Sunday, April 5, 2020

Creative Life: A Love Note For a Waning Moon

My mom in the arms of her mom. 1930.

I'm thinking of my mom today. Her baby sister died last week. Due to COVID, a memorial service will not occur until an as-yet-undetermined date.

My mom's closest brother - her confidant - died a couple of years ago, maybe less. She and her brother could talk about things my mom didn't want to talk about with her adult kids. My mom misses him terribly.

My mom isn't one to express her fears too much. She doesn't like to show her soft underbelly to others. From her mother, she learned the gruff family motto: "Never show the white feather."

The first time my mom faced cancer, which resulted in surgery and chemo, I pointed out, so helpfully, that there were cancer support groups at the hospital. She could talk with other people who walked in the same shoes as she, deriving strength and solace from each other. "Pfft," she sniffed in some disdain. "Why would I want to do that?"

A couple of years ago, my mom had no choice but to enter a hospital and then a rehab facility for a time. Which she loathed.

Sometimes I spent the night with her at the hospital or, later, at the rehab center. On several occasions, my mom said to me, "Come lay down beside me on the bed."  I did so, and I wrapped my arm around her torso, and I laid my head near her shoulder, knowing this was a rare privilege, indeed. Mostly, we just lay quietly, maybe while watching a TV show. I cherish those times.

Her light wanes.

I think of a poem I wrote at a past Tumblewords Project workshop. The leader that day, a poet named Rios de La Luz, walked us through a writing model called "corporeal writing," in which we focus on a part of our body, and how our bodies hold memories. One of the poems I wrote that day arose from childhood body-memories of how my mom would comfort me when I was ill.

As I Die

When I die.
No. As I die,
I want this:

The hand of a lover
On my brow,

Skimming slowly up my forehead,
Across the border of my hair
Atop the remnant of my infantile fontanel.

Pausing there, then
Sliding down the
Silkiness of my hair.

And again.
And again.

Like my mother did
When I was a toddler,
Maybe feverish or maybe
Just settling into a warm sleep.

Like I did for my daughter
As she leaned into me,
Pressed against my belly and my breast,
The rhythmic smoothing of her brow

Up and over,
Up and over.

Like past lovers did for me
As we lay in bed, under covers,
Quiet, thinking of nothing.
Sensing only, that tender instructive
Smoothing of my brow.

Up and over,
Up and over.

"This," I always thought,
"Is how I want it to be as I die."

I hope it's like this for my mom, when that time comes.

Related posts: Travels With Carol

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Flashback to 2014: Lafayette, Louisiana: The Sound Track

The South Louisiana soundtrack I've collected from my time in Lafayette and Opelousas is beloved by me. The music and the spirit accompany me on many a road trip. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lafayette: The Sound Track

You know how in a movie there's usually a soundtrack, right?

And you can love the soundtrack and even buy the soundtrack, but you know, of course, that soundtracks don't exist in real life. Because that's only in the movies.

Except in and around Lafayette. Here, there really is a soundtrack.

The soundtrack envelops me whenever I get into the car and comes by way of a local station such as KRVS - Radio Acadie. (An in-house KRVS concert video above, featuring one of my favorite zydeco musicians, Corey Ledet, on the accordion.)

Cajun and creole, la la, zydeco, swamp pop.

Picture it. Driving down a shaded street over which live oak limbs stretch, and in the spring, as it is now, azalea bushes at their peak of splashy color.

Passing shops with delectables by Poupart Bakery, T-Coon's, Chris' Po-boy, Jolie's Bistro.

Crawfish signs, signs for boudin and cracklin's.

Deep-porched, steep-pitched bungalows sitting atop cement blocks .... drawbridges

... and on the radio you hear English and French, and songs old and new that have you tapping the steering wheel to the beat of a waltz, a two-step, a jig, or the zydeco eight-count.

A real-life soundtrack.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID Unfolding, Part 8: Sounds of the Normal

Palapa roof repair, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. November 2010.

On Tuesdays, the lawn care people come, as always. The grumble and whine of a mower and edger, in the recent past, sometimes an irritant, is now a reassurance. Good, I think. These folks still have jobs in this hard time. Good, I think, some normal routines continue.

Every several mornings - early! there is the grunting and groaning of the trash truck. Good, I think. These folks still have jobs. Good, I think, some normal routines continue.

I note the lawn care guys seem well-protected in their gear and also their social distancing. I hope the trash pick-up folks are doing the same.

