Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Canary in a Coal Mine

A coworker sent a viral video of a Brooklyn Hospital transporting bodies into a freezer semi-trailer truck and it was horrible.  Yes, the daily deceased need to come out of these hospitals and be transported in an efficient manner.   Regardless, it's a chilling reminder to be incredibly respectful of our bodies and time right now.   In the same night I had read that someone dies in New York every six minutes and assorted other terrifying statistics.  Long story short, along with our on-going symptoms we woke up in bad way.  I've had two official panic attacks in New York, where they take you to the hospital, in an ambulance.  It is super humiliating when you realize, oh shit, this is psychological.  Well you live, you learn.  At least the 2nd time I was able to hop out of the back, as the ambulance guys were familiar with attacks and equally understanding of my deep fear of the Brooklyn Hospital.   Now I spot them more easily .  Like the one that tried to come on early today.  Unfortunately both of us are having real shortness of breath due to what we have to believe is the virus.  It was feeling more like sharp pangs, as if a small child was resting on my chest while trying to choke me.

I have ancient Valium from a friend that I've kept for years just for this purpose.  We took one and P was nice enough to postpone his writing to sit with me and watch a Fixer Upper episode, the most un-stressful show possible.  Chip Gaines and his idiot antics was exactly what I needed.  A sense that life is stupid and normal again.  I was able to believe for a minute we weren't in something so scary.

I'm sure depending on the state you live in or your news intake, you're either not bothered at all or having similar days to mine or much worse about all of this.  But if we get a chance to look back on this time, I will say it's also filled with a lot of joy and much bigger waves of love for people then I've experienced in some time.  Love for family, for friends, for life.  People say if we get through this we'll have the biggest party celebration.  I hope for that too but even further, I hope all the proposed casualties are not lost in vain.  We've never in our lifetimes had a chance like this to collectively stop the hamster wheel in order to attempt a huge change.   I wrote about going feral, but instead maybe this is how we'll be able to deprogram, to come out of the fog we've put ourselves in.  It's a hope anyway.  You have to aim higher but I'll just be thrilled to come out alive and without loss.
Beef Enchilada with Corn Meal Mush

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

Written 4/26/20 
I'm loving the look of this stewed chicken and rice.  Tonight, a month later as I sit here eating peanut butter on apple slices, I'm taking a minute to look back on this last month.  I have a lot of questions.

Stewed Chicken & Rice with Sweet Potatoes

It may be the sickness because we're sure it killed off brain cells but is anyone else filled with questions right now?  I only have energy to list them but not enough to research answers.  Possibly without trying, the media, WHO and the WH task force has confused the bejesus out of me.  History is behind us and we're all learning from this experience but with that in mind...

Let's talk masks:  Many doctors and nurses and science people went on record saying homemade masks using bandanas, scarves and t-shirts don't do any good, therefore wearing one is useless.  But its a state issued requirement in NY that we do so (as of 4/17).  Actually, you're only required if you cannot maintain a 6ft social distance.  So first of all, most people can't get the N95 mask, and I thought they didn't want civilians hogging those anyway.  So, basically we're required to wear unprotected, protective wear.  And didn't they also say this virus stays in the air and floats?  Meaning you could walk by and ingest the pathogen up to 90 minutes later if an infected someone breathed in your path.    Therefore, I think everyone should wear masks always when out of their homes, period. 

Antibody Test: Today they're passing along all this information on antibody tests and seemingly going full steam ahead to get many tested for Corona.  But in the same day we also read that WHO has no faith that having antibodies protects you from getting sick again, even in the same season.  Even if you had the antibodies now it does not prove you're safe to rejoin the workforce nor that you have immunity.  Yet it sounds like plans are being considered to open up businesses based on these tests. 

Corona testing:  Both tests have been shown to give false negatives and positives enough to where we probably can't rely on their outcome to change any social distance behavior.  That's a big one. If the testing is so unreliable, how are we going to handle these results?  Are we tracking how often the information is incorrect or can we work with our doctors?  Too many variables and wouldn't you need to get tested every week until you basically got the damned thing?

Fault: I'm someone who likes to move forward but also understand who screwed up.  After all, this changed our entire lives, here in New York where so many people have died.  Did someone chose not to shut down weeks before we could have?  I am grateful for what the government has given us but in the end, we still might be up shit creek regarding work, insurance, food, almost every way you could imagine.  So this time, maybe somebody has to be accountable, financially speaking.
Pissed off guy

Media:  I think Trump is a despicable man.  But what is our media right now?  I can't even bother with the right but the left is no better.  If you know someone is an arrogant, self-centered, egotistical idiot then you as someone not that, need to find clever ways to get to the truth and keep your integrity.  Any news outlet that has allowed their own credibility to sink as low as Trump has lost and in doing so, we all lose.  And right now, it feels like no one is winning.

