Lockdown: The force which through the green fuse drives the flower

I slept pretty miserably Saturday night, but I was so tired that I did sleep. Just woke up Sunday morning feeling terrible. Because once again, for like the fifth night in a row (probably more) I crashed without Darth Vader.

When I sleep well, I wake up actually refreshed from sleep, something I didn’t even know I was missing before my diagnosis. Now I notice it all the time when I have it, and I notice its absence when I don’t. I wake up feeling like I spent all night working at sleep. Tired from sleeping. My nose feels buzzy, like I’ve been getting fizz-bubbles up there from drinking champagne.

It’s such a difference, sleeping with Darth Vader. Darth Vader is trying to save my life and I’m shunning its efforts. Ridiculous and absurd, not to mention immature as heck.

I struggled out of bed and put on the Raiders-Chiefs game, which as you know by now the Raiders won. They did stuff to Kansas City nobody’s done since before last season. It was impressive.

Spent most of the day doing small tasks, reading stuff online, napping, and watching football.

I had a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast, then some leftover chicken kabocha soup for lunch. It was good. And like most soups, better the second day.

Even though it was a competitive game, I wasn’t that interested in the Vikings-Seahawks late game, so I took care (in advance) of some evening chores and headed for the office. Stopped for a footlong turkey sandwich on the way.

I didn’t have that much to do, so I wasn’t there late. I think it was just a nice change of scenery. And I do like spending time in my cube, even if I’m doing small busy-work tasks.

I texted Ali a few times. She wanted to see a photo of my soup. And we did more Kindle talk. JB texted to celebrate the Raiders’ victory. Penny asked one more opinion about a new laptop and then she ordered it. Nice.

I watched Pitch Perfect 2 again before bed. Some of it is terribly stupid, but the film as a whole makes me feel good. Makes me smile, even.

Sometimes you need some connection with a living human to get through weird times. These are weird times and I’m a living human, so if you need some of that, leave a comment and we’ll work something out. Don’t go through this disconnected or alone.

Lockdown: Before I mistrusted the night

It was a rather lovely morning.

I got up really early Saturday and did get out the door and into the ocean. I was so early I picked up breakfast in the McD’s drive-through, set my beach chair up beneath a couple of short palm trees on the beach, and enjoyed the fresh air, starlight, plashing of the waves, and salty breakfast sandwiches while grooving to podcasts. It was pleasant.

I didn’t swim very hard, but the ocean was moving, so I got a good workout anyway. In fact my arms were pretty dead for most of the day. I took a nice nap when I got home, then drove to Hawaiian Pie Company to pick up a pumpkin pie. Saw a coworker in the parking lot there (they bring your order to your car when you message them you’re there) who said he comes every week and he’s working his way through the menu. I said I’m doing the same thing.

It wasn’t entirely true; I don’t go every week. But I am working my way through the menu, one pie at a time.

I picked up lunch at Sugoi. I regretted it, too, as I nearly always do when I eat there. It’s just not as good as the hype, although it’s fine. I got the garlic chicken, which is always pretty good if too battery and not meaty enough. I ordered the mixed plate so I could try the tonkatsu too, because I’m a sucker for tonkatsu whenever I see it on the menu. It sucked. It wasn’t so-so or unmemorable; it really sucked. I think I’m done with this place.

What was disappointing was that I basically tossed a coin and went to Sugoi because there was more parking on its end of the building. I really wanted Hawaiian food from Young’s. Live and learn.

At least there was plenty of brown rice with my order. I didn’t have to make any to go with dinner, which was a chicken kabocha soup in the Instant Pot. It was delicious, if not very challenging. Except for slicing the chicken and kabocha, and chopping the garlic and onion, everything else came out of a can. Vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, fresh rosemary (not from a can, but you know).

I didn’t even try the pumpkin pie Saturday — too much other food.

I did a little bit of writing, read the news, worked two crosswords, and watched Pitch Perfect 2. It’s really not a good movie but it’s well-done for not a good movie, and has a couple of nice, clever touches. I’ll probably watch it a few more times before I move to the third film.

I texted Crush Girl a couple of times just to see how she was doing. Ali was up late writing a paper, so we distracted each other for a while. Good communication. When we click, we communicate really well; it’s the main reason she was my favorite coworker and my first friend at the office. We don’t always click, though. Then it’s bad.

I continue to sleep poorly. Another Mark Heard song has been going through my head in lulls between Van Halen spins, and all through my swim Saturday morning.

