Category Archives: COVID-19

I think the snake made me forget the rules

The distracting creature.

The distracting creature.

I kind of lost my head last night. I walked up to two people, and got right in their faces, and none of us had masks on. My wife witnessed this, and said she was really surprised to see me do something so careless.

I blame it on the snake.

We were out walking around the neighborhood, at dusk. There was still enough light to clearly see the snake on the road right in front of us, but I didn’t, until my wife warned me to watch out. Which is weird. My brain must not have been functioning right, because I don’t like snakes at all, and the sight of one, even a photograph, usually sets off alarms. Any such movement — and there’s nothing else on the planet like the movement of a snake — in any corner of my field of vision should have had me on full alert.

It was interesting that we saw it right there, because it was only a few yards from one that had been run over a couple of days earlier. Its flattened carcass had still been in the street when I had walked that way earlier in the day.

But this one was very much alive. And we stopped to observe it and debate its nature. I immediately said “copperhead,” but admittedly I tend to call almost anything that has a visible pattern of those colors a copperhead. My wife said its head lacked the menacing triangular shape we tend to associate with pit vipers. I acknowledged this, but stuck to my standard policy of treating it as a copperhead until proved innocent. Which meant staying away from it.

I assure you, I used the limited zoom feature on my phone to take the above photo, which I thought came out rather well, considering the low light. I still don’t like looking at it.

Anyway, about a block and half past that, with the light further dimming and the shade of trees lowering it further, we saw a blackness in the middle of the road that looked remotely like it could be another snake, curled up. A bigger one.

As we cautiously approached and debated, and I had just about decided it was a clump of foliage of some kind, someone asked what we were looking at. It was a teenaged boy who I think had just rolled a garbage bin out to the street. I told him. And I told him about the snake just up the street — well, the two snakes, counting the dead one. And he seemed interested. And I thought, Maybe this is one of those people who are into snakes, and maybe he knows something…

So I said, “I’ve got a picture. Want to see it?” When he nodded, I walked straight over and showed it to him on my phone. Only when we were looking at it with our heads about a foot apart did I realize we weren’t wearing masks.

Then a woman — possibly his mom — arrived and asked what it was, and I immediately forgot what I’d just realized, and went over the show it to her. Only this time I handed the phone to her rather than standing next do her. Still, too close, not to mention handing the phone back and forth.

I don’t think either offered any expert advice. I didn’t get a ruling on the type of snake it was.

Do y’all know? I’d send it to Rudy Mancke, but I don’t think anything this common would interest him.

Anyway, I waited until we were about half a block away before expressing to my wife my surprise at myself for having forgotten basic COVID precautions. She said she was pretty amazed, too. I don’t think she had fully realized what an idiot I can be.

I blame it on the snake….

Five Points, Columbia, South Carolina, 5:48 p.m. today

Five Points in Columbia, SC: 5:48 p.m., 9/9/2020

Five Points in Columbia, SC: 5:48 p.m., 9/9/2020

This seemed to provoke some interest on Twitter today, when I posted it a few minutes after it was taken, so I thought I’d share it here for my readers who don’t do the tweeting thing.

The picture above was taken at 5:48 p.m. today in Five Points.

As I explained on Twitter, the kids weren’t waiting to get into Subway. They were waiting to get into the bar next door. As I said, I don’t think Subway serves beer. Although why they don’t, I don’t know — look at the crowd they could gather!

No, they were going next door.

One friend who was recently in college herself expressed some surprise at that, saying “They don’t even have a great selection!”

Yeah, well. I don’t think think they were lined up for “selection.” Unless you mean “natural selection.”

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? They think they’re invulnerable. Using the term “think” loosely, of course.

The tweet drew reactions from Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross, Phillip Bush, and “Mayor Bob” Coble. But I think my favorite was this one:

He thought I’d be interested, and he was right…


I was doing one of my walks around the neighborhood yesterday, and a guy in a white pickup truck stopped beside me. I figured he wanted to ask directions or something, but that wasn’t it.

A selfie I shot on the same walk. How could he tell I'd be interested?

A selfie I shot on the same walk. What made him think I’d be interested?

He said that looking at me, he thought I might be interested in seeing something his wife had made for him.

I said “Sure,” and he put it on.

Above you see him without it. Below you see him with it.

Pretty amazing, huh? When I got home and showed my wife, on the small screen of my phone, she couldn’t even tell at first that it was a face mask. I had to point it out.

Don’t know how his wife did it. Maybe took a picture of him, and sent it off to be printed on cloth? I should have asked.

In any case, I was suitably impressed…



OK, so I’ve done ONE thing in the orange zone…

This morning, Mandy shared this “very helpful chart.” The guy she retweeted had said no one will catch his family “engaging in anything in the yellow or above.”

Yeah, well, I can’t quite claim that.

If y’all recall, I went and got a haircut a couple of weeks back. I investigated before going and thought it was a safe bet under the circumstances, but I think it will be awhile before I do so again. I’m thinking about ordering a barber’s clipper set from Amazon, and learning to cut my Dad’s hair as well as my own.

Anyway, I thought y’all might find it interesting, so I pass it on.

There’s one thing you’re not seeing, of course. It’s at the bottom. You just can’t see it because it’s in the infrared zone: “Attending a Trump rally.”



Anybody having intense stress dreams lately?

This is dream expert Sigmund Freud, whom you may recall from "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"

This is dream expert Sigmund Freud, whom you may recall from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

I ask because someone told me that a lot of people were having these during the pandemic. Apparently, this is a thing. Although the explanations I’ve seen don’t really work for me. I know a lot of people have been stressed by quarantining and all, but as I’ve said, I haven’t.

I was told about this when I mentioned some super-weird ones I had back after my stroke. They weren’t so much stress dreams as obsessive dreams. I found myself in different universes in which it was necessary that certain things be done a certain, specific way or else, I don’t know — the universe in question would stop operating properly.

