Thursday, November 10, 2022

Jefferson City, Missouri: A Bittersweet Sweet


My Favorite Day sugar. Jefferson City, Missouri. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
My Favorite Day sugar. Jefferson City, Missouri. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

At a big box store yesterday, I saw these slender bottles of sanding sugar. 

Favorite Day

At which I smiled, albeit with sadness. 

Because the brand name transported me to another Favorite Day, that of former colleague, Jessica Terrell, a self-described "vagabond for beauty."


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Voluntary simplicity

I began this post thinking to share an interesting archive article from O magazine, sent to me by friend Terry,  called  Back to Basics: Living With Voluntary Simplicity. There was fodder in there for a discussion about the "business" of simplicity. I imagine I'll get to that another day. 

This is because, in thinking of voluntary simplicity, I remembered Jessica Terrell.

When she served as the trails coordinator for the state of Missouri, Jessica and I worked together on a couple of projects. She modeled voluntary simplicity.

Jessica Terrell
Jessica Terrell

You only meet a handful of people like Jessica in your lifetime. She had a positive impact on others simply by walking her talk of living lightly on the earth while embracing its beauty. Good sense of humor. Beautiful smile. Gentle air. Excellent writer. Adventurous. Hard worker. She liked to take at least one trip a year with her mother, who lives in Ohio. She farmed a plot in our town's community garden across the river.

Jessica wanted to live small materially, but big in other ways. (She won a grueling multiple-week, motorcycling competition shortly after moving west.) It was Jessica who introduced me to the world of Tiny Houses. Living in a tiny house was one of her goals.

Once, I met Jessica at another colleague's house for a meeting. Jessica was emptying some items out of her car to give to our colleague. I asked about it, and Jessica replied that she'd been in the process of giving away many of her things. To live smaller. She offered me her one-person tent, which I took (and only recently passed along to Brother4.)

One of Jessica's professional goals was to move from Missouri to New Mexico or Arizona, and work in trails there. When she shared this with me, she calculated it would be five or more years before an opening and her professional "cred" would align to make this happen. It turns out that both occurred soon after, and Jessica moved from Missouri to Santa Fe in 2006.

You'll have noticed that I refer to Jessica in the past tense. This is because she died in a collision with a tractor-trailer on a wintry day in 2008. She was only 30.

Jessica was on her way to another town where she would give a workshop related to trails. Earlier that day, in her office, she talked enthusiastically with a co-worker about a book of essays she was reading, written by Barbara Kingsolver.

Another person who knew Jessica told me she called herself a "vagabond for beauty."

In 2002, Jessica participated in the Public Lands Journey. I'd read Jessica's fine journal entries before, but after she died, I revisited them, and this one stuck out for me. It embodies simplicity.

My Favorite Day

… I know that when I return home, friends, and family will be asking “So what was your absolute favorite place on the whole trek?”

What will I tell them? I will start out by saying that every day inevitably seemed better than the last. “Seemed” is the key word, you must realize.

If I were to mix up all the days of the trek and do it all over again, each new day would never cease to “seem” better than the one before it!

So I have come to the conclusion that TODAY will always be my favorite.

The dawn of each new day has and will continue to reveal to me things that have never before occurred, and never will occur again, whether it be a beautiful cloud formation over a particular mountain, the call of elk on a cool morning in a national forest, or even the way rocks glitter in the brightness of the afternoon sun.



Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Jefferson City, Missouri: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: Brown Paper Bags and a Jug o' Green Sanitizer


Brown paper bags with N95 masks inside. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Brown paper bags with N95 masks inside. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 Over time, since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 (presumably), I've retired various of my cloth masks as they've shrunk in the dryer (whoops) or otherwise just seemed too tired to carry on. Or better said, put on. 

Awhile back, when they were plentifully-available at the Big Box pharmacies, I collected a supply of the government-subsidized N95 masks. But I didn't use these unless I had to because they:

  1. Are kind of uncomfortable;
  2. Are awkward to don and to take off;
  3. Mess with my hair in the back of my head; and
  4. Do not lend themselves to attachment to and hanging from a lanyard, which I prefer to use at times when I don't need the mask on, such as when I'm outdoors or going to a restaurant (I don't want to place my mask on a restaurant table and I don't want to scrunch it up into a pocket or purse - these kind of defeat the purpose of having a mask to begin with, given the dubious safety of surfaces it would touch)

When my hostess came down with COVID, the cloth masks weren't going to cut it. I pulled out my supply of N95 masks to wear inside the house. 

