Ice Cream Truck

Not a prompt response. Just a happy post about the Ice Cream Truck coming ’round my neighborhood this summer.


Last night, for the first time in all the years I’ve lived in my neighborhood, an Ice Cream Truck drove through our condo and apartment lined streets. Every summer I hear the telltale chirpy tune coming from the surrounding single-family neighborhoods, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear it in our corner of the city. In fact, it brought more people out onto their decks and balconies than the Seahawks winning the Superbowl or the fantastic lightning storm a few years ago.

The sound of the Ice Cream Truck may make some cringe, but it always makes me smile, remembering a couple of chilhood summer vacations.

When I was around 7/8/9 years old, my parents and friends of theirs went in on a 2-week southern CA beach rental (when I recall the time, I’ve thought it a weird thing to do since we lived just a few miles up the coast and relatively close to the beaches. Wish my folks were still around to ask why, but I digress).

Our time was primarily spent on the beach, but once a week, an Ice Cream Truck would come around, and no matter what our parents said we ought to be doing, we would vehemently protest. We had to wait for the Ice Cream Truck. Inside. Quietly, expectantly. And then, from a great distance (OK, probably only 3 or so blocks away), we would hear the music box broadcast of “A Bicycle Built for Two”.

We ran out to the street and jumped and shouted as if we were frantically waving down a fire truck to put out a fire. The driver was brilliant. Each time, he’d make us freak out that maybe he didn’t see us. “Oh! Sorry,” he’d joke, “I almost didn’t see you guys!”

My favorite ice cream choice, to this day, is the Drumstick, simply because it reminds me of that Ice Cream Truck. And, years later, a college roommate drove an Ice Cream Truck during the summer, always keeping at least one Drumstick on hand in case I came around on her route.

Just sayin’, if you don’t know what is an Ice Cream Drumstick, then you don’t know what you’ve been missing. 🙂

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #7: Do Whatcha Wanna

It’s a long list of back-logged prompts this time, both mine and UnOLWG’s:
I don’t want to; a town with no future; elegant or crude; a white gown; it’s “coo-pon”; are my seams straight?; community pool; cocktails; groovy; kick up your heels; a barroom in New Orleans; every week


Well, I’m fully vaccinated. It is not a fail-safe, I know, but I can’t stop feelin’ groovy, like strutting in a Mardi Gras parade behind a 2nd Line band blasting out “Do Whatcha Wanna”.

Parades aren’t allowed yet, so I instead celebrated with my first trip to the hair salon in 19 months. Kissed those long locks buh-bye and sent them on their way to being a wig for someone in need. The next treat was a meal inside a restaurant. Then, it will be a weekend road trip to see a dear friend and her new home. Every week, it is going to be something I haven’t done in the past 14 months.

I live on the other side of town from where the mass-vaccination site is set up, and I hadn’t been through downtown since the initial shelter-in-place order. At that time, it was every bit like driving through a ghost town. All that was missing was grass growing out of the cracks in sidewalks and trash drifting in the breeze. The shockingly eerie scene ignited the news media’s wild imagination, declaring the pandemic a harbinger of The End of City Life.

But driving through the city this time, regardless the continued restrictions, the downtown looked every bit back to normal. Crowds were out and about, traffic jams stifled every arterial, and lots of large “We’re Open!” signs plastered on storefronts. Though the past year unarguably demonstrates that an alternate universe is doable, people are nevertheless clamoring to get things back the way they were.

Take our condo complex’s pool. Last year we were not allowed to use it. I think it was overkill, but the county health department declared all community pools, public or private, closed. Whatever. Our residents didn’t care. They brought their beers and pitchers of Long Island Ice Tea to the patio to enjoy some appropriately distanced company in the summer’s sun. Hey, all it said was that the pool was closed. It didn’t say anything about sitting on the patio. An elegant solution to an absurd situation, if you ask me.

