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Pandemic Parking Lot

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 12.10.09 PM This is a friend’s view of the drive-through corona testing site for front-line workers here in San Francisco.

First, let me say I’m glad it’s there. Second, that’s a lot of cones. It looks like…an agility course?

“OK, so here’s the swab thing done and done. Now I’m gonna have you meet Bobby over there in the hazmat suit – I know he looks like everyone else but he’s the tall one  – and he’ll give you a bib with your number and kind of a map for how we want you to run through these cones.

Just don’t worry about your time on this one – we’re looking for accuracy more than speed this first run through. Watch out for the teeter-totter on the  turn. Lot of people trip up on that one. I know you probably have diminished lung capacity, but do your best and stay safe out there. Inhalers available at the finish line. And ambulances. For injuries. And pandemic-related symptoms.”

Not to make light of an evolving catastrophe. But that is a lot of cones for medical testing, isn’t it?

The Pandemic: Favored Nations

I don’t like to like things that many other people like, unless we are talking about donuts, so my pride and delight in New Zealand’s management of the COVID virus is tinged with jealousy that everyone else sees how excellent they are too. But I will get over it. Which must be a relief for them.

There are many refreshing factors in their response. First, I love to see a woman running things well. Second, in our current state of decline – irrationality, greed, and inhumane treatment of anyone who does not resemble the US’s corrupt, rich, male and white(ish) porcine leader – a rational and well-informed response to anything is soothing.

Third, efficient decision-making is an aphrodisiac, like standing in a white and crumb-less Danish kitchen:

“[New Zealand] shut its borders to foreigners March 19. Two days later, [Prime Minister Jacinda] Ardern delivered a televised address from her office…announcing a coronavirus response alert plan involving four stages, with a full lockdown being Level 4.

A group of influential leaders got on the phone with her the following day to urge moving to Level 4. “We were hugely worried about what was happening in Italy and Spain,” said one of them, Stephen Tindall, founder of the Warehouse, New Zealand’s largest retailer. “If we didn’t shut down quickly enough, the pain was going to go on for a very long time…It’s inevitable that we will have to shut down anyway, so we would rather it be sharp and short.”

On March23, a Monday, Ar­dern delivered another statement and gave the country 48 hours to prepare for a Level 4 lockdown.”

Their peak day of new cases totaled 89. So I guess that worked out.

Their health minister, considering himself an exception case to the quarantine – how American! – went to the beach, violating quarantine,  and in a shockingly reasonable and immediate response, was publicly criticized and demoted by the prime minister. Corruption, response. I have stars in my eyes.

(The same thing happened in another favorite country, Scotland. Consequences for wrong action? Can you even imagine?)

In the rest of the world and across history, women remain irritated at how poorly men are managing things without their input and leadership:

This week, some thoughts

Great, now they’re all in the same room: study links “climate change skepticism” to right-wing misogyny  and white nationalism. For having the lion’s share of power, white men sure seem to find a lot to be upset about. Might just be easier to sink that time and those resources into a solid therapist, but who am I to make suggestions?

Sex and Prosperity: “Women’s freedom is central to making our societies more prosperous, more equal and more environmentally sustainable.”

Related: it’s ironic that it’s the same people (conservative white men) who are against women’s access to abortion and birth control (see: global gag rule, abortion bans), and are racists paranoid about “white replacement.” Since restricting access to fertility management disproportionately affects non-white women, that means more non-white babies, no? I mean, obviously, thinking things through to their logical end point isn’t a strong suit of the reactive right, but for the sake of consistency, it really feels like they should pick misogyny OR racism. White male privilege, I guess, to support two morally repugnant, indefensible positions that also contradict each other.

Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 9.12.59 AMLife goals: Maid of honor wears T-Rex costume after being told she could wear ‘anything.’

I don’t know Kate Lewis at Hearst Magazines, but I am now a fan: 100% going to try her to-do list hack.

Worth a reminder every once in a while: How to Complain.




Me: I can’t get a handle on all this – it’s too much.

Also me: Immuna take this stack of papers and notebooks and devices to a one-hour gymnastics class for nine-year-olds where there are only straight chairs, no surfaces, and incessant noise. That’ll get it all squared away.

This Week, some thoughts

Leslie Jones is leaving SNL, much to my dismay.

This kid is defying physics on his skateboard. What just happened??

Procrastination solved. Well, defined, and that’s halfway there. (Spoiler: as with so many things – annoyingly – it’s your unresolved, displaced feelings, not a lack of discipline.)

