Quarantine Journal (Updated Daily) Days 201-300
Note: I don't edit these posts, so they can be raw.
Day 201: Sunday, September 27
Today is my son's birthday. He's now officially a tween. He pointedly ate a whole piece of zucchini at dinner the other night because "it's what mature people do." Sure, kid, let's say it is. He also ate half of an ice cream cake today, so I'm not sure what that proves about his age (or my own--we all really enjoyed that cake). It's been a muted celebration, like all the other quarantine celebrations. We gave him my candle snuffer to put out the candles, and hummed the Happy Birthday song under masks; he had a friend over for part of the day, all the windows open. So it felt a little religious.
His hope for the year is to survive.
I planted a new batch of lime basil and sweet peppers today. I hope they survive, too. I just closed the windows; the air has turned orange again.
Thirty-six days until the election.
Day 202: Monday, September 28
This morning was miserable with heat and smoke. There are a host of new fires in the area, including a few places that already burned a couple years ago. We had the windows open for part of the night, and I woke up with a raw throat and an instant loathing of yet more spaceship time. I get the sense that the climate crisis is unfolding faster than even the more dire predictions; but that might be the headache and feeling of wooziness from this morning speaking. It’s thankfully cool and green now.
The police reform organization that I volunteer for did a call today with a local elected official. I knew this guy a tiny bit when we were kids, and he struck me as much nicer than most other boys back then, and I like and support the on-paper version of what he’s been doing. But dude was a dick. When confronted with a local Black leader asking him to be more communicative as well as grounded in the grassroots, he did the “I’m sorry you feel upset.” Which, in case this isn’t clear to anyone, is a world of intention apart from “I’m sorry I did X.” I guess if you work with cop types all day, maybe you think you have to act like them, too? Or maybe you’re just a dick. I don’t know. It was a real shame; he’s certainly not doing himself any favors.
I told myself I was going to go running again today. I did not. Last Wednesday may become the one time I went running in my 40s, a semi-mythical event that justifies all kinds of other decisions. More cake? Sure. I went running. Would you like whipped cream with that, ma’am? Yeah, I run.
I also pay my damn taxes.
Thirty-five days until the election.
Day 203: Tuesday, September 29
The first presidential debate is tonight. I cannot physically watch Trump, not even look at his photo, so I’m not watching. I also hate that he and my father look alike, and share some similar mannerisms. I like my father fine, but the similarity makes the soul sucking void that is our president even more personally disturbing to witness. (Honestly, Biden is hard to watch, too. Like many people, I’m voting for him, but I’m not voting for him.) So the whole debate is like two reanimated corpses fighting over the scraps of the living. (Again, though, I’m voting Biden-Harris as soon as polls open here. Please do the same.)
Mayor Breed—Queen of the Spring, by comparison—announced that playgrounds are finally reopening here again in mid-October. It seems that apparently the governor and rest of the state health officials forgot (!!!!) to consider that playgrounds might be vitally important for millions of California parents. Forgot. So a legislator, who happens to be a mom—imagine that—forced the issue. It really tells you how much parenting Newsom must do, and also what a tool he continues to be. JFC.
Anyway, we’ve been hitting the playground after school when we can, mostly to swing in isolation and to play basketball on net-less hoops. My horse game is phenomenal now that there’s no way of judging whether it was actually a basket, though it’s also a little dispiriting. The crowd in the park is usually pretty empty, but it seems the word got around about the policy change because there were a lot more families there this afternoon, largely with older kids. My daughter met a new friend from the neighborhood. (As an aside, I love how kids can be great friends, but forget to learn each other’s names. Should I try this?) I really hope they put the nets back on the hoops soon. Will they forget that, too?
Thirty-four days until the election.
Day 204: Wednesday, September 30
Today is the good-ish weather before the bad air returns. I’m trying to air our house out and cool it down before we have to shut all the windows again; we probably have a few hours left. The all-impressive bed sheets are back on key windows, held up with an aggressive amount of blue tape. It’s a look, especially the Minecraft sheet.
There’s a bizarre discussion raging on one of my mom groups about the injustice of local private schools providing a purportedly subpar online experience for families who are opting out of returning to school in person, now that their school has been given permission by the Department of Public Health to reopen. It’s the strangest thing: moms grousing about the “unfairness” and hypocrisy of their (private!) school not living up to their “commitment to social justice.” And look, I don’t like the thought of any kid suffering, but the delusion on display is truly something. There is no such thing as a private school with a commitment to social justice. Those are contradictory ideas.
I spent a lot of time in Zoom meetings today, which is always soul sucking, no matter how much you care about the topic. Sometimes I forget how incredible our kids are purely for Zoom schooling for so many hours of each day. To me, spending my days on Zoom feels like flying from Chicago to Cleveland in successive round trips, in economy. These kids are made of steel. The whole generation of them.
The president only sort of tacitly declared himself a white supremacist during the first debate last night, and called for white militias to stand ready for his command. While it’s not like it was a surprise, it’s still horrific. Really, really upsetting. This is me sending a not so low-key f*ck you to any undecided voters.
Thirty-three days until the election.
Day 205: Thursday, October 1
It's an orange/red air day. All our windows are locked tight, fans are on and we are moving as slowly as possible, trying not to add any more heat to the house. It's 90 degrees outside. I'm glad I put the sheets on the windows a few days ago. Sheets and filters: what we have to protect ourselves from runaway climate change.
Yesterday the Board of Supervisors extended the lease of a gas station on public land. Just going to let that sit there, gathering shame.
It's hard to think today. I've gotten some stuff done, but I can feel my brain seizing up now, refusing to cooperate. It's too hot and stuffy in here. I think I'm going to serve ice cubes for dinner. Covid-19 put us in this house 24/7, but the lack of political leadership on the climate emergency has locked the windows and taken away the air, and the rise of fascism has left us feeling alone and scared. The common denominator is lack of political leadership. The solution is political leadership.
Yesterday the Board of Supervisors extended the lease of a gas station on public land instead of using it to build much-needed affordable housing, or a public pool or a refuge for women and children who need to escape abuse, or a community farm with jobs for the unhoused or a COVID testing center or ... a future.
Thirty-two days until the election.
Day 206: Friday, October 2
On the mornings that I don't have to get up first to oversee distance learning, I always walk into the kitchen braced for some immediate report of terrible news from my news-savvy kids. Like, they banned TikTok or there's an asteroid headed towards Earth, etc. So when my husband and kids were dead silent this morning, it felt more ominous than usual. And yeah, I was right. Trump has COVID-19, and was just flown to the hospital an hour or so ago.
[Stares out the window at 2020 at the red, filthy air and empty streets in something that isn't shock but does involve a lot of raised eyebrows and head shaking.] This is the point in the story where the editor writes, "too on the nose, try something more realistic."
So ... we'll see. Tomorrow, it'll be raining car tires and turtles, and Pence will be diagnosed with HIV.
We continue to be shut up indoors. The downside of having a well-insulated home in this situation is that, even though it's relatively temperate outside, it feels an awful lot like swimming in warm pee inside. All the previous heat remains trapped, so fans blow around stale, hot air, sleep is mercurial. Exercise just adds more heat to a closed system, sitting gets uncomfortable, and showers create this weird moistness to what cool air remains, rendering it hot. So what's worse? Opening the window and letting in cooler, toxic air or stewing in stale heat.
There's no change in sight inside, even as the news outside is flying at us at breakneck pace. Will he live? Will he die? It's a suspended warm pee reality, with the Internet blaring.
Day 207: Saturday, October 3
The president remains in the hospital, and more and more Republican lawmakers are being diagnosed with COVID-19. I was gnashing my teeth and pulling out my hair before he got sick, but now I feel like I'm just holding my breath. What does it mean?!
I took my daughter for a walk down to West Portal and back this morning, mostly to buy some nice wheat flour. The air was yellow, and thus decent enough for being outside (though my eyes sting--I think they're unusually sensitive to pollution), but it turned out to be hella hot. West Portal was crowded, everyone relieved to be out after days of bad air, with people out eating in the new parakeets, as well as far too many sitting in their idling cars, just starting at everyone. It was a pretty miserable walk, saved by a frozen limeade and a nice hour of swinging in the shade at the empty playground on the way home. Plus, the fact that we could move our bodies outside. I no longer take that for granted.
The other night, I logged into the VR and spent a couple hours visiting train stations around the world. It was a mildly spiritual experience. Even though it continues to be nasty hot outside, I think we're going to put up our Halloween decorations tomorrow. But what counts as scary anymore? Should I hang a 2020 timeline to date?
Day 208: Sunday, October 4
We’re on to the deadly hospital circus stage of Trump’s illness. Dude hotboxing around the block with his security detail to prove he’s alive. It’s just all so bizarre and darkly humorous. Except not. He’s going to take everyone down with him as he falls. I have zero doubt that if he dies of the virus in the next few weeks, Republicans will claim some Democrat deliberately infected him, and use it to continue to pull out of Democracy. Murder! Assassination! Trump will die a martyr, and there will be little to no healing. I’d so much rather him lose this election as a healthy man and have to stand trial. We don’t need more tin hat conspiracy theories in this country. Imagine if all those people following him just read fantasy instead.
The kids helped me hang the Halloween decorations today, which made me smile. There’s a certain level of hope involved in putting up seasonal flair, especially since there probably won’t be any trick or treating this year. I miss the gaggle of preschoolers that used to walk by our house every day last year at this time; they were really excited about our swinging pumpkin person.
I went into a fit of cleaning today and finally scrubbed down our windows and sills in addition to all the usual stuff (plus, because I’m a little intense, all the trash cans). There’s so much ash from the fires permanently stuck to the black metal railings and whatnot in our backyard thanks to the wildfires. I tried to get it off, but it seems like some of it is permanently burned into the metal? I didn’t know that was possible. We also harvested the last of our beans and replanted the soil with garlic bulbs. Sewing a winter crop would have felt insane yesterday in the heat, but today is a new world; Karl has come home with a vengeance, and I can’t see down the block anymore. It’s wonderfully chilly, even if the air is still yellow. My daughter is played out after a long friend date, my son is deep into the Legos, my husband sharpened the knives and I’ve got a winter candle going and a cup of tea with the lemon verbena I grow in our backyard going. This is definitely my happy place—to the extent that anyone can be happy in a state of suspended terror.
Day 209: Monday, October 5
Voting opens today! I’m going to head down to an early voting center later this week, when I’m not on kid oversight duty. Can’t f*cking wait. He’s still alive, though now he’s in zombie mode, lurching around the White House because he’s convinced he’s not sick, and infecting everyone in sight. The selfishness on display is staggering.
I accidentally made fabulous bread this week. In the haze of early Sunday morning (actually, 10 am), I added double the water called for by the recipe, and had to even it out with flour and salt by sight. Turns out to have been the right mistake to make. I am in love with this bread, and I think it likes me back.
In other mundanely exciting news—the best kind now—Karl the Fog has rebranded itself as Karla the Fog on Twitter. I’m appreciating the femme energy; let’s just say that she is really, really serious about her job this week. I could capture this fog in a bucket and use it for clothing, if I wanted to change out of the one pair of pants that I’m willing to wear anymore. (The pockets are amazing.)
It’s so strange, but I’ve been feeling so much happier and calmer than I did a month ago. I haven’t cried in weeks, which may be a recent record. Maybe it’s all chemical, but more likely it’s that it feels like we’ve finally reached the top of the rollercoaster and are on the way down into the already articulated madness. It’s the long climb up the coaster that’s always been the hardest for me to handle. I read the end of books before the middle and used to get physically uncomfortable from the suspense of The Cosby Show’s not-exactly-high-stakes plot line when I was a kid, twisting and doubling over in my seat until the resolution. Apparently, I can handle the loop de loops of the coaster with screams and terrified laughter. Just not the blind uncertainty of the interminable climb. Though, yes, I’d rather not be on the rollercoaster at all. Waterslides and lazy rivers: that’s my jam.
Day 210: Tuesday, October 6
I took my kids to the local pumpkin patch this afternoon, after school, which was wonderfully normal. We did a socially distanced hay ride around a field of huge teddy bears and graves; it’s a very specific experience. And my kids got a weird pumpkin each and some more Halloween decorations. There are now fake bloody hands on our front door and a skeleton in a bird cage hanging from the tree in front. Yes, I’m investing heavily in things to make this year feel normal. That said, my son’s pumpkin will be carved to read “2020.”
Speaking of which, Trump is looking even more ill, and now Stephen Miller has COVID-19.
[Cracks open a bottle of wine and sits back to sip.]
My ballot came in the mail yesterday. It’s so tempting to use it like normal, and pop it back into the mail box when I’m finished, but nah. I’m going down in person on Friday with a list and get a sticker. For now, though, I’m appreciating how many of my San Francisco friends care enough about local politics that they’ve invited me to Zoom meet and greets with a variety of candidates. These friends are universally public school parents, which is hardly a coincidence. Much love to all you energetic women.
Twenty-seven days until the election.
Day 211: Wednesday, October 7
The air is bad and it's a police commission live tweet night. #sfpolicecommission
Twenty-six days until the election. Go Kamala!
Day 212: Thursday, October 8
We're into a strange time of the new, lengthy fire season where the air quality hovers just over 100, never quite getting truly horrible but also never getting healthy. We had to skip my daughter's running club yesterday in favor of VR exercise. I don't feel great about it--literally, I haven't been able to move my body in any sort of serious way in a couple days. It's like the best way to describe the weather is "clinically depressed," though at this point I'm numb to the experience. This is the new normal. "God is change."
I voted today. I was going to go down to Civic Center and do early in-person voting, but with the air being what it is, I decided to simply put on my "Vote" mask and walk my ballot to the mail box at the end of my block. San Francisco's election department has an online system where you can track your ballot and ensure it's been received and then opened and counted. I figure that if it hasn't been counted by November 3rd, I'll go to my polling station and cast a provisional ballot instead. So, voting: done, and godspeed.
I'm going to skip making any fly jokes today. I didn't get to watch the VP debate because the SF Police Commission was meeting at the same time, though I'm not sure I would have wanted to anyway. I have a physical discomfort to watching men like Pence and Trump perform themselves, and I'm hardly undecided.
Trump is allegedly still alive, knowable only through the continuation of his Twitter feed. In absolutely, completely unrelated news, some white militia dudes tried to kidnap and kill the governor of Michigan, who had the audacity to be a woman in power. People have rightly been calling bullshit on the ubiquity of the "good cop" trope in movies and TV shows recently. Similarly, I think we're going to have to have a reckoning with the fallacy of the stealthy white guy assassin in movies. It's hard to be invisible if you're your own god, my hairy dudes.
Twenty-five days until the election.
Day 213: Friday, October 9
A small blessing happened last night. It rained a bit, and now the air is incredibly clean. That will, no doubt, change again as people drive around fouling it back up, and the fires continue, but for the moment, it's a balm. The colors over the Golden Gate Bridge are sharp and shot through with pigment. It's a good day to be alive.
I'm deep in creation mode over here. My best friend sends me photos of cats and Mariah Carey wisdom throughout the days, which is distracting in the best way possible. I also send a certain amount of cat content. In other words, not much doing here. My kids both had school subs today to allow the teachers to prepare for another round of physical material distribution next week, so my daughter spent the day making chocolate caramels, and my son spent it eating them. They're, understandably, in good spirits.
I've begun to suspect that my son may grow up to be a lawyer, which is giving me some feelings as the daughter of two lawyers. My kid is truly the master of loopholes. Always looking for the workaround angle, and always looking for the way to monetize. The infestation of start up culture. His sister can't just make caramels; she has to sell them, too. She can't make bead people; she has to sell collector's item beaded creations. Last night, he re-invented the financial industry by accident with a proposal to buy stock in our fictional family allowance bank. The full proposal was a well-considered pyramid scheme. Anyway, we continue to learn more and more about each other thanks to these close quarters. If he must go into law, though, it sure as hell won't be corporate law.
Speaking of questionable parenting come to roost, there is a group on Facebook for (mostly white) parents with kids in SFUSD schools that is rapidly frothing itself into a parody of nice white parent zombies. I had hopes for it when it first started, and I do appreciate the factual SFUSD development information posted, but wow has it taken a turn for the worse. Today the usual people are complaining about the district renaming schools. Currently, too many schools are named after horrible white men of the past, and I guess this has been an actual request by BIPOC parents in the district, which, you know, we should listen to if we want to be actively anti-racist. There is, admittedly, slightly more nuance to my fellow white parents' arguments, but also at the end of the day, not. It's not their priority for the district, and they know best. Anyway, pedestrian Internet gossip, but sometimes I need to connect the dots for myself so I don't get lured into their rational-seeming arguments. This recent podcast from Integrated Schools on this very topic has been a whole lesson.
Day 214: Saturday, October 10
I have my Rainbow Unicorn candle going again. It was sunny this morning but the fog has come in strong, air clear. My daughter and I went out to the ocean and back up through Golden Gate Park for “air your children out” time. It’s beautiful, and the world feels right on the Great Walkway and in the park. So many people, feeling so happy to be out, moving their bodies. It always makes me smile to see people truly living their best lives on their natural wheels, like the dude today who was dancing and singing along to his music as he cruised through the park with his yoga mat. Or the guy slithering up and down JFK, Drive in his neon rollerblades, backwards. I also really appreciated the bushes with alarmed, Halloween eyes on outer Kirkham. People are not skipping the decorations this year.
These are good days, amid terrible.
A friend who lives elsewhere recently equated the challenge of living in wildfire smoke during non-COVID times—going from inside to inside—to deep winter living. I get where she’s coming from, but unless you live through the bad air over a long period of time, it’s hard to understand how different it is. I grew up in Chicago and lived in NYC and Boston during many winters, so I am very, very familiar with winter. Glacial, too-cold-to-snow winter. The pounding terror of coming home to your pilot light being off, ergo no heat, during the dead of February. When I was a kid, I once peed on myself in front of my own building front door because my hands had become too numb from the cold to work the key. Our rear car window shattered from cold in the early ‘80s. So yeah, I get winter. I get cold. I even sort of understand being trapped inside by heat. Florida and I are not friends. Nor DC.
