Thursday, January 7, 2021

Grape #41: Outlook 2021

 

I update this collection of diary entries all the time, so bookmark the link and keep checking back. If this is your first visit, start at the bottom of Grape #39, and scroll back up in chronological order. Some of these, like text messages, were added after the fact, while other entries appear here for the first time. I'm aware of some proofreading needed, and formatting issues besides.
 
Thursday, January 14th

I lost $400 last night. Not good. No bueno.

Did some more house cleaning today. Spring cleaning I never got around to in 2020.
 
 
Wednesday, January 13th

As I sit here today, I want to just capture this moment in time for posterity. I woke up and logged into work around 8:00 this morning, made a pot of coffee and took care of a few pending projects. Once I was caught up on work, personal email, and whatnot, I heated up some oatmeal and sat down to watch some of the news.

Today, the House of Representatives is handling some procedural votes and allowing speeches on both sides of the upcoming vote to impeach Donald Trump for an historic second time in less than a year. That historic vote is scheduled for this afternoon. History will surely judge Donald Trump and his enablers very, very badly, but I am beginning to realize history will likewise judge his many supporters in the general public badly too. How so many can just shrug off his words and actions is, thankfully, beyond my comprehension. It's terrible to imagine how much darkness must be stewing in this country right now. I firmly believe we are a good people living in a great nation, but at the moment, some very dark forces are spreading some truly poisonous lies, and ignorance has won too many recent battles.

I went out to check the mail a little while ago. I put a baseball cap on before I did, as I'm long overdue for a haircut and haven't shaved or showered in three days (making up for lost time after posting this, I assure you!). After coming back in, I squeezed out some hand sanitizer, something I'm so used to doing now, I don't even think about it. After that, I took an allergy pill ahead of some planned house cleaning today (in between paid work, of course), and then cleaned five of the six cloth face masks I have here at the moment.

Today is the end of my two weeks of needed quarantine time after my most recent trip to North Carolina, so I plan to celebrate by going out to Resorts World Casino for a little while this evening.

So between Covid concerns, political concerns, and my time here at home all by myself with Andy still in North Carolina since November 14th, my life is in a very strange place, and I just wanted to document that here briefly.
 
 
Saturday, January 9th

I was planning to write this on Thursday the 7th's entry, but as you can see, I only got one sentence out. I'm not sure what to say right now except that what happened is both shocking and yet not unexpected. There's a quote in The West Wing where Martin Sheen's character, President Bartlet, says, "Is it possible to be astonished and at the same time not surprised?" and that's how I feel right now. We're a country controlled by two very different political parties, but one of those, the Republican Party, has been hijacked by a radical agenda and multiple ideologies stewing in the poisonous waters of hatred and conspiracy. And yet, that isn't the worst part of all this. The worst part is how sinfully silent so many Republicans are in response. I've heard from people who will tell me one on one that they think Trump is terrible in one way or another, but they will never say so on their social media.

These people are literally choosing the path of least resistance over morality and character. They hear the most despicable, crazy things spewed online, and they do nothing. They just turn away and keep scrolling, thinking either that their voice will change nothing or that they don't want to lose a relationship over it. I for one am unable to understand this. How could a person's affection for you matter more than goodness itself, than morality itself, than truth itself? How can anyone be so apathetic to say nothing at all?

For a while there, I was saying some of these people were either sick in the head or sick in the soul or both, but today I realized it's impossible to be sick in the soul, and that all such divisiveness and hatefulness is a sickness in the human brain only, and nothing more. To that point, I'm not sure how to reach or teach such individuals. If they have trained themselves to be this way, it will take so much more than snap judgments or common sense to shake them awake. Instead, they need to see with their own eyes the damage their behavior causes. As a deeply flawed human being myself, I know that personal pain has taught me so much over the years. I wish no pain on anyone, but I fear that's the only way they'll wake up.
 
 
Friday, January 8th

Thirty-ninth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Heath, Hoff, Tall Michael, Andy, and me. Andy was on in North Carolina and I was on in New York. Understandably, we talked quite a lot about the coup de tat this week, but also discussed some sad news of people we knew who were sick from or died from the coronavirus. One of Heath's softball friends is gravely ill from it right now, and a second member of Mike Hoff's band has now died too.
 
 
Thursday, January 7th

Yesterday was was one of the darkest days in American history.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Grape #40: Homework 2020 Part 2

I update this collection of diary entries all the time, so bookmark the link and keep checking back. If this is your first visit, start at the bottom of Grape #39, and scroll back up in chronological order. Some of these, like text messages, were added after the fact, while other entries appear here for the first time. I'm aware of some proofreading needed, and formatting issues besides.
 
Thursday, December 31st

On a whim just now, I tallied up how many words I've typed into this Covid Diary: 41,858 words, not including the text of this entry. The number of words doesn't surprise me, nor does the title itself. I changed the title once, and I'll now have to think of a third title to replace my former two. Homework 2020 has great meaning and certainly continues to be meaningful, but less so in terms of 2021. I like the "Homework" part too, although my lapses this year weigh heavy on my soul, and I mean that both figuratively and literally, as I've gained quite a lot of weight this year.

Title worries aside, and life changes needed aside too for the moment, I have two items on my checklist for today, not including my paid work. First, I'm determined to finish the book I've been reading. I still have a hundred pages left, but I figure if I set my mind to it, I can get it finished today. And second a scheduled Zoom chat with friends for 9:30 PM this evening. Those Zoom conversations have meant so much to many of us who participate each week or whenever we can. There's no replacing our many in-person conversations in a normal year, but the Zoom hangouts have been fun nonetheless.

Thirty-eighth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Rick, Hoff (who Andy noticed before me was sitting on a couch of the same exact design and color as Rick--wow, what are the chances?), Charlie, Lloyd, Tall Michael, John & Michael, Heath & Arturo, Andy, and me. The Zoom call started at 9:30 and ended around 10:25, but just as I was shutting down my computer in Andy's parents' basement, I got an email at 10:28 saying Augie, aka Heath, had just joined the Zoom, so I called Andy back downstairs and we restarted the Zoom, catching up briefly with heath & Arturo there at the end before rejoining Andy's parents upstairs.
 
 
Tuesday, December 29th
 
A mountain of things on my mind today, but the two at the forefront are Andy's mother's failing health and the year 2020. I'll start with Andy's mom.
 
This morning, I woke up before everyone else and made coffee and turned my computer on downstairs in their finished basement, which is where I set up my mobile home office for the two weeks we're here. Once I was settled in and had logged into ADP, I went back upstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee. The tea kettle whistled next to me as I was pouring, so I turned it off once I realized his father was not nearby, and as I did, a new sound caught my attention: an alarm going off on Andy's cell phone in the other room. I snoozed his alarm and looked around, not seeing either of them, but knowing they must be in the back with Andy's mother.

When I walked into his parents' bedroom, Andy and his father Everard were standing there talking and remarking about something on the television. I wished them both good morning and then turned my attention to Andy's mother Lynette, who was in the bed. "Good mor--" I started, but quickly turned away, realizing she was naked from the waist down. Flailing away in bed like a fussy infant, she was helpless to do much else but wait as Andy's father prepared a new, well, a new absorbent undergarment for her to wear.