Why do I lie awake at night, think back just as far as I can,
To the sound of my father’s laugh
Outdoors, the thought of Sputnik in free-flight?
Before I could fashion my poverty,
Before I mistrusted the night, I must’ve known something
I must’ve known something — those were the times I live for tonight

Why? Why? Why?
I say, Why? Mama, why?
Why can’t I sleep in peace tonight underneath the satellite sky?
Why? Why? Why?
I say, Why? Mama, why?
Why can’t I sleep in peace tonight underneath the satellite sky?

Valerie once noted this song sounds a lot like Jimmy Buffett’s “Volcano,” which makes a lot of sense. They could be sibling songs. “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m-a gonna go when the volcano blows.”

I’m going to put up with this, not crying uncle and just letting the sleep deprivation become the default, but not beating myself about it too much. Three weeks and change before election day. And we’ll see what happens after that.

Why can’t I sleep in peace tonight underneath the satellite sky?

Lockdown: Master of all I survey

I went to bed too late and slept too poorly to hit the beach Friday. I’d kinda resigned myself to it when I retired, but left the door open. Aaaaaaaand no.

Fairly productive at work, ‘though not with my usual Friday zeal. Trade a lot of emails, did the background on a new donor story, had a phone call with a development officer about the story, then one with my supervisor about some stickiness surrounding a collaboration I thought I was participating in.

There’s an anonymous survey at work for a rather large organizational undertaking, and we’re supposed to respond to it by Tuesday. So there was some back-and-forth with some coworkers about what our responses are likely to be. I haven’t done mine yet, but some of them have done theirs. I don’t have many complaints, ‘though I’ll admit I have a few more than I had in my first year. I also have as many praises as I’ve had since my first year, so hopefully it balances out.

After Bloody Wednesday, I assume many of us have at least one more complaint than we had a year ago.

I got off to a later start than usual, and took a slightly longer lunch (read: nap) break than usual, so I didn’t clock out until around 6:30. I did a little bit of Friday vegging, then took care of a few chores and got ready for bed. I was pretty determined to be in bed early and hit the beach very early Saturday, to beat what I was sure would be a morning crowd.

For brunch I had some corned beef hash with some fried eggs and hapa rice. I was going to skip dinner, since I had a few Nutter Butters and more than a few Frank’s Red Hot potato chips through the day, but by nine I was pretty dang hungry. I had a few hot dogs with ketchup (again, leftover condiment packets) and sauerkraut.

I was in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10:00.

Besides the work-related texting, there wasn’t much else. Jennifer sent me some links I’ve yet to look at but they look interesting. Suzanne sent the group text a Melania-related text. Ali and I traded “happy weekends” and a word or two about her grad classes. Crush Girl and I also traded “happy weekends.” Seems like people are especially relieved the weekend’s here. I know the feeling.

Don’t forget to reach out in comments if you’re looking for someone to connect with. The days get darker. The election draws nigh. Garbage draws flies. Or something like that.

Lockdown: Screw your courage to the sticking place

I slept poorly Wednesday night. I had a feeling I would. I was up too late anyway, after cleaning up the spilled chili and insisting on still dining before bed. So the beach was out Thursday morning.

Thursday at work was pretty much the same as Wednesday. Finalizing drafts, gathering photos, emailing people. None of it was very stressful, and then I got a call from a development officer about a one-page concept document, something to send a donor to give them info about something we have in mind for the generous gift we’re going to ask for in a bit.

I was going to get my info late, and the turnaround was going to be quick, so I was working late. People kept thanking me rather profusely, like I don’t do this kind of thing a lot already. I was even encouraged to take a nap or chill before receiving the material. It made me wonder if I’ve been grouchy about my work lately. But this task didn’t seem especially difficult, and I was confident I could put something together.

Then around six, I was asked to stand by. We’ll put something formal together sometime in the coming week, and I’ll work directly with the CEO. We’re making a rather big ask, so this is a big deal.

Off the hook for the evening, I asked Sylvia if there was still time to join her trivia team for an event hosted by the public radio station. Nearly everything in me didn’t want to do this thing, a virtual trivia event on Zoom, on a team of people I wouldn’t know (except Sylvia), but I think I was looking for something to break the montony of recent days. If I hated it, I could always disconnect and blame my bad wifi.

Our team was about six people. Everyone was nice. Some were more Zoom-outgoing than others. I was among the quiet people. But you know I love trivia, and nobody (except Jocelyn, which I’ll get to in a second) has ever invited me to be on a trivia team. Yeah, I’ve never participated in these trivia events around town.