So, when I say bad air and extreme cold/snow/heat are different kinds of trapped, I speak from experience. Snow/cold and heat are terrifying and deadly, but they are expected, natural weather. When they seep into your home, there are natural remedies. More clothing, a fire in the fireplace, less clothing, sitting in the shade and putting up sheets to block the sun, ice—frozen fruit! It’s the cycle of seasons. The smoke, however, is not cozy, is not pool weather. There’s no natural remedy to it (except to do it more often in controlled burns), and when it seeps into your home, it’s just airborne poison. It feels like being plunked down onto an alien planet, where you don’t know how to adapt. Our homes aren’t set up for it, and our cityscapes most certainly are not. Maybe we all will adapt, in time. Maybe some. But personally, I’d take a bad snowstorm season over wildfire smoke any year. I can rock the moon boots.
Twenty-three days until the election.
Day 215: Sunday, October 11
As I type this, two small kids are losing their shit over our Halloween decorations outside my window, and I mean that in a good way. "Blood!"
It's small task day. Shards are being glued, exposed frame metal sealed, herbs harvested, bread kneaded, chalk walls wiped, pumpkins finalized, cords hidden, bolts tightened, etc. I will always appreciate how excited my son gets about the farming once he drags his carcass out of his book. My daughter busies herself with making fruity cocktails (alcohol-free).
The cat, similarly, has been harvesting his own crop. There were some vigorous sounds in the living room these last two nights, sounds of terror and carnage, and he's been unusually affectionate and content. So the mouse trap is back out.
The air is clear thanks to some light overnight rain, but has that lightly sour smoke stink of a bar shirt that never got washed after a night out in the '90s. I don't know why. My cucumbers are the size of modest pickles.
I tried not to write about this, but I can't stop thinking about it, so I'm back with a few more paragraphs. The white and otherwise privileged parenting Internet has pivoted from being upset about just the proposed name changes at SFUSD schools, to being truly up in arms about making Lowell High School admissions a lottery this year because of COVID-19. Lowell is the one academically selective high school in San Francisco (there's another one for the arts), and currently has abysmal rates of Black and Latinx enrollment, as well as complaints about persistent racism within the school. Though the admissions system is different in the two cities, the overall conversation about admissions is really similar to the one in NYC about selective high schools. "I support diversity, but ..." "Sure, they should solve the diversity problem at the school eventually, but ..." The framing is always a "diversity problem," never a racism problem. White and privileged parents want to--theoretically--solve the problem, but never at the perceived loss to their own kids. Never if it means our kids will be treated the same as everyone else's, subject to the same opportunities. The threads are ugly, and depressing.
I could write all day about the issue, and it's tempting to hold up these parent commenters as people who are uniquely racist, but they're not. (Well, maybe some of them are, depending on the thread. Whatever.) I think, however, that in addition to people lashing out at yet more change to the structure of the world right now, the core of the opposition comes from a radically different understanding of the purpose of a public school education compared to our Board of Education. What are kids learning by being in segregated schools that they think they feel entitled to based on specific admissions criteria?
I am still very much on my own ugly journey through these questions and the decisions I've made about my kids' education. It's taken more than it should for me to step back and start to think more critically about these questions, and how they align with the person I want to be, the change I want to see in the world. But this feels like one of those moments when you either shit or get off the pot if you do really care about ridding our schools of racism, and helping our white and otherwise privileged kids become better humans than us. I'm going to write a letter of support to the Board of Education tomorrow about both the naming proposal and the Lowell change.
Twenty-two days until the election.
Day 216: Monday, October 12
Happy Indigenous People’s Day. Holiday aside, today is one of those days where I realize just how exhausted I am with living in this shelter-in-place setup. We are so fortunate to have a really amazing backyard, and a house we’ve been able to shape to suit or habits, but gods damn am I still tired of being home all the fucking time with the same three people. People I love more than life. But yeah, really fucking tired of living on top of each other. All. The. Time. Weekends, and especially long weekends, are the worst. No routine. People crabbing on top of each other, or demanding constant attention, wanting yet more togetherness when all I want to do is walk out the door and disappear on a train for a month. I am maybe a little extreme in this way. I need more space and alone time than you can imagine, no matter how much I love you. As the kids used to say at preschool when someone got too close, “Space!” Says COVID-19 back, “Play!”
I tried to self-soothe and tune out for a while and listen to podcasts, walk around some outside while my kids were activitying. My mask felt unusually heavy, though, and I keep having this thing happen where someone will say something to me while I have my headphones and mask on, and I can’t hear, so I panic and begin to take off my mask, thinking it’ll help me hear. Then I realize that, no, I have to remove the headphones, not the mask. But even then, I feel like I can’t hear properly when my mask is still on. Maybe I can’t? Or maybe I’m just losing my mind. It gets even more complicated when I’m wearing a visor or sunglasses. I truly cannot wait for the day when I can stop wearing masks.
Is it over yet? Can we go back to living with boundaries?
Twenty-one days until the election. We’re back in high alert wildfire season. I have mastered squash-banana-Nutella muffins.
Day 217: Tuesday, October 13
The mouse is dead. Long live the mouse. (Trump (appears to be) still alive.)
Our cat sat on the counter in front of the oven for hours waiting to catch and kill the mouse last night, starting around 7 pm. It never had a chance. I found tiny drops of blood on the floor this morning as the cat danced around my feet, nonetheless demanding to be fed.
Equally nuts things are happening out in the world. The Senate is rushing to confirm Amy Barrett, handmaiden of hell, and (mostly Black) voters are being forced to wait for whole days to be able to vote—and this is early as hell voting. Imagine what this would look like if these folks had had to wait until Election Day. Voter suppression has been and continues to be so, so real.
It’s unfathomable to this white woman who gets her ballot in the mail and walks the 50 feet to the mailbox to put it in the box whenever she pleases every election. I think the longest I ever waited to vote was back in 2004 in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, and even that really wasn’t all that bad. The machines were bizarre crosses between vending machines and carnival games, though.
With the Senate hearing barreling along parallel to voting, it feels like two trucks picking up speed and about to turn and head right toward each other in some sick game of chicken.
In good news, the last two hours may have been the most productive and relaxing I’ve had since February. A nearby friend with kids at school with mine invited my little energy balls over to do part of school in their backyard today. It’s at most a whiff of a pod, but what a difference to my ability to get some real thinking and work done! If my husband (or me!) had also miraculously had a safe place to work outside of the home today, the effect of angels singing peacefully from heaven while showering me with insightful thoughts and speedy fingers would have been complete. There’s been a fair amount of texting and FaceTiming, though, to make sure their tech is working, they’re on their calls, etc, so it’s not exactly like a return to school school. But my storage is empty, and I am available to you, oh lord of work.
Twenty days until the election.
Day 218: Wednesday, October 14
It’s unseasonably warm today and everyone is spread out, moving lethargically. I hope this heat goes away soon, though pretty sure that’s wishful thinking. I’m theoretically on school oversight duty today, but spent a portion of it sprawled out, face down on the couch, nursing a headache and general malaise. I am not winning any parenting awards these days. It’s days like this when I really, really miss public swimming pools.
Last night I listened to part of a Board of Education meeting, which have become more interesting to me than TV. The BOE is pushing for the development of a K-12 Black Studies Curriculum in addition to the existing (though mostly theoretical) Ethnic Studies Curriculum, which sounds great. The Board also began discussing the proposal to temporarily change Lowell to a lottery for the coming year because see: COVID-19. I knew it would be a high feelings public comment section, but wow were the opponents of the measure awful. The details have been written about elsewhere, so I won’t get into it here, but for me personally, my support for the measure got stronger and stronger with every person who spoke, regardless of which side. It was largely alumni speaking against the change, and I gotta say, if those are the people Lowell is turning out, something really needs to change at that school, stat. Ugly.
I once got involved in a local effort to protest the construction of an IKEA when I lived in Red Hook, Brooklyn back in the early 2000s. I joined a street protest with my largely white and older neighbors, and then went to a public meeting. When I walked into the meeting, it was full of mostly Black residents from the local housing projects very clearly in support, plus the guy who managed my apartment building standing guard over the speaking sheet. You were supposed to sign in and write down if you wanted to speak for or against the project. It was in that moment that I realized that, even if I didn’t want the IKEA’s parking lot and parade of cars in the neighborhood, I was on the wrong side of that issue. I didn’t sign up to speak and I stopped participating in the No on IKEA protests. The store got built, presumably Black residents from the neighborhood got jobs and Red Hook continues on, starkly unequal but maybe slightly less so than before; I obviously don’t live there anymore. All of which is to say, it’s okay to evolve your thinking and grow once you see who you’re really standing with, and standing against.
Tonight is the police commission for me. The SFPD murdered another man on the street last week, so it’s also going to be an intense meeting. As it should be.
Nineteen days until the election, probably fewer until Amy Barrett is confirmed.
Day 219: Thursday, October 15
Playgrounds are back open, which is good because it's in the 90s today--in October. I am grateful that the air is good because the slight breeze coming through the windows is keeping me sane. That said, I am 100% confident that our Halloween pumpkins are going to rot and melt again this year. That's global warming now. Sad pumpkins. People still out, driving like nothing's going on. No new sweeping legislation or programs to address the problem at the city or state level. Not a peep. Everything's normal. Nothing to see here, folks. Yup. That's American global warming, even in the progressive places.
We had my husband's brother and his partner over last night for a brief, COVID-conscious, fully ventilated and masked gathering. My brothers in law live across the country and have a new baby and were only out here for a day on some complicated and sad business related to a recent friend's death, missing their tiny boy. Anyway, it's been a long time since we've been able to see them in person, and it was really nice. Even if we had to wear masks and stand far apart, near open windows, and the kid had to stay home. The idea of killing the fathers of a toddler from your recklessness does give one pause.
I've been feeling really lethargic today, almost certainly from the heat and too many online meetings. Early in this pandemic, I went to bed most nights terrified that I had contracted the virus. That feeling has waned as our numbers in San Francisco have improved, but it does occasionally resurface, like last night. It's unfortunate that most of the early symptoms of COVID-19 are essentially the symptoms of a cold or flu or stress. Last night I felt wrecked, and that old, familiar panic came back, plus a headache. I don't have COVID. I'm sure I don't have COVID, but spitballing here, it really would be helpful if the early symptoms were, say, a singing elbow or a toe that grew a claw. Something glaringly obvious. I think we'd all sleep a lot better at night, though religion might really explode.
Eighteen days until the election. My ballot has officially been opened and counted according to the SF Election Department ballot tracker. Ya voté.
Day 220: Friday, October 16
Man, Facebook, stop showing me ads for cute sweaters and boots. It is 93 degrees right now, still on its way up to close to 100 in the next hour or so, and that is some salt in the wound. Miss me with your fall recipes and pumpkin spiced lattes. The content I need is where we can safely go swimming in the next 24 hours. My poor cucumber plant is shriveling up and dying in this heat. Pumpkins still structurally intact--for now.
My back is killing me from all the sitting and the lack of exercise. It's too hot to exercise to outside during the day, and I'm not willing to get up at 5 am (and, of course, indoor exercise sounds super iffy right now, even with measures in place). The flab where there once used to be muscle, is real. Have I mentioned that I wish I could go swimming? :)
I have no other news to report. The world is a swirl of contradictory high-emotion online debates and aggressions, Trump remains alive, Diane Feinstein showed her ass and my son went nuts for the brussell sprouts I made for dinner last night. Admittedly, they were doused in olive oil, bacon and maple syrup. But still, I'll hold that victory close.
Oh, ah. The big news is that we are at the part of pandemic isolation where my daughter teaches my cat to swim. The poor thing. She took him in the bath with her last night, got him to swim some, and then shampooed and conditioned his fur, more than once. We were late in noticing the evening's events, stuck in VR and whatnot as we were, but he really is very soft right now. I'm sincerely glad that the cat knows how to swim, since it is useful as a skill, though I wish for him that he never needs to demonstrate competence again. He looked really ragged wet, when my daughter brought him down in triumph.
Seventeen days until the election. Send me tips on pools.
Day 221: Saturday, October 17
It was hot again today, but the playgrounds are open again, so I let my daughter lead me on a playground tour of the west side. We ended up visiting three, and actually playing at two. She was a little freaked out by how crowded it felt everywhere, and probably just the novelty of seeing other, unknown kids at a playground for a change. It wasn’t actually that crowded, but she’s a cautious child, and I have learned to respect and honor her wariness of new situations. So much has been lost in this pandemic.
We ran into a couple of her friends at the big playground in Golden Gate Park, which was a treat. San Francisco is both a big city, and very small in that way. That said, it was so odd to be at Koret playground and not have it packed with tourists. I haven’t been by Pier 39, etc in nearly a year, but it must be similarly strange. Columbus Avenue with no tourists. Chinatown. The mind stretches and seeks. Instead of moms doing aerobics near the park carousel while people gawk and eat hot dogs, there was a class of tiny local kids doing capoeira. It was both relaxing and exhausting.
I spent a good portion of the late afternoon swinging in the hammock in our backyard, resting my eyes. The heat has mellowed into a beautiful night, and the finally completed Ferris wheel on the Music Concourse is lit up a brilliant white out our kitchen windows. My son is listening to the latest French Trump press conference, back from a day rolling around in sand and mud at the beach. Did you know you can search your birthdate and “Florida man” and get an insane story about some nonsense in the Sunshine State that day? Mine is “Naked Florida man starts house fire while baking cookies on George Foreman grill.” There ya go.
Sixteen days until the election.
Day 222: Sunday, October 18
I did something I haven't done since March today: ride the bus. It felt a little cooler when I went out into the backyard this morning, so I took my son on a forced march over some hills and to a hardware store to buy paint in the afternoon. It was a nice, if hot, walk, especially since we've been super sedentary as of late. But after we had the two gallons of paint in hand, the idea of walking back in the heat seemed very unappealing. So we hopped on a bus and rode most of the way home.
I still remember the last bus ride I took before SIP. It was the day before we went into lockdown, and I was bringing my daughter home from school. No masks, lots of people and a lot of paranoia about touching surfaces. My husband blanched when I told him what I'd done.
Things have definitely changed. The new rule is that you can only board buses through the back door. Which is ironic, because I remember a few years ago when the SFMTA couldn't decide whether it was okay with adding rear boarding at all. How quickly times have changed. Anyway, the bus today was nearly empty, all the windows were open and everyone was masked and dead silent. So it felt pretty safe. In fact, now that I've done it once, I'd be inclined to go back to using buses and trains more often, particularly if the SFMTA finally reinstated the route that used to go right to the end of my block. I'd love to walk the Embarcadero again. I'm guessing the reinstatement of all the canceled lines will only happen if Biden/Harris wins, and maybe not even then. Transit first city on paper, never in practice.
Fifteen days until the election.
Day 223: Monday, October 19
The light is starting to wane, and fall feels like it’s finally rolling in. Karla came back with a KO punch last night, and all of the west side is cold fog now. I may break out a candle tonight and try to make the experience more cozy than slow death.
Absolutely nothing of note happened today except that my daughter had a bad misunderstanding with the cat and a door hinge, and she now has some wicked, red scratches on her arms and legs. The cat went to ground for a bit, but appears fine. He will outlive us all.
I don’t know if this is mere coincidence or a pointed effort on the part of SFUSD, but both my kids are learning about the branches of government, democracy and other types of political structures in school right now. I suspect my son’s teacher gets tired of reading the word “fascist” in his weekly spelling/vocab free-hand definitions, but the kid reads the news and is as worried as the rest of us. He learned about Citizens United vs. today via the Paula Poundstone podcast, and worries that a corporation will now run for president. Meanwhile, it feels almost quaint to try to teach my daughter about the supposed checks and balances system across our three branches, like discussing the Lost City of Atlantis. I’m definitely breaking out the candle. It’s dark so early now.
Daylight savings is on November 1st. Fourteen days until the election.
Day 224: Tuesday, October 20
Simultaneously watching the Board of Supervisors oversight hearing of the SFPD's reform efforts and the live tweets of the Board of Education meeting. Send wine.
Day 225: Wednesday, October 21
San Francisco has officially--and hopefully, permanently--reached the yellow zone for COVID-19. But the public schools are still closed. I've been more or less on board with what the School District has been doing with distance learning and planning for kids to go back to in-person school, resigned to the reality that my kids won't be going back anytime this school year. Now, though, I'm starting to wonder if they'll even go back next fall. I listened to the BOE meeting last night, and it seems like they're on a very slow roll. Meanwhile, there's no leadership from the governor or real help from the mayor and Board of Supervisors short of press statements. (And of course, absolutely no help from the federal government.) I can swallow the bitter pill of distance learning for one entire school year. It doesn't go down smoothly, especially since now we can go to bars, I can do indoor lap swimming and all kinds of other stuff is open. (Strip clubs?) Distance learning past one school year, though ... absolutely fucking not.
However, short of 100% adoption of vaccines for both adults and kids, I don't see this school board or teachers union changing course. There won't be a vaccine for kids before next fall, at least I don't think. I'm really worried.
It's back to being unseasonably warm and loud. My husband sort of got published in the New Yorker today, and it's about me. Actually, 100% him, but way of me. Also, it's satire. But not.
Twelve days until the election. The FBI is making some major announcement tonight about election security. It can't be good. Invalidating vote by mail? Postponing the election? Trump dropped out and all new ballots will be sent out, with his name no longer in the running? I can't wait for Halloween candy binge weekend. Gonna make my teeth ache from the emotional eating.
Day 226: Thursday, October 22
I'm typing this while on a school parent association Zoom. School matters have exploded once again in the last few days. The white SF parenting Internet has gotten even louder about wanting public schools to reopen--understandably. There's a new Facebook group for the push, and it's, unfortunately, turned very toxic, very fast. This is rapidly becoming a white parent vs. Black and Latinx parent issue, which it really, really shouldn't be. This group is just forcing the Board of Education deeper into their positions; they're going to dig in their heels if the only way they're going to come at this is calling for the current Board to be voted out. White parents don't have that electoral influence, so not going to happen.