I figured I was having them due to a change in medication. I described one or two of them to one of my kids, and was told lots of people were having stressful dreams that were being chalked up to the coronavirus.

I’m not going to describe any of them to you because they’re so weird, just explaining one would be too much trouble.

I’m just asking whether y’all are having any. If so and you want to share, and what you share is interesting, maybe I’ll try to share one, too.

If I can remember. I’ve actually sort of stopped having the unique obsessive ones — the ones that were a new experience. Lately I have had a stressful dream or two, but of the ordinary sort — the kind that are closely related to the common “it’s the last day of the semester and you’ve supposed to take an exam but you’ve never been to the class and are afraid to ask where it is” dream that everyone who’s been to college has. (For me, those particular dreams are not really symbolic, but sort of based on literal experience.)

Anyway, share if you feel like it. I’m curious…

Well, I went and got a haircut. Here’s what happened…


Over the past month, my hair was pretty much out of control. For months before the pandemic, I’d been getting it cut really short — too short to comb — so as it grew out, it grew out kind of weird.

Finally, I recognized it.

Finally, I recognized it.

But it started looking sort of familiar. Finally, I recognized it: Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments!” Too bad people don’t make biblical epics in the 1950s style any more. If they did, it could have been my ticket to stardom, with Heston no longer around.

Anyway, a few days ago, I heard some encouraging news: A friend told me her husband had taken their son to another outlet of the same barber shop chain I go to, and had been impressed by the COVID security — everybody in masks, people not entering the shop until it was their turn, dividers between the chairs.

For the past year, I had been taking my Dad to get haircuts at that chain. It worked for us because we could just go when it was convenient for both of us — no appointment. You sign in on an app before you leave the house, and by the time you get there it’s your turn.

And I had come up with a system that meant it didn’t matter which barber I got — use a No. 4 clipper guard on the sides, and a No. 7 on the top. My haircuts would only take a few minutes, it took almost zero time to wash it in the shower, and I never had to comb it — I just let it lie down kind of like a classical Roman cut. It was veni, vidi, vici — I had the grooming thing beat. Et tu, Brad.

So this week, I decided to give it a try — alone. If I was impressed with the procedures, I could take my Dad another time.

Here’s how it went:

  • The shop we usually go to was closed, according to the app. Fine. I went to another that I’d never been to.
  • At first, it was awesome. Although when I left the house the app said I had 15 minutes to my turn, when I arrived it said zero, and I was the only customer there. Two women were at the counter, and both had masks. One of them accompanied me to a chair. Before we got started, she explained that she used to work at the shop I usually go to, that it would be reopening Saturday (so, today), and that she hoped to go back.
  • There was some confusion before starting because the computer told her to cut all my hair with a #3. I said I couldn’t imagine where that came from. It was a 4 and a 7. No biggie. She said she’d fix it in the computer.
  • Now the real concern: She had on a mask, but it was pulled down so it only covered her mouth. Every time I looked at her, I was looking up her nostrils. I didn’t say anything. I’ll try to explain why in a moment. I, of course, was wearing a mask, properly. I asked whether it was going to be in her way, and she said no, she was used to working around them. Fine.
  • Second problem. She did the sides and back with a #4, but then started working on the top entirely with a comb and scissors. Which meant it was going to take three or four times as long as usual. She asked if it was short enough at one point, and I said I didn’t think so, and mentioned, in a nice way, that maybe she should try using the good ol’ #7! She responded by, after trimming some more, taking the #7 and holding it to my hair to make sure it was the right length. I got this vibe that she was trying to show me how careful and skilled and artistic she was — something she had time to do, since there were no customers waiting (someone came in at one point, and I think the other woman handled him). I think she thought this was a good way to make a good impression on the client. But this was not what I wanted.
  • Why was I so reticent? Well, she spent the whole time telling me what a rough time she’d been having, and was still having. She couldn’t work for two months. She was still waiting to get her unemployment (she had finally learned, several days earlier, that it had been sent to her old address). She was also still waiting for her stimulus check (I was about to ask whether she’d checked to see whether that had gone to the old address, but I got distracted and we never got back to it, so I feel bad about that — surely she’s thought of that, right?). And the whole time, her landlord was being a total jerk and threatening to evict her. How big a jerk? When she learned a new unemployment card would be sent to her current address but would take seven to 10 days to arrive, she eagerly went to tell her landlord, who said, “I don’t see why it would take that long.” So, that big a jerk.
  • Also… sometimes I don’t trust myself to say things in a nice way. I had noticed that my hands were really tensed up under the sheet they put over you. Not fists, exactly, but tense. I know myself well enough that I didn’t think I’d be able to say, “You need to cover your nose with that,” or “Could you do the haircut the usual way so we can get done?” in a tone, or in the words, that would produce a constructive result. And I was very conscious that she was pouring out how she’d had a tough time. Now that she’d finally gotten back to work, I sort of figured she didn’t need the final straw of her one and only customer telling her she wasn’t doing the job right. I didn’t want to  be another landlord in her life.

Maybe I was overthinking it.

Anyway, I got home and figured my mission was accomplished when my wife laughed at me and said, “Your beard is bigger than your head now!”

But I don’t think I’m going to go back for another cut soon. I may not wait another four months, but I can wait a while



So much for ‘the common sense and wisdom of the people’

Henry still

Last night, Mandy tweeted this:

I had to respond, “Does that mean his ‘faith in the common sense and wisdom of the people’ has been shaken?” (Y’all remember that, right? It’s the underlying idea in everything Henry has done — and especially in what he has not done.)

Perhaps it has — but only shaken, not abandoned. He’s clinging to the notion that people will spontaneously coordinate collectively to do what needs to be done to turn back the resurgence of COVID — the resurgence which daily asserts itself, with today’s total of new cases again being the highest ever — with nothing from him but occasional verbal encouragement.