All participants met together on Zoom for the questions, then the moderator sent teams to their own breakout rooms, where we were free to discuss openly. The first was a geography question, an easy one we all knew. But the second was a sports question: On June 20-something, what professional team sports league was the first in the country to return to play. I let the conversation go for a bit until I was certain my teammates didn’t really have a clue about the correct answer. Which I was pretty sure I did: the women’s professional soccer league. I wasn’t absolutely sure it was right, but neither was it a guess.

We had a couple more questions in the round, one about Meerkat Manor, which Sylvia got right, and something else. Anyway, we did well.

The second round was a list of ten Shakespearean quotes. All we had to do was idenfity the plays from which the quotes came. I could tell the others were out of their comfort zone with this one — one of them called to a roommate to ask how familiar she was with “these books by Shakespeare.”

Anyway. I knew half of them for sure and had good guesses about the others. Luckily, the roommate did know a few I didn’t. And when Sylvia was sure one of the quotes was from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I was pretty sure it was Hamlet, I didn’t say anything. It turned out to be Hamlet. Ah well. We were still in first place after two rounds.

I got us one more answer, in round three, that nobody else knew. The only animated feature film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Beauty and the Beast. There was conversation about it, and I had enough doubt to agree that a few other answers were possible, but we submitted my answer on the strength of my conviction, and it paid off.

I was useless in the final round, which was identifying from their photos ten world leaders. The ones I knew (Merkel, Duterte, Erdogan, Xi) were easy, so the group got them without me.

We won. The prize was some HPR swag I declined because I’m decluttering. But it was pretty fun, I have to say, and I was happy to be useful to my team.

Shakespeare, movies, sports. That covers my areas, I think. Oh, there were some music questions too, but they were both pop-related and I didn’t have a clue. A Black Eyed Peas song (I like them but got into them later than the period in question) and a Snoop Dogg answer.

Anyway. Jocelyn invited me the day before to be on her trivia team for the LA chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and I said I was unlikely to accept. Just too much socializing with people I don’t know, on a platform (Zoom) I dislike. But after I had fun Thursday evening, I told her I’d reconsider.

Breakfast was from the Taco Bell drive-through. I know. I’m a bozo. I skipped lunch because I ate too many Frank’s Red Hot Lay’s potato chips for a snack. Then leftover shoyu chicken and fresh hapa rice for dinner.

I didn’t do much texting. Some work-related stuff with Karla. All the back-and-forth with Sylvia about the trivia. That was about it.

I listend to Van Halen’s Diver Down on repeat most of the day. I didn’t plan to listen to anything multiple times as I went through the VH discography, but this fifth album of theirs was the first I heard all the way through, early in high school, and it’s the one that really hooked me, even though many silly people think it’s not a very good album.

Listen: when a good band has a breakout album, the one before it is very often their best. It’s the bridge between whatever cool stuff they were doing when they conceived and whatever mass-appeal stuff they incorporated in finding their mainstream success. Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, has all the songs everyone knows. “Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot for Teacher.” For a long time it was my least favorite of their albums. Anyway, dial it back one album and you have Diver Down, which is nowhere near as good as Van Halen I or Van Halen II, but it’s a lot better than 1984. Accessible, humorous, cute, and still pretty rocking.

Reach out in comments if you want someone to connect with. I’m here for it. No Zooming.

Lockdown: Nobelity

I was a little body-tired after the laundry Wednesday morning to go to the beach, but I didn’t decide until the very last second, when I would turn left down Pensacola to head for the ocean or right up Auwaiolimu to head home. I turned right.

Got home and had an early morning nap. It was nice. And possibly as good for me as a swim might have been.

Worked on stories. I was productive. Got okays from a donor on the final draft of a story. Communicated with a recipient about getting a photo from her for the same story. Got corrections on the other story (professor and former journalist) from my supervisor. Submitted a letter to someone else for an okay (I didn’t get it). It was a lot of loose-ends-tying and it felt good to tick through them.

I still felt sleep-deprived, so I planned not to hit the beach again Thursday. I kind of wish I’d at least pretended to myself that the beach was still the intention, because once my brain knew it didn’t need to be up early, it took this as liberty to stay up. Until 2:00. Great.

I don’t even know what i did. Yeah, I played Tsum Tsum. A lot. But not that many hours a lot.

Oh I forgot: someone I interviewed for a story last year won the Nobel Prize. Pretty awesome. Her father was my college advisor, and my American lit professor. A great advisor, a beloved professor, and someone I learned a lot of non-English things from. When I interviewed his daughter, I got to tell her this stuff, with specific stories about what a dear man he was to me and to the other English majors. I was bummed that she didn’t win it last year; in fact, we held publication of her story until we got the news that the prize went to someone else, because how cool would it have been to put “Nobel laureate” in the headline?

