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How We Live Now: Finding My Great White Whale in a Plague Year

A friend asks me on the phone, “So how is your self-quarantine doing? ”

I reflect a moment and tell him, “Even before the current insanity my whole life was pretty much a self-quarantine.”

As a result, this extension of my default lifestyle has only required a few changes to my otherwise mundane and isolated day to day.

These days I rise and try to figure out when I’ll go out for a solo perambulation either in the apartment complex or along the bike path to get in the 5,000 steps a day regimen I use to keep my numb feet working. The where and when depend upon the weather. I once defaulted to the Chico Mall but that’s closed tighter than King Tut’s tomb. Now when it’s wet I head for the nearest large (essential) box store and do laps with a cart.

If I have any room at all left in my refrigerator/freezer/kitchen cabinets/under the bed I also try to shop during the new geezer hours at the local supermarket. (From 6 to 9 at Safeway if you are over 65.)

To do a walk or shop I have to plan my exits and entrances accordingly and suit up. My KungFlu costume has evolved and it is currently made of one plague resistant glove on my right hand, one disinfectant soaked washcloth in a ziplock plastic bag in the left jacket pocket to disinfect my ungloved hand should I touch anything of “dubious” provenance (every day more dubious items appear and the two glove days are coming soon.). Then I spray a folded paper towel with disinfectant to slide down the handrail on the stairs I share with my still unknown upstairs neighbor (Here nine months and haven’t seen her once.). I place folding money and a debit card (after disinfecting) in my front pocket so I don’t have to fiddle with the wallet.

Then, over all that, I put on the full armor of God and go outside to pretend to shop but really to monitor my town and how it is evolving in the face of the present insanity. I get into the car (please no repair requirements just now thank you ) where I have another bottle of Windex Gold Special Disinfectant spray to disinfect as I go. It works well and has no ammonia so I can spray liberally about the interior. In doing so I decide that “Windex Gold” is going to be my new aftershave. (Not bad. Sort of lemony with a hint of plague-freaked geezer.)

So far. So good.

Chico is a town of about 100,000 (up 20,000 since the Paradise fires a year and a quarter ago.). It is now haunted in the downtown sections since those are populated primarily by college students and they have long ago evaporated. Essential services such as gasoline stations, grocery stores, materials outlets, waste, and delivery are all up and running and holding well. Doctors are on an as needed (Call us first. Don’t just drop in with a cough, thank you.) basis but scant if not “essential.”

Dentists are utterly closed here. I find this out when I stop by the office of the Dentist I had scheduled drastic surgery with last month to find his office closed with a “Nothing Doing” sign on the door. But as I read it I notice my dentist inside at the front desk. I knock on the door and we have a conversation without either one of us wanting to open the door and have it face to face. I ask him if there are any “emergency” dental services available. He tells me that local dentists are working trying to find a way forward but it is still early days. So it goes with the “elective” services.

As far as the “essential” services are concerned these are all up, holding well, and fully staffed.

Everywhere in these stores, the staff that shows up and works pretty much non-stop is now widely known to be the heroes of Chico. neither I nor others are shy about saying so to their face and loudly. Said it yesterday at the Raleys deli counter and at least seven other (socially distanced) shoppers burst into applause.

Sometimes my daily hunting and reconnoitering expeditions bear strange fruit. Last Saturday after the open-air Farmers’ Market, I stopped by one of the three town Safeway stores to see what few items I just might need in the way of fresh chicken or meat. No problem there was plenty to choose from even though it was after twelve. I picked up some pork chops and turned into the most desolate and empty aisle of the market — the paper products. Suddenly, there it was. My WHITE WHALE! All alone in the vast and echoing brown shelf desolation. An iceberg of a catch. A snowy summit out of the fog. A really large hump blooming out of storm-tossed shelving. All alone as if waiting for my disinfectant dripping fingers to harpoon and take back to my try-works for slow but certain rendering into a mere cardboard cylinder. I struck without mercy and I scored!


What can I say? Somedays you flush the paper. Somedays the paper flushes you. Right now I figure to be sitting pretty when I quit winners.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • H March 26, 2020, 11:39 AM

    The white roll tasks me.

  • westsoundmodern March 26, 2020, 11:45 AM

    Fit what? Yer asscrack I reckon. Just a hunch.

  • Vanderleun March 26, 2020, 12:00 PM

    Gilded TP Roll award to H for best literary joke of the year so far. (If you don’t get it you won’t.)

    And welcome back to westsoundmodern. We’ve missed you.

  • Lance de Boyle March 26, 2020, 12:03 PM

    Down here in NC we use corn cobs. Always have. We don’t care. In fact, if’n the need arises, we’ll yank a half-chewed cob right outa someone’s hand and use it right there. [The cob, not the hand…. Okay, sometimes the hand.] We just don’t care. And if”n we run outa corn cobs, we use squirrels. They don’t care any more’n we do.