While the pandemic continues to lord over us, I expect we’ll continue to evaluate the pros and cons of conducting our lives “in-person” vs. “distanced”. At work, we occasionally discuss (in-person more and more these days) what “hybrid” presentations would look like for our programs. It’s funny to have to classify events, or give them terms. Imagine having to categorize a common event as, say, a wedding, as “in-person” or “hybrid” or “virtual”. It makes the assumption that events are always “in-person” feel strangely old-fashioned, like silk stockings with back seams.

Anyway, I don’t want to keep waxing philosophic. Suffice it to say that I will keep it smart and respect that the COVID-19 don’t care what any of us wants. I will, however, continue to climb out of the shell of 2020 to do whatever things we can get away with doing. Don’t need no coupons to incentivize me!

A Day Like Most Others

If it weren’t for the fact it was December 25th, the morning would be like most others this year: Home. Distanced. Alone. But, because it is not just another morning in 2020 but Christmas morning, I selected the “fireplace app” to play on the TV instead of the morning news program, and holiday music on the Mp3. I sat quietly with just the lights of my tree illuminating the room, drinking coffee laced with eggnog. When the time came, I packed up gifts and my annual offering of holiday cookies, then dressed in my Christmas sweater, poinsettia earrings, Santa Hat, and headed out to my sister’s.

As I neared her home, a sensation of feeling strangely normal came over me. It was a happy feeling, but just as a smile spread across my face, my throat tightened, and before I could take a deep breath, the tears exploded. Overwhelmed, and astonished by the rush of emotion, I pulled over to calm down.

I am proud how I’ve faced the challenge of the past year. But, as I tried to regain my composure, absently watching the traffic go by, I realized had not taken a single moment to acknowledge the anger and grief at being a hostage of this damned pandemic. Isolation and wariness of the physical proximity of others made doing something precedent, like going to my sister’s for Christmas, seem as though I was finally getting to embrace a long lost sweetheart.

I wiped my eyes and got back on the road. Once arrived at my sister’s, the absurd reality of this year came back into view and the memories of years past retreated into the outer edges of my mind.

Everyone was gathered in the front yard, well distanced from each other and masked. No one was allowed in the house, except its inhabitants. Each of us was given instruction how to access the bathroom, if needed, which was to walk around the side of the house to the back and use the powder room in the den downstairs (and to remember to leave the window in there open for ventilation). We left our gifts for each other on a folding table my brother-in-law centered in the middle of the yard. On another table in the driveway was a crockpot of piping hot chili (a significant downgrade from their usual huge and varied spread). We took turns opening our gifts while the rest of us ate our chili, remarking how glad we were for hot bowl of food against the near freezing temps.

As odd and awkward as the gathering was, it nevertheless had a festive vibe. People made jokes, shared stories and generally got caught up, just as we would typically do. Someone streamed a basketball game on their tablet, figuring out how to prop it up on the roof of their car in order for others to see. Everyone’s dogs romped and barked, giddy to be at their kind of party (outside, room to run without commandments to “sit!” or “lie down!” or the admonishment, “no! bad dog!”) A couple of the guys kicked a soccer ball back and forth in the street. Neighbors out for a walk stopped to say hello.

The cold eventually got to be too much. As a result, we agreed it was time to part, with a promise for a Zoom to be set up the following day to wish a Merry Christmas to the others not able to attend. I looked at my watch. I’d been there just under an hour. Shortest Christmas gathering, ever.

Back home, I did my best to keep the holiday spirit going. A nice nap on the couch while listening to holiday tunes, a little bit of reading, a couple of episodes of a favorite TV show while I ate dinner. Christmas night, in the hour or so just before bed, always felt something of a cross between an anticlimactic conclusion to a big production and a melancholy end to time well spent. This Christmas night was neither. It was just the end of another day, like the end to all the other days this year.

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #6: Meditative Rose

Salvador Dali “Meditative Rose”

Sure, this year has been miserable. I am prone to the philosophical in such circumstances, and this year, I find a few things to ponder, others to celebrate and a couple to embrace.

One: “May you live in interesting times,” will no longer be a clever thing people say if we become accustomed to unprecidence and absurdity from here on out. What will define surreality, or an alternate universe if we do? Fun to speculate in fantasy fiction, but not so much to actually have to live.