So that was a bit of good news among all the bad news of the week.

Crush Girl texted me to talk about the lunch she was having. That was fun. We talked about other things, including how stoked I was to have interviewed the winner of a Nobel prize. Ali texted me and I caught her up on some of the work stuff, including the news that someone has finally been assigned to be my parking buddy. Some of us lower-thans in the company have tandem parking, which means someone parks against the wall and someone parks in front. The company tried to schedule it so partners arrive and leave at around the same time, for convenience’s sake. My contention was (and is) that it’s equally peaceful to pick your own partner, someone you don’t mind getting up for.

That was Ali until she left. Now it’s Sylvia, who’s moving to our main office now that she’s switching positions next week. I think Ali was pleased to know her space is being inherited by Sylvia. A worthy heir.

Julie texted me to say she saw some lobster-flavored potato chips in Rhode Island and they made her think of me. That was nice. And Penny texted to ask advice about purchasing a laptop. She’s narrowed it down to a couple of good choices. One of them is a newer (but less muscular) version of the computer I’m typing this on now. Same memory, same processing speed, same screen size, and same storage, though.

For breakfast I had a Big Mac combo at the laundry. I made a fresh pot of hapa rice for lunch, but instead of heating something up from the fridge, I opened a can of Vienna sausage and just poured it over the steaming hot rice. Camp food. For a late dinner I had more hapa rice and canned chili.

Oh I also forgot to say that I stopped at the strip mall on my way home from the laundry, at just past five in the morning. The supermarket was still out of mochiko, but the drugstore had a few boxes. I grabbed two and some food coloring. Mochi is going to happen.

I got to bed late because I freaking spilled my chili on my kitchen counter and floor. Took quite a while to get it clean to my satisfaction, so I was up late again. Thought about just giving up on food since I wasn’t really that hungry, but I did have my heart set on canned chili, and there was still some rice. So I made it again and it was great.

Leave me a comment if you’d like someone to connect with in the miry days of pandemic. I’ll send you photos of my mochi and you can send me photos of whatever’s going into your mouth. I mean that in a nonsexual way, of course. No, really. I’ll send you my contact info and you can have someone to communicate with so you don’t have to go through any of this alone.

Lockdown: In which I call someone a dick

Edward Van Halen was such a dick for the last fifteen years of his life.

It made me sad. I once texted the other Jennifer, “Edward Van Halen is turning into Kevin DuBrow.” I was referring to the late lead singer of Quiet Riot, who famously alienated himself from everyone when his band got famous. Jennifer responded, “Eddie IS Kevin DuBrow.”

When two of the apparenlty nicest guys in rock music, Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, are in your freaking band and you’re the greatest living guitarist, your band should kick major ass for decades. Sammy said in interviews that “something happened” to Eddie, and he wasn’t the same guy he used to be.

It’s rock and roll. Eddie was an artist. Stuff like that happens. But as Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston writes in her autobiography about the Japanese concentration camps during World War II, “When your parents are fighting, do you hope one of them will win? Or do you just want them to stop?”

Eddie kicked Michael Anthony, who is the Van Halen sound, out of Van Halen because Michael was playing Van Halen songs in concert with his new band with Sammy. Utterly ridiculous. But when your name is on the marquee, I guess you get to make decisions like this.

When Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a sham nobody should care about and neither do I), only Sammy and Michael were there for the ceremony. Because Eddie was a dick.

But what a massively talented, unbelievably beautiful dick.

To get a sense of what Edward Van Halen meant, just listen to the first three songs on Van Halen, the band’s 1978 debut (which everyone calls Van Halen I). Nothing sounded anything like this before. “Runnin’ with the Devil” opens, and what an amazing song. A lot of people say it’s still their best song. I say there are too many great songs to say this definitively, but I won’t dispute the claim. One of many things I love about it is that it’s not fast. Eddie could play fast, but he was great with slow songs too.

The song is menacing and beautiful and still kind of fun. I wonder if there’s a better first song on a first album in anyone’s discography.

Then “Eruption,” the short guitar solo everyone on Twitter is pointing to. “Listen to this if you don’t understand my grief,” Twitter is saying. I think it says more in context, following “Runnin’ with the Devil” and as the lead-in to Van Halen’s remake of “You Really Got Me.”

Just listen! It’s incredible. It’s amazing. And it always was, and it always will be, not only in context but just by itself, a mind-blowing three songs. The world’s introduction to the greatest American rock band ever.