The word infant, of course, is not shared with any sense of derision or cruelty. Her disease has literally rendered her helpless and in need of all the same car a baby requires. She needs to be spoon fed, her mouth wiped, her tears wiped, and, when in the bathroom, other things wiped as well. This is an awful reality, but it's important to remember that so many older people--and younger people with crippling illnesses too--simply require the dedicated help of a loved one or nurse (ideally a loving nurse in that case too).

I met Lynette in 2005 when she was 60 or 61. Her hair was black, she had a big, beautiful smile, and in so many mostly positive ways, she was a force to be reckoned with. She listened attentively as others spoke, and interjected with a smile when she wanted to stress a particular point or correct a misstated fact. Happy to let others tell a story, she was also not at all shy to correct the details of any such tale if the teller, usually Andy's father, misspoke. She was a great cook back then too, preparing big meals for the family whenever we gathered at her house or either of her siblings' homes. You could tell that making people comfortable was just part and parcel of her DNA. No thinking or feeling necessary at times: just a drive to make everything look and taste great.

When she retired from work a few years later, she surprised us all by letting her apparently beautiful silver hair show itself off for the first time in her life. Dying it for work was a necessity, but once the pretenses were gone, she was happy not to be bothered by all the extra work it required. She looked great too! We should all wish to look as good as she did with that beautiful silver color.

Her illness is something called PSP, which stands for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. This summary from The Mayo Clinic is a great introduction to what she's dealing with. Those who watch the TV show Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist will know that her dad suffers from this disease.

After writing the above, I took a break for breakfast with the three of them at the kitchen table, and I've just come back down after a blowup from Andy's dad. He takes good care of Lynette day in and day out, hour after hour, meal after meal, bathroom trip after bathroom trip, but his frustrations sometimes get the better of him. He has watched his vibrant, energetic wife go through years and years of this now, all as the illness gets worse and worse for her, and it's clear he can't take much more of it. Sadly, neither can Lynette. I fear she's at the end of her illness, and will need either a feeding tube or palliative care to help her move onward. As I prayed once last month and several times since, "Bring her health, Lord, or bring her home."

I cannot imagine how difficult it will be for Andy's dad when she's gone, but I pray he always remembers the many years of dedicated care he gave to her. I'd hate to think he'd live in guilt for any of his more impatient moments, because I promise you, they are extremely rare. What we see here is an illness that is sucking all the life out of a person as we watch, and in that way, we are all every bit as helpless to do anything too.

##

I move on now to 2020, and more specifically, to a list of things I learned in 2020. In a year filled with strain, pain, and far too much weight gain, I reflect for a moment now on what this year has given me, for good and for bad. I'll write out a bunch of items now, in no particular order, and then add the number of them to the title.


34 Things I learned in 2020

Even if you shower every two or three days, you still need deodorant.

Eating well is no replacement for exercise and frequent walking.

Chatting with friends on Zoom or any other video call can be every bit as helpful and good for the soul as an in-person heart to heart, but doing so on a computer screen is infinitely easier than holding a phone while you do so.

I am more productive when working from home than I am when I work in the office. Even with all the potential distractions and enjoyments of my home, none of the entertainment or rest options were ever any worse than the many, many distractions in the office. At home, an hour or two could pass in silence, but in the workplace, barely a minute ever went by without someone on a phone, talking nearby, or interrupting me in any other way.

Some relationships in my life, familial and friend alike, are much stronger than others. Just as the best ones made themselves clear in their constant presence in my life this year, the weakest ones did as well. While there is still absolute merit and the potential for loving connections in the weakest, I have at least now learned for sure who's who. And I'm hoping others have regarding me as well.

I'm so lucky to have Andy by my side in life. He and I make a great team--not a perfect team, but a truly great one. We are each other's best friend, confidant, venting partner, psychologist, lover, and more. I gather many of my single friends enjoy it very much, but I'm a mess without him, and for the three weeks he was in North Carolina and I was home alone in New York, I barely functioned. I got my work done, housework too, but whenever I could, I just laid on the couch and gave in to my weariness and depression. I need him with me, and as I'm writing this on December 29th, I'm feeling very grateful to have him back--and all to myself--this Saturday for the first time since November 14th.

A pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a pair of slippers are all you really need to wear most of the time, although clean underwear and socks are quite important too.

Some people deal with social isolation better than others.

Netflix is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Keeping a blog this year has already proven itself very helpful, and I know I will be forever appreciative for it going forward.

Trusting someone has been safe and stayed away from anyone who may have had Covid is much harder than I would have guessed. I did everything right at each and every turn, and yet some still don't trust me, and I'm in the same position in reverse. I don't fully trust some people I ought to.

Some people are, quite literally, stupid enough to take risks they ought not to be taking. Whether it's a booty call, a brunch with friends, or an extended, maskless, indoor visit with one or more people, there are those who have done the wrong thing over and over and over again this year. If they managed to keep themselves and their children safe, they may have sickened or killed others, but without any proof of that fact, they seem blissful in their ignorance.

Books are your friends, and I'm so happy I read so many this year. I will share my full 2020 list in this online journal soon.

I watch more streaming content from YouTube and Netflix than from Cable TV. I feel like I should find some pay-per-hour plan from Cablevision or just give it up altogether. There are just too many other options open to me to be spending the ridiculously exorbitant amounts they charge.

Post-it pads, my cell phone charger, and hummus are my new best friends.

There are a lot of really stupid people living on this planet, and most of them are living in the United States of America.

Donald Trump is not just stupid and not just mentally ill, but genuinely evil too. This combination has been lethal for our country. Supporters of this man are sick in the soul and/or the brain. You cannot be a supporter of Donald Trump and be a good person at the same time. He's said and done too many truly despicable things now for anyone to dare claim any moral high ground.

Life is fragile and we learned in 2020 how quickly our many, many, many comforts can slip away. We've all learned a supreme new appreciation for all we are so lucky to normally have.
 
 
Saturday, December 26th

No Zoom yesterday.
 
On Sunday the 20th, I drove back down to North Carolina, and I'm happy to report I bested my travel time by a full four minutes. For posterity, then, my drive down with Andy took 10 hours, 55 minutes, my drive alone to New York took 10 hours, 15 minutes, and my drive alone to North Carolina took 10 hours, 11 minutes.

Life here in North Carolina is both different and difficult. Andy's poor mom can't do anything for herself accept nod, wink, and chew, and the chewing and swallowing is getting harder for her now. I'm not sure how much time she has left, but I don't expect her to last till next Christmas. She may not even make it to the summer, but the woman is amazing, and has proven me quite wrong a few times before, so who knows. Andy's dad, meanwhile, has had a long series of doctor's visits and eye surgeries to remove cataracts and in one case a separate growth on his eye. For reference, she is 76 and he is six weeks shy of his 75th birthday. I'm not sure what the future holds for him, but after Andy's mom passes, he will hopefully make his way up to NY and Massachusetts more often before relocating to a senior citizen community of some kind. I don't like the idea of him being here alone for too many years. Andy has said a couple of times that he'd love to show his dad Hawaii too, so our next trip there may include him. If so, I may be inviting others to come too. Three's a crowd, but a small group offers opportunities for separate plans on some days so no one is left out.

