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...
Yay! 2020 is about to be over! But…what does that mean?
It’s not like the clock strikes midnight and the world is suddenly back to pre-pandemic normal. While we’re waiting for vaccines and watching neighbors worry whether they’re poison, I’m focused on what 2021 will mean to me. Personally. Damn the fear. Full speed ahead!
So, what does the brand spanking new 2021 mean to me…Honey Parker…writer of the ridiculous? What will stay the same? What will change? What do I wish to see?
Status quo for the first quarter…
Count on all of the new habits to remain in place. Things like going hiking and giving a wide berth to strangers on the trail.
Continuing to connect with friends over Zoom cocktails.
Changing out of pajamas before getting to work. (Before lockdown, my policy was to never take a phone call without wearing a bra. Now, I can’t even write an email without being fully dressed for the day. No explanation.)
Headaches. Not life hassles, but actual drumbeat headaches. Hello, Excedrin headache #2021!
Two cups of coffee in the morning and a Netflix/Amazon Prime binge sessions at night. (BTW, we just started on The Kominsky Method. Highly recommend it. Two excellent comic actors going at it with swords provided by some excellent comic writers.)
No air travel.
Things that will change…
It may take a while, but I have a list of people I’m going to hug the crap out of. Not strangers passing by. But once we’ve been pumped with vaccine, I’ll be hugging up on a few key friends.
I also told my father that when I see him next (it will have been over a year) that I may hug him for ten minutes straight. He said he was fine with that, and that at the end of those ten minutes, he’d give me another ten.
I expect to be able to get out to promote Careful-ish properly, in front of rooms full of readers.
And our CoupleCo podcast will return to in-person interviews featuring me and Mr. Parker and the couplepreneurs who are brave enough to sit down and bare all.
What would be nice to see…
Before lockdown, Mr. Parker and I were about to hit the road in search of our new home base. We like change. We also like to meet people by going to a local bar and drinking up the conversations that lead to new comrades and even enduring friendships. It’s a swell way to get the feeling for a place and see if you fit. It would be great to be able to do that again. Perhaps even find a place where my dad could move nearby. (But really, separate homes. Let’s not go crazy.)
Selfishly, I’d like to see the Careful-ish series take off, sell the screen rights, and afford me the ability to write the next series from anywhere.
And here’s what would be nice present for everyone…
There’s a reason for the title of this post, “2020…Goodbye & Good Luck.”
During World War II and the Battle Of Britain, Londoners were assaulted by German air raids and nightly bombings. Despite the hell raining down on them, they kept an amazing level of civility. And not knowing if they’d see each other the next day, they’d always say to each other, “Goodnight and good luck.”
Reporting from London at the time, broadcaster Edward R. Murrow adopted the phrase as his nightly sign-off and it stuck through his career at CBS News. (You might recall the Oscar-nominated Murrow biopic Goodnight & Good Luck.) It was a much more civil time when people were much nicer to each other.
Did everyone respect everyone else back then? Of course not. But they were more inclined to treat each other with respect. I’ll take it.
And so, for the last Careful-ish blog post of 2020, I wish everyone health, happiness, the ability to laugh at ourselves, and a big fat dose of civility.
What do you wish for in 2021? I’d love to hear about it...
Oh, the things we ill-advisedly shove in our mouths and justify later.
And I’m not just referring to the calorey-laden goodies that can feel so comforting in the moment (particularly after the alcohol we drank tells us, “Go ahead. It’ll be fine”). I’m talking about flat-out weird choices. The odd combos. The items we try, knowing they’re likely a bad idea.
Years ago, I was single in New York. That alone is a combination that makes many bad choices seem like good ideas. At the time, I hit on something I thought was genius. And yes, the alcohol agreed with me completely. To me, the mark of a good snack combines something to spread with something to spread it on. After a fun night out, I came home, opened my fridge, and stared inside, searching for two such components. Something to spread…? Cheese! Now, something to spread it on…? Cheese! Yes, I spread cream cheese on Swiss cheese and felt like a genius. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning and share my discovery with the world. (Here’s a surprise. When I woke up, I no longer felt that the world was waiting to hear about this.)
Flash forward. When lockdown began, I was grieving for my mother. Her decline over the last two years had led to some pretty bad eating habits, and my weight was far from happy-making. So, I was looking for snacks that would satisfy while I tried to take off some pounds. Where did I land? Remember, I require something to spread and something to spread it on. I hit on raw cauliflower with yellow mustard. Hang with me while I justify. Raw cauliflower has a lot of crunch, so that element is taken care of. And yellow mustard is a tangy flavor bomb. You know you’ve eaten something. And you could literally eat an entire head of cauliflower with mustard and not feel like you’ve gone too far. Well, not in the calorie department anyway. It’s also beyond filling, and I’ve never been able to eat more than three whole florets in one sitting.
