STEVE AND ASHLEY, SEPTEMBER AT THE WEDDING. STEVEN TRYING HIS BEST TO LOOK ANGELIC…WHICH IS WHY HIS NEW MUSTACHE IS NEEDED-ADDING THAT TOUCH OF MENACE.

And it was not the finest of days…starting with a stomach ache (OMG, didn’t I read somewhere that one of the symptoms…); middle-of-the-night reading of a history of pandemics; listless…but I wrote-badly; cranky but no one to snap at or complain to…  Okay, all that’s out of my system. Here’s the good stuff, three minute plank, almost-four mile walk, google hangout with Steve and Ashley, the amazing California grandchildren (Steven has a mustache which lends his handsomely-likable face just the tiniest touch of sinister—that might be his goal now that he living in the Central Valley away from his known SoCal on the coast life).

The news is so bad. It is just so bad. I think most of us now believe that it’ll be at least at year before there’s any degree of normalcy—and, according to my night-time reading, most pandemics return more than once, or pop up in different areas of the world with some frequency before there’s a vaccine that’s actually effective…I probably should stick to my murder-filled bedtime stories.

So much writing and reading and thinking and planning to catch up on during this time. Don’t whine. Just do it.

I’m so very lonely for normal (even though, as a current FB post advises, let’s not go back to that normal, let’s do better).

 

ABOUT THAT BIRTHDAY…

“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” – Truman Capote

 Managed to survive another birthday, another year. And thanks to an idiosyncratic (and that is my highest of compliments) array of family and friends…and being alive it was quite a nice day. May I share a few highlights?

First of all I do love those Facebook birthday greetings…and every year vow to check in on a daily basis so I don’t miss a friend’s…then I don’t…but happy birthday to all I missed last year and I’ll do better this year! Because I so much enjoy your greetings to me. Seriously—it is a lovely warm and fuzzy feeling even you’re a curmudgeonly crone like me. THANK YOU ALL.

And then there are the many of you who called and SANG happy birthday to me. Who knew I had so many friends with interesting voices. Actually my daughter in law was first and she played the guitar as well; then my friend Jess who not only played the guitar but added her toddler daughter as performer. The rest of you were beautiful but without the guitar and baby it didn’t quite have the same impact (just kidding). SO THANK YOU ALL ALSO. (But perhaps you could take up a musical instrument this year…because I am in isolation and determined to do it all over again in 2021). And thanks to my sons who ordered a thermometer and masks and took a distanced walk with me.

And finally, to the sweet cards and pretty little gifts some of you dropped on my front step. Virus-free of course. They were kind and lovely as were the park photos. Here’s a photo of the cards and the poem my cousin Arne in Norway shared. It is lovely, from one of my favorite poets, and doubly pertinent.

Spring and All [By the road to the contagious hospital]

William Carlos Williams – 1883-1963

***

By the road to the contagious hospital

under the surge of the blue

mottled clouds driven from the

northeast – a cold wind. Beyond, the

waste of broad, muddy fields

brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

 

patches of standing water

the scattering of tall trees

 

All along the road the reddish

purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy

stuff of bushes and small trees

with dead, brown leaves under them

leafless vines-

 

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish

dazed spring approaches-

 

They enter the new world naked,

cold, uncertain of all

save that they enter. All about them

the cold, familiar wind-

 

Now the grass, tomorrow

the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined-

It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

 

But now the stark dignity of

entrance – Still, the profound change

has come upon them: rooted, they

grip down and begin to awaken

TERESA STROM HUCHERO NESET MAGALONG KLOTZBACK

It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all

It’s Sunday and I’m doing the not-work-work kinds of activities I usually do on Sundays (work-work meaning both North Fourth things and writing The Book. Laundry; a big breakfast of fried potatoes, scrambled egg, toast and mango juice with lots of fresh cafe con leche; some lectures on philosophy and schizophrenia from University of Edinburgh and Welsleyan; ice cream; newspapers; laundry continues, nap. One cannot complain.