Two: Being forced to stay away from others in turn forced me to get close to myself. I am no longer put off by taking a look inward. But, I do wonder at the long-term effect of actively avoiding others, considering that we are moving ever closer to the 1-year mark with only the smallest of hope of relief in the near future. So, I’m establishing a Zoom Gather Night for friends and family. It feels more engaging than just a phone call, and certainly more immediate and connective than email or texts. And, I hope to broaden that circle with new acquaintances. How? Good question!

Three: Masks. At first, I hated the thing. It was the closest I ever want to know what it is like to be claustrophobic. Now? The other day I had to laugh when I realized I still had my mask on well after I’d returned home. I look forward to not having to wear one, but I am glad I finally adapted.

Four: I am tired of the phrase, “the new normal.” I have no issue with its helpful intent: Accept that change is sometimes permanent. But, in regards to this year? I hope human history will prove out once again, and that this is more like a shift in direction rather than a new set of standards.

Five: What do I like about this past year? Oh, boy. A lot! That shift in direction I just mentioned has nevertheless brought about several things I find useful and positive. One is the irrefutable proof that working from home is productive. Hopefully my employer will keep it an option. The other is creativity. Bottom line, it’s my favorite thing about this year. Being forced to think creatively coupled with the challenge of problem solving on the fly has done more for my sense of well being than anything I’ve ever tried to chase away the blues. Well, except maybe music, singing and dancing. That works pretty good, too. 🙂


The (2? 3?) UnOLWG prompts this week are: couldn’t hardly breathe; Oh Boy; I got tired.

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #5: Ten Days in September

It is said that it only takes ten days to two weeks to form a new habit or adapt to changed or different circumstances. I’ve been living a sound-proofed existence as a result of being completely shut-in for the past ten days due to hazardous wildfire smoke. The smoke now finally cleared, I reopened my windows, and it is as if I let the entire outside world come rushing in. I’d grown accustomed to my muted environment without realizing it. So much so, that I am astonished how novel and how loud the sound of bird song, falling rain, rustling leaves and cars driving by all seem. It’s as if I’ve entered a strange, noisy alien world. Hearing a person walk down the hill to the park across the street startled me, giving me a moment’s panic that someone was walking in my home.

I’ve not added a new chapter to my pandemic chronicle in recent months because I’ve been tongue-tied, or whatever the writerly term is. Not blocked. Just too agitated to express anything but frustration and anger. It’s why I don’t consider journaling therapeutic. Instead of a means of processing thoughts and feelings into some sort of positive result, I usually end up more anxious than when I began. So, I don’t write when I’m stressed. Well, that’s not entirely true. I don’t post what I write. There were 40 revisions to this post stewing in the Draft file since the first week in June.

I think what’s recently unbound me are two things: One, summer is my busy time at work but now that I’m in the home stretch with the end in sight and most of the work done, I’m less stressed and able to turn my attention elsewhere. Second, I have finally accepted the circumstances of the pandemic as the way things are and will be for a long while yet. I refuse to use the term “new normal,” because like all catchphrases, it is overused. Plus, I do believe there will be a time that we will return to “normal.” Yes, some things will not be as they once were as a result of this experience, but ultimately? We are social animals locked into generations of conditioning. While it may take just a couple of weeks to form a new habit, it would take eons to reprogram thousands of years of human nature.

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #4: A Silver Lining Between Two Angry Clouds

Since March 10th, the myriad of emotions and states of mind I’ve experienced exceed anything I’ve been through in a year. Maybe more. At first, I adapted fairly well to the stay at home order. But now, I’m stir crazy. I’m bored. I miss… so much. Variety. I miss variety in my days. While it’s hard to believe it’s been almost two months, I realize, because one day is exactly like the next, that that kind of monotony and solitude have the unreal ability of making time stand still.

I live near Seattle, and I work in the county to the north where the first COVID19 case in the U.S. was confirmed. It was a strange feeling to know I was living in the country’s first hotspot. At the time, everything was business as usual, which made it seem all the more strange, given the stories from China, Italy, South Korea and Spain. Then came our turn to shut down.