Trash day, Jefferson City, Missouri. December 2006.

My apartment complex owners have been undertaking roof repairs. Good. Some people still employed. The sounds of their work, reassuring. There's a truck. It emits airy beats, like a heart, pumping. For these folks, I worry for their health, as I'm not confident about their care in maintaining a safe distance in their collaborations.

When I hear the whine of police sirens, I don't think of normality. I worry about the cops' exposure to the people they interact with. ... Or the exposure of their detainees' from the police officers. How do you maintain a healthy physical distance in such intimate, tense interactions?

The other night, I heard the whip-whip-whip of a helicopter as it circled someone, something, across the street from my apartment. Whip-whip-whip, it circled, shining its beacon. Eventually, it left.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 7: Creature Comforts: Ginger Beer / Ale

Swamp Pop ginger ale. Lafayette, Louisiana. February 2014. Which I never tasted; I just admired the brilliant local-centric marketing.

The phrase "creature comforts" has come up in several of my English lessons recently.

In the time of corona, it soothes the spirit to indulge in small comforts. ("Soothes" also emerged in a lesson the other day.)

Last week, I indulged in a two-liter bottle of diet root beer and a bottle of ginger ale.

A ginger beer-ale thing seems to be shaping up for my corona confinement, a term more typically applied to post-partum mothers.

It all started with a stunning experience when I drank a glass of CeeDee's Jamaican Kitchen homemade ginger beer. 

At the very first sip, my taste buds sprang up in shocked awe – BOING!! – the drink had an intense ginger flavor with a sharp, spicy bite that invigorated. Kind of like riding a roller coaster that was really scary, but after it was over, saying, “Let’s do that again!”

You may know this already, but even though the name is ginger “beer,” it is typically non-alcoholic. (I did not know that.)

It likely has a ton of sugar, though, so it’s not something I can indulge in too often.

Last week I bought Canada Dry ginger ale.

This reminds me of a CCD (Catholic catechism) class when I was around 16. A married couple taught it. One day, they addressed pre-marital sex. The couple made a case for not having sex before marriage, mostly dealing with sin, of course, but they also presented this argument, which they seemed to direct most pointedly at the girls (because it was the girl's responsibility to keep her legs closed, because boys will always be boys):

Let's say you want to buy a car. 
You've never driven a car. 

You go to a Cadillac dealership.
You test drive one of their cars. 
Hoowee! This is nice! Looks good! Feels good! Yeah!

And then you visit a Ford dealership. 
You test drive one of their cars. 

Moral of the story: Do not test drive boys. Or something like that.

Speaking of cars, boys, and girls (especially bad girls), it's time to revisit one of my favorite girl-power songs:

Getting back to ginger beer / ale.

Too bad I had that CeeDee's homemade ginger beer before I had a Canada Dry ginger ale.

So in my most recent hunt-and-gather foray, I pulled down a six-pack of zero-calorie Live Soda Ginger (packed with MILLIONS of probiotics, which I didn't care about).


Even so, I'll try a different brand next time because now I'm on a ginger beer / ale quest. Kind of like my instant coffee quest in Longmont, Colorado.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 6: Fissures

Near Mora, New Mexico. August 2013.

Within a 48-hour period, I learned that:

A niece's husband has been laid off.

My daughter works in a business considered an essential service, so (good news!) she still has a job, but (unfortunately!) her employer has not set things up for remote work, so there is daily exposure among co-workers for potential infection.

In Tucson, a friend (and all of her co-workers) abruptly lost their jobs. Two weeks of severance plus any accumulated personal time off (PTO). Bang. Done.

In New Orleans, a friend's daughter has been ill with the crown for two weeks, going on her third. She's feeling better. She's isolating at home. She works(ed) in health care and a co-worker had the virus.

In Missouri, a friend and her sister were hospitalized on Monday (March 23) and placed in isolation. My friend, "Cherry," suffers an underlying condition that has rendered her already physically fragile, with chronic pain, and easily fatigued, even by talking on the phone or writing. On Wednesday morning, when talking with a mutual friend, Cherry continued to feel very weak from the new infection, and couldn't speak for long. Tests have come back positive for the virus.  Inexplicably, the hospital discharged Cherry and her sister on Thursday (March 26), and they made their way to a relative's house, over an hour away, for self-isolation.