We celebrated Christmas here together yesterday, though due to this and that and a little more of that and this on the side, we didn't open presents together until mid-afternoon. Andy's dad made us a delicious turkey dinner and some warm eggnog too--a first for me. I've only ever enjoyed it cold on ice, but he heated some up in a saucepan for me and wow, was it delicious. On Christmas Eve, we had some homemade fruitcake and a dish of ice cream covered in Bailey's. Talk about ideas I look forward to introducing to others when this damn pandemic is over!

Today I've been working on updates to the blog here for the past hour or more, and soon I'll rejoin them all upstairs. Work has been very slow the past week, and I expect much more of the same this week coming, so that's been nice. Mostly working on my end-of-year review for work whenever I can.

The main thought I have right now though? Just one more week here until Andy and I can both be back home together in New York for the first time since November 14th. We drive back up to New York on Saturday, the 2nd of January. Okay. Over and out for now!
 
 
Friday, December 18th

I went again to Resorts World, but by myself this time. Lost $300 even. C'est la vie! My losing streak continues, but for the first time in years, I sense the tide is turning at last.
 
Thirty-seventh weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Charlie, Andy (live from North Carolina), Rick, Tall Michael, Danny, Lloyd, Hoff, and me (in New York). This day marked exactly 9 months "in quarantine", and as the year is quickly coming to a close, we discussed some of the many comings and goings of our world in peril. Politics, vaccines (which have finally begun to arrive), and expected changes for 2021, as well as hoped-for timelines in 2021. I said I hoped we'd see some great relief of normalcy by May, and others said they'd heard early summer. I'm hopeful that the powers that be just know the timeline of available vaccinations is unclear, so they don't want to get our hopes up for anything earlier than what's realistic. My sense has been that things are very slightly progressing quicker than expected--only very slightly--hence my hopes for (at least some more) normality by May.

Rick used a cool phrase I hadn't heard before: "all afraid together", which sums up so much of 2020. TV shows mentioned in the Zoom included Riverdale, 11/23/63, and The Crown.
 
 
Friday, December 11th

I went to Resorts World this day and met up with Heath and Arturo. Heath and I both lost (only $67.86 down for me though, so I was happy) and Arturo was the big winner, raking in a couple hundred in sweet profits.
 
Thirty-sixth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Tall Michael, Hoff, Heath & Arturo, and me.
 
 
Friday, December 4th

Thirty-fifth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included John, Michael (birthday boy!), Tall Michael (recent birthday boy!), Mike Hoff (recent birthday boy!), Andy, and me. Andy was live from his parents' guest bedroom/computer room in North Carolina.
 
 
Thursday, December 3rd
 
You probably think I forgot about you. And I'm sorry--I really, really am--but I assure you, I've thought about you so many times over the past two weeks. I'd go to bed and think how I really ought to make sure I update that diary in the morning, and this pattern I repeated several times over. Sadly, I've had a lot going on, about which I'll tell you now.

Working remotely is a great gift, and one I try my best to appreciate as long as I have it, but working remotely from Andy's parents' house was not easy. We both set our computers up in the basement there, but Andy soon moved upstairs to one of the bedrooms where his father's computer is, so he could keep a closer eye on his mother. That left me in the basement alone, and it's a little chilly down there too. I've just added "space heater" to the items I have to remember to bring back with me later this month.

I don't think I mentioned that before so here it is--we're going back again at the end of December. Well, that's the sentence I would have typed were it Plan A, but we're now in Plan B, which comes with all new pronouns. (No, nothing like that.)

You see, on Saturday the 28th, instead of Andy and I driving back together to New York as we'd planned, I left him in North Carolina and did the long drive home myself. (10 hours 15 minutes including stops, so a 40-minute improvement on the time he and I did on the way down.)

I'm home now in NY, busy with work and freelance work. Trying to get things done around the house too including cleanup and a tiny amount of decorating. Without friends over for the holidays this year, I opted out of my usual days-long decorating work, but I put a bow on the front door, the pretty light display on the outside of the house, and will put up a total of one tree, rather than the three or four I usually have up. And that one tree is also a pull-up/pop-out tree I bought last year, so it'll take me more time to switch out the table it goes on than to decorate the tree itself.

While in North Carolina, I got to see a close friend of mine, Keaton, on two different occasions, and look forward to seeing him again at the end of December.

As of right now, my plans are to drive back down on Sunday, December 20th and drive back up with Andy on Saturday, January 9th, so three weeks that time. Honestly, the hardest part about my two weeks in November was doing NaNoWriMo anyway, so with that done, and a space heater to boot, the three weeks at the end of December into the start of 2020 should be much easier to manage.

My biggest concerns now are 1) the freelance project I have to get done by Monday night, 2) Christmas gift buying and/or figuring out, and 3) Christmas card writing. I ordered some special cards for this year through a shop on Etsy, and will be receiving those tomorrow.
 
 
Friday, November 20th
 
Thirty-fourth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Rich, Hoff, Andy, and me. This was the third state I have done the Zoom from (previously Vermont and New York), and if we add Nevada and Pennsylvania to the list, places John broadcast from, I believe that brings us up to five states total that our Zoom chats have included. I'll have to check on that though.
 
NOTE: We didn't end up having a Zoom on 11/27
 
 
Wednesday, November 18th
 
Today marks 8 months in quarantine, although in 11 days, Andy and I will only begin our first real two-week quarantine in New York (once we're back from North Carolina). I'm extremely disappointed in my family members and friends who are being foolish and reckless, not wearing masks while standing as close as cheek to cheek with other people, but I can do no more than I have been to encourage safe practices. My family members, my friends, and my coworkers who think very differently from me will have to look out for themselves. What saddens me most, however, is that two people I know who have mocked the rules and regulations regarding masks and social distancing have each suffered the repercussions of this terrible virus. In one case because their spouse was hospitalized due to Covid complications and in another because someone they know died from Covid. How you can still champion your goddamn rights over basic safety requirements is beyond me.
 
 
Monday, November 16th

On Saturday the 14th, Andy and I drove down to North Carolina. We left at 7:06 AM and arrived at 6:01 PM, so it took us just under 11 hours total. We stopped several times, not for long each time, but since we didn't need to be here at any specific time, there was no need to rush or worry.

Our computers are set up in the basement of Andy's parents' house, so starting today, we are working remotely...remotely. Not too different than at home, really, plus Andy's dad Everard is a great cook!
 
 
Friday, November 13th
 
Thirty-third weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Tall Michael, Danny, Lloyd, Andy, and me. Danny shared with us how he was affected by hearing of the death of a colleague, a man named Ken who used to come into the school to help them fix telephone lines. Danny wrote a beautiful letter to Ken's fiance and she called and thanked him profusely for his kindness and thoughtfulness.
 