  • Andy Havens March 26, 2020, 12:08 PM

    Westsoundmodern? Now there’s a name from the deepest mists of blogging’s past. Hello!

    I prefer “some days you squeeze the Charmin, some days the Charmin squeezes you.”

  • Westsoundmodern March 26, 2020, 12:50 PM

    Yup. I’m still around. More of a lurker these days. Glad to see you’re still holding down the fort in West Seattle Andy.

  • Patvann March 26, 2020, 1:29 PM

    I’ve been using kittens…They’re soft and self-cleaning.
    (ducks-and-runs-away) 😉

  • Jewel March 26, 2020, 1:36 PM

    My youngest sister lives in Big Bear, on a mountain. She’s in one of the necessary jobs. She does medical home checks of elderly folks whose children sometimes can’t be bothered. She’s unusually chipper. Says only the mayor has La Grippe Chinoise, pardon my French. Not much seems to come her way on the mountain. Minor earthquakes, not much fire, and mostly hippies. You never run out of hippies. I guess she can’t see the forest for the hippies.

  • CC March 26, 2020, 1:41 PM

    We’re allll Howard Hughes now….

  • PA Cat March 26, 2020, 2:51 PM

    And what about Miss Olive’s bathroom needs? If you didn’t score a super-mega bag of kitty litter for her, you just know what she’ll do with the Charmin!

  • BWayne March 26, 2020, 3:23 PM

    I read somewhere that masks contain your germs but the corona enters your body thru your eyes. None of the employees at the pharmacy wear gloves or masks so I dont either.

  • Mike Anderson March 26, 2020, 3:50 PM

    La Grippe Chinoise. Love it!

  • Auntie Analogue March 26, 2020, 5:59 PM

    Okay, Gang, what follows below is something of a work-in-progress that riffs shamelessly off of Mr. Van der Leun’s “Boomer Anthem” theme. Feel free to critique it, feel free to tweak it, feel free to add to it – or even to subtract from it. (You can’t hurt my feelings because, as Bo Diddley teased, “My feelins’ already hurt by bein’ here with you!”) I hope that you’ll join in the fun. May you feel good about it as an offering of something to do while so many of us have become Instant Involuntary Shut-Ins. Oooooo-kay, then . . . have at it! . . . :

    Moo Goo Gai Pandemic Rag
    (sung to the tune of “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” by Country Joe & The Fish)

    Well come on all of you Americans, Uncle Sam needs your help again.
    Got himself in a terrible jam, ’cause the CDC had no virus plan.
    Put down your phones, work up your puns, who knows where it goes from here?!

    And it’s one, two three: what are we frightened for?
    Don’t ask me, can’t wipe my can, just sanitized my hands.
    And it’s five, six, seven – busy at the Pearly Gates.
    Well, this ain’t no time to gripe or cry, WHOOPEE! we’re all t.p. shy!

    Don’t get stuck on a cruise ship liner because of the virus from Wuhan China,
    Some folks over there flew their final loop from slurpin’ some awful bad bat soup.
    Now the whole world’s hunk’rin’ down, till a vaccine can be found.


    Now come on parents throughout the land, keep your kids inside for that home-school jam.
    Marital bliss maybe better wait – could social distance mean masturbate?
    Could you be first on your block, to have your sperm and eggs froze in a box?


    Experts say they ain’t got a clue, can’t tell who the Virus is goin’ to.
    If the virus came from a warfare lab, it don’t mean squat to the corpse-on-slab.
    Someday it’ll get figured out, till then don’t get out and about.


    One of the biggest shopping gripes, can’t find antiseptic wipes.
    Has anybody here got any wiser to vanishing jugs of hand sanitizer?
    Panic like this nobody’s seen: practice your extreme hygiene!


    Charts of dis-ease vector graphics made airlines cancel flying traffic.
    Social Distance just can’t happen, sardine-packed in an airline cabin.
    Can’t cross the ocean on your feet since Virgin grounded most of its fleet!


    America may be the Beautiful, but China makes the pharmaceuticals.
    In the World’s Sole Superpower, that virus spreads from hour to hour.
    Beyond our power there’s just one task, we can’t make our own paper masks!


    Now come on Wall $treet don’t be slow, show us how low the Dow Jones can go,
    there’s plenty good money to be shaved, sell out your own folks with global free trade:
    We’ll just have to beg the Chinese Reds when we need our presciption meds.


    You’d best finger your Rosaries if you venture out for groceries.
    Compete in that toilet paper chase, and be sure you don’t cough or touch your face:
    Only thing left on the market shelves may be cute little Keebler elves!


