Social Distancing Follies

The Adventist Health.White Memorial Medical Plaza in East Los Angeles

Today, I drove Martine for an ophthalmologist appointment in East Los Angeles. I went up to the waiting room with her, but was asked to leave because of social distancing requirements. So what happened? I had to stand in the corridor, which was full of other family members who weren’t really social distancing. And there wasn’t any seating to be had.

There is a bridge over César Chavez Boulevard (visible in the above photo), which would be an ideal place to sit—except it was posted all over with signs saying that, because of social distancing, no one may sit down there.

Perhaps one cannot catch the ’Rona when one is on one’s feet. At least, that seems to be the prevailing assumption. If the medical receptionist can’t see you in the corridor, then presumably you are, by definition, social distancing. ¡Que idiota!

Diamond Princess

The USS Petri Dish, I Mean the USS Diamond Princess

I have just watched a brief HBO documentary about the cruise ship Diamond Princess, whose passengers had the unenviable role of being the first people outside of China to come down with the coronavirus. It was called “The Last Cruise” (which it was for the 14 passengers who died of the virus).

In all my travels, I have avoided cruise ships—not because of the spread of infectious diseases, but because I don’t like to be in the position of having to be nice to the same bunch of wealthy strangers for multiple days in a row and because I don’t like my vacations to be highly regimented.

Another reason: I remember a cartoon in the New Yorker a number of years ago in which we saw a cruise ship whose name was S.S. All You Can Eat. Even under normal conditions, I’m fighting the “Battle of the Bulge” and certainly don’t need unlimited access to calorific foods.

The documentary consisted largely of cell phone videos taken by passengers and crew. It was evident that the filmmakers were aghast at the conditions of the crew, who were forced to associate with one another in close quarters while an epidemic ranged throughout the ship.

The ship sailed between Yokohama and several ports in Southeast Asia including Okinawa, Hong Kong, and a Vietnamese port not named. As the ship was homeward bound to Yokohama, it was discovered that a passenger boarding in Hong Kong had come down with Covid-19. When the ship reached Yokohama, it was put on quarantine for over a month, as cases spread like wildfire through the ship, infecting some 700+ passengers and an unspecified number of crew members. Passengers who had come down with the virus were carted off to Japanese hospitals.

Eventually, most of the American passengers were put on a military aircraft and returned to the U.S.

I Might As Well Be Back in Cleveland

Southern California Is Being Buffeted by Winds

When I lived in Cleveland and in New Hampshire, I was the plaything of various seasonal allergies. There was the sneezing (and the bloody noses), the itching eyes, and borderline asthma. Now with the Winterspring Complex we are now experiencing, it’s back again. Not only do my eyes itch, but the discharge is sticky, such that I have to open my eyes with my fingers in the morning. And I am going through handkerchiefs like they’re going out of style. (I don’t use Kleenex because I feel bad about destroying trees just so I can blow my nose in them.)

As my friend Bill Korn says, these winds are usually accompanied by winter rainstorms, but we have had precious few of those. The current rainy season, which will end soon, is another bad one—just a few inches of mostly occasional showers and only one thorough wetting.

California is well on its way to becoming the next Atacama Desert, which is the world’s driest desert, clocking in at less than 3 mm of precipitation a year. That’s not even as big as one of my sneezes.

The Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru

When the weather starts getting hot, my allergies will gradually disappear. But then I’ll start complaining about the heat.

Vaccinated!

My Covid-19 Vaccination Card (with Date of Birth Obliterated)

Yesterday I finally got my second Pfizer Covid-19 second dose. As my doctor predicted, I came down this morning with a slight fever, some chills, and achy shoulders. I hated to think that I would die of the ’rona after all the quarantining I did over the last year. I went all the way out to Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Baldwin Park, where it all went down like clockwork.

Allergy

What It Looks Like When You Don’t Cover Up a Sneeze

When I was a child, I was an allergic mess. I would both look forward to and dread visits to my uncle and aunt, because they not only had a dog, but cats as well. My eyes would start to itch and swell up, I would sneeze, and I would constantly blow my nose into one of the two handkerchiefs I always had on my person. I even saw an allergist named Myron Weitz once a week for the better part of a year. He performed numerous scratch tests on me, indicating that I was allergic to tomatoes, oatmeal, tobacco, and a few other things. Then I would get a shot each week which was supposed to make me immune to allergens. It never did.

In the end, I think I was allergic to Cleveland. Once I moved to Southern California after graduating from college, my allergies lessened—especially after I learned to stay far away from cats. There was a time in the 1970s when I developed asthma and had to take a horrible medication called Tedral which kept me awake all hours.

Now I come down with allergic reactions for only a few days each year. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. Something is in bloom that disagrees with me. My nose is stuffed up, I’m sneezing, and my eyes feel as if I had sandpapered them. It could be that the winds are blowing something in from the desert. I just don’t know.

I checked the pollen reports, and supposedly there currently is no major threat. Yeah, but tell my nose and eyes that!

Living With Type 2 Diabetes

I Always Knew I Was Going to Become Diabetic

It seems that all the older people in my family were diabetic: my father, my mother, and even my great grandmother. Now even my younger brother is borderline.

