Sunday, September 27, 2020

Birmingham, AL: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 888: Laundry Economics of the South

Laundry tote and shelves. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Caucasus Georgia has its Khachapuri Index. The Economist has its Big Mac Index.

I've got my Laundry Economics, I guess, considering I write about this regularly.

The Economics of Laundry (2013)

In Tucson (March 2019), embedded in another post, I noted: Now that I'm in my 'permanent' domicile in Tucson, I'm again factoring in the economics of laundry, as my apartment has laundry facilities on site, but one pays. And, indeed, nowadays one does pay via pre-pay laundry card instead of having to negotiate the cumbersome quarters I messed with in the past.

Here in Tucson, it's $1.75 for one wash load and $1.25 for one dryer cycle of about 20 minutes. I still avoid buying white and light-colored clothing so I can throw all of my stuff into one load. Three out of four weeks, I do only one load of laundry per week.

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 17: Laundry Economics Revisited (April 2020)

Now Birmingham, Alabama.

My apartment complex has no laundry facilities, so for the first time in many years, I've got to schlep my goods to a laundromat. Being as we are in COVID Times, this adds an extra dimension to a mundane chore.

Not to mention that the circulation of quarters has stumbled, creating shortages at stores and, yeah, laundromats.

The two laundromats I've visited in Birmingham still eat quarters and not cards, but fortunately, I've not run up against a supply issue at either location.

But here was an unanticipated surprise: There are no one-load machines! The smallest machines are for two loads. Four bucks!!!!

Whoa, mama. That required a new laundry economics rule for me.

Instead of a weekly laundry routine, I now do laundry every two weeks. Which is just as well, I guess, in the COVID Era, as I reduce my COVID exposure risk by half (in the context of laundry excursions).

 I find that the two laundromats I frequent are, overall, pretty good at protecting customers and staff from COVID exposure. There are inconsistencies from week to week with staff or customer mask wearing and with maintaining clean surfaces of counters, machines, and laundry carts. I'll quantify "pretty good" as 3.5 on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being exceptional.

Fortunately, by having a Prius (because of its quiet, mostly-battery-powered climate control), I can hang out in comfort (and non-exposure for me OR infection to others in case I'm afflicted without knowing it) in my car betwixt loads.

Thank goodness I have a plentiful supply of underwear, which supports my bi-weekly laundry regimen.

About my photo. The two-part, hanging shelves-and-laundry tote gives me so much pleasure to look at, despite its prosaic purpose and its institutional gray color. I pull the tote off the hooks when it's time to go the laundromat, then toss it into my car. Because there are only three shelves, I'm hopeful the shelving part will serve a double purpose for easily-accessible organization of camping stuff in my car when I use it as Chez Prius.

About the towel that hangs from the tote. This is an artifact from the Sonoran Desert. Made in Guatemala. Retrieved by one of my fellow water carriers to the desert on a sortie we took together, who graciously allowed me to have it. Maybe a relic from Central American refugees to the United States. I touch this towel every day. I think of a person who undertook a long, long journey for self-rescue. Perhaps alone, perhaps with friends or family, perhaps with people who began as strangers.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Birmingham, AL: Beelzebub in Birmingham

Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies. Source: Wikimedia.

It was the buzzing at first.



What was the source?

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Ah, a fly, hovering at my bedroom window, indoors, in the space between the glass and the blinds.

Annoying, but it's typical for flies to appear as the air grows colder, and flies enter uninvited, and are sluggish, making them more annoying than if they simply flitted about.

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

A day or two later .... louder buzzing, a chorus, a capella, in my living room, somewhere above my desk or in a corner of the ceiling or in the kitchen. I look up and around and cannot find the source.

The next day.

Holy moly.

There is a family reunion of larger-than-normal flies inside and outside my kitchen and bedroom windows.

Was there a dead animal outside?

No. I looked and I sniffed. Neither sight nor smell of one.

This required a consultation with Monsieur Google. Cluster flies. No easy fix.

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.


Fortunately, it appears the flies have a sort of coming-out schedule in the course of a day and evening, so I am not molested 24/7. This also allows me to concentrate my radical defensive maneuvers during these times, with the following sweep-up operations.

Until I find a more definitive solution, here is my artillery:

Personal fans repurposed as fly swatters. September 2020.

My thanks to a couple of health fair vendors from whom I received personal fans-cum-flyslayers.

But this unexpected fly invasion reminds me of my meltdown in Lalibela, the legendary city in Ethiopia, where the Devil sent one of his fly minions to plague me.

Ethiopia: Meltdown in Lalibela, Part 1 (with appearance by the Devil's fly)
Ethiopia: Meltdown in Lalibela, Part 2

Dead flies on sill. Birmingham, Alabama. September 2020.