How bizarre is this combo? When meeting with my doctor for a physical, I told her about it. She thought it was genius. And not the cheese-on-cheese variety of genius. Cauliflower is high in fiber. Low in calories. Low in sodium. She was so impressed with the idea that she was going to give it a go. Then, on a recent hike, we ran into a friend who had friend of his along. Let’s call him Jake. The conversation turned to food. And Jake said that he and his wife love cauliflower with different mustards. I felt like I was in with the in crowd.
So, what new taste sensation have you eaten during lockdown?
Cheers to all our quirky behavior.
(I’ll share mine if you share yours…)
A little bit ago, I promised to lay bare my guilty pleasure during COVID: my music-filled rabbit holes. So, buckle up and hang on. Here we go!
While writing the Careful-ish sequel, Daughter Of Careful-ish, I was doing “research.” (See also: productive procrastinating.) That process served up a musical genre I never saw coming: Arab heavy metal. I know, right? Who even knew it existed?
Well, the answer to that rhetorical question is: an enthusiastic member of the Careful-ish group on Facebook. Within minutes of sharing what I was listening to, she came back with recommendations for two more foreign metal bands, one from the Netherlands and the other from Israel. Wow. So that’s what I’ve been listening to for the last two days.
Back at the beginning of lockdown, I was bingeing on Christina Aguilera. My psyche was way down in an emotional rabbit hole back then. Between the pandemic, politics and my mother passing, I needed something reflective of what I was feeling.
Christina’s voice and style is so potent and passionate, she was the right tool for the job. But then, the result was I couldn’t sleep. I’d be lying in bed with the lyrics from “You Lost Me” playing in my head on an endless loop.
So, goodbye Christina. Hello, Kelly. YouTube suggested Kelly Clarkson, and who am I to argue with the algorithm?
Back in the day in Hollywood, I used to work out with celebrity trainer Bob Harper. (No, I was not a celebrity. And neither was he. Yet. The Biggest Loser was still a few years off.)
Not long after Kelly Clarkson won Idol, Bob played her hit, “Miss Independent” in one of his workouts. You could tell that others in the workout group weren’t sure if that was cool or not. Yes, she was a TV talent show winner. But was she a real artist?
The answer Bob and I came up with was a resounding, YES. Total artist. Totally cool. So, I went down Kelly Clarkson lane all the way into the trees at the end. That included listening to unknown artists attempting Kelly’s hits. (There’s talent in them there hills.)
After deep-bingeing on Kelly, I turned to my personal tried and true genre: Broadway musicals. How did I not start there? I grew up in a house where Broadway was always on the record player.
Remember my parents? (If you’ve read Careful-ish, you’ve met them.) Every year or so, when I was a kid, they would head up to New York for a weekend. They’d go see three musicals, and come back with at least a couple of new albums smelling of fresh-pressed, music-rich vinyl. So Broadway is in my blood.
After Kelly, I started bingeing Stephen Sondheim. The song “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company is what lead to the scene in Careful-ish where The Joy is pouring Vodka Stingers for herself and Kimi. Really, how do you not love a song with its own cocktail?
Sondheim segued into the Ken Burns documentary, Country Music. The rabbit hole was quickly packed full of all Dolly Parton all the time. That included her work with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Dolly is a musical genius, period. The songs she wrote in 2019 are as good and as relevant as what she wrote back in the 1960s.
After Dolly came another left turn down another deep rabbit hole. One day, my phone rang. The caller ID showed up as “Bacharach.” I have no idea why, and neither did the caller. But he and I started talking about Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick. So, so fantastic.
I not only started bingeing the music, but any and all documentaries I could find about them. (Yes, if you’re wondering, that’s why the banner art for my blog page includes a screenshot of a YouTube video about Burt Bacharach music.)
Right now, while writing the sequel, I started listening to Japanese rock (thank you Benji). And then came the Arab heavy metal.
But now, going down the rabbit hole of writing this post, Christina has popped in again. Circle of life. Are all rabbit holes are interconnected?
During all the time spent in lockdown, you must’ve started listening to something that you didn’t see coming. What is it?
Here are two facts about alcohol consumption: 1) When times are good, people drink more. 2) When times are bad, people drink more. And wow, do we have circumstances (no need to spell them out) pushing us to fact #2.
