Sunday, May 31, 2020

On the Road: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 22: Into New Mexico

COVID signage outside Walmart. Las Cruces, New Mexico. May 2020.

After leaving Tucson, I headed east on I-10.

In addition to the Welcome to New Mexico border sign, there was another, emblazoned on a giant LED board, which I remember as:

Face coverings must be worn in public settings.

(When, oh when, will I learn to stop and take photos of these documentary things?)

I already knew that New Mexico took COVID protections more seriously than Arizona. The signage impressed me right off, not only for its literal message to inform travelers, but for the sign's implied message: We walk our talk about our concern for your health.

My experience in Tucson was that stores took COVID seriously: plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers, sanitized shopping carts, and eventually, cashiers routinely wearing masks. But the percentage of Tucsonans wearing masks while shopping was slow to rise as COVID unfolded, and at best, I estimate only a 70% mask-wearing rate at its peak.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, mask wearing is de rigeur. When I entered the above Walmart, everyone wore a mask except for one scofflaw dad and his under-the-age-of-informed-consent daughter.

I stayed in a Las Cruces motel for three nights. COVID constraints closed the indoor pool, prohibited visitors to motel guests, and required masks in the lobby. This felt reassuring. 

I met with friends in Las Cruces.

In one case, a friend and I met outside only, in a covered breezeway, with 15 or so feet between us. In another case, we met indoors and maskless, but with at least 10 feet between us.  In the third case, we met inside, maskless - most of the time with at least six feet between us, but for a brief time, we sat together at a dining table for lunch.

No hugs, no handshakes.

A level of confidence among all of us that we'd each practiced pretty-safe behaviors before meeting up.

If I were to apply a sexual-encounter analogy, I'd say the three personal meetings - in their aggregate - were similar to using a condom: pretty darn good protection against infection, but not without risk, and certainly not the 100% protection that abstinence brings.

Gosh, it was good to see some folks face to face!

And a rueful shout-out to my El Paso friend and treasured role model, who I couldn't meet while in the area.   :-(

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tucson, AZ: Goodbye: A Soft Close

My Louisiana coffee mug in my Tucson apartment. April 2019.

Yesterday was my last day in Tucson.

I expected an unexpected, unpleasant surprise on my move-out day.

Although there was an annoying location glitch in dropping off my internet provider's router, it was relatively mild, so it didn't rise to the unpleasant surprise level. After I accomplished that mission, I thought, wow, it looks like this will be a smooth exit!

But then, when I traversed a side street on my way out of Tucson, I didn't see a speed hump quickly enough to ratchet down my speed to prevent a clunk as I went over the hump. And I thought, oh, HERE is my move-out surprise! Vehicle damage!

But, no, Chez P(rius) incurred no damage, and I was on my way.

The move-out gods granted mercy this year.    

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 21: Masks

Two of my COVID masks. Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

Getting some

I bought a set of three masks. My decision-making process was a recipe of
  • Two parts --> best-scientific-thinking-at-this-time +
  • One part --> Emotional attraction to the sage green color, which overrode a third important best-scientific-thinking-at-this-time feature (multiple layers of fabric).

Before I bought the masks, I did use the folded-over-bandana-mask-with-two-hair ties model. That actually worked pretty well, except for five buts:
  1. My bandana mask had a tendency to slide down my nose, which exposed two COVID entry portals, also known as my nostrils. 
  2. Ergo, I had to touch the outside of my mask to nudge it back up over my nose, which meant I may have been touching a contaminated surface. 
  3. I couldn't wear my earrings with the bandana mask because the hair ties got caught up in them. 
  4. Sometimes a hair tie slipped off an ear.  
  5. The bulk of the folded-over fabric obscured my looking-down vision, making it treacherous to negotiate steps. (This is a real thing: Recently, I read of someone who broke her arm when she stumbled due to impaired vision caused by her bulked mask fabric.)
I coulda joined the legions of crafty souls who have made their own masks, selecting from any of the plethora of so-called easy templates, but I'm neither skilled nor interested in such things, which is why my mother pretty much made my 8th grade sewing project for me, which was a lovely mossy green jumper made of a faux suede. The color was my favorite and the texture so soft.

I regret that I won't have that COVID Era cultural memory of homemade mask making that so many people around the planet will, but, well, whatever.