In SC, we continue to set new records for coronavirus cases

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia./file

Just thought I’d post this, and see what y’all think of it:

Here are some more details on that.

As for what I think of it — well, I think people trying to go back to “normal” is crazy. Of course, I’m one of those people who could stand to keep going like this pretty much indefinitely — as long as I could hug my grandchildren.

We have really nice people in Columbia, just FYI…


This was nice.

I was reading along through the Opinion section of The New York Times this morning when I found this piece headlined, “What It’s Like to Wear a Mask in the South.” So of course I had to read it. I mean, when the NYT makes the effort to offer something from a Southern perspective, you’ve gotta check it out.

It was written by Margaret Renkl, who “is a contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.” She’s apparently from Nashville.

I was reading along and thinking, “I wonder if our friend, regular contributor David Carlton, knows her.” Because, you know, writers and college profs sometimes cross paths within the context of a community.

But then, I forgot about that when Ms. Renkl turned her column over to blurbs from other people around the South, and suddenly, there was an old friend from right here in Columbia. It was Allison Askins, who in a previous life was one of our two religion writers at The State. (Yes, there was a time when The State had not one full-time religion writer, but two. We were rather proud of that.)

Allison’s was the very first blurb. Here’s what she wrote:

“I have been making masks for two groups our church is providing them for — an organization that aids the homeless and the Department of Juvenile Justice. I try as I am sewing to be intentional about the act, thinking about who might wear it, hoping they are protected in some way by it and lifting up a prayer for their life, that it might somehow turn for the better in spite of this experience. I find it so sad to think that there are people who maybe are not wearing them simply because they do not know how to get them, can’t afford them or maybe really do not know they need to. It is these among us who I believe most deserve our mercy and our love.”

I just wanted to pass that on because Allison is a very nice and thoughtful person, and I thought, you know, it’s always a good time to stop and take note of the nice and thoughtful people here among us.

It’s a wonder we have any trees left at all


It’s been perfectly fine with me to order even more stuff from Amazon during the pandemic, rather than going out to stores. I’m far from alone in this, of course. Completely sensible, and defensible.

Except for one thing: The packaging.

Today, we broke up some boxes as we prepared to put out the recycling. They come on Tuesday, normally, although we’re not entirely sure they will this time, on account of the holiday.

What you see above, in the midst of being dismantled, is the packaging for one item we ordered from Amazon — a new lightweight vacuum cleaner. We hadn’t bought one in quite a few years, and the old one had worn out. So, you know, defensible.

Except for the blasted packaging.

The machine was in the broken-down white “Shark” box at right, wedged into place by the shaped-cardboard thingies sitting atop it.

That box was in the one to its left, which was only slightly larger.

That one was in the huge box at far left, with additional packaging to hold it in place.

Not so defensible, I suppose. It’s a wonder, after all this pulp, that we have any trees left…

A header from another time

another time

Just noticed this at the top of the blog.

Obviously a header image from another time.

At least, I HOPE the beach doesn’t look like this. This was taken several years ago in front of the Conch Cafe, located where Surfside Beach and Garden City come together.

And then there’s that ad — does Sting have Alzheimer’s? (No, he doesn’t. I can’t click on those ads — Google Adsense would have a fit — but I looked it up.)


You anxious to ‘get back out there?’ I ask because I’m not.

Maybe I'm kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel...

Maybe I’m kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel…

Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? It seems like everything I read and hear is based on the assumption that we’re all anxious as all get-out to, well, get out again.

Even the sensible folk who tell us it’s too early — and it is — seem to assume that we all want to get back to our usual routines as soon as possible. Hence all the news stories and features about folks who want to get back to their gym, or get sports started back up, get the kids back to school or see our streets busy again, or whatever.

Not because they’re worried about the economy or people’s jobs — although they may be concerned about those things as well, and understandably — but because they and other normal people want to be normal again.

I don’t claim that I was ever normal, of course, but I thought I’d speak up as a guy who’s in no hurry at all, just to see if anyone else is as messed up as I am.

I’m anxious to do one thing — be able to see and hug and spend time with my grandchildren. I miss that a great deal, and only a return to normal will fix it. But the rest? I can wait.

I realize that several factors contribute to making me this way, and some of them are what some might call privilege-related. Not from being a white guy or anything obvious like that, but from the fact that due to what I do in my post-newspaper career, my ability to bring in the same amount of income as before the pandemic is more or less unaffected. It would be way different if I were, say, a waiter. Or, for that matter, if I had any of those newspaper-editor jobs I had over the years, especially given the technology we had then.

That’s huge. But there are other factors as well, and here are a few of them:

  • I’m an introvert. Like seriously, extremely. I’ve been tested. I’ve never felt that deprived by a lack of physical contact with most of the human race. Being alone in the company of words feels fine to me. Occasional quick Facetime meetings, with phone and text and email, more than meet the need for the interactions that are needed to get work done. I spend essentially zero time getting to work and getting home — since I do all my work at home. This is more than awesome to me. The time I spend, for instance, not shaving is greatly appreciated.
  • I had a stroke, right in the middle of all this. I told you about that. I tell everybody, in case someone missed it. It’s helpful. I say “I had a stroke,” and people are willing to tolerate all sorts of things, maybe even my lack of interest in getting back out there. I recovered from the overt symptom (my strange inability to look down) almost immediately, but I do have days when I’m weirdly tired — actually, sort of every day, but some days are worse than others. Everyone has been enormously patient with me as I deal with this, but it would be harder for them to do that, and life would be a LOT harder for me, if we all felt the expectation to get up early and shower and shave and drive through the traffic and get breakfast and figure out lunch and meet with people and stop at the store on the way home … I get really tired just thinking about it. I found the PERFECT time to have a stroke, I figure. I’ve never been known as a great time manager, but sometimes I’m smart like that.
  • All of that last bullet said, you should go back to the first one and remember that stroke or no stroke, I like almost everything about working like this better than doing it the usual way. Things get boiled down to essentials and you just do the work. The stroke thing has just heightened that. (I’m not doing quite as much as I was, due to the stroke, but I’m building back up and I think I’ll soon be there. And doing it this way helps enormously in meeting that goal.)
  • There’s just my wife and me, and other than my stroke, we’re both doing pretty well, and we get along great. Like the guy in the Thomas Hardy novel said, I like knowing that whenever I look up, she’ll be there, and vice versa. I’d honestly rather be stuck on a desert island with her than with anyone else, and this is a reasonable rehearsal for that. (Don’t ask her if she feels the same; I’ll be happier assuming that she does. But not shocked if she doesn’t. The fact is that she is very tolerant of me, so hanging with her remains very pleasant — for me. And for her, I very much hope.) Having to spend all my time with her is a huge plus. If we could get back to normal with our kids and grandkids, things would be perfect.
  • Maybe this, and all the rest, boils down to that first bullet, but I have never, at any point in life, been someone who is looking for the world to entertain him. (As a newspaper editor, I was always flummoxed by conversations about the Weekend section and when it should be published and what it should contain — I could not imagine being a person who needed a published guide to tell me what to go do. My life was full.) As you know, I can take sports or leave them alone. Yes, if I’m going to miss a sport it’s baseball, but I figure it will get rolling again at some point, and whenever it does will be soon enough. I’ve always found books, TV and movies to be more diversion than I have time for in my life. I would have to have the rest of my life off from all work and spend 18 hours a day reading (which would be awesome) to make even a significant dent in the books I want to read and have not yet — even if I denied myself the pleasure of rereading the books I already love, which to me is one of life’s best things. Why, if I had enough time, maybe I’d even write a book myself in addition to reading them — but I’d need much more time than this pandemic is thus far giving me.
  • I live at a perfect time for all this. Not only is the kind of work I do easier with today’s technology, but the ways I like to spend any free time I have — books, movies, etc. — are all easily within reach. Ebooks, streaming and whatnot. This would not have been the case, to this extent, even a very few years ago.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to give you the idea.

Do I feel guilty not being in a hurry to get back to “normal?” Yes, if you talk about the pain suffered by people who really, truly hurting financially or otherwise. I am extremely mindful of how lucky I am in this regard. And if we need to get back to it in order to help those folks, then let’s do it.

But I thought I’d be honest about the fact that from my perspective, I’m enjoying this while it lasts. I figured I ought to admit it. The Bobs will understand, won’t they?

Toilet paper: The surest sign that we’re back to ‘normal’

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart in early March.

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart in early March. And pretty much every day since.

Right now, there is a lot of debate going on about when we should return to “normal” as a society. This debate takes two forms. One is the usual stupidness that is the particular genius of Donald J. Trump. You know how that goes: If you’re a sensible person, you want to continue the social distancing. If you voted for Donald Trump and would do so again, or want people to think so, you might tend to scream until people let you resume doing stupid things.

There’s another debate going on, but it’s harder to hear because the first one is so loud. In this one, more or less reasonable people try to figure out how to determine when it is safe to go to work, to go shopping, to get a haircut, etc., the way we used to. This debate has a reasonable basis, because we know those things will happen someday. Even the Spanish Flu ended. So how will we know when that day has arrived, or for that matter, when it would be safe to step carefully in that direction?

Well, I’m going to tell you right now that the day has not arrived, and it’s not even close.

I could use all sorts of standards for this. I could say, the day will not be here until we’ve gone several days without a single new case of COVID-19 in South Carolina.

But there’s an easier standard than that, and I think it’s perfect in every way. You don’t have to monitor the entities keeping count of the sick, or pay attention to the frequent briefings involving governors or you-know-who.

If you or someone in your family is making periodic, careful trips to buy groceries — and I think most of us are covered by that, or else we’d starve — you’ll know when it happens.

I’m talking about the day that you go to Food Lion, Walmart, CVS or wherever, and the toilet paper shelves are full. Like, the way they were six months ago full. And they continue to be that way. Then they take down the signs that beg you to take only one package.

All sorts of factors go into this, and a lot of it has to do with something like crowdsourcing. When the A-holes who bought all the toilet paper to begin with stop buying it, and the rest of us stop making a practice of buying ONE package when we see one, it will indicate that everyone is pretty sure we’re safe. It will also indicate that our commercial distribution systems have caught up and are again able to do something that — compared to all the way more complicated things our modern economy does all the time — ought to be pretty simple: keep the supply of a basic, simple commodity that doesn’t rot or otherwise lose value while sitting on a shelf flowing.

When we can manage all that, we’re ready. The public is ready. The economy is ready. We’re clear.

Until then, we need to maintain our distance. It doesn’t matter how badly you need a haircut — if we can’t keep toilet paper on the shelves, we’re still too messed up. Use a comb, creatively.

Anyway, there’s your standard.

How to sell some plastic chairs during a pandemic

The six we ended up with.

The six we ended up with.

My mom wanted some plastic chairs. My brother and his family were coming through town, and she had discovered from past visits from grandchildren and great-grandchildren that she and my Dad didn’t have enough backyard furniture to accommodate such gatherings.

So I went to Lowe’s to get some. The stackable kind that are easy to deploy and to store. I was to get six. That was as far as my instructions extended.

I first tried late on Wednesday, arriving about 7:30. I found that the store had closed at 7 — quite a bit earlier than the 8:30 I had expected from my last such expedition. Employees on hand told me they’d be staying open until 9 again starting Friday. This prompted two thoughts: 1) Why would they be resuming normal hours then? and 2) What good did that do me?

