Sunday, April 5, 2020

It's been a while since I've been out.

A woman stands in front of a house. She is wearing a full hazmat suit in white. There is a blue hose connecting an air supply to the back of her hood. She peers through her protective face shield at the empty street. There are no cars, no people. She glances back at the house before starting down the desolate road.

She walks for several blocks through a modest neighborhood where everything is still. Cars are in driveways or at the curb. Not all of the trash cans have been put away. Newspapers are piled up and yellowing in one yard. For a second, she thinks she detects motion behind a drawn curtain. She presses on.

She comes to a vacant parking lot where there is an occasional abandoned shopping cart. Gas pumps stand ready for no one. She walks past closed shops at merchandise and dreams of what it would be like to have the items on the other side of the plate glass windows. She wonders what it would be like to even desire such things.

Suddenly, pneumatic doors slide open before her. She steps through and stops. The store is well lit. There is soothing music playing throughout but it sounds artificial with no one to hear it. She advances slowly, looking for signs of life. The store appears well stocked, a cheerful oasis. There are bright colors where the produce is artfully arranged and neatly stacked. She picks up a cantaloupe and raises it to her face shield. She imagines she can smell it. She lets her hand drift over the avocados.

She glances down the aisle and ventures farther into the store. There is fresh meat in glass cases and fresh fish. She turns and passes aisle after aisle, seeing no one, until she comes to a refrigerated shelf stocked with cartons of eggs. She checks her surroundings before reaching for one. Tucked under her arm, she checks again to see if anyone is there. She steals away another carton and begins to move more quickly through the store.

She grabs a carton of milk and then begins to look earnestly for other supplies. She finds water but her hands are full. She kicks a case of water ahead of her on the floor to the end of the aisle. She leaves it to find paper supplies. She comes to an aisle with Kleenex. She sees paper napkins, then paper plates, and, finally, paper towels at the far end. There is a large vacant section in the middle of the shelf that stretches from one end of the aisle to the other.

She carefully puts her procured treasure on the floor and starts slowly down the aisle. She inspects the products that are still on the shelf. She looks at the brand names and the prices. Again, she checks to see if anyone is coming. She continues past the vacant shelves looking deep into their dark recesses until she makes it to the paper towels where she stops to consider her options.

Suddenly, her eyes grow large. She grabs at her face shield. In a panic, she reaches for the shelf and knocks over rolls of paper towels. She whirls around and sees the Kleenex at the other end but it's too late and she knows it. Instinctively, she wraps an arm over her face and sneezes - once, twice - splattering the inside of her shield. Momentarily stunned, she falls to her knees and begins clawing at her face. She coughs and seems to be gasping  for breath. Frantically, she tries to remove her hood but has trouble undoing the fasteners. She tears at it but makes no progress. At last, she is able to remove her gloves and rip her hood off. She lies on the floor, breathing hard. She is both relieved and afraid. She's vulnerable now.

She starts to get up and make her way back to her personal stash of food when she hears the squeaky wheel of a shopping cart. She freezes as a man briefly passes through the open space at the end of the aisle and disappears. How long had he been here? His cart was full. In the space of two seconds, she could see how full his hair was, how soft his shirt looked, and how well his jeans fit.

She shakes thoughts of desire from her head and starts to scramble in his direction, back to her unprotected items as quickly and as noiselessly as she can. She trips over fallen paper towel rolls, back past the empty shelves to the front of the store. She begins to pick up her items when she sees the man touching a screen with his bare hands and sliding items from his cart over a scanner, a chipper beep after each one passes.

He turns and sees her. He smiles. He is between her and the door but now starts towards her with an outstretched hand, naked and open. Moving fast now, she reaches her eggs. From her knees she begins throwing them at him. Her first misses but the second connects. He is stunned, the smile falters. He continues towards her and she takes aim, throwing eggs in rapid succession. He puts his arms up to protect himself then finally turns away. He pauses at his cart and considers what to do when she starts again with the second carton of eggs.

