PANDEMIC! Blog from a Plague Year, part 1

I wrote this last week.

As you may know from my previous writings, I had a big nuclear apocalypse fear growing up. I had re-occurring nuclear nightmares. A typical dream would start with the threat of the bomb, then I would pack and get ready for hiding out in the bomb shelter, or heading north away from radiation or whatever. Younger me was focused on toys and candy, older me was focused on cigarettes and books. This preparedness aspect of my dreams was related to something else. When I was a kid, I often either ran away from home (for like an hour) or planned to run away. Sometimes I got so caught up in packing, I didn’t even make it out the door. I had a little suitcase into which I could pack all the things I needed. Like snacks and dolls.


I love apocalyptic movies and TV shows. I’m a bit of an expert by now, and there’s usually a point when the story breaks down into this paternalistic us vs them thing that totally bores me. Panic in Year Zero: Frankie Avalon and his father Ray Milland start calling wife Jean Hagen and daughter Mary Mitchell “the women” almost as soon as the bomb drops, because protecting their honor is more important than anything, apparently. A Boy and His Dog: Don Johnson’s talking dog is a misogynist. You get the picture. There are some really good ones, though. Threads, Glen and Randa, Atomic Cafe, The Bed Sitting Room, Dr. Strangelove, Failsafe, Matinee, Miracle Mile…..

As a result of this demented childhood, I kind of love prepper culture. Ready.gov is one of my fave websites. I know I should always have a go bag https://www.skilledsurvival.com/go-bag-list/ at the ready. I know I need to have plenty of water and pet food. But in reality, I’m not that ready (dot gov). Yes, I always have some dry goods. Yes, I have water filtration kits. But when this PANDEMIC hit, I wasn’t immediately ready, and actually didn’t have an easy time at the grocery stores. I had to go twice – once for what I thought was important, and a second time with Slava, who thought about the real basics like butter, olive oil….I managed to find the last few containers of shelf-stable milk because I need my tea or coffee with milk for crying out loud! Fortunately, we live in the countryside, and some farms have stands with milk and they promise to keep them going. Also, we have chickens and a stream nearby, so if all else fails, we’ll get by on eggs and water. Slava recently purchased solar panels that power batteries, so we’re cool in that department.

I thought this might be a good time to sober up, but after a day and then a night of not being able to sleep due to minor panic attack making me think too much about my breathing (breathing problems, of course, being a symptom of Covid19), we went out and bought a case of wine, which *may* take us through the duration. Mom recommended a book, The Great Influenza, which I’m enjoying. (Those were DARK times!) I was hoping I’d be able to get stuff done like housecleaning and getting my tax paperwork in order, but mostly I’m just listening to the radio or looking at my screen and feeling demoralized. I need to lock up my ‘phone and focus on being productive.

There were a few customers on this Saturday. But these are weird times! Three of the four shops I sell stuff in are closed for the duration as of today. I went to the fourth to say hi; there were not many customers on this Saturday. Massachusetts has not yet shut down non-essential stores, but they will. The grocery store is letting 25 people in at a time, so there’s a weirdly spaced line out in the parking lot. The liquor store was busy. We all worry – is it an “essential business?” What about the pot shop? I went to the garden store today to buy some potting soil so I can get my garden started. I stopped by our friend’s cafe for a sandwich because his business is hurting due to only doing take-out. I took a walk with a friend and played some tennis (a great social-distancing game, btw). Picked up some extra cat food and came home.

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