 
Thursday, November 12th

Between post-election stress (toddler in chief refusing to concede) and NaNoWriMo deadline stress (it's not always easy writing 1,667 words of a new book each day), I'm feeling a bit on edge this week. We also have a drive down to North Carolina coming up now this Saturday, so I have quite a lot to do to get ready for that. Not only do I need to get our car packed, laundry done, dishwasher run, individual bags and computers packed since we're working while we're down there, but I also have to make sure my word count is ahead of schedule in NaNoWriMo, because I'll get virtually no writing done the day of my extra long drive south with Andy. I am taking tomorrow off, smartly if I do say so myself, from my day job, but there's still quite a lot to juggle.
 
 
Monday, November 9th

Where do I begin? Well, for starters, Andy and I finally decided to turn the news off for a while on Saturday morning, so what do you think happened just after we did? Joe Biden was declared the winner! YES!!! At 11:31 AM Saturday morning, November 7th, Andy received a text from a coworker who told them the networks were finally calling it after three and a half days of the numbers for Biden consistently rising disproportionately higher than Donald Trump's. I rushed to the living room, turned the TV back on, and we watched with glee as all of the networks other than Fox "News" declared Biden the winner. My phone told me the AP had called it too, and as I flipped back and forth between the networks, catching some of Van Jones' now famous in-the-moment reaction on CNN, I finally went back to Fox News at 11:59 AM, just in time to see the graphics change as they too declared him the winner.

To say these last four years have been a nightmare is putting things lightly. We've never had a president attack more than half the country's citizens like Trump has, and we've never in modern times, at least, seen so much hatred and acceptance of racism as this poor excuse for a man has promoted and allowed. To make matters worse, because that's what Trump's twisted psyche and sick soul seems to always push him to do, he's not even conceding the election. He's stomping his feet and crying about this like a baby instead of looking at the facts right in front of his face. But alright, enough of him for now!

We have a female Vice President! And she's a woman of color too! YES!!! So, so excited for her and for the people of this country. We have so much to do now to fix the God awful mess Donald Trump has done to this country, but in their speeches and social media posts, it's abundantly clear Joe and Kamala are setting the correct tone of unity and healing right from the start.


Friday, November 6th

Thirty-second weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Hoff, Tall Michael, Heath, Lloyd, Andy, and me. Only one topic was on all our minds, and it remained the only topic throughout our hour on the Zoom call: the election. Everything is pointing to a Biden victory now, but I still can't help but worry about what Trump might do.

 
Thursday, November 5th

No winner yet, but everything seems to be pointing to a Biden victory. Thank God if so.
 
 
Tuesday, November 3rd

Election Day! Or, as we may come to refer to it later on, Day 1 of Election Week. With so many mail-in ballots to count and changes this year due to the pandemic, it's become clear the results won't even be ready by the end of today.

An architect for our needed garage repairs and/or replacement came by today at 1 PM. We're determined to spend at least some of this damn stay-at-home time actually improving the home and property we're so often confined to!
 
 
Sunday, November 1st
 
Month 9 of the pandemic. A male and a female could conceivably have met for the very first time in March, had sexual intercourse, conceived a baby, and that baby could be alive right now on the planet. That's how long this has been going on now. We are officially all full-term in our home hibernation and ready to get out and explore the world. Sadly, the numbers keep ticking up higher in some places, owed mostly to far too many citizens brushing off safety concerns and hanging out with each other as if there isn't a global health pandemic going on right now.

Began reading The Cloister Walk, a book I first heard about back when I was living in my own kind of cloister back in the 90s. The book has appeared, disappeared, and reappeared several times in my life over the past 25 years or so, so once it showed up again on my radar a month ago, I decided I ought to finally buy it and read it. We shall see if it's been shouting out at me from the universe with good reason!

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, the shortened way of saying National Novel Writing Month. I have participated in this program since 2014, so this is now my seventh year in a row! As I did with my novel Tree House Down, I'm on my second of two years now working on its sequel, Moments to Spare. Excited to dive back into it now on a daily basis! The goal is 1,667 words a day or 50,000 words by the end of November. Let's do this!
 
 
Saturday, October 31st
 
Halloween. No decorations up inside or outside our house whatsoever. A total of one large Costco-size (well, sized for Costco) bag of candy purchased. And the grand number of trick-or-treaters who came to our front door looking for any of said candy? Zero. This fact alone will shock me years from now, but this week, this year, it's just par for the spooky course.

Finished reading Radio Free Vermont. Fantastic book, and just what I needed to read ahead of the election too. It also taught me a few things about Vermonters and the specific culture they have there, all of which will help me when finishing Moments to Spare, my sequel to Tree House Down. Much more on that project starting tomorrow!
 
 
Friday, October 30th

Thirty-first weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Rick, Heath, Hoff, Andy, and me. We chatted about a bunch of things, but since the election and Halloween (and the start of the holiday season) were ahead of us, those things took up a good part of our time and attention.

After the Zoom, we dashed over to Costco for some Halloween candy. Spoiler alert: we'd later return it. While at the gas station there as Andy filled up the tank, I called for pizza from La Regina.
 
 
Thursday, October 29th

Yesterday was quite significant. I sent out my most recent Monastic Laundry blog entry in the morning, Andy made an appointment with a contractor for our needed garage repairs, we early-voted at the library in West Hempstead, and I did a Zoom call with six other local writers participating in NaNoWriMo. Not bad! I have been trying to make each day count on a personal level outside of all the paid work I've done lately. Speaking of which:

Not only have I been swamped with my day job as a proofreader, but I've also had consistent freelance proofreading work this year for a company whose name rhymes with 1-800-Powers, I've edited a full-length YA fiction book about the Oregon Trail, I've proofread a full-length fantasy book, and I've done a shit ton of blogging besides.

All of this, however, all except the full-time proofreading job that is, takes a back seat to my main goal for November 2020: NaNoWriMo. NaNo what?! NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is the goal to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Utilizing this dedicated plan of action has helped publish my last three books, and will aid me once again toward publishing my eighth book next year. Really looking forward to diving back into this story I began in November of 2019, which I have only slightly dipped my toes in since.
 
 
Friday, October 23rd
 
Thirtieth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Danny, Tall Michael, John & Michael, Heath, Lloyd, Hoff, Andy, and me. Big group! Topics ranged from slot machines and my AC trip (where John & Michael still were), death and cremation, iPhones, hopes for a vaccine, and Donald Trump, the last of which got my feathers ruffled once one of our friends seemed to be defending the guy. The Zoom went from 6 PM until 7:48 PM, further proof that we're getting my money's worth for the year-long subscription I bought.
 
 
Wednesday, October 21st

Okay, so here's my Atlantic City trip report...

Going away anywhere in a pandemic year is its own kind of high-stress situation. I almost didn't go to Vermont this summer because I was so worried about staying with family members, as well as various other peripheral concerns related to that trip. With no desire to eat indoors at public restaurants or to go shopping anywhere, going away, even to a place you love, is just not the same. Atlantic City was no exception. Sure, there's the beautiful hotel room and the casino excitement I enjoy, but needing to wear a mask everywhere gets so annoying after a while.

Check-in at Borgata went well. No line to wait in, which surprised me in itself, and though check-in only starts at 5 PM on Sundays, I was in my room by 4:40 or so. Room 2218, so a nice view from the 22nd floor overlooking both the marina and the entire boardwalk looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. Made for some beautiful views, especially for sunset and nighttime.