Finally, he flees with the doors sliding softly closed behind him. She pants and looks at her hands. They are obviously dirty and after a moment's hesitation she wipes them on the pants of her suit. She stands and once more checks to see if she is alone. The music continues but she hears no other sound. She comes out from the protection of the aisle and starts tentatively towards the door with whatever she can carry from her small pile until she gets to his cart still in the checkout line.

It's in there. She can sense it. She drops everything and digs into the cart pushing things aside, throwing some to the floor until she finds it - a four-pack roll of toilet paper. She grabs it and leaves everything behind. She runs to the door and halts. It slides open but she doesn't step through. The doors swoosh closed then open again. She stands, frozen. The doors close.

She takes a step and the doors open. She clutches the toilet paper to her chest and steps through. Then takes off running.

Friday, April 3, 2020

This virus is making me go gray. LIterally.

Simulation - do not try at home.
I'm not really blonde. If you didn't know that, you will soon.

For a few years, I've wondered when was the right time to go gray. Some of my friends already have. Some never dyed their hair in the first place.

I started dying my hair about 20 years ago. I was all pepper then, my natural color mostly faded at that point. I always thought of myself as having brown hair. Some of my older photos have embarrassingly shown up on Facebook with very dark hair. People who didn't know me then are shocked when they see them. (Frankly, so am I.)

When I was in high school, I thought it was a medium brown. It darkened in my 20s and then was pretty much devoid of color in my 30s.

It started as color with a few highlights. Over the years, the highlights took over and I became blonde. I remember the first time someone called me a blonde. I'm not blonde! I declared, shocked and slightly offended for reasons that were based in stereotypes. About that time, I shared a photo with my dad who also remarked Whoa! Who's the blonde? Was he kidding or did he truly not recognize me?

Due to the pandemic, many businesses are now closed including hair salons. It's been about five weeks since I last colored my hair which is now becoming obvious. Has sheltering in place provided the answer as to when I go gray?

I don't know if I'm ready, if I'm truly being honest. I only have one hat so something will have to give - either my hair or this pandemic.

Can't we all agree it would be better to do away with this pandemic?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

For All It's Worth

Remember when we were young and we would look at our bodies and marvel, "Look at this!" Maybe with some pride as when showing off new muscles. Maybe with horror as with a new zit.

Now, we look at our bodies and marvel, "What the hell is this?" Some spot, maybe a bump, definitely sagging. Hair appearing in new places and disappearing from others. Such was the case when I discovered my elbows were becoming dark. They looked as if they were bruised, a dark purple-ish color. Another sign of ageing or dreaded condition?

Naturally, I spoke to Google of my concern. Google provided this response: "Dark elbows occur when your elbows accumulate darker skin than the rest of your arm. . . ." Thanks for that, Healthline.

Among several suggestions such as applying yogurt and oatmeal to the elbows, Healthline recommended moisturizer and sunscreen. That seemed reasonable. The remedy worked.

However, it turns out my dark elbows were neither a dreaded skin condition, nor another sign of ageing. It was my desk chair.

I had recently ordered, and assembled at home, a new desk chair. It was put together within a relatively short period of time and without too much gnashing of teeth. There were no leftover parts after assembly signifying that I must have done it correctly. It was inexpensive, yet comfortable.

As it turns out, the surface of the plastic armrests were rubbing off and staining my elbows within only a few weeks of normal, daily use. I had noticed one of the arms was feeling sticky and it left a tar-like stain on a yellow sweatshirt. I took it for something I might have spilled although I couldn't imagine what that could be. I wiped the arm clean and noticed no further problems.

Soon, both elbows started to darken. Gradually, at first. Until one day, my elbows were smudged with the same tar-like stains as my shirt. The source was now obvious. Luckily, I still had the warranty information. Ready to seek remedy, I noticed the email address for customer service was hosted by Yahoo. This instilled no confidence as to what service they might offer.