I had a limited supply, so I looked up how to reuse them, which is where the brown paper bags come in. 

The N95 bags are reusable, but the best practice is to:

  • Drop the used mask into a brown paper bag;
  • Close the bag; and
  • Let the bag sit for a week. 

I like this North Dakota guide to healthcare staff because of its use of both "don" AND "doff." To don a mask feels fairly contemporary, but to doff one's mask is charmingly anachronistic, to wit: 

  • The mask can be placed on a clean paper towel or in a breathable container [e.g. a brown paper bag] when removed for breaks/eating.
  • Best storage for reuse during a shift would be a labeled breathable container to prevent contamination when redonning and doffing.
  • Continue to practice social distancing.
  • Hand hygiene should be done after doffing and before donning and again after donning.

I also bought a giant bottle of green sanitizer and a demi of disinfecting wipes. 

Giant green bottle of sanitizer. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Giant green bottle of sanitizer. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

Medium bottle of sanitizer and a demi of disinfecting wipes. Credit: Mzuriana.
Medium bottle of sanitizer and a demi of disinfecting wipes. Credit: Mzuriana.

While none of these would protect me from zombies or vampires, they were my weapons of choice against my hostess' COVID. 

They seemed to have been successful. We're both in the clear now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Jefferson City, Missouri: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: The Seduction of Denial



I am a mistress of denial. I have skills in denial. I excel at denial.

So my comments below - about what appears to me as denial - is not about being judgy or belittling - and in no way - not even a microscopic bit - disdain. It is simply about who we often are as humans. 

The Seduction, Chapter 1

Both my hostess and I took trips over a long weekend. I went to Livingston, Texas. My hostess went to Kansas City. 

One of us came back with COVID. 

My hostess knew that her sore throat and general not-up-to-par-ness pointed to a common cold. She knew it.   

Nevertheless, I pulled out one of my government-used vanilla and orange sherbet test packets so she could take a test. 

Free rapid COVID tests from US government. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Free rapid COVID tests from US government. March 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.


So she did. And here's the power of denial. The C line was, of course, clearly evident. That's the control line. The T line (for test result) was faint. 

Because it was faint, much fainter than the control line under the C, my hostess felt that the test was likely negative. Because it couldn't be positive. Because she knew she just had a Before Times cold. 

Unfortunately, if you can see the T line, no matter how faint, that's a positive result. But don't take my word for it: 

"After 15 minutes, you’ll look for two things:

A line under the “C,” which is the control. 'It’s imperative that you get a line under the “C.” It lets you know that the test is working. If there’s no line under “C,” you’ll need to re-test,' Alvarado explained.

"If the area under the “T,” or test section, has no line at all, that means it’s negative for COVID-19. If there’s a line under the “T,” then the test is positive for COVID. 'It doesn’t matter how faint or how bright the line under the “T” is, if it’s there, it’s a positive test for COVID,' Alvarado said. [Underline added by me.]


Faint line on COVID test card - positive. Credit: SF Gate via Getty Images
Faint line on COVID test card - positive. Credit: SF Gate via Getty Images

My hostess' response: "Well, shit. .... Shit." This from a person who rarely swears.  


A sidebar on the CDC

You may wonder - and you should wonder - why I don't have a link to the CDC's guide on the at-home rapid test results info. I wanted to. And I looked for the information. But the information is for shit. 

The accompanying text for this video, for example, says it tells you how to interpret the result, but it does not. It slides right over to: "If you have a positive result ..." 

And this video, which the CDC linked to for my orange sherbet and vanilla test, which purported to have usage information by the manufacturer, was .... I don't know what the hell it was. But it didn't tell me how to interpret any results. Hell, it didn't even tell me how to conduct the test. 

Another test that the CDC links to, for a different manufacturer, was a link to an error page. 

Finally, in the third link, to the Abbot BiNox Now test kit link, I found actual instructions. Including this: "Even a FAINT line next to SAMPLE is a positive result." The video even included a magnifying glass image to reinforce the need to look closely at the test result.

I used to have great confidence in and respect for our country's Center for Disease Control. Both of these evaporated when Trump bullied and politicized both the agency and the pandemic itself. 

I only just today pulled up this 2020 Pro Publica article on same: Inside the Fall of the CDC. I make this point about the timing because I had come to my own conclusion about the CDC's loss of legitimacy as I watched Trump's rhetoric against the CDC and his appointments unfold in 2020. 

A dismal excerpt from the Pro Publica article:

"When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death."