Around the ears or around the neck and head? 

I opted for a design that has two slender elastic strings, one circling the top of my neck and the other circling my head above my ears. Because a good fit without gaps is important, I liked that I could adjust the fit of either elastic string.

A little titillating

It amuses me that my masks remind me of old-timey halter tops from the 70s. To wear a halter top on my face makes me giggle.

The fabric is from athleisure wear, so it feels comfortable to touch.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Relocation: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 20: Where Am I Going?

Lake Fausse Point State Park, Louisiana. November 2013.

Well, I am in an interesting pickle. 

With COVID, there is uncertainty about what will be open and what will not - for sleeping, gassing up, eating.

I will leave Tucson on May 29. 

What I know:

I will get into my car and drive east.

What I don't know:

Anything else.

OK, OK, that's a bit hyperbolic. But, really, not much. I have squishy ideas of where I'll stop the first night, and I have a couple of smooshy possibilities of a route I'll take to ..... maybe one place for awhile or maybe another place for awhile but both "one place" and "awhile" are only dimly lit. 

As Bones said so many years ago: In ignorance, I await my own surprise.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 19: Naked Toes

Benson Sculpture Garden, Benson, Colorado. May 2016.

On one hand, you could say that cosmetic maintenance in this time of stay-at-home COVID is a superficial matter - and it is, literally.

Art Castings, Loveland, Colorado. May 2016.

On the other hand, we humans, no matter how low or high our incomes, find comfort, satisfaction, pure plain pleasure in having our hair, skin, and nails groomed. We want to look good and thus feel good. It puts a swag to our step.

It has been thus for millennia.

Benson Sculpture Garden, Benson, Colorado. May 2016.

Heck, animals groom each other, and it's not just about removing insects, it's part of group socialization, bonding, mutual support.

So with stay-at-home-ness keeping us from our visits to salons and the skilled groomers who primp us, oh, it's a loss that is more than skin deep.

Today I stripped the red polish from my toes. The pedicure I had two months ago (longer?) looked so bedraggled. I can't remember when I ever had naked toes in the warm seasons.

Niels Chr. Hansen, Four Foot Sketches in Pencil, around 1892
Niels Chr. Hansen, Four Foot Sketches in Pencil, around 1892. Source: via Art Coffee

When we were children, my mother used to tell us that our toes were shaped like the statues of ancient gods and goddesses, our toes curled daintily just a bit, with each succeeding toe shorter than the one before.

This always makes me smile, although I can't say that my naked toes today look like those of an ancient goddess.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 18: Signs of these Times

COVID masked dinosaur, McDonald's at Grant and Tanque Verde, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

On today's weekly hunting-and-gathering foray, I saw signs of the COVID times. They ranged from the whimsical to the utilitarian to the ... ironic? wry? earnest? apocalyptic?

COVID mask and gloves bucket, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

COVID shopping carts, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

COVID biotech sticker, Sprouts parking lot, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

Two artists for the above sticker? The second unknown to the first?

"Biotech is Godzilla" is a cultural reference for fans of 1980s-90s thrash metal, which presaged death metal.  The Brazilian band, Sepultura, who birthed Biotech is Godzilla, was a thrash metal band. There is even an Arizona connection here, as the band spent some time in Phoenix writing songs for its Chaos A.D. album.

From a 2017 article in Revolver, 5 Things You Didn't Know About Sepultura's 'Chaos A.D.':

Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra wrote the lyrics to "Biotech Is Godzilla"

As a longtime fan of early punk-rock bands, including Black Flag, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks and especially Dead Kennedys, Cavalera was excited by the idea of having DK frontman Jello Biafra contribute to the album. He didn't want him to sing, he just wanted lyrics.
"I don't think Jello is a bad singer, I just think his lyrics are so great. They're so sarcastic and smart. So I asked him to write the lyrics and he said, 'What should I write about?' I said, 'Anything you want to, man.' So he came up with 'Biotech is Godzilla,' which is about the 1992 Rio Summit, where all these politicians got together and talked about technology. Jello's big theory was that AIDS was invented by scientists in laboratories. It was a disease created by us."

The lyrics to Biotech is Godzilla

Rio Summit, '92
Street people kidnapped
Hid from view
"To save the earth"
Our rulers met
Some had other
Secret plans


Say what?