I have always said things like, “One might…” and, “Alas…” and been looked at like a specimen for it, but now there’s reason for me to resort to authoritative, old-school third person: a couple of studies suggest that talking to yourself or describing a quarrel in the third person yields better outcomes. 

Thoughtful, brief takedown of meditation and mindfulness as a cure-all. With which I incidentally agree. (And so does Alain de Botton, although he doesn’t really come out and say it.)

And finally a reminder from Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, which I’ve just now seen at SFMOMA for the first time:





Explain Like I’m Five

The United States’ national healthcare plan that was just upheld almost in its entirety by the Supreme Court, explained like you’re five. Or just not a loophole-minded politician. Have at it.

Captain Therapy

CaptainAmerica.jpgHeading to the car after seeing Captain America:

Me: Did you read Captain America?
R: No.
Me: Why not?
R: He didn’t have any superpowers or gadgets or anything. A shield, I guess…
Me: He does too: he’s almost bionic. And Batman didn’t have any powers.
R: Yeah, but he was dark and twisty.
Me: So his superpower was Most Fucked Up?
R: Yeah.

Stair Living

stair-diagram.jpgThe Stairmaster is beyond me. Climbing stairs endlessly is like Sisyphus and his hill and who needs more of that in their lives when there are taxes to be done every year not to mention having to cut your nails for the rest of your life?

I don’t understand the appeal of climbing endlessly and slowly. At least on a treadmill you’re moving quickly to get nowhere.

Well, if you’re doing it right anyway. Not like that lady who brings her magazine and sets the machine on, like, 1 mph with no slope. She has definitely spent at least $200 on her outfit though. And then there’s the trip to the grocery checkout for that fashion mag. And maybe she had to walk the gym bill from her car to the post box, so that counts for something. There’s a calorie burn in there somewhere. And she gets points for making me feel better about how hard I’m working, which is not nearly as hard as the girl next to me who must be bionic, really, because who goes that fast?

I’ve gotten off my point. My point is that I’ve stopped going to the gym.

Correction: I’ve stopped paying the gym for not going. I put my membership on hold. Why? Because now I live on a Stairmaster.

Yes, my least favorite gym machine has come into my everyday life. We live on the side of a hill at the top of a hill and the bottom of a hill. Well, really, the top and bottom of several hills. Welcome to Potrero Hill. The views are amazing, but holy God, the hills.

Our beloved former apartment was also in Potrero Hill but just on the edge, on the flat bit leading to other flat, reasonable neighborhoods. My calves will be happy to tell you how much we don’t live there anymore.

Our house is on the up side of the street: we’re perched on bed rock above the street rather than our lower across-the-street neighbors who are also on bedrock but whose front doors are at street level. One steep set of stairs up to our basement level then another set of stairs up to the front door. This is a wonderful set-up for carrying a baby, a stroller, groceries, mail and coffee.

(We have no garage for storing things like strollers: cutting one into the hill will cost, depending on who you ask $50K or $200K, which could be better spent on purchasing and staffing a litter for me and A. to get around. Stripey curtains please, if you’re thinking of springing for it.)

Our house is also the very last house on a half block of flat before a steep downhill slope. This means if I drop anything while unloading the car, it is going to roll away. Far away. Even things not generally considered roll-worthy will have a go at our hill. Why not? It might be their only chance at it. Look at the credit the wheel gets for advancing civilization. Why wouldn’t a square block or a flat book want to even up the score?

In the other direction, beyond the flat bit, we’re at the intersection of the bottom of two just-as-steep hills. There is literally nowhere to go but up.

But let’s get back to the stairs. In some previous owner’s wisdom – or significant budgetary constraints – when they added the living room and our giant upstairs bedroom above it onto the house, they thought it’d be brilliant to use the space under the new stairs for a small bathroom. Excellent. Good. Unfortunately, they failed to put a bathroom on the second floor for the now-sleeping-upstairs residents.

You see where I’m going with this. Any trip to the bathroom from the bedroom involves fourteen stairs down and another fourteen (well, the same fourteen really) back up. In the middle of the night. It’s like a mini workout at 2AM. A very, very unwelcome workout at 2AM.

So as far as stairs are concerned, I’m sorted. Really. Don’t get me stairs for Christmas. I don’t really like them and now I have tons. They’re like tube socks. Or Carters underwear. Stop with the stairs already. Someone get me a slide. Or a human-sized version of that suction tube thing from at the bank drive-through. See, now that would be useful. Why didn’t we look for a place with one of those?