The Dead: What is happening with all the bodies?  That trench was relatively small compared to the numbers dying each day here in the city.  Where are they putting them?  Who is reporting on the stories of all the people dying in their homes alone who aren't being counted?  Hundreds a day for weeks and somehow there is no compelling story here but yet all the publications can regurgitate the exact same disinfectant ingesting embarrassment for a whole week?

Reopening:  If this virus doesn't die out, how could retail possibly operate the same again without major differences.  Protective gear...sure.  Masks, gloves, possibly eyewear but for example, does that shit land on your clothes?  Does this mean showering at work?  What about your hair?  I don't see how it can ever be the same.  And thermometer checks at the airports are a joke.  There is a big enough percent of virus carrying folks that have no fever and regardless,  they come and go.  It proves nothing.  Not good enough!

So many questions!  Isn't your heart breaking for America right now?  Mine is.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hey (COVID) 19, No We Can't Dance Together

My 96 year old dad microwaves sweet potatoes and eats them for breakfast out in Tucson, as a supplement to the big breakfast burritos my nephew-in-law makes him. I love that he keeps a good appetite.  Sweet Potatoes are such a great Pandemic Pantry idea.  I baked off a couple giants ones to stuff and reheat the next day.  But seeing pics of my dad recovering from a recent cough in the thick of this pandemic, looking so optimistic, peeling these sweet orange Vitamin filled potatoes, made me so grateful and full of love, that I had to eat one quickly to share in the moment from way over here in Brooklyn.
I mashed the pulp in a pan with a pat of butter, a little almond milk, cinnamon, seeds & nuts, honey and for crunch I crumbled up a Nature bar.  Food during this quarantine tastes different, it feels more purposeful.  The fact that my dad is healing and keeping himself going gives me inspiration to stay focused on remaining healthy in mind and body during this time.

My dad sporting his new eyeglasses and feeling good!

With Your Feet On the Air and Your Head On the Ground

Yesterday, as I drowned out my daily concerns by listening to David Attenborough describe the soothing daily life of penguins, I did that thing.  You know, that thing when you look at your phone news feed in the middle of the day, even though you promised yourself once in the morning and once a night is best. The headlines read something like: Breaking News! - Trump To Issue Draconian Measures for NYC.  In my mind there was an exclamation mark.  I hurriedly go to the video clip.  It's Trump outside, looking pretty casual, stating matter-of-fact-ly, he may issue a 'quarantine' for all of New York City, parts of Jersey, maybe Connecticut, maybe.  He doesn't know, maybe needed, maybe.  That he may announce it later on today. That he hopes he won't have to, but he might.   At this point, I feel we should demand an interpreter travel with this man.  What the hell is he talking about! Even in my head I sound frantic.  And why does it sound like he's threatening us?  But wait, I consider, we already are in a state-wide shelter in place mandate, many are in real quarantines....  Before I can go further he continues, They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers going down... don’t want that... heavily infected.”  His exact words, as always broken up, unclear. 

I rush to put this through my Trump decoder ring.  I repeat the video, try to piece together a sentence.  And in the end, I agree, New Yorkers should not be traveling to Florida right now unless we're able to test beforehand.  That is one thing.  But a lock down, travel ban on our biggest city?! People are going to go apeshit.  Oh shit, this isn't good, I say to myself as the reality starts to sink in.

Now, some of you living in New York City or L.A. have a common paranoid scenario fire storm forming in the back of your mind these days.  Every now and then you'll throw another fear on it, usually in the form of a what if.   What if the food markets close down. They go on and on and we must minimize unnecessary creation of these little logs.  But one of my biggest what ifs, is what if they restrict us from leaving the city?  Thank goodness, that I was late in hearing the news and Trump in the next hour would clarify, as much as he is capable, on Twitter what he actually meant to say.  Or more likely, after someone told him, he can't do that.  But not before many of us caught a heart attack and started into panic mode. 

Leftover birthday beef enchilada for dinner helped to calm the nerves. Also, one of my favorites, salsa over rice.  

