Go with me on this.
You’re in a doctor’s office because something hurts. Maybe it’s your stomach, a persistent pain in your shoulder, or a twisted ankle.
Sitting in the harsh lighting of this clinical space, hoping for relief, you’re asked the inevitable question, probably by a nurse: “Can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
I’ve been in this situation too many times. And no, I’m not a hypochondriac. (That’s my dad.) The answer I always want to give is, “No. I can’t.”
I have actually given that answer and it’s been met with this question. “But can you try?”
Here’s my problem with this question. My scale of one to 10 will differ from the nurse’s scale of one to 10, which likely differs from the scale of the last person she/he asked that useless question to.
If I say “five,” and on their scale my pain would have been an eight, am I getting the right treatment? I say no.
If (god forbid) I want pain medication, will I get it if I say five?
But if I say nine will I seem needy? Will they think I’m a closeted addict?
Once upon a time, I had a skiing accident. Well, I’ve actually had lots of them, but this is the one that required immediate medical attention.
I’d been skiing on a slope that was too steep, with too many moguls and too much deep, heavy, wet snow. I was skiing over one of those moguls, my skis decided to stop, and in the tradition of gravity sports, my body kept going forward. I heard something snap.
The snap was the tearing of my large calf muscle. Crazy pain. When I finally got to the ski patrol medical hut, the very nice, very saccharin, very condescending nurse asked me in a voice which should be reserved only for small children, “Can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
In a clear, level tone, I responded: “I want a big bucket of drugs.”
See gave a small laugh as if to say, “I know you’re joking.” I was not. She then said, “But can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
As someone who’s never before been so clear about their pain, I thought: Two can play this game. You’re gonna repeat yourself? Back at ya. “I want a big. Bucket. Of. Drugs.”
I was having the kind of pain that makes people pass out. Passing out is arguably a 10+. And the people who pass out are obviously measuring using a different scale than I am. I was still awake and cogent and in pain.
I think a better question is, “On a scale of one to ten, what is your ability to suffer fools?”
Answer, minus five.
But your scale may vary.
The Oscar Speech That Changed Your Life And Other Stuff That Didn't Happen Sunday Night.
Here in the US, Sunday was Oscars night. What did that give us? Everything I expected, and a few things nobody saw coming.
As expected, there was endless coverage of celebs arriving at the venue and talking about earth-shaking matters like their clothing. The phrase, “Who are you wearing?” was asked many times. Nobody answered by saying, “That question literally makes no sense.” Or, “I’m wearing Nancy and boy are her arms tired.”
However, this was the first live Oscar event in two years. People were just itching to trot out or answer that now time-honored question. It’s a question which, if I remember correctly, was first coined by the late Joan Rivers. So OK, we’re back live. “Who are you wearing?” “Nobody you can afford without a second mortgage.” OK!
Next came the expected opening monologue with someone (or paired someones) trying their best to be funny. But now that we’re in a time when being funny is fraught with danger, what might happen? (Try not to flash forward to Chris Rock just yet.) I waited and wondered.
Amy Schumer did a fine job of deflecting danger and stupidity. She starting with self-deprecating humor. Amy pointed out her own full figure, saying “Not Bad for one year after a baby, [applause!] well two, closer to three.” Smart. She made fun of herself, which then allowed her to make fun of others. Careful-ishly. She finished by saying, “I’ll do my best to stay present…until I pass out.”
Amy was then joined by Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall and quipped, “This year the academy hired three women to host because it’s cheaper than hiring one man.” Big laughs. Seems it’s still safe to make fun of the men. Then, when Wanda referenced Black Twitter. Amy asked, “Black Twitter, what’s that?” Wanda and Regina shook their heads. “No, no. Not for you.” So, also on the Careful-ishly safe list is black people pointing out how not-in-tune white people are. And of course, making fun of the movies themselves is still safe. Wanda joked, “Power Of The Dog. I watched that movie three times and I’m almost half way through it.”
The unexpected touching moments for me included when CODA won awards. Each time, the audience showed their appreciation, signing their applause by fluttering their hands in the air. If you don’t know, the acronym CODA stands for “Children Of Deaf Adults.” And I did love the movie, so that was nice. I’m signing my applause right now, in fact. Can you feel the flutter?