I returned on Saturday, after having contemplated seeking such chairs at Walmart. But I didn’t. I went to Lowes. This proved to be a mistake. First, I tried to find them on my own, pushing about a large flatbed cart for most of the time. I did this for maybe half an hour before noticing some chairs LIKE what I sought in the area where they put online orders waiting to be picked up. I pointed to them and asked an employee where I might find more. He copied the info from the bar code and we started to look together. About 20 or 30 minutes later, we had hit every area that I had previously visited by myself. We consulted with a number of his fellow employees. With some, we entered into deals where my guy would help them find something if they’d help us find the chairs.

After we had exhausted all these possibilities, we were back where we had started, when I suggested something: Might they be outside, in front of the store? I seemed to remember having seen such chairs in such a position on a previous occasion. I was not alone — the employee stopped, looked and pointed at me in a way that said, “You, sir, are a genius.”

He was right, because I was right. There they were, no more than 100 feet away when we stepped out and looked. Loads of them, in all sorts of colors. The employee had to return to what he’d been doing before, but he left me with advice: I would need to decide which ones I wanted and go in and find someone to get them, because they were all chained together.

I took a lot of pictures, and texted them to my mom — mainly for color guidance. I knew from previous experience that she wouldn’t like the Adirondack-shaped one. I agree. They look great, but are never comfortable. And I counted out the rocking-chair style. That just left a few.

But I was unable to report on how sturdy or steady they were. Because I would have to bring out another employee to help with that, and I wanted to narrow things down first. Also, she was not pleased with the pricing — running between about $20 and $25 for likely models. She had hoped they’d be more like $15.

I said I’d go see what Walmart had, but I warned her not to expect $15 chairs.

I was wiped out at this point. I get that way since my stroke. I felt like I’d been wearing that mask for a year. I called my wife and said I’d be home soon if I didn’t get a LOT luckier at Walmart.

I was home about 15 minutes later.

Things had not started well at Walmart. I parked near the garden center entrance, and found it was locked from the outside. I uttered some choice words — actually just one (no sense getting creative when no one could hear me), but I said it several times. Then I walked around, and made my way back to that department, where I found the following:

  • There was a stack of chairs exactly like the most suitable ones at Lowe’s.
  • They were all one color. It was a nicer color than any at Lowe’s — a quiet neutral gray.
  • They all looked perfect, but I pulled one off the stack to check. It was, indeed, perfect.
  • They were way cleaner than the ones at Lowe’s, being inside.
  • You know how many there were? Six. Not five, not seven. Six.
  • The sign stated the price: $14.94 apiece. (The exact same model at Lowe’s was $22.98.)

There were no carts nearby, but I stopped an employee who had just unloaded a pallet on wheels. He said he didn’t see buggies, but maybe we could use his vehicle. Being careful not to say it with any sarcasm, I said that had been kind of what I was thinking when I stopped him. He wheeled the chairs to the self-serve area, peeled off a barcode and scanned it six times for me. He then wheeled them outside while I went to get my truck. I had meant to shop for some other stuff while there, but didn’t want to mess with the way things were going.

Driving the truck over, I looked in my wallet and found only two dollars. I was embarrassed to offer him so little for being so awesomely helpful, so I just thanked him profusely, and drove the chairs to my parents’ house. They were exactly what my Mom wanted.

I should have given him the two dollars, I decided later…

Why do things go like that sometimes, but too often they don’t?

The chairs at Lowe's.

The chairs at Lowe’s.

(Almost an) Open Thread for Monday, April 27, 2020

Yeah, you know -- like the Spanish Flu, right?

Yeah, you know — like the Spanish Flu, right?

Thought I’d throw together one of these for you…

  • Graham expects recurrence of coronavirus cases in the fall — I only posted this for one reason: Doesn’t everyone expect this? I mean, I’ve been hearing this as long as I’ve been hearing about the “novel” coronavirus, so since… I don’t know… maybe January? I’ve heard, over and over, that we should get ready for a pattern like the Spanish Flu, where it landed for a while, went away, and then hit much harder in the fall of 2018. But since I don’t see a lot of headlines saying this, and sometimes I see things that seem to be obviously avoiding it, maybe it’s news to some people. So I include it here, in case…

And you know what? I’m tired now. And that one’s enough for a conversation. And I need to save energy for work, of which I need to do some today. If you have other subjects, bring them up…

My vacation from the coronavirus

As I sat in the empty waiting room, I shot this over my shoulder. You can see one of the first line of outposts, there to keep people with the virus out. Or so I assume.

As I sat in the empty waiting room on April 11, I shot this over my shoulder. You can see one of the first line of outposts, there to keep people with the virus out. Or so I assume. To that person’s left is a table, with another person seated at it.

Actually, I thought I was plunging head-first into the mysterious, much feared land of COVID-19. A day after the weirdness had started, I decided that I felt “off” enough that maybe I had it. There was no fever, and no dry cough or any of that. But my taste and smell (which are the same sense, of course) weren’t all they should be, so maybe I had it. And I just didn’t feel right. Anyway, my kids were insisting, from across town, that  I go in to be checked. And, as I said before, my primary care doc sided with them when I reached him that Saturday (the 11th, for those keeping score).

So I went in, thinking this would give me something interesting to write about. And things were different from the start. First, some people were camped out about 20 ft. from the entrance to the Emergency Room at Lexington Medical Center (see above). Like they were the expendable ones, there to make sure no one with the bug actually came in. I talked my way past them, before my wife went back to wait in the car. Inside, there were more people with masks on greeting me as soon as I went in. After a brief time with the triage nurse beyond the wall, I was sent back out to sit in the waiting area — alone. The pic below proves my tale.

Eventually, I was shown into the ER proper, and given a room. I knew I would be there for several hours, whatever happened. I’d been through this routine with others. Oddly, they didn’t test me for the virus. From the start, they were only interested in a symptom that I barely mentioned, because it was so odd to tell anyone about — the fact that I couldn’t look down. I could look at things at eye level, but my muscles simply could not make my eyes turn downward. My eyes would quiver with the effort, but I couldn’t do it. If I HAD to look at something lower down, my brain had to work it out again each time — I had to press my chin to my chest and look under the thing, then allow my eyes to drift upward. Which seemed like a lot of work, each time. Hardly worth it. I only bothered to do it a couple of times.