It's hollow to do armchair advocacy critique, so I will say that I called every single one of my local and state elected officials today to ask them to work with the SFUSD Board and staff to get the schools open as quickly as possible. Specifically, to lend the heft of their office to cut through the red tape and fill in any funding gaps that are holding back opening. Only one elected official told me they'd gotten similar calls, which is concerning. That is the way to change things. There's no culture in San Francisco of agencies accomplishing huge projects in any sort of timely manner (Van Ness BRT, cough cough) without massive political pressure and support. This is a consensus culture city, and we're all about thorough processes with endless outreach. SFUSD is doing exactly what it usually does, just like every other local agency, which is endless, plodding consensus bureaucracy. And the Mayor and Board of Supervisors has let them do that--none of the electeds have stepped in to help, only to grandstand. There's no point person on schools/education in the Mayor's office living and breathing this issue. No one waking up every morning saying, "today is the day we figure out how to open the schools."
So, it's a clusterf*ck. This parent association meeting is billed as all about this discussion, and I'm preemptively sick to my stomach. I have my kids with extremely non-diverse leadership. My fault.
Oh, I was wrong about the FBI update last night. They were warning about election interference from Russia and Iran. My doomsday brain says that it was part legit warning and part setting up a court case for the Supremes to invalidate parts of the election results to swing it to Trump. Who can say? I look forward to taking off my tin foil hat in the very near future.
Eleven days until the election.
Update: Yeah, the meeting was even worse than expected. I logged out.
Day 227: Friday, October 23
I'm feeling tired. Wrung out. Today has not been a productive day. I peeked into the joint Board of Supervisors and SFUSD Board meeting this afternoon, thinking I'd just take a moment to understand what was really happening, and ended up listening to the whole dumpster fire and even calling in to give public comment, I was so horrified by what I was hearing.
There is no plan to get all of our kids back into public school while COVID-19 still exists, minus a universally adopted vaccine, and there is no urgency to get even the first cohorts of neediest kids back this year. No target date, no internal champions with enough power. One of the city agency people key to the effort is someone I used to work with a while back, and they are, to say it gently, a challenging person to work with. And not in a good way. A great administrator, not a doer.
The mayor's full-time education point person and member of the BOE didn't even show up to the meeting. She should be the one leading this whole charge, and yet ... and yet. It boggles my mind. Supervisors Ronen and Fewer thankfully did not mince words, for her, or for the overall effort by SFUSD and partners.
There is a version of reality in which SFUSD becomes so enamored with its distance learning successes (and there are many--I do praise them for doing an unusually good job with emergency learning, and pretty everything but the reopening plan), that we continue to provide some form of distance learning for some kids, forever. We'll find a way to justify it. Safety. School bus funding decimated even further. Etc.
Anyway, I'm tired. I want my day back. I want to be an utterly private person for the next 24 hours, and not think at all about government or politics. Is that selfish? Maybe.
Ten days until the election.
Day 228: Saturday, October 24
We got up slightly early this morning to get flu shots for our kids today. It’s never a fun experience taking your kids to get shots, but there’s nothing like coronavirus to convince them that it is absolutely, positively fucking necessary. We live right next to a hospital, but I’ll have to travel across town later this week to get my own shot. That never computes for me.
It’s an appropriately cool and cloudy/foggy day—the sun didn’t peek out until well into the afternoon—but we spent the rest of the morning in Golden Gate Park, first attending a family rally for the continuation of the amazing car-free space on JFK, Drive past the end of emergency virus time. Then, just bumming around, eating processed meat and running into random friends. I love that the car-free GGP rally was headed by Dee Williams, The Godfather of Skate. He and his Church of 8 Wheels and GGP skate crew shower this city with beautiful vibes all day and all night long.
I’m sorry to report that my cucumber plant appears to be dying. That poor thing has been through so much bizarre weather. Nothing remotely stable—ash, heat waves, rain fog, blood sun. Another mouse also perished in our house sometime last night, too. I heard the cat’s final death pounce. Our daughter had bad dreams from the sound of the meaty chewing. He’s such a sadistic little fur.
Speaking of food farming and death throes, the farm that sells us a box of produce every week has come out against Prop 15 in its newsletter this week. Prop 15 is the effort to reclaim the huge monies lost to public schooling by the passage of Prop 13 eons ago here in California. It’s a closure of the loophole that exempts large businesses from paying their fair share of property taxes. Apparently, though, the small farm where we get delicious fresh produce also thinks it’ll drive small farms out of business thanks to a complicated backend setup required to turn a profit that I failed to commit to memory. (They also report that there’s likely to be no familiar food able to grow in the rapidly warming and drying climate here in 50 years, and that they’re already having problems harvesting even their adaptable crops. Not concerning at all. No.)
Now, the people who write the newsletter are not exactly optimistic types. In the 12 years that we’ve been getting the farm box and reading the weekly newsletter, I have largely gathered that small farming is a) next to impossible b) really fucking hard and also, c) did you hear me say it was hard, beloved subscriber?! But it was still a shock to read that our CSA is in opposition to Prop 15. Food or kids? School or food? What a messed up choice. I already voted yes on Prop 15, of course, and urge you to do as well. That said, I don’t doubt what these small farmers say. We’ve set up a truly perverse tangled web for funding essentials in California, and there are no more good options. Or, put another way, you could erase all California law and budgets to start from a blank page and have a difficult time answering, “what should we keep?”
In good news, I finished a wickedly difficult puzzle. Raise your (herbal) tea in joy!
Nine days until the election.
Day 229: Sunday, October 25
The Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park lights up at night, red and white and some other colors. It’s nice to see it broadcasting carnival flavors in the dark hours.
It’s been a homesteading day here. I’ve done such exciting things as clean out the fan interiors, collapse cardboard, paint mini library houses, cut up and rework shoes, bake bread and create and hang picture frames. Tighten bolts, oil the garage door, etc. Absolutely scintillating stuff, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to the sense of satisfaction that comes with taking care of the few things you’ve chosen to be part of your life. I taught my daughter how to replace the air filter’s filter, my son how to harvest herbs. Later tonight I’ll bake the bread, and it’s nice to know that particular scent will be the smell of Sunday night for them for the rest of their lives.
That’s all. Eight days until the election. Happy birthday, Bob.
Day 230: Monday, October 26
Wind storm last night. Bad sleep. Walking around like a zombie. Beginning Danish language lessons tonight—ill advised?
Seven days until the election.
Day 231: Tuesday, October 27
Yesterday I participated in a call with the police reform group I volunteer for as the leader spoke with one of our local progressive elected officials. I’ve written about this before, but this call only re-enforced my impression of this guy from before. He’s a dick. Just a total, arrogant dick. Rather than accept criticism from a (Black) friend, this (white) guy doubled down and acted like an eight year old, refusing to take responsibility, heal the wound and move forward as allies. Seriously playground kind of stuff. Utter waste of time and just embarrassing for him. It’s a real shame that he clearly harbors bigger political ambitions. I care a lot about what he’s promised to do in his current office, and very much want him to succeed. But I hope he never gets anywhere near another run for office. Great white hope, he is not. Great white hope, please realize you’re not great or a source of hope for most. Love the office you’re in, and do it proud, with all you’ve got, dude. That was a bad look.
I have nothing positive to say about this world, other than it’s still spinning. The US Senate voted Amy Coney Barrett into the Supreme Court last night. She begins work today? My rights, your rights, our voting system, the integrity of this election: all under threat now. I couldn’t feel more frustration with the Bernie Bro left any more than I do now. Truly, a hearty fuck you from the bottom of my heart.
My first Danish language class—I feel the need to be clear that it’s not a Danish pastry-making class, for some reason—was fun. Jeg hedder Kit. Jeg ikke taler dansk. My kids are amused by my efforts to do my homework as they drill down on their work. For reasons I don’t understand, my daughter seems to have next to no work from her school right now. I’m fairly inventive about finding other sources of learning for her, but I truly do not understand how it is that she has so little to do. My son gets a little more work, but can finish all of it within an hour, and spends the rest of the day on other stuff we’ve given him to learn. Neither is learning in their Zoom calls. I don’t suppose this is super different from in-person school, but since they’re not getting any social learning instead, the effect is far more pronounced. I’m having trouble justifying leaning on them to stay on calls where they aren’t learning. My son reads comics instead, and my daughter wanders off and harasses the cat. Sorry, teachers. (Sorry, cat.)
My son is running for student council president. I doubt he’ll win, which is totally fine (and maybe for the best since he isn’t tremendous on follow through), but I do appreciate the cathartic nature of the experience for these kids. He liked being able to imagine having the power to, as his campaign slogan promises, make the difficulty of 2020 easier for kids. If we were living in Denmark, I suspect there’d be a traditional cake and gathering that went with the kids’ election. And a boat load of flags. Over here, we’ve got muffins. Lots and lots of homemade muffins, eaten in isolation. I can’t believe we’re not even through the first semester. Ellers tak.
Six days until the election.
Day 232: Wednesday, October 28
It remains weirdly warm, not unpleasantly so. It’s in the low to mid- 70s. But still, weird. Now, I realize that it’s reasonable to wonder what kind of asshole complains about blue sky, sunny, weather in the 70s. So, to be clear: that would be me. I am absolutely that asshole. Prolonged warmth while the light disappears more and more each day is freaky, even when it’s nice. It also adds to the feeling of living in a suspended state of animation here. Every day more or less the same. No end in sight to the pandemics, no action on climate change or sense that we’re in a crisis.
In fact, families that we’re living intentionally car-free—friends of ours—are now buying cars. I’m not trying to shame them. I’m sure they have their reasons, but it is absolutely a failure of the state. Similarly, the Better Market Street Project, which is a wholesale redesign of our city’s main street, just rolled back all of the good things in the plan and turned it into a very expensive lipstick on a pig project. I worked on that project for years. Years! It’s currently five to seven years behind schedule (or 20 or 32, depending on when you count the true start). And now: it’s a nothing. No change. No vision. No sense of crisis. Please keep speeding by in your car. I told a colleague back in 2012 or so that the City would never actually build what it promised. I was really hoping to be wrong. I do, in fact, love to be wrong about many things.
Anyway, the reality is that San Francisco, California and the U.S. in general has already had its Sandy Hook/Columbine of climate change. It was back during Hurricane Katrina, and also this summer. We’ve seen pointless, preventable death, red Blade Runner skies, people left to drown and slowly starve, etc. The _sun_ _was_ _red_. And our government did nothing. We collectively have done nothing. Newsom passed a law that will have marginal impact, come far too late and only be put into action well after he’s left office. The Board of Supervisors is busy arguing about the fate of a Coca-Cola sign. Meanwhile, our collective response to the air going back down to green after weeks of being holed up inside, choking on smoke, was to go out and ... drive.
So, yeah. We’ve had our Sandy Hook. We didn’t put our foot down and say “whatever it takes, that will never happen again” when someone gunned down kindergarteners. And we’re doing the equivalent now. Does Biden/Harris have a good climate plan? Supposedly. I hope so. Will it be enough, particularly if it relies on local implementation? Absolutely not. There is too much engrained NIMBYism in this country, particularly in California (and PARTICULARLY in San Francisco) to get any sort of project that involves change done. There is no way our country is ready for the necessary gas price hikes, or to contemplate how to change things so radically that the people currently being screwed by our sick transportation system come out better for all the changes, not even worse.
Is it an optimistic day? No. I’m sitting here, enjoying poached advance Halloween candy as I type, hoping the chocolate high will kick in and make all these feelings of hopelessness go away . It is a lovely warm night, the Ferris wheel is lit up red and white, and you really can never go wrong with a mini Twix. I think all of us in America think we’re in a movie, and the revelation, makeover montage and happy ending are right around the corner. But no, it’s more like an endless loop of the bad sequences of Groundhog Day, at best. People love this warm weather.
Five days until the election.
Day 233: Thursday, October 29
Today I crossed the city by bike to my doctor's office to get a flu shot. I haven't been that far east since March or April, minus our trip to Lake Tahoe, which doesn't count since it was on the freeway. I was curious whether the city would be much changed, but it looked no better or worse than previous months. Lots of boarded up stores downtown, but also more open than I would have expected: more people out eating in public at cafe tables, people going to offices here and there, lots of activity around the Hall of Justice. The levels of tent encampments don't look much different either, at least along the routes I took. It's another warm, smoggy day, so I admit that I didn't linger much or go out of my way to investigate.
I am feeling some compulsion to make these journal entries less depressing, even if that doesn't reflect my actual mood. At the same time, I feel the need to claim this space as wholly mine, no matter what. To be as truthful about the dark moments as the light, even if it repulses other people. I just read somewhere that people who are volunteering more right now are handling their negative emotions better than others. That's probably true, and I am volunteering. It does help. And I actually feel relatively optimistic about the election.
I think my point of departure with people who may not be bleeding all over the Internet, though, is my faith in the viability of a return to the status quo, assuming Trump leaves office (and, of course, the willingness to put my real life on the Internet--who does that anymore?). What I crave more than anything right now is trust. I should probably crave justice more, but honestly, the deeper, more reptilian part of me yearns most to live in a place full of trust. Trust among neighbors and strangers, trust in our societal systems and trust that the people we elect to office will actually pro-actively seek and institutionalize justice and belief in the future through their legislation and votes. I bike because I want to live in a society that trusts. I vote because I want to trust in the system of democracy. I volunteer/used to work in advocacy because I want to trust in the systems of governance. I want to.
But I don't. I don't trust any of that now, even on my better days. The pandemics plus apocalyptic weather that barely merited a governmental blink has exposed how little there is to trust, month after month after month. That's what makes it hard for me on some days to step out the door, or even look out the window, without feeling despair. It physically hurts. It's a chasm I have to cross within myself on these days, and remind myself to keep moving, keep giving other people a reason to trust through my own actions.
Four days until the election.
Day 234: Friday, October 30
I am eating all the candy. By that, I mean that I have purchased more candy to replace the candy I have already eaten from my kids' future stashes, and also skimmed a bit from the new bags. And by a bit, I mean, ungodly amounts. There's still mountains of candy left, so I don't feel too bad, ethically. I think we're all allowed a little emotional eating over the next few days. This is, after all, an unusually terrifying Halloween/Day of the Death of Our Democracy. But yeah, I'm also feeling ill from the sugar now. That's probably enough for now. It's a little mentally exhausting to find new places to hide the wrappers from my kids. ;)
No big news tonight. The city is delaying some of the reopening measures it announced a couple weeks ago because our COVID-19 infection numbers are creeping up a tiny bit. So no indoor swimming for now, or other things I probably wouldn't have done anyway. I appreciate that the mayor is making it a point to discuss the need to open schools in her announcements, though I wouldn't mind a little more strong-arming at the moment. I can't believe it's only October. There are so many more months of homeschooling left this year.
A neighbor has reached out to a bunch of us to arrange socially distanced candy distribution for the block, which is nice of her. I think we're going to hang candy in a bucket in front of our house and hope for the best. We don't get that many trick-or-treaters during non-pandemic years, so I don't have great hopes for kids finding the bucket. But if it makes even one kid's Halloween awesome (or, hell, one adult--no judgments), then I'll consider it a festival. My strategy of preemptively making myself ill from candy in order to inoculate myself against any future cravings seems to be working. I feel proper nasty thanks to my chewy, chocolatey lunch. I keep picturing plain yogurt in my head.
Three days until the election.
Day 235: Saturday, October 31
Happy Halloween! This is the unofficial official holiday of San Francisco. All the hair is let down, all the stops are flung free, the city comes alive. Of course, with COVID-19, not so much this year. Still, it’s been a good day. We went down to the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park this morning. I stayed earth-bound, but the rest of my crew had a nice time twirling in the sky. In addition, someone put bath bubbles or something in one of the fountains in the Music Concourse, and my son in particular went nuts with the bizarre bubble cubes. While the kids were in the Ferris Wheel, a giant chunk came from from the fountain and slowly blew right at my seat on a bench. I had to jump out of the way to avoid getting smothered by the foam chunk. Not sure that’s ever happened to me before.
There was also a man dancing to the YouTube live stream he was simultaneously making in the Music Concourse, right in front of the long line of people waiting for the Ferris Wheel. He was completely into his Bollywood (?) jam, and it was frankly delightful. A few feet away was Tai Chi and a flock of Falun Gong meditators/protestors. There’s been a lot of random groups of people and individuals out dancing and exercising outside these last few months. A few weeks ago, I passed a group of women dancing very strangely in the Panhandle, together, but not using any sort of the same dance language—no music. It occurred to me later that they were a dance class or troupe doing individual warmups, but at the time I found it deeply unsettling, though largely in a positive way. Outdoor ecstatic dance is peak San Francisco, and my heart went boom.
Since we can’t trick or treat, I organized outdoor get togethers for both of my kids’ classes. My daughter and her grade were doing a rolling costume parade, where they got a piece of candy every time they came around the loop. My son and his class did a scavenger (thankfully organized by someone else). I brought what I thought was an absurd amount of candy, but there were enough kids and high spirits that we left with little left over. It was great to see the kids running around, exuberant and sugared-up. It was the first time they’d seen each other since last year, or ever, in some cases. My costume was a plague mask. It’s hot enough outside that the kids stripped their own costumes off within a few minutes, so we ended up with a vaguely insouciant Kylo Ren and a flying panda with no fur and no wings. It was a nice night.
My husband is taking the kids up and down the street soon to get some more socially distanced candy. I’ve put a heap out in front of our house and turned on the Halloween music in the room next to the front door. Hopefully it will have magically disappeared by the end of the night. My son is glaring at me while I eat peanut butter cups. What?!
Sunday, Monday then Election Day.
Day 236: Sunday, November 1
Two more days. Family meal planning for the week was a little strange this afternoon. Does it make sense to stock up on extra frozen food right now? Is it realistic to expect to be able to get take out on Friday night? It's all so pedestrian, and it seems impossible to think life will be disrupted so dramatically, but in the back of my head, I still worry. I don't know: will society still be functioning on Friday night enough for us to get Boba tea? I took down all of our Halloween decorations this morning, hung up art inside and repaired shoes. I don't have any weapons except my vote and my body, but my house can be ready for whatever comes, right? It can be beautiful.