Note: The article is not just a thrashing of Trump and his subjects - it's about vulnerabilities within the CDC that already existed, and which exacerbated the failure to fulfill its mission to protect the public health of the United States. 

Another astounding excerpt from the Pro Publica report: 

"At a time when the pandemic had killed nearly 130,000 Americans, McGowan spent an hour and a half on the phone with the HHS general counsel and other senior officials to figure out how to make an exception for a dog. All the while, he told colleagues, his mind kept returning to the fact that the same administration was using the CDC’s quarantine power to deport thousands of children at the border with Mexico."


 The Seduction, Chapter 2

A few days ago, a New Mexico friend fell sick. When I say he "fell sick," I mean that he felt sick. Felt rather miserable, in fact. 

He, too, took an at-home rapid test. He told me the result was questionable. I asked why he called it questionable. He said "because the test result line is so faint." 

He'd scheduled a PCR for the following Monday. 

I explained, well, there's nothing questionable about your test result. Doesn't matter how faint the result line is: You're positive. 

I explained this wasn't just my opinion - it's in the test packet instructions. 

Just as it was for my hostess, who had to reorganize a number of commitments after her diagnosis, this was a real bummer for my New Mexico friend (in addition to having COVID, that is) because he'd been set to serve as an election worker on Tuesday, the 8th. 

On Monday, he took the PCR. Positivity confirmed.  

The Seduction, Chapter 3

Now to me. 

I was squarely negative when I took the at-home rapid test two days after my hostess' return from her long weekend trip and her positive test result. (It didn't seem to make any sense for me to take it before I'd even been exposed for any length of time, hence the two-day delay.)

In the meantime, I was hyper-vigilant about distancing, sanitizing, masking, and staying in different parts of her house. 

I re-took the test on the evening of the 9th day after her return from Kansas City. 

I had a thought process for waiting for the nine days (and I'm actually drafting this before I've taken the test), which was that: 

  • If I've been infected, it will surely show up in the test result after so many days of exposure; and
  • If I've not been infected after so many days of exposure, I am probably OK. Because in theory (my theory), each day that passed she was closer to end-of-quarantine time.

Magical thinking? Denial? Could be! I'm gifted at that! 


The result:


Oh, and my hostess took her test again this evening also - negative. Huzzahs all around. 

Nevertheless, I'll take another test in two days just to ensure there haven't been any viruses sneaking about incognito in more recent days.


Negative COVID test result. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Negative COVID test result. November 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

10 Years Ago: "Because the Dead Won't Wait"



Highway 380 outside Carrizozo, New Mexico. October 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.
Highway 380 outside Carrizozo, New Mexico. October 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

Ten years ago I was in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the first of my slomadic year-in-residences after an illuminating moment on a marshrutka en route from Rustavi to Tbilisi, where the sudden thought came to me: "If I want, I can travel the world one year at a time."

In Alamogordo, I encountered the paradox of temporary permanence. Original post here, and the copy below. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Paradox of Temporary Permanence

I have the luxury of locating myself in a travel destination - New Mexico - for one year.

A year is a roomy expanse of time to explore the state in the breadth and depth I wish. No hours hunkered over a one- or two-week itinerary, weighing the must-see value of too many sightseeing candidates against too little time and money.

With a year, I can see all that I want to see.

But I find this isn't entirely true. While the geographic locations of interest remain constant, their seasonality does not.

To wit: fall foliage. Or signature annual events, like the upcoming Day of the Dead and the Festival of the Cranes.  

Credit: Calavera Coalition

I arrived in New Mexico toward the end of September. With my focus on finding a place to live and settling in, before I knew it, I was at the end of October.

In Alamogordo, in the high desert, there's no fall foliage to speak of (at least thus far in the beginning of November), so I've got to go out in search of it.

I can't wave away the sightseeing deadline with a casual, "Oh, I'll catch it next year." I don't know where I'll be next year.

So there's a sense of urgency in some things.

Thus, where will I be this weekend? At Mesilla's Dia de los Muertos. Because the dead won't wait.


Sunday, October 30, 2022

Livingston Road Trip 2022: Second Leg Back to Missouri: The Bad, the Good, and the Grind


Rain and slow gas at the Flying J in Texarkana, off I-30. Arkansas. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Rain and slow gas at the Flying J in Texarkana, off I-30. Arkansas. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

The Bad

It appears that it was my destiny to suffer a miserable rainy return to my temporary Missouri base. 