That’s what interested them. That’s why they did the CT scan, which produced nothing. I knew that if the CT produced nothing (and I wasn’t curious enough to ask what “something” might be), I’d have to get an MRI. Knew I’d be there that long. Anyway, about three or four hours into the ordeal, perhaps a bit more, the doctor in charge came to see me for the first time since the very beginning. I realized later that she was very conscious of having to break bad news to me, although it didn’t strike me at the time. She got right next to me and leaned in on the railing that kept me from falling out to that side. We were friends now. She was really close when she told me I’d had a stroke.

The news didn’t really register. All I noticed was that, instead of letting me go, she was telling me I’d have to stay at least overnight. I asked a question or two about the stroke thing, as it seemed the thing to do (you mean a TIA? No, a real stroke; it’s definite — we can see it), but I don’t think if fully registered on me until I saw how others reacted to the news on social media. (People there were all like, “You had a what…?”)

So I asked whether they were going to, at the very least, test me for coronavirus since that’s what I’d come for — and she said, well, no. And she explained: Sure, they could test me, but here was the thing: If they tested me, they’d have to treat me differently. Completely differently. I’d get moved to another part of the hospital where everyone either had the virus, or was assumed to have it. As opposed to being in the normal part of the hospital on a floor with stroke patients, where everyone would assume I didn’t have it. Which would be better for me.

I agreed that would be better. But I didn’t let go of the idea. I asked if I could get a test whenever I left. She said sure, whatever.

Two days later, when I was finally about to go, I asked someone else for my test. He looked at me like I was nuts. They had been observing me and monitoring all my vital signs for three days. They knew I didn’t have it — or at least, that I wasn’t exhibiting symptoms. Which means they knew more about me than about 99.99 percent of the population. I thought it would be cool to know even more, but I took his point. I never got the test.

So, for three days (counting the ER day), I was in a place where officially, no one had the coronavirus, and no one was concerned about it.

Which was nice, I realized later.

Returning home a week ago today, I was sort of startled to notice that everyone was still going on about the virus. When I read my several newspapers each morning, it was all the same stories I’d been reading since I quit going to work back in March. You know the stories — about Trump’s lie-filled daily briefings, about how hard it was for certain people (not me) to deal with the tedium of isolation, what to binge-watch, yadda-yadda.

Now, those stories seem even more boring than they did before. Now, I have had a stroke, which is officially more interesting than not having a virus! That has had little effect on me, but it has had this effect: I’m no longer tolerant of the boring coronavirus stories. Does this mean I’m anxious to get out there and do something? No, far from it. I want to do nothing, each day. I’ve given in to the fact that for the first time in almost three years, I’ll fail to average more than 10,000 steps a day this month. And once I’d given in to that, I didn’t care to do anything else.

I do some work each day. There’s enough for me to do, and I know I’m lucky to have the work, so I feel I must justify myself to that extent. But I feel no urge to exercise, or to post on my blog, or to do anything, really. I’m reading a couple of books. I had recently watched, again, “In Harm’s Way” — the 1965 John Wayne picture, not one of the many, many other things with that title. Curious about the overuse of the title, I found that I could download the novel the film was based on for free from Kindle. So I’ve been reading that. Slowly. I’ve also been reading a novel I had put on my wish list years ago — I think I had read a favorable review in The Wall Street Journal when it was first published — and received as a gift sometime during the past year. It’s set in Spain in the 16th century, when ex-Moors who had been forced to “convert” to Christianity were still called “moriscos” — and mistrusted by the Old Christians. The protagonist is a judge/prosecutor investigating a series of deaths in rural Aragon. It’s pretty interesting — more so than the one about the Navy in 1941 — but nothing really grabs my interest right now.

Someone called asking me to do something for work, so I’m going to stop and go do that. Be back soon…

OK, done with that — huff, puff, etc.  Back now, and thinking I should say something about how fortunate I am. I mean, I have had a stroke, and that means I’ve survived something that could have been a whole lot worse than it was — especially since it was bilateral. I haven’t seen the actual MRI yet, but I’m told that is remarkable. And yet, I have nothing to show but a symptom that’s been almost completely gone since the morning of Sunday the 12th (I say “almost” because occasionally my eyes refuse to focus on something low in my field of vision). That, and the fact that my desire to do anything, even something that will burn basically zero calories, is gone. I want to rest all the time, even though I’ve done nothing to tire myself. The last few days, I’ve taken a walk each afternoon that gets in between three and four thousand steps, and that’s it.

In fact, it’s time to do that, so I’ll be back in awhile…

That walk around my large block — just under a mile — is done, but I’m not moved to tell you about it. My capacity for rest is in fact the only remotely interesting thing about me in this particular state of being…

I’ve possessed this gift since Sunday the 12th. I was awakened in the hospital by the arrival of food from my wife. The night before, the hospitalist hadn’t decided I was staying until late, and there was nothing available from the mess hall that I could eat, so my wife brought something to the sentries outside, and it got relayed in to me. This pattern continued with my move to the 8th floor. The staff seemed even to welcome it. They looked at what she’d sent Sunday morning and announced that there was enough for two meals, and that they would be happy to refrigerate the large serving of soup until lunchtime. I concurred, and ate my breakfast. Then I prepared to watch Easter Sunday Mass in Spanish on Facebook. That is, I sat the iPad on my lap and put the earbuds in my ears, and slept sitting up. (I would later be told that sometime around this time they ran tests on my carotid artery, but I have no memory of that).

Then, I caught a ride downstairs to get a very closely detailed scan of my heart — essentially the background for an even more-detailed look from another camera stuck down my throat the next morning (by this time my staying another day was meekly accepted) — after which I went back to sleep, then ate my soup, then took another nap. That’s the way I remember it, anyway.