Here’s the “twist” that the pandemic has brought to the “mix.” We all had to work with what we had. So, unless you’re like good friends of ours (you know who you are), and in your basement you have a tavern with stupendous wine cellar, you ended up making do. A “drink ‘em if you got ‘em” mentality swept the nation.
So, what have you been drinking?
In our home at the beginning of lockdown, before we eventually ventured out, it was all about what we had in the house. First, we went through our supply of wine. That didn’t take long, as we’re spending lockdown in a ski condo. See also: Not a lotta room for wine storage. Then, we hit the whiskeys. From there, on to vodka and then tequila. Once they were all gone, we started saying things like, “What’s this weird bottle? Who gave us that? Shit, just pour it.” And then, that was gone too.
Of the two of us, Mr. Parker has been the one venturing out to places like the supermarket and the post office. I mostly left the house for hiking remotely. No stores for me. But where was the first enclosed space I went to? You guessed it: the liquor store. It was like going into a sci-fi Candyland. New possibilities! Exciting! But… So many people! Freaking me out!
Now, I’m a straight-liquor drinker. Neat is neat. So for me, stocking up on the basics isn’t complicated. But I’ve had this thought in my head all through COVID: a drink that was introduced to me at a Bourbon tasting in Kentucky. Thank you, Phifer Pavitt winery. They call the drink a Moxie, and it’s a take on a New York Sour. They make a whiskey sour with their new Date Night Bourbon, then pour it into a hefty rocks glass with one large, square ice cube. Then, they add a wine float using one of their stunning Date Night Cabernet Sauvignons. How much has this beverage been on my mind these days? It was the inspiration for The Joy’s joyful cocktail discovery in Careful-ish, her New York sour.
I’ve yet to play mixologist and attempt to make a Moxie at home. I’m afraid of breaking the spell it has over me. What if my mixology doesn’t live up to the stand-out flavor living inside my head? Is it better to remember fondly than to experience my own inadequate version? So, for now, I’ll let The Joy enjoy. I’ll continue dreaming about someone else’s cocktail while I drink what I have on hand. Neat.
And I ask again, what have you been drinking?
Lockdown means we’re all spending a lot more time alone. Unless, of course, you’re quarantining with a house full of kids. But still, there’s more than ample time to do things you might not otherwise do if someone was watching.
So, let’s get embarrassed together.
The characters in Careful-ish make all manner of “self-grooming” choices that they normally wouldn’t. From the ever-popular “digit in the nostril” to digging out dollops of ear wax to be disposed of later, the rules get lax. But what about me? What have I done when I thought no one was looking? Hmm...
It’s almost hard to think of something. It all seems so normal now.
Got it. I spent most of the summer in the same two pairs of shorts. I own two pairs of denim shorts. One is a traditional blue denim, the other is a light-blue, almost white denim. It got to the point where the blue shorts were for every day. The white ones were for fancy. Like, sitting in a neighbor’s back yard.
I’m here to say, those shorts are now really soft.
And how often was I washing them? I don’t think either pair saw the laundry before they’d been out visiting at least four times. Color me proud.
In a similar vein, it has become normal to sleep in a shirt I’ve been wearing during the day. Hey, it’s already on. And will I wear it the next day? Maybe. Well, OK. I do. The surprising thing is that Mr. Parker never mentions it. So, my next question is, did lockdown make him not notice or not care? Or is he doing the same thing? I haven’t noticed.
All this said, I do maintain some degree of dignity. I never take a phone call without wearing a bra. That’s a rule. It’s been a hard and fast policy since I began working from home over a dozen years ago. (Remember those cheery, pre-virus days?) Having the ladies locked and loaded just makes me feel in charge. But maybe, just maybe, my summer-shorts habit also made me feel in charge. It was neither fashionable nor polite, and maybe not even clean. But damn it, it was my choice to make and I made it. And in a time when our choices have become limited, that brings a kind of empowerment.
How about you? What have you done during lockdown that you would normally turn up your nose at? Or at least laughed at?
Cheers to all of our quirky behavior.
First, what is a COVID Rabbit Hole? I’m defining a rabbit hole as a subject that pulls you further and further down a path. A passing obsession. Therefore, a COVID rabbit hole is a passing obsession during COVID. Simple.
During COVID, many of us have found that more time at home has lead us down new, and sometimes helpful rabbit holes. In the book, Careful-sh, Steph binges Call the Midwife. The civility of the show helps her stay calm. For me, one of my rabbit holes started as a similar binge and moved well beyond. Here now, how The Crown got me through part of the COVID crisis.