I thought I'd avoided that on the way to Livingston by postponing my westbound trip by one day. But no. The universe just tacked it on to my eastbound return from Livingston.

Furthermore, my departure time was delayed by a crazy wrinkle on Saturday morning: The Flying J gas pumps. 

My original plan: Gas up my car before wheeling out of the travel center. But.

The pumps inexplicably were on a slow machine protest strike, where each of us pumpers thought, "Is it me?" only to realize, just as slowly as the gas ticked into our tanks, "No, it's not me, it's the pumps," as each pumper individually experienced the same phenomenon, but which the staff inside did not yet know.

I didn't see this next thing happen, but one man was so frustrated, apparently he tore away from the pumps without having taken the handle out of his tank. 

This was relayed to me by a woman who pulled up after I had tried at two different pumps to get gas and she said to me: "Is it me? Am I doing something wrong? - or is there something wrong with the pumps?" I had just returned to the pumps after an unsatisfying conversation with one of the cashiers inside, during which I'd tried to explain that it took five minutes to put less than one gallon of gas in my tank, and the cashier just wasn't getting it. I was simply the first of what was to become many with the same complaint.

To the woman who asked me, "Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?" I replied with reassurance: "No, it's not you; it's the pumps. And now you can switch to being disgruntled."

Fortunately, there was a gas station across the road - the DK - where I did finally fill my tank successfully with gas. 

The DK in Texarkana, off Exit 2, I-30. Arkansas. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
The DK in Texarkana, off Exit 2, I-30. Arkansas. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.


Afterward, I sat in my car, gazing contemplatively through the windshield at the rain. It was so gloomy outside and I dreaded getting back on the interstate, knowing that although the rain was relatively light where I sat, it would be amplified on the spray-spewing, semi-truck-laden highway, making for a miserably tense drive at a high speed. The weather forecast told me that I wouldn't be driving out of the rain any time soon.


Rain at the DK in Texarkana, off I-30. Arkansas. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Rain at the DK in Texarkana, off Exit 2, I-30. Arkansas. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

We make small and large decisions all the time on a road trip. We plug in all sorts of algebraic variables into the decision equation, depending on our individual tastes, fears, time frames, and "shoulds." 

Like this "should": "You should buck up and drive on the interstate. Don't be a wuss. Be a warrior. A chingona."


The Good

And then I thought: "No. I'm on a road trip. A road trip is a pleasure trip, not a test. Take the blue roads. Relax. Be serene.

So I poked a no-highway re-route into Google Maps, decided I could live with the extra time slapped on to the trip duration, and hoped I'd eventually get out of the rain, at which point I could switch over to a faster track. 

I immediately relaxed. I felt good.

A bonus good:  Gorgeous fall color in the forest of the Oachita Mountains.

The Bad

Mountains + valleys + rain = mist. Mist is the romantic word, except for those of us who've read Stephen King's The Mist. (Trivia: And in the movie, seeing The Walking Dead's Carol there.)

Fog is the more pragmatic word. The Oachita fog was almost impenetrable. Around blind curves. Down steep inclines. Occasionally coming out of the fog for a brief respite and the visceral release of a held-in breath, then a plunge back into the white-out. The occasional oncoming idiot without their headlights on. The stoopids.

The Grind

Despite the beauty of the mountains and the forests, despite the relatively relaxed drive through the rain (once the fog was behind me), the distance still to go became a grind. 

I was prepared to spend another night on the road, but in one of those algorithmic equations that go into decision-making, I was not enthusiastic about pulling into a minimal-standards motel at a Saturday-night rate. My Google map told me that if I deadheaded it to my Missouri base, I'd definitely be rolling in after dark fell. 

The Bad

To my great consternation, a fairly recent development for me is difficulty driving at night, so it's a tense enterprise under the best of circumstances. The best of circumstance = clear weather, well-marked road lanes (i.e. fresh white reflective paint lines), not too many deep curves, and speed limits at 65 or less.

Another night in a truck stop would be fine, although the blacktops aren't known for many truck stops. It was a gamble. I started looking for a truck stop at 5:00 p.m.

The Good

Eventually, the rain seemed to have dissipated enough that an interstate - both for its faster track and more plentiful opportunities for a truck stop to overnight in - had me reroute my way back home. In theory, the new route sliced an hour off my time. 

The Bad

It looked like I'd still be driving at night, after all, unless I found that elusive truck stop or rest area.

Fortunately, as night fell, I was on a highway with the desired well-marked white lane lines and plentiful pilot cars that I could follow at a helpful, yet not too close, distance. (Don't want to scare my unwitting road guides by tailgating.)

