Eyeglasses and masks really don’t go together. The masks cause warm, moist air — i.e., the air that just was exhaled from your warm, moist mouth and lungs — up onto the lenses of your glasses. The result? Fogged glasses, and the familiar embarrassing, blinded, stumbling sensation that the bespectacled among us really hate.
Before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m not suggesting that fogging is a reason not to wear a mask. Masks are a basic precaution when you’re going into an enclosed area during the global pandemic, and people should wear them in public places.
But I am saying that foggy glasses are unpleasant and a pain in the rear. And there doesn’t seem to be a good response to the maskfog factor. When I donned my first mask and experienced my first maskfog, I checked the internet for suggestions on how to deal with the issue. I found pages like this one. I tried the suggested approaches, I really did. I pinched the nose of my mask until it felt like a binder clip on the bridge of my nose. I tried using my glasses to “seal” my mask. Neither of those approaches worked. I admittedly didn’t try taping the mask down, because I don’t know how to do that, and in any case it doesn’t seem like a practical solution for the instances where you put on a mask to enter a commercial establishment and remove it when you leave the place. And “soap and water” typically isn’t readily available in that scenario, either, unless you’re supposed to keep a supply with you at all times.
So I appeal to the glasses wearers out there. Have you found a way to solve the maskfog dilemma? If so, I’d definitely be interested in hearing it.
The Stonington airport is basically a strip of asphalt, a windsock, and some outbuildings, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t appropriately focus on safety and faithfully report on pertinent federal regulations. This particular federal regulation, though, is a curious one. You wouldn’t think that this kind of regulation is really necessary. It conjures up images of an unfortunate walker incident where a person using a walker was out on the runway trying to dodge an incoming aircraft—and not quite as nimbly as the Cary Grant character evading the crop duster in North By Northwest.
But it’s the second part of the regulation that is the real head scratcher. No wheels on the runway? Hey, doesn’t the landing gear of all planes feature wheels?
I was saddened to read about the recent death of Charlie Daniels, who was an iconic American musical figure. In 1973, he recorded one of my favorite protest-type songs: Uneasy Rider. It’s still on my playlist, nearly 50 years later. I’ve linked to a YouTube clip of the song, with lyrics, above.
Uneasy Rider tells the story of a long-haired hippie type who gets a flat tire while driving through Mississippi and interacts with locals who aren’t exactly enamored of his hair or the peace signs on his car. It’s got a catchy, countrified tune, but the real reason it is so memorable is that it is light and funny. Sometimes the best way to make your point is with humor, rather than heavy-handed and ponderous pontificating. Uneasy Rider strikes that chord. (There are other examples of early ’70s music that, like Uneasy Rider, managed to combine a good tune and deliver a message with some humor — like Cover of the Rolling Stone, by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, which deftly lampooned the pretensions and money earned by rock bands of that day.)
Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the ability to make a point with a light touch these days. In my view, we could use more protest songs along the lines of Uneasy Rider.
Last night we had fresh corn on the cob as part of our outdoor cookout — and once again I realized just how much I like to eat corn on the cob.
It’s an annual rite of self-discovery. At some point every summer, corn on the cob is on the menu for a cookout, and I chomp through one ear and enjoy it so much I promptly have another. (You can’t stop with just one ear of corn!) And thereafter corn on the cob remains on the summer dinner menu for as long as it is available, and then it vanishes from the plate — forgotten until next summer comes, a new bumper crop of local corn waiting to be shucked hits the stores, and the cycle of food revelation happens all over again.
Corn on the cob is one of those seasonal foods that is so closely associated with its season they are almost synonymous. You can’t really imagine eating ears of corn when it’s 10 degrees outside and there is snow up to your kneecaps. Corn on the cob demands to be eaten outside on a summer’s day, so you don’t have to fret about the flying debris that is produced as you bite and bite and bite again, in staccato fashion, moving down the rows of corn like the ear is an old typewriter carriage, until your mouth is filled with juicy sweetness and your lips are slathered with butter. It’s just a fun thing to eat, and you can’t help but feel a bit like a kid again when you’re doing it.
