Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “Events”

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 14: We Are In This Together – or Not

20200613_banner_webI read the disheartening news articles at the end of May about the George Floyd protests gone awry.  I read about  looters standing with crowbars at the ready as peaceful protesters marched down the streets of San Francisco and Oakland .  They were waiting for the right moment to turn and smash a window for plunder.  I read about rubber bullets and tear gas and arson and professional criminals driving up in vans to strip computer shops and appliance stores of their goods.

But amid the turmoil of the end of May and early June, I took heart from the signs and banners spanning the streets and decking the lawns in my town: “We are in this together”, “We are strong – We will get through this together.”  During the COVID-19 lockdown I had used Zoom and Skype to form new bonds with neighbors, exchanging news, congratulations for milestones, produce, and garden info.  We are a community, safe together.

The Wednesday evening after the weekend of protests-turned-violent I heard laughter from across the street.  The family whose children are normally in camp or in nanny care while their parents are at work were outside in their front yard, parents and children playing volleyball with an invisible net. Work-at-home families are playing together.  The hills across the bay stood out sharp and clear, despite the earlier 90 degree heat.  My neighbors weren’t driving; no driving means no smog.  It seemed that even in hard times, divisive times, there is upside.

That Friday I heard helicopters, then saw a couple circling seemingly right over our back porch.  I checked online – there was a protest march going on down our section of El Camino Real, the main street of California, led and followed by police escort.  It was peaceful, no violence. We are standing together.Los Altos Protest

On Saturday, I drove past downtown  and noticed that Main Street was closed. Another peaceful march circled downtown,  protesters carrying placards, all carefully masked.  It was pretty much a white or light-skinned crowd, marching to show solidarity with people whose experiences most of them had probably never shared. The protests seemed like a way to express community, to meet for something positive. My secure little bubble seemed a good place to be.  We are in this together.

The next Monday we entered Phase 3 of lifting restrictions.  Retail stores were allowed to open, allowing only a few customers in at a time. I drove down El Camino again and saw a line of socially distanced people stretching almost a block up the street.    What could it be for?  A trendy boutique?  A liquor store? An auto supply shop?

They were lined up for The Gun Vault.

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Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 11 – Celebration!

20200520_170602_resizedwebI was due to have a milestone birthday this month, and we had planned a big family reunion picnic at a central location convenient to my two sons, my sister, and a couple of nieces and nephews. Of course, several weeks ago it was clear that was not going to happen. My friends and relatives compensated with a cascade of birthday cards. It was not quite the same.

“We can still have a picnic,” said my husband. But the morning of my birthday dawned dark and damp – unseasonable rain. Not even a vestigial picnic would be possible. We ate hot soup inside. It wasn’t very comfortable, as we had decided to take advantage of the lack of foreseeable company to get the carpets cleaned, so all the furniture was piled around the edges of the room. Oh well, I told myself. I’ll have a whole year to celebrate this birthday, as soon as I get a chance.

By early afternoon the sun was out, and I was just getting my shoes on to go for a bike ride when the doorbell rang. I opened the door, and there were my two sons standing on the lawn.  They had brought lawn chairs, a bottle of chilled sparkling prosecco with their own champagne glasses, a custom-crayoned picture of a frog from my 3-year-old grand-daughter,  a bouquet of origami flowers from my 11-year-old grandson, and a very classy wooden jigsaw puzzle to help pass the time.

I brought out my birthday cards, my husband brought out a birthday cake, I opened a couple of other presents from my husband and my oldest friend, we sipped the prosecco, and we had a lovely hour-long visit with our sons sitting 6 feet apart on our back patio.  Such a great surprise. 

So, we harvest bits of joy here and there.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 8- the Shadow Comes Closer

Week 8 of Sheltering in Place.

I have developed a routine:

Monday morning is my Aerobics Class on Zoom.

Monday evening I go to a neighbor’s house and we maintain social distancing while tuning into a Continuing Education class focusing on the Roman historian Tacitus.  It’s not a pulse-pounding subject, but Donna is the only adult besides my husband that I see in person these days.

Tuesday morning  I jog around the neighborhood, and then I do a Story Time on Skype with my 3-year-old Granddaughter.