Every now and then, I feel the need to declare my love of old-fashioned newspapers. Right outside my front door, the New York Times and Albuquerque Journal; the Sunday papers…a pleasure point of the week even under times of so much bad news. You see, for those of you under 30 or 40, the Sunday paper use to be absolute must. It’s how people got the news of the everything. My dad, almost always picked up the Minneapolis Star Tribune sometime Sunday or Monday or Tuesday or whenever he managed to get to town. No matter how broke he was or snowy the roads were.

Those papers brought the news. The news in the old sense of the word (news=newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events)…not made-up propaganda or self-serving blather…but actual information (information=facts provided or learned about something or someone). So what’s a fact? (Fact=a thing that is known to be consistent with objective reality and can be proven to be true with evidence.)  I rely on facts to live my life and, still, the best place to get them is from reputable newspapers—on line or hard copy. Especially a few of the national or international giants such as the NYT, Washington Post, Guardian (U.K.)

This post is called “It’s a Small World” because it is no longer possible for anyone, however ill-informed or Republican to believe we are not all connected. All. Connected. The pandemic of 2020 has irrevocably proven that. (Is it even a little bit possible we’ll soon start considering starvation and bombs and killing the earth as our American problem too…?) Why do I do that…ranting and preaching…so unbecoming.

To get back to “It’s a Small World” AND the Sunday papers; Today’s NYT is more U.S. focused than usual because of our battles with the virus. Still the range of approaches to the battle is broad: Italy and Antibodies, Wuhan flights into U.S. (long after the Sleaze deems them stopped; the Spanish flu in Philadelphia;’ UN leader’s declaration of ‘grave threat’ and the Security Council of the UN silent because U.S. and Chinese “leaders” aren’t getting along; telemedicine in Britain, Doctors in Russia, unemployment payments in Berlin. And to make it all worthwhile, a treat in fact, an article about Larry David’s quarantine and by Paul Theroux on bearing witness to world events and a tense time in Uganda.

So, you say, you just want to know about your hood and the virus. That’s all there too…and why I’m subscribing to the local paper again. We. Are. All. Connected.

*So the photo of the day is of my eldest grandchild…a long time ago (like around 29 years). Her mom’s from the Philippines; her dad’s the grandson of a Norwegian immigrant. I wrote an essay about her in 1994 called “Teresa Strom Huchero Neset Magalong Klotzback.” The theme was Small World.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS…

Well…so today hasn’t been as rewarding as yesterday. It’s like that isn’t it? Up-and-down ad nauseam. It’s okay though. Did some transcribing of old notes into computer, baked a potato, pulled down my shades to make the sun go away, read awhile, watching “Homeland” now.

It is a huge treat in my life these days to have friend Pat at Carr Imaging restoring, arranging and mounting my old photos. It’s giving me something to look forward to that is not only a tangible item to stare happily at now because of the artful redoing of the photos but each one is chock-full of memories. A good time for good memories… Picture for today. Son Scott and his wife Sandra back in the day (1989 I think) when we were all visiting Baguio in the Philippines; then the happy couple just a few years ago when they were back for a holiday. Sandra still has land and many friends and relatives there, so goes back often to her beloved home. 

The notes I was transcribing today were from a 1991 trip to South America. It was the perfect trip actually, funded by the Suitcase Fund in the David White days. Research into the status of the contemporary performing arts in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Brazil. I noted arts-related meetings and events, the passing countryside and brand new cities, and the adventures of cheap hotels and local transportation. Actually pretty thorough although I’ve lost Brazil! I am on Facebook with my primary contact in Peru where I spent more time than anywhere else but we really haven’t been in direct personal contact for many years…my time today with those old memories of how much I loved Peru and the wealth of history and arts perspective shared by Miguel have given me the impetus to message him tonight. Nice things to think of in a gloomy time. Old snapshots of those pre-digital-everything travels (at least one from each country) would be stashed away and forgotten if it weren’t for Pat’s restoration (thanks Pat). Among the next batch are photos from that long-ago time in Lima. When they’re ready I’ll post here.