My theory about dreams is straightforward: while your conscious brain is sleeping, your subconscious brain is still at work, sifting through what you’ve read or heard or seen or otherwise experienced recently and trying to organize it into some kind of story — because our brains crave order and are hard-wired to try to put things into patterns. Dreams are strange and disconnected because it’s hard to turn random incidents into a coherent story, but the subconscious brain does its best.
I think the operative plot elements of your dreams all come from the recent brain input, but ancillary characters, background settings, and other details that fill in the inevitable, yawning gaps in the story line are drawn from your vast repository of memories. That’s why you might see a former work colleague who has been dead for years suddenly turn up, sharply etched from memory, as the boatyard attendant in a dream that involves some weird effort to take a boat to meet a friend. And because the settings seem to be based on decades of collective memories, they tend to involve, in some murky, dream-like sense, the world of the past.
That’s why it’s interesting to me that, four months after the coronavirus hit and the world tilted on its axis, I’m starting to have dreams that have some kind of COVID-19 element. Last night I had a dream in which one of the people in the background was wearing a blue paper coronavirus mask — certainly something that would not have been part of any dream I would have before March 2020 — and I’ve also had a dream where my dream self was troubled to see that there were discarded coronavirus masks on a roadway as I walked past.
So far, at least, I haven’t had any coronavirus embarrassment or anxiety-type dreams, where I’ve humiliatingly shown up for some important event without a mask, or in my dream I’m horribly late for something because I stupidly put off getting a mask and now I can’t find one anywhere. I imagine it’s just a matter of time before those kinds of dreams get worked into the nightly mix.
And that’s probably the most disturbing part of all of this. The coronavirus period has gone on long enough to work its way into our subconscious brains. If, like me, you still have dreams from time to time about missing an important exam — decades after your last exam ever occurred — you have to wonder: are we going to be haunted by periodic COVID-19 dreams for the rest of our lives? We may sincerely hope that a successful vaccine is developed, “herd immunity” is achieved, and the world returns to “normal” — but come night-time our subconscious brains may continue to give us a dose of the topsy-turvy coronavirus world of 2020 whether we like it or not.
As was the case in many communities, Stonington cancelled its annual Fourth of July fireworks show due to coronavirus concerns. Of course, that didn’t stop people around town from setting off strings of firecrackers, with their familiar staccato explosions, now and then.
And if you like the color of fireworks, you’re not going to be deprived in Stonington, either. With the arrays of brightly colored lobster buoys that you see just about everywhere — even in the back of bright red pickup trucks — you can get your fireworks colors fix just by keeping your eyes open.
It’s Independence Day. As we recognize our oldest national holiday, dating back to before the country was even formally founded, no doubt many people are thinking that these are strange, difficult times, and are wondering just what the future may bring. We’ve experienced significant protests across the country — with “Black Lives Matter” signs being seen even on a small road in this remote corner of Maine — and in this presidential election year political passions are running high.
The spirit of unbridled protest has always run deep in this land. We’ve fought two civil wars in an effort to define and structure concepts of liberty and freedom, and we’ve experienced other periods where the vein of protest pulsed strongly. The country has seen the mass civil rights marches and Vietnam War protests of the ’60s, the women’s suffrage movement, the Prohibition and anti-Prohibition movements, and the organized labor movements in the late 1800s — and that’s just scratching the surface. Each of these protests has changed the country in some meaningful way, and there is no doubt that the current protests will, too. The spirit of protest is so important to this country that we have codified our right to protest in the very first provision of the Bill of Rights and specifically stripped Congress of the ability to make any law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” People who wring their hands about protests simply don’t understand our history, or our institutions. In reality, protest is as American as apple pie.
We often think of the “Founding Fathers” as gentlemen with powdered hair in fancy dress who secured freedom just by signing the Declaration of Independence — the execution of which gives rise to the holiday that we celebrate today. From our vantage point, more than 240 years later, we tend to forget that country’s first civil war, which we now know as the Revolutionary War, was a harsh, bloody fight that occurred in a bitterly divided land — and the Founding Fathers in their silk stockings were the rebels.
