Things I Made in the Pandemic Days, 2

Homemade insecticide: distilled water, Dawn dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil

Because I have become fiercely protective of the tomato plant Chris got when star nursery was giving them away for free and gave to me.

Things I Made in the Pandemic Days

Monday, 27 April: Assorted pickled carrots.

I bought the carrots a couple of weeks ago when we went to the town of Oatman to feed the burros. Some townfolk told us that we can no longer feed them carrots or apples, only hay.

The pickles range from: me just plunking them into jars of leftover pickle juice to basic white vinegar or apple cider vinegar pickling liquid to tequila-jalapeño infused basic pickling liquid. This is not canning. That’s not next.

Life in Metaphor, Pandemic Version: “I’m not doing this right.”

I don’t play obsessively, but the number of active games on my phone is at a record 5. If you, like I do, play the free games on your phone, you know that they come with ads for other games. One of these ads (for Fishdom) is utterly horrifying for me: to win, players must save an adorable goldfish who is suffering in a dry compartment of a tank. They do this by choosing among bars and levers that lift to (hopefully) release water into that compartment. But, of course, if they make a wrong move, lift the wrong bar, it sends fire instead of water. And yes, there are sound effects, which further devastates me when I can’t mute the volume in time before turning my phone face down. Something good…I have been assured by a trusted source that the real game looks nothing like the ad. 

This ad has started to blur and conflate with the decisions I make around how I move through this pandemic.  Instead of one fish, there are many. What I decide to do or say affects others and each action I take lifts a lever that could send water to some fish and fire to others. But none of my actions are ever absolutely the right ones. And there’s always another level to navigate. And I am not expert. I am inconsistent. Perhaps even hypocritical. Like everyone, of course I worry that some of my actions could physically sicken someone. 

However -and to some this may be sentimental [self]-indulgence-, even this far into the new way of living, I’m incapable of brushing aside the affect to concentrate on biology. If you’ll permit me this clumsy and maudlin metaphor, I am as (and often more) concerned about coughing on and infecting your feelings as (than) I am transmitting actual disease. This in no way means I’m exceptionally altruistic or sensitive or considerate: it’s just how I’m…wired and being overly invested in emotion is usually more disadvantageous, in less-charged times.  Feelings and emotions to me will never be trivial, and I struggle with not being able to put aside some old habits of relating to and with others in light of the new perspectives that we are supposed to have now. 

I am not looking for advice or reassurance * because I know that there are many wrong and right ways to care for others and ourselves now and I think I am right in supposing that each of us questions, in our own ways, the way we are performing pandemic. 

*Even as I instinctively and automatically offer it to you.

Ruled by Inconsistency

Even before the COVID-19 induced isolation, I would sometimes react paradoxically to feelings of loneliness. It’s more intense now, this impulse to cut off communication, especially with those from whom I want and need it the most.


Claudio, the horologist, called yesterday afternoon to let me know my Bulova was repaired and ready to pick up. I told him I’d be in before closing and found myself needing to call him back a few minutes later to ask if he also makes copies of keys. He does and he did before bringing the watch out.


“May I?”
I held out my wrist. Serious, he stressed that because it’s strictly a dress watch, I need to keep it away from water, which everyone knows, but I also need to keep it away from electricity and started his explanation with “The hairspring is the watch’s heart…”
And that word choice, coupled with the gallant intimacy of someone else fastening my own jewelry onto me, effectively cancelled out the physics (chemistry?) lesson I thought I’d be taking away.
Along with the watch I took away the three key copies (for which he said, “No charge”) and the keychain with the mini-flashlight he also threw in, stating that it “should be used to illuminate the doors” I’d be opening.
The person who received one of the keys shortly after I left the shop admired the flashlight keychain. I had to tell her I couldn’t give it to her, that I’d acquired it only 15 minutes ago, and yet it was already imbued with sentimental value.
So, yes, I recommend Claudio’s Watch Repair.


I think I defended myself successfully: “No, I absolutely understand the principles of self-care and I can and do apply them. Like this very morning, when I used one of the ‘guest’ washcloths even though not all of mine were in the laundry!”


From the “How Has She Not Yet Written About This?!” File:

We’ve remarked on it, casually, a couple of times over the last 7 years. Frankly, it’s little embarrassing for this literature and symbolism person who sees signs everywhere and in everything to have not paused a bit to consider that the first new (like new, new) car we bought was more than a little foreshadowy. Around Super Bowl time 1994, Chrysler introduced the Neon (model year 1995). You could get it as either a Dodge or a Plymouth, though they were the same car. Ours was a Plymouth, in a rich, deep, almost Rothko blue*. We bought the 4-door sedan in May of 1994 at a dealership (¿but which one?) in Missoula, MT, sweating the financial part. The car had a “no-dicker sticker”**, and we’d done the math, but, honestly, those 25 years ago, I didn’t think we’d be approved for the loan. As we left the office, we looked at each other and Karl mouthed, “Suckers!” We had to wait a few days for the car to be delivered and that day (¿or was it the next?) we had to drive to Spokane to fly somewhere (¿Sacramento?). I think I drove more than I usually did. We left the car in the parking garage and it felt a little like kenneling a new puppy the day after bringing her home from the shelter. When we got back, Karl got in the drivers’ seat and adjusted it for his height. “Oh, thank God!” he exclaimed, adding that he’d been silently regretting buying the car because the seat had not gone back all the way the first time, thinking we’d just spent (¿how much was it?) a hell of a lot of money for a car he couldn’t even drive comfortably or even safely in case of impact. Adjusting to the car payment was a little difficult, but since we’d just bought a brand new car, we decided to go all in and get a personalized license plate: ITSAGAS.