An expected touching moment is the In Memoriam. Strangely, I always look forward to the montage of much-loved people from the film industry who passed away during the last year. It’s like a trip down memory lane. For some reason, I enjoy wrapping myself in the sadness of the loss as if I was close to them. And typing this makes me feel like an idiot for sharing so much. But for me, the touching moment didn’t happen. While they did the In Memoriam segment, there were dancers and singers in front of the on-stage screen showing the montage. This staging completely took away from those being remembered. Bummer.
Then, this was particularly, oddly unexpected: the presentation was stopped three times to pay extra tribute. The tributees were, respectively, Sidney Poitier, Ivan Reitman and Betty White. The feeling was Yes, many Hollywood people died. But these three Hollywood people were the best of the Hollywood dead people. I imagined the families and friends of all the others being remembered watching this slight. How pissed were they? I would have totally called “bullshit” and turned off the show, then thought, “God, I miss Betty White.”
Next, back to the expected: the instructive acceptance speeches by stars informing us of the injustices in our world. Yep, freedom of speech. I’m for it. But why, why, WHY do these very privileged and wealthy people think that if they tell us all about things like prejudice (which by the way, I’m already against), someone at home will say, “Ya know, I been a bigot all my life, but gosh damn, that Brandy Chastain is right. I’m changing my ways, starting now. Quick! Find me a lesbian to hug!”
Up next and most unexpected: Chris Rock and the slap heard round the world. Apparently, Jada Pinkett Smith humor is unsafe and un-careful-ish. So noted. Someone posted this about Will Smith’s assault on Rock: “This kind of behavior is why his mom moved him to his Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air in the first place.” But this unfortunate event has already been over-covered, so I’ll stop there.
What else? Oh, yeah. Liza. Whose idea was that? Liza Minelli was in no condition. But then again… And it seems Lady Gaga’s new job description includes being escort to giant, older stars who are slipping away to supernova. And trust me, I’m not making fun people slipping. I’ve been through it with loved ones. Lady Gaga handled it with grace, offering Liza as much dignity as possible. She could be heard telling the icon, “I got you.” Still, t’was not a Cabaret, ol’ chum.
So, what have we learned? A) Careful who you joke about. Being on national television does not save you from a smackdown. B) Betty White was more important than Olympia Dukakis. C) Brandy Chastain’s statuette acceptance speech will turn the tide on bigotry and hatred. D) At some point, we’ll all want Lady Gaga by our side.
Cheers and stay Careful-ish,
It was only a matter of time, right?
The author of the series that laughs at COVID lockdown (you know who she is) finally tested positive for COVID and went into lockdown. Ugh!
Just to be clear, I was never laughing at COVID, only the nutty behavior that came out of being shut in for endless days, months, years.
Yet karma found me. Not only did I test positive, but I tested positive while on the road. I’d traveled to Park City for skiing and celebrating a friend’s birthday. Several days into my trip, someone we’d been hanging out with called to say that he just tested positive. Crap. So, the couple I was visiting and I immediately jumped into the car and raced over to the urgent care for a lengthy session of spitting into vials.
I’d done this once before with Mr. Parker. That time was (dare I say it?) fun. We were sitting in our car, parked outside the hospital, doing our best to generate the required amount of spit while enjoying the beautiful view of snow-covered mountains. Relatively sure we were going to be negative, the whole thing just seemed ridiculous enough to laugh at. So, we did. We laughed a lot.
This time was nothing like that time and no one was laughing.
My two friends and I were now parked beneath the urgent care in a concrete parking bunker that was reminiscent of the scene in All the President’s Men where Robert Redford meets Deep Throat. All very clandestine and foreboding.
Not wanting to wait three days for the official results, we stopped at the pharmacy on the way back and purchased home-test kits. First, we fumbled with all the vials and swabs and instructions, worried we’d screw it up. Then we got underway. Swab, swab, dip, swirl, drop, wait. And not long.
In about 10 seconds, two dark red, parallel lines glared at me from my test stick. It was clear that I’d tested positive. G*d damn it! My friends, who both tested negative, encouraged me to retest. These things had been known to give false results and because mine came up so quickly, perhaps something wasn’t right. So, with a sinking heart, I agreed to burn another test kit. Can you guess the result?