Like with Steph and Call the Midwife, the show The Crown leads with civility. Something I sorely needed. A calmness. My world felt out of my control in so many ways. Pivoting my business, my mother passing, lockdown… In The Crown, even when there's a nationwide crisis, everyone behaves with a certain level of reserve. The high quality of acting, directing and art direction all work together to reinforce the feeling that you’ve gone someplace civilized. Yes, problems arise, but are handled without raising one’s voice or spilling one’s tea. I could feel my heart rate come down. (Perhaps dangerous for someone with a resting heart rate of 43.)
But once I’d found my place of calm, it became something more. It went far beyond “show bingeing.” More than say, watching an entire season of Mrs. Mazel (also mentioned in the book) in one weekend. I became obsessed with the British Royal family. I’d left bingeing and progressed to craving information. Rabbit hole. What next? I found several documentaries on the House of Windsor. Truly fascinating. I saw different points of view on several of the family’s major players. Were they agents for good? Self-serving? Both? And this look at their characters from multiple angles had me thinking about seeing people in my own life from different angles. None of us are one-sided. And that understanding was also calming. And drew me in further. (NOTE: At this point I was drinking a lot of tea.)
Next step? I took my rabbit hole online. On YouTube, I found documentaries about the origins of the House of Windsor. Back to the family’s roots in Russia. Next, the connection to the Russian czar Nicholas and how he was cousins with King George V. And how King George had offered the czar and his family refuge, but then rescinded his offer, which ultimately led to the family’s death. Okay, perhaps I’d left comfort and civility at that point. That’s where this rabbit hole bottomed out for me. But it took weeks, gave me a focus beyond my own problems, and I learned so much more than I ever did in a high school history class. I also had a new lesson in human behavior.
So, what’s been one of your COVID rabbit hole? I’d love to hear about it.
(My musical COVID rabbit holes include Burt Bacharach and Broadway. But that’s another blog post.)
The password is: YES. Not only is it okay to laugh right now, it’s imperative.
So many of us have been through so much. We have friends in the food service industry who have been though the mill. Will their businesses survive? And if they do, will they still be viable? A good friend who’s a doctor on the front lines shared some of the hardships she's seen. Crazy. Then, there are those of us who’ve lost a parent during COVID. So damn hard.
How do we get through today and on to tomorrow? In our house, we laugh. Mr. Parker and I laugh every day. And not that demonic laugh you hear from the evil scientist in a horror film. Real, “That was damn funny” laughing.
Back in late April, my book-club friends in LA were meeting on a Zoom call and I sat in. My mother had recently passed. Lockdown made it impossible to have a funeral, or for me to be with my father. So, getting on a call with these fantastic women and laughing (yes, cocktails were involved) made me feel like myself again. My favorite part of myself, in fact. We all laughed so hard we cried. It was cleansing and positive and a gift. Let me be clear, I had no delusions that everything in my life would now be fixed. But it gave me the energy to press on.
Since then, each moment of laughter has helped me cope. That, and writing Careful-ish. Writing this book was like having an internal gyroscope that kept me upright. And once the characters started to develop and write jokes for themselves, I was even more energized.
So, I say yes. Laughter is a must. Even on my darkest days, laughing has helped me. I hope it helps you too. (It’s free, ya know.)
As of this writing, I've received the first pass of the novel from my editor. A pdf of the book has been sent to the three exceptionally talented people who've agreed to read it. The cover is designed. The swag is on its way.
Because the story revolves around life during COVID, a friend who happens to be in publishing said it was a great idea, and to get it out this fall--a feat of turnaround a traditional publisher could never do. So, from Jump Street, it's been pedal to the metal. As if I needed another business, I'm now in self-publishing purgatory.
I'm okay with that from a writing point of view. I prefer to work fast. It helps me keep an eye on the project at large. But I'm also learning a new business, and that is not nearly as fun to take on at a flash-forward pace. Yet, maybe not knowing what I don't know is a good thing. There's very little time to second guess myself.
Back to the writing part. For some creative people, getting things done during lock-down has been a challenge. I get it. For me, writing this book was a way to feel like I was in control of my life. At least part of it.
Those of you who know me know that my mother passed in early April, and I haven't seen my father since. So naturally, I wrote a comedy, right? But here's the thing: my family has always used humor to get by and to get through. Even in my mother's last days, we laughed. I speak to my father every day, and while some days are harder than others, we almost always laugh. I treasure that.
If you choose to read the book, you'll get to meet my parents. How could I not weave them in? They're damn funny. Particularly when they're not trying to be. I believe that's true of most of us.
Finger crossed, the book should be available on Amazon sometime October 13th. We shall see. These days, life is rarely what we plan.
Hope your endeavors are fulfilling,
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.