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Let's Face the Music and Dance

Birthday Beef Enchiladas
P turned 57 in quarantine.  Due to the fact that life will never be the same, and jobs are uncertain, he received zero presents.  The days before I felt under the weather and super fatigued.  I told my friend it felt like they sprayed stupid powder in the air.  I was having trouble forming thoughts.  The plan was to order delivery and try to make some fun out of lemons.  Then on the actual day, I had better energy but realized P was looking a little green around the gills.  We handle sickness entirely different.  His method is to deny, deny, deny until he can no longer, and then he'll tell me every five seconds, Wow, I'm super congested, Dang, I must be really sick, Oh man, I can't believe I feel this terrible as if it was of national concern.   I, of course, saw us both worsening days before but it was gradual, so it was no surprise to me that he woke feeling ill.  On the other hand, I approach my body like a teenage boy with his car, losing it if I see the slightest ding. I'm always hyper aware of any quirk, odd sound or jerk.  I need to understand what is happening and daily maintenance checks are required.  I would complain but P has such an uneasiness with weakness and is thE worst comforter.  Sometimes I think I'd rather bleed out alone in the corner before trying to get sympathy from that man.  Of course he has other attributes and when can I think of them, I'll surely write them down for ya.
I'm not the warmest person either but I did ask if he could have anything for his birthday dinner, what would it be and he picked enchiladas.  I didn't grow up eating baked enchiladas like this but instead they were rolled straight out of the sauce with cold cheese and onions, which is the best way but this is no slouch.  Seasoned ground beef, onion and cheese inside and baked.  This isn't anything new of course, your Aunt Bitty probably makes them but if you get that sauce special, that makes the difference.  Also, your choice of cheese can change the flavor mood quite a bit, depending on the spice of your sauce but it's mostly a personal preference.  The only musts here are iceberg lettuce and raw onion.  I topped these with canned black olives.

Views On the Road Beef Enchilada Recipe
After you get your sauce perfect the only other hardship is softening all the corn tortillas in hot oil. Don't cut calories by skipping this step and steaming but that does work if you must.  But don't, because so much flavor is lost.  Plus, you're not frying, just softening the tort.  But in doing that, it releases all this earthy corn flavor that is essential for the full experience, the whole enchilada if you will!  I'm telling you it's the difference between barbecue or boiled chicken.  You dredge in the sauce before filling and rolling each one.  It's a process that one could master.  I haven't.  You need to get that grandma vibe going, that women who tirelessly does all day for others while thinking nothing of herself.  That's what it takes to make the best tamales or enchiladas, anything you assemble with such intent to get the perfect proportions.
We actually played Scrabble like dweebs and spun records staying away from all doomsday scenarios and pandemic news.
When you're married to Nick Cartwright from Bonanza

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I've Been Walking Through the Middle of Nowhere

Sheet Pan Pesto Chicken Sausage

forward to 4:23 or watch the whole clip - The Misfits 
Quarantine life is a strange underworld of unknowns.  Every single piece of our days rearranged and replaced with blank sheets of paper.  We are in the same apartment but that is the only mainstay.  A purgatory of sorts, where we go next is unknown.  It could get better or much worse later, but right now we believe we're in some in-between of what used to be and what will be, which is true of any time but not usually this extreme, unless you're a meth addict.   There is every indication that it may never be the same.  We know we can't stay like this, but we're not able to begin anew.  We're holding on the tarmac of life.  Even considering the future in any logical way is ill advised.  Your mind wants to help for practical purposes, to navigate us safely through the next physical reality.  Like the best personal assistant with clipboard in hand saying, okay what's next, let's take a look down the road and make a plan.  But in quarantine and this particular time in history, you just can't.  You have to put the Do Not Disturb sign on and just live, like Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits.  So lost because she's newly free but without an understanding of another way to live.  And each moment is Clark Gable telling us to do what we like, when we like and how we like, encouraging us on to be free from definition and structure.  All of us in the world will be shacking up in our own country house and just living for the next month or so.  That is all we can do, that is all we should do, for now.  And now is all we ever have.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Downtimes Mixed With Days of Wonder