A really weird circumstance, but, honestly? It is not that dreadful. At the time, we thought it would only be a couple of weeks, three at most. To have two weeks to play at being the sought-after professional who makes their own rules and works from a home office? How fun! So, sure. Whatever. Let’s hunker down. Lets shop for groceries as if the snow storm of the decade is forecast. Make all our favorite meals and desserts. Step outside and take a deep breath and marvel at the empty streets. Anyone can make the best of things for a couple of weeks, especially if they aren’t actually homebound by 3-foot drifts of snow. Or, confronted with homeschooling. Or cooped up with a partner, spouse and restless children. Or laid off or furloughed. It’s the best of all worlds.

Then the mandates are extended and two weeks turns into a month, and then another month, and now, the end of May. Parks are closed. Events are cancelled. Shopping centers are shuttered. Businesses permanently close and jobs are lost so suddenly, it is as if all businesses were hit by a massive nuclear bomb. Masks go from being declared of no use to mandatory. Tempers rise. The conflict between life versus livelihood takes on a mythical, almost epic gravitas. Healthcare workers break corporate rules and speak out about the horror show they are living. The need is yesterday, but our bureaucracies are not built for crisis management. By the time the relief fund or the medical supplies are finally in someone’s hands, it is too little, and way too late.

Even a walk in your neighborhood is a stresser. Mine in the park across the street has become an irritating cross between a game of wack-a-mo and an obstacle course, as I weave and bob around people and dogs and blissfully unconscious children running this way and that. I dread a trip to the store and have taken up curbside pick up and home delivery.

So, the frightened and defiant stage protests. Leaders devolve into pissing matches. Politicians duke it out with scientists. Normally, this would be considered more of the same infuriating postering, but with what is actually at stake, these days it plays out as a clear and present danger. The stress of it all begins to dull and crack the gloss of your initial child’s play fantasy. It’s no longer a fun snow day.

All this came into play just after one of my family groups was bowled over by their own crisis. A relative, diagnosed in January with an aggressive cancer, was transported in an emergency air lift to an ICU unit the next state over just as all of this hit. For various non-covid, but legitimate reasons, their spouse could not leave home to be with them. Then all family is forced to stay away because of travel shutdown and fear of bringing the virus with them and infecting the others. The pressure and panic of it all proved too much. A very real, truly frightening meltdown took place. The whole thing a horrible and gut wrenching drama to have to witness, helplessly, from afar.

I appreciate the stories of people helping people during this universal crisis, pitching in where they can. But, to me, after all the emotions I’ve cycled through these past weeks, seeing people standing in doorways each night to applaud first responders, or leaving messages of encouragement with teddy bears in windows, or putting Christmas lights back up, or flying banners that read “We Got This!” seem naive and trite.

So, I take a deep breath and turn inward. I have to “fake it until I make it” in order to accept the audacity of hope that all will be fine, some day. I have to make myself smile: At that banner with words of encouragement, waving in the warm breeze. At the sign in the window made by a cheerful child’s hand in colorful crayon. At the odd sight in May of a lighted snowman and Santa Claus in the front lawn.

As I write this, I sit on my couch, gazing out the window, grateful that Mother Nature has awakened from her winter’s nap. A bright yellow daffodil, brilliant purple tulip and a sunny afternoon go a long way to lift a spirit.

I take another deep breath.

The phone rings with the call that my family member succumbed to their cancer, peacefully passing Sunday morning. There cannot be any gathering to honor their life, acknowledge their passing, nor bring comfort to the grieving.

(sigh).

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #3: Home, Sweet Home…needs a decorator!

Another unforeseen critical situation in all of this is the mass hysteria interior decorators must be going through. Have you seen the TV reporters broadcasting from their living rooms, kitchens and basements? I hope we aren’t actually getting a glimpse into their private lives, because, if so, many of these people are in dire need of some taste. However glad I am to see that IKEA has done as well as they have, I am at the same time mortified at the extreme state of unoriginality and lack of imagination. There might be a scourge worse than a virus for which there is not yet a vaccination: Color and Design Blindness, or CDB. I wrote my congress representative to insist a course in art appreciation be added to the Cares Act.