I looked my friends in the eye, tried to not cry, gathered my nuts and berries (i.e., jacket and phone) and went upstairs to wait out the next five days under quarantine in one of their guest bedrooms.
Could this suck more? I suppose it could. But I needed at least a good hour to feel sorry for myself before I could begin looking at the bright side.
After my hour (perhaps three) had passed, I was ready to try to consider that bright-ish side:
1) My friends’ home is far from small. The room I was in was bright and spacious.
2) I was indeed at a friend’s house, not a Motel 6. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Motel 6. But five days locked inside “the lowest-priced room of any national chain” doesn’t come with a lot of jazz hands no matter how long they leave the light on.)
3) Number three? My host’s birthday was two days away. I’d get to be locked in a room while listening to other people having a raucous drinkfest mere feet away from the closed door. Oh, wait. That’s not a bright side. Yup. I was stepping back into the darkness.
Calling Mr. Parker didn’t do much to help the situation. Why? He laughed at me. He said he felt bad for me, but he was laughing while saying it. I get it. I do. It was ridiculous, therefore laughable. But it didn’t help. At least not yet.
So, I sat. Then I slept. Then I sat some more. It was a beautiful, bluebird ski day, but there would be no skiing for me. I was a leper. Too dramatic? Fine, back to the bright side. I didn’t feel sick at all. That was good, right? Wrong. In truth, my good health only added to the frustration. If I was achy or had a fever, or a sore throat, sequestering from life would seem more of an imperative. Ugh.
It's so hard to stay bright. Let me try again. My friends brought me a rolling desk so I could set up my computer and get work done. And another friend, who knew of my captivity, dropped off soup. Yet another friend brought me flowers. Well, she left them at the door and ran. But, okay. I’m a leper with lovely friends.
Later, because I was asymptomatic (a phrase I used more in five days then I ever had in my entire life previously), my friends encouraged me to retest. This time the stick did not immediately show a positive. Was there hope? Nope. After about five minutes, the telltale second line came up red. Albeit, not as red as on day one. But still, back to solitary.
The bright side? I was getting a lot of work done. Work that I’d been putting off because I had better things to do, more fun things. Not now. At least now I was being productive. So, sitting and working. Then I remembered YouTube with its endless rabbit holes. What to watch? I believe I viewed every Kennedy Center Honors telecast ever recorded. I heart you, YouTube.
Next day: Birthday bash. The birthday boy, my host, hates that anyone should miss a party. He suggested that I could stand in my bedroom doorway and look over the mezzanine railing and down onto the party below. (OMG! How sad would that be?) Very politely, I passed. But I decided to get out of my softies, (sweatshirt and stretchy pants) and dress like a person, just in case. In case what? I wasn’t sure. At least I wouldn’t feel like a patient.
Right before people started arriving, Birthday Boy came to my door and asked if I’d like the hired bartender to mix me a margarita. “They’re really good.” I thought, Ya know what? I could use a good cocktail right about now. “Sure!” He walked off to place my order. And I did not hear from him again for the rest of the evening. Back to the dark side.
I found a video of Bette Midler’s Kennedy Center Honors. That helped. Then, knock, knock! A rapping at my chamber door by a party reveler who’d recently gotten over COVID. In truth, she wasn’t looking for me. She was wondering where my cat was. This is the cat I’d given to a friend several years ago because I’m on the road too much, and it was the right thing to do, and I still feel completely guilty about. So, this was not a fun exchange. When her boyfriend came to find her and stood there at the door, politely staring in at me, it felt like I was in a terrarium. Make it stop! Finally, they moved on to other, actual fun.
But, bright side. They let the birthday boy’s wife (my dear friend) know that I never got my drink. Up came an entire bottle of whiskey. While that seemed like overkill, I welcomed it with open arms. I stayed in my chair until the wee hours of the morning when the sound of revelry finally died down enough that I thought I might sleep.