My first meal was from Bread + Butter. I ordered through BorgataEats, a new online ordering platform that comes in handy these days since the buffet and other places are closed, and my food was scheduled for pickup at 5:30. Got down there early, so I put money into a slot machine, planning to lose no more than $10 while I waited. Ended up being up 72 cents. Off to a good start!

Unfortunately, Bread + Butter lost my business right away. Despite my standing beneath a large sign that said something like "BorgataEats Pick-Up Here", and despite my patiently standing there and making eye contact with several associates as I did, almost 20 minutes passed before someone finally came over and acknowledged me. Not only did they not apologize for keeping me waiting, but they also had the audacity to tell me I was in the wrong place, that I had to pay for my food in another spot. I promptly did as they said and then was handed my food over in that other spot, meaning the big sign instructing people to that spot meant nothing to them. It was as if someone put it up and then forgot all about it. Ugh! The food was pretty shitty besides, so I opted not to return there the rest of my trip.

Found out on my first night that John and Michael were staying over on the boardwalk (Caesars and Ocean Club) as well, but we never ended up meeting.

That night, I gambled for a couple hours from about 8:45 to 10:45, and miraculously, I was still up by the end of it. Only by 27 cents, but this, I assure you, was itself a huge victory! I also ordered two complimentary rum and cokes while at the machines that night.

The next morning, Monday, I got an egg sandwich and coffee from Borgata Baking Company. Nothing stellar, but friendly service and very speedy too, so I was fine with that! As with my meal the night before and all meals to follow, I picked up my food downstairs and brought it back to my hotel room to eat there. Though I really missed the great buffet and the comfort of eating other quick-serve meals downstairs (which I could have done, just didn't feel safe to yet), eating at my desk in the hotel room was nice too.

I gambled some more then, got a complimentary cup of coffee, and by the time 2 PM came around, I was both ready for lunch and starting to get disappointed, as my money started leaving my wallet then for good. I was now down $100.

For lunch, I ordered a hamburger and fries from Burgers & Fries in the Marketplace Eatery, and was thrilled with how delicious the food there was. Yum! Super great service too!

I watched some TV next and relaxed in my hotel room before going back downstairs to gamble some more. At this point, I'd guess I was gambling for two hours at a time. I could only deal with the mask for so long before heading back to my room for a break. I had a couple more rum and cokes that night and lost even more money in two different sessions before calling it a night.

At 9:30, I picked up dinner at the Bet MGM Sportsbook & Bar, which ended up being another fantastic meal. Have to remember to go back to this place in the future!

On Tuesday morning, checkout day, I got another coffee and egg sandwich at Borgata Baking Company, ate in my hotel room, and then checked out, bringing my bags to my car in the parking garage. Taking my mask off for a minute to breathe in some fresh air for the first time in 40 or so hours, I thought about whether or not to go back inside to gamble just a little bit more. Well, the decision was made at just the thought of it, I have to confess, and so that's exactly what I did. More casino time, another free complimentary coffee, and more money sadly, predictably, lost to the slot machines.

Here's the thing though: I'm learning. No, seriously, hear me out for a second. I am such an experienced gambler at this point that I am literally getting better at this, even when I lose. I have learned how to make my money last, how to enjoy myself more when I'm out on the casino floor, and yes, even how to multiply my winnings when they arrive so as to soften the pain of the losses when they arrive too. Like, non-slot players probably won't get this, but even when the odds are stacked against you, there is still a way to find the right machines and bet the right amounts to achieve better results. So yeah, I am actually getting better at this!

The two-night hotel stay was comped, the four rum and cokes and two coffees were comped, and I had $30 of free slot machine play too. Not to mention the fact that the money I lost on this trip, all with my player's card in the machines as I gambled, will now convert to even more comps for the future.

I tipped well this trip, giving $2 instead of just $1 for each free drink due to Covid, gave tips to all the restaurants too (yes, even the folks at Bread + Butter who left me very disappointed), and I left a $20 tip in the room for the housecleaning staff member, along with a note expressing my sympathies that they had to do their already challenging tasks with a mask on.

All in all, yes, the trip was a financial loss, but honestly not by much at all, and certainly nothing I wasn't prepared to lose anyway. (Those are tricks of the trade: never use your ATM card on a gambling trip, and be prepared to lose every dollar in your wallet or purse, just so if you do, you had already reconciled what you were willing to potentially lose.)

I drove back home Tuesday, arriving around 1:15 in the afternoon, and as I looked through my wallet, I was happy to see I only spent a little over half what I had brought with me. For two nights away, the trip was a success in my book. Yeah, I'd still like to start winning again, don't get me wrong, but for now, it was fun! And most of all, trips like the ones I enjoyed in Vermont and Atlantic City make me dream of the day in the not so distant future when we can all finally go back to not wearing masks ever again!  
 
 
Tuesday, October 20th
 
I suppose it's my fault. Forgot to actually send yesterday's blog entry out on social media so I might actually have people wishing me luck. Yeah, my gambling trip wasn't so hot, which means my now historic run of bad luck continues. Lovely. Back home now, and think I might take a nap. Wake me up when September 2021 ends.
 
 
Monday, October 19th

Good morning from Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New York. I get free rooms here (in return for gambling dollars I otherwise "donate"), so I'm usually here once a year at least. Because of the pandemic, I haven't been here since February of 2019, and it feels great to be back! I checked in yesterday evening at 4:30 or so, went back out to my car to pick up my bag and laptop, and then came upstairs. Have a nice view of the entire boardwalk and marina. Because Borgata is on the marina side of town, I usually ask for some nice marina views of the various swampy land nearby, but on this particular side of the hotel, you get some of that but also the entire ocean view too, with various casino hotels lined up along the boardwalk.

I wiped everything down when I got here too: every light switch, door and fridge handle, and water knob, plus the remote control and toilet flusher. I'm sure the staff do this too, especially lately, but I wasn't about to take any chances! I need this room to be a safe sanctuary in between visits to the casino floor or anywhere else.

I decided not to rush into any slot machine play last night, so I just gambled $10 while waiting for my dinner pickup, which I promptly won back. Yay, up 72 cents already! Then I ate up in my hotel room, got my second wind, watched the end of the weekend's golf live from Vegas, and then headed back down to the casino for reel this time (spelling intended). From about a quarter to 9 until a quarter to 11, I played maybe 30-40 different slot machines--plenty of hand sanitizer throughout this period--and ordered two rum and Cokes as I did. The drinks are free, and I usually give $1 per drink tip, but because of Covid and the mask requirement, I was happy to give each server $2 per drink instead. At the end of the two hours, I am thrilled to report I was up once again! This time only by 28 cents, but as I could have easily dropped hundreds in that time, it was 28 very happy cents, I assure you!

This morning, I got an egg sandwich and coffee downstairs, brought it up to my room and ate, and then opened up the laptop to type this out. Now, you're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now is happening now. Up next is a shower and change of clothes, and then back to the slot machines. Let's see how I do. Wish me luck!
 
 
Sunday, October 18th

Today marks 7 MONTHS in quarantine. What once looked like something that would last a week or two has stretched on for more than half a year already, with no end yet in sight.

