A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 246

The deserted beach in winter.

Tuesday, January 4

Questions for a below-freezing day:

Why does the cold make your nose run?

They say that household dust is, in some measure, made up of old human skin cells. Why then does the forced-air heating, which brings in air from the outdoors, lead to more dust on the floor?

And how can that person actually be out there today (temperature: 27 degrees) operating his leaf blower?

COVID just won’t go away, so we’re in for more weeks of isolation. Now, the disease has evolved into the Omicron variant—fast-spreading but it seems not as devastating as Delta. Still, no one can yet say just what the long-term effects of contracting even a milder version of the virus will be. Emily’s brother Vic tells us that his young daughter Maya, currently working out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has gotten it.

Strange to me, the Britbox streaming service has been featuring a number of filmed ghost stories during the Christmas season. Maybe the telling of ghost stories is a Yuletide tradition in Britain, realized most famously in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” In one of these videos, “The Stalls of Barchester” based on a story by M.R. James, an archdeacon is left alone in his large, spooky house when his sister/companion goes away to visit relatives. It happens to be the dead of winter, the most oppressive aspect of which, the cleric reflects, is not the cold but the dark. He hears squeaks on the stairs, howls from cats, and ghostly voices…But it’s the darkness that unnerves him most.

And that’s the thing I feel most out here in the country at mid-winter. No street lights and a limited number of neighbors means that it gets very dark indeed at night. I look forward to the dawn, which these days arrives after 7 a.m. I remember the first season of our COVID-related isolation came during the month of March (2020), when days were already getting longer bit by bit. What a relief that will be—but we’re months away.

Food remains a preoccupation. Cold weather encourages consumption of such heavy stuff as beef stew, ropa vieja, chicken potpie…and pudding-like desserts including pear clafoutis and tapioca. The last of these sinfully requires a measure of whole milk or even cream—yum.

Dinner: pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce and green salad.

Entertainment: Early episodes of the thriller Vera on Britbox.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–Chapter 228

Menacing, no?

Thursday, August 5

A year and a half since we evacuated New York City due to COVID-19, it has become clear that we’re unlikely ever to resume our old relationship with the city. 

We still pay rent on our apartment in lower Manhattan, but I have canceled our monthly parking space. All our mail comes out to Long Island, and it may not be long before I cancel other New York City utilities.

We’re not going back for a planned August visit due to the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID, which The New York Times says “now accounts for more than 80 percent of new infections” in the United States. Inevitably, more variants will emerge soon. Emily’s regular doctor says that given her damaged immune system—compromised by anti-cancer medication—she should stay out in the country, away from public transportation and crowds.

Emily hasn’t actually seen that doctor for over a year but speaks to her often over the phone.  She was expecting to see her dentist and dermatologist this month…but now those visits are likely off, too. In time, we may be compelled to find new doctors out here on Long Island.

Back to the NIMBY dispute over cell-phone towers. 

You may recall that a few days ago I wrote about how the Town of East Hampton had announced plans to erect an 185-foot cell-phone tower on a vacant, wooded lot in the working-class area of Springs—prompting howls of protest from nearby residents.

Most recently, though, an attorney for the Springs Fire District has proposed an alternative—a 100-foot-tall, temporary tower on wheels, placed down the street at the fire department property. Such a temporary tower, he said, would pose no threat to safety and require no clearing of trees, according to The East Hampton Press.

But would such a tower in that location really fulfill the technical needs of both emergency personnel and citizen cell-phone users? And hasn’t a previous lawsuit already shut down a cell-tower at the firehouse location?

And isn’t it likely that fights like this–and spotty cell-phone service–are the norm all across the United States?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but someone will doubtless tell us soon.

Dinner: hot dogs, a leftover chicken and sugar snap pea salad, and boiled baby potatoes with sour cream.

Entertainment: episodes of British policiers Shetland, which features a heroic cop, and Bancroft, which features a sinister, manipulative, and murderous woman officer. She’s like the twin sister of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley–a very effective psychopath.