The next morning I was again asked how I was feeling. “Fine,” I said. I’d always felt fine. “You should retest.” Ugh. I didn’t really want to, but they were anxious for me to gain my freedom. Who really wants anyone locked in their guest room? It starts to feel like a bad cable show about awkward social situations. (Or perhaps, a series of novels?) So I tested. Again. Waited. Again. Could this be possible? “I think I’m negative.” My friend took a look. And even with his eyes officially one year older, he was able to see a faint second red line. Back to my chamber.
At this point the whole thing was starting to seem funny, even to me. And my cell was feeling like my new home. Was this my life now? So odd how quickly that happens.
But a better mood made the rest of my count-down to freedom pass more easily. Oh wait. That’s right. I forgot to mention that since about two hours into lockdown, I’d kept a countdown clock on my computer desktop. Every time I spoke to Mr. Parker, I’d report how many hours where left. 104 hours. 89 hours. 72, 54, 37… I could now see the finish line.
But then—an entirely new concern! What happens when I get home? Do I need to sleep in a separate bedroom from my guy for another five nights? I posed this to Mr. Parker and he laughed. “I’m not worried.” When I told a friend his response, she called him a daredevil. Daredevil? I started wondering if Red Bull would sponsor him. At least send one of those blue helmets with the charging red bulls. The sport would be called, “Extreme Spousing.”
When the countdown clock hit zero, it was time to head home. I went from my residential prison to the car to airport to airline lounge to plane to Mr. Parker picking me up at arrivals with no hugging and no kissing and no breathing without a mask.
When I finally got home seven hours later, and I had to know. I took out my last test kit. Drum roll…
The next morning, I reminded myself to be careful what I choose to write about. Karma’s a bitch. Then I remembered what my next series of novels is about. I am so screwed.
LOCKDOWN BONUS: While under quarantine, I was a guest on the Australian podcast Stories: The True And The Fictional. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in an interview. Maybe I was just happy for people to actually talk to. You can hear it at Apple Podcasts by clicking here.
I’m just going to come out and say it. Since when does curvy mean fat?
I did not get the memo.
Why am I bringing this up now?
I recently finished writing the third book in the Careful-ish series (thank you), and sent it to my editor. When he questioned one character’s physical appearance, I was taken aback. He assumed that Carmen was overweight. I asked why he thought that, and he said it was because I had described her as curvy.
Doesn’t curvy mean someone with curves? An ample bust, a smaller waist, nice hips…curves?
So, I argued with him.
Not being one to let things go, he needed to prove his point. That’s his job. I, of course, was waiting for him to be proven wrong. But no. If you Google “curvy,” you’re flooded with images of plus size women.
This can’t be.
So, I went to the dictionary. “Curvy – (Of a woman's figure) shapely and voluptuous.” See!
But then I went to the Urban Dictionary which says, “Despite popular belief, curvy does not mean fat. Curvy is an hour-glass figure; large breasts, hips, and with a comparatively small waist.”
Popular belief? Why is that belief popular?
My impression is that too many people walking the Earth feel that any departure from a stick figure is fat, unwelcome, not desirable, not worthy of being desired.
Depressing. But there is hope.
I recently moved to the American deep south. And I am pleased to say that things here are a bit different in regard to framing the curvy debate. I was invited to someone’s pool. When I said that I wasn’t feeling particularly bathing suit-ish after New Year’s Eve, she said, “Oh come on. I’m fluffier than you.”
I love fluffy.
All of a sudden, having a shape other than a straight line was a warm fuzzy. Playful. Dare I say, desirable?
So, what is the take away?
I’d like to reclaim the word “curvy.” To embrace it. Because curves are worth embracing. No matter how large or small, curves are visually interesting, can be exciting, and are worthy of being embraced.
Curvy is not a size. It can be thin, ample, large and beyond.
Curvy is shapely.
So, if—excuse me, when you read Daughter of Careful-ish or the forthcoming Bride of Careful-ish, please know that Carmen is a beautiful, curvy Latina. And you’d be crazy not to be attracted to her.
I did it. I left the country.
We were invited to visit an old friend of Mr. Parker’s in Mexico. The two hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years, and I’d never met the man. But, they both seemed to think it was a swell idea. Also, this old friend had told my husband that we should come for at least two weeks. “So much to see.” So, a plan was made. Plane tickets were purchased. Careful-ish-ness cast to the wind!