Many of us here in Brooklyn still have access to our corner store bodegas.  Almost unrecognizable at this point, most have turned from the stinky, old fruit and bad chips brand variety into amazing green vegetable markets, carrying impossibly diverse products as well as the finest, freshest produce. I've been sending the mule while I'm in quarantine to fetch goods but I wonder what we are doing to protect and accommodate the Central Americans and Mexicans working incredibly long hours in the most unprotected conditions?   Same for their mainly Asian counterparts working the cash registers to unending lines from early mornings into late at night.  They haven't changed their routine, this is always how hard they've worked but when you're not working and safe in your apartment, you consider them further.  We must protect our doctors and nurses, policeman and fire fighters first and foremost but in a time like this, those folks are in better shape if something bad should happen to them.  We rely on these hard workers equally in this time.  They may be uninsured, poorly paid and are taking the chance bringing this home to their families everyday.  They must work, in a worse way than say me and P, or my record store friends that may be out of jobs soon.  We're all in a pickle, but some more than others.
What's it been old friend, 25 years?  You taste as good as I remember.  Make the pandemic fun by eating foods you haven't gone near in years. 
In just the last days, we've noticed the Asians have taken to finally wearing masks but the produce guys are bare faced and gloveless, continually working in a very tight, super crowded space.  It would be impossible to carry out the six foot rule unless they begin a line system, which could be a good idea starting now.  I almost feel this is time to tip these workers, as you would and will the delivery take out guys to help supplement their income during this time and, you know, for freaking being awesome in time of crisis.

I've had a bag of greens go bad this week, so my choices are sturdier today.  Sweet potatoes, apples and cabbage instead of my regular avocado, tomatoes and cilantro that I would purchase in a normal world.

Charred bean & burger lettuce dogs
These are not burnt but got charred due to adding my leftover mashed Chipotle pinto beans to a lb of ground beef, chopped red bell pepper, garlic & onion. The sugars from the saucy beans provides the smoky char.   I fried them up into long tubes like hot dogs so it would be easier to eat on Romaine lettuce spoons.  I have a few left and the second portion I'm baking into a tiny meatloaf.  Flatten that curve and Stretch that food! 
Baked fries

Monday, March 23, 2020

You Are Everything, And Everything is You(Tube)

Ham & Potato Soup with added Edamame
When your entire world becomes 800 sq ft of living space, it gives you an incredible insight as to how mental illness can form.  Also, this quarantine block might give us the data needed to test just how long it truly does take for humans to go feral.  Its always fascinated me that the domestic pig only takes 2 weeks.  Best to keep the mind active.  Thankfully my lifelong paranoia has somewhat prepared me for this time.  It's all about the tools in your toolbox.  Books and movies are key but for many of us, our attention span has whittled down to the nub.   For that reason, I honor today the almighty, YouTube.  Probably the one social on-line site that gives back the most positive experience.

I'm no stranger to the benefits of You Tube, in fact it's saved me from myself in the last few years.  Its been so many things actually.  A way to watch my favorite artists perform, nightly television entertainment chopped into easily digestible bites.  It's been an on-line school, a place to find the best spiritual lectures, not to mention all the amazing podcasts.  Its been nothing short of a virtual soul asylum.

This week I have found that marathon watching skim-boarding videos can be the everything you need to bury fears and negative thought patterns from forming.  Youth at the height of their craft taking on waves of impossible proportion and killing it.  Subjects that always fascinated me but there was no time for, suddenly can be absorbed, like late night book cramming.  A college education from the most bizarre university of You.

Unless you have a super strong disposition, it's hard to completely stay off of a news feed right now.  We need to at least check in but afterwards, I recommend a minimum 30 minutes of straight funny animal videos.  Talking birds are good, especially the ones that curse.  Monkeys are always a safe choice.  Bear close calls are my personal favorite.  Cats being assholes, another solid winner.  Stay away from animal attacks, it's fun for a moment but I truly believe watching negative subject matter is just as bad for the environment as throwing trash on the ground.  But you have to get off the train at some point, so I advise rounding it out with a 10-minute trail cam capture.  I had no idea minks and weasels were just running around at night like that!

With the same enthusiasm as a child choosing penny-candy, at night I file through my feed making selections for the queue before I go full screen, sit back and let the fun begin.
 I transformed my leftover creamless ham and potato soup with edamame & sesame oil to give it some color and new bonus flavor.  Mine has an indecent amount of black pepper.  Gangsta rollin'!!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Great Depression Now is Spreading

Pandemic Potato and Ham Soup
Were you smart to buy a huge bag of potatoes for your pandemic party?  Turns out they last but not as long as you would think.  Lucky Brooklynites like me with corner vegetable markets buy produce as needed.  You get 3 potatoes and use them that day, so it's been a learning curve on when and how to use your vegetable stash before it goes bad.  This Ham Bone Soup with chunky potatoes took 1/2 of my small bag.

