Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Time Has Come to Be Gone

Cleaning up old posts.  I don't recall this day or time but I've always admired a well built homemade sandwich, this a BLT on wheat toast with avocado on the side.  It was June of last year, so what I know of that time was I was recently back to work, everything was on shaky ground, the city still felt so empty but  we were consumed with daily protests and marches that flooded the neighborhood.  We were experiencing exhilarating summer rain showers and I was suddenly texting with my sister T on a daily basis.  We were nowhere near coming out of the pandemic.  10 months later today, we see light in the tunnel. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Stay, Stay Away!

Cooking post-COVID requires more effort that doesn't seem to be in abundance right now.  I'm not taking it personally because the folks that i know that have fought the battle and returned are claiming the same.  One pot meals or this wok bowl are the doable kind.  Fresh tomatoes went in last with kale, Cannellini beans, cabbage and turkey kielbasa.  Just the clean flavors coming through. 
Retail is having a tough time too.  It's very changed, sad or scary depending on where you sit.  Brooklyn speaks its mind and due to limited resources I often feel I'm in an ungoverned town.  There are more confrontations that easily feel they could go dark quickly.  People are on edge, yet shopping? My coworkers yell at customers to put back on their mask or they'll call security regularly, loudly, angrily.  We're only letting in 25% of normal capacity but even that amount feels too much.  The bathroom sinks have caution tape to ensure 6 foot distance.  There are feet stenciled all over the floor to help.  Hand sanitizer is everywhere in bottles, and fixtures on the wall and giant stand alone units.  We're being fed for free and bottled water or canned drinks are limitless all day. That somehow instills the sense we're still in an emergency state, that things are not normal.   The store hours have changed and are now going to reduce down further.  A 3rd of the crew calls out on the regular, so no one does their own job, instead we're moved around like chess pieces and spread thin to barely get by each day.  Customers can't hear as well with these masks and now we're behind plexiglass, some wearing additional face shields over the masks.  Darting eyes are everywhere.  There is something so big in just that one detail.  Breathing into a mask for 8 hours, like a spaceman, hearing only your own breath, feeling so much more internal, using only your peepers to portray emotion.  You try not to touch or be touched and all of us have learned to do the step dance. Customers draw closer, we move back, careful not to get near another person as if we're all radioactive.  A very strange waltz.  And in my head I'm screaming 'stay away!'  

Monday, June 22, 2020

I Say High, You Say Low

Pork Quesadillas with Corn & Avocado salsa 
I'm super in love with this plate.  The pork and cheese quesadillas with the pickled onions and corn avocado salsa are my idea of a summer dish! 
This my 3rd week back to work and some of the bloom is off the rose so to speak.  It is amazing to see coworkers again, I stay grateful for the job.  I don't want to paint myself a victim or try to gain compassion but for the writing experience I feel compelled to share some of these retail stories.   Many times its therapeutic for me.  Admittedly too, I bring it to balance out some of the PC culture because on one hand we notice what we choose to but other times things happen outside of the media narrative and they are also true, convenient or not.  The world is messy and stories don't follow any political agenda.  

Coming back we have to remind customers right and left to pull up their masks while inside the store. There's a way to say it nicely and then there is the way some of my coworkers choose.  Because our staff is so diverse, I started to notice that the prejudices that blatantly existed before flowed out to this practice as well.  The Afro Rican colleague would harshly yell across the room at the Jewish people as if they were pooping on the floor.  Pull up your mask or I'll call security and have you thrown out!!!, my other coworker barks to Russian & Chinese families.  It seemed pretty hate filled from where I sat.  I'd love to film this, it's truly something horrible to witness. It's not white's yelling at blacks, this is New York so it's immigrant against immigrant and there is no hiding their glaring disdain for each other. I was shocked being back in this environment again. It's not natural to be this mean.   But the Puerto Rican woman helped a black couple moments later, even stood less than 6 feet from them and carefully explained the selling process without uttering one word about their improper masks, slouched down below their chins.  It was all sunshine and roses and kindness she only pulls out for selected groups.  And I only mention her ethnicity in order to imagine if she were white.  How today I'd most certainly feel obligated to report her and would get no objections, I might even be considered a hero.  But this is not that, but just as bad. I've learned to shut up and remove myself as the best possible outcome to these scenarios.  It's not right but there is no way I'm teaching a 50 something bully anything.