Tuesday afternoon I Zoom with my oldest friend, the one I was supposed to visit in Texas when all this started.

Wednesday morning Aerobics again.  In the evening we often call and chat with my sister in Sacramento.

Thursday morning jogging and Story Time again.  In the evening we often call and chat with my cousin in Ojai, California.

Friday morning Aerobics again.

Friday afternoon we Skype with my older son and his family in Sacramento. In the evening we often call and chat with my brother and his wife in Longview, Washington.

Saturday morning jogging again

Sunday morning I do yoga. In the evening we often call and chat with my brother in Texas.  In Texas they take the threat of COVID-19 a lot less seriously than us Hot-Spotters do.  My brother always asks me, “Do you actually know anyone who has had the virus?”

This week, I can answer, “Yes.”

One of my favorite professors at college died of COVID-19 last week.  He was in his 80’s, had had a stroke some years back, and was being cared for in one of the most well-equipped and competently-staffed elder care centers in the country.  Somehow, the virus, no respecter of money and privilege, made its way to him and had its way with him.

The world is a little bit darker.

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 4 – What to do during Lockdown

20200322_165641webWhat can you do when you are in lockdown mode:  all restaurants, libraries, schools, and museums closed.  No non-essential travel. Social distancing (no one closer than 6 feet) enforced, so no neighborhood potlucks, no coffee klatches, no bridge or mahjong or chess or poker. The streetside kiosks that normally are covered with announcements of events sales,  and meetings are stripped bare.

1. Tend to the garden.  After a month of record drought in February, we have had drizzling rain day after day.  Still I was able to get outside with a pair of shears and vent my frustrations by whacking away at my overgrown lantana.

While outside, I discovered that the orchid plants I had inherited from my mother and stuck away in an untraveled corner of the yard had unexpectedly burst into furious bloom.  An upper, much needed!

2. Get organized.  I sorted all the fabric in my fabric stash by color and by size of scrap.  I have enough to make two dresses for my grand-daughter as well as a rag doll with matching outfits.  Unfortunately, my scraps are overwhelmingly red, yellow and blue, while her favorite colors are purple, pink, and green.  All fabric stores are closed, so she will have to make do.

3. Read all the magazines that have been accumulating in the magazine rack.20200317_133136web

4. Clear the clutter.  One by one I hope to clear a drawer a day. The bottom drawer next to the sink was my first target.  It was jammed with the utensils I seldom use (A mango splitter, an egg slicer, turkey lifters, etc.) and spare parts for hardware we know longer own. (If you don’t know what it is, and the plastic doesn’t match any appliance you currently own, it’s probably safe to toss it.)

On walking around my neighborhood – still allowed, thank goodness!- I can see that clearing clutter is a favorite pastime.  Bags of “Free toys! Free Clothes! Free !!” are lined up along the street. Normally these items would have been sold at a rummage sale, or taken to Goodwill, but rummage sales don’t work for groups of less than 10, and no charities are open to receive donations.

5. Set up a jigsaw puzzle table.  Unfortunately, I get obsessive about this, and have to limit myself to adding three pieces at a time and then walking away.

6. Read the books on the Someday I’ll Get to This Shelf.  I finished off “The Fourth Hand” by John Irving (a winner) and started and gave up on “The Emperor’s Children”.  Both are now down the street in the neighbor’s Little Free Library.  Now I’m working on “The Belton Estate”, a minor work by Anthony Trollope, who is always good for  providing interesting characters and lots of words.

7. Learn how to socialize online.  I have Zoom’d my dancercise class and my writing group, and Skype’d a story hour with my granddaughter. Hey, the 21st century isn’t all bad!

8. Go for a bike ride.  It’s a way to get around without compromising social distancing.

9. Find a way to contribute. I recruited a neighbor’s daughter who has been kicked out of her college dorm to take my place at the food bank. It didn’t feel as good as doing it myself, but it helped.

10. Clean the garage.  I haven’t actually started this one yet.  But it’s amazing how many things you can get done when the alternative is cleaning the garage! Look how much progress I’ve made on that jigzaw puzzle!