I decided I would have more luck putting hand towels over the arms. I can't say it looks very professional but it's better than black elbows. It has the further advantage of making the chair look exactly what it is worth - about $45.

It also has the advantage that if I should ever spill something on my chair's armrests, it will be relatively easy to clean up.

Friday, March 27, 2020


Cactus Hugs | Coachella Valley coronavirus news and info | Thursday evening, 3/26 

Mexico has fewer than 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while the United States has over 80,000. Now, residents in Sonora, south of Arizona, have promised to block traffic into Mexico for a second day after closing a checkpoint for hours on Wednesday. They wore face masks and held signs telling Americans to “stay at home”

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lawlessness Reigns

Can you imagine? Hoarding essentials, edging a neighbor out of the way to reach the last package of pasta on the shelf. Wanton beach revelers, ignoring the new norms of social distancing. Kids out of school, store closures; now, parks and golf course closures.

A closed golf course is an invitation for mischief - all that open space. . . . There has been casual walking about without aid of cart or burden of clubs, for example, even as people continue to golf, pilfering as it were, by not paying fees. Some of these ambulators walk the course in reverse order. Chaos!

These thieving golfers - without the rule of law, or in this case course marshals, wear jeans and are sometimes barefoot. How uncouth! I've even heard music broadcast from their bags of sticks. Some drink alcohol! A golfer with alcohol is like a ... well, like a golfer I suppose. Why, just yesterday, I saw several youths - a gang, perhaps! - dressed in black, with funny haircuts, swinging clubs, wildly, at golf balls. An unsightly, if not threatening, siege.

And dogs - on the course, enjoying endless, beautifully manicured green space - that very same scenery generally reserved for the few. The privileges of the paying public are being grossly undermined by such lawlessness.

There's been jaywalking on our vacant streets and golf cart drivers who don't signal turns. A slippery slope should this continue.

What is to become of us?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: We do not wish to minimize the very real and difficult struggles of many during these uncertain times. We offer our sympathy and support to those who are affected.]

Monday, March 23, 2020

Never fear! Budweiser is here!

New York Post | Anheuser-Busch, New York distilleries making hand sanitizer during coronavirus crisis
The company said it would be working with the Red Cross to determine where the hand sanitizer “will be needed most” — while stressing it was being made “in addition” to beer during the time of national crisis.

h/t Grump

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Taxes, Beer, and Cornhole

The date for filing individual federal income tax returns has moved from April 15 to July 15*, 2020, for tax year 2019. While that might suggest I have three more months to do the same amount of work, the reality is the clients' sense of urgency will also be delayed three months. It just postpones procrastination.

As a result, I had my first day off in several weeks which was wonderful. However, if I have to be under a stay-at-home order, I might as well work since I work from home. Theoretically, these emergencies measures won't last forever and by the time we can all go outside, I will be stuck inside doing some procrastinator's taxes. (Sound ungrateful much?)

You probably don't feel sorry for me.
But, when the going gets tough, the tough deliver beer. While local taprooms are shut down, breweries are staying open for growler fills and sale of packaged beer. Some are even offering delivery.

Yesterday, we took advantage and placed an order with La Quinta Brewing and they arrived just in time. I left a tip on the doorstep and backed away. They took the money, left the beer and wished us well. We are well stocked up on that provision, at least.

While we were waiting for our delivery, we found each other. Without work, without going places, we were forced to interact with each other. It's a skill we don't always pay attention to. It's like turning off the radio and paying attention to the road before us. 

Beer here. 
In our deserted community, we set up cornhole boards in the street. The boards are placed 27 feet apart which makes it the perfect game for social distancing. Then, while the pizza was in the oven and we were waiting for our beer, we played Farkel. It was like date-night-in. 

