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Monthly Archives: March 2020

Social-Distancing Update

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Image result for buster keaton sherlock jr

(I am cross-posting this with The Movie Crash Course.)

Over on my movie blog, I usually only post the above image if the blog is having a technical crisis; but if the current state of the world doesn’t call for the Buster Sign, I don’t know what does.  I just wanted to speak to how I was doing and give people space to check in.

….Miraculously, I not only am doing okay, I think I may have lucked into the best of all possible paths through this pandemic.  I’d lost a job mid-January, and was spending most of the ensuing few weeks on a job hunt.  By mid-February, that job hunt narrowed down to some leads in a business park that’s only three blocks from my house; I live very near a decommissioned Navy shipyard that New York has been turning into an industrial and business park, with about 450 different companies working there – many of them tech companies, media, or food-oriented.  Lots of artists have studio space there, there is a distillery and a winery, some movie soundstages, and even some small manufacturing companies.  I was hired in late February, and started there the first week of March.  I was thrilled about the new commute; instead of dragging myself onto a subway and riding an hour each way to get to work, now I have a pleasant 15-minute walk each way on largely quiet streets.  Maybe I pass the occasional jogger.

But then news of the Coronavirus started spreading, and people were realizing just how bad it was going to be. And I realized that I had been taken out of the subway system right before it had become a danger.  I thanked my lucky stars and kept walking to work.

Then New York started shutting down. First companies were shutting down of their own volition, encouraging everyone to work from home; Roommate Russ works somewhere where they require everyone to work from home.  My new boss also gave me the option to work from home if I wanted.  I thought about it; but I’ve decided to keep going in, partly to give Roommate Russ a quiet apartment during the day, and partly because my work space is actually a decently safe distance from other people even when everyone’s there.  And a week ago most of the other people in my office did start working from home; there were probably several dozen people in the office when I started there my first day, but now it’s down to about ten.  Most people are working from home, but there are a couple of people who have to head in – and a couple of stubborn folk like me who prefer going there. I’m actually less exposed to people at my office at this stage than I am if I stayed home.  And even more miraculous – the company is considered an “essential business”. So it will stay open.

My biggest worry was that I went to New Orleans in late February, right before starting work (when your 50th Birthday is the same day as Mardi Gras there’s really only one thing you can do about that).  The day after I got back, I felt something like the beginnings of a cold, but I dealt with that by horsing down several zinc lozenges and willing myself out of it; I didn’t want to call in sick my first day at work.  A couple friends joined me in New Orleans, and one of them said he also had a bit of a cold too; so I probably caught something there. But it passed within only a day.  And I am now past the window where anything stronger I may have caught in New Orleans would have shown up – and I continue to be fine.

This doesn’t mean I’m totally unaffected, of course.  Other than going to work, I’m hunkering down as much as possible; grocery runs and park excursions, and that’s it. I try to keep a good healthy distance from people even at work, and my grocery runs have been for oddball things like coriander seed, so I stay well clear of the whole toilet paper scrum.  I went for a bigger shopping run yesterday, and noticed that the store had set up barricades around most of the meat department and were letting people in one by one, like it was a velvet-rope nightclub; however, one section was left open. I discovered that that’s where the store had funky sausages and more exotic meats like duck breast, wild boar, and rabbit.  I took a look at the big line of people waiting for ground beef and chicken cutlets, then at the nearly-empty sausage-and-exotic-meat section, and then picked up a pack of merguez sausage and was on my way.  When the meat runs low in the house I may be back for the ground bison.  Roommate Russ and I have joked that Anthony Bourdain may be guiding our food choices from the afterlife.

Good thing, too, because cooking has been one of the ways I’ve been coping. I’ve got an overstuffed pantry even at the best of times, and a huge collection of cookbooks.  I also promised myself that I would be using a lot of the things I have this year, if only to clean them out and make room for new things.  So social isolation has turned into an excuse to amp up the cooking and baking like whoa.  ….We’re just about done with the pumpkin bread, brownies, and lentils de puy salad I made last weekend, and today’s menu includes three totally different curries, chickpea-flour crepes, chocolate cookies with cacao nibs, and an amazing mocha cake (to which I’m going to add some espresso chocolate chips I’ve been wondering how to use).

And I am still going to keep on with the movies.  I’m working on my latest review on that blog, and am exploring a couple of special events which those of you out there could join in.  (I need to explore the technical angle first; check there for any developments.)

I’ve realized that I’m very, very, very fortunate. I’m very aware that others are not so lucky and are struggling; I’m trying to think of ways to help, above and beyond just being a responsible citizen by staying home as much as necessary. I’ve been blessed, but I’m still in the fight with everyone else. Mrs. Miniver was about England’s reaction to war instead of disease, but I think the last scene still speaks to what we’re all going through.

Be well, all.