Everyone is feeling a little like death today thanks to the candy binge yesterday. My son appears to have lost all use of his core muscles, and my daughter keeps yawning and starting kitchen food experiments that involve sugar. Daylight savings fall back is probably the only thing keeping us all upright.
My husband put up two mini free libraries just below our current one, mostly to hold kids' books. The new boxes are very sweet. My daughter and I painted them in the opposite color scheme of the main box last week, and the overall look is a little matchy matchy, but I hope innumerable small children absolutely lose their mind when they find a library at their height.
Monday then Election Day. Tempted to shop for fairy garden knick knacks for our front lawn patch. Is that normal?
Day 237: Monday, November 2
Tomorrow is the day of reckoning. God help us all. Hvem kan sove?
Day 238: Tuesday, November 3
3:30 pm: So far, have done a good job of distracting myself from endless Twitter scrolling. Work. Tea. Let my children play outside for large part of afternoon, instead of school. Now, need news. Sugar.
6:52 pm: Made a dinner heavy on the bacon and cream and postponed any look at election results. Just peeked into Twitter and immediately shut it down. I feel ill, and it’s probably the cream, but also probably not.
Day 239: Wednesday, November 4
In my head, I can see that—barring some messed up judge or mob interference—Biden should win once all the votes are counted. This is good news, though I know it will be a long, messy process to get to that point, and that Trump is unlikely to concede even when Biden is (fingers crossed) officially declared the winner. I can also see that Myrna Melgar, the candidate my kids and I volunteered for, won the race for our Supervisor, the State Senator I supported with a window sign got re-elected, that the formally incarcerated in California will get to vote, the city is now free to reduce the number of police officers harassing Black and Brown San Franciscans, our schools will get slightly more funding (though not enough) and that whiteness didn’t win in the school board election. I want to celebrate all this.
But like a lot of people, mostly all I feel is bruised, exhausted and small. Whiteness still won a great deal yesterday, and it has shown itself incapable of reform. This election is not a landslide rebuke of anti-blackness, general racism, sexism and homophobia. It’s a cracked foundation, a poisonous soil, wholly ours. It was always going to be next to impossible to cure, but with the rising stress of climate change, I don’t have a lot of hope for this country as it is. I have hope for Black people, for Indigenous communities and for many other communities that know how to stare truth in the eye and still live joy together. Who built this country and have remained the heart and soul of it, even as us white Americans tried to kill them dead. So how do you heal a fundamentally toxic culture, particularly if the people inside it believe it’s divine oxygen?
This is not me giving up. I am part of that culture, and it’s my work, too, to try to change things. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if non-white America gave up on white America. We’re already seeing it when it comes to schools. Every cooking tradition in this land knows you can’t make salt sweet.
77 days until Inauguration Day 2021.
Day 240: Thursday, November 5
Still no official result, though things look good for Biden/Harris. Trump and his voters are losing their shit and storming ballot counting centers in Georgia, Philly and Detroit. It will clearly get worse soon, and will undoubtedly end up at the Supreme Court. My guess is that Trump will soon direct supporters to harass lower court judges presiding over these cases and, if that doesn't work, try to send in troops to take over the ballot counting centers/seize the ballots. Prove me wrong, Orange Dude!
So, for now we sit tight here and keep our fingers crossed. There's nothing doing in San Francisco, election-wise. The usual speculation as to whether Pelosi is good at her job. Progressive politicians voting to give the SF Police Officers Association members a raise.
The good news is that the smog has gone away, so it's easier to exercise outside. Which is good, because I'm losing my fucking mind inside this house. There are long stretches of this pandemic where I barely notice the restrictions we live with because they've become so normal, and we have a good setup compared to many. Other days, though, I want to scream from being cooped up in here 24/7 with my husband and kids. All the ways I used to escape are no longer available to me, and that was in a world in which my family was not home all the f*cking time. There's always a lot of shouting on the days my husband oversees the kids' schooling--aka, my days to focus fully on my work--which doesn't help. I want my kids back in school, and my husband and I back at jobs in the world so badly. This arrangement is going to kill our marriage otherwise.
In other good news, I just went down to our local book store to binge buy. I was really impressed by the number of middle grade and YA books written by and about Black authors. I have never seen that many good options on the shelf. Before, it was like, oh there's one. Are these just new books? A new ordering ethos by the book store? A new display system? Whatever it is, keep going! They all look amazing.
Oh my god. Someone is playing the piano upstairs now while I'm trying to listen to my music down here, and I want to throw it out the window.
Peaceful thoughts. Good vibes.
76 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 241: Friday, November 6
It's not official, but it's real. Biden/Harris has the votes to win. We're just waiting for the networks to call it. People are in the streets in Philly, dancing for democracy. And I am so, so happy to be wrong about Trump! Things could still take a turn for the worse, but as of right now, it appears that he's going to go out with a soft fart instead of a violent coup. God is it good to be wrong! More of this, please, universe!
My emotions today have been all over the map. From too exhausted and traumatized by these last four years--and particularly this one we're still in--to do anything but want to curl up and cry. And then elated and then, just slightly lighter in this world. I went out in the cool, clean sunlight to run some errands on my bike, and it felt like life. Blue sky, puffy fog, bright red Sutro Tower holding up the moon. San Francisco makes you want to bathe in its light and color. I can breathe today. Forgive me, husband, for all the unspoken drama of yesterday. I am trying, in my own way. We all are.
You know what's ready to explode in the next few hours and days and months as, hopefully, this regime and pandemic wind down? Music. Dancing. Running around like a fool on roller-skates. And yeah, probably a whole lot more cathartic tears. If we can win this election with joy, unbreakable joy, then so much is possible.
I sent my goddaughter books in the mail today. Today, I felt like adults could finally look our kids in the face and say, we're trying. We're honestly trying to make things better for you. It's been a long time coming.
75 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 242: Saturday, November 7
THE NETWORKS CALLED IT! BYE BYE, M*THERF*CKER! BYE BYE BYE GOOD. BYE.
I woke up to the news, and it took a moment to really sink it. The networks made it official, and then the Four Seasons Landscaping thing made it real real, though. Lord love a rump president, the hardworking people at The Onion had to dig real deep for material these past four years. Real, real deep.
Our west side neighborhood isn’t ever a hotbed of celebration, but I did try. We walked down to the Cal Academy this morning—a first since coronavirus—and I put on some celebratory music and acted a fool, yelling (politely and respectfully) with joy as we passed people also smiling. Most people look puzzled or worried about me. But plenty of people whooped back, honked their horns, and one older lady thanked me profusely for voting Biden/Harris, which was a little shocking. No, thank you, ma’am, and thank you for being willing to be a little publicly ridiculous with me today.
On the way back from the museum, another older woman offered me an American flag on a pole, which I stuck in my bag to trail in the wind behind us. I got a lot of honks and raised arms of victory then, and a few people looking worried that I might be a Trump supporter doing some ill-considered protest. (Hint: I’m not.) I’ve never worn, waved or otherwise brandished an American flag before—well, except for a sequined American flag vest on a children’s chorus tour of South Africa when I was a teen—and it felt strange. It was the right moment, though. This country would not have survived another four years of Trump.
We cracked open champagne and sparkling apple cider just now at home with the kids. They’re so happy, and not just because of the opportunity to guzzle juice and whoop. They watched the speeches with my husband, and I think the magnitude of what’s just happened is finally sinking in. (My daughter was mortified by public displays of joy this morning. Sorry, sweetie, you get all of me.) Harris coming out to Mary J. Blige?! Biden mentioning plans? Science? I’m going to hold on to this new bud of joy for the long and, no doubt, dark days ahead. It is a beautiful flower, gaudy and loud as a rainbow. A life that can finally breathe.
74 days until the inauguration. The carousel in Golden Gate Park is lit up red, white and blue. God bless America.
Day 243: Sunday, November 8
Draining some emotional pus.
It finally rained.
73 days until the inauguration.
Day 244: Monday, November 9
It's unlikely that my kids will be going back to in-person schooling this year, so today I tried reclaiming more of my time and physically removed myself from their schooling. It only sort of worked, but it was good enough that that's going to be my path going forward, reclaiming my time. Now that the weight of the election is (mostly) off my back, I'm trying to focus on being the person I want to be going forward--and honestly, that person probably bakes fewer muffins and knows a little bit less about exactly what her kids are learning in school. She's someone who needs space and time for herself again.
I'm still processing what it feels like not to be constantly on alert for the next horrible thing. Trump isn't totally gone yet, and he obviously doesn't want to leave, but the difference between November 2nd and November 7th is physical. The slight lowering of the shoulders, the deeper exhale, the cottony feeling of exhaustion tugging your body towards bed. The feeling that it's okay to plan for the future again, to consider what you might do for Christmas and Thanksgiving, to be emotionally ready to watch that season finale with all the violence that was just too much before the election. It's tilling your internal soil and letting it sit and breathe for a moment before planting again.
There's work to sew still, of course. So much work. All the work. But this moment, these days right now in these dark cool Novembers, are for our shoulders and our pillows and our easier smiles.
72 days until the inauguration.
Day 245: Tuesday, November 10
Just sent both my kids from the office crying. Really excellent parenting, Kit. Sigh. This new system of no active oversight during school hours followed by accountability at the end of the day is revealing some hard truths, like why exactly you'd need the photos app open for 58 minutes if you're not watching saved TikToks, or why you need Messenger open for 43 minutes if you're also not watching TikToks. Don't try me, children. I know all the tricks. My generation wrote the damn software.
Similarly, the country is being treated to our rump president and his enablers making a very public attempt to stage a coup. It's not exactly a good feeling to watch as an ordinary voter, but like, my man, we also know these tricks. My son tried calling the White House voter fraud hotline today--he loves pranks--but it claimed to be too busy to take even a message. If you go to the website, it redirects you immediately to a Heritage Foundation report documenting supposed voter fraud. Just sick, gross and so glaringly false stuff. No, not feeling any empathy for the people supporting rump prez in this situation, or overall. I feel terrible about making my kids cry about losing game time because they tried to game the system during school hours, but I know calling them on it is the right thing to do.
My son's run for student council president has gotten strangely stressful in the last 24 hours, despite my efforts to stay completely out of the whole thing. It turns out he's running against just one other kid, another boy. Of his own volition, my kid made his own website yesterday to explain his platform and positions. Now the other kid's got a site, too, and girls trying to help him campaign on their Google Classroom, and my son is learning lessons the hard way about not going negative. The candidates are apparently going to have a Zoom debate soon, again, of their own volition. The whole thing is [hands exploding around my head]. Kids. I wish them both the best in their efforts, but good lord is yet another election stressing me out, even if it's 5th grade student council.
COVID-19 cases are edging up here, and Mayor Breed is rolling back indoor dining, though thankfully, still pushing strong on opening schools. My garlic plant is growing strong.
71 days until the inauguration.
Day 245: Wednesday, November 11
Tonight was the big 5K end of the term run for my daughter and her girl running club. She blazed around the track and fell down huffing and puffing, bellowing for me to sign her up for another run asap. Just kidding. She made a deliberate walk around the track at her own pace, chatting with her friends, and occasionally running. She was the last to complete the laps and refused to cross the finish line, which I eventually learned was because she both didn’t think the people holding the ribbon were sufficiently socially distanced, and she didn’t like the attention. Suffice to say, I’m incredibly proud of her. She is wholly herself, and got exactly what she wanted out of the experience: time with friends, a sense of quiet accomplishment and a cupcake. My son stayed home and made her celebratory cookies.
We’re now facing the yawning chasm of no programmed social activities for the kids and weather that’s getting colder, wetter and darker. There’s the attempted coup going on in DC, which is of course a far more alarming and immediate problem. But assuming Tr*mp doesn’t launch weapons and launch us into a tantrum of armed conflict, the upcoming months of intense social isolation is also not nothing. It doesn’t help that the virus is creeping back up here in SF (and spiking around the country), and there’s zero hope of schools reopening for my kids this year. January 20th can’t come fast enough. I hate COVID-19 so much.
It is at least lovely to bike home at night, the cold air clear and ringing with gentle light and hill peaks. The passing of the seasons feels like a personal accomplishment this year.
70 days until the inauguration.
Day 246: Thursday, November 12
I woke up last night around 3 or 4 am because I had vomited in my mouth while sleeping. So, yeah. Really awesome. The rest of the night was working through painful food poisoning while trying to get back to sleep. Today hasn't been much better. I look forward to going back to sleep asap.
Today was also the SFUSD school tour fair for middle schools. I went to a few Zoom presentations of schools within feasible traveling distances, and watched pitch videos for those schools with my son after he got enough dinner in himself not to be a total slug. Choosing a school this way felt a bit like shopping for cat food when your cat has gone missing. My kid knows where he'd like to go to school, but these videos are all selling us on a version of school that doesn't currently exist--and more importantly, may not exist come fall 2021. The principals don't know. The teachers don't. None of the kids do either. So, I hope they reopen for in-school learning by then (or some adapted version with outdoor school). But there's certainly no guarantee right now.
Also, some of these principals really outshine others in terms of presentation skills. You can quickly get a surprising amount of info about the feel and functionality of a school just from watching these principals talk and interact with the staff.
No other big news here. It's dark early (though hardly so compared to most parts of the world, looking at you family in Denmark) and I'm in the evening candle mode. I'm going to light one now and do some Danish homework. A language made up for and by people who love to mumble. I should be in heaven, but mostly I think I'm losing my hearing/mind. Hvad sagde du om fiskehandleren, dansker???!!!
Day 247: Friday, November 13
This isn't food poisoning. It's the flu. Pretty sure it's not coronavirus. I'm sticking inside and listening to '90s R&B jams, just in case. It's dark and rainy outside, which suits me just fine at the moment. I reached the end of one of my big candles last night. Thank you for your service, Rainbow Unicorn. You were our stalwart during the wildfire times.
There's much thrashing around in the news about new COVID-19 lockdowns elsewhere in the country, the governor and other political leaders acting holding lavish dinner parties while yelling at the rest of us about not having Thanksgiving with our families. It's not a good look, folks. Especially not you, Gavin. We're not going anywhere for the holidays, seeing no one, celebrating nothing. Maybe we'll have a hot chocolate tasting flight instead of a turkey this year? A marshmallow tasting? I already promised my kids a huge, real Christmas tree this year. Trump is apparently planning to run for president again in 2024 and the school board here is exactly nowhere close to reopening the schools. NYC is about to close its schools again for the year after only seven weeks of being open and no notice, though restaurants and gyms can stay open.
Our kids are going to f*cking hate us. Keith Sweat keeping my spirits up. Also, closing out of Twitter.
68 days until the inauguration.
Day 248: Saturday, November 14
I took my youngest to do some special mom-daughter time in the Mission today. I haven’t been over there in, I don’t know, months? Almost a year? I don’t think I’ve gone since the start of COVID-19. We were on an important mission to buy new fancy candles, since a couple of mine just gave up the ghost. The neighborhood has certainly changed with coronavirus. I knew in my head that a lot of tech types had left the city, but to see how relatively empty Valencia Street and Dolores Park have become, was a very different kind of understanding. Yes, we had to wait to get a hot chocolate at Dandelion Chocolates, but the sidewalk was empty compared to when we used to live around the corner. Mission Playground had the kinds of non-crowds you used to see at 1 pm on a Monday, and Dolores Park was equally uncrowded. The neighborhood no longer felt like a scene, which was both nice and honestly, bizarre. I have never known it not to be a scene, even when I first visited in the early 2000s.
Of course, the cryo freezing spa place is still open (whaaa?), there has been an explosion of absurdly large (off leash) dogs, and 20-something dudes high on weed still think it’s funny to sneak into Dolores Park Playground to make videos of themselves using the swings. I didn’t see an increase of unhoused people in the park or on the streets (though I admit I wasn’t actively looking), but I did see a hawk perched on the swing structure in the playground and a group of people having outside church in Dolores Park—the hilly area where gay men used to sunbathe. None of the new churchgoers had masks on, and they were all sitting close together while an equally unmasked man sang to them and played the guitar. Lord help us all.
The Inner Sunset and West Portal definitely feel far more contiguous with the neighborhoods they used to be pre-pandemic. How many more of those luxury shops on Valencia will be able to make rent as the pandemic drags deep into next year? Will the cryo freezing spa finally close? Will the next tenants find thawed body parts hidden in the floors when they move in? Who the f*ck cryo-freezes themselves, particularly during a pandemic? I love you, Mission.
Day 249: Sunday, November 15
My health seems to be going backwards despite my best efforts to sleep off this flu/whatever (ear infection?). So today I’m keeping it real easy. Tending my bread, making salsa and tzaziki and force marching my son up and down the block, mostly to extract him from his dark room cave for a moment. I worry about him a lot. My daughter is on a play date and finding every button to push in her father. It really is extraordinary, that ability of hers.
We had an informal family discussion last week of what to do for Thanksgiving since we’re not going anywhere or seeing anyone. There’s some talk about chocolate fondue, regular fondue, a hot chocolate tasting flight, a Nutella fountain and maybe some chicken? No one seems excited to eat regular Thanksgiving food, and I’m pretty sure we’re missing the window to order a good turkey. So, we’ll see.
Most national holidays seem absurd in San Francisco. Christmas in a place full of light and hot sunbeams is ludicrous. Thanksgiving thousands of miles away from the East Coast’s Puritan culture, nonsensical; we aren’t really a potato culture out here, and we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, not Columbus annihilation day. There are a lot of vegans. On Fourth of July, any and all attempts at fireworks are completely obliterated by militant fog (elbow bump, Karla). Easter? Who goes to church here? Halloween and Lunar New Years are really the only big holidays that resonates here, and I say that despite the fact that it usually rains on Lunar New Year.