With travel being open-ish, then closing again somewhat, then kind of relaxing again, we had no idea if we’d actually be able to travel when the time came. But, as luck would have it, Mexico had no travel requirements for Americans to enter the country other than a vaccination card. We had those. Plus, we’d both caeful-ishly gotten boosters. The only catch: the U.S. would require us to show proof of a negative COVID test 72 hours or less before returning home, and that was easily attainable.
But, what to expect when we got there? Who knew? We weren’t going to one of those places that Americans typically go to for long sessions of lounging on a beach with umbrella drinks. We were headed to Cholula Puebla. This is where Mr. Parker’s friend, John and his wife own and operate a craft brewery. Oooooh. The friend has a brewery! It’s called Cerveceria Crazy Moon. Ulterior motive? We can stay home and drink beer, ya know. No passport required.
The flight to Mexico City was on one of our favorite carrier’s older planes. That was bummer number one. (Not that I’m counting.) We tried to not let it get us down. We whipped through immigration and dashed for the motor coach (see: nice bus) for the two-hour ride to Puebla. While we got to the counter in time, sweaty and panting, the bus was sold out. We had to wait another 90 minutes. Bummer number two. Once aboard our bus, it turned out they had a movie. A movie! Yay! Except—loud audio throughout the coach. We got to hear Peter Rabbit starring Rose Byrne and Sam Neill dubbed in Spanish. Loud. Bummer number three. And that, my friends, was the end of the bummers. These are first-world problems.
Arriving in Puebla, John greeted us with open arms. And his wife, who neither of us had ever even spoken to, treated us like old friends. We brought a bottle of craft bourbon as a gift, shared it alongside some craft beer, then promptly passed out.
The rest of the two weeks featured tours of beautiful old towns, a visit to the largest pyramid in Mexico, enjoying various kinds of street food, learning much about Day of The Dead, and enjoying the company of our friend’s friends. Truly, that latter part was the best. Everywhere we went, we felt like we were upping the U.S. population by 100%. It was a rich dive into someone else’s culture. Warm and fascinating. I could go on too long.
But what of COVID? The Mexicans have a much different approach to COVID than we do in the U.S. Everyone was wearing a mask, even while walking down the street. All public places, restaurants, churches, museums, all of them take your temperature before you can enter. There are hand sanitizer pumps everywhere. And no one had a problem with it. No one. When we asked about their mindset, our friends told us that everyone was determined to do everything possible to keep businesses open.
Speaking of business, we visited our friend’s tasting room and brewery. And I’m not just blowing beer foam when I say: the product is exceptional. The Munich-style Helles lager reminded me of Oktoberfest in Munich. The IPA was easy drinking without being overtly bitter. And the stout was rich without being heavy. It’s a bourgeoning craft brewery, and I can’t wait until they export to the U.S.
It was a magical time in Mexico. We’d been there long enough that we acclimated. It all just began to feel like home. That is, until it was time to leave. We’d gotten our swab-to-the back-of the-brain COVID test, which was comical. My Spanish left me as the very nice nurse with the foot-long swab up my nose kept laughing and saying, “¡Gracias!” And, of course, we were COVID-negative. All good.
Our flight out of Mexico City was very early, so we’d decided to spend the night at the Airport Hilton. Smart, right?
Wrong. Good luck finding the Airport Hilton at Mexico City Terminal One. Mr. Parker had seen online that it wasn’t easy to locate, but it’s literally in the airport. So come on. How bad can it be?
We walked the length of the terminal four times, getting wrong directions from multiple airport employees. Yet, find it we did. Next, our very fine dinner in an airport steakhouse cost us more money than any other meal during our trip (yet half the price of a comparable meal at home). After that, we returned to the hotel bar for an adult beverage. That’s where we heard all the stories of people whose flights had been cancelled the previous day due to bad weather in Atlanta.
Realizing that we’d be getting home well before people scheduled to leave before us, I let it all go—until the next day, when the non-VIP treatment in the airline VIP lounge let us know that the best part of our trip was well over. It was filled with entitled passengers and surly staffers. But, two uneventful flights and we were home—home where no one was wearing a mask.