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Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 3 – Things Cutting Closer

20200318_095207webDespite our vote to continue, my dancercise class is cancelled – no meetings of more than 10 people allowed.

Instead, the teacher set up a Zoom class.  Prancing around in my family room is not quite the same, but I did keep moving for an hour.

My neighbor Mike was in a horrific skiing accident several weeks ago, was comatose for several days, tore his shoulder apart.  He has recovered wonderfully from the brain injury, but he has no use of his right arm.  The surgery needed to repair  the torn tendons and muscles has been classified “elective” during the lockdown.  If too much time passes, he may use the use of his arm permanently.

A pack of coyotes wandered up our  unusually quiet street from the creek at the end of the cul-de-sac.

I received notice from the Food Bank where I volunteer that, as I am considered “vulnerable” to COVID-19 due to my age, they can no longer accept me as a volunteer.  This hurts!

I canceled my annual trip to Texas to visit my #1 Brother and my Friend-since-4th-grade.20200323_115431web

Grocery stores are setting aside an hour each morning exclusively for us vulnerable folks to shop.  My husband waited 20 minutes in line, as people were admitted in small numbers in order to maintain the recommended 6 -foot social distancing.

One of our local newspapers has announced that it will no longer publish a paper version;  it’s too expensive to publish without the ad revenues from restaurants, theatres, and real estate companies.

If the media shut down on us, how will we know what to be afraid of?

Life Goes On in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 2

20200313_115218docLast week I mentioned that life was slowing down in my area due to the COVID-19 spread, and suggested going to a museum as a way to avoid both crowds and stress.  Things have changed in a week!

Monday: The Nutrition Center where I volunteer has changed its procedures:  instead of letting the homeless/indigent clients line up and pick their own bread, produce, and packaged goods from the shelves, each client will receive pre-bagged groceries as their number is called.

At noon I showed up for my dance class’s annual lunch at a popular local Chinese restaurant, only to find it had been cancelled the night before.  (The instructor mis-typed my email address so I hadn’t received the message.) The restaurant, normally crowded, was nearly empty except for people picking up takeout.  I had wondered when I found a parking spot right in front.

Tuesday:  My sister’s choir was about to have its first rehearsal with an orchestra in preparation for a gala spring concert.  Rehearsals and performances have been cancelled.

My dance class usually has about forty participants.  On Wednesday and Friday we were down to about twenty-five, but we  voted to continue the class as it relieves stress and preserves sanity for those who continue to attend.

Thursday: I was planning another lunch with a friend who was coming to town to see her grand-daughter perform in a school musical.  The performance was cancelled, so my friend is not coming.

20200313_115207webA neighbor and I were planning to carpool to an adult education class at nearby Stanford University.  The class has been re-vamped to take place on-line until further notice.  My brain will get dusted, but the friendly chats on the way to and from class will be lost.

Friday: My grandson’s school is closed for deep cleaning for three days.  His sixth-grade class camping trip is up in the air.

Friday: My husband bought tickets for a piano concert in a beautiful venue in San Francisco at the end of March.  The concert is cancelled

Saturday: #1 Son, the benefit auctioneer, has had two of his booked auctions cancelled.  March and April are normally the height of the charity auction season.

He was also planning to take his family to Seattle to visit his daughter in university there.  The university is closed, with classes being held on-line.  Seattle is another COVID-19 hot spot.  #1 Son cancelled the trip.

20200313_115201web#2 Son is organizing a neighborhood meeting to strategize how to assist parents who can’t work from home since the local day-care center is closing.

Sunday: On his most recent trip to the grocery store, my husband bought extra toilet paper and canned goods (SPAM?  We haven’t eaten SPAM since our first year of marriage!)

The local libraries announce that they are closing.  Fines will be suspended for the duration.

Monday:  When I do my pickups at two local groceries for the Nutrition Center, I notice that there is NO CHICKEN in either store  – the only poultry available at all is previously frozen turkey back and wings.  What’s with this?

I get word that despite our vote, our dance teacher is cancelling the remainder of the session as anxiety deepens over the COVID-19 virus.

Local museums announce that they are closing (I hope you took my advice last week while you could!)