When I started this post, I was on a directive to work from home “as much as possible.” Shortly thereafter, while I was out running “essential” errands (read: picking up my prescriptions), I got a text that a co-worker and his wife tested positive. New directive: Quarantine for 2 weeks (btw…neither required hospitalization, and both are on their way back to health, recovering at home).

The news waxes on about people battling isolation, cabin fever, and chaos, as people try to figure out how to work from home while learning the hard way how to also be a homeschool educator. But there are people like me, now that I’m passed cabin fever, who are loving the new world order. You won’t see us on TV, though. We’re not about to solicit any sympathies. We are, firstly, healthy, still employed and not on the front lines in the hospitals, M.A.S.H. units or care centers. Next, we are single, no children, no one else who needs us to look after them, and under orders from our employer, our city and our state to shelter in place. Coronavirus is awful. Truly. I do not mean to be glib. But, my life at the moment? Not that bad.

The epitome of a lonely walk on a sunny day for me:

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #2: Hey, look! I have a can of clam chowder!

It’s pantry rummaging time. Not because I’m too scared to go out in public. I’m rummaging around my pantry because there is something that happens when a person is stricken with the onset of cabin fever. The hunting and foraging instinct kicked in yesterday at lunch along with a profound urge to nest within the safe confines of my home.


A moment of curious calm

I stood staring out a window, chatting with my manager on the phone as we tried to map out how this, however temporary, situation will have to work, when I spotted two small birds in a tree. What struck me was that the afternoon was pretty stormy with the wind pitching and swaying branches, but there they perched, unperturbed. They were every bit the picture of a comfortable couple gazing at the view from their back deck. All that was missing were a couple of tiny Adirondacks and itty-bitty glasses of wine.

I found the sight of those two birds very calming. These two sat on that branch, unmoving, staring off into the distance, for almost 10 minutes. The aggressive movement of the branches in the storm didn’t bother either of them. Not a single flutter. It is a scene that recalls a favorite quote:

Peace.
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. 
It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

The clam chowder I found in the back of my cupboard was fine for today’s lunch, but truthfully, I needed more provisions. So I ventured out for groceries. Just using the term, “ventured out,” in relationship to a routine trip to the grocery store is odd. I’ve been out and about every day this week, but only for short trips that did not involve being in the proximity of more than a couple of people at a time. A trip to the grocery seemed daunting.

I headed out with a full ration of patience, along with homemade hand sanitizer and latex gloves. Not surprisingly, I had to circle the parking lot several times before landing a spot. The cluster-f**k that ensued when 5 cars vied for 2 open spots would usually result in a lot of parking-lot road rage. Not so today. As a community, we are well aware we are in crisis-mode, so it seemed that I was not alone in bringing patience with me to the store. Every driver assessed their part in the do-si-do and maneuvered accordingly and expediently. It was the most neighborly thing I have ever witnessed.

The store was busy, but “normal” busy. The only difference were the empty shelves. It’s funny what people think is necessary to hord: Flour, eggs, butter, but not so much baking soda, yeast or salt. Frozen meals, of course, but only certain frozen meals. There’d been a run on plastic food storage bags, which seemed odd. And, I just have to say, all that broccoli is going to go bad in just a few days, so folks better eat up.

But Collard Greens? I had my pick! Mushrooms, too. Asparagus. Artichoke. Lettuce. Carrots. Radish. All that was left of the white onions were a few paper skins, but yellow and red onion and shallot were plenty to be had. Berries were picked over (pun intended), but plenty of apples and oranges. Fish, beef, nuts, tomatoes, juice, cheese, baked desserts too. What fascinated me was coffee. There was a lot of coffee. You’d think there’d be a run on coffee.

As I considered buying the half turkey breast from the rotisserie service (as all their chicken was sold out, like, all chicken. They were completely out of fresh chicken too), I heard a shopper curse under his breath that salami slices were sold out. The neighborly demonstration in the parking lot inspired me to pay it forward. I suggested he get a 1/4 lb. at the deli counter. Poor guy had to take a moment to process. He’d never considered the deli counter before. He smiled and thanked me. As I moved along to the check out, I heard him ask, “How much is a pound?” A pound?! Wow. He’s taking the lock down very seriously.