Courtesy of a present from Richard, I’m reading an excellent book about the first part of the revolutionary period by Rick Atkinson, called The British Are Coming. One passage had particular resonance with me, in view of the period we are currently living through:
“John Adams, never taciturn, later would be quoted as saying, ‘I would have hanged my own brother had he taken part with our enemy in the contest.’
“Few were hanged, at least not yet; incivility rarely turned to bestiality. But no one could say how brutal the war would become. Conformity, censorship, and zealotry now flourished. Even small sins, such as ‘speaking diminutively of the country congress,’ might be punished with forced public apologies, boycotts, ostracism, or property confiscation. A mild word of praise for the British government–or simply being suspected of thinking loyal thoughts–could provoke a beating. Militias served as a political constabulary, bolstered by the Continental Army. When Queens County, a loyalist stronghold on Long Island, voted 788 to 221 against sending representatives to the provincial congress, the names of those in the majority were published in the newspaper; they were forbidden to travel, hire a lawyer, or practice a trade. More than a thousand militiamen and Continentals then swept through Queens, arresting opposition leaders, seizing weapons and extracting allegiance oaths–except from the 250 obdurate men who fled into the swamps to await General Howe’s arrival.
Such measures spread.”
In short, there is nothing new under the sun, and we’ve been through these kinds of challenging periods–in fact, much more challenging periods–before. Reading accurate histories of America would provide reassurance on that point. Unfortunately, airbrushing history has also been a tradition in this country. How many of us who went through the American school system were taught of the horrendous Tulsa, Oklahoma race massacre of 1921, or of lynchings, or the role of the Ku Klux Klan in subjugating African Americans — or for that matter the egregious history of lies, broken promises and mistreatment of indigenous Americans, Chinese immigrants, or other ethnic groups, or the Japanese internment camps that were created during World War II? Those terrible racist episodes are as much a part of American history, and our ability to gain a true and complete understanding of our country, as the lofty pronouncements in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Those of us who were taught that America’s history is an unbroken story of freedom, liberty, and fairness in service to the world were not told the whole story. We deserved the truth, but we didn’t get it.
I hope that that will be one of the positive impacts of these current protests. We can only fully grasp the meaning and complexity of American history, and the true importance of crucial historical figures, if we take an unvarnished view of their lives and understand their faults, flaws, and failings as well as their successes. I hope that the exercise of First Amendment freedoms that we are seeing in these protests ensures that American history is never sanitized again and the full story — good, bad, and ugly — is told from here on out.
The exercise of our freedoms is something worth celebrating. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
Once, not too long ago, I had an extensive bathroom collection of little bottles — the kind that hotels give (or used to give) to guests that contained small portions of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand lotion.
I had dozens and dozens of the little bottles stored in various places in our bathroom. I would go on trips for work and faithfully bring the unused bottles back from from my travels so I could use them at home. Waste not, want not, my grandparents taught, so why go out and spend good money on a bottle of shampoo when you can supply your needs through the little bottles the hotels hand out? It’s not like my grizzled mane needs the kind of luxurious concoctions featured on shampoo commercials, anyway.
When I was traveling regularly, bringing home more bottles every week and month, it seemed like the vast collection of little bottles would supply my shampoo and body wash needs forever. But over time the little bottle collection shrank a bit, as hotels transitioned to big push dispensers of shampoo and conditioner to protect the environment from plastic bottle waste, and then the coronavirus pandemic hit, all business travel vanished in the blink of an eye, and the opportunities for replenishment of the little bottle collection abruptly ceased. And now, after going almost half a year without any business travel of any kind, we’re down to only a few of the little bottles left — a mere fraction of what the collection once was.
This coronavirus period has been strange, for sure, but one of the interesting things about it is how quickly we can adjust to and accept the “new normal” of masks, and spending more time at home, and steering wide of people on the street, and the other changes in behavior that become accepted. You’re going along, living your life in the new way, and then something — like some little bottles in your shower stall — reminds you of just how much things have really changed.
Stonington holds a farmers’ market in the parking lot of the community center every Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. Last Friday we paid our first visit to the market during the COVID-19 era.