The bottom line? Traveling during COVID is just plain weird. The being-someplace-else part is fine. Allow yourself to adopt their rhythm of life and it all seems normal. Then, traveling back breaks the spell. It was the trip of a lifetime with people I hope to count as friends forever. Will I travel again in the near future? Mmmm…we’ll see.
I am one of the few people bummed at masking rules being loosened. And no, it’s not flattering. It’s 100% vanity.
I hate my nose!
There. I said it. I never talk about it but it’s bothered me all my life. My nose is, in a word, large. It’s the kind of ethnic nose that makes people say things like, “But it’s a part of you.” “We love you the way you are.” Or my personal fave, “It gives you character.” Really? I’m lousy with character. I have too much character. My character should be continued on the next person. I don’t need an oversized nose to let folks in on that non-secret.
Over the years, I’ve considered and reconsidered getting a nose job--a process more attractively known as rhinoplasty. Hello, rhino!
But then came the mask mandates. At the beginning, they took some getting used to. How many times did I get to a destination and realize I had to go back home and get a mask? We finally started leaving them in the car.
And then came the inevitable pictures. I always have my phone with me which for me (as it is for most teenage girls) at least as much of a camera as a communication device. In selfies with my mask, I’m reduced to eyes and hair. It’s an image I can live with. The nose? Under there somewhere, but it didn’t pull focus.
I imagined that those who knew me might think something like, “I can’t see her nose. I know it’s large, but it’s probably not as large as I remember.” And those who didn’t know me might think, “Hey, is she a WASP?”
So, when we began seeing fewer mask requirements, I began feeling a twinge of sadness. I’m as happy as the next person to be able to work out without sucking cotton, or go to a restaurant without accidentally trying to put a fork through my face covering. But I just look better with one on.
But now, be still my heart! As I write this, the CDC is talking about going back to masking up in certain situations. I also feel a bit guilty about saying that. Should I be more upset? I’m upset for the social condition, for sure. Was it brought on by my vanity? Probably not. I’m just not that powerful.
Ultimately, I’ll follow guidelines and mask up when needed. And I’ll know in my heart that on those occasions, I’ll look like the smaller-nosed person I’d always hoped to be.
We’re heading towards a new phase of lockdown: The Release.
Coming out of pandemic seclusion will and should be slow. But some of us are starting to get back to things we haven’t indulged for over a year. Like excited butterflies worried about leaving the cocoon, we are venturing out.
I’m one of those butterflies.
After getting both vaccine shots, I made my way into the world, hoping desperately that nobody would spit as they spoke.
In my case, “venturing out” meant sitting on the outdoor deck at a ski-resort restaurant, ordering food that neither Mr. Parker nor I had to cook or clean up. Crazy!
For the last year, we’ve been eating only that which we crafted with our own hands. And by “we” and “our,” I mean, “he” and “his.” I married the best cook I know, and he has no need for me to try to best him. Not that I could. He is also one of those “Turn the kitchen upside down” cooks. So, I’m cleaning up. A lot. (Not a complaint. Merely a fact.)
But anyway, here I was. A sunny day. A big deck. Mask in place, I skied with my bubble friends to one of my favorite spots on earth. Located at the top of a ski run at Park City Mountain Resort, the restaurant is called Lookout Cabin. That may sound decadent, but remember: I live here. For me, this is like a neighborhood bar.
Stepping onto the deck and looking out over the snow-covered ski runs filled my heart. I was back.
But it was also weird.
First, walking through the restaurant to get out to the deck was different. It felt a bit post-apocalyptic. Half the normal number of tables were set up inside. In front of the bar was a wall of Plexiglas, like it was a giant sneeze guard from a NYC salad bar.
Part of me really did want to sneeze on it. But behind the glass was my favorite bartender, so I quashed the urge.
The restaurant manager, our waiter and my favorite bartender all took turns telling us what a busy season they’d had. Really? Seems not everyone’s approach to a global pandemic is the same as mine. But I was glad that all these good people were employed and doing well.
Did I mention that I was with my bubble? At the table were the two couples we’d spent most of lockdown with. All were masked. All were looking around like puppies on a car ride.
A girlfriend and I decided to share a dish. It was a banh mi sandwich that sounded fantastic. That’s due in part to the fact it’s not something that I’d eaten at all in the last year.
