Quarantine Journal (Updated Daily) Days 101-200
We're still sheltering in place. This journal is a continuation of Days 1-100, and I sincerely hope there won't need to be a third installation.
Note: I don't edit these posts, so they can be very raw.
Day 101: Saturday, June 20
It's amazing how tiring it's become to socialize with friends after so much time spent isolated indoors. I took my daughter to hang out with some school friends this morning for a few hours. They were rollerblading, I was walking and talking with my mom friend--so not exactly strenuous--but now I feel like I want to sleep for 24 hours; I'm just really out of practice with live human interaction. I'm glad we did it, though, and we did still muster to Zoom hangout with another family this evening. All that said, I will now be locking this door and pretending not to hear anything short of an ambulance siren coming for my children. I have to amass enough energy over the next 14 hours to get through Father's Day tomorrow.
Day 102: Sunday, June 21
It’s Father’s Day so I did the grocery shopping instead of my husband today, among other things. It’s startling how well stocked the store is now compared to a few months ago when it was a picked-over carcass. The only item I couldn’t find today was wheat flour. It’s still far from fun to shop now, but it does make it feel like maybe the more severe shut down never happened. (That said, obviously it did.)
I’m also beginning to wonder what the point of keeping this journal is anymore. We’re not exactly sheltering in place; things are looser now. Though we’re also not back to normal, and probably won’t be for a long time, if ever. I don’t know. I guess it’ll feel like we’re SIP/fully disrupted until my kids can go back to in-person school and I can start to work again in the world. I can’t even imagine it anymore. I hate living on top of each other 24/7. I miss taking long walks, knowing I could pop into a cafe for food and a bathroom. I miss traveling. I miss trains and boats and public pools. Wow do I miss a lazy river. But I remain perpetually terrified of catching the bad case of this thing and dying, or giving it to people I love—or even a stranger. I really want to get tested soon, though we don’t have any reason to do so. I feel like I spend 80% of my days feeling mildly ill from the stress of not knowing whether I’m a carrier. Today is certainly one of those days. I’d rest easier if I knew whether I was indeed a death vector.
You know it’s bad when I even miss live PTA meetings.
Day 103: Monday, June 22
Virtual camp started today for my kids. I’m skeptical of paying for people to essentially babysit my kids on screens (isn’t that what video games already do?), but both my kids seem pretty happy. It’s freed up some time for me to work, which is also very welcome. That said, I anticipate a fight getting my older kid out the door for some body time later today. Can’t wait.
In happier news, I finally ate some of the herbs I’ve been growing: basil, mint and lemon verbena. I forgot how much I love the smell of lemon verbena; what a natural miracle.
Day 104: Tuesday, June 23
Listening to the SFUSD Board meeting discuss both plans for distance learning and a resolution affirming support for Black Lives Matter, shifting money from SFPD to Black students and communities and making our public schools sanctuaries for children from SFPD except for absolutely extraordinary circumstances. This is a moment, and I feel grateful to live in this city.
Day 105: Wednesday, June 24
And then there are the low points.
Day 106: Thursday, June 25
I haven't been okay. There have been lots of bright moments over the last few weeks since the school year ended and "summer break" began, but most of my time is spent feeling barely functional and bleak. I don't want to wallow here; we have food, a home, safety and lots of love. I do want to acknowledge, though, that being not okay right now is pretty fucking normal. We tell each other otherwise, we tell ourselves otherwise, but it's really, really common, and I don't think it serves anyone to hide the truth. Will it pass? Presumably. I have had months of feeling largely positive during SIP, of even enjoying aspects of the experience. Hugs with my children, VR-ing with my husband, my plants. Even the raccoon who continues to return, looking specifically for my baking. But the yawning months ahead--I'm losing the air that keeps me floating above the blackness. I'm not okay.
Day 107: Friday, June 26
Our mayor has rolled back our re-opening because cases of COVID-19 are spiking again here in San Francisco. We're nowhere near as bad as other parts of the country, but it's certainly concerning. I'm not surprised. So many of us are walking around acting like the star of our own triumphant pandemic movie; the people most likely to contract and die from the thing are our underpaid extras, at best montaged in their colorful misery.
I'm cautiously excited about beginning to volunteer for a Board of Supervisors candidate tomorrow. We live in one of most conservative districts of San Francisco, though our block is the literal border, and the district on the other side is one of the most progressive. Only two of the current candidates running in my district support defunding the police, and of those two, only one believes in building more (affordable) housing in real time (there are a lot of "if only it can float and exist in a fifth dimension that somehow shines gold rainbows and sings unicorns while not actually touching actual Earth" candidates--actually, that's pretty much the whole Board of Supervisors). So my choice was incredibly, dishearteningly, easy. That said, I look forward to being wowed by this woman. I would love to really believe in her. The current guy is the political equivalent of one sock.
I do wonder what the story is behind the noticeable increase in police and ambulance sirens in the night.
Day 108: Saturday, June 27
We took the longest family walk we've done in months today, down to the boat lake in Golden Gate Park and back. Used public bathrooms (with trepidation) and bought food at cafes (to eat outside, far away from others). Everyone is exhausted, myself included. This would ordinarily be an unambitious trip, but these days it may as well be hopping a plane to Toronto.
We gave our kids control of the boat, and ended up ensnared in some very spiky plants. I'm going to lie down now.
Day 109: Sunday, June 28
We had our first VR in the backyard date. My son’s friend and mom came over, and the two kids played VR games together in the blue sunshine, six feet apart and masked. This was a real San Francisco moment, perhaps only potentially bested by backyard socially-distanced drone dancing (haven’t tried it yet, but I admit there’s an appeal). I played VR with the mom for a while, too. More friends are coming over tomorrow to do the same.
Things I’ve learned in the last 24 hours the hard way: not to stick your hands in a pot of just-steamed rice; that raccoons fighting sound like the Nazgul, especially when you bolt awake at 2 am; that our cat will fuck up raccoons, if given the chance; I have very cold, very unwelcoming feelings towards people posting vacation photos right now. Happy Pride, though.
Day 110: Monday, June 29
My older kid started another virtual camp today, which should have been a good thing. But the camp is hosted in the midwest, and is operating on an east coast timezone schedule. So we are now getting up much, much earlier in order to log in on time. I'm really impressed how easy my kid was about the schedule this morning considering he normally gets up two hours later, but I definitely would not have signed him up for this had I known it involved getting up extra early for three weeks straight. There's also the joy of figuring out all the bugs and workarounds for the inevitable slew of new, untested technology he's supposed to be using. Day one is always hard.
My younger child, on the other hand, is blissfully unprogrammed. My plan is to expose her (safely) to a lot of Vitamin D, and let her do her thing, which involves lying in her room with the cat, listening to audio stories for hours on end. It honestly sounds amazeballs.
Day 111: Tuesday, June 30
I was determined to make today nice. I woke up in the night and realized that I had vomited a little into my mouth while sleeping. Yes, it felt like a real low moment. The cat also vomited in my daughter’s room during the night—and left remnants of a dead mouse in her bed. We recently changed who was feeding him what and when, so I blame his general pissiness about these things for the puke.
Anyway, after all that, I was going to make sure today was damn nice. My older kid broke down in tears about getting up early for camp; we’ve since decided he’d be able to have Nutella toast and hot chocolate in the mornings as incentive to get up without complaint (standards have dropped here). But after that, my daughter and I had a lovely ride out to the Ocean and back. It’s a picture perfect San Francisco day: hot, unfettered sun, cool blue air. And living at the edge of the the continent is really something; the salt off the ocean was layers deep. The Great Highway is closed to cars, and instead the pavement is punctuated with Black Lives Matter support messages. All in all, it was pretty heady. I also took a walk later in the day with my son, who remains obsessed with planning post-apocalyptic society. It’s strange, actually. Talking with him is about 50/50 Minecraft and apocalypse living. I must admit: there seems to be a great pitch for a magazine right there.
Day 112: Wednesday, July 1
It's Police Commission live tweet night. That's where I'll be for god knows how many hours. Bye.
Day 113: Thursday, July 2
Well, my daughter finally hit maximum loneliness yesterday. Without camps or school, and with her brother occupied with his own camp and friends, she's feeling adrift in a friendless void. She spends her hours instead making slime and then more slime--which, more power to her. All those dumpling take out containers that we can no longer reuse at restaurants are finally justifying their presence in our cabinets. I've been trying to figure out more kids she can call during the day so she gets more social time, but it's hard. Not everyone is easily available during Covid, and that's just how it is. I signed her up for some light camp-like classes starting today, so hopefully that'll help. I don't love handling her social calendar, but I also can only spend so many hours of the day playing Go Fish or listening to step-by-step instructions for how to make cloud slime. (Hint: we have a huge container of Borax.)
Real estate agents are showing the house next to us, and I got desperate enough to solve my kid's problem--somehow--that I cranked open the window and verbally accosted a family with a girl the same age as mine after their tour, encouraging them to buy the place and move in immediately. I don't think it worked. ;)
Day 114: Friday, July 3
The mood of the city and country has definitely darkened. And like many Americans, my natural instinct is to shop. I am suddenly and explicably hankering to buy small meaningless things and believe deeply in retail therapy. Today I bought myself barrettes (my hair is, kindly put, full), lipstick and a really colorful toothbrush. I've bought a little art printer for my daughter to squirrel away until Christmas, beeswax-coated cotton sheets to try to phase out plastic wrap in our house, books, a shirt that says "Best Cat Mom Ever." And a matching one for my husband, "Best Cat Dad Ever." A new mask. Phone case. Menstrual products I find I now have time to potentially master.
It's getting a little out of control. I even got nicer napkin holders. I understand the instinct, though, the very American impulse. I lived in NYC before and after the 9/11 attacks, and remember riding my bike across Canal Street and up the West Side greenway, navigating a sea of fire trucks and then, very soon after, banners telling us it was our patriotic duty to shop. From George Bush's mouth to God. Buying stuff was the best way to make sure the terrorists didn't win. You could still smell the acrid, sharp motes in the air from the fallen towers, and a whole section of the city was cordoned off, burnt and twisted; but those colorful signs were everywhere: "Shop!"
So I am, though I have promised myself I will stop now. Now, Kit. Bright small things are delightful, and I am happy to support my local bookstore and people who also really like cats, but this bleakness will not be obliterated by Square or Stripe or Apple Pay. Also, it would be prudent to continue to do what we can to save money right now. That said, I am really, really enjoying the rice machine I also bought recently. (Eating a lot of rice seems like a solid plan for the apocalypse, right? I can justify that.) The appliance looks like a cute animated sheep and sings a song at the beginning and end of the cooking cycle. We eat a lot of rice now.
But no, no more shopping for me. Not even for a cat hammock.
Day 115: Saturday, July 4
Today was ribbons of peace. (Despite the occasion.) A long walk, a peaceful bike ride in the sweet, dry wood sections of Golden Gate Park and lots of time in our backyard. My husband put up the sun shade camping thing—the sun is incredibly intense when the fog is out—and we bbq’d and ate in the backyard, and then had s’mores over the camping stove on the balcony. I’m calling it hamping, home camping. It feels especially quiet here today. Has everyone else left town for actual camping? Vacationing (somehow)? It was unusually peaceful minus the occasional exploding firework and/or siren. It was a good day for thinking.
Day 116: Sunday, July 5
The thing I’ve been trying to wrap my head around over the last few weeks is that this is it. We’re never going to go back to how things were before COVID-19. Even if the federal government suddenly started to operate like grown adults tomorrow and we got control of this thing, few things will be the way they were before March 2020–and not just because of the virus. Change is the only future we have now.
There’s been a resurgence of horror stories about the virus in the news of late, and I have to remind myself that the only way to get through this is to pointedly not think about what it would mean to get sick. To avoid swimming in the deep end with the willfully ignorant and economically desperate and, if we must, to definitely not think about what lurks below the surface and the flimsiness of our rafts if we accidentally bump into the wrong person. I’m of the age now that I no longer blithely assume that I will be the to survive this historical moment; quite the opposite. So here we remain, in the shallow end, clutching our floaties.
Today I spent in the backyard, realizing that I am now done with underwire bras forever. Never again.
Day 117: Monday, July 6
Cat puzzle day.
Day 118: Tuesday, July 7
Well, the white San Francisco parent internet is going nuts right now. The school district is having public meetings this week to get everyone's feedback on various scenarios for schooling next month, and emotions are running high. I understand why. With few exceptions, everyone makes a good point: the people who are adamant that schools have to reopen, and the people who are dead set against it; no one is wrong. But it's also true that it's an incredibly difficult scenario. Our public schools are already horribly underfunded, and there doesn't appear to be any additional money coming down from the state to cover the additional costs of adapting to COVID (does the governor even care?). Teachers are either fervent about getting back in the classroom and helping all the kids who are really suffering from the shut down or adamant they won't go back until there's a vaccine. Parents either have no idea if they'd feel comfortable sending their kids if the schools reopened or have no choice because there's no way to work otherwise or have leeway but are furious nonetheless that this isn't like simply calling Apple customer service and demanding to speak to a manager.
I have no idea what's going to happen. Whatever it is, though, probably most people will be pissed--and then everything will change again just as soon as we all settle in.