Now I feel better. And think how fine it would be IF 1) were younger/richer and 2) the world was not in crisis and I could visit the Philippines and South America again.

 

2020 BIRTHDAY NOT-CLIMB ON NOT-BLACK MOUNTAIN.

My birthday last year was as it is supposed to be: Climbing San Diego’s Black Mountain with my fine sons, drinking champagne at the top. Evening of Russian food with my annual shot of cranberry or cucumber vodka. Nice yes? Accompanying the lovely occasions, activities and events of 2019 however was my evil twin, constantly reminding me I was now…officially…old. (Many might think I earned that label several years ago…you were wrong). It took a little work all year long to chase away intrusions of age-related gloom.

My birthday this year was considerably calmer, less glamorous. An hour around the streets of my San Gabriel neighborhood with son Steve. Drinking leftover morning coffee when I got home. Midday, accepting my first ever grocery delivery and immediately thereafter eating a fresh chunk of chewy bakery baguette from Whole Foods piled with butter. So who or what is accompanying me in 2020 as work my way through the Covid-19 pandemic? How was my birthday mood today? You know…it was just fine. Good mood, optimistic, busy. My evil twin must be hiding in a cave in the Sandias. Scaredy cat.

Why the change in mood…2019 to 2020? Last year I was deathly afraid of my new age. This year I’m deathly afraid of not getting even older. Same thing you say. In a way. Somehow the perspective feels very different. Being afraid of getting older versus being afraid of not getting older perhaps could be restated as feeling dead-in-the-water/stopped/the-end versus being excited about a future…to climb Black Mountain again, finish my book, visit new African countries, return to Norway, discover Cuba. So begone you damn virus.

If that all sounds confusing…it’s really not. Think about it.

Enough…I’ll tell you about my sweet and imaginative family and friend birthday greetings and the pleasures of this day…tomorrow. Since I really won’t have that much else to talk about…here at home…writing writing writing.

LOSING THE PLOT

PHOTOS FROM MYANMAR A COUPLE SUMMERS AGO. (COLLAGE AND TWEAKING, PAT AT CARRIMAGING)

Afraid I’m losing the plot today. The drip drip drip of bad news wears one down. I shouldn’t complain right? Everyone I know is okay. Actually we all need to complain for the millions who aren’t. That’s my only Pollyanna (thinking of others) moment for the day. Bad mood me. Big cry baby Marjorie.

So tomorrow’s another day. My birthday. I was supposed to be going to bed early tonight in San Diego so Scott and I could be up by 4/5am to climb Black Mountain and then later in the day go out for my annual borscht extravaganza. Well, maybe I’ll go to bed early anyway. Because.

I made it to Costco to pick up meds. Scarf over my mouth, blue plastic gloves on. Straight back to the pharmacy. Straight home. My doc gives me prescriptions for a couple of extra meds for emergencies that I take along when I travel (like lyme disease in Norway or the near-death thing in Kyrgyzstan). I loaded up on all of them today…in case I must go live on ‘the old place’ in Minnesota, camped back in the woods, growing potatoes for the winter, living on dandelion greens and frogs this summer.

I’m only writing this because I vowed that starting April 1st I would daily-document the rest of pandemic-time so that when I publish 2020’s blog book there is something in it to commemorate the year…since it certainly won’t be tales of travel.

New Mexico’s numbers are climbing pretty rapidly for a state with only a couple of million people it seems. Six people have died. I think most of them are old. But a 104 year-old-guy from somewhere in the world just recovered so there’s the glass-half-full perspective.