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #1: Letters from a shut-in

Yesterday at noon, the WA State Governor announced that all groups over 250 in our tri-county area are forbidden from gathering. He then hinted that schools will soon been closed (they did today, in the same tri-county area). A later email from a local school district further hinted an inevitable closure won’t be for weeks, but for months.

For me, it all started last Friday, when the mayor of the small town where I work announced that several city-owned buildings would close. As our office is in one of those buildings (and we are a city agency), we received a subsequent notice to work from home, “as much as possible.” Well, as much as everyone wanted to shout, “hell, yes!”, we abstained. When things get serious, it seems untoward to appear you are taking advantage. So most of us showed up the next day. Then the day after that we were sent home with the admonishment to only come into work if absolutely necessary. Before leaving the office we were also given an agreement to sign. Basically, a scouts’ honor to work all 8 hours a day.

The “work from home” edict is one thing, but an example of how urgent folks are getting about the recommendations to curtail spread of this virus is this: I was talking to one of my co-workers when we were interrupted by a senior manager to be conscious of the fact that we were standing “way” too close. We looked at each other and then assessed our distance. Probably 4 feet. Another co-worker brought out a measuring tape, sort of as a joke, and measured the distance. It was five feet 1 inch. We both took a step back. Six feet is a really weird distance to have to stand when one is having a comfortable conversation with another.

The one thing I’ve learned about working from home thus far is this: There is a lot that is accomplished in the consortium of co-workers that cannot possibly be accomplished when everyone is sent to sit in their respective corners with their backs to the room (so to speak). And then there is the plain weirdness of working from home. Home is where I hang out. Where I kick back. It is where—except for paying bills, routine chores and other homeowner headaches—I only do the things I enjoy doing. There’s no flopping on the couch for an hour’s nap after lunch, just because I can; as I do on weekends. Were my cat still around, I’d being having a heck of a time keeping her off the desk, or circling me, constantly meowing. And, I’ve discovered to my great frustration, my home desk and office chair are not designed for a full day’s toil at the laptop. OUCH! My back!!

I’ve also discovered my neighbor above me has a treadmill. She has always worked from home, but all this time we’ve been neighbors, I never knew she had a treadmill. On her breaks she jumps on that thing. And, that damn thing is loud! It’s like living under an earthquake. Funny, the things you discover when your circumstances change. I told her to go on with her treadmill. It’ll give me an excuse to go out on a walk to escape the noise!

Which brings me to this: Walking around your neighborhood is the healthiest/safest thing you can do these days. You don’t encounter a single nasty germ-infested surface; the world around you (unless it’s raining) is lovely; and it is not socially awkward to keep socially distant from others you pass by. However, it makes meeting the ebullient puppy-dog tricky.

Snow Day #2

Snowy park trail
The last snow day around here, photo taken on a park trail near my home.

The first snow day of the year is always about getting out for a walk in the winter wonderland. Because this sort of thing happens only every so often, it’s always a treat.

However, this time, because of the terrible cold (in the 20s and teens) and the high winds with gale-force gusts up to 50 mph, going outside for a lovely stroll was not recommended. The conditions prompted the first “frozen spray warning” I’ve ever heard in the weather forecast for those crazy enough to be out on a boat. When I took the trash/recycling out, the experience was the closest I want to know what it must be like to live in Alaska this time of year. So, I stayed inside watching movies, napping, puttering around with this and that, started a new novel, and watched another movie before calling it an early night.

Cars piled up on slippery downhill road
Even a little snow on the streets on my hill is an issue. (Photo from a twitter feed)

Day #2 is clear and sunny, and the wind is gone, but that’s about it. It’s still in the 20s; the sun only expected to warm things up to a relative balmy 35-degrees. There’s still no getting out of my hill-y neighborhood, as sanding our steep roads is not my city’s priority. It’s another day stuck indoors.

So, Day #2 will be about writing. Stay tuned. 😉