    Stuck at home through the tedium, ’cause they’ve shut-down all the stadiums.
    Ain’t no more televised sports, so you snooze on the couch in your undershorts.
    No hoops, no baseball, no NHL: it’s COVID sports fan hell!


    Shut down the sit-down restaurants and lots of other popular haunts.
    No under the table shady deal, will buy anyone a sit-down meal.
    Dining out without a doubt, you can only take away takeout.


    If you’ve got symptoms that’s tough luck, the shortage of test kits really sucks.
    Globali$m kicked our ass, so it could enrich the Ruling Cla$$:
    They got Congress to bail their purse – but nothin’ for an ER nurse.


    Come up with verses wittily, so glad we don’t live in Italy,
    They let in thousands of Chinese who brought the Wuhan Flu disease.
    If we’re smart, we’ll get back to when . . . our borders were sovereign.


    There’s no virtue you could sing of Red China’s Xi Xinping.
    That bastard withheld crucial dope, made the virus throw the whole world on the ropes.
    Xi won’t care about toilet rolls when Satan parks his ass on the coals!


    Let us pray for the Good Lord’s grace, while we all strive to shelter in place.
    Waitin’ out that virus novel, buttoned down in my rented hovel:
    All dressed up, no place to go, binge watchin’ rerun shows.


    Most of all, I hope you know, what this shutdown goes to show,
    It shows the workers we really need, it shames the parasites of greed . . .
    and it shows the superfluity of the czars of Diversity.


    Don’t wanna be carried to the coroner, so deport all the remora foreigners.
    President Trump, please cut the order to shut for good our own damn border,
    and ditch the phony “refugees”: Americans First, if you please!


    Bring back our own industries, hire American employees,
    We don’t need no Commie thugs blackmailing us with crucial drugs.
    Globali$t $ellout$, kiss our ass, rebuild our own middle class!


    No bailout for the ADL, those hypocrites can dwell in Hell.
    Don’t bail out the airlines either, give the common man a decent breather,
    And nothin’ for those other skanks, the ones who run the thieving bank$!


    Congress ain’t handin’ you a loaner, they’re takin’ good care of their campaign donors.
    What’s a few trillion, here and there, for the offshore accounts of the billionaires?
    You thought your congressman cares about you, well, good luck, sucker, boo-hoo!


    If you’d like continued earthly existence you’d best keep your social distance.
    People in masks all over town: can’t tell a smile from a frown.
    If this shutdown ever gets done . . . gonna splurge t.p. on our buns!



    . . . . . . . . . . Okay, Gang: do your worst! (After all, I’ve just done mine.)

  • Rob De Witt March 26, 2020, 6:53 PM

    My Sainted Aunt,

    All great stuff, and thanks for sharing the fruits of your incarceration…

    You’re never gonna top his funniest line, though. I’ve never seen a liberal gloating about the latest catastrophe without singing in reply “Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.” For some reason most of ’em don’t find it amusing…

  • jwm March 26, 2020, 7:00 PM

    Auntie analog, I played that album until it was worn so thin you could hear both sides at once. Kudos! That was nothing short of amazing. Probably even the old commie Joe McD. would like it.


  • Jim March 26, 2020, 7:45 PM

    Auntie, that is excellent.

  • TwoDogs March 26, 2020, 9:01 PM

    This is what separates us from the bare left handed asswiping savages and that is why it is so damned important to us. We wipe our asses with TOILET PAPER, damnit, not our hands. We do not like, or countenance shit on our hands. And we think you are savages if you do.

  • ghostsniper March 27, 2020, 3:49 AM

    “We do not like, or countenance shit on our hands.”
    Apparently “we” do as 80% of touch screens test positive for fecal matter.

    “And we think you are savages if you do.”
    Agreed. Welcome to the jungle.

  • Annie Rose March 27, 2020, 5:43 AM

    I scored some primo Angel Soft -a 4-pk, woot woot-for my elderly mom who lives several states away in an assisted living facility. Her vision is going and she can barely use her walker. She adamantly refused to move from her home state, so she is all on her lonesome there. I’m the last living kid, so tag, I’m it. She told me about where I live, “It’s too cold there and everyone talks funny.” Angel Soft is the only TP she wants. Did I mention that she’s 90 and highly opinionated-and stubborn? The facility doesn’t supply residents with toiletries or paper goods, only a room, food, and nursing care. My lifeline of supply to her for several years has been Amazon, but they have zero TP of any kind available. I’ve also tried to supply her when visiting, but now zero visitors are allowed inside her facility and frankly I really don’t want to fly right now and breathe in infected corona air into my asthmatic lungs. She has a stash for now, but goes through about 1 roll every day and a half. Don’t ask me how. Geraldo Rivera could not pry that secret from my mom’s lips. Just two weeks before the new normal, she was yelling at me to tell Mr. Amazon to stop sending her TP, because her walk in closet was getting too full. My next fear is that Amazon will run out of Depends for her. I’ve start investigating washable cloth pad alternatives, I kid you not. So far, no luck. My next task is to figure out how to disguise the box of Angel Soft that I mail, to keep others from figuring out that it’s TP and stealing it. I’m thinking of putting a mega bag of candy in there and marking it as Fragile. This is my TP nightmare.