Monday afternoon:  we are warned that effective at midnight, our county along with six others will be in lockdown mode: only essential travel, only essential businesses to be open (pharmacies, grocery stores, food markets, doctor’s offices are included, but restaurants must close unless serving takeout.)

What next? Stay tuned for a Life in Lockdown.

Freeway Free in California: A Serene Escape from COVID-19 Stress

20200310_123757webI live in a COVID-19 hotspot – 43 cases and one death since the beginning of March – and public and private events are being cancelled left and right to prevent transmission.  So what is one to do if you are healthy, not in one of the “vulnerable” groups, and needing some relief from the stress of it all?  Maybe it’s time to visit a local museum.

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is one of my favorites.  I visited this week and found plenty of parking in the Civic Center Garage ($12.00 for 5 hours), two featured exhibits of great interest, no crowds, and decent food at the museum restaurant.  And if you are looking for stress relief, Asian art is all about serenity.

20200307_121146webThe exhibit that drew me to the museum featured Zhang Da Qian (Chiang Dai-Chien in traditional transcription) who was the Pablo Picasso of 20th Century Chinese art.  His work spans styles ranging from impeccable copies of venerated Chinese master artists of the past, to modern splash-ink impressions worthy of Jackson Pollock.  He lived in mainland China, Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, and California, and in each venue did his best to promote appreciation of Chinese art.  One of the featured works in this exhibit is titled “Scholars on a wilderness path”, but the giant monolith in the background must be Half Dome.

Other paintings include a marvelous white gibbon, a black horse grazing in a blue-green pasture, a Tibetan dancer, several giant lotuses, and landscapes formed from giant splashes of ink enhanced with a few brush-strokes to define space, foliage, light, and dark.

After studying Zhang’s various works, a stroll through the adjacent Korean gallery offers a different range of experiences.

You can admire a glowing white “moon jar”, pristine on its wooden shelf, and discover an Asian precursor of the classic patchwork quilt, made from silken scraps.

Or perhaps you will spend some time in another featured exhibit, called “Awakening” which walks you through several centuries of Buddhist tradition, juxtaposing ceremonial vessels made from human skulls, many-armed monsters intricately carved and painted, and dainty gilded bronze sculptures celebrating sensual tenderness.

Or maybe some of the more modern pieces will appeal to you, like this sculpture by Liu Jianhua formed of letters and Chinese characters on view just outside the Korean section. 20200307_121012web

The museum restaurant,Sunday at the Museum, features Asian style street food such as Vietnamese Pulled pork sandwiches, Japanese ramen noodles,  and Chinese dumplings.  You order at a counter and the food is brought piping hot to your table.  Of course you could get better Chinese food in Chinatown, better ramen in Japantown, but the setting attractive and the service is fast and friendly.

If you have children tossed out of their school/daycare, the museum usually has some activities geared toward children set up either in an activity area or  in the Shriram Learning Center on the first floor.

Freeway Free in Oregon – the Columbia River Maritime Museum

[AKA: Travels in a Tiny Trailer – Day 4]

20191019_143112webIf you are going camping in a tiny trailer, and you left your bikes at home because the forecast call for a 99% chance of rain,  better hope you can find some indoor activity to pass the time!  If you are camping at Ft Stevens State Park you are in luck, because you are only a short drive from the quaint town of Astoria, [more on this later] and its Columbia River Maritime Museum. 

 

The CRMM is an amazing little museum with exhibits including early navigational charts, an IMAX theater showing films from Jacques Cousteau and others, a comprehensive map of shipwrecks at the mouth of the Columbia River, and a sea-sickness-inducing recreation of what it is like to be on a Coast Guard cutter going out to rescue mariners during a Pacific storm.

20191019_123504webIf you are going to spend some time in a small museum on a rainy weekend, it helps if  Executive Director happens to be an old friend from college.  Dr. Samuel E. Johnson and I had more than a few memories dating back to our freshman year Ballroom Dancing classes together. (I took the class to fill a Physical Education requirement; I suspect Sam took it because at that time the ratio of men to women at our college was officially 3.5 / 1, and it was chance to meet girls.)

