Plague Diary 5: Social Distancing

The Intersection of the 101 and 110 Freeways in Downtown L.A.

The above picture from the Los Angeles Times says it all: Even at 4 am, it is not otherwise so uncrowded. Of course, I haven’t been using the freeways lately, as there is quite literally nowhere to go. No restaurants, no parks, no museums—and no sun either. Ever since the “Stay in Place” order went out, Southern California has been assailed by an untypical chain of rainy weather for this time of year, what we call the Pineapple Express.

My main forays from my apartment have been unsatisfying trips to food markets to pick over the bare bones of what the hoarders have left in their wake. And just to make things worse, I popped another crown on Saturday and have to make an appointment with my dentist to see whether it could be glued back in. Now I have partly or wholly missing teeth on both sets of my uppers. The wholly missing one will, with luck, be replaced by an implant … sometime in July.

Right now, the rain is falling steadily; and Martine is coming down with a sore throat. For now, I am watching old movies (Robert Aldrich’s 4 for Texas and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, neither of which I particularly liked) and reading books by authors with home I am unfamiliar (currently R. A. Lafferty). Also I am doing all the cooking. I have managed to scrounge up the ingredients to make a potato and cauliflower curry that should last us for a while.

It was nice talking to my brother this morning. I should call up more of my old friends. The problem is that I get too busy with cooking, reading, and TV film viewing to take the time out.


Plague Diary 2: Empty Shelves

It’s Bad All Over: The Above Picture Is From the UK

Last night I called my friend Bill Korn, who warned me that the supermarket shelves are likely to be all picked over by hoarders. As I do my main food shopping on Monday, I started the day with apprehension. I woke at 7 am to get to Ralphs Supermarket (owned by Kroger) by the 9 am opening time. When I arrived, I had trouble finding parking, could not get my hands on a shopping cart (except the one they always have on hand with square wheels), and found very little of what I was looking for.

Fortunately, I was able to find some ground turkey—seconds before the hoarders descended on it. Then I joined the checkout line that wound up and down the store aisles.

Later, I stopped at Trader Joe’s on Olympic Boulevard and found a similar situation, though the well paid staff was much better at restocking the shelves.

The dish I prepared was a non-spicy keema consisting of the ground turkey, various Indian spices, and a selection of frozen vegetables from my freezer. If this situation prevails over however many weeks the plague restrictions are in effect, I will have to be highly creative in my cooking. It’s already difficult to cook for Martine and myself because there are relatively few dishes we can agree on. It’s like the Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
But, together both,
They licked the platter clean.

Rather than fight with Martine about what I cook, I will gladly arrange for her to have any take-out meals she desires. She is considerate enough not to over-abuse this privilege.

Other than food shopping, I viewed a classic psychological horror film from 1943, Val Lewton’s The Seventh Victim. And I read about a third of Jan Neruda’s excellent 19th century Prague Tales. Jan is not to be confused with Pablo Neruda, who hi-jacked the Czech writer’s last name as his nom de plume.

Plague Diary 1: Kárpátok

I Violate the Plague Laws Prescribing Social Distance

In the new environment of worldwide plague, I must carefully pick and choose what I can and cannot do. I started out with a major violation by attending a folk dance performance given by the Kárpátok Hungarian Folk Dance Ensemble. It was well attended with several hundred audience members, many of whom within the six-foot danger zone of contagion.

Martine particularly loves the performances by Kárpátok, and so do I because I like to revel in my Hungarian background. Of late, I have used the Magyar language primarily to damn to hell cruise ship passengers in Mexico who try to use me as an information resource. At the United Magyar Ház in Los Angeles, where the concert was held, virtually everybody present could cuss me out more correctly and picturesquely than I can do. So I am on my best behavior.

The Kárpátok Hungarian Folk Dance Ensemble is one of the best things about Los Angeles. Martine and I have been attending their events for upwards of ten years.

It is unlikely that there will be other plague law violations in the weeks to come, mostly because just about everything is being closed down. The supermarket shelves are being emptied by hoarders of food, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper. When I go shopping tomorrow, I will have to be careful about confronting hoarders: Particularly in Southern California, people who are the most guilty are also the most aggressively defensive about their deeds.

My postings here in the next few weeks will discuss how my life has changed as a result of living in a plague zone. I anticipate that my life will change in many ways over the next few weeks. I remain hopeful, however, because of the following reasons:

  • I have a personal library of several thousand volumes, including all the classics
  • My cable television configuration includes about a dozen movie channels
  • Plus I have hundreds of DVDs
  • One of my hobbies is cooking—useful when many restaurants are closing or cutting back
  • I make a point of maintaining frequent telephone contact with my old friends