The Good

In the end, I brought myself all the way back to my Missouri base, thanks to the unknowing kindness of my pilot cars.


Some other rainy times and places


Monday, October 10, 2022

Missouri: Linn: A Turtle and a Memory

I met a sibling for lunch in Linn, along Highway 50. 

Outside the restaurant, on the pavement, was a turtle. 

Turtle outside Mexican restaurant in Linn, Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Turtle outside Mexican restaurant in Linn, Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.


An odd location, it seemed. 

I bent down to take a look and to take a snap, and to whisper a hope that if it planned to cross the road that it would do so safely as it moved through the parking lot. 

Seeing the turtle reminded me of an upcoming anniversary: The Great Flood of 1993

That spring and early summer, before the flood came, it had rained and rained and rained and rained for weeks. There'd also been more than usual rain in the preceding fall. 

From the street's-eye view of that time, it wasn't the rain that caused note. It was the End-Times number of creatures that my descendant and I saw en route to Arrow Rock from Jefferson City, each day we went up for her rehearsals for the Arrow Rock's Lyceum production of Oliver. Snakes, turtles, frogs. Some living, some squashed. 

My parents' business was in the flood plain of the Great Flood. 

Here's an entry from my mother's flood journal: 

Saturday, July 31, 1993

The impossible happened - the levee that was built to withstand a 100-year flood ... broke. At 11:30 p.m. Friday night something awakened me - and my eyes focused on the television ... I could see a spotlight shining down on flickering water and hear the helicopter whirring sound and the announcer's voice telling of the levee break. 

In a very short period of time, hundreds of acres of what was Chesterfield's [Missouri] economic boom were under 10 to 14 feet of water in some places. Some 500 businesses were down - virtually all without flood insurance. Many of us had gotten it a day or two before - feeling the Tuesday crest just might spill a few feet over the levee. A five-day [waiting period in coverage] (after you pay the premium) is required before the insurance is effective so most of us will not have flood damage insurance money. 

All day we watched and listened; we saw a man chest high in the water plucked up into a basket lowered by helicopter, people rescued from rooftops of businesses .... 

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Missouri: Jefferson City: Three Observers on the Greenway

 On a recent walk along Jefferson City's Greenway, I encountered these three observers: 

Cultural Pedestrians sculpture on Jefferson City Greenway. Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Cultural Pedestrians sculpture on Jefferson City Greenway. Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

The tall watchers immediately put me in the mind of the people and descendants of the Clotilda, "the last slave ship," in Mobile, Alabama, my most recent temporary base. 

I especially like this connection because Jefferson City is the home of Lincoln University, a historic black college or university (HBCU) ..... 

... As the American Civil War drew to a close in 1865, two regiments of emancipated Black soldiers took action on a decision that would reverberate from their Army station at Fort McIntosh, Texas, all the way to the Missouri state capital. The men, who learned to read and write as part of their training in boot camp, were determined to start a school for other freed Black people when they returned to their homes in Missouri after the war. The soldiers of the 62nd United States Colored Infantry, whose pay averaged $13 a month, came up with $5,000 to establish an educational institution in Jefferson City, which they named Lincoln Institute. The 65th Colored Infantry contributed another $1,400 to the school’s endowment. ... 


The allure of the installation's verticality, the faces, the jewelry - got me to stop my walk so I could look at all of the details. And isn't that one of the objectives of art? To seduce one's gaze, to prompt thought, to feel something - joy? contentment? sadness? discomfort? illumination? 


Cultural Pedestrians sculpture on Jefferson City Greenway. Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Cultural Pedestrians sculpture on Jefferson City Greenway. Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

Cultural Pedestrians sculpture on Jefferson City Greenway. Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
Cultural Pedestrians sculpture on Jefferson City Greenway. Missouri. October 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

The installation also reminded me of my visits to the sculpture gardens in Colorado in 2016 here and here and here

It seem serendipitous to learn that the artist, Sue Quinlan, who created Cultural Pedestrians, is based in Colorado. 

Cultural Pedestrians was awarded to City of Jefferson Cultural Arts Commission through Sculpture on the Move, a program provided by Creative Communities Alliance, based in St. Louis. Participating communities rent a sculpture for a two-year period, making it more affordable than purchasing the sculpture. It costs a community $1,000 a year to rent these pieces and after a two-year period, the community has the option of buying the piece to have it on permanent display.

 Source: Jefferson City News Tribune