I say I was in a place where no one cared about the coronavirus. It wasn’t ignored completely. The people doing all these tests wore masks. But it seemed so routine by this time. I was living in a land consisting almost entirely of young women, and they all seemed terribly attractive in part because of their faces being covered. I’d wonder if their faces were as beautiful as the rest of them, and decided again and again that they most likely were. I was, after all, in a magical place.

Anyway, the pattern continued. I again forgot my own mask when taken down for the camera-down-the-throat test. But everyone else wore one, and no one remarked on the fact that I didn’t. The young woman in charge of me was stunning — at least, her brow was and so were her ears, and I’m certain the rest was the same. We decided that even though I technically may be allergic to the anesthesia they were going to use for the test, we wouldn’t worry about it. And it was all fine. We were in the magical place.

After that, and after another nap, it was time to get serious about leaving. I asked each person I met when I could go. At first, it would be after the next doctor who saw me did so. Then, it was decided I’d have to see another doctor after that one — the doctor I’d thought was the last one came back, somewhat breathlessly, to tell me that. Fine. Then someone took out the IV feed I’d had in my left arm ever since the ER. That was removed and I put on my long-sleeved T shirt, and the nurse left and moments later, I realized that the reason why my shirt was warm and wet from my elbow to my wrist was because the IV was bleeding quite liberally and with no sense of propriety. So I strolled down the hall to the charge nurse’s desk and advised her regarding my condition, then strolled back to what would soon be my ex-room. Normally, this would have seemed an emergency. But in this place, we didn’t sweat things. I got the shirt off, she bandaged me a lot tighter, and we decided this sort of thing would happen regularly now that I was taking anti-coagulants every day and would for the rest of my life. A statin, too.

I was told a nurse would have to accompany me to the exit where my wife would pick me up — the opposite end of the hospital, as it turned out. I walked all the way — the nurse asked me if I wanted a wheelchair, but I said no. It would be several days before I got that much exercise again.

After I got home, I took another nap, I think. And ever since then, I’ve slept at will at least a couple times a day, and at least nine or ten hours a night.

Until yesterday — on Sunday, I actually had an hour or two in the afternoon when I tried to nap, but failed. But I was unperturbed at staying awake. It didn’t even bore me.

Anyway, I’ve been home a week at this hour late on Monday the 20th, and I’ve really never gotten over the feeling of being in a place where the coronavirus doesn’t matter as much as it did.

Which is an added benefit of having had a stroke — which seems to impress everyone — but having virtually no lingering effects of a stroke. Aside from being tired all the time. At some point, I’ll have to come to grips with that, I’m guessing.

But not yet. And I thank the Lord for these numerous blessings.

It’s late now, but I might just get in another brief nap…

See? The ER waiting room actually WAS deserted.

See? The ER waiting room actually WAS deserted.and

I’ve got something. Don’t know what it is. The virus? Don’t know.


Hey, look! The camera on my laptop works. Never tried it before.

Something’s wrong. I’ve got something. I don’t know what it is.

Could it be the coronavirus? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably nothing. I’ll laugh about this tomorrow.

I woke up just after eight this morning. I realized I had turned off the 7:30 alarm yesterday when we went to Food Lion at 7.

I got up and felt very dizzy. OK, I thought. It’s that thing I’ve had for several weeks. I seem to have developed the other form of Ménière’s syndrome.

Look! My phone knew how to spell that. I don’t feel like I can type. So I’m dictating to my phone. It’s working.

Anyway, I’ve had vertigo when I first stand up when I wake up. After a moment, it goes away. Feels worse today, though.

I got up. I was way too dizzy to walk around. Decided to take a hot bath sitting down, instead of a shower. Next thing I knew, my wife was calling me from far away. I looked, and it was a little after nine. I closed my eyes. She called again.

I forced my eyes open and said OK, and flipped open the water with my foot. I closed my eyes…

I woke up again. It was after 9:30. I knew something was wrong.

I managed to get up. Very dizzy. I dried off, got dressed. I went to the front door, because I saw out the window that my wife was outside.

There was something wrong with my eyes. This had not been the case before I got in the tub. I could not focus on anything lower than eye level. I realized this meant I couldn’t write at the computer. I couldn’t read a book. I couldn’t even watch TV. If I wanted to look at something, I had to hold it up above my eyes.

I wouldn’t be able to work. I had so much to do. After about 20 minutes, my eyes got better. I was so relieved. I went to get a package of coconutmilk yogurt. For a smoothie. When I came back, my eyes were messed up again.

I made the smoothie anyway, feeling my way, my wife standing next to me.

It didn’t taste right. The coffee my wife had made for me didn’t taste right, either. This was the first thing that seemed to be a virus indication. There was nothing else. No fever.

I called Lora from ADCO and told her I could not work today. She was very understanding. I was not. I had so much to do today. But I couldn’t. About this time my eyes got better again. I was able to glance down at my phone.

A few minutes later, my vision was messed up again.

I tried sitting in the TV room in my recliner for a while. It was all right, but I wanted to go back to sleep. I went back to bed a right at noon. Got up to use the bathroom at three.

My eyes were still messed up. Very dizzy. Went back to bed. Fell back to sleep immediately.

At four, my wife called me awake. She was sitting on the bed. Gradually I got up and got dressed.

It’s 4:39 PM as I dictate this. I’m upstairs in front of my computer. My wife told me not to come up here, because I would try to do something with my eyes. But I came in anyway, holding onto the rails with both hands.

Is this coronavirus? I have no idea. My eyes were messed up when I woke up, but right now I can look at this,. Good.

If I can, I’ll keep you posted. Probably nothing. i’ll try to watch the TV now. We’ll see how that goes.

This is probably nothing. Tomorrow, I’ll feel ridiculous. I’ll set it to post later, and stop it if I feel better…

How do you define ‘stay-at-home?’ What are you doing and not doing?