There’s no doubt the coronavirus has had an impact on the market. For starters, there were fewer tents and tables set up by sellers, and they all were all distanced from each other, which gave the market a more spread-out feel. There were fewer people walking around, too — and of course everyone was masked. There was a pleasant young woman at the entrance to the market who was the designated “masking enforcer,” tasked with keeping the unmasked from entering. She reminded us of the need to be masked and had hand sanitizer that she was ready to share with anyone who wanted to scrub up. The potential customers weren’t supposed to touch or handle anything and also were supposed to keep their distance from each other — as the posted signs indicated. As a result of all of these factors, the market didn’t have the bustling, crowded atmosphere that you associate with a good farmers’ market and that we saw at this market last year.
Still, in a weird year where all kinds of performances and events and community gathering opportunities are being cancelled outright, it was encouraging that the Stonington farmers’ market was being held at all. And my sense from interacting with them was that the artisanal farmers who were participating definitely appreciated just having the opportunity to sell their vegetables and fruits and smoked meats and farm fresh eggs directly to the public. If you are a small-business owner who is counting on different farmers’ markets as venues to sell your products, outright cancellation of all of your sales outlets would be devastating. If the economy is truly going to recover, and the recovery is going to small-business owners like artisanal farmers, it is crucial to have events like farmers’ markets.
As has been the case throughout the coronavirus reopening period, Kish and I spent more than we really needed to, just to try to help the sellers get back on their feet and recover from a challenging time. We bought eggs and cheese and smoked meat from multiple stands, and it all was great.
We’ll be going back to the farmers’ market on Friday, and will try to pay the market a visit on every Friday when we are here. And I bet that we’re going to see a definite pick-up in the number of people selling and the number of people buying, as the word gets out that you can do so safely and people decide they are willing to accept the risk. While appropriately masked and distanced, of course.
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In our case, that saying is literally true.
On Sunday, when I was digging in the area between the rocks in the down yard to try to loosen the soil to plant our flowers, I came across two totally intact bottles that had been totally buried about six inches deep in the dirt. One looked like a generic, amber liquor bottle, but the other was a clear glass bottle from the “Fairview Wine Company of Maine.” The 4/5 quart bottle features some cool raised script lettering and depictions of grapes and grape leaves. My limited internet research skills found some efforts to sell similar bottles on line that indicate that the bottle dates from the ’30s.
It’s not unusual for us to find broken glass, old cans, and other debris in what we call the “down yard,” which probably was an overgrown area. At some point somebody must have sat on the rocks, enjoyed some wine, and then just left the bottle in the crack between the rocks. The bottle then got buried over time — only to be found 80 years later and viewed not as a commonplace item from a functioning nearby business, but as an antique curiosity from days gone by, produced by a company that apparently no longer exists.
We’ve cleaned up the bottle — the cap crumbled into dust when we tried to remove it — and put it in a place of honor on the shelves in our main room, to connect the present-day cottage to its past.
The Class of 2020 hasn’t exactly been the luckiest class in the history of the American high school system.
Just as they were nearing the end of their senior year, getting ready for prom, and their senior class parties, and their graduation ceremony, the coronavirus pandemic hit, classes in most high schools across the country were abruptly cancelled, social distancing and limitations on congregation were imposed, and everything had to happen remotely — which isn’t exactly the ideal setting for your last hurrah with your high school chums and besties.
In Stonington, as in many U.S. cities and towns, the community has rallied behind the Class of 2020 and tried to give them a memorable graduation notwithstanding all of the limitations. In the downtown area, small posters of the members of the graduating class have been put up on light posts and telephone poles to recognize their achievement. Stores are displaying signs to congratulate the seniors, and the town organized a parade in which the seniors rode, individually, in back of open-air cars while they were cheered on along the parade route by members of the community — all of whom maintained appropriate social distancing, of course.
High school wasn’t the favorite time of my life, and I didn’t feel like high school graduation was a particularly big deal. At the same time, I enjoyed the graduation parties and senior prom and the graduation ceremony itself. For me, at least, it gave a sense of closure of one chapter in my life and the message that it was time to move on to college, and beyond. Thinking about it now, with the knowledge of what has happened to the Class of 2020 in mind, I think I probably would have missed the whole process if I hadn’t experienced it.