But if you want to see why Eddie was truly great, listen to “Finish What Ya Started” from the 1988 album OU812 after those three songs from Van Halen I. That’s the same guitarist. Different singer (Sammy). Ten years later. Same killer background harmonies (Michael Anthony). Sexy as hell.

At its best, Van Halen was a mind-blowing band largely because it had a god on guitar (usually with no rhythm guitarist, although Sammy is a more than capable guitar-player and added this dimension to what had effectively been a power trio before he joined), charismatic lead singers, a formidable rhythm section, sweet background vocals, and the artistic sensibilities to make room for it all.

Eddie could dominate a stage just by being on it, but he had lead singers who could do it as well, and he left room for them. Musically and in performance. He didn’t feel the need to fill every corner of a record with his killer chops. His killer chops were part of the record, not the entire record. When you have musicians like this and give them room to do their thing, you can create beautiful music. Which is what Van Halen usually did.

I will always lament that Van Halen didn’t do more. But holy freaking moly, what Van Halen did is almost everything.

There’s so much more to say, but I’m still processing.

How interesting that this crazy news came along as I’ve been pondering death and art. But then this would have been true any time in the past nine months, I suppose. I planned to write a short treatise on Mark Heard and his recording of “How to Grow Up Big and Strong” today. I suppose it will wait.

I woke up Tuesday after only a few hours of restless sleep and headed for the beach against my own wishes. I was really pushing the sleep deprivation line and gave myself a little pep talk about focusing on the road for the drive down.

I’m glad I went. Parking was the usual, but there weren’t many people in the water. I only saw three stand-up paddleboarders the entire forty-five minutes (or so) I was in the ocean, and only one for the first half. I swam a semi-strenuous fist half then mostly cruised the second. I’m very pleased with what I can do as a matter of routine nowadays. I don’t know if I’m in better shape, but I’m a better swimmer.

Came home and got to work. I got the okay from the former Rainbow football player on my recent draft of his story. Finally did finish the first draft of the donor story featuring the former UH professor and her husband, a well-known local former investigative reporter. My supervisor sent it back with some edits, removing a small amount of politics I tried to sneak by (they’re a criminologist and a journalist; some politics is called for). I get it, and it wasn’t a deliberate inclusion on my part. It was in service to the story.

I serve more than my own stories, of course. I’m glad I have a supervisor I can trust to steer me away from my own inclinations.

After work, I got right to my tasks getting ready for bed and for the next day. They took a little longer; I had a lot of dishes to attend to, for one thing. Planned to be in bed and asleep by seven, but it was more like 8:30.

Breakfast and lunch were shoyu chicken. It was much better the second day, and I’m very pleased with the sauce. I still wish I’d cooked the chicken under pressure for five more minutes. A lesson for next time.

Dinner was three hot dogs with just ketchup. I forgot that I threw out my ketchup and mustard when I did the fridge clean-out, and had to go to my saved takeout condiments for the ketchup.

It’s been since July, I think, since I last had a hot dog. Bliss.

I didn’t do much texting — I was pretty focused on my work Tuesday. Gregg texted me to let me know he’d purchased a book I recommended on FB last week and was enjoying it. I didn’t know it was him at first; he’s never given me his number, and I never asked for it, although he somehow had mine. We’ve been on group texts, I think. I never thought to save his number in the group texts.

He got his cell at a time when we weren’t exactly speaking.

But it was a nice, long text chat about the book, the heaviness of life these days, and sports. It was good to hear from him.

Sylvia texted me a funny photo of something she found while clearing out her desk. She’s moving to a new position in the company, and we’re all thrilled for her. Jennifer (not the other Jennifer) texted me some links as I was getting ready for bed, and I haven’t looked at them yet. Jocelyn (not my usual Jocelyn but a coworker) texted me to apologize for passing something along a little late. It was totally fine. Ali texted me while I slept to ask me about changing travel restrictions to Hawaii.

It was somehow a good day despite the overwhelming sadness of Edward Van Halen’s death. I blasted the first four Van Halen albums while I wrote. It was great. I’ll get through the rest of the discography in the next few days.

Boy, that fourth album is strange. Fair Warning really stands out to me as a different kind of thing for Van Halen. More later.

The days are darkening. The world is darkening. If you’re going through it without enough connection with other humans, please leave a comment, and I’ll send you my contact info. We can do texts or DMs or IMs, whatever works. Just don’t flounder if you’re flagging.

Lockdown: Have I got something to shoyu

I slept horribly Sunday night, again. I’m beginning to wonder if this is just going to be my life until election day. It’s not that I’m restless in bed with the election on my mind; but I sense its reality all the time.