Forgive me. I am really quite positive most of the time. Today didn’t seem to warrant a good attitude.  BUT HERE’S A GOOD THING. My friends Pat and Barbara at Carr Imaging take my old and new photos, pretty them up or manipulate their placement, and then mount them which is where my walls of travel photos come from…the idea being I will have at least one photo, taken by me, up there of every country to which I’ve traveled. Pat’s been working on the last batch. So I will post one now and then because they make me happy.

I really really want to live for quite awhile longer. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, I intend to ‘not go gentle into that good night.’ (Do not go gentle into that good night/Old age should burn and rave at close of day/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.)

 Which is just to say, I spend half my time feeling positive and powerful and the other half hiding under my bed (figuratively!).

Today, Day 17 since we closed North Fourth (our lively and lovely art school and theater), Day 16 since I went into relatively strict personal isolation, and Day One of ever more rigid hermiting (the San Francisco version).

I woke up this morning and realized I could not continue without a long-range plan. After all I just ordered a 2021 calendar/journal—but what about until then? So I spent the first hour/first coffee saving my world. I projected a North Fourth life after the North Fourth life we currently know. I projected handing over a completed draft of The Book to someone for a final edit. I projected me climbing Black Mountain next April.

Then I had a shot of Limoncello. If I drink anything alcoholic in the afternoon or evening my stomach hurts all night. But I haven’t tried a morning liqueur before…seems fine!

Then I organized my daily priorities on a giant neon-pink post-it. #1: Stay Alive.

Then I enjoyed what a granddaughter told me last night: She said “You know there are a lot of memes out there with pictures of Ruth Ginsberg, saying ‘please please don’t die/we need you.'”  And, she said, ‘that’s the way I feel about you.’ It’s possible that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me! Almost makes me wish I’d saved some valuables to leave her in the will…nah, that would have interfered with traveling…

Then I had another (small) shot of Limoncello and played ‘We Shall Overcome’ and Dylan.

Then I read my new Dept. Q novel for awhile.

And THEN, I got busy and had a productive day of writing, a little work-work, and figuring out how to get meds and groceries without breathing on or being breathed on by anyone. (If you have ‘Buffs’ wear them around your neck and then pull them up before walking into the pharmacy [you’ll look like a hiking/cycling bandit] and have your groceries delivered by Amazon [Jeff needs the money]).

Day One of April is almost over and we are mostly fine. BE CAREFUL.

THE LAYERED LOOK. MY FAVORITE SHOT OF THE DAY. OUR LIVES ARE LAYERED WITH THE EVERY DAY SWEETNESS OF LIFE AND THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT OF OUR MURDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT…

3/24/2020. Must be C-19 Day #8. Remember the pretty little expressions: April showers…. The merry month of May… Swing into spring…. Not feelin’ it. Well perhaps just a little. The first hour or so of the day goes up and down and up and down. I awake feeling smothered; get up and note body feels fine (something people ‘of a certain age’ check!), spirits lift; first hot milky coffee AND news that China may be easing back toward ‘normal’ AND to top it all off a cheerful FB post from a smiling colleague AND the fact there are so many things I love to do (writing, reading, photographing, enjoying friends via media) ahead of me today—should I choose to take advantage of them.

PREPARING FOR SPRING. A GOOD SPRING FOR GARDENERS TO APPRECIATE THEIR BIT OF THE OUTDOORS.

But NOW, Pollyanna has left the building and I remember we have an incompetent narcissist leading the country in possession of the most bombs—that would be my country, this country and all of a sudden that being-smothered feeling returns. AND I remember my son’s best friend, who is also a family friend, has unexpectedly died (not from C-19) AND that my brother/sister-in-law are back in Minnesota and I miss them AND my work is closed and may or may not ever reopen AND that I’m effing old.