Belated Taking Stock – February

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ACK!  I missed this for February, but I have a very good reason, because a LOT of things have changed.  I spent most of February interviewing for a new job and preparing for a trip to New Orleans.  And – the day before I left for that trip, I was offered a job that a) pays pretty darn well, b) is with a company with a culture I will work well within, and c) is only a five-block walk from my house.  I’d also managed my money pretty tightly while I was unemployed so that I’d have enough to tide me over, so I had a very tidy financial cushion under me already; one that I kind of don’t need any more, so I’ve spent a very pleasant morning doing a survey of the house to see if there was any long-needed house items I could finally get (nothing too fancy – some file storage boxes and  rubber non-slip rug mat.  Woo!)

So since I start the new job tomorrow, let me get this out of the way.

Making:  Still working on papercrafts. My roommate saved some cereal boxes at my behest, and I’m going to be turning them into file racks and magazine racks to eat up some of the pretty paper.  I’ve also come back from New Orleans laden with some parade throws, and will be turning an old shoebox into a memory box of the really good trinkets from parades; another box will be for the throws I want to give away (I’ve spent several years now bringing a handful of strings of beads from a prior haul to offices, giving a few out to co-workers).

Cooking: I still have a huge backlog of food, but I’ve made a bit of a dent in the previous haul. These days it’s a bit more Cajun-influenced – I just made a roast chicken using Emeril Legasse’s recipe, and turned the carcass into a very spicy stock that I’ve been subsequently using for making my own yaka mein (a New Orleans take on ramen). I also came home with a couple pounds of Camellia brand red beans, which will be tomorrow’s red beans and rice.

Sipping: I’m about to make a big pot of tea.  I have a bit of a scratchy throat today – but I am chalking it up more to some minor cold combined with my sinuses going a bit haywire with the temperature changes I’ve subjected it to.  (I admit, though, to taking my temperature yesterday in the wake of Covid-19 fears….I definitely have no fever – in fact, my temperature was lower than the average – so I’m fine.)

Reading: I finally got around to reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  Tony has become a bit of an apartment patron saint – my roommate and I have been mainlining his reruns when we’re not watching movies – and I’d been given a copy some time ago that I realized I needed to read.  ….Dammit, the world needed that man longer.

Looking: Out the window east towards Bed-Stuy. It’s getting a bit warmer, and I’ll have more hours in the day (my commuting time is being reduced 75%!), so I’m thinking more about getting out more.

Listening: NPR.

Wishing: I’d had a little bit more gumption when I was unemployed.  But having a bit more resources to me from now on – in time and money – will be making up for that, I’d wager.

Enjoying: When I finish this I’ll be working on organizing the memorabilia from the New Orleans trip. And boy howdy that was a hell of a trip.

Eating: Dinner Friday was that roast chicken – seasoned with lemon, the Cajun “holy trinity” of celery, onion, and bell pepper, and a little cayenne. Dinner yesterday was a bit lighter (my stomach was acting a little odd) – a simple Japanese-inspired soup made by throwing some cooked rice into some quick dashi.

Liking: the free time that I’ve had.

Loving: the fact that I”ll still have some even after the job starts. (I work close to home!  I can actually do the pub quiz up the street every Wednesday because I don’t need to worry about being all sleepy in the morning!)

Buying:  I just splurged on some home improvement things – basic things like file storage boxes. My office has been in desperate need of organization and storage sorting, and that will help a good deal.  I also splurged on a Dutch oven yesterday after my brother’s family all sent me a Dutch oven cookbook as a birthday gift.

Watching: Movies and Doctor Who still – plus Picard, and I’ve been showing my roommate The Good Place. I’ve also gotten hold of the series Treme and need to get through that.

Hoping: that I don’t lose this high I’m on.

Needing: a new printer.  Next splurge.

Wearing: the super-comfy pajama top I splurged on before my trip, with yoga pants.  I’ll be in all day today, sipping tea and horsing down zinc lozenges to make sure I”m in a decent shape for work tomorrow.

Following: a couple new Youtube channel discoveries – found one that does a lot on the intersection of art and food, and I’ve also introduced the roommate to Alex Ainouz’s French Guy Cooking channel; we’ve agreed that Alex is an interesting combination of Jaime Oliver and Adam Savage.

Noticing: I’ve got way more energy and optimism.

Sorting: the souvenirs from my trip, and a lot of other gak.  It’s like I spent the first half-century of my life just sort of amassing things and now I’m thinking “wait… I need all of this?”

Getting: more excited about spring on the way.

Saving: money.  Still.  Somehow.

Bookmarking: various stew recipes.

Coveting: candles, even though I can make my own and probably should use ones I have already made.

Feeling: a tiny bit phlegmatic, and I am trying like mad to do something about that so I’m not sick on my first day of work tomorrow.

Hearing: the neighbors downstairs have two very young children.  Enough said.