Sunday, even with all the football I watched, I listened twice each to the podcasts of Sunday’s Meet the Press and This Week.

In less than a week we had the presidential debates, the incumbent’s tax returns coming to light, and the same incumbent’s hospitalization with COVID-19. That’s just too much.

I worked on my monthly report, then edits to an appeal letter, then edits to a donor story, and then a first draft of another donor story. This last one’s a little trickier than I thought, as I interviewed two people, so the flow has to be managed. You can go ABAB or ABBA and they each work fine but you can’t just slap it together.

The Athletics lost their first game against the Astros. They should win this series, but anything can happen in a best-of-five. And in recent years they’ve lost a lot of series they should have won. I’m not worried yet, but it would be nice if my favorite baseball team could keep playing for at least one more series.

COVID-19 delayed the Patriots-Chiefs game to Monday night, which was on broadcast TV, and then there was the originally scheduled Monday Night Football game on cable, so I had the first game on the TV while I wrote, and listened to the second on the radio. Neither game was very memorable.

I thought I would do another three dishes I’ve never made, but my troubled soul wanted comfort food, so after work I made shoyu chcken in the Instant Pot, following a recipe whose ingredients I liked — this one used honey and bourbon, two things you don’t usually see in this dish). I didn’t have bourbon so I used Irish whisky.

The sauce came out great. The chicken could have used another five minutes under pressure, something to keep in mind for next time. I wasn’t very hungry after sampling one thigh right out of the pressure cooker, so it’s too early to tell how the recipe came out. I’ll know Tuesday morning.

This morning, I mean. I’m typing this on my phone while I wait for the sun to come up at Ala Moana.

I just didn’t have it in me to do any decluttering, and wheeled the trash bin to the curb not much more than half full. First week I’ll call a failure in several months. I’m cutting myself a little bit of slack.

Cleanup took longer than usual. I was already tired and moving slowly. The news was disappointing. I did the Tuesday NYT crossword ahead of time, goofed around on my phone, and went to bed a couple of hours later than planned, around eleven.

I got a text from Sylvia, a photo of a dinosaur yelling long, threatening words at some fleeing people. One of the people is saying, “Oh no! It’s a thesaurus!”

Crush Girl and I did normal how-was-your-weekend stuff and we talked about the price of mochiko.

Sharon texted me to ask a question about work.

That’s pretty much it. Oh, breakfast was a Subway sandwich, only my second trip to Subway since the lockdown began. Pre-lockdown, I was going two or three times a week, usually for breakfast after the beach.

The first one now will later be last; oh the times, they are a-changing.

Tuesday I’m going to be tired (I’m writing this Tuesday morning so I know this), but I’m determined to finish that donor story first draft. That’s my only goal for Tuesday, even if it means delaying my trip to the laundry a day.

Time to get into the water. Leave a comment if you need someone to connect with in these dismal days of the virus. I’m here for it.

Lockdown: And the sun keep on burning

Didn’t sleep well Saturday night, and stayed up too late despite my tiredness. But I’d taken care of things Saturday so I could watch football Sunday without worrying about having to get a million things done, so I got up and watched football.

I was going to have something unhealthy with rice and eggs for Sunday breakfast, a processed meat of some sort (sadly, I have a few options), but when I put water into the rice pot I realized I had bugs. Lots of tiny, tiny ant-looking bugs but way smaller.

I keep my rice and quinoa in a cooler in the carport. In a cooler because it’s pretty bug-proof. In the carport because in my old age, I seem to have gotten to a point where it’s nearly impossible to measure rice without spilling some. I prefer having to sweep spilled rice off the carport floor to having to sweep it up off the kitchen floor. It’s done the job for quite some time.

Most of the time, the rice is in its original plastic bag, inside a zippered bag, but in these lockdown days, I’ve taken to buying ten-pound bags of rice rather than five-pound, because for a while rice was scarce and I’m eating far more meals at home. So white rice in a five-pound bag was in a zippered bag; brown rice in a ten-pound bag was just closed with a few folds and a binder clip. Quinoa was in the original zippered bag it comes in.

There were so many tiny, tiny bugs in the cooler I couldn’t tell which rice they got into. Looked like both, actually. There were some inside the zippered bag, even. So I bagged it all up and tossed it. There’s no sense in eating possibly contaminated, infested rice just to save a few bucks. Hosed out the cooler. I’m still going to use it to hold my rice but I guess I’ll keep it in the laundry room, which is nearest the front door, so I can still measure it in the carport.

Rice gets infested. It’s a fact of life. If you’re lucky, you only have to deal with it once in a very long time, or it’s got bugs in it when you get it home from the store, because grocery stores refund your money without even blinking. They know.