I work with a girl with Aspergers as I've mentioned before.  We've worked together for several years and I love her dearly.  I love her.  She's often not thrilled with me.  Says I remind her of her mother that she despises.  I push all of her buttons, never intentionally.  When she speaks to me she always says my first and last name loudly, I believe it's her way of keeping me at a distance emotionally.  She can be very sweet and giving but she can turn around and be quite horrible.  She has felt comfortable enough to bully me pretty strongly on occasion.  Embarrassing things, in front of customers I won't go into but I take it, usually because I feel it would be cruel to be confrontational.  She deserves it and I'm not always cool but I try to be.  The other day she said some pretty mean stuff and I called her on it because I feel less tolerant post COVID, but in a polite way so she would have to own it but not be ashamed.  She immediately felt bad and apologized a couple of times. One of the new girls who probably wonders what the hell also said something to her.  She held onto the guilt for a couple of days until I think she somehow became upset with me again.  This bizarre relationship has gone on for years because I work in an ungoverned department.  No one ever gets called on their bullshit because our store culture is to fight your own battles, work it out, in these giant windowless cell blocks.  I'm fine with that except for when I can't.  So, this girl who is really a 40 something year old woman, says to me she'd trade me her day shift for my night because she still felt so bad.  With an exaggerated evil grin, out of an 80s horror movie she made this suspicious offer.  I hate working nights so of course I jump at the chance. We sign the paperwork and get the approvals.  When it's all locked in she jumps up and down and says, Oh and by the way, you have to go work in the warehouse for 3 hours before the store opens that morning knowing full well that I've been out with a bad back.  She started laughing like a troll who just pulled off an evil trick, which she did I suppose.  She hates physical work and must have learned the early shifters were being asked to help out downstairs so this was her revenge.  It's certainly not the worst thing she's done to me but coming back and experiencing all this old bad behavior again fresh,  I just don't know where to put all of this reality that doesn't easily fit into the two distinct piles created by the world right now.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

When No One Cares But You

This was one of those weeks when I juggled a few ideas at a time and reused and interchanged items.  In other words, I worked and reworked leftovers.  Looking back on this now, I see the error of my dietary ways.   This was a pulled pork and Pepper Jack cheese quesadilla with a baked chicken thigh over brown rice.  Today I would say pick one or the other and double the salad, porky!  But appetite levels have fluctuated post COVID and P has been hungry for the first time in months and months where he will serve himself seconds.  I'm always hungry even when I'm nauseous, which I know is just plain weird.  More than likely this was an afterwork rush job and there was no time to think but another idea would be to take the quesadilla and cut it into wedges to serve as the appetizer to share beforehand.  That would have made it into a balanced dinner.  All great ideas that no one cares about but me.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Walking on the Sidewalk, Hotter Than a Matchhead

Potapas!  My dream Sweet Potato tortilla that I can eat without headaches!
I love making summer foods like these pulled pork tacos with a cool salad and lots of fresh toppings.  This might be one of the only normal things about this particular summer.  I'm sure it will go down as the most odd.  Wearing masks in the extreme heat, still not able to really do much, no indoor dining, or movie theaters.  The beaches are at capacity by 9:30am.  I've spent no time with friends and barely leave the house except to go back and forth from work because it's so hot.  News bites have become too big a part of my daily life.  You can start to believe the pictures they paint.  Another missing comfort is daily texting from multiple people, a check in of sorts. At first during the Pandemic, everyone was keeping in touch and now it seems it's dropped off a bit.  Each is dealing with their own isolation reality.  There is less to say because we're experiencing less, although reading more which is a plus.  And crime is way up in the city.  Crazy things are taking place.  Dead bodies on top of McDonald's, decapitated heads in a high rise, a 1 year old was shot up, horrible images.  At first I thought we were hearing these stories to prove we need cops but now I'm not so sure.  Wretched things happen everyday in New York that somehow don't come to light.  I realized that one day when I mistakenly added the NY1 News app to my phone.  If you read each alert, you would surely live your ass in a state of deep fear.   But I also feel a slight shift happening on the streets even in my limited view.  People are certainly driving more hostile, angry, less patient.  Less cops also have made laws more interpretive.  Cars are running red lights like bikes, slowing instead of full stops at stop signs.  Normally, the youth would be in their skimpy clothes, the mating ritual in full force and they need to blow off that steam.  Everyone is being tested.  How much can you take?  Friends are trapped with their alcoholic husbands without respite.  Kids are home ALL the time with pent up energy.  As I write this in July the temperatures will reach almost 100 today with 67% humidity.  This city is a lidded boiling pot ready to blow. 
Thank goodness for pickled red onions, avocado and corn salsa made with ripe donut peaches.  I don't know how I would survive without these simple luxuries in life right now. 
Well!!! Dontcha know it's a Donut Peach