My own feelings are about as conflicted as everyone else. I'd love my kids to go back to school asap for all kinds of reasons, but I don't want to do it at the cost of people's lives. Honestly, at this point I hate even thinking about the future. I'm a raft bobbing up and down on turbulent water, hoping that I'm moving towards land and not deeper into the ocean, refusing to study the horizon. My son continues to struggle to bring his humanity to his interactions with our family, and we're all feeling it. My daughter broke down sobbing today, I exploded a couple times. He cried. I want a break from this. I want to write an article about getting to move to Iceland despite all the restrictions in place, and not feel like a total sh*thead. I want to wake up to miraculous news: a space ship from planet IUjhjdhfjdh, bearing the cure. Asteroids piloted by benevolent cats who bite the planet back to health. Free tacos growing in the park if you know how to tickle the vine.
In the meantime, I'll keep bobbing.
Day 119: Wednesday, July 8
It's public meeting day/night. I tuned into the Board of Supervisors' hearing on the SFPD budget at 12:30 pm, I was able to give public comment around 6:30 pm (#defundSFPD is going very, very strong in the meeting), and am now participating in one of the SFUSD town halls on fall learning. I was planning to live tweet the Police Commission meeting, but the BOS meeting seemed more critical tonight. I don't love a public meeting, but it's weird that these online versions really are so much easier to participate in than pre-COVID in-person meetings. Who knows what the federal government's threat to defund schools that don't open in the fall will mean for all these well-intentioned plans. What an absolutely shit storm.
I tried to go walk in circles down at Kezar Stadium this morning, thinking it'd be fairly safe. Turned out to be maelstrom of people without masks running by and up and down the stairs. I won't be going back there again.
There's a mouse hiding under our oven. It tried to escape a few times this afternoon, but I kept screaming in horror. I'm worried I cooked it when I used the oven to make dinner. My cat completely failed to give a shit.
Day 120: Thursday, July 9
I probably write far too often about my cat in this journal, but he's become an essential member of our little ecosystem. Though, I should note, he has also created the conditions of his essentialness. I'm pretty sure he ate one of the mice in the oven in the night. A second one occasionally peaks out of the top of the stove--oh so carefully--in the hopes of escape; I refuse to be alone in the kitchen until it's gone. My husband has laid (humane) traps. The whole thing makes my skin crawl. After all, I'm 99% confident that my cat is bringing the mice in, seeding the house so they'll be on hand to hunt when he feels up for fun. I love him?
My daughter has been taking an online edible slime class this week. Our kitchen has been full of marshmallow fluff, melted-down Starbursts, Jello pudding and much worse. She's in heaven, little slime child. We're going to go out for a night walk in an hour. My girl is in love with staying out late. My husband took her for a night bike ride earlier this week, and she was tickled pink because they saw not one, not two, but three street cats prowling the neighborhood. We'll see what we discover tonight.
Day 121: Friday, July 10
I forced myself to take a long bike ride today (on the non-electric assist bike). It was, of course, wonderful. Sun, ocean, happy trees, masks. The ideas were flowing, too. It's hard to motivate myself to leave the house these days, but when I do, it's always for the best. Note to (very resistant, reclusive, curmudgeonly) self.
A couple that wants to buy the house next to us keeps driving by and staring in the windows every few hours, including directly at me as I stare back in alarm in the evening. They finally left a note this morning introducing themselves and asking to talk. It was getting weird there for a while, but I guess I can understand their motivation, now that I know who they are. The watching me through the window part was really creepy. I'm sure we'll get along famously.
The final mouse in the oven caught itself in the trap we set last night, and is now living somewhere in the nearby park. It was a night of adventures all around. My daughter and I took a walk/scooter ride up to our local playground in the dark. I want her to feel comfortable moving through the world in the dark, and she (more pressingly) wanted to see what her scooter wheel lights looked like in the night. It was, in both respects, pretty magical. I think we were both purring by the end; I let her swing on the deserted playground, which used to be one of her favorite things, pre-COVID, and she told me I was the fun parent.
I admit that I was on high alert for any wild life on the way home, but our exiled mouse did not follow us home.
Day 122: Saturday, July 11
Closing in on the end of the 1,000 piece cat puzzle. Kids picked out two more. They want to glue together and frame the cat one.
Day 123: Sunday, July 12
I stayed up way too late last night finishing the damn cat puzzle. But that shit is done. 1:18 am, done.
So today was a bit groggy, but I homesteaded like a SIP champ. Planted a new box of herbs and cucumbers, harvested existing herbs, added tension nuggets (I have no idea what to call these things, so that is what I’m going with) to the elastic of our masks, baked bread, washed masks, made tzaziki and some other deeply practical things I can’t remember. My son is really into the idea of growing all our own food—not going to happen, kid. He’s gone from proposing a cow to a goat to chickens for our backyard. I suggested he start with feeding our cat, and we’ll go from there. I’m going to disintegrate into the VR tonight.
Day 124: Monday, July 13
I took my daughter to Lands End today, which if you haven't been there, is literally the end of the world, especially on a foggy day like today. It was pretty magical; my daughter had a blast climbing the path walls and going down the cliff on a somewhat sketchy unofficial path, and I did a good job disguising my fear of heights. Unsurprisingly, there was a fair amount of garbage and other evidence of people living in the woods. What a life--the places people hide to avoid being policed for homelessness in this city.
There's a couple that parks their car in front of our house on the same day every week, and then sits there and sleeps for a couple hours. I haven't, of course, asked them what's up or bothered them in any way, but I admit to being morbidly curious about their story. Are they driving a long distance to visit someone who happens to be exhausting? Taking a break during gig economy work? Mentally preparing for a long drive home? Our block is pretty peaceful, so I agree it's a good choice to take a break. But whatever their story, my heart goes out to them. No one sleeps in a car because it's comfortable.
Also, hat's off to the person who edited our little library in front of our place with big feelings about what deserves to be protected from the elements vs. not (we have an overflow open air crate going these days in addition to the official library). Mystery person booted everything out into the crate but their preferred fiction, leaving a whole shelf in the wearther-protected library empty. It's true that I'm also not that excited about Russian for Russians or books on Python, but I still gotta say ... that was cold, friend. I've restored the nonfiction and "lesser fiction" to the structure, though I see it has once again been re-organized, fiction first. Dare I check NextDoor?
Day 125: Tuesday, July 14
We’re going to be in quarantine forever. I’m not going to be someone who keeps a quarantine journal, I’m going to be someone with an online diary. Shit. Prove me wrong, America. Please.
Today was a break down day. As in, my daughter had a tantrum about absolutely everything, told me she finds quarantine intolerable and looked at me through her tears like, why can’t you fix this, mom? I have no comforting answer. I had to purge 98% of my son’s clothes because I can see his belly button whenever he stretches for yet another serving of cereal. I got him a few replacement things last week, but he refuses to admit that there is anything but empty air in his drawers no matter how often I insist he try them; he is wearing the same too-small clothes as yesterday. His sister cut his hair a few nights ago; he looks vaguely Amish now.
This is the last week of the ungodly early online camp, and it cannot come soon enough. I feel like reheated corn beef hash, barely functional and emotionally empty. Yes, we started a new puzzle today. The Board of Supervisors is hopefully voting right now to make it legally possible to lay off police officers. And if they don’t, I’m phone banking for a candidate running for in my district tonight. I loathe phone banking with every fiber of my being, but I can’t pretend it doesn’t matter. Political action is one of the few things that gives me hope these days.
I let my daughter trim my hair today in a bid to get her to stop crying. I haven’t yet looked in a mirror. Fingers crossed.
Day 126: Wednesday, July 15
It turns out the best part of growing food plants is when they're first sprouting and seem so ripe with potential. Food! In plant form! In my backyard! Now I'm on to the worrying phase. Why do they look so sickly?! Why aren't they growing more?! What are all those spots?! I resent the difficulty. ;)
Day 127: Thursday, July 16
I've felt physically nasty for the last few days. I have no fever, so I'm pretty sure it's once again not COVID-19 and just this new phenomenon wherein I get what feels like an ear infection, nausea, a slightly sore throat and exhaustion for the days leading up to ovulation. Why?! I've been trying to sleep as aggressively as possible, but the anxiety of having COVID-like symptoms makes it hard to fall asleep at night and I still drag all day. It feels like there's something inside of me trying to wrench out of my body, but more like a metaphysical illness than, say, diarrhea. Anyways, it's been fun. My mood hasn't exactly been awesome either. I'm trying, though, there's no peace in the dark void.
The city is closing most of its MUNI lines and now, looks like Caltrain will be shutting down, too. We're happily car-free and can get most places with our e-bikes, but shutting down transit makes a really big difference in our lives. It's blowing my mind, particularly with climate change accelerating unchecked, which people seem to be forgetting? Want to forget? Meanwhile, for reasons I don't understand, our mayor has been walking back her commitment to defunding the SFPD. I honestly don't get it. It's clear she wants to see it happen, and she has the popular support more than ever (and it's her second term), so who or what is pulling her back? I sincerely want to know. I don't envy her position. She's a Black woman elected with a shaky coalition of mostly white and Asian-American moderates and some progressives in a city that's only 5-6% black and in which being anti-racist is not centered in our political progressivism (it would be more accurate to say we are the far left wing of the white man's party). So everything she tries to do from her own agenda has at least double the number of obstacles compared to white or Asian-American male leaders, and she's probably had to tie herself up into all kinds of unpleasant political alliances to stay seated. Plus, you know, she gets to lead a city during an unprecedented shitstorm.
I understand, on the other hand, why the Board of Supervisors is only very reluctantly coming along. The thing about the police is that they're the easy band aid for your average Supervisor; pretty much the only thing they can point to as concrete evidence of their good work. People pissed about homeless encampments because it's too politically risky to build the new housing and vote in the new policies that will actually house the unhomed? The Supe calls the SFPD and asks them to sweep the tents and people away--somewhere else, anywhere else. Other people pissed because seniors and little kids are getting run over by drivers thanks to deliberate car-first street design? It's too politically difficult to restrict cars or redesign streets to decenter the fuckers, so the Supe ... calls the police to do some traffic stings for a few ceremonial weeks, maybe passes a resolution. Has there been a spike of car break-ins because income inequality is spiraling in the Bay Area and nation as a whole? It's so much easier for the Supe to call the police to crack down on poverty than to, you know, fix growing income inequality. I could make the same argument for education racial inequality at the high school level and many, many other issues. The police are the bandaid of our political class, and many of them contort their supposed progressive principles into pretzels to make sure they stay in the SFPD's good graces.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is a classic example of this type of political leader in San Francisco. I sincerely do not know why he ran for the position three times (?). He's done pretty much nothing in office, and spends every meeting gasing up the SFPD and other city agencies to make sure he can keep doling out those bandaids to his theoretically progressive district's homeowners. I don't know why he bothers. He's never going to get promoted to higher office. Sorry, guy; surely actually practicing law wasn't that bad a job? I don't know. May he prove me all kinds of wrong and turn out to be a true leader of my wildest dreams. In the meantime, I'm going to try to tire myself out somehow so I'll sleep like a rock tonight and wake up feeling like glitter.
Day 128: Friday, July 17
I was sitting in bed, reading, last night around 10:30 pm, most of the sadness that'd been suffocating me for a few days slowly and calmly evaporated, and I just felt ... happy. I don't know what the fuck kind of dark skill that was, but I guess it's nice to know it can and will go away. Women in your 20s and 30s: you're going to love the hormones of your 40s. I also feel a lot better physically today. Not 100%, but on the good side of "I could
run watch a marathon."
That said, I think I freaked my husband out last night. I woke up sometime in the sleeping hours and quickly became convinced that there was either a cat--but not ours--ou a raccoon sitting on our dresser, staring at us and licking itself. It was creepy as fuck. I promise I stared real hard at it for a long time, trying to make sure it wasn't just clothing but also trying not to attract its attention, because yes, it also occurred to me that this was a ludicrous situation. But I swear I saw it move and begin to groom itself, which again, was just really creepy. My husband always tells me to wake him up in the night if I'm ever having trouble with anxiety or fear (and vice versa), so this time--the first time ever, for the record--I did. It took a moment for him to process what I was saying, but he then dutifully turned on the light to test my theory, and the mysterious animal was ... a sweatshirt. Oops. This morning I hoped that I had dreamed the whole thing, but he reassures me that I did not. He's a really great partner :)
Day 129: Saturday, July 18
It’s family long walk day. We went over Parnassus to Cole Valley to scooter/blade in Grattan playground and get a new, bigger pot for the watermelon plant at Cole Hardware. I’m all for buying local, but it’s definitely a stressful experience to shop in that store right now. (And many other hardware stores.) Nonetheless, the enormous pot is now at home and ready to love our watermelons-in-progress—whenever I muster the energy to repot.
COVID-19 has exposed so many lies San Francisco has been telling itself for years.
- That it’s impossible to house the homeless asap. The relatively fast push to get homeless people into hotels and other shelters once the virus hit clearly shows otherwise.
- That our city is truly transit first. If this were the case, the funding streams that support our MUNI system wouldn’t have dried up and forced us to cancel a huge percentage of the city’s bus lines, and our streets wouldn’t be even more flooded than usual with people making truly unnecessary car trips. (Because, just to be clear, we wouldn’t be relying on unstable streams of transit funding while subsidizing parking, driving and paving.)
- That we care about climate change. Again, see above.
- That tech workers are the lifeblood of the city. Clearly, the grocery store workers, delivery drivers, sanitation workers, nurses, janitors, teachers, doctors, etc are the true lifeblood.
- That apps are a substitute for community and real connections. If this were true, adults and kids wouldn’t be so darned depressed. And let’s face it, people are really, really depressed right now.
- That the police are under the control of our city leaders. We're doing better than many, but this is still far from a true statement.