I still had two nice crowns of broccoli in the fridge from my last trip to the grocery store twelve days ago, and they still looked great. I need to figure out how I did that. So I blanched them both and made instant mashed potatoes. Stirred in the leftover Om cheese from a week (or so) ago in half of it and some leftover gorgonzola from longer ago than that.

Broccoli and cheesy mashed potatoes for brunch. I could eat that almost every weekend if it weren’t so darned carby. It was enough food that I didn’t even start thinking of dinner until it was time to hit the grocery store at about 10:30 in the evening.

I did a few chores, worked on a little bit of writing, considered my Christmas list, solved two Sunday crosswords, and tidied up a tiny bit. I took a nice two-hour nap.

Went to the supermarket after doing a little bit of meal planning, but was stymied in the Asian aisle when I discovered there was no mochiko. Frick. I already had everything on my list in my cart. I paid for it anyway — the bill was a bit steeper than usual, but I also bought twenty pounds of rice — and ran to Long’s to see if there was mochiko there. Nope.

Great. Now I’m considering ordering some from Amazon.

My something different this time was potato starch, which is for chichidango, if I ever get to make it. I’m kind of annoyed that recipes specifically call for potato starch, since I already have more cornstarch and tapioca starch than I will likely use up before crawlies get into it. I’m going to have to ask Mochi Girl if it really matters.

The Manoa Safeway opens at 5:00 these days (in normal times, it’s open 24 hours). I may pop in to see if there’s mochiko there when I do my laundry this week.

I’ve been pretty moody this past week. I can’t say where it’s coming from, but I’m leaning toward pandemic blues. A little bit of boredom, a little bit of missing people, a little bit of not knowing what the holidays are going to be like, and a little bit of a sense of lost time, not taking advantage of the days while I have them, in these, my waning years. I’m going to be 52 in January without ever really being 51. There’s also a considerable feeling of impending despair on election day.

I know none of this is unique to me, but knowing doesn’t make it less of a downer.

On the way home from the grocery store, I picked up some chicken nuggets from McD’s. And fries. And a small chocolate shake. And a large Diet Coke with extra ice.

I’m not proud of myself.

As usual, there wasn’t much texting Sunday, which is the day I typically need it least. Crush Girl texted me about a meal she was preparing and was a little nervous about. I texted her to tell her my mochiko woes.

And the world keep on turning
And the sun keep on burning
And the children keep learning
How to grow up big and strong

One of Mark Heard’s best songs. Covered by Rich Mullins on Mullins’s best record, and performed here at Cornerstone ’97. Popped into my head today as I thought about the course of the world. Haven’t been able to shake it.

Strong man take no prisoner
Favor no plea
He leave no gold in teeth of enemy
He fit and dominant
He rise above
He not have the word that mean love

45 has COVID-19. Even in the maelstrom of the election season, best wishes from people on ideological shores separated (or connected) by an ocean of cultural differences. And still the posturing of an authoritarian despot, propped up by his people to appear as big and strong as always, and appearing pretty much the opposite.

Rich Mullins died at 41, ten years younger than I am now. Mark Heard died at 40, five years before Mullins. Good people who seemed to want only to create meaningful art.

Strong man beat the plowshare
He forges sword
He take the flower and he curse the thorn
He crush the serpent
He bite the fruit
His hand is absolute

And the world keep on turning
And the sun keep on burning
And the children keep learning
How to grow up big and strong
How to grow up big and strong

If you want someone to connect with in these endless pandemic days, I encourage you to leave a comment. I’ll send my contact info. Don’t go through this alone.

Lockdown: That song is my jam. My lady jam.

Lockdown Sundays have been pretty productive, over all, since they began. When the NFL season kicked off four weeks ago, I continued to be productive, but it took a lot of work, not to mention hours in the office a bit later than I’d like on Sundays.

So I took care of the office stuff Saturday morning. Went to the beach early, snagged the second-best parking stall, watched the daylight show up — it wasn’t as lovely as Friday morning but it didn’t suck. It was my fourth morning in five days at the beach. I got a pretty good swim, with an early hard sprint and then kind of a cruise. There weren’t nearly as many people in the water Saturday as the day before, thank God.

I got curbside takeout at Zippy’s (a breakfast bento) and headed for the office. I hoped to have the space all to myself, but our HR director came in right after me. Her office is far away from mine, so there was really no threat, and we kept to our own spaces. Still, I was a little nervous and it distracted me.

I didn’t get enough of the hard work done, taking care of a few little tasks, including some administrative paperwork and silly things like putting my new parking sticker in my windshield and restocking the office snack trough.