Friday, June 19, 2020

You Know I Just Woke Up and I See the Way

I put P's slow cooked pork to good use with these soft shell tacos.  I pickled the onion and cabbage and even though the peach pico cruda was great, these still needed a sauce.
My Cali friend texted me a picture of exactly what I realize now these tacos needed, her creamy Cilantro Dressing drizzled right on top!  The beautiful thing about tacos is, if we're lucky there is always a next time to attempt taco perfection.
Lisa'a pic!  Mmmmm!!! Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing Recipe

Thursday, June 18, 2020

One on One I Want to Play That Game Tonight

Although I didn't get any great photos I wanted to document that P made a delicious pork shoulder in the slow cooker. I'm trying to encourage him to experiment with meat because as I'm wanting it less, he seems to be craving it much more.  This was very juicy and was later used in tacos and quesadillas.  My hopes would be that eventually we cook together more often.  That is, when we have a place where more than one person can stand in the kitchen at a time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Not as often as I'd like but I do come up with fun ideas for chicken occasionally.  This night I stuffed the skin with kale, shaved potato, and Cotija cheese but THEN I crusted them with crushed up Flamin' Hot Fritos and baked.  This was so very summer.  I'm not sure why but salty food with larger pops of flavor taste best in hot weather.  The cool potato salad and the buttered corn on the cob were the perfect companions to these thighs.

FRITOS® FLAMIN' HOT® Flavored Corn Chips

Monday, June 15, 2020

There Is No End To What We Can Do Together

I'm two weeks back to work but pre Phase 2, so still void of actual customers. P and I were discussing how each little freedom we gained during quarantine, we're handing back one by one like pennies at the candy counter.  Now, these were all things we accepted pre-COVID 19 but somehow indulging in those freedoms made life feel so delightfully unregimented.  Waking up and eating when your body knows it's hungry, going to the bathroom not every 2 hours but when you need to.  Working for a full 8 hours and traveling back and forth to work basically takes your entire day.  When you come back and make a meal, clean up and then shower yourself, welp, you have time to basically check if the world is still crazy and maybe take in some visual nonsense before it's all over and you start again.  Logically, I know this is the deal.  This is how we live, in order to live.  I just can't help but notice how oppressive it feels when you've lived it differently for awhile.  You have to make a living and I actually love to work.  It's how we work could use some tweaking in that Google office kind of way.  I've been in retail for 42 years and I believe if the processes feel like prison, that is what your salesperson will reflect.  People take advantage and that's a fact but they will anyway so maybe the best you can hope for is motiving the majority through small allowances.  Its amazing how simple pleasures really are the best.  Like these after work frozen Whole Foods pizzas. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

You'd Best Believe She Hardly Gets a Penny

Brooklyn Hospital Staffers take a knee for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the African American Medical worker killed by police in Kentucky 
These scenes are powerful and especially during the Pandemic and by these city hospital heroes caring for us under these outrageous conditions.  Braving desolate streets at night, the subways and buses, fear of carrying the virus home to family members, seeing so much death, all for low pay and long hours. 
I find myself very torn lately, feeling so blessed that we didn't die from the virus and no one is sick (knock wood) yet in my family or friend circle.  A time of celebration.  Of course I feel terrible that amidst all of this hardship that this community is hit with these new examples of brutality and injustice.  I can only be silent, holding back a big lump in my throat looking at these ladies, I'm assuming many of them mothers.  I remember I had wondered where were all the women during the protests and this reminds me, they're working.  From these images, you feel so much, the history, the misery of it all.  
I was thinking to be any kind of defender I need to research each of these occurrences for myself and get educated on all of the details, some of which become murky.   I hate that this is happening to our cities, to the black community, to good cops, to innocent people.  I sincerely want to help but hate virtue signaling.  I didn't make time to read about each of the shooting deaths in these last weeks following George Floyd, only Breonna's.  I'm still sick from the Floyd footage.  I never thought we'd wake up and watch Instagram videos of a man dying in real time.  I don't want to do it again.  I don't think it's healthy for us to get desensitized like that, however, it was necessary this time, I suppose. 
But I may have changed my mind about the responsibility to bury myself in all the minutia.  I don't think that helps anyone in the end.  In these photos I see good, hard working people taking a pause, which helps me to understand the importance and complexity of this issue, much more than a hundred newspaper articles.  I hope the honest, respectable cops and folks living in those affected communities  can get together and discuss what needs to be done.  I will be right there if anyone should ever ask for my help or to get involved, but there are more than enough social justice warriors in this town right now, armed and ready.  