Anyway, there are many other things. It really is amazing, isn’t it? To be living all the sudden on the flip side?
Day 130: Sunday, July 19
My husband has set up an office for himself in the garage. Honestly, it looks wildly uncomfortable, but I'm glad for him that he has a happy space now. It's probably better than the shower stall.
Day 131: Monday, July 20
I'm taking my son through a screen detox program now that he's finished with all virtual camps for the summer. He was distinctly human by about 3 pm today. Tomorrow I'm going to have him roll in sand and/or dirt, and maybe we'll look for some leeches. (Just kidding, CPS.)
I've been watching this story about the Feds grabbing people in Portland, and our dear leader's threat to expand the illegal operation to more cities with a growing sense of panic in my bones. I'll be honest that I was one of those people that readily imagined the worst on November 9, 2016--I've brought our passports with us on every trip since 2016, however minor--so I can't say I'm surprised. But it's still scary as hell. There is so little good news happening in this country right now. So, so little. I'm going to hold onto the fact that my new cucumber plant is coming up like Paris Hilton in heels. That's it, though. Fascism rises. The virus grows even more out of our control. White parents are distracting from the real, system-wide pivots we need to our education system so no kid is lost during the pandemic with all this pod workaround shit, taking up all the air in the room as usual. People are still out at parks, mask-less, having parties in our neighborhood. I SEE YOU. And the rainy season will be here in a few months, which will mean that there will be pretty much nowhere to go for exercise or just sanity breaks. Someone's going to literally eat someone if this goes on too long. It's all feeling really hopeless.
But that's how they want us to feel, right? That's how those fuckers in the capitol want us to react, so we can't fight back. I need to remember that.
Day 132: Tuesday, July 21
Detox day two for my older kid. We walked/biked out through the dripping fog to see his likely middle school (assuming the world is still turning and we’re back to in-person learning in a year), and I made him eat a lot of fruit and do a puzzle with me and his sister. Because that wasn’t enough, though, I just taught him how to do core exercises, since it’s increasingly clear to me that his core strength is even worse than mine—which is saying a lot. (I was once fired by a sports chiropractor for being beyond help. It was a real low point.) Right now we’re discussing the relative merits of an evening snack of sugary yogurt versus Honey Nut Cheerios. I think yogurt? I don’t know. I’m not trying to give him a food complex or body issue complex or anything. He’s been a super skinny, insatiably hungry kid his whole life. But his energy has been shlump and drag for too many weeks now, so I feel some responsibility to be more careful with what we give him to eat and the amount of outside exercise and social time. No more instant oatmeal, for one. Far more puzzling. He seems happy now, and god does that make me feel good.
Day 133: Wednesday, July 22
I’m feeling increasingly sick. Going to request to get tested.
Day 134: Thursday, July 23
I had a doctor screen this morning via Zoom, and based on that conversation, was sent to get swabbed at UCSF across town a couple hours later; though I have no fever, I've been coughing a significant enough amount to raise concern. My general feelings about medical procedures are that they can't possibly be any worse than the experience of the two (complicated) emergency c-section births I've already been through and thus not worth getting worried about, but the swabbing was every bit as unpleasant as people say, maybe slightly worse than my old friend, the pap smear. I'm embarrassed to say that I cried out a little during the nose swab. But whatever. Now I'm at home, waiting for the test results, which the swabber promised would show up today. Where is it?!
The downside of this all, aside from the deep fear of potentially having a killer virus, of course, is that I have to socially isolate from my family until I know for sure that I don't have it. So, I spent most of the day in the backyard, occasionally with my mask on when my kids came outside. And right now I'm hiding out in our office/guest room, having just devoured some delivery Indian food (no contact), a bit of an indulgence. I Facetimed my people upstairs, and they say hi. I even offered to party Netflix some Babysitters Club, but the mood upstairs is all about YouTube and shoving eyes and nostrils into my husband's computer camera. If I don't get negative results by the end of the night, my husband will have to sleep on the couch. I'm sure he's thrilled.
It's likely that I just have a cold, and this whole bananas situation is complete and utter overkill. But for now, I wait and feel regret over the amount of food I just slurped (can't go upstairs to get utensils) ...
Day 135: Friday, July 24
I'm negative. I'm so relieved.
Day 136: Saturday, July 25
There is a certain level of embarrassment that comes from thinking you might have COVID, but not actually having COVID. I’m still glad I erred on the side of caution, though, (and, more accurately, the doctor who did the assessment). I’m sleeping far easier at night, even if I can still contract it at any time if I’m not careful. I swear I’m being careful. Do not want. Do not want. Do not want.
We biked out to Lands End and walked part of the trail to Mile Rock Beach today. It’s the kind of beach that would feel seamless on Game of Thrones. Movie rocks, caves, big water. There were a fair number of people there, but there was space enough that I could take off my shoes and feel the sand and water on my feet (and pants, let’s be honest). I haven’t felt that free in months.
There are more and more homes for sale in our neighborhood.
Day 137: Sunday, July 26
I picked up door hangers for the woman I’m supporting for my district Supervisor. Hanging them on people’s doors will be home camp tomorrow for my kids. They love me.
My unpopular opinion is that good candidates for office are generally fine people doing the best they can, but the young white men they tend to hire as campaign field staff/interns are the absolute fucking worst. Worst bedside manners, only vaguely competent, makes me want to volunteer as little as possible purely to avoid them. There’s almost always some family connection that justifies their hire for the candidate, but it pains me to know that this is their launching point into professional politics. I really don’t want these guys working on any policy or budget matters. Anyway, we’ll still be out there tomorrow, hanging stuff on doorknobs. I do want this candidate to win.
Day 138: Monday, July 27
We hung door hangers on houses on the other side of our neighborhood today. I think my kids would have been happy with hanging, say ... one, but we did hundreds. Once we found a good system, things moved pretty fast, though I managed to lose my son for a good 15 minutes. (That said, he was perfectly fine and would have been able to walk home no problem, worst case scenario. I swear I’m a good parent, CPS.) There’s probably no way I’d have been able to get them to do this with me under normal circumstances; the days are long and wonderfully/terrifyingly unprogrammed right now. They were elated at the end, though. Absolutely proud of themselves. And I’m glad that they got to understand first hand that the majority of politics is deeply unglamorous.
Speaking of unglamorous, I made my first homemade bimbambap today. It was low effort, but wow, I deeply appreciate how hard it is to mess up that dish. I also made my first homemade Mac and cheese, which I’m now kind of afraid of. There’s enough cheese in that thing that it could probably walk and talk if someone touches it to electricity.
Day 139: Tuesday, July 28
It’s been super foggy and gloomy here. Today has been about creating. Tiny muffins, art, a new manuscript. My daughter continues to spend the bulk of her time creating endless emojis, though she also has been doing endless and extremely kid-interest-specific Photoshop creations. Our cat FaceTiming a kitten. Her eating a giant gummy bear. Galactic royal cats, etc. Maybe I’m supposed to want her to be going nuts with paper and pencils, but I have to admit that no part of me regrets letting her loose in the Adobe suite. The world needs more kittens pooping rainbows.
Day 140: Wednesday, July 29
I Zoomed into a new volunteer meeting for an organization fighting police terror in San Francisco last night. I worked as a professional transportation and land use advocate for decades before leaping into the oblivion to chase various dream jobs, and have seen and been part of various kinds of grassroots organizations. But this was definitely something different. Uncomfortable in some ways, but that’s the work. I keep telling myself that I want to be a part of a progressive movement that centers anti-racism; volunteering for this group and curating what I’ve been doing around the police commission through their lens feels like a step in the right direction. I hope I can be of help.
After I got off that call, I toggled over to the tail end of the five hour conversation at the school board about the plan for distance learning at SFUSD. It was glad to see the Board focusing its energy on an equitable, anti-racist plan, and not on fucking pods. Naturally, someone has already launched an app to create and support pods. It was already happening at the college level with adjuncts and with tutors, supplemental classes and nannies and babysitters, but we’re definitely going to see more and more teachers being forced onto “the Uber of teaching” to get hired for gig work in pods and micro-schools.
In less bleak news, it’s still foggy and dank outside. (I lied. This is also bleak news.) My bean plants appear to be dying, just short of bloom. On the other hand, my kids have mown through 12 regular-size muffins, 24 mini-muffins and two ramekins of peanut-butter-carrot-banana-chocolate-chip muffins in the last 24 hours. I guess I’m glad they accidentally ate a literal bunch of carrots?
Day 141: Thursday, July 30
We just did something wild: my oldest and dearest friend and her family came over for a few hours to hang out—inside our house and without masks. They were here on a layover on their way to Turkey, and it was all very last minute and unexpected. I tell myself that I would not have agreed to have them come inside had I not tested negative last week, and they had also not all just tested negative yesterday. But with those results in hand and the (solid?) logic that it was unlikely that my husband and kids were positive if I was negative, we threw our doors open to these specific humans. It was the first group of people to be in our house at the same time as us since March, and it was lovely. Even if I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. In fact, I’m still kind of reeling from how illicit it felt. Will our neighbors shun us now?
Day 142: Friday, July 31
My husband took our kids out of the fog and up to Phoenix Lake today, which meant that I was actually completely alone for a few hours. [Silence] [Peace]. I forgotten how this feels.
Day 143: Saturday, August 1
Everyone is shocked that it’s August. Today we walked through Golden Gate Park looking for the fairy house in a log. I’ve been meaning to do this for years, but at this point I’m—had to pause there to observe two drivers get into a fight on the street in front of my window. They were out of their cars, lunging at each other, masks down. I wonder if it was only fear of the virus that stayed their hand, though the sight of one of my neighbors with a metal bat in her hand may have played a role. Good times.
Anyway, so we found the fairy house, and made appropriate offerings to the dryads. Though I fear it may have been insufficient. I’m running slightly ragged today because our cat got in some sort of horrible, screeching fight last night. I broke it up by banging a plank on the patio loud enough for my cat to jump the fence home and dart inside, wide eyed and frantic—was he the aggressor? The victim? He appeared unhurt but spent the entire night sleeping directly on my body. This is what he does whenever he feels bad, physically or emotionally. It’s sweet, but it doesn’t make for the best sleep.
My bean plants continue to yellow, shrivel and die. More for sale signs in the neighborhood. I’ve been working on the story concept and characters for a new manuscript set in the near future, but it’s been a real challenge to figure out what to write given everything. If I were a patient person, I’d wait until late January 2021 to commit to a story. Where I’ll either be writing from the new happiest country on earth, the USA, or the new Western States Pact, preparing for siege.
Anyone else have an insatiable craving for chocolate cake?
Day 144: Sunday, August 2
My son took me to work with him today. He's been cat sitting for our friends down the street, and has started a little company online in the hopes of getting more business after this job is over. It was sweet; he's clearly very proud of himself, and also just really loves cats. Like, loves. (Though, truthfully, the cat he's been sitting for is about as sweet as spitting acid.) I got a little teary with pride, and I don't think it was the dander.
I rode out into the dripping fog this morning to pick up more door hanging signs for the candidate I've been helping. The pickup spot was out in Parkmerced, which is always a fascinating journey, even when it's not Fogust. Classic towers in the park and low on a feeling of community and connection thanks to all the traffic sewers hemming it in. We desperately need more housing in this city. The case for adding more, though, would be easier if some of the existing examples like Parmerced and Mission Bay, weren't so poorly done--and this is not me talking about height. People flock to bathe in the Redwood Forest because the forest floor there is just as interesting and peaceful as the tree canopy.
Day 145: Monday, August 3
It’s political work Monday, and everyone is thrilled. I put headphones on my older kid, told him to pick a podcast (it’s Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone or bust for him), and sent him out to walk a precinct with door hangers. He got most of the way through. I also tried the audio stories and headphones trick on my daughter, but of course none of her clothes have any pockets, so it didn’t work so well. But I was proud of her choosing to walk one block alone while I sprinted up and down stairs on the opposite side while watching her for any sign of problems. Why so many stairs, folks?! The sun came out for a few hours today, so I was dripping sweat by the end. My daughter is a shy kid, and it’s been a process to get her to test out her independence throughout her childhood. Especially compared to my unusually independent son, who I swear would walk to the moon on his own if he could. Getting her to do this door hanging thing was a huge step forward, and I loved how happy she was with herself. Still, the girl needs pockets. Stat.
Some older white woman yelled at us for not wearing gloves. Just to be clear, we wear masks, sanitize a lot and do our darndest not to touch anything when we hang the signs (hangers? hang the doorhangers? it all sounds odd), but no, we’re not wearing gloves. That’s not really how the virus transmits, and it’s already hot enough in the direct sun. See the note about dripping sweat above. I wished the woman a good day repeatedly. Except, what does a good day look like for someone like that? “Have a wonderful time calling customer service!” I hope she has some really awesome pets. Like an incontinent cat.
Day 146: Tuesday, August 4
Karl the Fog appears to be pissed that some sun snuck in yesterday, and is back with a death wish. If you’re from out of town, you would be forgiven to think that those gusts of whiteness out the window are a whole lot of laundry steam, but they’re not. Karl is being a right bitch; my plants are somewhere between alive and dead.