So, I am 100% fine with straying far from a traditional American Thanksgiving this year, and fondue sounds perfect. Maybe for Christmas we’ll rent laser tag equipment and drink 7Up. Proud Boys went rioting in DC last night. Oklahoma is out of ICU beds. The LA Times continues to devote its real estate to the Trump voter, showing us what institutionalized himpathy looks like once again. What traditions are serving this nation, exactly?
66 days until Inauguration Day. I wish I could make this a countdown to vaccination day instead.
Day 250: Monday, November 16
San Francisco and California as a whole are back on bad COVID-19 standing. The mayor and governor just announced a bunch of rollbacks, though not--theoretically--schools. It's sad to think that we went from yellow back to red in just a few weeks. smh.
Still, the sunset was beautiful tonight, and only one child cried today during school.
The cat brought a mouse into my daughter's room last night. We're not sure where it is now, but our cat looks so incredibly happy. Suspiciously happy. My daughter seems to like the idea of the mouse turning into her pet, too.
65 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 251: Tuesday, November 17
Today was parent-teacher conference day at my kids' school. The last parent-teacher conference that I went to was the day before we pulled our kids out of school because of the pandemic. I remember feeling weirded out by the amount of hand shaking and other friendly body contact from the principal given the rising concern about the virus, which everyone still thought was transmitted by fomites back then. I tried not to touch many things that day, but the p-t conference experience otherwise felt normal. Today, though, the conferences felt far, far from normal. The major topic of conversation was the amount of time my kids did or did not keep their cameras on in class (on the whole, not), and whether they responded or participated on the Zoom calls (starkly divided children on that one). One teacher seemed fine, if a bit disconnected from that my kid thanks to the situation, the other seemed ... frayed.
What has education become in this country? What will it be going forward? Honestly, I can't in good conscience force my kids to turn on their cameras and pretend to be learning on Zoom calls. They don't learn much that way. It's performative schooling. Yet, I get every inch of why teachers want it to be otherwise.
In better news, the mouse is now gone from our house. It turns out that my cat mauled it sometime last night, so the mouse spent the morning curled up in a bookshelf in my daughter's room, in plain sight. Our cat didn't even bother trying to eat it, the arrogant little sh*t. I assume he was storing it for a hungrier day? Like a cupboard? Meanwhile, my daughter was really happy about the prospect of an additional pet. She thought the cat and mouse had made peace. (Parenting pro tip: never say the words, "should we get a rabbit?" out loud in a house with kids, even if you think there's no way they can hear you. They can. You will get a response, and then you will need to lie.) Thanks go to my husband for trapping the mouse and releasing it back into the wild. Though of course, it will probably die a colder, wetter and more savage death out there now. Performative heroics.
64 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 252: Wednesday, November 18
I'm writing early today because I have meetings all afternoon and evening. It's a police commission evening, which will likely be depressing and frustrating. Though, who knows, maybe there'll be some good news in there, too. I'm willing to keep putting effort into traditional police reform, though the more I see, the more convinced I am that even the best-intentioned police departments are incapable of doing anything but overwhelming harm. Our elected leaders don't have the stomach to do the work for either incremental reform, though, let alone the major changes.
Over 100,000 have moved within or left San Francisco since the pandemic started, and it's got to be worse in other cities. I would be shocked if that number doesn't keep increasing as the pandemic continues with schools closed, mass evictions, layoffs and the continued refusal of our elected leaders to shift money away from Army Ken police budgets to social services. Things are also looking less stable at the national level with the coup/coup?/is it competent enough to be a coup? Det ved jeg ikke, folks. Like everyone else, I'm just so tired. Our electeds are even trying to shut down the wildly successful Great Highway Park, beloved to so many now. I knew it was bound to happen, but it still makes my head explode. Why do we have to spend time trying to save such an obvious good? Or convincing people that kids need to be in school more than they need to be eating paleo in restaurants or doing the Stair Master? Or that cops should stop killing Black people? How is this not glaringly obvious to a person with even half a heart?
NYC just closed its schools down again, moving to distance learning. DeBlasio and Cuomo appear to have gone about it in the maximum asshole way possible. Netflix, if you're listening, I would love to see a quarantine reality show where we lock Newsom, DeBlasio and Cuomo in a two-bedroom apartment together. One of them gets lots of money for their jurisdiction if he convinces the other two to quit politics for good, but all the jurisdictions get tons more money if they all quit. Meanwhile, viewers will be treated to fun cut aways showing NYC/NYS/California running better than ever with them gone. OK, Netflix? Can we do this?
63 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 253: Thursday, November 19
I just got back from a long ride out to Portola/Bayview to deliver diapers, wipes and other baby care items for support bags for local families. The program feeds a handful of families every week in the Bayview and is run by the group I volunteer with on police reform. I managed to miss a turn on the way there and ended up on some of the most depressing parts of the SF bike network. My god. It is not a good network. Those were bike lanes from the late 2000s that were supposed to be temporary fixes that would lead to actual, adequate facilities by now. Still, I'm glad I could get across the city and help out some families. Packs of diapers feels utterly inadequate. Charity is not a long-term or particularly effective solution for undoing structural racism, only justice from fundamental reform.
I don't know what to say or do about what's happening in the White House right now. It is cuckoo bananas/every ugly thing once hidden, now stated plainly. Did I mention that my son lost his bid for student council president? Oh well. He's now convinced that politics makes no sense, which honestly, is the best possible lesson I could hope for him. I will be forever leery of people who actively want to go into politics. Those are not my people, nor anyone's. I gave my kid lots of hugs. My daughter just got massive bottles of glitter and glue. She is in a very happy place.
62 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 254: Friday, November 20
Our president-elect and VP-elect just put out a plea for money for their transition plan via Twitter. It's weird. San Francisco is apparently a day or two away from falling into the purple zone of the pandemic, which ain't good. My cat is going through something, and has started sleeping on me at night. Literally, on me. The parasite set up doesn't work that well in terms of sleep because I/the host move around a lot, and it's a whole production for him/the parasite to get up, let me move, then get back on, circle a few times, lick himself and then settle down. I've been grinding my teeth in my sleep from the tension of not upsetting him. Is he upset about the coup? The food?
I need to leave the house and get some fresh air, relax this jaw, but I seem to have a cold (how?! from where?!), and the idea of doing anything outside is unappealing. It's so easy to justify doing nothing these days. I haven't watered my plants in days. Men min dansk bliver bedre. I made an entirely orange food dinner last night, largely by candlelight. The Ferris Wheel is still spinning its lights out the window, down the hill. My son is happily trumpeting Jingle Bells again. There is no full hibernation available here.
61 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 255: Saturday, November 21
One of the sources of light in this world right now is our new evening routine. With the darkness here in full, I’ve started only turning on a few lamps and putting out candles at dusk. We lay around, reading, practicing Danish and watching the sunset and evening sky. Since there’s so little demanding our time these days, outside of surviving this pandemic and staying away from people so we don’t kill them, the nights now feel so much more relaxed. I’ve come to really look forward to the dark hours—I don’t think I ever really noticed them before in the same way, or felt the passing of the hours in my heart beat. I’m grateful.
My kids are making it how much they truly need Christmas this year. We finalized our Thanksgiving menu today. We’ve decided to forgo hot pot and fondue for my husband’s herbed chicken, my Parker house rolls and some flowers and macarons from a bakery in Oakland. The menu took a lot of negotiating, but we got there, with no tears. My son asked to take out our reusable Christmas tree and put it up early, too. I was initially hesitant, but my son keeps mentioning how much he loves and is ready for the spirit of Christmas, and my daughter was equally persuasive, so I gave in. The kids now have the tree decorated with some of our ornaments up outside their rooms. I’ve also promised them to get a real Christmas tree this year for a change. I think we’re going to go all in on the magic of the season this year (not necessarily the presents). It’s clear that my kids need Christmas this year, like I need these nights of gentle light in the dark.
60 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 256: Sunday, November 22
San Francisco has always been big on dogs, but this pandemic appears to have convinced the few people who didn't have dogs to adopt. Every public park I go to now is dog-no dog-dog-dog-another dog-oh, there's a dog. I get it. People want easy, uncomplicated love and a reason to be forced outside for walks multiple times a day. It's a lot of dogs, though. There's going to be more political tension about that at some point in the future.
I talked to a friend in Chicago today as she was on her way to an indoor birthday party with her in-laws. I didn't know what to say to her. Are you out of your mind came to mind; her partner is about as careful with COVID as a toddler is with chicken nuggets. She seemed shocked that we weren't coping well with having our kids out of school still for almost nine months. We're on two different planets at this point.
God, this pandemic is such a nightmare. Otherwise intelligent people imagining themselves untouchable, social media friends posting their Thanksgiving travel photos. I--what are we doing?!
If San Francisco county goes purple--which it should, any moment now--we'll have to join the new California-wide 10 pm curfew. It'll be the second curfew we've experienced this year, the first being the one imposed by the SFPD after Minneapolis cops murdered George Floyd. You would think another curfew would be big news--because the situation is bananas!--but we've all gotten so used to the next bad thing. I would write about what Trump is up to, but it is just so, so beyond any writers' room imagination that I don't think I can even explain it properly. There's bananas, and then there's poisonous candy land.
When will this end? Can we recover from this?
59 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 257: Monday, November 23
I took my daughter to a new-ish candy shop in the Castro today. (It's getting harder to get my kids out of the house without overt bribery--feel free to judge me.) It's hard to tell if Duboce Park and the Castro/Upper Market area seems like a ghost town because people have moved out or because they're away for Thanksgiving. I hope neither, and that everyone's just indoors taking a really long hot bath. The candy shop was super cute, and I have no idea how it's going to stay in business.
We've stayed cozy inside otherwise. My husband keeps pulling out new, ever more impressive recipes to cook. Tonight it was Japanese curry. When I met him, he ate a ham sandwich, a bag of chips and a Sprite from the corner bodega every night for dinner. No joke. And neither of us could identify the vegetables we got in our Brooklyn farm box without the use of extended Internet photo searching. So, he's come a long way--we both have. I do miss the phase ten years ago when he looked up the recipe for boiling an egg. He used a timer and everything; yes, he's an engineer. I'm not sure if people fundamentally change as they age, but they can choose to draw out and build on some of their personality traits more than others. Ergo, my husband is a food engineer now. I like to bake ideas, and bread. Our kids like candy and open flames.
58 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 258: Tuesday, November 24
Our kids are off of distance learning this entire week, ergo, we are off. Today we took them to the DeYoung Museum to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. My husband got the tickets back when San Francisco was in the yellow, so we weren't sure whether to go forward with the trip now that the city is decidedly not corona yellow. We ended up walking down and making a quick tour of the Kahlo exhibit, which did indeed feel too crowded for comfort; people were standing around talking, loudly. I'd love to go back and see it for real when things are better.
On our way out of the museum, we wandered through Uncanny Valley, which was unusually piquant for the ladies-of-Marin DeYoung--and also blissfully empty, minus a few people on guard duty. The exhibit had this trippy Chinese art-take on video games, a lot about the intersection of race and AI and stuff I don't know that I can even describe. I didn't want to push our luck, so we didn't stay as long as I would have liked, but yeah, it was fire. Still, maybe we shouldn't have gone. I don't know.
This afternoon, the man who has cut all of my family's hair for over a decade came over to our backyard to give us our first haircuts during the pandemic--at least, our first not done by my eight-year-old with a style eye refined somewhere between TikTok and Baby Simulator. We are all far more presentable looking now, particularly my older kid, who looked like a K-Pop super fan before the visit. The appointment felt risky, though. Clearly the theme of the day.
Nevada certified its results today (yesterday?) and Trump gave the nod to the GSA to begin transition work. The threat of a coup seems to have passed.
Still, 57 long days until Inauguration Day. I'll exhale when you exhale.
Day 259: Wednesday, November 25
Well, my son probably won’t forget this day for a while. I took him to the doctor for a physical exam and his 11-year-old inoculations. He got one shot in one arm and two shots in the other. Needless to say, he worked through a lot of feelings in the process. I let him eat a bunch of candy when we got home, and I took him to the Mall of America and Hershey’s Park in VR. Also, something that looked like the Eye of Sauron. The doctor visit felt like a lot of COVID-19 risk, particularly after everything we did yesterday. I hope we didn’t just do something extraordinarily stupid.
In better news, the flowers and Thanksgiving-themed macarons I ordered for my daughter arrived today. My girl is in charge of table decorations for tomorrow and has done a solid job of arranging the flowers; only one glass cup was shattered in the process. I’ve never been a huge fan of flowers. They’re pretty, but then they die and take up a lot of space dying. I am an order and cleanliness junky. Still, I have nothing better to do but appreciate the hell out of these beautiful explosions of earth these long dark nights. They’re peaceful and feel like (post-election) November.
Tomorrow is baking day. My husband and son are doing most of the cooking for our pared back Thanksgiving meal. I’m making Parker house rolls. My daughter will help me by kneading a bit and eating dough while asking a lot of questions and generally remaining as underfoot as the cat. I appreciate her deep commitment to being unwilling to learn how to cook. I hope no one cries tomorrow.
56 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 260: Thursday, November 26
Happy Thanskgiving. As promised, we stayed home, saw no one, ate macarons. My daughter helped me make Parker House rolls. “This is just like making slime, mom!” I don’t stand a lot by recipes, so she broke out the Christmas cookie cutters my mother floods us with year after year, and we ended up with bunny rolls, dolphin rolls and various other seasonally inappropriate shapes. The rolls were great. My husband made a great, petite chicken plus some other vegetable dishes, and my son helped him make an apple pie. The macarons were all kinds of fascinating flavors, like kumquat thyme and maple pecan pie with soy sauce. It was a beautiful meal, and everyone helped make it happen.
My husband arranged the requisite family zoom call with his people. It’s funny to watch my kids look so shocked by adults’ complete inability to understand zoom basics. They know zoom. I got to talk to my brother, too, who had pizza over in Denmark and is encouraging me to buy a Michael Phelps swim spa. It may or may not be my wildest quarantine dream. It’s a beautifully clear day here, and I hope that the death toll around the country is not as bad as everyone fears. Though any death count above zero is an entire world of tragedy. For now, I’m enjoying the quiet and the blocks and blocks of bright windows zig zagging up and down these seven hills. I am deeply thankful to be alive and in a warm home full bread rolls tonight.
55 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 261: Friday, November 27
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so today is ... Aggressive Exercise Day. We rode our individual, non-electric bikes out to the beach and then back home through Golden Gate Park. It’s a gorgeously clear and sunny day here. No clouds, all laser sun beams and cool blue air. The Great Highway was packed, and the beach bloated with surfers and snowy plovers. My kids wanted to stay and hang out for a while, which was nice, until I began falling asleep.
I have a strange relationship with Ocean Beach. I love water, crave being in water. Ocean Beach, though, is not a swimmer’s beach. It’s largely huge plains of sand and a violently unwelcoming waves of open ocean. This is not a gentle resort beach. So if you’re there and not a surfer, you’re there for the sand. Maybe you have a dog you want to run free or you’re okay with being around people who want to let their dogs run free. Maybe you just love the texture of the sand or the deep thrum and boom of the surf. Maybe you like to deep your feet in water that’s traveled thousands of miles to reach this very beach. Maybe you love unrelenting sun or, the next day or hour, unrelenting cold fog and wind. There’s definitely a lot to be enjoyed at Ocean Beach. It’s a moody beach, though—one that always feel like it’s telling the story of a wreck, and willing to do anything not to let you leave. I’ve made peace with that experience. I just wish I could also get in the water. I once almost lost a diaper bag to an angry tide. I grabbed for the baby instead. 😬
Anyway, it was a lovely ride. (Minus the drivers who see the Slow Streets “do not enter” signs and deliberately go anyway, or just run over the sign. A ripe fuck you to these psychopaths.) There was some talk of buying a Christmas tree today, too, but everyone realized they were too tired. We’ll go this weekend. Instead, I’m brewing tea from my lemon verbena plant (still thriving!) and sitting around in my long underwear, prepping stuff to put in the kids’ advent calendar. I used to put kid-appropriate McSweeney’s articles in the slots, but I’m 95% sure that my son has now read all possible McSweeney’s content, so I’ve poked around the Internet for a combination of Florida Man stories and bizarre laws and animal facts. Did you know that it’s illegal to flag down a taxi in England if you have the plague?
According to my brother, Denmark has rebranded its forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine from a blue color to “spring-green.” The smukkest. 54 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 262: Saturday, November 28
We bought a huge, real Christmas tree today. Eight feet and lush. The kids seem really excited. The smell is definitely fresh--it almost masks the all consuming stink of the Thanksgiving chicken in the compost bin. We'll decorate the tree a little later, when my son is home from his cat sitting job.
San Francisco is officially in the purple zone today, and the air is deep yellow, likely from car exhaust. My life has become a series of color-coded warning zones. I remember being a kid and worrying about the nuclear threat color levels. Good training, I guess?
I'm going to go smell that tree some more.
53 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 263: Sunday, November 29
The tree is up! My kids spent yesterday afternoon dancing around the living room, pouring their hearts into this tree. They even made themselves jingling elf hats. It was beautiful. I suspect this is one of the last years of true childhood for my eldest kid, so I tried to hold the night especially close to my heart. His eyes are still so wide.
The second floor of our house smells like a vast pine forest. I have to keep reminding myself it’s not even December yet. Like I said, though, everyone needs Christmas a little more than usual this year. I wrapped gifts for far-flung family and friends last night and today.
My family doesn’t fully understand the depths of this, but I take immeasurably great joy in reusing acquired (how can it be old if it’s only been used once or twice?!) wrapping paper, boxes and materials to pack gift boxes. On Christmas Day, while everyone else is playing with their new stuff, I will be headily removing tape and carefully flattening and rolling up our new caches of festive and not so festive packaging so they may live on another year. I am the opposite of a hoarder, except when it comes to useful paper. We also have a scrap paper bin and I spend one afternoon a year sorting and sharpening writing tools that have survived the year. Some of my bigger fights with my daughter have been over whether she can use fresh paper for her art instead of the scrap paper. So.
