Thursday, May 7, 2020


It’s Day 51 since America went into lockdown mode. Or is it Day 52. Or 57? Beats me. Stopped counting weeks ago.

Some states are slowly re-opening, and people are venturing out of their houses again, but I’m 68. Folks my age — I read a news report the other day in which a 60-year-old victim of Covid-19 was referred to as “elderly” — are advised to continue self-quarantining and I intend to do just that. Sure, I’ll go to the supermarket each week for groceries and once a month, as I did yesterday, I’ll go to the ophthamologist to get a shot in my right eyeball that's needed to slow down the effects of macular degeneration. It’s pathetic that I actually look forward to having a needle inserted in my eye -- one of the few legitimate reasons I have to put on something other than gym shorts and a t-shirt and get out of the house. Yesterday, when the nurse took my temperature at the door, it registered 95.1. I think I may already be dead but I sure as hell haven't gone to heaven. 

I’m disgusted with myself because I haven’t done all the things I always swore I’d do if I only had the time. In fact, I haven’t done any of them.

For instance, I haven’t written the second chapter of my book. I wrote Chapter 1 a lifetime ago, on a two-hour flight in January, and told friends I’d write the rest of the book once my term on my HOA’s board of directors ended in March, but haven’t even attempted Chapter 2. I know what I want to say but my fingers don’t seem to be connected to my brain.

I haven’t cleaned out my closet, which is packed with stuff I no longer wear or want. I could get out the pressure washer and clean bird poop off the driveway. Oh, wait. I got it out in early April but never got around to connecting the hose to the spigot so I put it back. Too much trouble. I could also touch up the chipped paint on the door between the laundry room and the garage, wash and vacuum the cars, or prune the hibiscus bushes in the yard that need to be cut back. But I don’t. 

I keep getting emails from the food bank where I used to volunteer, saying they need extra help. It's heartbreaking. So many people, especially here in south Florida where the economy depends on tourists who have disappeared, have lost their jobs and can't feed their families. That's something I would definitely do, but the emails go on to say people my age should disregard the message and stay home. 

A week or so into the quarantine, I started to clean out a file cabinet. I made three piles — one of files to keep, one of files to toss, and one of files I’d decide about once I had emptied the cabinet, but was quickly overcome by the enormity of it all. Should I throw away the file containing the deed to the house we sold in 2013? What if the IRS were to audit our tax return and I needed it? A half hour after I started, I threw everything back into cabinet and watched another episode of 90-Day Fiance, a trashy show on TLC which, ironically, once stood for The Learning Channel. I’ve watched four seasons of this idiotic show since mid-March. If you hear I've started binge-watching other TLC shows like My 600 Lb. Life or Dr. Pimple Popper, please call the Florida Department of Mental Health and tell them to break the door down to get me out of here.

Last week I discovered Scrabble on Facebook and am so obsessed that I now play 10 hours a day. I can challenge strangers, Facebook friends (a shout-out to my loyal reader Mary W., the best player I've encountered), or a bot named Zoe who isn’t much of an opponent. Zoe has no strategy. She spells out Q-U-I-E-T for 14 points when she could have earned 62 points spelling Q-I -- every serious player knows it's the circulating life force that is the basis for much Chinese medicine and philosophy -- by placing the Q on a triple letter square abutting I’s on the right and below. Zoe and I play at least 20 games a day. I win every time and each time I finish a game I vow I’m going to shut off the damn computer and take the dogs for a walk. But I simply hit “rematch.” 

Though our dogs, Rupert and Russell, enjoy the exercise, walking them is no fun for me. It’s unnerving when someone wearing a face mask doesn’t merely step aside when you approach but actually crosses the street to avoid you, shooting you a look as though you are carrying the bubonic plague and are trying to infect them. Hey, I’m just a normal person like you, desperate to get out of the house.

I’ve read 20 or 25 or 30 books downloaded from my local library but can’t really recommend any of them, not that you would want to read them anyway. Most people prefer novels but I only read non-fiction. Truth is stranger than, you know, and the truth we are living through is something none of us could have envisioned two months ago.

Last week (or was it earlier this week?) my wife and I attended a lakeside cocktail party with two other couples, who correctly sat six feet apart. Each couple brought their own drinks and snacks. One friend, a sculptor, said that since the pandemic began she has sculpted a new piece out of stone, started another, cleaned her house top to bottom, and tackled many other ambitious and rewarding tasks I can’t even remember. 

I, on the other hand, have accomplished nothing, but in doing nothing have realized something about myself: I can’t do anything unless I am operating under a deadline. I spent my career in advertising, which is totally deadline-driven. No matter how far in advance a client assigned a project, I’d always wait until the day before it was due to start it, because I did my best work under pressure. Until this quarantine, I lived life on a schedule I measured in nano-seconds. Even routine chores, like taking out the trash or going to the dry cleaner, were scheduled between other tasks on a list of things I wanted or needed to get done that day. 

As it turns out, I’ve learned I do my only work under pressure, but that is going to have to change if this quarantine continues because I no longer have any schedules much less deadlines to adhere to, nor do I have any idea when (and I hesitate to say this but "if") life will return to normal. I have to do something useful or practical other than start season 5 of 90-Day Fiance lest my brain and/or body turns to mush. That's why today, after not posting a blog for more than a month, I wrote this. I am embarrassed to admit how long it took to write. 

This morning I also agreed to write a fund-raising letter for a charity run by friends. We had a Zoom meeting to discuss the project. They said there was no rush, but I said I had to have a deadline; otherwise it wouldn’t get done. They gave me until midnight tomorrow. I’ll get the letter to them then, but not a minute before. 
Zoe says it’s my turn to play.