This morning, I finished Between Heaven and Mirth by Fr. James Martin, SJ. I still need to post an update on all my books read. Hope to do that within the next week or so.

It's 10:21 AM right now, and I jumped online to post this entry before breakfast. After that, I'll pack up my things for Atlantic City, shave, shower, and brush my teeth, and then get ready for my 2.5 hour drive south. The weather should be very nice this weekend, but as I plan to hunker down in my hotel room most of the time anyway, I'm not concerned. Bringing my laptop and a couple new books, along with my soul's desire to just relax and enjoy myself for a couple of days. Winning a hefty amount of money would be nice too. Let's do this.
 
 
Friday, October 16th
 
Twenty-ninth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Danny, Lloyd, Heath, Andy, and me. Danny's settings on his computer at school had it set so he only saw the person speaking, which prompted a very funny moment. Since it was just him on one screen and Andy and me on another, he was understandably confused to see us start waving at different friends as they joined the Zoom while he was speaking. "Wait," he said. "Who are you waving at?" :) As usual, our topics included topics related to the pandemic: quarantining regulations, the inability to gather together for parties, travel desires and decisions, and mask wearing in public.

When the Zoom call ended, Andy and I ordered Chipotle through the app, and drove over to pick it up. At home, we watched more of the 5th season of Lucifer, which was released on August 21st. Yes, we're going through the season very slowly, mostly because we've been binging The West Wing still (my eighth or ninth time, Andy's first).

Tomorrow, I head to Atlantic City for two nights! Getting very excited now!
 
 
Thursday, October 15th

Imagine, if you will, a place in which you are not only encouraged to remove your face mask around other people, but where you are also happy to let them put their fingers in your mouth too. Well, today I went to such a place. Today, I drove to my dentist, where for the first time since quarantine began, I had to get medical care that required an in-person visit. Luckily, I got my physical checkup in February, so I'm good now until perhaps the spring of 2021 as far as that goes. Having my crown re-cemented, however, was another story.

They took my temperature upon entering, wore face guards and masks, and everything went as smoothly as you can imagine. My poor tooth, already subject to a root canal, cap, and crown, not to mention two appointments thus far to re-cement said crown into my mouth, will probably need to be replaced at some point, she warned me. My choices will be a bridge or an implant, and apparently because of my age, implant is the best way to go.

Oh, well. I'll jump off that bridge, er, implant, when I come to it.

Today is 16 years since my mom died. Thinking of her in a special way today.
 
 
Wednesday, October 14th

We've had two new visitors this week, one of them human. I won't get into the non-human visitor now, except to say he found one of the glue traps in the basement we put out to catch the crickets we get down there, and that's when we first spotted him ourselves. Not exactly fun to see, and sad to admit, he's the second such uninvited fatality we've had since the pandemic began. They did some major cleanup work at nearby Hempstead Lake State park a few months back, so maybe that's why there's been a sudden influx of, well, non-humans. (No, I'm not going to type the word, and no, I'm not talking about zombies here either, to be clear.)

The second visitor, the human one, was invited, as we had a scheduled annual checkup for our furnace. The guy was funny when he saw it. He said, "Ah, she's my old friend," he said upon seeing our quite ancient furnace in the basement. "We've been told not to let anyone convince us to replace it," I told the guy as I laughed. "Yeah," he said. "My motto is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

My crown is still off my head so to speak, and the delay is because I had to track down my dentist. When I spoke to the receptionist, she said my usual dentist, Dr. Grace, is on a one-year leave. I sighed and gave her an okay, but as she started to set up an appointment, I asked her to clarify. "Wait, she does still work there though, right?" "Hold on," she said, placing the phone up against her body though not so much that I couldn't still hear. "Does Dr. Grace still work here?" she asked. "No, she doesn't work here anymore," the man said. She then tried setting me up again and I had to stop her, saying I'd rather just look her up elsewhere first, and get back to them only if I couldn't.

I finally found her at a dental practice with her name on it in Bayside, NY, which is the last town you hit before crossing the Throgs Neck Bridge over to the Bronx. It's definitely less convenient, but I genuinely love and appreciate this doctor enough to make this kind of jump. As long as they take my insurance and she works there, that's where I'll go. So I now have an appointment for Thursday morning.

Last Friday, I decided to plan a quick getaway for myself. I booked myself for two nights at the Borgata hotel and casino in Atlantic City using a comp deal, meaning I only have to pay some taxes and fees but the room is free otherwise. I usually only do one night, but constantly get these deals for up to two nights free, so I decided if I'm going to drive down there anyway, and as long as I have all these vacation days I have to take this fall anyway, I may as well do two nights total this time.

With the pandemic still in full effect, I'll need to wear my mask in all public areas, of course, so I won't be visiting the gorgeous indoor pool and Jacuzzi area this trip (I could, it's open, but I don't want to). No buffets either, of course, so each meal I get will need to be something I pick up in one of the many quick-serve places on property which I can then bring back to my room. I could go to other properties or fast-food places in Atlantic City too to bring food back if I wanted to, but not sure if I'll feel like driving anywhere once I'm there. We'll see.

Of course, I'm looking forward to doing some gambling, but since I'm there for two nights, I'll probably plan to only wander into the casino at the least busy times late night and early morning, spending the rest of my time just relaxing in my luxurious hotel room. Anyway, if you couldn't already tell, I'm really looking forward to it! I'll bring you along with me too, of course.
 
 
Sunday, October 11th
 
I just knew. When I wrote the last sentence of yesterday's blog entry, something in the back of my head told me something not good would happen. As it turned out, there were three not goods, each one exponentially worse than the one before it. Actually, before all the other not goods, here was one that came before we even parked: we couldn't park. This particular area was so busy, parking was as impossible to find as you can imagine. Every semi-official spot was taken already when we arrived, and literally every side-of-the-road, not-in-a-ditch spot was taken too. We drove a couple miles on either side of where we spotted our friends, but were about to give up when we finally found a spot someone must have just pulled out of. The whole process took maybe 20 minutes, but it was a thoroughly annoying 20 minutes, I can promise you that.

The first not good, a very insignificant in comparison yet troubling not good to me, was learning just how out of shape I am that I was so very winded after only a small amount of hiking. I asked the guys ahead to stop and wait for me a couple of times, and felt both guilt and shame (self-inflicted as much as it was self-caused) each time. I really need to do something about my weight, and soon.

The second not good came on one of these breaks, when I realized part of my problem was that other than breakfast, it was now mid-afternoon and I might just need some energy to help propel me forward. I breathlessly opened up a protein bar, chewed some off, and a minute or so later, there was something other than bits of my protein bar swirling around in my mouth. It was something quite hard, in fact, and my heart sunk with dread as I realized what it must be. Spitting it out into my hand, I stared down at my crown, which I had only just gotten placed within the last two years. Fuck! So now I have to make an appointment ASAP and hope they can seal it back on again.

