The Movable Pandemic

I was watching footage of Chris Rock on this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live when I got the calls. Of the five people invited to my place for Sunday lunch, one had hurt her back (ironically while doing her back exercises), and my sister had “mild but COVID-like” symptoms. Since I had been around my sister within the week, it seemed prudent to postpone lunch.

But I was bummed. There are so few things that we can do safely during this pandemic, and a social-distance get-together with a few friends in my back yard seemed like a modest plan. I had put quite a bit of effort into making a giant pot of white bean chicken chili and fresh guacamole. But that was exactly one of the points that Chris made in his comic routine: we all had plans. One of his, pre-corona, had been to attend his sister’s wedding, for which he had paid a cool $80K for the musical talent (this might have been a joke; I wasn’t sure. He is a comedian. But he’s also rich.) Either way, it sounded like the wedding was off, or reimagined.

My little cancelled lunch didn’t even come close to the magnitude of Chris’s nonrefundable wedding gift. But when I recently moved from SoCal to NoCal, I definitely came with some plans. First, a little back story…

In my blog post “On the Move During COVID-19,” I lamented some of the things I was leaving behind in my adopted city L.A. after over 40 years: home, view, pool, friends. What I didn’t get into was the things I planned to do as part of saying goodbye. Favorite restaurants I wanted to eat in before leaving. Campgrounds where I wanted to sit by a firepit I probably wouldn’t visit ever again. Old apartments and jobs, the campus where I’d taught for over 20 years. The karaoke parties to make music with some friends for possibly the last time. But I wasn’t able to do any of those things—thanks to the new coronavirus, the closures, and the shelter in place orders.

Then there were the moving issues, always stressful, but now all magnified by the deadly virus. How to sell my house in a pandemic? I’d been quarantined, but now I might have realtors, buyers, appraisers and inspectors trooping through. And what about the move itself? Trucks that had just held other people’s household goods, and possibly their viral particles. Men carrying furniture, sweating, coughing, apologetically needing to use the restroom. And what about where I was moving to? I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to see a place advertised as “cozy,” which turned out to be “closet-size,” or “rustic,” which meant “filthy and falling apart.” UGH.

Lucky for me, those issues worked out incredibly well. A SoCal friend bought my house, and a NoCal friend offered me one to rent. Yes, there were movers, etc. But they wore masks (mostly), and a part of me just had to give up control and hope for the best. I had a LOT of help from friends and sister.

But back to those plans I came with. As much as I‘d loved my home, I was looking forward to nesting into my rental cottage. It was smaller, a good opportunity to “downsize” (“stop hoarding.”) I hadn’t lived in an older place for decades, and this one was the good kind of rustic—with charming touches like a vintage stove, built-in china closet, and luxurious claw-foot tub. My cat settled onto her cat tree overlooking the yard, with its shady fruit trees and a misting system in lieu of a pool for those scorching summer days. Perfect! (Almost.)

Did I mention how much I like bubble baths?

My other plans, though? Way less perfect.

My sister had fallen in love with Old Sac, so reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans. We’d planned to eat in the seafood restaurants and drink in the bars and shop in little specialty stores for chocolates and socks. But thanks to the virus, most of them are closed. She had also gone on the Underground tour of that part of town, and I was eager to see it, too—basement saloons and brothels from the Gold Rush, right up my alley! Except, in a pandemic, no tours.

I wanted to find a writing community; nothing yet. And don’t even ask me about dating during a pandemic.

One of the things I knew I would love would be going with my friend (a Sac native) to swim in the American River. She knew exactly which residential neighborhood to park in and walk a short distance on a trail to find a semi-private little sandy beach. I knew because she’d taken me there before. And I, poor swimmer that I am, had never gone fully into the river. But, now, after all the practice in my SoCal pool, I was ready! Hold up, she said, it’s not the same; with so many things closed, the ‘private’ little beaches are now overrun. FUCK.

So much for plans, fantasies, any hope of a happy future in my new city.

You know what, though? That is faulty thinking. At least for someone like me, who is, against all odds, a mostly optimistic person (I think). I love my little temporary home, and I enjoy picturing my SoCal buyer in ‘her’ new pool. Yes, I’m getting old, my clock is ticking, and that concerns me. But I’m also still healthy (mostly). I have a pension and health insurance and the opportunity to work part time if I choose (men in search of a sugar momma: it’s a modest pension, so buzz off). Best of all, in these times: I don’t have COVID-19.

What I do have is the ability to VOTE on November 3rd. I will vote for the candidates who show intelligence and compassion, because those are cornerstones of my own life and belief system.

And if you’re still in doubt about voting, please visit this past post. Meanwhile, now I’d better go eat some chili and guacamole. Because I sure have a shit-ton of it. 🙂