It’s about a week and half until school officially starts again, and today was the first School Site Council meeting (not to be confused with the PTA, which is the parent-led body managing parent-raised money, as opposed to the official school budget the SSC oversees). I joined my older kid’s SSC last year partly because I’m nosy and partly because I’m always curious about how public entities tick. (I suppose that may be the same thing. Hmm.) I was hoping to be replaced by a BIPOC parent in the near future, but I’m not sure how likely that is during distance learning. So for now, I’m trying to be persistent about focusing the conversation on the school’s most vulnerable students and families, and keeping the meetings as transparent as possible with the wider parent community. I think I’m probably pretty annoying—whatever. I spent about a half a year on the PTA Executive Committee at my kids’ previous (public) school, which I did not enjoy. Oh wow was that painful. God bless those kind souls, but the day I quit felt like a real turning point for me personally. Who knew you could quit things, particularly if you’re a mom?! White women are supposed to blossom on the PTA (and only on the PTA).
Speaking of non-confirming white woman, quick shout out to the lady who does the afternoon shift at the Annie’s in Golden Gate Park near the Flower Conservatory. The fuck-you light from her outfits, hoverboard and music cuts through even Karl’s most aggro days. Today she was dressed in a rainbow unicorn onesie; I was wearing purple lipstick under my mask—and sweatpants.
Day 148: Wednesday, August 5
We continue to live in Karl’s kingdom. I’ve begun giving my kids Vitamin D gummies in the morning to stave off depression. I grew up in Chicago and still remember my whole seventh grade science class being taken to peer through a dirty sliver of window when the sun finally returned during one of the many long, dark winters, our eyes hurting just a little from the brightness; what is this foreign stain?! I suppose it fits the general mood of the country, though.
Speaking of which, I own a few masks now, including a blue one that says “Vote.” Find it on Etsy here. I get a surprising number of compliments for wearing the thing, which I appreciate. Wearing the thing also makes it even more fun to go out and hang doorhangers for my local candidate, sort of like a one woman, roving super on-the-nose theme party—with a lot of perspiration. But I have to be honest: I don’t wear it primarily to encourage non-voters to get involved. To me the message is equally, if not more so, aimed at our current elected officials. [Taps mic and checks for a heart beat. Sighs.] I want them to stop giving us thoughts and prayers, and start making and passing legislation that really changes things. We see you.
So if you know me and you see me around town still wearing the mask after November’s Election Day, it’s not because it’s my only mask and I’ve lost track of all sense of time and season—though in this city, that can happen thanks to the fog and sunshine. It’s because that’s when the real work begins for the people we elect. Fuck. I want the skill and work ethic equivalent of Simone Biles in City Hall, the statehouse and DC going forward; beating the Russians and the twin pandemics and the climate crisis. Twisting triple-doubles, no handed beam routines and insane vaults. No more applauding for cartwheels. That’s why I wear the mask. (Also, it’s cut really nicely.)
Day 149: Thursday, August 6
Y'all, the sun came out (for a little bit). I feel like I've turned into the solar equivalent of a cold-blooded animal. Happy and vaguely optimistic when the sun is out, depressed when it's all fog. We're all operating on such a low level of happiness right now, that it doesn't take much to push us into the dark place.
That said, I got my vitamin D while I could, weeding the hell out of our backyard. It's been a while, so I managed to amass two large garden compost bags, including a small board with one very sharp nail. I also found the remains of dismembered mouse in the grass--there is so much drama in our backyard.
Things are heating up on the school front. Class assignments came out today, and I talked to a couple of moms about plans. We might do some socialization/day school care with one of the families, depending on a few things; they're in an unusually tough position, but a new, full-time learning center just came on line for them through the mom's work, and I can only imagine that'll be an easier and more appealing option than her kid being at our house a couple days a week. The other mom is encouraging my daughter to join an after school camp with her daughter, which was a kind invite that I very much appreciate. I hadn't been planning to do anything like that, but I don't know. Maybe. My daughter will be starting a new school this year (the one my older kid is already going to), and if it's safe, I want her to be able to make new friends from this school. She's shy and easily wounded, and I'm tired of her having to beg her brother to play video games with her as well as mediating the inevitable drama. My heart goes out to both of them. School! Ack! I know we already did distance learning this past spring, but somehow this coming fall (and winter and spring) seems even more terrifying. What bad choice is best?
Day 150: Friday, August 7
I worked down in Golden Gate Park this afternoon, which was complicated but good in the sense that it wasn't home. I don't want to unpack my feelings too much because it's so much easier to get through this quarantine by skimming along their edges, but there are days--nights, especially--when I feel like the walls are closing in on me. It's no doubt why I've been reading a lot of fantasy recently. Living on top of people 24/7, even people I love most, is so opposite of the way I used to thrive or know myself. Especially when I'm also managing my reaction to a lot of uncertainty in so many critical parts of my--and our collective--life right now. I find myself resenting people who ask me to open up these days and talk about myself or my feelings; I can't do that right now. Even this meager paragraph is just a passing glance, and that's fine. All I want to do is skim along, shut down my need to confront the suffocation and get to the other side. I want to sit in wide open fields alone and know my little world will be intact when I get back, well after I lost track of the time. To reclaim the me that explored alone.
The question is, will that ever exist again? Or are there too many things that will be lost during this pandemic? Don't push me.
Day 151: Saturday, August 8
My kids heard thunder up close for the first time ever. Lots of hugs. Kings Beach is as crowded now as it usually is on the Fourth of July. The air smells like a morning hymn.
Day 152: Sunday, August 9
We made a last minute trip to Lake Tahoe yesterday, not sure what to expect and if we’d need to turn around and head right back home, but fairly desperate to be in the water and just somewhere outside of our house. I’m not sure if we’re being human or utterly irresponsible, but we are taking every precaution.
We stopped at the Davis farmers market on the way up, which is our normal thing, and it was lovely and summer hot. Packed with people, though, so we didn’t stay for more than a few minutes. Now we’re on the north side of the lake, trying to avoid the intense crowds at Kings Beach and figure out safe ways to get into the water.
Today we took a bike ride from our house rental to along the newish lake-front path on the northeast section of the water, which was beautiful but rough since we haven’t yet acclimated to the altitude. But it was cool to be able to bike all the way down from our house thanks to some of the new bike paths. My daughter was really dragging from the thin air, though, so I didn’t hesitate to stop at a small trail off the path and hike down to the water after a bit. OMG. None of us were wearing swimsuits, so I figured I’d just dip my feet in the gorgeous blue, but I couldn’t resist. I just couldn’t resist. Wet feet became wet legs became wet shorts, wet shirt and then, eventually, complete submersion. It was heaven, and I cried. I was a ridiculous, completely soaked, woman howling on a rock, bursting with tears of joy. I can’t begin to express how good it felt. There are much bigger problems in the world (in fact, everything is more pressing than my ability to swim), but I am so grateful for the opportunity to be back in water. My kids thought I was nuts, probably my husband, too, but I eventually persuaded my son to join me out on the submerged rocks, two water spirits. He went quantum pretty quickly, so surprised to be delighted. I loved it. My daughter and husband watched us with smiles from the rocks, their land, wind and ice spirits also tickled.
I didn’t even mind being soggy on the ride home. My son drank his shirt.
Day 153: Monday, August 10
My daughter woke us up early today so we could get into Sand Harbor before it was too full. Like a sandy Santa Claus. We did make it, though god was it too early. Going to the beach during coronavirus is not exactly relaxing. We set up our most massive sun tent and put out some obnoxiously large floats around the tent to force social distancing, and kept our masks on when we weren’t in the water (though, notably, my son did a lot of swimming with his on—your guess is as good as mine). There were a good number of people also in masks, though mostly when they were walking around. The majority of people were maskless on the sand and uncertain looking on the paths. So, like I said, not hugely relaxing. But being in the water was cold glory. Sand Harbor is my favorite beach we go to regularly, and I reverted to the 10 year old in me, floating around and jumping off (submerged) rocks with my kids. One of our floats is a poop emoji, which we managed to destroy. Good times. Though, again, it was significantly less relaxing than usual because we had to be careful about social distancing in the water. Unrelaxing fun.
I’ve been spending the late afternoons volunteering for my kids’ school to call a list of parents to see what needs people have going into distance learning. It’s tedious, particularly on an iPad, but I’m glad to be helping to ensure we’re equitably supporting all families. Awkward personal phone conversations!
Day 154: Tuesday, August 11
Today was a bit of a clusterfuck—with some silver lining. We were booked to kayak and paddle board in an area with tight parking, so we biked down the loooooong hill, thinking my husband would bike back up afterwards and pick us up in the rental car. Unfortunately, halfway down the hill, my son went (slowly) over his handlebars for reasons unknown. It wasn’t initially clear whether he was injured badly enough to go to the emergency room, but all I could think while tending his injuries was, yes, we are those assholes: The unwelcome vacationers who stuff themselves into the resort town, get themselves injured and take much-needed hospital resources away from local coronavirus patients. Pat on the back, Kit.
Thankfully, my son’s injuries turned out to me mostly psychic once I got him bandaged up—hooray for the medical kit I carry around with me everywhere we go now, though apparently all the drugs are expired. (Once again, a pat on the back.) My husband took him back to the house for some R&R, and I took my daughter down to the water for distraction. Unfortunately, there’s a storm brewing here, so the water was choppy for Lake Tahoe and we warned to stay close in case the thunder started. My kid didn’t like how clueless I was about paddle boarding and wanted off the island almost immediately. So we ended up waiting an hour for a double kayak and then braving the chop, which was an extended exercise in helping her work through her fear of all the waves. The story ends happily, though. Halfway through the paddle and after a lot of calm talking through her fears, she started shouting about how much she loved kayaking. Especially the waves. Go figure :)
It’s been interesting to observe the levels of mask use around the lake. At the craft rental place, one of the mask-less managers had a notable and very concerning cough, and while most of the people at that beach were good about masks, many were not; it felt way too crowded. Similarly, I did a shopping run at the grocery store this evening, and while almost everyone was wearing masks, a significant number of people kept taking them off their noses when they thought they were alone (are you ever really alone in a grocery store?). And one guy kept taking off his mask to be able to look at his phone or talk.
Again, for anyone contemplating a trip up here, it is not a relaxing experience. Fun when everything is going well, and your kid isn’t, for example, crashing his bike, but not a vacation. So yes, I’m pretty sure we really are those assholes.
Day 155: Wednesday, August 12
Winds rush up and down the mountain, sending shivers through the trees, and the forest purrs.
I am wondering whether I should suspend my Twitter account until the November election. People pretending like Kamala is the fifth coming of the Terminator. Please just stop—focus.
I have a wild craving to swim across this lake some day soon. I want to see the middle, all the way down. Watching Breaking Dawn 1 with my daughter has been a surprisingly effective way to discuss abortion and the difference between a fetus and a baby. Huh.
Day 156: Thursday, August 13
We floated down the Truckee River today, which was, in the words of both my kids, “epic.” The river has been too low for floating for what feels like almost a decade, so it was a real treat to get back in. I taught my kids how to jump overboard and float on just the life jackets, including through some of the rapids. Let know one ever say I was not an adventurous mom.
River floating is a pretty great socially distanced activity, though there was a lot of symbolic but not actual mask use at the check in area, which sucked. We forwent the company bus back to the starting area in favor of dropping off my bike at the end point ahead of time and me biking to the parking lot to get our rental car and picking the rest of my people up. Environmentally not great, though the solo bike ride along the river was sublime.
Lots of messages about the start of school on Monday. Distance learning school: oy. I’m going to try to stick my fingers in my ears about it for a few more days. We finally finished the Twilight movie series tonight—lots of ripping off of heads, blood and gore. But it struck me at a certain point that the Cullens (the vampires) are essentially sheltering in place for lots of the movie. They have to stay close to home, only hang out with their own family so they don’t accidentally kill anyone and just have a lot lot lot of together time. Of course those vampire assholes make it look so easy, though. I don’t think their freaky/darling half-vampire child with the CGI eyes poops into diapers or throws tantrums over screen time. But goals, I guess.
Day 157: Friday, August 14
It turns out that, in my rush to get sunblock on everyone else’s bodies before the river float yesterday, I forgot to put sunblock on my own back and shoulders. So I’m lobster red now, and radiating all kinds of heat. I had to borrow my daughter’s shiny and wonderfully obnoxious taco cat/cat taco shirt to use as a swim shirt today when we went to the beach. I really appreciated the woman who gave me a sincere compliment on it as we stood in a long line of bare faced people to rent a kayak. Thank you.
I hate leaving this water. It’s been so magical to be in its cool blue. My husband and I did a few, “I’m just going to take one last swim, ok?” before we left the beach today. And my son and I spent just as much time jumping off the kayak, as paddling. Everything feels like a dirge these days, a long farewell. One last night. We stared at crowds of mask-less people playing mini golf tonight and walked away. It was still a lovely evening. A last evening.
That water ...
Day 158: Saturday, August 15
It’s heatwave o’clock. In San Francisco, Fogust is abruptly followed by pre-heating for Burning Man most years. Karl the Fog goes on vacation for a couple weeks—more like breaks up with us in a huff, honestly—and the whole city feels personally attacked and remembers how ill equipped our streets and homes are for real, unrelenting heat. There’s a lot of drinking, some breakup sex. But it’s all very brief. The burning times will likely be followed by fire season poisonous air, though hopefully not?
So, yeah, we’re home. It’s nice to be home, though I really appreciated our time in Lake Tahoe, and just a change of scenery. (Though I was less thrilled about the thermometer reading 110 degrees as we passed through the Central Valley.) I think we’re going to try to be extra strict about quarantining for the next two weeks, just in case. I was coughing a bit yesterday, and while I hope it was merely from the dryness of the air, it would be selfish of me to act like I’m definitely not COVID positive after taking such an irresponsible trip. Speaking of irresponsible, I managed to put the wrong dish soap product in the dish washer at our house rental in Tahoe, flooding the kitchen with waves of white bubbles. You would think I’d never run a dishwasher. It was a dramatic end to our otherwise peaceful stay. I volunteer never to be responsible for the dishes ever again.