Sunday's dance recital in my parents' backyard.

Sunday’s dance recital in my parents’ backyard.

What does Henry McMaster’s sorta, kinda stay-at-home order really mean? The P&C has a fairly helpful explainer on that. When I read it, it seems like mostly stuff I thought everyone had quit doing weeks ago.

I have my own interpretations of what I should be doing, of what is socially responsible. I suspect each of you do, too.

So what does that mean in your daily routine? Here are a few glimpses of what it means to me:

  • Early this morning, I went to Lowe’s while my wife went to Aldi. I did so anticipating that when Henry’s order went into effect today, I wouldn’t be able to go to Lowe’s. I was wrong. Anyway, I put on a mask and rubber gloves. Of course, of course, of course I was the only male in the place doing so. Several women had on masks, but none of those contractors did. I kept expecting some of the guys to give me the business (to use the “Leave it to Beaver” expression), but no one did (in my hearing). I just shrugged it off because I’m determined not to give this to my parents. Why did I feel I needed to go there? Well, you know that deck project I’ve been working on for much of the past year? Well, I finally tore down the old wooden steps a couple of weeks back, and I’m anxious to build the new ones. So I got everything I still needed to do that (mostly additional lumber). Then I picked up some seeds and pepper plants for my wife the gardener, since Park Seed was out of what she needed! I also got several bags of raised bed soil for my own okra bed I wrote about earlier. I thought it might be too late to plant by the next time I could go there. This was, to my shock, a $150 trip.alert
  • When I got home, I stripped off everything and left my clothes in front of the washing machine to await the next load, then showered. I do that whenever I go someplace like that.
  • My wife and I still take a long walk in our neighborhood every day. Others are doing the same. We veer away from people we encounter to maintain at least the six feet of distance. We don’t wear masks or gloves. We see WAY more people than we’re used to seeing. Speaking of Leave it to Beaver, in one respect I’m seeing the neighborhood revert to my own childhood. LOTS of kids are riding their bikes all over the neighborhood, and I didn’t realize how relatively rare that is now until they started doing so in numbers that rival the days when Boomers were kids. No really cool bikes like Pee-Wee’s, though. We’re watching spring progress. We’re wondering why the rabbits aren’t out yet. We are seeing LOTS of squished turtles and frogs in the streets. It’s good there are so many, but bad that they’re squished. We did find one live baby turtle a couple of days ago. See below.
  • What are these churches that Henry’s talking about that are having Easter services? Are you kidding me? Our masses have been streamed and we “participate” from home. Our bishop called off all in-person masses weeks ago. And seriously — a First Amendment issue? The freedoms of speech and the press aren’t absolute, and neither is the religion clause. There are considerations that override. This is a political exemption, not a constitutional one.

    We've been doing Mass from home for weeks.

    We’ve been doing Mass from home for weeks.

  • Of course I’m working from home. I think it will have been three weeks on Thursday. I’ve been extremely busy, or I’d blog more. Still expecting that to slow down, but it hasn’t yet. By the way, I like it. I find I’m getting more done. It will be hard to go back to working at the office — if I ever do. If we need to meet, we do Facetime. Seems to me like we’re getting everything done fine.
  • The one hard thing for me is I can’t hug my grandchildren. But we see them, at a distance. On Sunday, the twins went over to my parents’ (their great-grandparents’) house to perform some of the choreography they did during a recent recital my folks had missed (before all such things were canceled). They did so without music, but it was still great. They wore face masks they had made themselves. They are wonderfully smart, talented, capable girls.
  • My other two in-town grandchildren came over yesterday to stand in the front yard and say “hey.” As I say, it’s hard not to hug them. They brought their several-month-old puppy, Lucy. Lucy went straight for my wife, who was sitting on our front steps, and enthusiastically licked her face. This made me worry, and I urged her to wash her face after they left. Don’t know if she did or not. Good thing Lucy’s not a tiger. My granddaughter and grandson were very grownup about keeping their distance while we chatted. Sort of wished they hadn’t been, but I was proud of them.
  • My elder son’s band, The Useful Fiction, was supposed to have had a gig Friday night. So since that was out, he streamed a solo acoustic set from his front porch on Facebook. He did a mix of his own original songs, which I think are great, and some covers — Dylan and such. Everyone who reacted enjoyed it. Hope he’ll do it more.
  • I feel guilty that except for the occasional delivery of groceries or takeout (or to watch the girls dancing), I’m not visiting my parents. But I’d probably feel worse if I thought I was endangering them. I check on them by phone daily, but formerly I used to go every day and do little things around the house, and stand by to be a lifeguard while my Dad took a shower, in case he fell. They’re getting by OK without all that so far, I think.
  • I haven’t seen my in-town son and daughter who don’t have kids in a week or two, although we talk. I miss them, too. And of course, we watch the coronavirus situation closely in Dominica, where my youngest lives.

Those are sort of random, but I suppose they kind of give the flavor.

How about y’all? What are you doing and not doing?

My wife holds up the one live baby turtle we encountered.

My wife holds up the one live baby turtle we encountered.

Henry finally steps up; makes SC last Southern state with ‘stay-home’ order (sort of)


Editor’s note: I pulled the trigger pretty quickly on this post yesterday, before realizing that Henry’s was a “sorta kinda” stay-at-home order, and maybe I was giving him credit for doing more than he was doing. So I added the “sort of” in the headline…

As recently as Friday, Henry McMaster was saying we didn’t need a “stay at home” order from him, even though every other Southern state had one, on account of the fact that we are “unique.”

Hope that made all y’all feel special.

Anyway, I’m grateful that today we are somewhat less, shall we say, singular, as he has finally done the thing we’ve been waiting for him to do, and which it seems to me he had to know he was going to have to do eventually.

The order takes effect Tuesday.

Let’s hope he’s done it in time to prevent SC infections, and deaths, from increasing exponentially…


I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.