The third and clearly worst not good came some 10 minutes later. We had just scaled some large rocks and were taking another breather when it suddenly became clear one of our friends was in trouble. He said he was feeling very lightheaded, and this announcement was quickly followed by the horror of watching him begin wobbling unnaturally in place. I watched this in stunned stupidity (which is another way of saying I froze). What is happening, I thought, and then as one of our other friends rushed forward toward him, I did as well. He collapsed in our arms, but still scraped his chin up a bit on the ground as he did. It definitely could have been much worse had we not been there, but I'm still sad it happened at all. Some Gatorade and rest for him followed, along with other hikers stopping to check on him, but after a long break, we decided it was best to turn around, rather than hike ahead any further.

So yeah, NOT the fun day we had planned. Live and learn, however, and we certainly will all learn from this particular living. Andy sent me those promised photos, so I'll place them here:






 



 
Saturday, October 10th
 
BIG plans for today! Andy and I are joining a few of our friends for a (safe, socially distant) hike upstate today. We're doing a long hike that will take us several hours, so wish us luck! I look forward to telling you all about it, along with some great pictures, I'm sure, in the next blog entry.
 
 
Friday, October 9th
 
Today was my friend David's birthday, so I texted him around 10 AM to extend my best wishes, and we ended up chatting until almost 11:30, mostly about Covid and our experience, him in New Jersey and me on "the island" as he calls it. "How are things on the island?" he always asks.
 
Andy and I did our triweekly Costco visit this evening after work, because of plans I'll tell you about tomorrow. Friday night was much the same as Saturday afternoon is, so it was fine. Not very crowded at all, and it was good to get that done early. When we got back and put things away, we went out for Taco Bell, bringing it back and eating one burrito each before Zoom.

We planned our 28th weekly Zoom chat with friends for 8 PM after we got back. Participants this week, however, included only Andy and me.We were the only ones there, and after 5 or 6 minutes, decided to just close the meeting and have the rest of our dinner. Oh well. Thought we'd get some people who keep saying the 6 PM one is too early, but they didn't show for the 8 PM one either.
 
 
Tuesday, October 6th
 
On Saturday afternoon, another first. For months now, I've been craving Houlihan's, a restaurant chain that's down to only one location now on Long Island, some 35 minutes away from me in Farmingdale. I ordered online and then drove out by myself to pick it up, surprised to see how many people were so comfortable dining indoors.

On Sunday, our friend Mike Hoff made his second appearance at our house since Covid hit. The first was on--Sean goes back to check--April 21st, so five and a half months in between face to face visits--new record for our friendship! Countless other friends, meanwhile, we haven't even seen once since March--such is the year 2020.

I've been finishing my editing work on my friend Becky's book, and after a year of going through it, I'm finally almost done. I expect to be finished by Thursday, in fact. On Friday, I'm expecting to get more work from my freelance job, 1-800-Flowers, so that will keep me busy this weekend. After that, however, beyond my full-time job, I'll mostly just have prep work to do for my 2020 NaNoWriMo project. More on that in the weeks to follow!

It's about 10 PM now, so I'll stop there. Remind me to tell you about our upcoming trip to North Carolina. Lots more to share soon.
 
 
Saturday, October 3rd

I don't talk about current events on here a whole lot, simply because this is supposed to be a diary of my year in quarantine, but news broke yesterday that President Trump and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. This came right after we had already heard Communications Director Hope Hicks had tested positive and before we heard that two Republican senators and Kellyanne Conway tested positive as well. Testing positive does not necessarily mean you'll get seriously ill, but in Trump's case, he was very quickly hospitalized to receive comprehensive treatment at Walter Reed.

I bring this all up for two reasons: one to document the facts, the news as we've heard it, especially as it does relate to my entries here, but two, because I need to vent briefly or I think I'll explode.

This guy has mocked not just the virus itself but also the many people, myself included, who have been so worried about it this year. He has literally bullied people for wearing masks on many occasions, and more than 209,000 Americans are now dead because of this very real, very serious virus too. Am I surprised he and his fellow ignorant Republicans have tested positive? Not at all. Do I wish them ill? Not at all. Am I going to cry if they get terribly sick and die? Not at all. These people have proven they don't care about anyone or anything unless they have some stake in it. This is what they do. They care only about themselves. Now that the virus has found a home in their bodies, I hope they finally begin to realize how fucking serious this virus really is, and help the world get rid of it once and for all.
 
 
Friday, October 2nd

Twenty-seventh weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Tall Michael, Danny, Andy, and me.
 
 
Thursday, October 1st

Yeah, I can't believe it's October now either. Holy crap. Month 8. What even is this year? I tell myself all the time that this is a precious opportunity for growth and renewal, a chance to get more things done around my house, and an invitation to connect with the higher part of myself that has never been strangled by the day-to-day stress of commuting to a 9 to 5 job, but the truth is, it's taking its toll on me too. My weight has gone up, my bouts of lethargy have increased over time, and my hygiene upkeep habits are--how shall I put it?--far less frequent.

Two firsts for Andy and me yesterday, one small and one quite large. First, the small: we went to Panera Bread for the first time since Covid hit. Andy received a $3 coupon from T-Mobile, so we promptly drove over there and handed them $20 of our money that we weren't planning on giving them. Well, I gave them my money. Andy's coupon, my money. Good deal for him, really. And second, the quite large: I booked us a vacation for next year. I won't say where yet, only to mention it is 100% the kind of destination we'll need to get on an airplane for. I saw a deal online and snatched it up, booking us for a place in September next year, which I hope and pray will find the world in a far healthier place than it is right now (on multiple levels).
 
 
Monday, September 28th
 
Good morning! I have another Covid-related milestone to share with you today. On Saturday afternoon, we drove over to my niece Shannon's house for a scheduled visit with her, her husband, and their 3-month-old baby Timothée Timothy. We'd visited with them once before on July 12th, but it started raining on our way there. Uh-oh. In July, we were outdoors, and planned to do the same on Saturday. As we pulled up, the rain was mostly finished already, but it was still drizzling slightly. The front door opened, and there was Shannon holding Timothy, ready to invite us in.

We approached the house, both with our masks on, and as she asked us if we'd like to come inside, I looked at Andy to see what he thought. Though I lived for a week in Vermont with my sister Marilyn, brother Bill, and Bill's wife Tricia, this was our first time spending any unplanned time indoors with anyone else. We kept our masks on the entire two hours we were there, and certainly felt safe too, but it was still a significant step forward for us.

My niece Erin, recently married and recently pregnant since Covid started, came by too, so we got to see her for the first time since Christmas. Erin and I have spoken online and by phone, but it was so great to see her again in person! Visits like this makes me sad I'm not ready to hug anyone yet, but do hope to feel comfortable doing so again soon.

Andy and I each took turns holding Timmy before we left, so here are a few pictures from our visit:










 
Friday, September 25th
 
What are the odds I'll keep this every-other-day posting schedule up here in Part 2 of my quarantine blog? Yeah, probably not a very good chance.

So yesterday, on the first of my two scheduled days off, I went to Resorts World Casino near me in Queens, and gambled a bit. I lost too, but only less than two-thirds of what I brought with me to possibly lose, so in that way, it was a win. The same thing happened to me in MGM Springfield on September 6th, which now leads me to an insane question: how the hell has it only been two and a half weeks since I got back from Vermont?!