In better news, my herbs and zombie beans bloomed while we were away (as did the well-rested-looking cat). Now to figure out what to do with an armful of cilantro. (My daughter has already had to put a bandaid on a wound incurred during our cat defending herself from her joy at being reunited.)
Day 159: Sunday, August 16
It's the last official day of summer break from school, and the big news is that San Francisco has weather. Last night most of the city woke up sometime in the sleeping hours to the sound of a dramatic thunderstorm. In any other city, this would, of course, be totally normal, and probably most of our Facebook and Twitter followers are like, so? But here in our 7X7 paradise, big rainy thunderstorms just don't happen. Ever. It's fog, dripping rain or sunshine. That's it. We have five words for fog and the part of the park we sit in when it's cloudy and the part we sit in when it's sunny. So go easy on your friends in San Francisco as we process this novel concept of, again, basic weather. We're a little spoiled.
Between the humidity and smell of the rain, our house today felt like a ship drifting on the ocean. The good news, though--miracle news, if you'll allow me--is that I haven't actually been killing my bean plants! I watched a video on how to harvest the things this afternoon, and it turns out the pods are supposed to be yellow and sickly looking. My son was giddy with delight when we harvested our calypso beans, opening up the pods to reveal glossy and confident black and white orbs. We grew actual food! He's far more impressed with this than my actual cooking. Per the video, we harvested a bunch of other pods and are drying them out inside so they're ready to look even deader and then yield their fruit.
The earth is truly a wonder, and infinitely kind. What looks dead may in fact be the cusp of new life.
Day 160: Monday, August 17
First day of school! Everyone’s still alive, so that’s something, but the adjustment back to distance learning is going to be bumpy. The only official school activity today was picking up learning packets in front of the school, so we did that. My daughter was delighted to get a squishy paw in her packet. My son was excited to see his old schoolwork from last year. We also hung out with some of their friends in a backyard get together while the sky rumbled and got ominously dark above us. All was well, though. I got my kids to dip their toes back into some of the supplementary learning I started during the initial SIP/distance learning last spring. Lots of summer fog to burn off their brains, but we’ll get there.
I accomplished nothing of my own, though I suppose I did a lot of cooking. I wish with all my heart that the state government steps enough soon that we can safely send our kids back to school this year; we can’t wait for the federal government to turn over, hopefully turn over. I wish it so hard.
Day 161: Tuesday, August 18
I’ve broken out into hives. This can’t be good.
Day 162: Wednesday, August 19
I’m trying to hold on to the fact that I have no fever. The hives are all over my body, minus the part that got sunburned. I have had a cough, but it seems to be receding. All our windows are closed and the fans and air filters are going strong because, as I feared months ago, the climate crisis does not give a fuck that we’re already dealing with the coronavirus, and our air is full wildfire smoke. Fuck everyone who’s been driving for no reason, for dumb reasons, for questionable reasons. I guess that includes us, on our one carbon binge up to Lake Tahoe last week. We can’t go out and use our N95 masks, because they filter our breath out, which might spread coronavirus. And our COVID masks don’t do much about the smoke particles. The only way to be safe outside right now is to not breathe. Is there a mask for that? I’m really trying to hold it together.
And still people have to go to work out there. How is the city running the outdoor learning hubs for kids whose parents can’t afford any other option in this bad air? My own kids are trying to distance learn at home, and I’ve had to resort to playing meditation music because they’re so cooped up, anxious, wiggly. I’m trying not to cry. I already did a little earlier. I was on the phone with a friend, though she didn’t know. I have no fever. The itching is so consuming. What the fuck is this rash?!
I am the picture of calm to my kids right now. This is the only place I’m going to vent. At least we’re able to stay inside. At least we have an inside to go to, air filters, fans, no imminent rolling power outage from PG&E.
I’m supposed to be working on a pat narrative arc story, but I can’t. How are people able to write in neat narratives right now? Characters who redemption arcs? It bears no resemblance to the world. I swear I’m not going to cry in front of these damn kids.
Day 163: Thursday, August 20
OK, after a long day and night, Karl came back with attitude, and now we're enjoying some temporary green air. I'm low on sleep after sleeping part of the night on the couch (we're helping one of our kids with a medical issue that requires one of us hearing their alarm go off at 2 am-ish and making it to their room within a certain period of time), but I took a walk up to a local park in the clear air, and am feeling much more human. It's emotional whiplash, and I pity the person who reads this journal. Sorry. The streets outside are quiet like they were those first couple of weeks of SIP, the world hushed. A toddler waved to me through her window, big smile.
When the air is clear here, there is no better place. I know it won't hold, but I am appreciating the hell out of it for as long as I can now. Throw the windows wide! Turn off the air filters. My hives still itch like mad, but they've faded to something between chickenpox and molting, which I can manage. No fever, no fever, no fever. I made salsa yesterday using some jalapeños, and though I've washed my hands many time since, I continue to accidentally burn my eyes when I rub them. The pain is good for forcing me to cry, though, which helps clear out the smoke residue. The jalapeño cleanse. TM that shit.
School goes on as usual, though it's my husband's days to manage. It's a little--or maybe a lot--we lived happily during the war. I played Beat Saber last night just to get some exercise.
Day 164: Friday, August 21
Today is my husband’s birthday, so we sent him some prank phone calls and ordered him a bourbon pecan pie. That sounds worse than it is; one of the calls was a Rick Roll, and you can’t tell me it’s not fun to act like you’re 20 again for a day. The air outside is vacillating between yellow and orange, so it’s not like we can take him out for a nice adventure. I took my kids out for a brief walk when it was yellow; I’m overlording their schooling today as another, extremely practical, present. We also made him meme cards. I hope he has a wonderful birthday in the time of the apocalypse.
My daughter is sitting at the kitchen counter eating pickles and frozen berries, and watching a YouTube lecture on the radical art of Emory Douglas (she finished her regular schoolwork). I’m a little worried that she apparently now thinks President Obama had a kill list. Maybe I should have screened the video ahead of time? My son went down the rabbit hole of looking at old photos in my stream as part of his project to make a card for my husband. It’s bittersweet to watch him get so excited about stuff we used to do.
Is it bizarre to anyone else that most people—including our leadership—seem genuinely surprised by the wildfires happening while we’re still dealing with coronavirus? I’m not trying to sound like an obnoxious told-you-so, but this was one of the first things I worried about back in March. The climate crisis is not on pause, and it never will be. Plus, you know, it’s 2020. Excuse me while I go scratch my full body hives.
Day 165: Saturday, August 22
Well, there’s been enough hours of green air today that I was able to feel enough humor to warn my son that apocalypse bingo predicts the Big One any day now. Truly, the overdue massive earthquake that the Bay Area is constantly worrying about must be the logical next step in the horror story of 2020. Checking our emergency water stores and putting up my deck chair now ... Does catastrophic weather go better with white wine or red?
Day 166: Sunday, August 23
We are indoor cats today. It’s been orange or red air all day, with a spot of yellow. I opened the garage briefly to take out the garbage, mask on; my eyes stung. That was it, though. I haven’t even gone in the backyard to water my plants. There’s supposed to be more dry thunder tonight and tomorrow, which will mean more fire with no natural relief in sight. In fact, it’s not even September yet, and the rainy season usually doesn’t start until November. And that’s assuming we don’t have another drought year.
When COVID-19 began, it seemed unthinkable to many that sheltering in place could possibly continue until now—yet here we are, and no end in sight. I fear that we’re about to experience the same phenomenon with these fires and bad air. Someone is going to fucking eat someone else by the time this is all over. If this is ever over. Next big tech unicorn: everyday space suits with personal oxygen supply, so you can still hit the bars this fall. Except designed to look like your rave animal of choice.
Life inside is fairly ordinary, if you’re a 40-something woman. Baking bread, working on a punishingly hard puzzle, drinking tea, listening to podcasts, reminding my kids to clean up after themselves (and again, and again), pushing things forward on my to-do list, supergluing the insulation strip back onto the cat flap. Endless dishes, rearranging the linen closet. A Disney movie that I’m just itching to rewrite. Some would call it a lazy Sunday, but can you be lazy when you’re trapped inside and worried that this was it, this was your whole life? My son has been coughing more than usual, though seems ok otherwise. All I can offer him is a gummy vitamin.
Day 167: Monday, August 24
Still indoors. I went out to water my plants and walk my kids around our backyard, masked up. Brought in the garbage cans. But that’s it so far. I hope the wind blows out the smoke tonight for a bit so we can go outside and rampage a bit. But predicting these things is like trying to walk a cat. I am very, very supportive of a new Native American coalition push for reparations that includes reclamation of public lands. Very, very supportive.
I broke down a few minutes ago and opened some windows. My son is breaking bread, and it was already stifling in here without the oven on, but with the oven on for the bread, I decided I’m willing to breathe some toxic air if it means I’m no longer sweating and exhausted. Baking is a great activity for him to distract from his obsessive worry about Trump and the thinning of the Earth’s magnetic field (??). He’s also maybe heard on TikTok that 2020 is actually 2012 in disguise. We apparently lost eight years somehow? Yes, he has a tin foil hat.
Speaking of creative worry, I woke up extra early today figuring that, if the air was green, I’d go out for a bike ride before homeschooling. Or if toxic, do some writing. It was orange, so I wrote, and it felt transformative. I haven’t had a totally quiet period for writing in months. Now I’m on hour something of a Board of Supervisors Budget & Appropriations Committee hearing on the city’s budget, waiting to give public comment on defunding the SFPD & Sheriff’s Department, and centering the proposal of a coalition of organizations led by Black San Franciscans to put that money directly into the Black community. There’s something very both reassuring and soothing about listening to endless public comment. Someone should turn it into a (free) sleeping aid app.
Day 168: Tuesday, August 25
We ran out and played “basketball” as soon as the air turned green this afternoon. I grew up playing all kinds of sports, and often being quite good. So I think it’s sort of sweet and hilarious that my kids are pretty clueless and unskilled at most organized sports. But boy, do we have fun. (Next time, though, I really need to wear actual sneakers.)
Day 169: Wednesday, August 26
Jacob Blake. Another victim of racist policing, which is a redundant phrase. Now a white teenager with a gun running around shooting protestors and being thanked by the local police on camera. Operative phrase: on camera.
I was listening to a podcast called Intersectionality Matters a few days ago, which featured an interview with authors N.K. Jemison and Saidiya Hartman. I’m pretty sure it was Jemison who referred to the upcoming presidential election as a “singularity,” which really resonated in my bones. “Time was away and somewhere else” is a line in a Louis MacNeice poem about love, but it also feels deeply relevant to the current moment. We are living with our insides out in the world, writhing from the discomfort, waiting.
Day 170: Thursday, August 27
I am officially hive-free today. They lingered for a while, but I no longer look like I'm walking around, nasty with fleas. The smallest victory, but I'll take it! My skin now looks like I've been at a spa (spoiler: I haven't) by contrast.
The white parent--mostly moms, to be accurate--is beginning to melt down at the reality of distance learning while working here in San Francisco. Lots of opinions coming out. Rank desperation. Things people wouldn't normally be comfortable saying, flying free in bytes and pixels. It's an entirely shitty situation. I've offered to host a standing lunch Zoom session for one of my kids' classes, so they have some purely social time. I can't say I'm desperate to hear what fifth graders think is worth talking about (TikTok conspiracy theories is where my money is), but the kids clearly need it, and, I don't know, maybe it'll make me feel hopeful about the future of humanity. Sixty-eight days until the singularity.
Day 171: Friday, August 28
If you are thinking about doing a house remodel, the number one priority shouldn't be the kitchen backsplash. It should be the fucking cat flap. (I'm just going to go ahead and assume that anyone in their right mind has a cat, and an indoor-outdoor cat at that.) What height at which to place the cat flap (high, unless you want raccoons coming in). How much insulation to give your cat flap (lots, unless you want to choke on toxic air when, say, the air quality index is in the mid-100s+). Just, pay attention to the fucking cat flap.
So, yes, we didn't sleep very well last night thanks to the air. It's always hard to sleep when the whole house is shut up even though it's still warm outside and there's no fresh breeze to keep you from feeling like you're suffocating. But the damn cat flap also became a real problem as the night progressed and the air went to level purple. I superglued the insulation back on the flap, but the thing still lets in the most bad air of the entire construction, and the way things flow in our house means that that bad air seeps directly into our bedroom. Definitely better us than the kids. But even with the air filter on high, my eyes were stinging and my mouth tasted bitter with smoke. I hate this.
The air has been getting better over the course of the day, so hopefully we'll be able to air out the house and leave for some exercise later on. Right now, it's in that nebulous yellorange zone where it's not clear whether you should wear your N95 or your corona mask outside.
Chicago had all kinds of bad weather when I was growing up. Heat waves, arctic freezes and blizzards, St. Paddy's Day piss and freak flood storms on Lake Shore Drive. I never imagined, though, that I'd grow up to know this much about masks, air quality and HEPA filters. This is not how I want to live (or anyone else to have to live). I just ate a piece of chocolate (why not?), and it tastes like bitter ash.
Day 172: Saturday, August 29
As much as I’d like to be writing an upbeat, entertaining and inspiring journal, I’m not. The air was horrible again this morning, and I’m just tired of my eyes burning and my mouth tasting like ash when I wake up in the morning. Yes, we have air filters, but it’s not realistic to live in a hermetically sealed vacuum. I’m not doing well.