Oh for heaven’s sake Marjorie, stop it. You are being dim-witted, negative, maudlin, defeatist…and you are not usually all of those things at once. Hmmm…now that I’ve voiced some of the morning’s non-thoughts I can get busy with this Tuesday’s agenda. Second large cup of coffee. Download pretty pictures to go with early morning blathering, post. Brush teeth. Think how lucky I am for … well … stuff.

An early-spring, walking-around-the-hood album.

STAY CALM AND CARRY ON as the Brits say. Good advice.

Where’s Mother Teresa when we need her? In 2011 I was in Skopje, Macedonia; this is a rainy day view from a coffee shop window. One of the best trips of my life, by bus, train and long-distance taxi around eastern Europe. I posted it today just because I couldn’t think of a photo to go with my melancholy post. 

Mother Teresa memorial house in Skopje is located on Macedonia Street in the center of the city between the Old Railway Station (the city museum of Skopje) and Macedonia square.

3/21/2020. C-19 Day #5. Soon I’ll think of a different heading for this “diary.” It’s 3:51am. Just heard the paper hit my front step. Started taking the Albuquerque Journal again and it’s interesting to me how comforted I feel by getting that old-fashioned print-on-paper hometown newspaper at my front door. Home, emphasis here on hometown, is where it’s at when I’m scared….

***

My agenda for this fine time of day between 3 and 5am: Reviewing possible scenarios for the next few months and/or years of my life. I always feel better with a selection of scenarios and plans in front of me.

***PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT FOLLOWS IS IMAGINATION, NOT FAKE NEWS.

 Scenario A is best case: Covid-19 under control in another month or two, no deaths in New Mexico or illnesses among anyone I know; North Fourth Art Center open and in action, i.e. I have a job; gym available; travel plans pick up where they were in July (Africa) and the rest of the fall after these minor delays (California, Minnesota, Cuba, New England). Did I mention Sleazy T. being defeated soundly in November?

Plan A is to, above all, keep busy and healthy. Keep making notes and plans for work, writing and travel. And remember to clean a drawer or two. Projects about which I am obsessing on practically an hourly basis—maybe that’s just OCD me.

***

Scenario B is acceptable: Covid-19 tapers off naturally with summer, and a new vaccine finally ends it…though by now it’s fall and a lot of damage has been done to the economy. We’re getting by and it’s a little better every day with a new president at the helm and some degree of sanity and truth returning to the world. My friends and family are well; only minor setbacks are delays with Robert’s knee surgery and Sara’s graduating college, and time passing to quickly for ageing me. North Fourth is open again, burdened by a small business loan and the loss of the building improvement funds which the state diverted to more pressing human needs. All 2020 travel is postponed but will resume, full steam ahead, in 2021. I will not have left the state for way over a year—for me a painful record but there are worst scenarios—to which I’m coming.

Plan B: Stay in busy and healthy mode. Move ahead with additional determination (and as little existential fear as possible) on writing and travel plans. Keep closeness to family and friends created by the pandemic. Be sure and do everything possible to vote the SOB out of office.

***

Scenario C is not good. Covid-19 hangs on through 2020. Contained to some degree but in a form that doesn’t allow life and work to return to normal. Much of the population suffering economically. The SOB Sleaze is re-elected. People I know and care about have been ill. And me…well I’m now forcibly retired because North Fourth has had to close its doors and I’m not of an age to start over.

Scenario C isn’t all bad however. Here’s how it might look for me. I’m existing on rather meager retirement (which the Republican cult has tried to eliminate but so far the poor houses haven’t opened) because I spent my 55 years of wages on raising kids, paying rent, buying books, and traveling. But it’s okay. I have a tiny studio apartment in a quiet building (plants block the view of concrete out the front window), books; I can afford gym fees and a streaming channel or two; I have nice people to visit; and, since I do not like food anyway, all these ramen noodles and canned blueberries on which I subsist are fine. I’ve managed to develop excellent writing habits and happily blog away about life minutiae like ageing and family escapades with only an occasional rant, so my days are productively filled. I bought a new Surface with my last bit of savings and I did mange to get photos mounted from every country to which I’ve traveled so my walls are nicely cluttered with memories.