The sisters became ill in one county, hospitalized in another, and are now in a third for isolation. Whether or not the hospital reported the confirmed test results to any of the county health departments is in question. Or if the hospital or any public health entity informed the extended stay hotel where the sisters had been staying, so that their staff might be made aware.

Caution: Although my information comes from mutual friends who have direct contact with Cherry or the local health care system, it's possible - even likely - there are variables that are unknown to any of us, and which make my narrative flawed. 

Here is the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control's infographic for hospital discharge criteria. Two criteria are two consecutive negative results and the lessening of symptoms.

Magical thinking

Based on what I have heard about my friend's situation, it suggests there is a grave lack of coordination between hospitals and public health entities. At least in some communities or some states. And even though they are not yet in one of the red zones, such as NYC.

I share this story because there are some folks who seem to take a city, county, or state's minimal infection numbers as accurate - or close to accurate. Or we hold unrealistic confidence in systems that work smoothly in fair weather, but are not equipped for a hurricane, even though we "know" it's headed our way.

To me, this is magical thinking.

We've got to "act as if" community spread has already occurred in our community, notwithstanding its size or population density.

And don't get me wrong - plenty of smart, capable, experienced, well-educated women and men are on the job! They are working their asses off. They are not stupid!

However, I've observed over the years that intelligence, training, and experience are not reliable indicators for effectiveness, especially in a crisis. Often, an ability to quickly assess a situation and then timely execute on same - that's the key.  Like this guy in Bristow, Oklahoma.

I hope, as COVID-19 continues to unfold, that I acquit myself well as a responsible and supportive member of several community circles. I'm already doing some things of support for others (including, of course, keeping to home most days and social distancing when I do go out), but I will do more.

Recently, I've come to realize there are some forms of action I'm not good at.

On one hand, this grieves me because I wish I were good at them. On the other hand, there are kinds of action I am good at. So as COVID unfolds, it's useful for me to understand this, to go with my strengths, and, therefore, be more effective for others.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 5: Grups and Onlies

Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. May 2012.

In a day when serious news, lunatic fringe news, a "balance" of op-eds, and celebrity news all enjoy equal status in one's news feeds, even from such venerable organs as the New York Times, Washington Post, et al ........... my mind reels from a whirl of old movies and TV shows that turn on unbidden.

Sacrifice the old! 

Kill the grups!

Turning 30? Enter the Carousel!

Or the more recent horror movie, Midsommar, in which old folks sacrifice themselves for the greater good by dropping off a cliff. Not showing a clip as it is so grisly.

Everything's fine! 

The socialist, commie, leftist, liberal, snowflake, stoopids are just exaggerating! Come to the beach! The house of worship!

Remember Jaws? Keep the beach open!

Hoarding, buying ammo .... 

From Panic in the Year Zero:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 4: A Second Kindness

This morning I went to the food rescue at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church on Fort Lowell. I arrived near its 8:00 opening, thinking there wouldn't be many people there, at least not at the start. Hoo boy, was I wrong! A crowded parking lot and a long line.

OK, then.

I gave the people in front of me and behind me a generous portion of space for their protection and mine. I brought gloves with me. Exact change ($12) so neither the intake guy nor I would have to handle any more bills than necessary. I inserted my paper "account" card into a plastic ID carrier so I could clean it later. Prepared to read aloud my card's number instead of expecting the intake guy to hold it so, again, neither of us would have to handle this stuff unnecessarily.

Waited in line. Did some stretches.

And you know what? When I arrived at the front of the line, I learned that someone way up ahead had paid for FORTY people behind him! Just to save you the math energy, that's almost 500 bucks!!! As each of of us approached, we had the option, of course, to continue paying forward or to accept gracefully the gift. I happily paid it forward because, damn, I still have work, I don't have a lot of bills, and I don't have young'n's at home.

The intake guy wore a mask and gloves, and the usual taking-down-of-the-card-numbers was in abeyance for this week.

I was grateful to bring home good vegetables for the coming week:
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Baby acorn squash
  • Green beans
  • A honeydew melon
  • Mini red bell peppers
  • English cucumbers

 In other shopping news, the shelves are still bare of these items:
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Bleach
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Gallon water jugs
  • Eggs

In the event I come down with the crown, I laid in a supply of some symptom-relieving meds. As my liquid hand soap supply is running low, I'm transferring to bars of soap, and I bought some of those today.

For my comfort items on Survivor Island, I bought a two-liter bottle of diet ginger ale and one of diet root beer.