I’m doing my best to right size my feelings. I know I live in a cushioned bubble compared to most.
We broke down and got a ZipCar to chase the green air this morning—along with everyone and their mother—up in Marin’s Tennessee Valley trail. The selfish irony of using the technology that made the climate change that’s fueling these wildfires to escape the terrible air created by the wildfires, is not lost on me. The influx of drivers into southern Marin sent the air into low yellow pretty quickly. That said, it was a nice walk. The ocean was moody and soothing, and my son talked my ear off about his plans for the apocalypse, as usual. It’s intense how much he needs to have someone to talk to these days. All day, every day, it’s Star Wars/apocalypse/Minecraft/cats/Trump/TikTok, none stop. I really wish he had kids his own age to talk to on a regular basis; as he well knows, my interest in three out of those five topics is nonexistent. And yes, I often feel deep pains of sadness about how much time he spends thinking about the end of the world, though I guess I should be happy that apparently all the kids are going to survive. Just not us adults. Also, I’m fairly confident that he’s going to be an urban planner when he’s older, with a specialty in post-apocalypse design.
Our cat stinks of smoke, and seems to be extra hungry these days. My, thankfully untested, theory is that all the mice he normally eats in the wild have gone to ground, or just died, from the smoke. Or maybe the coronavirus? I should definitely make a TikTok about that. Add more fuel to the conspiracy theory fires.
Anyway, we’re alive. But I wouldn’t say we’re living.
Day 173: Sunday, August 30
One of the extra challenges of this wildfire/climate change air situation is that it's really hard to have predictable days. We make plan A and plan B, depending on the air quality prediction. Our kids looked worried about the uncertainty, and then we do plan C because the situation is even more bananas than expected, and everyone melts down. (Adults included, sometimes.) Maybe my kids will come out of this being extra adaptable, or maybe come to abhor all plans. But right now, parenting definitely requires some extra patience. I feel very dulled at the moment. It's hard to get passionate or enthusiastic about anything. I'm not angry either, though. Just dulled/paused.
In good news, we talked to my brother and family over in Copenhagen today for the first time in forever. They have an incredibly adorable bunny, and that floof is all the good feelings in the world. Also, my nieces are awesome, even the one going through teenage angst.
I'm going to go try to enjoy a spot of green air on the deck.
Day 174: Monday, August 31
My daughter’s best friend and her family are moving away. I’m not surprised, since they were talking about moving long before the pandemic, but it’s just another paper cut. Another family we’re friendly with has also moved overseas, where they have extended family, which also makes sense for them. So hardly a trend, but I looked at the RedFin listings for San Francisco a couple nights ago, because that’s a top how-white-people-relax activity, and I am fully living that stereotype, and I was blown away by the number of homes for sale. Ordinarily it’s pretty sparse, but there are so many listings now, the red rectangles cover up whole street names in places like the Mission.
Of course, the San Francisco real estate market was already skewed thanks to decades of suppressing production, so this may be the (screwed up) corrective we need to bring prices back to earth, at least temporarily. Hopefully? I haven’t looked, but I assume there’s something similar happening with the rental market. Our own neighborhood has been notable for its relative stability and complete lack of name recognition, but even here there’s a significant number of for sale and for rent signs up and down the streets. That said, the house next door to us just sold for over asking price. So what do I know?
The sun is attempting to shine outside for the first time in a few days; there’s even patches of blue sky through the smoke fog. The air is orange/red, though, so it feels more like a fuck you than a cheerful sign. On the other hand, an old friend just sent me early birthday cupcakes. That was a nice surprise. I’m trying so hard not to be depressed, but the tears are always so close these days, even now as I type. The pandemic I could handle. The homeschooling I could handle. The smoke air and the leap forward in climate change I could handle, with some alarmed hand waving. The threat of a potential full fascist takeover of this country in about two months, and feeling like I have no control over that outcome, no matter how much I donate or volunteer, though, is the sinister slide into doom that has been taking everything else and turns it into crushing sadness. Hope is a choice and a muscle, yes. This sun is still shining through this poisonous smog, yes. I should, too. I know. I know.
I promise to write about something other than feeling depressed tomorrow.
Day 175: Tuesday, September 1
Its my birthday! So far, the air is too toxic to leave the house still, but hopefully it'll clear up later. It would be nice to see some blue sky and clear sunshine on my birthday. I'll still be okay if I don't, though. We've got all kinds of cupcakes in here.
I did a nostalgia trip on Wander last night, visiting the places I once lived in Brooklyn and Boston. I had trouble finding the apartment in Bed-Stuy that I rented a room in when I first moved to NYC. It's so cliche to say, but the neighborhood looks so different thanks to gentrification. (Obvs, I was a part of that phenomenon.) The place in Brighton/Boston looked the same. I have such good memories of rain in that place, of all things. Sometimes it feels like I've lived in San Francisco forever; there's something about working on physical land policy that plants you into a place more quickly than you might otherwise. It's a little shocking to remember that I once felt planted in other places. Dark winter rain in Boston, fall leaves in Brooklyn, running into the summer evening along the Chicago lakefront path, perpetual spring here in San Francisco. It's been a lovely 42 years.
I worry that my kids will mostly remember growing up in Minecraft. It does increasingly feel like we're living in a spaceship. Happy birthday from space.
Day 176: Wednesday, September 2
There’s some greenish air happening. Going to try to make use of it as soon as the school Zooms are over. I ended up crying during my birthday dinner last night, which was a new low. The meal was perfectly nice. My mother sent me a stuffed cat doll (????) and Frangos, which is the smell of my least favorite childhood memories, maybe in the hopes that I’m still nine? It’s anyone’s guess; I put the chocolates in our little sidewalk library for someone else to be able to enjoy without the memory of hard Chicago winters and alcohol-fueled Christmas dinners. My sparkling husband, on the other hand, gave me the gift of locally milled flour and a nice container for my sourdough starter, to replace the plastic piece of crap I’ve been using for a year. The container even matches the kitchen wallpaper—I felt very seen.
I’m currently watching my daughter do some bizarre PE Zoom on the window seat, though because of the placement of that weird stuffed cat doll present, it looks like she’s performing a bizarre, ecstatic religious ceremony to an animal deity. Speaking of which, our actual cat savaged a mouse last night in the dark hours and is now sleeping off the heat of the massacre in the comforting (?) nest of wires of our electronics cabinet. (Either that, or charging himself, as my son reminds me.)
Writing feels like the only thing holding me to the earth these days. I’m trying not to make these journal entries too long, but I also hate the physical feeling of pushing “Update.” If I can keep writing, I know I’m here. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or profound. I just need to keep building sentences, stringing them together, keeping myself real. I am real, but spaceship living has me losing opacity. There’s a lot of empty space to fill, to diffuse into. Get it together, Kit.
Day 177: Thursday, September 3
I had a nice time "playing basketball" and frisbee with my kids at the local playground yesterday evening. The air was green enough to make it viable, and my kids were ready to roll. One of the things I've enjoyed these last few weeks is the overt hang out time we've been enjoying after the days I do school with them. We just sit around and spin things together. Yesterday, it was balls and discs, and some trampoline time. That's been a bright spot.
Spaceship life remains largely unchanged otherwise. I live tweeted the police commission meeting last night again. I'm not convinced I'm doing much good in the process, especially since there are a few other people doing the same thing, but I also don't think I'm hurting anything, and I do like having the anchor of the weekly work. Most movement work is dull as shit, which is a lesson to constantly relearn. My son is clearly hankering for the same sense of purpose, too. He's talking about selling lemonade so he can donate (half of) the profits to the Biden/Harris campaign, get Trump gone, though I doubt he'll motivate himself to actually get out there. Still, I do think he needs something concrete to manage his gnawing worry. My daughter has been doing illicit tie-dyeing in her room. You give a girl a box of food coloring ... we also enjoy purple waffles on Sundays and more concerted effort to embrace realism. Defined noses, teeth, shadows. I don't know exactly what my husbands has been up to. There's a certain amount of grace we give each other to be completely useless during the days without judgment.
There's supposed to be a heat wave this weekend and next week. It's, obviously, not great news, and every part of my white skin is screaming at me to move away from this state right now. Realistically, though, the level of uselessness is going to really go through the roof for the next week or two. I'm going to play Beat Saber tonight, and imagine myself a Eurovision star. Maybe visit Finland in Wander. I've got the music blasting right now, knee deep in editing a dystopia, feeling loose.
Day 178: Friday, September 4
My husband reached the edge last night, too. He seems okay today, though it's probably because the sun has been out and the air has been yellorange for long enough that smiles are now possible. I sat out in our backyard on our swinging chair watching our cat rub and roll himself in the sun as I rocked and tasted the strange, fleeting salty ocean air taste to the air during lunch. It was glorious. The cat has since jumped the fence, and my spirit is with him. I told a friend that I'm going to go for a run if the air goes from okay-but-not-really to okay later today, even though I hate running. This will be a jog of joy, though. An ecstatic sprint.
I realize that I probably sound incredibly spoiled complaining about yellow air, given that many cities around the world have yellow, or worse, air every day. L.A., NYC, Chicago, Beijing, etc. But no one moves to San Francisco who isn't a utopian sensualist, and I freely admit that I moved to our specific neighborhood in part because the air was unusually fresh. I get antsy when I can't feel the wind on my face for too long, after so many years of bike commuting. Our kids get physically ill and vomit in cars. So we're not used to bad air here, and we shouldn't be.
No one should. Bad air is a tragedy, everywhere it happens. In fact, I will raise my hand every time as the radical anti-car protestor who points out how cars are killing us all, slowly and in plain sight. Bad air is just one deadly symptom, and it's always unacceptable. Every time. Personally, my eyes burn in yellow air. My throat burns on Spare the Air Days. When I used to bike in Manhattan's traffic in the summer to get places, I'd arrive with a black line of filth imprinted in the long sweat of my forearm. Houses everywhere on busy streets get covered in black dust. The asthma rate in poor, usually BIPOC neighborhoods, near expressways is tragically high. But the answer isn't to make air bad everywhere, equally. Just as it isn't to make the death penalty feminist by executing more women.
Bad air is bad no matter what, and especially when you're not allowed to breathe too much of it during a pandemic. If you think it's gross when someone shits in a public pool, maybe you should also stop driving. I'm going to hold out hope for a run.
Day 179: Saturday, September 5
Well, the heat wave has hit. (I didn’t take a run last night, though I did go for a long, eye-burning, walk.) Again, if you were to look at the temperatures here, particularly in the city of San Francisco, you’d laugh. This is spring in many places. But this city’s form is strangely unable to handle heat. And the air is worse than usual, orange/red, so it’s not like we can open windows.
Instead, I have a “Unicorn” scented candle burning to help with the smoke smell, and have put up sheets on the windows that don’t have curtains (because usually we can open them all and get a cross breeze). Plus, the fans and filters are whirring. So the overall effect is like living on a derelict yacht. Adrift on the Mediterranean, but with no deck. Just a sealed-off boat interior. Or maybe a tampon commercial. It could certainly be worse, and probably will be in the coming days, but it does beg the question of what to do with oneself when you don’t really want to move your body and your kids are adrift. So far the answer is eating frozen fruit and getting lost in our respective books.
My son is supposed to go to a friend’s house tonight to celebrate that kid’s birthday (just the two of them). It was going to be a backyard party, but given the air, they’ll probably have to stay inside. I would normally feel uncomfortable with this idea but, again, the air has forced both of our families inside for so long that it seems like our chances of being virus carriers anymore is miniscule. I hope I’m not wrong. They’ll still wear masks inside.
Speaking of masks, I’ve become squeamish about nose exposure on masks. So many people—maybe me?—have masks that expose the top of their noses, and so we’re constantly pulling it back up, and now I can’t stop looking, even though it turns my stomach, for some reason. That long exposure of rod-like skin: it’s become the equivalent of seeing someone’s butt crack. And when they rub it or adjust the mask onto it, like watching something very, very private. I realize this is ludicrous; I’ve been looking dead on at people’s full noses my whole life. But I can’t unsee it anymore, though. It might be the candle fumes.
Day 180: Sunday, September 6
There was that movie with Vin Diesel--Chronicles of Riddick--where he's running around on some hellishly hot planet, with velocity goggles on. The hell and brimstone atmosphere of that planet is not unlike what San Francisco looks like out the window right now. I woke up this morning at 5:30 am, for no good reason to a warm morning. The air was upper yellow, so I threw open the windows. My bedroom is cool compared to the rest of the house, but the complete lack of outside air makes it this strangely stifling coolness, like having a cold, wet rag shoved down your throat. I even sat outside for a bit, though it stung my eyes.
It's a little after 2 pm now, though, and the air is purple and shimmering unnaturally with poisoned heat, and we've got that Riddick thing going on. All screen time limits have been lifted. Our cat is passed out. I just Cloroxed all the toilets because any little dollop of yuck stuck on the bowl is now stinking up the whole house with the windows all latched down tight. I truly cannot imagine working or living outside today. It is unpardonable that any government to not take all measures possible to help people inside and to cooler spots. Unfortunately, the regular cooling center options aren't possible thanks to Covid, so the city's emergency system texts read to the effect of "it's deadly hot, find somewhere not hot, and good luck. sorry."