A long slow simmer with my recent baked ham-bone, an onion, garlic, celery, carrots, herbs, bay leaf and lots of pepper corns until all the meat is released and the fatty bits have flavored the broth.  No extra salt needed. You could blend up some of the potato with cream  and add corn to make a delicious chowder but I felt the clear broth was better to combat the bugs that I already felt trying to infiltrate our bodies.
There is a now an ongoing list on our chalkboard of the order in which fresh items need to be eaten, as well as leftovers.  This way nothing is wasted and you're assured you've been as smart and frugal as humanly possible.  It's not to that critical point yet, we still have all our markets open but when that surge hits, you should have some training behind you.  But separate to that, we should never waste food period.  I was raised by depression era parents and out of necessity they became experts at using up all the bits.  I've kept that going in my kitchen.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Her Face at First Just Ghostly, Turned a Whiter Shade of Pale

Chipotle BBQ Glazed Ham
I decided to make a Chipotle BBQ sauce for my ham that I would bake and glaze.  This little guy was going to become several meals as we were officially quarantined this week. 
BBQ sauce:
- 1 can of La Morena Chipotle sauce
- Dijon mustard
- vinegar
- honey
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 Chipotle peppers, smashed
- cayenne, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin. garlic and onion powder
As I'm sure is true for many, I'm working overtime to keep fear out of my thoughts.  In a demented twist on nostalgia, I considered what scared me just a week ago before all of this Coronavirus broke so strongly in our realities. I remember riding into work for an early morning shift last Wednesday.  Music plays through speakers on the outside of our store, which is an interesting way to enter a retail environment, to ride up to songs like a mist in the air.  I was locking up my bike while the opening to Whiter Shade of Pale began.  Suddenly I was crippled with sadness out of the blue at hearing those opening notes.  There was nothing particularly wrong that day, nothing in comparison to today anyway.  There's always problems, family issues, people sick or fighting.  Instead somehow that opening verse sounded like the culmination of all my past suffering.  Why, I'm not sure.  How, I don't know.
So many fears can come right now, if you let them.  These are valid and certainly need no explanation.  But just like the sadness of the past, the fears of the future do not serve us.  I'll never question their power but I've stopped inviting them to my parties so to speak.  In this little experiment, understanding that they can feel equal based on nothing or a whole lot of something, helps me to remember that they are only thoughts. 
Even though it's hauntingly beautiful, I've never even understood this song at all.  I'm sure it was the darkest song I heard as a young girl in the dreary gray Midwestern factory town of the late 60s when it played non-stop on AM radio but how can it have that same effect today?  
Breakfast Burrito
Ham baking in the oven with a BBQ sauce glaze is the least depressing smell ever and I doubt it will ever lose it's appeal.   

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Looks Like We've Finally Reached the Turning Point

In a nervous bout of over-thinking, I became fearful of not having 'good food' for awhile so I ran out and got ingredients for a deeply satisfying Hunter's Chicken today.  Realizing I was in a very crowded tiny market, I rushed to get out of there and then scolded myself for not being more cognizant of my surroundings.  Taking a solo walk, which I thought was no big deal, became strange when even avoiding close proximity is impossible with our population.  Many people were running and walking their dogs, individually but like me, probably thought it would be okay, what difference could 1 person make?  The dog's gotta poop right?  But the six foot rule sort of became awkward to keep in place.  Methods are changing daily.  My buddy Josh had mentioned in passing the idea of possibly rationing his food, like when would it be too early to consider doing this.  That stunned me.  So many new concerns but Yes, he's absolutely right! I thought.  We should be conserving, being mindful of what we're spending with cash, the items we buy in order to prepare for worst case scenarios. Not just stocking up but setting the pace now, to last the race.  Smaller portions, less meat, making things last.  I mean, if the grocery stores and bodegas closed tomorrow, are you truly prepared to last 3 months?  Two weeks is one thing but those of us with tiny freezers can only fit so much.  I have beans for days and rice.  We'll eat but not necessarily well.  That's an inconvenience, not a fear though.  Of course if the gas goes off, or some other necessity is taken from us like water, we're screwed unless you have tons of canned pre-cooked food, which we don't.
Hunter's Chicken 
It was a bit irresponsible to make this yesterday like all was well in the world but it's not like it was a rack of lamb or anything.  But starting tomorrow we'll be eating all leftovers and first in, first out rules will apply for the fridge.