Uh huh. The Mrs. Fields Cookie Book that someone gave me decades ago is now earmarked with the recipes my kids want to make the week before Christmas. They will not be getting many gifts, because we’re at great risk of raising spoiled kids thanks to all the luck we’ve had in our lives, but Christmas will be extra magical this year. Then New Year’s—yay, no more 2020! Then the inauguration. It’s going to be a long season of pregnant moments.
52 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 264: Monday, November 30
I've been feeling pretty rough the last few days, physically. Fine during the day but laid (fairly) low at night. No overt COVID-19 signs, but of course that's where my mind has gone. How many people spend enormous mental energy these days worrying about whether the slightest sore throat means they're carrying corona? I hope this shit goes away soon. I've been staying well away from people in the meantime.
Over the last few months, I've been thinking very seriously about what I want to do next with my career. I dreamt up and ran Vie Bikes for most of this past decade. I shut it down in early 2019 and have been focusing on other projects, but have begun to crave more traditional work again. I just had no idea what that work was, or even which industry. Prior to running Vie, I worked as a transportation and land use advocate for a couple decades. I don't want to go back into advocacy work, but I've also been really uncertain and despairing about the fact that there wasn't a clear thing that got me excited to go after a job. Like many people, I've also been studying what's happening in this world and thinking hard about the realities of the future.
I'm writing about this today because I think I finally know what I really want to do with my career. A non-event, event. The short of it: I'm still obsessed with cargo bikes and always will be, but I'm also extremely interested in figuring out how to integrate them more clearly into sustainable freight logistics, including water-based freight. There are some conceptual work out there on how to do this, but there's no there there yet, which means there's no obvious job to apply to, no clear path. So ... I'm not yet sure where to go from here, but I do feel a little calmer now about the vision I'm working towards. I fucking love cargo bikes. I do. Intermodal solar-powered electric cargo bike depots, ftw, people. That's the future.
My kids are slowly easing back into school. There were a lot of 11-year-olds in my son's zoom call commiserating about their vaccination wounds today. My daughter apparently made egg nog butter slime?!!!! I've asked her not to use the violently expensive vanilla extract again to make slime. Things I never thought I'd have to say. Ever. Last day of November. Good riddance.
51 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 265: Tuesday, December 1
I'm still feeling rough. Opting not to go out for even a small walk around the block today. I hope this things clears up asap. I'd like my life back, such as it is.
My son rushed down the stairs early this morning to crack open the first Advent calendar hole. I warned him in advance that it wouldn't be McSweeney's articles this year, but he was upset with what I offered instead. My daughter thought the collection of funny stuff was spot on for her. So, I wasted an hour this morning rapidly combing through McSweeney's, trying to find stuff my older kid would like but probably hadn't yet read. That Venn diagram intersection is very, very small. The calendar is now stuffed with sheets for both my daughter and son. I'm not going to ruin anyone's Christmas excitement, even if it hurts my brain a little to have to redo things I've already put a lot of time into. My daughter has started calling our cat, Florida Cat. Florida Cat is chasing his tail, Florida Cat is sleeping, Florida Cat is trying to eat my Cheerios.
Today has also been a day of distance learning failures. My son couldn't find the paper book he's supposed to read, and it's not available on Libby. I can't find it either. Does it exist? My daughter keeps bringing me her writing to workshop together with her iPad at 2%. We get through two sentences, and then it dies. And then it dies. And then it dies. My son's school assignment requires the use of Flash in Chrome, which his iPad doesn't support, so he has to use the desktop computer that I work on. Is there anything more frustrating than watching someone use your computer and do it a different, blindingly slow way? Click the button on the upper right! No, not down, upper right!
Anyway, these are the smallest of dramas. Tiniest. The world appears intact outside my window. There's a BOE meeting today and I was going to listen in to track the school reopening discussion, but I'd rather prefer to get some work done finally. Oh, and I discovered today that my daughter has an illegal TikTok account, and has been posting videos. She's eight. I'm going to feel free to blame the endless long stretches of isolation and screen time from coronavirus on this one. At least she's had the sense not to post anything of her face or other personal details. It's the lying, though, that gets me.
50 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 266: Wednesday, December 2
This illness continues unabated. I'm quarantining myself from the outside world until it goes away, just in case. Is it possible to be snotty, but only in your ears? Asking for a friend.
Our cat mysteriously lost his collar once again, third of three in the last year. That particular collar was the last one we had in the stash, so he is now very happily plush and bare. His collar has my husband's phone number on it, so I do often wonder why no one ever calls or texts to offer the things back. We used to have a neighbor that would just hang them on our front gate after our cats got into it in the night. Is some kid wearing the collars as bracelets? Are they lost in someone's infested hoarder basement? In a pile of raccoon sh*t? Cats force you to accept that there are mysteries in life that you will never ever understand.
I taught my kids how to make my special muffins yesterday in lieu of going out for exercise. The kids were surprisingly into the whole thing, and the muffins are great. They've also landed a fleet of paper airplanes in the Christmas tree and my daughter injured herself getting in bed? First law of entropy. Despite all this, I'm also not taking them out today because I still feel so rough, but today they'll do VR exercise instead of muffins. I'm going to lie down and choose myself, and this blanket.
Britain has approved the Pfizer vaccine, San Francisco has finally rolled out the non-police response to mental health crises situations and the Board of Supervisors is pushing to ensure public school teachers get the vaccine in early waves. Good news feels unreal.
49 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 267: Thursday, December 3
I’m feeling a lot better today despite a crappy night of sleep, so yay. I am, however, concerned about the lack of rain this December. We had a spot of weather back in November, but it’s been totally dry since then and the air quality has been worse than usual. Today it was hovering around 100, which I assume is just tailpipe emissions? There are some fires in Southern California. A drought this year is not going to help the wildfire season next year.
It looks like Newsom is going to put some sort of extra lockdown in place for counties at risk of running out of hospital capacity. They’re going to close playgrounds again but not indoor restaurants. That math doesn’t add up. Have they met children? Mine are running around outside acting like sugared bananas. It was my husband’s day to be on point for their schooling and care, and there’s been a lot of yelling, so I hope they get it all out of their systems and that there’ll be less yelling for the rest of the night. The kids have gotten excited about the idea of getting a dog. We are not getting a dog.
48 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 268: Friday, December 4
The air continues to be smoggy. We broke into the low orange today, so I haven't done much in the way of movement. Scratch that. I haven't left the house. I really should leave this house. Or at least this chair.
The organization that I volunteer for met with some members of the Police Commission today. It felt like one of the more productive meetings we've had with decision makers, so I have some hope that the discussion will yield fruit. When I used to work on transportation policy and we met with SFMTA commissioners, I rarely felt this hopeful or heard. Reforming police is an even bigger undertaking than changing our deadly transportation system, though, which is saying a lot, because the former was next to impossible. Yes, there's been huge progress, but it's that Chinese saying (which I suspect I'm butchering), the monk grew an inch but the devil grew a foot. Unfortunately, it's taken centuries of police killing Black bodies to make the issue of police reform such an obvious need for (some of) the people in power. So being heard is not something to cheer about; it had anything to do with me or what I said, I made no sacrifice. Fingers crossed we see some progress.
Today was a quietly momentous day in other respects. The NYTimes didn't run anything about Trump on the cover, and Mayor Breed pro-actively added San Francisco to the new California COVID-19 lockdown. The government is shuttering indoor dining, outdoor dining (minus takeout) and just about everything else for the next month. Playgrounds are being ordered closed. Schools can remain open and schools that haven't yet opened can still apply to open. I'm appreciating the heck out of Mayor Breed for continuing to beat that drum. We're not supposed to travel or even meet up with non-household members outdoors. Everything goes into effect Sunday, and will be in place through Christmas and New Years. We're apparently on track to run out of hospital beds by just after Christmas (? I may have that wrong), and I assume the health officials in charge are worried about holiday travel and get togethers pushing us all way over the edge. It's essentially back to the conditions of the first lockdown in March.
I don't envy the people calling these shots. We're just about to start getting vaccinated and people are chomping to celebrate the holidays and turn the corner into no-more-COVID. The end seems to be near, but we're in more collective danger than ever. Nothing big is going to change for my family. We'll still go to the playgrounds at off hours and swing by ourselves. We'll still be indoors a whole lot. We still won't eat out. And I sure as sh*t won't be going to the gym. My Facebook ads are all for intense 360 degree performance filtered air masks. I'm confident I will own one within the next five years, despite the best of intentions.
47 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 269: Saturday, December 5
Well, my daughter tried to get the cat to swim with her in the bath again last night. I’m sorry, cat. We’ve since clarified that there is, in fact, no material benefit to the cat in being taught to swim, and that she is the only one having her needs met in that situation. Her new career goal, though, is to run a business teaching cats to swim. “So they can survive floods, mom.” Fine. I have no stones to throw. For a while in my 20s, I seriously considered opening a cookie dough retail empire, with dough scooped like ice cream and frozen cake batter silky like gelato. The business would have killed me, unlike wet cats.
My daughter and I took a ride out to West Sunset Playground this morning (without the cat), to get some playground time in before the city closes them down again. The park was full of families who seem to have had the same idea, which was sort of lovely, sort of sad. I always love West Sunset Playground, though. In between turns on the spinning things, we spent some time sitting on a big rock watching a Chinese-dance troupe do their thing while another group did sword dancing behind them, and yet another did some power tai chi in fancy Chinese traditional clothing. I think the cultural equivalent for my white family might be group roller skating, Pilates or aerobics?
It’s hard to walk by the shuttered library in West Sunset Park, or anywhere. In my wilder fantasies, all the city libraries would have retractable roofs so we could still go in to browse and check out books.
Still no rain, but it’s been cozy inside. I’m worried about the shoe dropping for millions of families on the edge of homelessness come January 1. Are we remotely prepared to deal with the consequences as a country? It seems likely that we’re more likely to invest in more literal policing of poverty than helping people get back onto their feet and into homes. There’s so much chaos swirling around, gathering momentum. Here in my contained box, I’ve got my honey candle burning steady, and am appreciating the new wild blue color scheme of the Golden Gate Park Ferris Wheel out the window. Light in the dark.
46 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 270: Sunday, December 6
It’s quiet here. My husband put up some more Christmas lights in our window, and I’m appreciating the additional color. And the quiet. I set out to do little today, and accomplished even less. I was going to clear out the dead cucumber plant from the box and do some weeding, but it’s been hard to motivate myself to spend time in the much colder and much darker backyard this last month. I appreciate the herbs for hanging in there, nonetheless.
Giuliani has COVID-19. Exactly no one is shocked. One of my neighbors from down the block yelled the news at me in joy as I was walking by with my older kid. I think we’re going to end up being friends after human contact becomes safe again. One of my other neighbors, who has rebuffed all our attempts to connect despite having kids the same age, appears to have moved out. They always seemed Marin-bound to me, so oh well.
I did learn a new parenting trick today. I forced (myself and) my son out the door for a hill-eating walk this afternoon after a lot of moaning and groaning from us both, and put my phone on to listen to his favorite podcast, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone. Reader, he didn’t complain once, not even when I had us re-climb this stupid steep hill when we were almost home. He was too busy laughing. My love language may be podcasts.
45 days until Inauguration Day. Sparing no hopes and prayers for Rudy.
Day 271: Monday, December 7
The air is clear again, but still no rain. San Francisco had the most coronavirus cases reported today, ever. I went for a quick afternoon exercise bike ride around the neighborhood and realized after a few blocks that I had completely forgotten my mask. I haven't done anything that felt that simultaneously freeing and transgressive in ages. Thankfully, I didn't pass any other humans, and was able to pull my sweatshirt over my face when I got home to protect the family using our little library. But yeah, I felt like a total asshole.
All these weather reports I include here aren't just polite word fillers. One of the healthier things to come out of this pandemic lifestyle for me has been a much greater awareness and tuning with the sun. I am much more aware of the quality of the light and the length of the days, and much more grateful for all the hours of the day, dark to bright to in between. There's that moment in the late afternoon when the sunlight passes a certain point out our main window, and the day begins to fade. There's the brief dusk that moves across our kitchen windows until the world settles into full night. There's something very calming and healing about feeling in tune with time and sky in my body, instead of just noticing how they will effect the busy to-do of my non-pandemic life.
The lockdown appears to have had no effect on our block. The only change from last week is that there are a lot more piles of junk on the curb and more and more UPS and FedEx delivery trucks stopping by. You must have secondary material to receive primary material. Voinovich.
44 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 272: Tuesday, December 8
I’m listen to the SFUSD Board meeting right now, trying to understand where they are with reopening schools. The staff has done a lot of work within the last month, though the district seems nowhere near ready to open schools. The oddest thing is the lack of conversation about the vaccine roll out, or Biden’s recent announcement about prioritizing the reopening of schools in his first 100 days. Maybe I missed that part of the conversation? Wouldn’t that have a huge impact on these plans? It’s still not clear to me that middle and high schools will even reopen next fall, which takes my breath away. There’s been no discussion of that question, either. The Teachers Union called in to point out that there was no way the labor agreement would be finished in time in order to open school for the teeny tiny first cohort of kids returning in late January despite what the staff presented, and someone else called in to suggest that hybrid learning should be permanent.
San Francisco is not a city where government is trained to get things done, especially when it comes to large, timely things. Also, why in the world are Board members hearing these plans for the first time in these public meetings? And why is the woman who works in the mayor’s office on policy and also sits on the school board acting like she’s also never seen any of these plans? I am 90% confident that reopening plans will get pushed back and watered down, not expedited or expanded. My kids will not return to school this year, and it’s 50/50 whether my rising sixth grader will return to in person school next year. God I hope I’m wrong.
It’s a warm, soft air day today, and the smell of burning rubber periodically floats into the windows. Could not tell you why. My son made butter today as a science project—why not? And I had a serious conversation with my daughter about ceasing and desisting with the cat baths. She gave him another bath last night while I was in meetings. The poor cat was freezing afterwards and I spent a very long time responding to his demands for cuddles. I may—may—have gotten through to her finally. It’s a long f*cking year. Will public education survive this pandemic? (Will the pandemic pets?)
43 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 273: Wednesday, December 9
Still no rain, smoggy, smells like NW Indiana. I love you, NW Indiana, but you know what I mean, unfortunately.
Newsom's health people came to their senses, and playgrounds are back open. My daughter ran hard with some neighborhood kids who she keeps meeting. My son walked around listening to Paula Poundstone and then watching SNL cold openings. It's like having a friend?
I don't know if it's from deferred maintenance or just wear and tear, but our local playground has gone from looking pretty amazing to looking like it hard a recent hard breakup and is crashing on its friend's couch, but just temporarily. The rubber surface of the playground is cracked and/or missing chunks everywhere, one of the large metal springy snails (bunnies?) broke completely in two and everything plastic is covered with a layer of slimy moss. It occurred to me as I was standing on the top rung of the high spinning rope thing, noticing how high up I was, that something else was bound to break soon, too. I got down quickly. Hey, at least it's still open.
Earlier today I walked down the hill to mail some packages and absorb sunshine. Ninth Avenue's shopping area didn't look any different than pre-shutdown, surprisingly. The line for Arizmendi remains long and eternal, and most businesses were still doing active takeout or retail, people were still taking their pets to the hospital. (Hold strong, pandemic pets.) I'm happy that Arizmendi and its worker-opened co-op model has been resilient through the pandemic so far. I will buy those anti-capitalist muffins all day long.
I haven't written much about all the bizarre but predictable court shenanigans about the election results. Truth and fact seem to be winning out for now, but not the future of a coherent country with people living on the same astral plane. I remain uneasy with the likelihood that this moment, as bad as it is with 3,000 people dead every day, is nonetheless only the eye of a grievous political hurricane. I'm going to go see if we have any more muffins.
42 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 274: Thursday, December 10
Got the newsletter from my CSA. Broccoli is being petulant thanks to climate change, but spinach is thriving. I hope that resolves a generations-old debate within your family, too. You're welcome.
San Francisco can't get its act together and house the unhoused in vacant hotels, 106 Republican members of Congress just filed amicus briefs at the Supreme Court to support Trump's claim that the election results are invalid and Pfizer's vaccine seems to have been approved by some federal panel. There's a book in our mini library that I can't help but see every time I look out the office window: Then We Came To The End. I don't know anything about it and don't intend to read it to find out, but the title couldn't be more on brand at the moment. Here's hoping it gets swapped out for something like, Travel to Greece! or Baking For People Who Don't Want To Do Anymore Dishes!
Maybe it's a low sugar moment talking, but the overall mood on the street these days seems to be hostile. I will run you over and bill you for the damages to my car, hostile. So, I'm trying to focus on good, happy things right now. The way my daughter's panda sweatshirt looks when she has the hood up with the cute little black pom pom ears ... There's a lot more, but I'll leave it at that. Reading people's gratitude lists is a leading cause of nausea. I'm going to light all the candles tonight. Speaking of which, happy first night of Hannukah. We managed to remember this year.
41 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 275: Friday, October 11
Today the secessionists introduced the nation to the mythical lands of New California and New Nevada. I'm pretty sure I don't live in New California, but I'd really love to see a map to make sure. I feel like the food is probably pretty heavy on the meat and carbs there, cats are shot on sight, public education is no more, etc.
In all seriousness, wtf?! We definitely seem to be inching towards an active secessionist movement. Let's hope they peek over the cliff and into the deep chasm of implication and decide to back the f*ck off. Then again, I've met men who wholeheartedly believe that the greatest movie of all time is Last of the Mohicans, mostly because the good guys kill themselves (and expect their wives to follow) at the end rather than see the end of their way of life. It's not the best cultural model of what it means to be an upstanding man.
In good news, it's rained a tiny bit here. It's a smear of rain, a light dusting, but it's not nothing. I'll take not nothing these days.
My neighbors have stepped up their Christmas lighting game. There's these jellyfish-like things in the front of the block and in a backyard we can see from our rear windows. I think we are all cats chasing lasers this holiday season. Will there be lasers in New California? Salad? Science? Democracy?