About travel. Well unfortunately that had to end when my job disappeared. I made it to 112 countries out of 196. Plus Guam and Greenland which are ‘other’ enough to count. My last goal was 120 but Covid-19 smashed that plan into smithereens. There are, however, my annual trips to Minnesota and one or two to California. While I badly wanted to visit the continent of Africa and my family in Norway one last time that didn’t work out. However since I’m part of a lively family of smart adventurous people, second-hand journeys must satisfy my craving for ‘going places.’

Elders Robert, Marsha and I, manage a couple of month together every year in Minnesota or here in New Mexico. We mostly take long walks or sit around commenting on the political folly of the moment and the strange ways of young people.

Plan C is to remain healthy enough to live out the scene just painted. And to try to figure out how to make enough money while-old to take one modestly big annual adventure until I cannot walk.

***

Well okay, sitting here on this early spring morning in 2020 the truth is I’m not quite convinced #C is something I’m willing to embrace quite yet. However, putting worst case scenarios down in black and white calms me. Although obviously there are way worse possibilities for me and the whole wide world than I’ve outlined above.

I’ve had a bit of milky coffee and a nice pill and it’s almost 5am. It is going to be okay isn’t it? I’m off to bed to continue “The British in India,” my favorite go-to-sleep book.

 

 

AND COUNTING…

3/20/2020. My C-19 (Day) #4—since I didn’t isolate until Tuesday. We’ll each deal with this particular foe a little differently but, for me at least, figuring out a “normal” weekly plan feels important. Perhaps all will be well in a few weeks, perhaps a few months. Waking up a 5am to check the number of new coronavirus cases in New Mexico is not the way to get through whatever time it takes! What is the way though? What’s my new normal?

How many times have I declared myself a writer with too little time to actually write? Many, many. Now there is time. Saying ‘Just do it then’ to myself isn’t quite pushing me toward my desk however. It’s not exactly depression keeping me away, not exactly the last season of “Homeland,” not exactly fear or loneliness for the ‘old days’ before C-19. For now let’s say it’s confusion about how to live in forced semi-isolation as opposed to choosing to be a brilliant but moody (perhaps alcoholic) writer in a remote cabin in the deep dark forest (waiting for Kathy Bates to appear with a sledgehammer…).

A plan then…I must have a plan. Like Elizabeth I am never short of plans, so what this really means is living according to one or more of them.

Morning Plan:

  • Get up whenever sleep has left the building.
  • Coffee perked or heated/poured.
  • Couch, Surfy on my lap, go immediately to Word. DO NOT under any circumstances check into any news or social media site. DO NOT.
  • Make a blog post. Dear Diary…today is Day #900 of C-19 lockdown; it’s been seven weeks since my last shower but I feel fine. Wearing my voodoo mask has made me feel ever so secure but the stray dogs I keep inviting in for leftover ramen are fearful. The tree-plant I purchased just before this all started is overflowing the dining area but fortunately the trunk is now substantial enough to use for firewood this winter. And so forth. To Post or Not to Post…that is…
  • Eat yogurt, drink more coffee, check out social media, numbers of new bad things, make bed, do first plank.
  • SIT DOWN AT DESK AND WRITE NEXT CHAPTER OF BOOK. (Book is now 12,000 pages long and the world has run out of paper and words…and people who can read words are fewer and fewer but …

So there you have it…mornings all planned.

Sun is creeping up over the Sandias. Isn’t the hope that warm weather will kill off Covid-19 like it does with other flu viruses? In which case I’ll welcome the glaring New Mexican sun. But if that’s true, why is the virus just now beginning to blossom on the continent of Africa where in the far south it’s preparing for winter and along the equator temps change little year round?

Time for the noontime plan to be designed.