In New York City, masks are not required in schools—but they are mandatory on mass transit and in hospitals.

I got my second booster shot—in other words, four total vaccination shots—on Friday (April 8). Unlike the panicky crush of two years back, this was no trouble: I made an online appointment at CVS pharmacy, reported on time, and was injected and on my way within 20 minutes.

I even got us a resupply of toilet paper while there. 

TP, plus two bars of health-giving Ghiradelli “intense dark” sea salt and almond chocolate. And three, free N-95 masks, which, I was surprised to note, seem a bit like the things you see construction workers wearing.

It was warm-ish last Friday, with temps around 60 degrees. Right now, the skies have cleared and it’s 54 degrees in East Hampton.

Dinner fixin’s.

Dinner: garlicky Cuban pork, marinated with orange juice, lime, olive oil, brown sugar, and oregano and cooked in the Instant Pot.

Entertainment: more movies by Hong Kong phenom Wong Kar Wai? In recent days we’ve seen the puzzling Chungking Express, the goofy-violent As Tears Go By, and the magnificent In the Mood for Love. There’s a prequel to the last of these,  Days of Being Wild, so we may watch that—or maybe it’s time to move on to other stuff.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 253

Thursday, February 10

In the mornings when we wake up now, the days are sunny and beautiful. One can almost imagine the coming of spring. But it isn’t here yet: Yesterday I went for a walk around Maidstone Park, and it was still quite breezy and cold. 

I wasn’t alone there. There were perhaps three other walkers. And there was this funny thing I have seen before: Someone drove his/her jeep around the park’s circular drive while a plumpish dog, getting its exercise, loped along dutifully behind. I wondered how they trained the dog to do this—and whether on the first occasion, the dog worried that it was being abandoned.

Last night at 3 a.m. we were awakened by a thumping noise in another part of the house. There have been signs before that we have a mouse/mice. This time, they appeared to be playing soccer, kicking around an acorn. It went on for a time, until I got up and turned on some lights and walked out to the kitchen. I think they find their way up from the basement through the walls and into the kitchen. This morning I was relieved that I could find no further signs of a mousy visitation…no damage or nibbling of food packages.

We are planning to go back to NYC soon—not for any reason other than that we need a change.  Bit by bit, the days are getting a little longer here, but it’s still very dark: One scarcely awakens before it’s time to go back to bed. 

Mask mandates are gradually being lifted. The Times says that New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island today became the latest states to announce that they would do away with mask mandates.  (Still,  more than 200,000 new cases are announced each day and the country is reporting more than Covid 17,000 deaths each week, the most since last winter.) In the city, I will still wear my mask and keep social distance; Emily will probably limit her trips out of the apartment. I want to go up to Zabar’s for some kitchen stuff, maybe even buying an Instant Pot, which everyone else already has. It’s like a combination pressure cooker and slow cooker and could be useful in making stews and sauces. Anyway, it would be another gadget to faff around with, providing novelty during this empty time. I’m also interested in a cooking thermometer and some potholders that actually work, ours being pretty worn out.

It will be strange to go into stores or elsewhere and see people walking around maskless. Out here in the stores and at the recycling center, no one does that. 

Dinner: risi e bisi and a green salad.

Entertainment: We have now subscribed to the wonderful Criterion Channel, which has perhaps 80% of the art films you have ever wanted to see. Now admittedly, many of these are a bit aged: Bergman, Goddard, Truffaut, Fassbinder, Varda, Rivette, Chabrol, etc. We’ve now watched three Charlie Chaplin flicks (two were silent shorts), and two Jacques Tati (he only made six films). It’s such an embarrassment of riches that one is tempted to change plans at the last minute. Tonight, we may watch something newer–Terence Davies’ 1992 flick The Long Day Closes plus something else. Only time will tell.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 156

Tempus fugit.

Wednesday, October 7

Days glide past almost seamlessly. It’s a bit like those scenes in old movies indicating the passage of time: You see the pages of a calendar ripping out, then swirling away one after another. At one moment, it’s August, then suddenly December. Here, it’s time for breakfast—then, whoops, dinner’s ready!

News reports show the pandemic worsening in places that once thought themselves exempt. In North Dakota, where locals probably regarded COVID-19 as a myth or maybe a big-city problem, the few hospitals are now full to bursting. States in the Midwest and Great Plains, from the Dakotas to Montana and Wisconsin, are now feeling the brunt of the plague. Yet North Dakota, which has only 762,000 total residents, is one of 20 states where there is no mask mandate.

Trump claims that he is fully recovered but cannot help but cough a bit whenever he jumps in front of a camera. Meanwhile, the White House seems like a setting out of a Hot Zone movie. Guys in hazmat suits spray disinfectant on the walls and furniture, and residence staff are costumed in yellow gowns, surgical masks, and disposable protective eye covers. The latest victim of COVID is the Nazi-wannabe Stephen Miller. In all, there are 14 members of the MAGA inner circle who we know to be infected. Almost the entire military Joint Chiefs of Staff are in quarantine.

Already erratic to say the least, Trump’s behavior—including canceling any further congressional negotiations over more economic stimulus—may be affected by the cocktail of drugs he is taking. One of these, the steroid dexamethasone, is said to bring on mood swings and a sense of euphoria.

The fauna out here don’t require any mood-enhancing drugs. The birds come nonstop to the feeder, while the squirrels seem engaged in some kind of Jets vs. Sharks gang fight on the roof of our house. Yesterday, a young deer raced around in our yard, cutting right then left in a seeming imitation of NFL running back maneuvers. When he/she got to the adjoining vacant lot, the sport changed to steeplechase, as the deer leaped again and again over fallen trees. Is there something in the cooler, fall weather that prompts this frenetic activity?

Contrary to advice on YouTube, I just planted some daffodil and tulip bulbs in the yard. Eight of each in four different spots, with a topping of rich bagged soil that has been sitting unused in the basement for a couple of years. The idea, I always have to remind myself, is to plant the bulbs in the mid- to late fall, then they’re supposed to cooperate by blooming in the first warm days of the spring. You’re told to wait until the fall weather is appropriately cool, so the bulbs don’t sprout early. Today is likely a bit too warm, but I just got tired of waiting.

Boy, is yard work difficult. I also dug a bit in the lawn, where there are bare spots that have resisted grass seed year after year. So, I put some of the bagged soil on several such places, hoping for better results with the grass next year. Now, I am exhausted.

Dinner: an adaptation of beef with broccoli—chicken with broccoli along with leftover eggplant with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. 

Entertainment: The vice-presidential debate plus one episode of All Creatures Great and Small.