40 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 276: Saturday, October 12
Today I walked down to West Portal with my son and did a whole lot of nothing to move our bodies, absorb sunlight, feel a part of the world. The bakery in West Portal—oddly, named Noe Valley Bakery—is closed because some of the employees got coronavirus. The store had what seemed like a fair number of employee protections in place as far as I could tell, so that’s especially unfortunate and telling.
Then we walked back, via a non-direct route that involved a lot of stairs. And then some more stairs. I’ve long since run out of ideas for fresh ways to spend family body time. The stairs, at least, were new today, though not exactly riveting. There were plants. And Christmas tree ornaments. And the same design as every other set of stairs in the area. I can’t wait until we can go somewhere we’ve legitimately never been before, after the vaccine is well dispersed? Will it ever be in widespread enough use???? Until then, the big excitement will likely remain discovering stairs. We saw stairs.
39 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 277: Sunday, October 13
It's properly raining today. My rainbow spinning lawn thing broke off and went flying into the street, and I had to run to save it from getting crushed. I think it’s salvageable. It’s embarrassing to admit how upset I’ll be if we can’t get it back in working order. We got it right before the start of the coronavirus, and it’s brought so many people (and dogs) joy during the long quarantine. I think we could all use as much beauty in this world as possible right now. We will find a way to repair it.
White nationalists attacked a Black church last night in DC, and some people were stabbed. Tonight was my last beginner’s Danish class. Jeg kan stadig ikke tale dansk meget godt. My daughter is purging all the little bits of ripped paper and congealed slime out of her room. It’s raining.
38 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 278: Monday, October 14
I woke up this morning with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo again this morning. The world was spinning violently and I couldn't find a body position that made the spinning or accompanying severe nausea stop. I've only had this thing once before, which was back in March. I guess it's caused by the crystals in our ears getting dislodged. Back then I assumed that I'd brought this thing on myself by jumping on the trampoline. Now, though, I have no idea. I haven't been on the trampoline or do anything more physically vigorous than walk around a bunch of steep hills in days. I sang a little?
Anyway, it took a few hours for the more violent nausea to subside, but now I'm mostly okay. I still feel like I want to barf most of the time, and just generally removed from reality by a layer or two, but I can move around and concentrate on things again. So, yay. Last time this happened, my doctor gave me some exercises that are designed to get those crystals back in place. I tried them this morning by myself (they're supposed to be a two-person thing, but I was the only one up), but they made me feel worse and the idea of doing it again is a little terrifying. I have my husband on standby to help me try again tonight. A lot of strange things have happened since the start of this pandemic, but this has hands down been the most unexpected. I can't for the life of me understand why this is happening.
My kids made me hot chocolate out of the blue, though I suspect it was an excuse for them to also gift themselves some sugar. Still, I appreciated being taken care of for a moment. The rain yesterday was misty and peaceful. The clear skies and bright sunshine today are radiant. As nauseating and weird as this vertigo thing is, I'm incredibly glad it's not COVID-19. The first front line staff got vaccinated today on TV, and the electoral college is casting its votes under threat of Republican violence. Maybe I'm not violently dizzy, just this country.
37 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 279: Tuesday, October 15
The dizziness has begun to subside. I did the exercises last night and then twice today. The first two didn’t help much, but the one this afternoon has made all the nausea disappear. I still have little moments where I turn my head a certain way and the world spins out of control, but they are no longer the default. Thank the f*cking lord. I like being able to think again, and hopefully, sleep. I’d really like to know how not to get this ever again. Do I chant to my ear crystals? Sacrifice pristine Q-Tips under the moonlight?
Biden/Harris won the election today—again. The electoral college votes are cast and it’s official—again.
There was a mob of small children running in a pack for the sake of running this afternoon at the local playground. My daughter ran with them for awhile, which was quite beautiful. I like to imagine that, when this is all over, all of San Francisco gathers on the Embarcadero and silently runs, bikes, skateboards, rolls, skates, walks, wails etc. all the way out to the beach together, in one massive wave of collective euphoria. Like a more emotional Bay to Breakers meets Makanin’s Escape Hatch. We will need to mourn these months/years. We’ll need to mourn everyone who was lost, all that everyone who survived lost, all that we will still be losing as a result of the mishandling of this virus. And because this is San Francisco, we will need to be wearing costumes. People will bring bubble machines, cry into their sunglasses.
36 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 278: Wednesday, October 16
It's Police Commission Wednesday. I'm still dizzy. I'm fairly certain I have something called Meniere's Disease, according to Dr. Google. I'm going to try cutting down my salt intake dramatically--after tonight. After tonight I'm going to cut down my salt intake dramatically. Right now, though, this lusciously salty empanada is going to get me through this meeting. Some real ugly sh*t is about to be unearthed tonight. A good thing, and long overdue--way overdue--but it's gonna be an experience. I sure hope something good and meaningful comes from it all.
35 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 279: Thursday, October 17
Well, the dizziness has subsided some. I stopped doing the exercises, which seems to help. But it was hard to fall asleep last night. It feels like I'm birthing a tiny alien out of my ear whenever I tilt my head all the way to the left, i.e., lie down.
The police commission last night was absolutely worth forcing myself to watch, though. I wrote about it elsewhere so I won't get into it here, but I will add here that reparations will never be enough to make up for all the emotional exposure and work Black Americans have had to put into proving their humanity just to get the most basic concessions of respect. Particularly by government. And that's not even factoring in the likelihood of additional retaliation Mr. King will probably experience. It's ... not right.
In better news, I got back on bikes today. I picked up some donations for the organization I volunteer for on our larger cargo bike. With the rain hood on and the platform full of toys and PPE, I felt like a somber Santa flying up Ortega. My husband's just added a second motor and battery to the bike, so it's [chef's kiss] when it comes to power. I climbed an extra hill, just because.
What else? What else? Oh, two very sweet things. I think I've mentioned before that our spinning rainbow "front lawn" thing broke on Sunday. I took it inside to see if we can figure out a repair. Today a neighbor walking by our open garage stopped to ask--with a bit of genuine worry--if the spinning thing would be coming back. "It's a bit of beautiful." I assured him it would, come hell or high water. Anyway, I knew that it meant something to people, but it was nice to know that a neighbor noticed and cared. The second sweet thing was just now when my son smiled with quiet joy after successfully lighting all the Hannukah candles because A) We remembered to celebrate and B) fire.
34 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 280: Friday, October 18
Gravity is doing something funky to me today. I think this is more than just an ear thing. TBD.
San Francisco is under some even tighter COVID-19 restrictions because the hospitalization chart keeps getting worse. I’m honestly not sure what the restrictions are, not because I don’t care, but because it doesn’t change how we’re living. We’re not going anywhere or seeing anyone, raising minks or operating a restaurant out of our garage. We’re the people in the fishbowl, continuing to swim along and peer out at the outside world when we can, and I realize we’re lucky to be in that situation.
The school district also announced today that they have failed to reach an agreement with the teachers union and other labor partners, so the tiny school reopening planned for late January is off. There’s no public in-person school coming anytime soon. Ever? I’ve written about this before, so I won’t belabor the point here. The situation we have right now is classic San Francisco, and no one should be surprised. Sad, yes. Furious, absolutely.
I would love for my kids to go back to a school where their teachers felt safe and ready to bring their best to work, and it’s not because I worry that my children are falling behind. If anything—and maybe this sounds terrible, but it’s the truth—they’re probably learning far more at home with us academically than they ever did at school. My fifth grader is about to wrap up advanced fifth grade math for the year and move on to pre-algebra, which he’ll probably also finish this year, and his writing sounds like a well-read adult. My third grader is also ahead in math, if slightly less so, and writes cogent poems about sunshine and cats that make me want to hug her tight. Both my kids are learning second languages on their own (at their own volition) and reading extra history books that I give them in the hopes of ensuring they do get Ethnic and Black studies throughout their education (which, unlike the languages, is admittedly coerced). And they still have plenty of time to goof off and play fight each other all day, make slime, make huge messes in the kitchen, move the cat, move the cat again, etc. So, no, I’m not remotely worried about them falling behind. That’s a wrong-headed measure in these times, and I’m not down with the white and white-adjacent parents whose activism on this issue comes from that concern, because even if my kids spent the rest of the academic year doing nothing but picking their noses, that would be totally fine with me. They’d be alive. They’d be loved.
Still, I want them back in school. I want them back in school because they’re lonely and the only real socialization they get is with each other, and us. I hate how used to this situation they’ve gotten. Neither of them even bother to reach out to friends at this point because it’s so hard to connect, and it’s not because they’re anti-social. Quite the contrary. We have a relatively good setup here at our house. Everyone has space and food and peace of mind to get their work done. But that’s not life. That’s not childhood, and if our kids grow up hugging their screens to them harder than their friends because our failure as adults has left them with no other source of socialization, it will ripple through their lives, and through the country. How do you convince kids that thinking of themselves as part of a community is essential when the future of the planet is at stake if they have little practical experience being in a community?
So, that’s where I’m personally coming from. I know other people are operating in actual dire circumstances and it’s the logistics of the situation that are making their lives untenable, particularly for a lot of women. Or their kids have regressed emotionally from the stress and loneliness and are acting like toddlers again. Or they’re nine, and they still can’t read. I want better for our kids. We should have been able to do better for them. All of us, but especially our elected leaders. Now the question for me is whether schools will be open for in-person learning next fall? I feel like it’s 50/50 right now, particularly for the age groups of my particular kids. Trending lower and lower. I’m not sure what we’re going to do, particularly if adults all go back to “normal” and kids are the only group left hanging in the wind, waiting for someone to care. This is not the way a city that claims to care about its future acts. We don’t put our sh*t on kids. But of course, we do. We always have.
33 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 281: Saturday, October 19
I’m still reckoning with hard feelings from yesterday’s school agreement failure. It seems like the issue is going to get more and more divisive in the coming months. This school year, it’ll be warfare over whether to/what it takes to get a few kids back into modified in-person learning. Given the fundamental disagreement over the science involved—our Department of Public Health has failed to convince the Teachers Union that its recommended mitigation measures, etc, are sufficient—I will be shocked if we get more than a handful of kids and teachers back into school by the end of the year. I also suspect that, because of how politicized and rancorous the conversation has become over this first phase of returning and everyone’s love of finger pointing, we won’t get any serious discussion of getting on the same page about how/if vaccination will trigger a full return to in-person schooling until next school year. It will be a f*cking travesty. Easily avoided if well-intentioned adults sat down and began to talk, early and often.
The likelihood of lawsuits won’t help, either. When schools finally reopen in fall 2022, our kids will be returning to rubble.
Meanwhile, I cringe when earnest people keep asking how we can improve distance learning. It’s absolutely true that we can and should do a lot to ensure every learner has stable Internet, a heated home, a working device, food and quiet to do their work. But beyond that, let’s be honest, you’re shining sh*t. Distance learning will always inherently suck for the vast majority of kids. I’d be much happier right now if we could cancel the pretense of learning and just open city-run camps for kids to go to all day to hang out with each other, doing games or other low-key stuff. I truly do not care if my kid is learning academic stuff. I just want them to be able to socialize and not spend two years in deep isolation. You can’t shine sh*t. I will scrub tables with a toothbrush if the city would step up and expand its learning centers program to welcome any kids who want to join. Anything.
Okay, let me deflate the emotion a bit now. What happens to my kids with their school is central to the structure of my life, but there’s nothing I can do at this point. Another white parent weighing in just throws fuel on the already wild fire. Today I took my daughter down to Golden Gate Park to visit a couple of playgrounds while my husband and son went to another box packing session for a food distribution program they’ve been volunteering at for most of this school year.
At the first playground, a dad had to wage battle with an aggressive squirrel over the contents of the guy’s backpack. I’m still not sure who was winning when we left. At the second playground, my daughter got depressed because she couldn’t find anyone to play with—the whole point of going to playgrounds these days, to her lonely mind. I mostly absorbed sunlight and marveled once again on how much we white parents in SF all look so similar. I used to go to parent meetings at schools or interest groups and spend half the time honestly wondering if I knew half the room because they all looked so much like other people I knew, from the glasses and salt-and-pepper dude hair to our vests and jeans. I felt the same way at the playground today, and had to slap my hand down from waving at people I did not, in fact, know. I’ve decided to call the look playground technical wear casual. No one will cry any tears over this, but I do wonder how many white families are going to leave the city because schools aren’t opening. Oops, talked about schools again.
32 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 282: Sunday, October 20
It's a lazy Sunday in a house with a couple of very cranky kids. My son, who is a bear to wake up in time for school during the week, got up at 7:30 am and bolted downstairs to beg my husband to approve his game time request. My daughter keeps injuring herself doing things like walking, sitting, moving in bed, eating. There's been a lot of hugs and a lot of ice pack time. So, yeah, I think we've finally gotten to a less cranky place, but let's just say that no one will be waking us up tomorrow at 7:30 am, unless the house is on fire--or Trump manages to go through with the coup. (How is Giuliani still alive and advising him in the oval office? I thought he had COVID?)
I've been listening to a lot of slow jams on loop today. I think my husband is a little confused, but he has wisely chosen not to say anything. I’ve been puzzling, just letting everything else slide for a while. It's working remarkably well.
I talked to my brother and SIL this morning for a few hours. They're hunkering through the endless darkness in Denmark, now in their own version of lockdown. It's surprising to hear that they aren't required to wear masks there, except inside stores and on public transit, and that they're allowed to bubble in a group of 10 still. I think the advice here now is basically, see no one, breathe nowhere. My brother's apartment is all Danish Christmas cozy despite the lockdown, and they seem admirably fine. They've reached the stage of married life where they're (unintentionally?) in vaguely matching sweaters and architectural glasses (my SIL is actually an architect, so). My husband and I have a couple of matching hoodies and space cat t-shirts, which I guess is the San Francisco equivalent. Maybe we should get matching high-technical face shields? We've been married 12 years, and together 18, so ...
Anyway, I think I'm going to go loop the Mariah Carey Christmas albums to really smudge out the crank in this house once and for all.
31 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 283: Monday, October 21
I admit I’m still in my feelings some, though less so than before. It’s a Spare The Air Day, and we were cooped up inside this morning and early afternoon, waiting out the air. That didn’t help. I really hope that people stop burning wood fires and, more importantly, that it rains again soon. It’s disconcerting to have so many bad air days this winter. We’ve lost so much control over our lives during this pandemic. Being powerless to help your kids and/or fix the poisoned environment on the other side of the window sends me spiraling. There’s no shame in admitting it. I took a long-ish walk with my son this afternoon once the air got better, and am feeling less brittle now. Also, still looping Mariah Carey’s Christmas album. That sh*t works.
A good friend of my husband is a professor at a university in a red state and was forced to go back to work in person this fall, with zero precautions in place. She now seems to have the long-term COVID-19 things, and is struggling with everyday living. It’s horrifying.
In our blue cities choking on medical expertise, I think we thought relying on science would ensure a more equitable approach to reopening/scaling back public services. And that government leaders and society at large would also understand that kids aren’t just small workers. That we all, but especially kids, need to be around other kids to grow up healthy, not just apps on a screen. Aka, that we shouldn’t treat kids like little adults, forced to endure the same restrictions as actual adults. But that assumption ignores the fact that we’ve been treating Black and Brown kids as little adults for centuries, particularly in schools. We give them at most a whiff of childhood, and pathologize groups of Black and brown bodies in literally every setting, including kids. Why should that be any different now?
Meanwhile, affluent white and white-adjacent parents—my people—have been treating our own kids as achievement grow toys. We’ve lobbied to slowly suck almost all vestiges of community learning aspect of growing up out of schools. We push our kids to join clubs and teams, but only as a path towards individual achievement and hoarding comfortable, in-group friendships. This dynamic is softer in San Francisco, for sure, or at least delayed until high school, but it’s hardly invisible. So, again, we’ve unwittingly promoted this conception of our kids as little individual achievers, aka, little adults.
It should not be a surprise, then, that our government’s first thought when this pandemic hit was not, “how do we protect our kids, come hell or high water?” If your first thought reading this is, well, of course it wasn’t, understand that there are plenty of countries around the globe who did have that thought. Instead, we have treated our kids as little adult workers, no more important or unique than any other special interest group. I don’t know how we climb out of this nadir without also facing this truth head on.
Gonna bake lemon bars.
30 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 284: Tuesday, December 22
We’re all trying really hard to make this a week of extra love and magic, but it’s been more of a struggle than a second instinct. There’s been a lot of crankiness and splitting hairs. My daughter can remember a grudge like you wouldn’t believe. I asked her if she remembered going to Eggstravaganza in Golden Gate Park when she was three; she didn’t remember the event, but she remembered the specific fight she had with her brother about some slushees, including the color of the cups (I verified the accuracy later with photos). So that is the super power she is bringing to the holiday sugar overload. We spent some time outdoors today in the park, which helped a bit. I hope we can really turn the corner tomorrow, though. All of us.
I spoke to a fellow SF parent friend today, who shared a really upsetting story about how the isolation from distance learning led to a severe mental and physical health breakdown for one of her kids recently—a normally very sunny kid. It stabbed me in the heart. I’ve known this kid since he was in diapers, and I wouldn’t wish those feelings on any child. So, when we were in Golden Gate Park and today and I heard a man practicing violin in the tunnel between the Music Concourse and the blue playground, I damn well lost it. Thank god for sunglasses and a mask, otherwise I would have looked like an absolute loon. The music was beautiful. Thank you, mystery player. Thank you sunglasses.
The park and the city overall feels like it’s fraying at the edges. There were still people around, but also not. Far fewer than even a few months ago. Instead, it feels like we’re biking/scootering among ghosts, gestures of a city.
29 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 285: Wednesday, December 23
The dizziness is back. I’ve contacted my doctor. TBD there.
I’ve been trying to relax and get into the Christmas spirit nonetheless, but I’m still hung up on trying to process how to be helpful with the school situation. I am pro-labor. When I talk about opening schools, to my mind it has always only been with excellent safety protections in place for teachers, staff and kids. That was supposed to be the meat of the SFUSD plan, a given as a pre-condition. Now, though, the conversation has gotten so murky and polarized that I honestly have no idea how to help and, yes, advocate. I’m sitting with that feeling right now, trying to understand the path forward.