Yesterday I biked my son to a birthday party (of two) across town. I have no interest in worsening the air even further by driving, though we seem to be one of the few people in this city who feels this way. There was a murder of people out driving god knows where, all at tremendously high, impatient speed. "We're all in this together!" has long since died. My son and I both had on our smoke masks and sunglasses and the bike is a high-power electric assist that I make extra use of on smoke days to avoid heavy breathing, but it was still a hellscape ride. At one point I had to go up a steep enough hill that I really had to pedal hard and engage my cardiovascular system, and I felt like I smoked a pack of cigarettes for the rest of the night. That said, it was also nice to be out and moving. Biking is always ridiculously pleasant, and apparently my husband and kid had a much lovelier (and cooler) ride later that evening when he picked him up at the end of the party. So far, no signs of any infection from the party, thank god. For all that swimming in environmental ick, I do really appreciate that my son came home with a light in his eyes, energized from human friend contact in a way I haven't seen in a long time. Today he's spent most of the day taking a cool bath and lounging around in his underwear, like the rest of us.
P.S. If you're reading this from the other side of the planet, wondering why we don't just temporarily relocate somewhere, it's because there's nowhere to go when California burns. The closest place go with clean air in the US is Juneau, Alaska.
Day 181: Monday, September 7
Today has been—dare I say it?—pleasant. It started out warm this morning but only topped out around 91 degrees, and the air has been almost uniformly below 100, if not exactly clean. Unbelievably, I’m wearing a hoodie right now as I write this from our deck.
When it was hotter out, earlier in the day, we broke out the slip n’ slide my mom sent our kids, the water guns and an inflatable raft, and went nuts in the backyard with water. It’s surprisingly fun to be hosed by water guns as you jump on the trampoline. I freely admit that, before today, we were going to give away the slip n’ slide since a) our backyard isn’t really big enough or on a steep enough slope to be able to do more than sort of shimmy down the thing on your knees if you’re age 8 and b) there are usually no more than three days of the year when it’d be hot enough to want to use it here without being part of some sort of polar bear challenge. But grandma’s aspirational gifting saved the day. We invited a kid friend over for a bit, too, which was fun for everyone.
Who knows if this good weather patch will last. I just loved the moment when the air cleared enough that I could smell our trees in the backyard again, instead of smoke. Not everyone is happy, though. My cucumber plant has gone wild from the heat, and will probably be pissed if the fog returns. Oh well. I’m wearing a hoodie—outside. Also, we saw two hawks circling lower than usual over our block earlier. It was beautiful, if a little confusing.
Update: okay, I take it all back. This strong wind blowing in the cool air is apparently going to do even more horrible things for spreading the fires and smoke even further across the western US. My bad. [Slowly slinks back inside and removes hoodie.]
Day 182: Tuesday, September 8
Two words for today: Blood sun.
Day 183: Wednesday, September 9
I can’t even. I went to bed last night feeling off, upset stomach and coughing, a little panicked, and decided to sleep in some this morning in the hopes that it would burn away with rest. So I was using the light outside to guide me on when to get up this morning; I needed to get the kids up for school on time--except it never actually got light. When I pulled back the curtain, the sky was red and the whole world dark. It’s hard to describe, but it was eight in the morning, and it looked like we were either on Mars or in hell. I'm imaginative, yes, but this was not an exaggeration. The AQI was only high yellow, though that apparently might change as the ash and smoke begin falling to the earth. Hopefully not?
It hasn’t gotten any better in the remaining hours. Darker for a while, then lighter in sort of a toxic orange fart kind of way and now jaundice yellow. The kids are still dutifully plugging away at (night) school, which is about as absurd feeling as it sounds, but what else are we going to do? The cat was also freaking out, running around doing spastic sprints, and looking hunted. Maybe he was? I don’t know; it can't be easy to find yourself in perpetual night. I’ve been trying to keep everything light inside, laughing at the insanity of this all with the kids, ear rubbing the cat into purring calmness, playing some song called F2020 that a friend recommended. We ate some of those Frangos; I've reclaimed them from the library. But let’s be honest, this is some end times shit and it’s not remotely funny. I admit: I want out. There is no out, nowhere on the west coast of the United States, but I still want it. My husband remains convinced there’s nothing to worry about, and I find it hard to like him at the moment.
Our slip n' slide is covered in ash in the backyard.
My daughter wrote a poem about today:
here I am, sitting in smoke cooped up with nothing to do but stare out and see nothing but orange orange air. I’ve done all my doodles and ate all my snacks I just want it to stop to go to to the park and play frisbee for this to end and be free once again and if not next year I’ll spread my wings and fly because mr. president is a foolish man than shall not last as president for long.
I'm going to visit the bright blue sky in Wander. I have zero faith that there is enough will in this country to stop the climate crisis in time. Not if it involves changes more strenuous than bundling a bag of fucking cardboard recycling.
Day 184: Thursday, September 10
The red darkness is gone, but now the sky is a muted urine yellow. The good AQI is also gone. We're up in the top of 200, low 300s, so purple and maroon air; highly toxic. The kind you normally get right next to a fire. There is ash all over everything. Yet there are a surprising number of people outside, some walking around with their kids (and a few without masks). I guess the fact that the air doesn't smell might trick some people into thinking it's okay. Nonetheless, I wore my smoke mask into the backyard just now to water the plants. A fool's journey, no doubt, my confused plants. The farmers who sell us a subscription box sent an email earlier this week making it clear that they weren't sure about their harvest going forward. Some of their neighbors' farms have been totally wiped out.
Anyway, there's nothing but bad news, and I'm not handling it all super well.
The early part of the pandemic, when we could at least go outside and take bike rides and walk around the neighborhood, sounds like a long-lost blow-out vacation. The weather people are now saying that La Niña will mean the rain won't start until maybe December, and that there might be more fires before then. That's three months from now. So, no, I'm not handling this well.
I've been hoping, but none of our local elected leaders have promised to change any legislation or budgets, or directions to the city's departments, to actually fight climate change. Instead, they keep pointing to voting in the presidential election as the only solution to this collective climate suicide. And yes, the vote for or against our president is certainly a life or death matter, but it's incredibly telling that our governor, state legislators, mayor and supervisors--who collectively control our city's transportation, housing, zoning, planning, parks, schools, environmental agencies, local business regulation, local taxes and almost everything else that accounts for the vast majority of toxic emissions in this part of the world--seem to think they are off the hook for doing anything differently going forward. Do they even know, I keep wondering? Or are they that cynical? Lords of the ash pile.
So, a piece of good news and hope? I continue to volunteer for both a local supervisor candidate and a Black-led police reform grassroots group; that gives me some purpose. Also, my sickness from the last couple days seems to be lifting. The day of the blood sun, I passed a group of woodwind players playing together in an open garage on 9th Avenue, and it was beautiful. Probably incredibly dangerous, even sitting six feet apart, but beautiful like nothing I've heard in a while.
Day 185: Friday, September 11
The sun is shining somewhere behind the oppressive smoke/fog. It's silly, but I feel about eight times lighter than I did yesterday, purely for that reason. That said, the smoke isn't going anywhere soon, and the air quality continues to be deadly. I now really appreciate how awful it must be to live on a spaceship; it's weird how much we've romanticized the idea of living in the equivalent of a fish tank as a culture. As I was typing this, I got an email from the company that makes our air filters pro-actively apologizing for being unable to keep up with the demand for customer help and product. They must be making money hand over foot right now. Who will be the first to sell every day oxygen tanks and masks fitted for kids? (As long as the plant isn't on the west coast, I guess.)
Last night was "back to school night" at my kids' school. Timely topics: what would happen if/when the teacher lost power at her house, what we can do to persuade more kids to keep their cameras on while the teacher is talking, the potential for virtual field trips. The Mayor announced yesterday that museums, gyms, bars and a few other types of indoor and outdoor business would be able to open this coming week, with capacity limitations. (Not playgrounds or public schools, notably.) It would be nice to go to the art museum down the hill. Really, really nice. My son thought that was the wildest idea he'd heard in ages. I admit that it terrifies me a little.
Day 186: Saturday, September 12
The AQI is inching down slowly. Hopefully we'll be able to go outside again by Monday. It's warm and sunny enough outside that the house feels like a car that's been sitting, closed up, in a dusty, hot field for too long.
This is Act 2 of the collapse/reformation of the United States. Act 1 was the long lead up, emissions emitted, rights trampled or hollowed out, political and cultural seeds of dissolution sewn, the rise and fall of Uggs. It was super fun--except when it really, really wasn't. Act 2 will be the "admit you have a problem--or not! :) :)" phase, with most us clinging to the idea that everything can and should return to normal; we'll be eager to compromise on almost anything if it means there'll be less stress in our individual lives. Others will cling even more to various forms of religion, godly, political and otherwise, giving everyone hell. There'll be no consensus or even ability to have conversations using the same fundamental framework. Instead, it'll be bottom of the ninth, one run down, a roster with too many players who are too tired or wounded to hit it out of the park anymore, and half of the team convinced that they're playing hockey, and factions in the stand trying to shoot the players. Then Act 3: the final act will be a country that is fundamentally different, if it exists at all. It will be hell, or it will just be profoundly different.
Maybe this sounds bleak? :) :) It'll definitely have a lot of dark times, but there'll probably be a lot of good times along the way. Days that feel normal. Days that give us tremendous hope. Days where we sit under clear skies and soak in the sun.
Today isn't one of those good days. We've spent these hours cleaning the house and preparing for an(other) emergency. My husband was patient enough to play out multiple scenarios with my son--what we'd need to pack and do--including option three: zombie apocalypse. We now have a list for that, and while I know my husband is just trying to help our kid feel more in control, my sincere internal thought when I heard what they were up to was, "define zombie."
Day 187: Sunday, September 13
I think sometimes about how, when the air is clean again, and the virus is under control, how tempting it will be to walk out the front door of my house, and keep walking.
Day 188: Monday, September 14
It’s been fascinating to watch the Left try to settle on a unified message about what to do about the climate crisis ever since the Bladerunner air day last week. There’s a huge push by almost everyone to identify The Villain, and, not surprisingly, we all bring our own lens of primary interest to the question. For some, it’s corporations and only corporations (and hence, capitalism). Others, settler colonialism and whiteness in general. The meat industry. Trump. Cars. City planners and their housing and transportation policies. Elected officials who haven’t done boo except pass the occasional resolution. Neighborhood jerks who oppose any changes to anything. Fake environmental groups who also oppose all change in the name of trees. The sort-of-friend who drives five blocks to the grocery store and then complains in Facebook comments that they’ll never not drive unless the street is strewn with rose petals and singing fairies, and looks at people who don’t drive like they live on another planet even though driving dependence has only existed on (and only part of) this planet for a tiny blip of all of human history. Sorry, run on sentence. You can easily figure out my lens.
The finger pointing is fast and furious, and honestly, I generally hit “like” on all of the posts. Because the reality is that the idea that the one Villain doesn’t exist. There is no Bull Connors of climate change, and it’s a disservice to pretend otherwise. The only way we solve this problem, and our children live to see a future that isn’t too horrible to contemplate is to realize that everyone, every player, is responsible. That’s what other, functional, countries have realized, and that’s what grown ups are supposed to do. But it’s wild to see how (privileged, highly mobile) people react when we’re asked to acknowledge our role in toxic ecosystems. American Exceptionalism is a powerful drug.
It’s not the same, but just as throwing your hands up and saying, “well, it’s systematic racism, so there’s nothing I can do” is bullshit, so is saying, “I’m not responsible for saving the planet and human life as we know it.” My dude, if you’re willing to wear a mask, or understand the value of every vote counts, you should be able to intuit your personal responsibility, too, in this vast and complicated ecosystem. Here we are, though. I’ll keep hitting like on everything. It’s all true, it’s just not exclusively true—and I’d prefer that we don’t have to keep learning that the hard way.
Also, we’re still stuck inside. The air looks better; I can see blue sky when I chance looks out the window. It’s still red, though, and not fit for human habitation. I felt miserable last night after attempting to exercise inside, even beyond the way the house quickly overheated. Sore throat, burning ears, tight cough and chest, sharp eyes. Still, my cucumber plant is flowering.
Day 189: Tuesday, September 15
AQI: (high) green! We had a very minor ceremony to open the first window we’ve cracked in—a week? I’ve lost track of time; it’s been one long bad feeling. Anyway, the kids are finishing up school now, but we are going to get out that front door and take advantage of the air like maniacs in the next hour. I will bray like a lion and dance like a hyena, urge my kids to train like ninjas. I don’t care how I/we look. Yesterday I sent my kids out for a brief walk with friends, bagged up in two masks: smoke and corona. Because that’s what you gotta do now. They got to go to the Japanese candy store, and I was happy for them.
My plants continue to thrive, which makes zero sense to me. Are they toxic now? I’m drinking lemon verbena tea I made from my herb box, and I washed the leaves thoroughly, but I wonder if I’m actually drinking a cup of ash. Everything is covered outside with white and black powder. Ash is renewal, though. I need to remind myself of this sometimes.
My son wrote a blog post today noting that his generation is going to be “emotionally scarred” by this year. I have no doubt he’s right. Once they can go back to school and be around other kids as much as they want, I don’t know if we’ll ever see them again. School dances are going to be even more everything. Still, his post broke my heart. He has Tourette’s, and his tics are going wild from the stress.
In better news, since I couldn’t go anywhere, I’ve spent time recently trying to coax my sourdough starter into better health. I think it’s working. It smells totally different (better), and the bread texture this week is more complex and delightful. The main key to success seems to have been switching to a larger container that I close completely. I wonder if my starter resents being pent up as much as I have.