Today, I've mostly just relaxed at home, got some reading and writing done, and otherwise taken it easy. I ran the dishwasher this morning too, and set up the Zoom call with friends for this evening. It's 4:16 PM at the moment, and I'm waiting patiently for my brother Bill and sister-in-law Tricia to arrive, as they called me before to say they'd like to drop off some extra spaghetti sauce for us to enjoy. We'd talked about it in Vermont, and they could have easily not told me and waited for me to probably forget about the offer, but true to their word, they're driving it over right now.

We've been talking about doing a Burger King run, as Andy got some coupon for a free Whopper, and I've been pushing for a Houlihan's run for months now, but now with the sauce coming, we may just have spaghetti tonight and hold the other plans for later.

Tomorrow we're going to East Meadow to see my great nephew Timmy again (his parents Shannon and Frank will probably be there too).

As the colder weather will soon flow in, we've talked more about whether or not we should finally just have a friend or two over at a time indoors this fall and winter. If so, they'd be by the front of the house and we'd be in the dining room. Feels wrong to be so close yet so far apart, but we'd like to at least attempt as many in-person gatherings as we can manage for the sake of not starving ourselves of all human connection. Judy has said we'd be welcome over her place again in Long Beach, my sister Laura is planning to do an outdoor Thanksgiving celebration in her backyard, and my sister-in-law Trish has said we should come over by them sometime soon too.

Six months into this insane year of our lives, this is where we are. We feel much, much safer than we did in March and April, but there continues to be this peripheral madness, not helped at all by the rhetoric of a hate-filled dictatorial leader and his minions. God willing, come November and the months to follow, this country and our world will grow to be a much friendlier, lovelier place again.

Billy just handed me the sauce: he in his mask and I in mine, despite the fact we lived together for a week in Vermont. This is reality right now. Better safe than sorry, and the safety is for the other as much as it is for ourselves.

I want to just add here that after six months, we're retreating in a way back into our homes and sweatpants just as we did in March. Though a warm, beautiful summer blessed us in between, the cooler weather coming back again means our Covid outfits of pajama pants or sweatpants and sweatshirts are back out of storage and our plans to nestle into our home's nest for the winter are already in full swing now, even though it's still only the 25th of September.
 
Some other Covid-era habits are still the same for me, incidentally. I watch every John Patrick Shanley video on Twitter and every Leslie Allen Jordan video on Instagram. We lost Nick Cordero this summer, so the saga of hopes and prayers that he'd wake up and recover is already a sad but distant memory, yet every time we hear a celebrity has died, we scan the headline and article to see if a Covid diagnosis was involved. This is where we are right now. Not so much living in fear as we are living with sadness and stress, with no easy fix but to ride this out till it's gone.

Twenty-sixth weekly Zoom chat with friends. Participants this week included Tall Michael, Hoff, Andy, and me.

After the Zoom, Andy and I drove to Burger King in Valley Stream. The line of cars was out the parking lot and onto the street, so we drove around them and parked in the shopping center lot a little further up. We were both shocked by how many people were flooding two eateries in that lot. While social distancing and masks are still in effect, it seemed like far too many people are far too eager to be around far too many people.
 
 
Wednesday, September 23rd
 
Today is my Friday, as I'm taking off tomorrow and Friday. I earned this motherforker too, not just because of all the work I put in the past five to six months as the only proofreader on staff at my job, but also because as of today, I'm finished editing my friend Becky's book. I'll be going through it very quickly one more time, just to proofread my proofreading basically, but the harder work of editing is now complete. Whew! 281 pages of hardcore editing work was no easy task, I assure you. She's only paying me per chapter, and not a lot either, but I'm invested in the profits as well, so I'm hoping and praying the book is a success. Feel free to hope and pray along with me on this!

7:33 PM now as I write this part, and we just had our fourth human visitor in the house since March. Previously, we've had our friends Tall Michael, Heath, and Danny in here, all one at a time when getting drinks at the bar to bring outside, or in Danny's case while repairing our sink faucet, upstairs toilet, and bedroom ceiling fan at different times. On this occasion, we welcomed our first stranger to the house, a repairman for HomeServe. Since the heat wasn't going on earlier this week when we tried it, we knew we needed outside help. We thought he might have to reset the pilot light in the boiler, but it turns out our thermostat in the dining room was the culprit. We already had a service contract with them, so he replaced the unit for us free of charge. Annoying sitting in your own living room wearing a mask, but he was in and out within 20 minutes or so, so no big deal at all.
 
 
Monday, September 21st
 
Welcome to Part 2! The other blog entry had gotten very long, so since we hit the six months of quarantine mark on Friday, I felt it was a good time to start a new entry here.
A few minutes after we ended the Zoom session with our friends, the news broke that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. I must have said "oh my God" at least four times before I was able to share the terrible news with Andy. I was shocked and deflated, and Andy knew something very bad had happened. The ensuing hours were filled with TV news watching as tributes and commentary poured in. There was a sense of profound sadness and sickness over this news, but something else began to reveal itself too: determined passion to fight and take down Trump and the Republican Party that has so soullessly supported him. The good Republicans have been silent, so they are of no use to me anymore. The party has been hijacked by a tyrant and he has surrounded himself by some truly evil people, some of whom, like Mitch McConnell, have been hurting this country for far too long already. Justice Ginsburg's last wishes were that her replacement would be named by the winner of this election. If that is Trump, so be it. He and the Republicans have no right pushing a judge through so late in the game though, and they should be ashamed to even suggest it's moral to do so.

On Saturday, Andy and I made our triweekly visit to Costco in Oceanside. Nothing much to speak of from this trip, except that I was determined to not buy any more chips, popcorn, or hummus. We already had some from our previous trip anyway, plus I really, really need to get my body back in better shape.

To that end, as I've already discussed with Andy, I need some kind of home exercise equipment. These last six months have taught me that I simply do not go out walking nearly enough, and as the elliptical and treadmill at my company's gym have always proven amazing assets to my physical and mental health, I need to buy one for our house. I pushed him for an elliptical at first, but soon realized he prefers the idea of a treadmill more, so I was happy to compromise. I'll keep researching brands and models this week, and hopefully order one ASAP.

On Saturday night, Andy and I drove over to Judy and Vincent's in Long Beach, with my cousin Pauline joining us as well. As we did last time on August 7th, we sat on her downstairs outdoor patio, a safe, socially distance apart, enjoying wine, delicious food, and some even more delicious conversation.

Laurie invited us to a planned outdoor Thanksgiving celebration in her backyard this November, but Andy and I decided we'd rather not. She's planning to have a big tent and some great outdoor heaters, and we certainly commend her for the effort and thoughtfulness, but we just don't feel comfortable. An enclosed tent area is one thing, but without assurances of being six or more feet apart from everyone, we just don't want to have to stress it at all. We might stop by for a drink or to say hello to everyone, and may do the same at Andy's aunt's house, but we're fine just staying in that day.

I'm making great progress on my friend Rebecca's book lately, and hope to be done with it by October. My friend Tina is looking for some self-publishing guidance too, so I have a Zoom scheduled with her for later this week.

I am taking off work this Thursday and Friday, and planning to make a quick, cheeky visit to Resorts World Casino in Queens on Thursday morning. If it feels unsafe or at all crowded, I'll leave right away. I'd just like to check it out and see what it's like.