Does Alabama have an unusual relationship with flies?

This Alabaman author suggests that the fly is Alabama's unofficial state bird.

I am also reminded of Robert Heinlein's sci-fi classic, Tunnel in the Sky, in which the professor warns the survival-class students: Watch out for the stobor.

When you go to a new place, you know there will be stobor. You just don't know what it will look like .... until you meet it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Flashback to 2019: El Paso 2019: The Tumblewords Project: A Brief Love

This makes me smile. Original post here.

Monday, February 11, 2019

El Paso 2019: The Tumblewords Project: A Brief Love

James Drake, Falling Birds, El Paso Art Museum, Texas. November 2016.

Born in 1995, founded by Donna Snyder, the Tumblewords Project is a writing workshop that occurs every Saturday at the Memorial Park branch of the El Paso Library. Each week, a workshop leader suggests writing prompts to the participants; the prompts usually follow a theme the leader chooses for the session. Everyone is enthusiastically welcomed. If you're just passing through El Paso and happen to be in town on a Saturday afternoon, go! 

My related posts here.

One of my workshop efforts below. Writer and artist, Sandra Torrez, led the day's work, offering Edgar Allen Poe as our inspiration.

A Brief Love

I'll look at you
While you sleep.

I'll touch your sternum, press
Down with the pad of a finger

Like a push of life.

I'll find your pulse, rest
My finger there, and linger,
To absorb your beat.

I'll leave you then.
Push out into
The cold and
Not look back

Because I gotta go.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Word of the Year: Build 9: Health

Crowley Rice Festival, Louisiana. October 2014.
Crowley Rice Festival, Louisiana. October 2014.

In July, I said ....

If I visualize a long trail such as the Appalachian Trail, there are sections, each with different geographic and climate features. I can divvy up my through hike into sections, too:
  1. Money
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Service and activism
  5. Creative life
  6. Rootless goals I want to achieve

This month is about building health. 

Not just physical health, but emotional and cognitive health, also.

Healthy aging

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health aging as follows (with long version here): 

"... the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. 

Functional ability is about having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value. This includes a person’s ability to:

  1.     meet their basic needs;
  2.     to learn, grow and make decisions;
  3.     to be mobile;
  4.     to build and maintain relationships; and
  5.     to contribute to society."


To be more concrete, in visualizing my 90 year-old self, I:

  1. Live in a universal-design environment and in a walkable community.
  2. Move myself around my living spaces, unassisted or with the help of a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
  3. Manage my finances responsibly.
  4. Engage in regular physical exercise that promotes muscular and skeletal strength, stamina, flexibility (range of motion), and balance.
  5. Adopt any tools that are accessible to me (e.g. financially) to optimize my sight, hearing, and dexterity.
  6. Carefully consider the risks and benefits of any meds that a doctor wants to prescribe to me, and decide if the RORI (return on the risk investment) is worth potential compromises in my quality of life physically, emotionally, or cognitively. 
  7. Contribute to and receive quality-of-life support from a solid support network of both family and friends. 
  8. Can say to myself when I go to bed: If I die tonight, I will have no regrets, as I have lived the best life I knew how to do. 
  9. Say yes more than I say no.
  10. Am fearless, as I know that, statistically, my demise is relatively imminent.

I've already done some good prep, for which I needed outside help.

  1. Quit smoking with Chantix about 10 years ago. In effect, this drug allowed me to go through nicotine withdrawal while I continued to smoke.
  2. Whittled myself down to a healthy body weight from morbid obesity some years ago (and am sustaining the weight loss) with the aid of the 12-step program, Overeaters Anonymous
  3. Did some growing up with the guidance of Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon, and intermittent counseling
  4. Learned (and continue to learn) to dance.
  5. Take risks that require me to stretch physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
  6. Take risks that might result in rejection. Ouch.

But just so's you know, I was like the vast majority of humans in that I didn't take the above life-changing actions until I was over 40.

I subscribe to the axiom that (most of us) don't change until our backs are against the wall and the wall is on fire. There was that for me, and also the prize offered by the 12-step path: To be happy, joyous, and free.

So I've traveled pretty far in my physical and emotional walk, but this path doesn't end til I end, and I've got more stuff to do health-wise if I don't want to leave my well-being entirely to chance as I age.

My biggest challenge: I do not have a discipline of daily physical exercise. Before COVID, I could cover this up with dancing. 

But, while it was good exercise, dancing did not replace a discipline of walking, stretching, and resistance/strength-building.

If I want to increase the likelihood of achieving the lovely vision of my 90 year-old self, I must build the discipline into my daily routine. It needs to be as regular as brushing my teeth.