Day 190: Wednesday, September 16
Yesterday evening, I put the kids on their bikes and we rode down to the car-free section of Golden Gate Park for what felt like the first time in ages. I’ve been there so many times in the 12 years I’ve lived in this city. My husband and I used to go there together for lazy Sundays before we had kids, my kids have grown up at the Science Museum, swung their hearts out at Koret Playground and done loops on JFK Drive so many times on some form of wheels that it’d be impossible to keep track. Last night, though: I’ve never been in the park when it felt like that. I’d pass runners, ferociously trying to move forward, their sweat reeking of sad tears barely contained on the other side of their eyes. Bikers blasting forward, chased. Almost no one was sitting down. We were all running from the edge.
It was amazing, freedom of a sort at long last, but also something new and wildly emotional. So many people are barely holding it together right now, including me (on some days), and the more we can talk about it and provide space and time to grieve as a community, the better off we will all be. This has been hard—much harder for some than others—but still hard for everyone, and I don’t think anyone believes anymore than it’s going to be over soon. In fact, the only good news is that the Kardashian show is finally ending. Praises be.
If I were the Department of Health here in SF, I would be providing free Zoom and distanced in-person mental health support groups for any and everyone starting today. If I were the Parks Department, I would be providing more free and explicit spaces for collective grieving and restoration starting yesterday. I’m not sure this city knows how to grieve anymore; the AIDS epidemic was too long ago, and our city is fickle as sand in a wave.
There was an elderly Chinese-American man off by himself in the park last night raising his arms over and over to the sky. It looked like it could have been Tai Chi, but it also looked like something much more, and appropriate to the moment. It felt right, and I kept biking.
Day 191: Thursday, September 17
Zoom/Google Hang Out black hole.
Day 192: Friday, September 18
You would never know there was an air apocalypse, or maybe even that there's a pandemic still at play (well, minus the masks). Everyone is back to normal, washing their cars off with fresh water, eating outdoors in close proximity and holding Board of Supervisors meetings that discuss individual housing proposals for hours with nary an anti-racism or climate emergency package of legislation in sight. What? What? What?
The bad air is supposed to come back this weekend, so maybe? there'll be some signs of action for change? I'm playing obnoxiously loud music from lighter times and patiently approving my kids' screen time requests. Today is a black day for me. I don't know why. My kids seem really rattled about what will happen to TikTok now that . They live on TikTok. My optimistic self tells me that T just lost himself the election by guaranteeing that the youth will turn out en masse to vote. My pessimistic self keeps flashing back to that scene in the first season of The Handmaids Tale when the two friends go out to protest the government and are met with machine gun fire. So that's where my head is.
The fundamental challenge of this moment is the fact that white Americans, myself included, but especially our elected leaders, can't wrap our heads around the magnitude of the changes needed--immediately. We confuse winning battles with winning the war. Or, better to say, we confuse the challenge of healing a celestial body sick with every conceivable cancer with a fight against one bad guy with a gun. That's why, unfortunately, as much as we crave normal, normal will kill us all.
Turning my music up louder.
Update: Ruth Bader Ginsburg just died.
Day 193: Saturday, September 19
I was one of the millions of (mostly) women, and probably mostly white women, who cried last night when we got the news. I don’t know why I was so shocked that an elderly woman with pancreatic cancer had died, but I was. I suspect that I was also one of millions of women who were initially underwhelmed by the reaction of the men in our life to the news. I’m confident my husband does understand the personal gravity of what’s now in play for his wife and his daughter (as well as his brother and brother-in-law), but I also envy his ability not to feel same level of visceral fear. Things were already scary and desperate—and personally relevant and unacceptable—but RBG’s death has put our nation into free fall. That said, many more people than usual complimented me on my Vote mask today out in the world. And even my usually silent majority online mom’s group spent some time talking urgent politics today. Small lights, but I choose to gather them to me and keep facing hope.
It’s a physical choice as much as a mental one. However, it is never not possible to exist in this world as a woman without thinking about your body. The loss of potentially the last vote protecting my ability to control the fate of my own body made me take some time to check in with the body I wear, and see how it was doing.
It’s a blessedly beautiful day here in San Francisco. The air has held at good, and I took my daughter on a long walk up and down some big hills to soak it in, and enjoy a little special time. My back was in pain more than I’d like; I was carrying a backpack full of pre-pandemic books I mistakenly thought I could drop at the local library. I also felt a little nauseas and woozy, like I had had too much alcohol last night (I had none). But I also felt much stronger than I have in a while. And also lighter. It was happy swinging next to my daughter, swapping song picks on my phone. I’m trying to broaden her horizon beyond Katy Perry.
When you’re locked inside for long times, a body becomes a furniture, something to park somewhere for hours at a time, unnatural, human-made, soft and detached from the natural world. Being able to go outside again, and to plant my feet over and over into the earth with walking and biking (and literal gardening), though, has given me back this blood and flesh. This is my body, wholly useful and wholly real. And it can keep walking for however long it takes. Rest in power, RGB.
Day 194: Sunday, September 20
I had my daughter cut my hair today. She earned $1; we haven’t yet had a talk about the minimum wage. She cut my son’s hair, too. He looks like an Anglican choir boy. Is it a look? It’s certainly not, not a look.
We finally cleaned off and collapsed all the floaties that’ve been sitting in the backyards, collecting ash.
Day 195: Monday, September 21
It’s odd how hard weekends have become in COVID times. They used to be so relaxing, full of pancakes, backyard time, family movie night and lying around, but now they’re endless hours of screaming and tantrums about screen time, VR, cleaning up after yourself, going outside. My husband got into a throw down fight with our daughter about Borax; she no longer has unfettered access to her box of Borax. It was almost comical.
I don’t blame anyone. It’s hard to look forward to relaxing family time when we’ve already been on top of each other 24/7, all of us are out of sort for lack of socialization and structure and there are few places to go without the risk of death. Monday is so much more relaxing. All hail Monday!
In truly good news, my daughter is starting an after school club today. I’m inordinately excited for her to get to hang out (socially distanced and masked) with other girls, and to move her body and sweat with unconstrained joy. It’s only been a month, but distance learning has become such an incredible drag. It’s not horrible, and there’d probably be a slump for the kids right about now if they were in regular in-person school, but it’s just fucking depressing at home. Even our cat looks bored.
As a result, my enthusiasm for teaching them extra things has waned. I don’t care if they attend PE, music, art—all things I promise I love and value. But there’s only so many hours kids can Zoom in a day before, you know, all our brains liquefy. So we’ll be skipping all those unless they express direct interest in attending; I don’t care if they get failing grades. My older has been licking a battery all day. My younger is obsessed with a new drawing app that lets her blend colors, and watermelon. They’re fine. They won’t get stupid this year. It’s their hearts and innocence that need the most enrichment right now.
Day 196: Tuesday, September 22
I read this essay yesterday about rethinking the concept of apocalypse from an indigenous perspective. I’m still sitting with the ideas, particularly how time exists for me now, and what it would be like to rethink time altogether. We’ve recently had a whiff of this different way of experiencing the flow of the world with the terrible air/pandemic “wintry mix,”—due back in a couple weeks, by the way. But yeah, I can’t yet imagine such a different way of living. I’m going to keep sitting with it anyway.
The after school club thing yesterday turned out to be pretty awesome. Both kids got social time and opportunities to move their bodies; I got to walk and listen to my podcasts, alone. That said, the experience was marred by the fun of being harassed by not just one, but two drivers on the short journey to and from the club. People are usually fairly thoughtful about driving around me and my kids when we’re on our bikes, but yesterday two different people (both on nominally calm side streets) not only screamed at us, but went out of their way to do so. My kids definitely noticed.
I’d like to excuse these murderous asswipes, since no one is at their best right now, but I’m also starting to sincerely wonder if someone’s going to act on their worst impulses soon. Now that the police have shown that it’s perfectly fine to use your car to move inconvenient people out of your way. If drivers are willing to cuss out kids doing nothing wrong, what more are they willing to do? Our transit-first city has cancelled many transit lines and we are intentionally car-free, so the choice of getting around town becomes a) never leave the house b) walk everywhere, and hope they don’t mow us down in the crosswalks or on the sidewalk c) get a car and be part of the acceleration of the climate crisis, and live a much more miserable life or d) keep biking and hope for the best. Right now, I’m leaning towards a. I think we’re seeing each other at our increasingly most primal right now, and it’s not a good look.
The sky is beautiful, though, and we’ve been able to bring back gardeners to (safely) finish the landscaping we were in the middle of doing before COVID-19 hit. Part of the planting project is intended to make the front of our house more neighborhood friendly, but I admit that it’s starting to feel like trying to keep a rowboat afloat while the waves tower and crash.
Our cat caught and ate a bird this morning. It was horrible.
Day 197: Wednesday, September 23
The air feels like fall today. The sharp, soft light, the cool, crisp air and warm sunshine. The Golden Gate Bridge is outlined sharply and shining International Orange. It’s a gorgeous day to be alive.
Unfortunately, Breonna Taylor is not still alive, and, as of today, will never receive justice for being murdered by the police while asleep in her own bed. How many times can we break the hearts of our Black neighbors? It’s so beyond cruel, this system that we’ve built and continue to uphold.
My cucumber plants have begun to bud, and without the beans blocking the light, my herbs are finally flourishing. It’s a good day to be alive. I wish she was.
Day 198: Thursday, September 24
The cat’s out of the bag. It’s become popular knowledge that Trump will not allow this to be a fair election, and will—maybe—attempt a coup. I feel far more calm now that I’m not some lone loony toon worrying about this off in my own dark corner. Dude said it himself on TV today. Okay. Glad we’re all on the same page now. Hold the line.
I am making strong progress on my current manuscript. It’s a fundamental rewrite of an older concept that seems completely trifling now, set in the dystopian San Francisco future. I have never had less trouble writing these characters. Let’s just leave it at that :) I love the part of storytelling when you know enough about your characters, what your story’s about and what’s going to happen, that it begins to flow out onto the page. When you can stop worrying and just acknowledge.
I did something truly radical last night and ran. (Jogged? Shuffled?) I used to run a lot in my 20s—long, epic runs along the NYC and Chicago waterfronts (Boston inland), and lots of hours on the treadmill, but had to stop when the doctor told me I had worn away all the cartilage in my ankle. It was really painful, especially in this hilly concrete city. I got rid of all my heels, too. Beloved heels that made so much more sense in flat Chicago than San Francisco. And the injury is now a permanent feature. So I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of running, but it did feel good to grind out a mile at the track yesterday, my son cheering me on while I thumped my chest in my Best Cat Mom Ever t-shirt every lap. That said, I’m muscle-y enough that running is more of a weightlifting exercise than cardio still, but maybe I’ll get to the point where I’m fast enough again to get winded. I do love to sprint.
I figure that if I can get back into running again, anything is possible. Anything good.
Day 199: Friday, September 25
Okay, I'm feeling pretty right with the world today, despite everything. It's largely the cool, good air before the heat/smog/smoke wave to come; I'm trying to be a camel and drink it all in now before we re-enter an emotional desert.
So I went for an exercise bike ride (why?!) and sweated a bunch in my Vote mask (it's a sort of political work), translated opaque technical policy documents into human (my odd superpower--other people are really good at dancing and Mah Jong) and other mundane work things (long minutes contemplating Bible verses). There's an energetic part of me that wants to launch some sort of collaborative radical policy library, collecting and re-drafting generic versions of truly radical policy templates for your favorite city or town. But it also sounds like a ton of work on top of a few other major projects I'm deep into. Someday, though--maybe ... if we're all still living in a semblance of a democracy in a few months.
I've gotten really into watching The British Baking Show again. It's the perfect cozy, no stakes and distinctly foreign viewing experience, though I guess there's some to do about it becoming less so in the last few seasons? I don't know. I just still find it fascinating/repulsive that people want to eat weird layered trifles with jelly. And that there's such a thing as a "Steamed School Pudding." Let me tell you, LaSalle Language Academy did not serve me anything remotely resembling a pudding. Steamed greasy donut in a plastic bag, though. Or ambiguous hot, sugary cookie in a greasy white bag. That would be nostalgic. Churros. Where is the churros challenge? I digress.
I'm going to do some more canvassing for my candidate tomorrow morning: Day 200. How the fuck did we get here?
Day 200: Saturday, September 26
When I first started this journal, I thought it would be a labor of a few months, tops. Maybe a few weeks, if we were lucky. Obviously, this country has been full of anything but luck, so here we are: Day 200, with no end in sight. Some experts are now talking about COVID-19 becoming a regular part of daily life even post-vaccine, so my definition of a Quarantine Journal has become "something I write when my kids are not allowed back at school and I can't work in the world," not "when COVID is over and gone." I'm quite confident now we're going to get to 300 days, if not 400 before we meet those terms. Or who knows? Maybe the political singularity will occur on November 3rd, and the concept of a day will become something altogether different.
I'm going to keep writing this, though. I continue to find it addictive and, above all, cathartic. As you know if you've been reading me, I've been a mess through these 200 days; it's painful to write about it on a public forum. However, I see that people are reading it (who are you?) and while the darker part of me assumes that it's to feel better about themselves or to make fun of the overwrought pathos of the privileged (both legitimate assessments), the more generous part of me hopes that it's a source of reassurance to other people struggling to keep it together that they're not alone. Also, maybe you're just really interested in my plants and cat.
So, I'm going to keep going. There will be a new blog post entry tomorrow starting Days 201-300. Goodbye frothy early 2020 hope, hello grim march into late 2020 reality.