In near-desperate need of a nap, I got home and went right to bed. I seriously didn’t care if I didn’t get up until Sunday morning, but it was more like 3:00 Saturday, a good two hours or so.

After a few tiny chores, I goofed off on my phone, read the news, listened to music, watched Pitch Perfect, and prepped for dinner.

When I went to the grocery store two weekends ago, I did a little bit of meal planning for a change. I made that Instant Pot beef stroganoff, which started great before I ruined it with my failed slurry. I made the map tofu, which was terrific if slightly tiresome as leftovers. Last night was the third thing I prepared for the first time: Instant Pot Spanish rice.

I made it twice, because I misread the recipe the first time, using three tablespoons of spices where it called fo three teaspoons. They say anyone who can read can cook, and I suppose the inverse is also true (not the converse! Stop misusing the word converse!). I still had all the ingredients out so I just tried again. It came out really good. I was pleased. I scooped some of my lazy burrito filling onto the plate and made it beans and rice for a late dinner.

There wasn’t much texting Saturday. Crush Girl a couple of times, mostly to send a photo of my Spanish rice. Ali a couple of times to return to some earlier topics (books and depression). Sylvia to talk about exercise and Spanish rice.

I’ve a feeling I won’t be nearly as productive Sunday as I hope, but whatever. I made it possible, and I’ll take it as a first step. Hoping to hit the grocery store too, as the cupboard is boring.

Leave me a comment if you’re looking for someone to connect with in these dismal days of disease. I’ll send you contact info.

Happy Sunday.

Lockdown: Squirrel!

Friday should have been a better day. I was unparalyzed from my being productive Thursday, right? Right. It didn’t quite work out that way.

I woke up at 4:00 to hit the beach. Even by Ala Moana sunrise standards, it was a beautiful morning. The full moon shone over the blackish-blue on the Kewalo end as the sun came up over the Waikiki condos. I was initially torn between wanting to get a series of sunrise photos and wanting to see it from in the water as I swam through the lightening water.

I chose the water, of course. I swam pretty hard for the first half of what’s been my usual distance lately, then cruised most of the way back. By the time I was done, there was a remarkable number of stand-up paddleboarders in the water and more swimmers than usual on a Friday morning. I was happy to be ahead of them.

I hit the BK drive-through for breakfast and ordered a ridiculous amount of food, enough to cover me for breakfast and lunch even with my metabolism pumping.

Got off to an okay start at work, but then major distractibility kicked in. I couldn’t focus on anything. We had a 3:00 all-staff Zoom meeting, and I did okay during the meeting, but its placement in my workday added to my difficulty with sustained focus. I finally got something turned in, a revision of one of the things I submitted Thursday, but I’m making myself do a few more things over the weekend. Penance.

I had some lazy burritos for dinner while I watched Pitch Perfect again, then crashed unintentionally while it played through a second time. I spent the next few hours in and out of consciousness, never really getting up to shut things down until around 4:00, when I just gave up, and got ready for the beach.

There was a lot of texting and office Skyping all day. I shouldn’t say what most of it was, but someone in the office created a fun little activity to make the interesting Zoom meeting even more interesting. It was remarkably fun and kind of bonding for a few of us who participated.

Crush Girl and I texted intermittently all day and into the evening, too. So it was a busy day of communicating with coworkers who’ve become friends, and with just friends.

None of the new metal releases this week look very interesting, so I spent a lot of Friday getting caught up with some new stuff from the past few weeks. The new Deftones was an interesting first listen, but I got tired of it pretty quickly. I like the idea of Deftones but the reality just doesn’t work for me. The new Ayreon has moments but it’s a little on the boring side, and there’s a narrator. Ugh. No thanks.

The new album by the Ocean, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic is more like it. Amazing album, if not quite as good as they’ve been. I was pleasantly surprised by this black metal band I’d never heard of until this week, Havukruunu. Their new album, Uinuos syömein sota, made for nice background music while I worked. I’ve never been much into black metal, but since this lockdown began, I’ve really come to appreciate a good deal of it. Something about the dark emptiness, the echoing kind of agony-filled despair works for doing some difficult writing or mundane chores. I wasn’t expecting the solos to be so good, too.

Anyway. Here’s to the weekend. I’ve got a lot of writing to do. I hope I can get to it all, but if I can just put a little dent in it, I think I’ll be okay.

Leave a comment if you lack adequate connectivity in these hollow, abyssmal days of pandemic. We can share some echoing, agony-filled despair or something. I’ve got a good soundtrack for that!