In addition to being a very good dancer, Sam is an accomplished raconteur and a dedicated evangelist on behalf of his museum.  Sis, Bro, C and I spent a couple of hours being fascinated by a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum, coupled with stories of plans for the museum’s future expansion and enhancement.

If you go, plan to spend a couple of hours exploring, especially if you take in the IMAX film.  You might not get the hands-on tour, but you won’t be sorry for the visit.

Travels in a Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 (cont.)

 

Sis and I spend the morning unloading the wet tent, soggy chairs, and bicycles from the back of the Subaru and setting everything up to dry inside Bro’s garage.  Our plan is to have Bro help us load the bikes on the top of the teardrop when he gets home, so we can take advantage of those bike trails at the campsite.  Except it is still raining.

Bro planned to leave work early for a daylight departure on our two-trailer trek to Ft. Stevens State Park. Somehow that did not work out.  He arrives at 6PM, we finish loading the trailers, truck, and SUV by about 7. It is still raining.  The forecast is for more rain.  We decide to opt out of biking after all.  The bikes stay in the garage.  Everything else fits so easily now!  Off we go in the rain, following Bro’s Titanic.  We arrive at the campground at about 8:30.  The rain continues.  It is pitch dark.  Deja vu all over again.

But this time we have some better options!  To start with, Ft. Stevens State Park’s trailer sites are all pull-through.  No struggles to park! True, by the time we arrive and get set up it is too late and too wet for us to have the planned hamburgers grilled in the outdoor  kitchen of the Titanic.  But in our pop-up kitchen I happen to have all the ingredients for a one-skillet hamburger/noodle casserole which I had planned to offer on our return trip home.  C fires up the inside kitchen of the Titanic, and in 30 minutes we are cozily sitting around the table in the Titanic’s dining area, wolfing down the casserole with the help of a nice bottle of zinfandel from the Titanic‘s wine cupboard.recipe_doc

[You can see from the state of the page how often this recipe has been used.  You don’t need a “thermostatically controlled burner”. Enjoy!]

After dinner and dishes we are not ready to call it a night.  Sis pulls out a game gadget which she brought along just in case.  It’s called “Catchphrase” and is a combination of charades and trivia, driven by a little electronic gadget that one must toss from one team to the next between rounds.  We were in hysterics by the end of the game (how does one act out “Ozzy Ozbourne?”)

Finally we decide it is time to retire to our traveling bedroom next door.  It’s just a few yards to our trailer, and the rain seems not so heavy with a full stomach and recent laughter.  And so to bed.

Coming up in Day 4: Ft. Stevens by daylight, an old friend, a Hidden Gem, and (believe it or not) sunshine!

 

Travels in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 2 (cont. again)

Map1Dry shoes for Sis, a couple of chocolate bars, working lighters for the stove, and a hot lunch in our stomachs – what could be finer than driving up I-5 as the sky clears and the sun shines on us.  Our operating rule is that the driver minds the road while the person riding shotgun manages the heater/AC and the sound track.   I’m driving so we are listening to Sis’s playlist of Scottish reels, blue grass,  and Nova Scotian folk music.  Not my favorite but she put up with my Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, and other 60’s relics for the previous day.  Won’t hurt me to listen to something different.

We sail past Eugene, nod to the State Capitol in Salem, and switch drivers. No sooner do Sis’s hands touch the steering wheel than it starts to rain again.  We hit Portland at the height of rush hour in heavy rain, and trudge our way along with what seems like half of Portland’s population across the bridge to Washington.  Only a hundred miles to go!

Just like the night before, it is dark and raining hard when we pull up in front of Bro’s house.  But this time, Bro comes out and takes over, parking our little teardrop with relative ease in his driveway next to his own trailer.  (Sis and I had a hazy memory of Bro talking about how his new house had ample room for trailer parking in the yard next to the workshop, but we dismiss this for now) .  And inside the house is a warm kitchen, with a pot roast bubbling in the crock pot,  a bottle of wine to be opened, and Bro’s wife C showing us to our room, with a big bed and hand-quilted comforter to look forward to.  Is this heaven, or what!

[Sorry, no pix – we didn’t stop for much between lunch and Bro’s place. But tune in next time to find out about that trailer that is parked in the driveway – more than meets the eye!]

 

 

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