After the waiter brought it out and walked away, we realized that we had only one plate. My friend asked if I wanted it. Then she pointed out that I could also use my napkin.
That’s when I realized that it hadn’t occurred to me to put my napkin on my lap. I hadn’t done that in forever.
I grabbed the rolled-up napkin and unrolled the flatware within. It felt like unwrapping a holiday present. I was giddy. I’m going to use a napkin! It felt like an activity from another time and place.
Now, this is where Mr. Parker points out that I may not want to share with the world that I haven’t been using napkins. But few who know me will be shocked that my manners have their limits.
BTW, just as I’d hoped, the sandwich was fantastic.
Of course, to celebrate this first outing, we all had more than our share of good wine. When lunch was over and I had to ski home, I did so careful-ishly.
Have you been out yet? How was it for you? Did you use your napkin?
Cheers to getting back to the world.
I guess the real question is: What are you laughing at now that you didn’t laugh at before lockdown? Like, things that perhaps didn’t even exist before lockdown so couldn’t be laughed at.
If you’re reading this blog, it’s safe to say you agree that laughter is a prized commodity. And during COVID, it’s been in short supply. Yet, during the last year, we’ve had a few new opportunities for “Ha!”
For example, just the other day, Mr. Parker and I were out buying a few items for the house. Bathroom mats, kitchen trashcan, stuff. I don’t get out much, so when we got to the store checkout and were confronted with impulse purchase items, I gave in to the impulse. I purchased fudge brownie M&Ms. (Fudge brownie M&Ms? Who knew?!)
At that moment, I had to know. What does this new treat taste like?
We got in the car and each tried one. Did we like them? Unsure. We each tried another. Perhaps this wasn’t the taste sensation we were hoping for. They were, fine. (Not meant as in, “fine dining.” More as in “fine, you’ll do, you fat-laden over-sweet candy treat line extension.” )
Fudge brownie candies in hand, we continued on our way. That meant stopping at yet another store. After returning to the car, Mr. Parker reached for what was left of the M&Ms. Another impulse. And, impulsively, he popped a couple in his mouth.
Or did he?
Nope. His mask was still on his face. Little candies bounced around the car. We both started laughing at the ridiculousness of it.
New and silly laughter.
Then came the choking. My laughing brought on coughing. And now, in the time of COVID, coughing makes me worry, “Do I have it?”
Which, of course, made me laugh harder at myself for being such a pandemic hypochondriac. I knew exactly why I was coughing, but I still worry.
I’m an idiot.
So, there. Two new ways to laugh at ourselves. All in all, I’m calling it a win.
How about you? Have you laughed at some new aspect of life during lockdown?
Cheers to all of our quirky behavior.
Yes, laughing and spitting. It was a sunny day in beautiful Park City, Utah. And Mr. Parker and I found ourselves sitting in our car in a hospital parking lot, spitting into tubes and laughing.
What has brought us to this bizarre circumstance? Two words: COVID testing.
We’d made it almost a year into the pandemic without needing a test.
That’s saying something, considering we were actually in ground-zero Seattle on March 11 2020.
These days, we rarely leave home. We go almost nowhere…and the liquor store. Our COVID pod is small and select.
But people we like were about to enter that pod from out of town, and everyone was getting tested first. We were doing our part. Hello, testing!
Until now, I’d thought that a COVID test meant a long swab up your nose and into the back of your brain.
That thought alone was enough to keep me from going anywhere or engaging in mask-less mingling.
But there’s a new kid in town: the spit tube.
Sorry if this creeps you out , but…
All you have to do is juice up enough saliva that you can spit three milliliters of it into a plastic vial. Then, drive up to the spit take service entrance where you hand it to the nice lady in the hazmat suit.
Simple. Painless. No one touching your precious gray matter.
Let’s do this.
It was a bluebird day as we drove to the hospital and pulled up to a temporary office hut that looked like it might be possible to purchase coffee from the gentleman inside.
When that smiling gentleman leaned out the hut window, Mr. Parker placed his order.
“COVID tests for two, please.”
“Spit or swab?”
Not even a question. “Spit, please!”
The gentleman then informed us that this test is not acceptable for travel to Hawaii. Have you ever said to yourself, “Thank god I’m not going to Hawaii?” Yes, it was a first for us, too.