Each day, I have to give myself three shots of Humalog (Lispro) and one shot of Lantus (Glargine). The Humalog shots all come before or immediately after meals, and the Lantus just before going to sleep. That’s not so bad, because both types of insulin use a KwikPen with an extremely skinny needle. I administer the insulin either in my gut or my thigh, with only occasionally a bad stick that hits a nerve.

What is worse are the finger sticks, which I have to do three times a day before meals. I have to poke a lancet into my fingertips and squeeze out a bead of blood so that I can tap it with a test strip connected to a device that reads the glucose level of my blood at that point. The problem is that I have trouble getting enough blood to give me a reading. Sometimes I have to poke the same fingertip as much as three times to draw enough blood.

As if that weren’t bad enough, some of my fingers (left thumb and right thumb) require a thicker lancet in order to get blood. My left forefinger has sustained some damage from all the finger sticking, so I usually skip it altogether. So I do a 9-finger rotation over a three-day period.

I don’t mind going with pen needle, nibs, and insulin to a restaurant, but I refuse to also prick my fingertips at the same meal. After all, the finger sticks are for measuring, whereas the insulin keeps my blood sugar low.

The good news is that what I’m doing is working for me. My last A1C reading was 6.5; and my finger stick readings tend to be in the low 100s.

Getting the Vaccine

Today I Got My First Covid-19 Vaccine Injection

Earlier this week, I talked to my doctor. She recommended I get either the Pfizer or the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, preferably through Kaiser-Permanente. So this morning, Martine and I drove to the Kaiser hospital in Baldwin Park, roughly three quarters of an hour from home. Why so far? Apparently, the Kaiser representative who set up the appointment is in another city and is not familiar with Los Angeles. No matter. I got there in plenty of time and got the first shot.

Although Martine was with me, she opted not to be vaccinated. She listens to AM talk radio a lot, and the pundits there kept emphasizing how dangerous the vaccine is. Martine tends to be hypersensitive, so she thought she would probably suffer some horrible reaction if she got the shot. Well, I got my shot (it was the Pfizer vaccine); and it didn’t feel any different than getting my annual flu shot at Walgreen’s.

The vaccination setup at Kaiser was very well organized. As part of the process, they gave me an appointment for the second shot on Saturday, March 15.

I can hardly wait until this whole coronavirus outbreak is a thing of the past.

The French Have a Phrase for It

The Paris Metro at the Stalingrad Stop

You know the colloquial expression for it: Work, work, work! (and several variants thereof). But the French have a more picturesque phrase to describe the thankless boredom of life under the Coronavirus outbreak:

Métro, Boulot, Dodo

According to the Thought.Co website from 2019, the term is explained as follows:

The informal French expression métro, boulot, dodo (pronounced [may tro boo lo do do]) is a wonderfully succinct way of saying you live to work. Métro refers to a subway commute, boulot is an informal word for work, and dodo is baby talk for sleeping.

The English equivalents—the rat race, the same old routine, work work work—don’t quite capture the same sense of constant movement, and a more literal English translation, “commute, work, sleep,” isn’t as poetic as the French.

The Quarantine Makes Us Boring

An Empty Restaurant

Things being as they are, I have a hard time thinking of interesting things to write. During the quarantine, I am involved primarily in four activities: food shopping, cooking, reading, and film viewing. There isn’t much I can write about food shopping and cooking, primarily because of Martine’s irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), most of what I cook is pretty bland. When I cook a dish for myself, I tend to go crazy with spices and chiles—because I can!

I would love to write more about places that I have visited recently. Except I have not visited many places recently. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Restaurants are usually closed, and the weather does not encourage picnicking.
  2. If you have to go to the bathroom, you pretty much have to buy gasoline.

I’d love to go driving in the local deserts, but I am uncertain as to filling these two basic needs which all travelers have. Let’s say I want to go to Boron, California, home of the Twenty-Mule-Team Museum. Not only is the museum closed, but I have no idea where I can get food locally, and whether the local restaurants are serving diners outdoors. There is just too much uncertainty.

Sometime this February, I will pay another visit to my brother in Palm Desert. My last visit there was at the end of October. There are some places we can go, and he knows which local restaurants are serving food. (Though the best food there is likely to be cooked by my brother.) To be sure, I will take my camera and try to find some places I can write about.

Until then, you will hear more about my reading and film viewing.

Meals To Go

It Looks So Good in the Photographs, But …

I know that people are being urged to have restaurant meals delivered during the quarantine, and I know that restaurants have to survive somehow, but it’s just not the same. When the food is delivered, it is by someone who is not associated with the restaurant and does not care in the slightest what you think of the meal. Even if you pick up yourself, you seem to be one remove farther away from the person who assembled the meal.

Yes, that’s it! The food is merely assembled, and it is not the same high quality it was when you ate at the restaurant. And the food is usually assembled in a slipshod manner emphasizing speed over taste or looks.

Today I had a Japanese meal of pork gyoza with chashu rice rolls. I couldn’t finish it, as it had an off taste. Oh, it was prepared quickly all right, but I have no intention of ever going back there.

A secondary problem is that every take-out or delivered meal comes with a ton of plastic waste. If Martine and I ate that way on a regular basis, we would not only be spending a fortune, but having to take out our garbage every other day rather than twice a week when I prepare food at home myself.

No doubt there are outstanding exceptions among L.A. restaurants. When doing take-out, however, I am confined to the restaurants in my West L.A. neighborhood.