*Yeah, maybe they should have called the blue ones the Argon.
**Yes, I know now that there is no such thing as “no dicker”.


I don’t remember in which year or in which Target I bought these pajama pants. Either place, they are at most 8 years old and at least 6. Yet, it’s just in these last few weeks, seeing them through some sort of new lens, that the shabbiness seems, rather than evidence of my sentimentality and fiscal and ecological responsibility, a sort of tragic expression of neglect. Why would I not have made them into rags by now? Especially now that each spot in the fabric where the white shows through elicits an unattributable sob that’s so much deeper than it really needs to be.

“You’ve probably had more bloody marys today than you’ve had all year.”

And at 3, I had.  Along with them came an idea for cocktail development!

Maybe that was because it’s Christmas day and we “deck the halls with boughs of holly” and have a “holly jolly Christmas”, etc., or maybe it’s because both oldies radio stations in town have been playing “Maybe Baby” (when not playing carols) a lot this week, but I really don’t know what made me say “Bloody Holly” today at lunch at the Encore’s Jardin, where I’d had the first libation. It was the “Red Snapper”, a variation adding gin, aquavit, and Old Bay seasoning to the usual Bloody Mary mix. The second two were at the Double Down Saloon, in family-like atmosphere.

The Bloody Holly would not have to served only at Christmas, that just adds another layer. It would be served in 50s themed places, rockabilly events, and the like.

I want to acknowledge Holly’s Texas roots, so, apart from my own Bloody Mary mix, products from the Lone Star State would be key.  And even in that mix, there would be dash of Texas style barbecue sauce. Tito’s or Deep Eddy brands are an obvious and accessible choices for vodka. However, if and when available, and of course upon tasting, I’d use Starlite Vodka, which Total Wine describes así: “Texas- Hill Country spring water, yellow corn and winter wheat are put through seven distillations and a proprietary filtration process to produce a smooth and easy drinking vodka. Peppery with brown sugar and dried citrus notes.” Sounds like the perfect flavors, right!? It also may have been one of those flash-in-the pan spirits, back when everyone and their uncles were distilling.

Recipe to follow…

They call it the”Sesame Street” font!

If we don’t take a second or two to look up or down as we’re going about the business or leisure of everyday life, we might miss something. On that Tuesday’s walk/run, I did look down and was rewarded with these two charmingly lettered access covers on the sidewalk. This whimsical font (or is it technically a typeface?) stands out among the other utility access hatch covers lettered with cleaner lines. These covers are located on Flamingo Road, near the bus stop, between Sandalwood and Rainbow in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I guessed that the lettering is 1970s/early 1980s and of course I wanted to find out more about it. After a few minutes of flummoxing around Google and typing things like “Streetlight control systems in the sidewalk”, I finally zoomed in on the image and noticed that the frame around “PC Street Light” contained a more modern clue, a web address:

That’s how I know these are called access hatch covers. But the website did not contain any information on or images of this particular model. It wasn’t until I created this blog, today, that I wondered why I don’t just call Jensen! After all, it wouldn’t be the most awkward phone call I’d made for, um, investigative purposes.

Jensen Precast was established in 1968 and is dedicated to making precast concrete and (I just learned) polymer concrete composite products for infrastructures, like streetlights. They’re based in Sparks and have offices in the rest of Nevada and in California, Hawaii, and Arizona.

Office manager Cheaunti didn’t seem put off by my call and transferred me to a sales representative. While on hold, I rehearsed a better spiel, but one that still started with, “This is perhaps a weird inquiry…” and went on to explain that I was doing, um, research and not needing any concrete infrastructure products myself before ending with a description of the words “Street Light”. Ryan chuckled and exclaimed, “You’re talking about the Sesame Street font! Well, I’m not sure what the font’s officially called, but we’ve always called it that.” It’s apt. On two levels. I mean. Sesame Street. Street light.

I asked the enthusiastic rep when they started using those covers and remarked that the ones on Flamingo had held up really well, especially if they’d been around since the 70s. “Actually,” he began, and with absolutely no trace of mansplain tone, “we used that font up until a couple of years ago before we decided on the cleaner lines that you see on other covers. I don’t know exactly when or where we started using Sesame Street, though.”

So, that particular cover could be circa 2016, for all we know. Ryan added that there were “still thousands of them” all around the valley. I mentioned that the frame, at least, was new, given the .com information. And even though we couldn’t date this artifact as precisely as I may have liked, I learned enough about to satisfy my investigation, along with the bonus information that it may not even be concrete. Ryan’s enthusiasm for the product spilled over into his explanation that about 20-30 years ago, they started using a polymer concrete that is not really concrete, but a resin composite, which is stronger and harder, but much lighter, making it easier for maintenance workers to do their jobs. It’s also cheaper, and has a longer life.

I was glad to have talked with Ryan. And glad that the polymer’s longevity might mean that future pedestrians or bus riders might also take a second to look down and see this unexpected frivolity in the midst of the seriousness of infrastructure.