He handed us our plastic tubes, told us to where to park, and showed us how much spit we needed to produce.
“Get to the line marked 3. If there’s a head on the spit, then the bubbles need to reach the number 4.”
I’ve been spitting for longer than I can remember. I got this.
Surprise. It’s a long, involved exercise in purposeful hypersalivation.
(Mr. Parker found that word for us. He’s like that. I was happy to stick with “working up spit.”)
We pulled into a space, parked, and started spitting. How hard could this be? How long could it take?
Answers: hard and long. (Yes, I said hard…and long.) My spit dried up in a matter of minutes. Mr. Parker quickly gained quite a lead on me.
Should one put on music for such an exercise? What would be appropriate?
As it turned out, there was no need for a soundtrack. The longer it took to fill the vials, the more we laughed. And laughing lead to more laughing. The kind of laughing that takes over when you’re watching a good, bad movie.
My vial was all bubbles. Mr. Parker, overachiever that he is, had already made it to line five. Five! Damn. That’s when I gave us our new temporary rapper names: Juicy and Li’l Bubbles.
Finally, I crossed the finish line.
We called the phone number for spit retrieval, and as per instructions, we drove to the hospital side entrance.
A nice lady in a bizarrely enormous hazmat suit came out. Kinda like if the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s very happy wife showed up, dressed for surgery.
She bounced out the door and smiled big as she confirmed out birthdates.
We held out our juice and bubbles. She held out plastic bags. We dropped the vials inside. She smiled again from inside the big plastic fish bowl on her head. “Have a nice day! Stay safe!”
And, just like that, the adventure was over.
In truth, figuring out how to get the results from the website was another adventure. And no laugh track.
Drum roll…Negative and negative!
Oh, the adventures of pandemic-living. Here’s hoping you don’t have to go to Hawaii any time soon.
Juicy & Li’l Bubbles
If you’re reading this, you made it past 2020. God bless us, everyone.
But here’s something that keeps sticking with me through the beginning of the new year. So many people kept talking about how they couldn’t wait to be done with 2020. As if the change from 2020 to 2021 would magically make things right again.
I don’t think it will be that simple.
So, what do we all want from 2021?
Maybe surprisingly, despite the absurdity of Careful-ish, I have a certain amount of optimism for 2021. Why not? Eye on the prize, right?
There’s a saying in auto racing: “Watch the wall, and you get the wall.” Meaning: look at what you don’t want to hit and that’s exactly where you’ll go.
Here are three things on my 2021 short list.
1.My favorite drink at my favorite bar. What and where are that, you say? In the last couple of years, the Vieux Carré has become my favorite cocktail. It’s a uniquely New Orleans concoction of Rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, bitters and a maraschino cherry. And my favorite Vieux Carré is made by a committed young barman named Eric, who tends bar at a Park City restaurant called The Farm. Since The Farm also happens to be a short walk from my digs, I can stumble home responsibly.
2.Make many, many more people laugh. I loved writing Careful-ish, in great part because it has made so many people happy to laugh, sometimes out loud. I’m closing in on finishing the sequel, and I’d love to bring a bit more of the joy of ridiculousness and infectious fun to folks feeling the overwhelm of life behind a mask.
3.Hugging my father. Here’s where I get sappy. In Careful-ish, Steph’s father is Murray. He’s based on my father, Jerry. Steph’s mom Ida is based on my late mother. I haven’t seen my dad since April 3, 2020. That’s the day I left him in New Jersey and flew back to Utah. Two days later, my mother passed away. We were well into COVID by then. While I was in Jersey, Jerry was recently over pneumonia. I had just flown in from Utah. For all these reasons, I didn’t hug my dad. But before I left him, I broke down. I had to touch him. So, I kissed him on the forehead. He looked up at me, then finally asked, “Do I feel like I have a fever?”
So many other things are beckoning, things I’m looking forward to experiencing, seeing and eating. But the three on this list keep bouncing back into my brain with the rest of the Super Balls in there. I’m excited for each and every one of them.
Now, let’s assume world peace is already on your list. What else do you want to see happen in your world in 2021?
I’d love to hear about it...
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.