In more positive news, one of my son’s friends from the neighborhood walked over a plate of Christmas cookies just now, and I helped my daughter make our first-ever attempt at macarons while my husband and son delivered PPE and toys to families who are living on fumes right now. It was a volunteer opportunity through the organization I’ve been helping for a few months. My husband was really moved by the experience, and I think my kid, too. My husband grew up in the Bay Area, but had never been to the public housing projects in the Bayview before. Whoever planned those homes went out of their way to make them as isolated from the rest of the city, and even neighborhood, as possible. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in any other big city, and unbelievably cruel. As always, it feels good to support direct relief efforts, but I’d so love to support justice legislation that destroys the need for charity. Sitting with that feeling, too.
28 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 286: Thursday, December 24
It's Christmas Eve. My kids and I FaceTimed with my brother and his family in Denmark to watch them open presents. It was sort of like an interactive reality show? Anyway, we had fun on our end, and I think they want to watch us do our presents tomorrow, too. Later on, we made pebernodder. My SIL introduced me to the flavor a few years ago when they came here for Christmas, and I've come to really love these cookies. The spicing involves a good dose of white pepper, which means the aftertaste has a beautiful, tingling heat. We bought a small bottle of champagne and some sparkling juice for the kids so we could add fizz to the sensation and go all out. It was nice to give a plate of cookies to our neighbors down the way, too.
A week ago, a little elf dropped off a package of jingle bells and an unsigned note inviting us to ring the bells at 6 pm on Christmas Eve, "to get Santa's sleigh in the air." So, we did. It was very sweet. There were a few families up and down both sides of the block out, jingling for a good 10 minutes. I appreciate whoever gave out the bells and notes. Someone also posted a love note of sorts on our little library, and I don't even mind that they used Scotch Tape. To round out the night, we rode our kids around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights a little further up the hills. It's another bad air quality day out, so hardly a white Christmas, but the lights made it still seem a little sparkling.
I'm trying hard to get in the Christmas spirit. Everything we did today was lovely. But I'm also feeling the void on the other side of the lights. I'm still dizzy, too. Gonna focus harder on the pretty lights, eat a cheese stick.
27 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 287: Friday, December 25
Merry Christmas. It's raining, which makes me unreasonably happy. My kids woke up early to get their stockings, which were full of candy from grandma. Their eyes were glowing with the sugar. I managed to slog out of bed a little later, and we were our own reality TV show for a few hours while we opened gifts. My husband gave me a custom bread oven free/occupied sign to go on our oven. This may sound really dull to any normal human, but it's perfect. Completely perfect. I love it. He also gave himself the gift of some more electronics we really didn't need (under the guise of gifts to the rest of us). But I'm glad they bring him joy. My daughter gave me a candle that smells--I swear to god--exactly like Drakkar Noir. It, also, is perfect.
Right now my husband and daughter are out dropping off socially distanced food and presents to my brother-in-law and his family. My brothers-in-law flew out here from New York today with their toddler, and will be in the region for the next few months. I baked them some bread yesterday as a welcoming present. Our cat ripped open the bag it was stapled into last night and helped himself to a few bites. Ho ho ho.
The daily headache is closing in now, and I need to do laundry. I really, really appreciate this rain. This will make no sense to anyone who hasn't been living here, but it feels like hope.
Merry Christmas. I'm not going to think about national politics today.
Day 288: Saturday, December 26
My daughter has some sort skin rash/allergic reaction, I’m guessing to one of the presents she got yesterday. We can’t figure out what it is, so we’ve taken away all the new stuff. It’s like the anti-Christmas today.
25 days until Inauguration Day
Day 289: Sunday, December 27
Today is reinvention day, in which we repair, clean or purge the unseen workhorses of our lives. Tightening the bolts on the stand mixer, washing the couch pillow cases, cleaning out the craft boxes, sharpening all the pencils. In other words, it’s been incredibly interesting.
Our tree is bare now, though it’ll be with us one more week. There’s maybe a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 whipping around, and some dude set off a bomb in Nashville. My daughter’s rash has subsided, though we had another scare tonight. In really good news, I haven’t had a headache in over 24 hours—a first in the last week. So, despite everything, I feel pretty amazing. I may not be emotionally ready for 2021 to be really similar to 2020, but at least I’ll have a bunch of sharp as* pencils.
24 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 290: Monday, December 28
I took my kids for a long walk/scooter today down into the park. Apparently the aggressive squirrel I saw at one of the park playgrounds has become a phenomenon. A woman asked me if I'd seen it yet today before letting herself spread out her blanket on the grass. I realized that she's the first person outside of my family who I've spoken with in person in about a week? More?
I've been trying not to look at Twitter recently. For understandable reasons, it feels like the entire country is having one enormous, messy breakdown in these last few days before the new year. All the brakes are off. Of COVID, of our ability to trust each other, of the usual masks on our mounting traumas, on the desire for comfort food. If Twitter has a sound right now, it's a planet full of screams.
My brother's Christmas gift for our family just arrived. It's a board game called Cøpenhagen (the spelling is bizarre), where you win if your harbor building renovation is the most aesthetically pleasing. Så dansk.
23 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 291: Tuesday, December 29
My daughter's anxiety continues to spike. She hasn't had a hive breakout in a couple days, but she's not sleeping well and is terrified of anything associated with Christmas. She just had a big crying breakdown a few minutes ago after being cranky all day. It's always startling to hear how much is on her mind. She's sad that Christmas felt so off this year despite all our efforts to make it fun, scared about things in the world that can hurt her, like her presents and COVID, and frustrated that there's no recourse to fix things because of the pandemic. She feels like there's nothing to look forward to anymore because there's nothing to do anymore. She can't see friends, and is sad that she can't even see her classmates right now on Zoom because of the distance learning break (yes, the bar is low). My husband says she freaked out about touching things in public today because of the hive incidents.
It's a lot for a kid to feel, especially when there's so little we can do to help her, beyond a lot of hugs. How many ways can you say, "I hate our country's failed response to this pandemic and how the compounded awfulness is now spiraling out of control?" The news today about the reality of when most people will be able to get the vaccine was sobering. I love so much about our home and neighborhood, but we are not set up here to get through another year or more of living like this.
In good news, I bedazzled our replacement rainbow wind spinner out front, and my son has successfully begun to use the cat pouch sweatshirt I got my daughter for Christmas (and which she is now too terrified to touch, sigh). I'm also working on a quick and dirty analysis of local political action in 2020, which I'm sure no one will read. But there's something endlessly soothing about turning messy data into a clean narrative in Excel. Is that the whitest thing I've ever said?
22 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 292: Wednesday, December 30
I took my kids to Kezar Stadium today and tried to teach them how to jog. I was hoping that they'd be open to developing a jogging habit with me, as opposed to a running habit, which ... no. So, okay, take a minute to laugh at me ... Yes, it was a wildly unsuccessful trip. We got around the track a mile's worth, but there was a lot of walking and a lot of complaining. Oh well. We'll keep going back anyway, and try other things. Or maybe this will be a radically hands on lesson on new year's resolutions, and their tendency to stall out after a few weeks/days/minutes. Mom, I want water!
I've been putting it off, but I want to spend tonight doing a deep dive into the news about this new, more contagious COVID-19 strain. The first confirmed case surfaced in California today, so I'm sure it'll be here in San Francisco soon, if it isn't already. I keep thinking about that Gremlins scene with the pool. I suspect there are going to be some real new lows in this country in January, which is saying a lot. Going to research cakes to make tomorrow to celebrate the end of 2020. A burning cake? A cake that breathes pungent steam? A cake made of tears?
21 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 293: Thursday, December 31
Happy New Year’s Eve. The dizziness and nausea are back for me, so I’m white knuckling it through the afternoon and evening. This post may make no sense.
I walked down to the grocery store this morning, which turned out to be packed full of people getting stuff for parties—hopefully—of one. I haven’t had to stand in line to get in in a while, so I really hope no one was buying for an actual party. TBD, the hard way.
Our meager celebration here was me baking a red velvet cake and popping some sparkling apple cider for the kids. The cake turned out delicious, though unfortunately it stuck to the bottom of the pans, so we resorted to “bowl cake” or “a bunch of crumbs.” No shame, no shame. My husband and I are holding off on the champagne until tomorrow, assuming I’m feeling better enough to enjoy something other than solitude. I have no idea what those odds are. Probably about as good as 2021 being better than 2020? So ... Oh, there was a small and very short earthquake early this morning. Party like it’s 1346, everyone.
20 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 294: Friday, January 1
I woke up this morning to the sound of my son screaming in agony about something on his video game. So, thus far, 2021 is feeling a lot like 2020. Things got much better as the day went on, and I spent the late afternoon smiling quietly while my kids danced around the living room to love songs of the '80s, nominally doing other stuff. Part of my personal slide into madness in 2020 was capitulation to total reliance on Apple's music compilations. Right now I'm on to repeat play of Love Songs of the '90s. I think I'm listening to Selena?
My husband took my kids to walk outside with his brother and his family earlier. They've finished their quarantine, and my kids were excited to see their excitable, tiny cousin. My son made him a toddler-sized light saber when they got back.
I'm still not feeling quite normal, and am having trouble looking at the news. There's so much in disarray. Will this ever end? Or, rather, what will be left?
19 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 295: Saturday, January 2
Today we learned--the hard way--that one does not take spontaneous trips in COVID times. It's raining today and we needed to be out of the house this morning, so my husband rented a car and figured we'd just "go somewhere." It did sound nice to get out of the city for a change and I assumed he had a plan. ... Reader, he did not have a plan. We ended up driving down 280. I eventually suggested we walk around the Stanford campus, hoping that no one would have a bathroom emergency and/or that there'd be some sort of public bathroom available. The closer we got, though, the worse and worse I felt. At the risk of TMI, if you've ever had bad period cramps, you know how real this is. Add that to headache. So we literally opened the doors and got out, and then got straight back in and headed home, me doing my best just to breathe. We got home fine and nothing terrible happened, but no, there is no room for spontaneity in COVID-19.
I continue to google this dizziness and headache thing that won't go away. I'm going to the doctor next week, so hopefully I'll get some answers. But it looks like my symptoms overlap with Long Haul COVID-19 presentation, particularly if you also include the rash I also got last summer. The idea is scary on a number of levels, so I really hope it's just vertigo and/or stress. Maybe I need glasses? It's plausible, though, that I had asymptomatic COVID sometime in summer 2020 and this is the long tail. If that's the case, then I'm really worried about who I might have infected, too. Today's headache is on the stronger side. God I hope the doctors have some answers. I want to feel consistently normal again.
18 days until Inauguration Day.
296: Sunday, January 3
The shenanigans continue in DC. I don’t know if this Republican coup is going to happen, but they sure are trying. Trump is on tape begging Georgia’s election officials to “find” him enough votes to win that state and some congressmen are going to try to protest the certification of the election results in Congress in a few days. Ironically, the same election that put them in Congress. They are going to burn this country down rather than give up any power.
Today was wholly unremarkable. The most exciting part, and this is a stretch of a statement, was taking my daughter to the playground. It’s been interesting to witness some new dynamics at neighborhood playgrounds. Parents and kids eyeing and purposefully trying to catch the attention of other kids who might be good playmates for their own, lonely kid. A woman and her daughter totally did this to my daughter today, and we’ve done it to others. (It worked in both cases.) Meanwhile, moms and dads are wandering around the playgrounds, covertly trying to get exercise. No more sitting. Instead, we’re casually breaking into lunges behind the swings. Or, we’re walking circuits that involve stairs, and hanging from bars along with our kids, but doing a few core crunches while they have fun. Some parents, mostly dads, are overt about capitalizing on the chances for exercise. They speed walk and run up and down stairs. Most of us sort of mill around, though, pacing and occasionally breaking into apologetic exercise now and then. It’s a different experience than even early in the pandemic. We used to sit around chatting or staring at our phones, maybe just enjoying the weather and forced down time. Now, there’s this restless energy and too much screen time and sitting at home. Plus, talking to strangers seems utterly pointless and potentially dangerous, as well as exhausting to contemplate. God is change.
My daughter spent last night drawing her take on the most popular apps, encased in lips of varying colors. TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Slime Simulator, Roblox and a few others I can’t remember. It’s this weird mashup of that iconic Rolling Stones album and corporate tech. That’s her life right now, I guess, so at least she can make it beautiful. Change god. I remain dizzy. Can’t imagine why.
17 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 297: Monday, January 4
Well, it's come down to this. The only way to get my kids to go to the track with me and maybe jog/do any sort of physical activity is to also do 30 minutes of "lightsaber training." My son used his new lightsaber and my daughter and I used enormous wood dowels today. It turns out that a lifetime of competitive sports for me, including making up off season workouts for my water polo team in college, leads to a lot of semi-convincing exercises for the occasion. And it's surprisingly fun. We got a lot of looks, wide eyes from other kids, and a range from bemusement to I'm-thinking-about-calling-CPS from adults, but both kids were actually smiling for a good 15 minutes once we got into it--until of course the fighting started again immediately after.
I cannot emphasize how happy I will be for "school" to start up again tomorrow. Two+ weeks of days with no routine, no friends and nowhere to go has crescendoed into endless fighting and crankiness today. I tried to give them some more structure today; they did light, non-school learning. It wasn't enough, though. I think my daughter is going to be a puddle by the end of the day.
The coup attempt continues. I guess we'll know how serious it is on Wednesday. Or not? IDK. Me and my wooden stick will be ready to take on the Imperial Troops once martial law starts. God that's a terrible joke.
16 days until Inauguration Day
Day 298: Tuesday, January 5
Yes, lightsaber training is going about as well as you might expect. I managed to accidentally whack my son just below his eye with my wooden dowel today, reducing him to tears. We will wrap my stick in foam going forward, and maybe wear Darth Vader helmets. Injury aside, we’re having fun.
Today is official run off day in Georgia for the senate. I don’t know when we’ll get the results of the votes, but fingers crossed. Meanwhile, LA County is telling EMS responders not to bring people to the hospital unless they seem like they have a good chance of surviving. Hospitals are too full. It’s beyond the pale. I’m assuming we’ll start to see that phenomenon trickle up towards us as people start fleeing Southern California. So I definitely need to be more careful about not gravely injuring my kids while recreating Star Wars battle scenes. It has the same ring to it as being fatally run over by a Port-a-Pottie truck.
The world is otherwise quiet here. Someone gave me new candleholders for Christmas, so I’m enjoying the exciting world of tapered candles for a change. I feel the urge to grab a quill and scrawl a novel. Tomorrow is the congressional certification—or not—of the November election results. I’m nervous.
15 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 299: Wednesday, January 6
I don't know where to start. As predicted by many, a violent Trump mob stormed away from a Trump rally in DC and broke into the Capitol buildings today in order to stop the Senate vote to certify the results of the November election. One woman is dead. House and Senate leaders had to cower on the floor and flee the room to secure rooms. I was watching the vote and suddenly security people rushed in and moved Pence out of the room, and everything came to a halt, protestors broke glass and stormed into the rotunda and onto the House floor. Warnock and Ossof had just won that morning in Georgia, so truly all power is on the line for the Republicans. The capitol police seemed understaffed and unprepared or unwilling to stop the mob. White men and some women, complaining about not being seen and heard in Congress. Absolutely despicable, and utterly predictable. Why people are so surprised is beyond me; it makes me queasy to watch Biden get on the TV and once again tell us that "this is not us." Have they not read history? Been reading the news? Continuing to lie about who we are heals no wounds. It just perpetuates injustice.
The Senate has re-adjourned and I'm watching the resumed vote. It's also a Police Commission night, so it's going to be a late night. It remains to be seen whether this vote goes the right way, whether the mob has another trick up their sleeve and whether Trump--who released a weird pre-recorded video during the mob attack--used the whole thing to slip out of the country. Or worse.
It's been upsetting. Deeply upsetting. Even if you saw this coming, it still hurts to see your culture rip off its mask. This day will be studied for decades to come, particularly if this also becomes a super spreader event that takes the lives of a huge section of our national political leadership. I told my kids to forget about schoolwork today, so they could watch it, too.
14 days until Inauguration Day.
Day 300: Thursday, January 7
Well, days 200-300 were a lot. Wildfire, election heartbreak and then good news (but also, not), a new, worse corona strain, confirmation that schools are never going to reopen, kid physical and mental health bumps, more and more persistent vertigo and then, yup, an attempted coup. Good times! But wait, there's more ...
The next couple weeks are either going to be the beginning of something truly wonderful--a nation that finally comes into its own as a place of true democracy and justice--or the more rapid metastasizing of the germs of end times. Right now, odds are the latter, unfortunately. Congress has yet to hand down any consequences for yesterday's coup attempt: Trump is still in power, his supporters largely un-cowed, and the police are complicit. I hope, though. I hope, I hope, I hope.
I went to the doctor today to get checked on for this lingering vertigo. Do I have a brain tumor? The magic eight ball says likely not, which is excellent news. It wasn't a great visit, though. The doctor told me that the problem is lingering because I'm holding too much stress/worrying about things too much; I may or may not have cried, which I hate doing at doctor's visits. The doctors never take you seriously if you cry, particularly if you're a woman.
Instead, the doctor gave me a depression survey. I don't qualify. I made sure I didn't qualify; I have no desire or need to be medicated. I have so much appreciation for health care workers right now, and know the doctor was coming from a place of sincerely wanting to help, but his advice to try to worry less and accept that I can't do much about things as one person, was more than a little out of tune right now. People putting their head down, "compartmentalizing" and deciding they have no power to make things better is exactly how we got into this mess. It's the individual health model instead of a public health approach. We are collectively depressed, we collectively need to grieve. Recognizing that and speaking truth is part of the public health solution, not telling me to try to let go of my worries.
Anyway, maybe the lingering feeling of anger and shame from this doctor's visit will make the vertigo go away completely. That's probably healthy. Also, I stopped by a chocolate shop on the way home. I've finally tried ruby chocolate. It's tangy.
13 days until Inauguration Day.