Modern Childhood

imaginary-friends_photo.jpgA friend told me this story about her friend’s six-year-old daughter.

A few months ago, the little girl picked her first imaginary friend and named him Charlie Macaroni. Her parents asked about Charlie regularly and got concerned when the little girl said that no matter how many times she rang him, Charlie wouldn’t return her calls. Not so much with the imaginary friend play dates apparently. The parents considered intervening in their daughter’s unsatisfactory friendship but decided her imaginary life was hers and she’d work it out.

A little while later, the little girl reported having a great time with her new imaginary friend Laura. “Excellent,” the parents thought. “A replacement for absent Charlie.”

“Who’s Laura?” they asked their daughter.

“She’s Charlie’s admin,” the little girl replied.

Well, if you can’t lunch with the boss, the secretary might be more fun anyway.

Here and There

moving_truck2.jpgYou know that phrase, “Keeping up with the Jonses”? Like, you’ve got your eye on the neighbors and are trying to, well, keep up? If they get an Audi, you need an Audi. If their kid goes to violin lessons, you’re off to the Stradivarius factory? (At which point you realize that you will also need a time machine or a billion dollars because there isn’t one and they haven’t made a violin since the 1720s and has been hijacked by a company that makes weird tunic-y clothing that you don’t want your kid wearing because how is that keeping up anyway unless you live on in a German suburb or a pricey commune?) You get the idea.

I don’t think my subconscious has really absorbed the metaphorical meaning of the phrase because my version of keeping up with the Jonses is apparently quite literally wanting to keep up with them. Like follow them around.

Here’s what: every time a neighbor moves, I feel like I should move.

It has nothing to do with where they’re moving to: the last examples I can think of were Dallas, Los Angeles and now our current neighbors are off to San Luis Obispo which was nice the one time I drove through there and spent $500 on an Apple Time Machine (because, apparently, a road trip to LA and seeing all that plastic surgery got me super worried about whether I had enough back-ups of my originals…?) but is in the middle of nowhere and just not my bag at all.

But I still feel left out. I feel like your puppy that whimpers at the door when you head to the car even if you’re going out to run a really boring errand. Why would these people want to go places if they aren’t better than here? It must be better than here. Something amazing must be going on where they’re going or they wouldn’t be going, right?

It doesn’t seem to matter that the “something amazing” might only be amazing to them and not me, like getting into a graduate program in a field I only care about only very slightly because I’m a nice person (rainforest monkey evolution) or pursuing a career opportunity I admire but would not want (portrait photographer) or moving to be closer to other people’s grandparents who would probably not be keen to babysit my child so I could go see Transformers 3 on a weeknight.

I don’t want to be left behind. Period. I’m kind of a joiner and I’m pretty competitive. I need to make sure the party I’m not at isn’t better than the party I am at.

I don’t want to get too into the psychology of it, but here’s what I think: when I was kid we moved and I hated where we moved to, so I’ve wanted to keep moving on ever since. Which is weird ’cause really if I’d have just stayed put in the first place and I’d have been happy, but some switch got flipped and I got hooked on, “Change is good!” It probably didn’t help that home life was kind of a wreck, so “elsewhere” was generally pretty attractive.

So travel I did and I moved around a lot for a few years. Turns out “there” is often just a different version of “here” as far as your head is concerned, so eventually I settled in New York, which worked out well, because “there” and “here” converge in New York. It was the perfect location for a here-and-there-r: I never felt bad coming home because New York itself was so great, and I never felt like the people who were leaving were really going anywhere better because where could be better than New York?

Then I got cocky and left myself, assuming I’d be back soon. That was eleven years ago. San Francisco isn’t bad – I definitely think it’s better than Dallas or LA – but I’m back to my puppy at the door behavior whenever anyone goes.

Of course the other part of the move envy is that I’ll miss the people who leave. If they were jerks, I’d probably wave from the porch, secretly snide. But our neighbors are great. Two little kids, helpful, willing to chat a bit on the sidewalk. It’s quiet without them and I’m sad to see them go.

Like a number of parents I’ve known, they’re going to where help is – multiple grandparents and siblings to assist with kid care – and maybe we’ll eventually do the same. I’m going to start working on getting all my grandparents and the siblings to move to Brooklyn so when we get there, we’ll be all set. That’s almost the same thing, right? Then everyone gets to move! Winners all around.