I’ve written before about doing what we can to help people whose lives have been turned upside-down by COVID-19 to make up for the loss and disruption — by frequenting restaurants, giving very generous tips, and so on. The same goes for the Class of 2020, and it’s nice to see that communities like Stonington, and other communities across the country, are doing special things to recognize the unique impact the Class of 2020 has sustained. If you know of a 2020 graduate, give them an especially hearty congratulations, will you? And when the Class of 2020 gathers for their 10th, or 25th, or 50th reunion, we can hope that they’ll have some positive memories about parades, and signs, and special recognitions to recall.
The coronavirus pandemic, and the shutdown orders issued in response to it, have affected pretty much everything, and everywhere, over the past few months. Stonington, Maine is no different.
There’s no doubt that there has been a huge economic impact on this beautiful little town and the surrounding community. Stonington’s economy has two primary engines — the lobster trade, and tourism. Tourism clearly has been affected by Maine Governor Janet Mills’ orders closing hotels until June 1, and requiring visitors to Maine to quarantine for 14 days before interacting with locals. There aren’t many visitors to the town, and the businesses that depend on tourists have felt the resulting pinch. Three of the tourist-type shops in town are closed, and it isn’t clear whether they will open at s as you time this summer. One restaurant has announced it won’t be operating at all this year, another is running at dramatically reduced hours, and a third isn’t nearly as busy as it normally would be. There isn’t much foot traffic in town, either.
The lobster trade has been affected, too. The word is that prices are low, due in part to reduced demand caused by restaurant shutdown orders. The locals are hoping that prices increase when the Canadian lobster fishing season ends and only the U.S. supply is affecting the market.
2020 is going to be a tough year for all of these businesses. Stonington doesn’t have big box stores, chain restaurants, or franchises — it’s a small business haven where all of the businesses are locally owned, and the summer tourism provides a huge chunk of their annual cash flow.
The real estate market, on the other hand, is reportedly very strong, with places going on the market and being sold promptly — in some instances, solely on the basis of a video tour. Realtors are attributing the strong market to East Coast residents who want to establish a second home far away from the overcrowded cities where “social distancing “ is a challenge.
So, the coronavirus giveth, but the coronavirus mostly taketh away. It’s sad to see businesses closed and favorite restaurants going unopened this summer. We’re just hoping that the businesses can ride out 2020 and will be back in full swing in 2021, when things get back to normal — hopefully.
Yesterday we had to buy a new washing machine, which is being delivered today. I’m not real happy about it.
The “old” washer came with the house. As near as we can figure, it was bought new about five years ago. In prior years, it’s proven to be a perfectly good, front-loading washer, and it’s got all of the high-end washing options and settings you could possibly wish for.
But when we arrived this year, we could not turn the stupid washer on. Instead of a clunky, old-fashioned button you can physically depress to start the wash cycle, it has a sleek, more high-tech “touch pad” button. You put your finger on the “touch pad” button, and sensors are supposed to detect the action and start the machine. But try as we might — including disconnecting and reconnecting the machine to electrical outlets, applying various degrees of pressure, cursing, pleading, and trying knuckles, thumbs, and index fingers — yes, even middle fingers — we couldn’t get the touch pad button to engage, even though every other light and button and lever and dial on the machine seemed to be working just fine.
We had a repairman come out, he used his testing equipment, and he told us that the “touch pad” would have to be replaced. When he checked on the cost of that one part, he determined to his apparent astonishment that it would cost as much as buying a brand-new washing machine. So why buy a replacement part for an old machine that now has had a serious problem when you can buy a new machine for the same price? Our decision was an easy one.
This whole episode really bugs me. At our house in New Albany, our washing machine was a 23-year-old top-loading Maytag. It was decidedly low-tech, with only a dial and a row of black buttons, but it worked perfectly and was as dependable as the day is long. I bet that machine is working still.