We live in a community that is mostly occupied by vacationers, either renting or visiting a second home. Typically the busy time of year, it's now mostly vacant. Canadians and other visitors have all gone home. There are a few left that are enjoying the relative solitude. One family, several houses down from us, includes three small boys who undoubtedly have no idea of what is going on (relative to coronavirus). Rather, they are enjoying unfettered freedom as they run with abandon over the now-closed golf course. Usually off limits, they can run for hundreds of yards within full sight of their parents. They're probably having the time of their lives.

I'm not having a hard time of it either. At least not yet. Food (and beer) are stocked. Plenty of coffee for the time being. I hope the hysteria wears off in a few weeks so we can re-stock as necessary but for now I can't complain. I'm safe and well.

I hope you are, too.

*In case you're wondering, you also have until July 15, 2020, to make your IRA contribution for 2019. April and June estimated tax payments for 2020, have been delayed until July 15th as well. (September and January deadlines currently remain in place.) I haven't seen any information regarding HSA contribution deadlines. State deadlines may differ. (Also, I am not a CPA and cannot give tax advice.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

We just don't know.

Our neighbors are roughly 80 years old, in my estimation. Really nice people who asked us over to their house for dinner last night - corned beef for St. Patrick's Day.

It would have been wonderful. They have been great neighbors and it would have been an opportunity to get to know them better. We didn't have any corned beef and Hubby would have loved a night off from cooking. (I have been under the weather for over a week and banned from meal preparation. Plus, it's tax season so I have little interest in cooking anyway.)

We declined the invitation. I haven't left the house since the 7th when Hubby and I took the grandkids out for dinner. With runny noses, they spent the night and went home the next day. I went out for pizza on the 6th and I went to the theater on the 5th where a man sitting two rows ahead of me coughed repeatedly. Somewhere in there, I picked up a bug of some kind.

Besides the fact that I am still showing symptoms of something (currently, I am a phlegm factory), Hubby is still going out into the wild on a daily basis - babysitting the grandkids who are out of school and stocking up on food and, now, cold and cough medicines. With regret, we explained that it seemed unwise to accept their kind invitation. Despite my symptoms and Hubby's forays, the likelihood that we are carriers of the coronavirus are probably low. Still, we don't know.

We just don't know.

What a strange time this is. Yet, octogenarians remind us that this is not the first time in this country that people have self-quarantined. Remember polio? Also, what about stock market crashes? Financial panic?

Knowing we've been there before doesn't make living with today's uncertainty any easier but at least we do know we'll get through it. Eventually.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Keeping Portland weird

Not so much weird but ingenious, a Portland (OR) distillery is making hand sanitizer from distillery waste and giving it away. Just keep in mind, you're not supposed to drink it so you might as well pick up some whiskey while you're there.

New York Post | Portland distillery is making free hand sanitizer for customers amid coronavirus shortage

The name of this place is called Shine Distillery & Grill.

Here's to ya. Shine on!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


I thought I'd unsubscribed to this but then I'd have missed this little gem:

Thursday, February 6, 2020


Do you know something I don't?

Sunset Magazine - Do You Know Where Your Bottled Water Comes From? Hint: Partially From Drought-Ridden California

" Many companies bottle California’s water, including Swiss company NestlĂ© and huge American brands like Aquafina (owned by PepsiCo) and Dasani (owned by Coca-Cola). The companies have been criticized for taking from the water supply at high environmental cost to drought-ridden California, while paying shockingly low rates for the water. Many of the brands are no better than what comes out of your sink . . . "

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Monday, January 13, 2020

No rush, exactly, but soon.

IRS to Open Tax Season Jan. 27, 2020 - CPA Practice Advisor
“The IRS encourages everyone to consider filing electronically and choosing direct deposit,” Rettig said. “It’s fast, accurate and the best way to get your refund as quickly as possible.”
I don't know about accurate. I filed my 2017 return electronically and the IRS still managed to screw it up. But take comfort:
“As we enter the filing season, taxpayers should know that the dedicated workforce of the IRS stands ready to help,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.