  • H March 27, 2020, 6:29 AM

    Auntie wins the innertubes for that one. I can see her now, leading the chant in the paper isle down at Krogers:

    Gimme an “R”
    Gimme an “O”
    Gimme an “L”
    Gimme another “L”
    What’s that spell?
    What’s that spell?
    What’s that spell?

  • Rob De Witt March 27, 2020, 7:26 AM

    As Gerard has pointed out more than once, Robert Crumb was way ahead of us:


  • Vanderleun March 27, 2020, 7:34 AM

    Excellent find Rob.

  • Vanderleun March 27, 2020, 7:38 AM

    And Auntie… you make my head hurt but my belly is sore.

    You’re a good kid, Annie Rose. God bless.

  • Auntie Analogue March 27, 2020, 11:33 AM

    Well, golly gee, Mr. Van der Leun, apropos of your later Rick Nelson post: “You can’t please everyone / so you got to please yourself.” Now go sweeten your tummy already!

  • James ONeil March 27, 2020, 3:59 PM

    Auntie, As someone said, while recording (Don’t Fear) The (toilet paper) Reaper;

    Needs more cow bell.

    OK guys. that’s a wipe… I mean a wrap.

  • captflee March 27, 2020, 4:24 PM

    Auntie A,
    Girl, that was some inspired scribbling! Dullard that I am, even I had previous inklings of your gifts, but that ditty is some next level shit, dawlin’!

    Lance de Boyle,
    Gifted an Ogden friend one of those Yankee Flipper bird feeders for Christmas, so if things become more desperate and you need a source for stunned squirrels, hit me up.

    Gerard, et al,
    Thanks for the on the spot reporting from far and wide, a welcome respite from the tedious gloom porn on offer elsewhere.

    We here in NC are going under lockdown Monday, whatever that ends up being on the streets vice what the gummint intends. Not that the ChiCom crud has really affected my lifestyle much, as even an ordinary bout of any URI has for years just about sufficed to do in my beloved, so we been dodgin’ microbes for a bit. My son, however, who describes his job as “wrestling insane hobos” is likely to be exposed, though I note that his employer is finally getting around to distributing masks and gloves.

    My best wishes to and most profound prayers for the health and sanity of il Patron and his world of readers! “Onward: thru the FOG!

  • ghostsniper March 27, 2020, 6:44 PM
  • Andy Texan March 27, 2020, 9:37 PM

    Thanks for the belly laugh. Either we have gone off the deep end or were attacked by a bio-weapon and officials prefer not to discuss it with the public.

  • Patvann March 28, 2020, 10:07 AM

    Flu Evil Mine (With apologies to Greg Lake)

    Welcome back my friends,
    to the flu that never ends.
    We’re so glad you could attend,
    Stay inside, stay inside.

    There behind your mask
    You may watch the growing grass
    Keep 6 feet there when you pass
    Stand aside, please abide.

    Go inside, the shit show’s gonna start
    Bought TP, but all ya do is fart.

    Ya gotta stay inside, can’t run and hide!
    Ya gotta stay inside, nose is getting fried!

    Right before your eyes, the wife takes all your fries
    The fish have died, the children cry.

    Stay inside, the wold has come apart
    Guaranteed to keep you from the park

    Ya gotta stay inside, can’t run and hide!
    Ya gotta stay inside, nose is getting fried!

    Soon the TV screen, which will surly make you scream
    The beach is just a dream, stay inside stay inside.
    Next apon the land, big debt that make us sad
    Aunt Nancy made us mad, Massie tried, his polls died.

    Holed up! Held-up! Blow your nose!

    Performing on the tube, Joe Biden and some drool
    CNN and some dumb fool, what a tool, what a tool.
    Trump yells across the room, “We’d like to end this soon.”
    But we sit here all alone, on our own, on our own.

    Gotta blow your nose!
    Gotta wash some clothes!
    Gotta rock and roll!

    How long, heaven knows…..

  • captflee March 29, 2020, 10:53 AM

    Excellent rework of Karn Evil 9! Not that the original subject matter, our future silicon hecatomb, isn’t grim enough in its original form…

  • Patvann March 29, 2020, 1:17 PM

    Thanks! It was partially that reason why I used that song..That and it was relatively short. 😉