Since we bought that Maytag back in the early ’90s, appliance manufacturers have fallen prey to the notion that their devices need to be as high tech as cell phones, so if you try to buy a washing machine these days you’ll get a smorgasbord of “smart” options that look great. But who cares how your washing machine looks? It’s not typically prominently displayed in the American household, but instead is tucked away in a basement or a cubbyhole where guests don’t go. And isn’t reliability what you are really looking for in a washing machine? And, perhaps, simple replacement parts that don’t (ridiculously) cost as much as a new machine?
Our current washer, sleek and high-tech as it is, will be hauled away, probably to a landfill, even though its essential washing machine parts seem to be perfectly fine. It’s a waste, and all because the machine has a “touch pad” rather than a simple button. Sometimes, “high tech” is a curse.
Politicians like to designate state symbols. In Ohio, for example, we’ve got a state bird (the cardinal), a state flower (the scarlet carnation), and a state tree (the buckeye). Our state is also, by legislative designation, represented by such things as tomatoes, flint, ladybugs, and the white-tailed deer.
Although state legislators seem to love designating state symbols — it’s pretty much a no-lose proposition, since the losing candidates for state bird or state insect are unlikely to complain — they’ve left some territory unexplored. It’s somewhat surprising, for example, that more states haven’t name a state hat.
Texas has led the way in this regard; some years ago it named the cowboy hat its official state headwear. But other states haven’t followed suit. That’s somewhat surprising, because officially designated hats can tell you a lot about a state. New York, for example, would be well-represented by the kind of pork pie hat that Rocky Balboa wore during his debt collection days in Rocky. Minnesota would probably choose the “mad bomber” fur hat. Florida might go for a sun visor with two beer cans with sip straws on each side. And California could opt for the kind of effete, snobbish beret that the Hollywood types wear.
If Maine ever designated a state hat, it would definitely be a ball cap. Everyone around here, male and female, seems to wear one. But it couldn’t be just any ball cap. No, it needs to be a nondescript, ancient, battered ball cap, preferably with some salt stains on it and a bill that has been repeatedly bent and features a fair amount of fraying. And the cap has to be in neutral shades — blue, gray, or khaki — and bleached of most of its color by repeated outdoor exposure. Once you’ve got the right kind of hat, you’ll never get rid of it. In fact, some ball caps you see have probably been passed down from generation to generation through the family patriarch’s last will and testament.
We’re still working on getting our ball caps into appropriate Maine shape. We’ll know we’ve done it when we wear one to town and one of the locals looks at us, nods, and says: “Ayuh.”
My longstanding practice is to put things on my work calendar as soon as I plan them, even if they are not going to happen for months. It’s not unusual for me to have deadlines and appointments on my calendar a year in advance. In my experience, I’m just less likely to create a scheduling conflict or double-book myself if I keep my calendar current.
Normally, there’s nothing strange about this. The planned dates and deadlines arrive, the appointments and conferences and meetings happen, and the calendar pages turn and fade into the past.
Of course, in 2020 nothing is normal. In 2020, all of the appointments and meetings and trips that were planned were cancelled — but they have remained on the calendar because there’s no point in going through the effort needed to delete them. As a result, each week I get notices of what I was supposed to have been doing if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t thrown us all a gigantic curve ball. I’ve gotten reminders of haircuts missed, dinners that didn’t happen, performances that never occurred, and business and personal trips to places like Austin and Chicago that simply vanished on the wings of the wind.
Looking at those calendar entries that I made long ago has been a very weird experience. It’s like unexpectedly catching sidelong glances of yourself in a mirror, where your reflection is reversed, or getting a glimpse of my life in one of those parallel universes that have been fodder for so many Star Trek episodes and sci fi novels, movies, and TV shows. And, because all of these things were actually planned, they are far more plausible than the scenarios where the Nazis won World War II or an evil empire controls the galaxy. If anything, the reverse is true: Alternative Bob’s life seems a lot more plausible than one where the United States shut down for months due to a virus. In fact, the sudden emergence of a virus causing the world to close its doors seems like a pretty contrived plot device.
I’ve been following his exploits with some interest, and I can tell you that, so far, Alternative Bob has had a heck of a 2020.