Strip-mine the Amazon
Of cells of life itself
Gold rush for genes is on
Natives get nothing

Is Godzilla

Mutations cooked in labs
Money-mad experiments
New food + medicine?
New germs + accidents!
Like Cubatao
"World's most polluted town"
Air melts your face
Deformed children all around
Ain't what's so bad
Like all technology
It's in the wrong hands

Cut-throat corporations
Don't give a damn
When lots of people die
From what they've made

Is A.I.D.S.?


So you just never know what you're going to discover from a simple sticker slapped onto a pole in a grocery store parking lot.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Flashback to 2015: Jefferson Island, Louisiana: Rip Van Winkle Gardens

I remember the pleasure of standing under cover of bamboo, listening to the softness of the rain and the creaking of the boughs.

A flashback of those moments, and others, in this 2015 post.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jefferson Island, Louisiana: Rip Van Winkle Gardens

Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

Yeah, I know, looks weird, yes? It's a slug. Or roly poly, maybe. I like her upturned mouth.

Time's awastin' on my 2nd Louisiana year, and today I wanted to put to bed the Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island. It was my second visit, the first being abbreviated back in October 2014.

Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana
Gosh, what a pretty place. With so much shade, it's a pleasant escape from Louisiana heat. Many spots to sit and be contemplative.

Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana
There was a short afternoon rain while I was on the paths, and I took cover under a stand of bowed tall grass and bamboo. A taste of this rain below:

At another spot, I sat in front of thick bamboo and listened while it creaked and the peacocks complained loudly to each other. And my belly rumbled a couple of times, too. Here it is below:

When I was here last fall, there was some exciting snake action, which I caught on video here:

Can you see the snake in the picture below? It's a copperhead.

Snake in the bamboo, Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

No? Let's get a little closer:

Snake in the bamboo, Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

And let's get a real good look:

Snake in the bamboo, Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

Hahahaha, I like snakes.

As I said here, I much prefer the gardens on Jefferson Island to the gardens on Avery Island. That is, if one is ambulatory. Jungle Gardens on Avery Island is a driveable experience, so it works much better than Jefferson Island for people who find walking difficult.

A slide show below of Jefferson Island's Rip Van Winkle Gardens:


Friday, May 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village

Kazbegi, Caucasus Georgia. May 2012.

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens

There comes a time when a solo woman observes that she might have to leave behind the cachet of a "woman of a certain age" and enter the land of a "woman of age."

"Not today," she says to herself. But it's coming some day, not too far away, because from her ship's deck, she can just make out the shoreline, and her boat inexorably inches closer to the beach.

In preparation for landing, she's got to consider aging issues.

I've talked about building a chosen family. A chosen family brings mutual intimacy, emotional sustenance, wise counsel from brains not our own, soft places to fall.

For practical, simple transactional needs that arise as singletons age, it's good to build a real-life or virtual home in a village.

Money Crashers offers a useful article on How to Plan for Old Age and Elder Care When You Don't Have Kids.

The advice isn't just for elders without kids - it's also for elders who have kids, but the grown kids:
  1. Live far away
  2. Already have care-giving obligations to others, such as special needs children or in-laws for whom they provide care
  3. Struggle with personal challenges
  4. Are well-intentioned and enthusiastic about being supportive, but just don't have the skill set their parents need
  5. Exploit their parents' finances or are emotionally/verbally/physically abusive
  6. Don't want a relationship with their parents

The article uses the term "elder orphan," a label with only sad, victim-y connotations that I don't believe are helpful. However, the advice in the article is solid.

Some highlights for what solo elders do to build a village around them:
  1. The Village to Village Network
  2. Work longer and save more to pay for future in-home care expenses that will help you stay in your own home
  3. Choose a supportive neighborhood (e.g. walkable to grocery store, library, park)
  4. Consider house-sharing or communal living
  5. Make new friends
  6. Wellness-tracking or wellness-alarm systems
  7. For folks who have the means: geriatric care manager

One of my daydreams is to buy a plot of land that is, literally, here:

In this daydream, I have one or two dogs to provide companionship and safety. I live in a tiny cabin. I might not have any internet access. I have water. I have this stunning view.

Although this might work for a year, realistically, I'm going to want to age in a town, in a walkable neighborhood, with internet, live music, diversity of age around me, a library, pocket parks.

I'll want a village.