I was greeted after work with a Chopped basket featuring unripe pears, baby peppers, boneless chicken thighs and spinach.  I roasted and stuffed the peppers with pepperjack and pepperoni as an appetizer.  I made a nice stir fry with the chicken, pears and spinach and brown rice.  I figure living a good life is as good a service as anything I can contribute right now. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Queen of Light Took Her Bow and Then She Turned to Go

Store bought fresh ravioli with jarred sauce for dinner
Back to my retail job in Phase 1, pre-customers for a full week and I'm noticing that even with the best measures put in place for safety, it's impossible to keep surfaces sanitary at the levels required.  I tried the gloves and realized I'd need to use about 4 to 5 pairs a day at least and after considering the amount of waste, I just couldn't do it.  Your cell phone doesn't work well with them anyway.  When you go to the restroom, you'd either need to take them off and reuse them or just throw them out.  Washing hands is still the best but the recommended rule of every half an hour goes out the window when you're busy.  We were each signed to a computer station but after the first few days, were called to help in the warehouse where we all touched carts, product, paperwork, bags, and more items multiple times, not to mention crammed together in smaller spaces where social distancing became impractical.  The sanitizer bottles that were everywhere the first week, went missing more times than not in the breakroom, so the table you sat at may or may not have been wiped down from the previous eater.  You gotta eat and even though we're 6ft apart, no one is masked while dining.  It's the only time to socialize so by the 2nd day, many folks stopped by my table and chatted unmasked, more like 4 ft away.   I've been sick of course so my fear level is not as high as some of my coworkers but we don't know that you can't get this again. I never understood if a significant viral load made us even more susceptible like the nurses.   As they call back more and more staff it's impossible for the cleaning crews to keep the bathrooms at the level you'd need to keep germs in check.  Most are commuters into Red Hook from buses and subways.  My level of anxiety is low but I do believe we are fighting a hopeless battle the minute customers return.  A sanitized NYC is unattainable.   Jobs will be very hard to come by but I can't help but consider other options for employment in this new reality. I'm sure there is lots of opportunity for a 58 year old with no marketable skills. 
But for now, on my day off a Strawberry waffle cone from Emack and Bolios after a light lunch salad is all I want to focus on. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Now's the Time that We Need to Share

One interesting thing about online ordering is that you can make a good cheap meal from the ala carte menu.  Spicy Citrus Kale, sausages and fries supplemented with my leftover quinoa salad and watermelon was the variety and taste sensation I craved.
Plus P was able to enjoy a growler, I get a cool bottle and we support a neighborhood business.  Everybody wins.

Monday, June 8, 2020

People Are Strange, When You're a Stranger

Egg, corn & cheese tacos with quinoa salad for dinner
1 week of strange times back to the job behind me and another one starting.  Margarita smelling sanitizer lingers in the air all day.  Wearing a face mask for 8 hours is not going to be easy or pleasant in the coming summer months.  There were times when I had to pull mine down quickly to grasp for air feeling a tinge of claustrophobia coming on.  I would question that, but I saw other coworkers do the same.  That big extra intake of air you need when you exert yourself is real.  Then there is the new use of our senses.  It's very unusual going about your business mainly using your eyes only.  Your sense of smell is hindered because of course the mask covers your nose.  You talk more when it's necessary and many times, people can't hear you unless they expect a conversation.  So, this new eye communication is the main game.  Passing people where normally you could see their smile and hear their greeting, even if it was quiet, has gone away.  Now, all my sublty goes unheard all together so, I've dropped it and speak only when I have to.
Then, the big reveal in the break room where masks come off and for some minutes, we all see each as usual.  All the women have stopped wearing makeup in any way, even the theys.  It's just not practical.  Bare lips, pale cheeks, is the new view.  It's been liberating for me, sensual in a weird way because I've worn it all my life out of some outdated sense of decency. As if anyone gives any mind to what I do, hell I might as well be invisible, which is fine by me.  Still though while eating, we're facing one way and 6 ft apart.  Some walk around the room and speak openly,  and it's shocking, you feel exposed, as if the speaker is presumed to be spreading germs just by spouting in your direction.
My sister made this beautiful bright mask that coincidentally matches my safety vest

Sunday, June 7, 2020

What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear

Awoke to a boarded up Brooklyn as we ready to begin Phase 1 and end of the nightly curfew.  Took a morning walk and other than thousands of people being missing, you'd never know anything happened the nights before with all the lovely flowers and peaceful vibe on the streets.  

Just a few short blocks away from Downtown, koi fish in a sweet front yard fountain
This block owns both lots back to back, this one even has a tiny putting green. 
Fulton Mall Downtown Brooklyn

P getting morning coffee from bodega

The deepest red roses, beautiful!

The long walk reward was a breakfast Tostada with scrambled egg and ground beef