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Week Seven: All Aboard the Crazy Train

Close up of a computer keyboard with word of hoax on the red button

And here I thought I was going nuts. Morons (yes, there was more than one) in Oklahoma City shot two McDonald’s workers who told them to leave the restaurant because it was closed—like every restaurant on the planet—due to the coronavirus. I could see maybe pitching a fit if I were asked to leave a Perkins, or Denny’s even. But what is so special about McDonald’s that would incite such violence? (The bathrooms are usually very clean, which could be a factor.)

In Michigan, at a Family Dollar store, another idiot shot a security guard who told him to wear a face mask—a mandate in place by the State for all retail stores. Also, in Michigan, a man wiped his nose on a Dollar Tree worker’s shirt after the employee told him he needed to wear a mask. Ew.

In Southern California, a fool wore a Ku Klux Klan hood to the grocery store in protest of coronavirus restrictions requiring face masks. That’s like protesting laws that prohibit nudity by wearing a snowmobile suit to the beach…but with the added wallop of racism.

kkk la times copy

A manicurist in South Carolina defied her State’s restrictions by making an urgent house call to a salon client. Fascinated by an alligator swishing around the water’s edge at the client’s property on Kiawah Island, the nail and cuticle specialist wandered down for a look-see after she’d completed the emergency file, buff and polish procedure. The homeowner, no doubt waiving a perfectly manicured hand, warned that just the night before the same alligator had snatched a deer that was standing in the exact same spot as the manicurist. The beautician’s last words (you simply could not make this shit up) were “I don’t look like a deer.”

The homeowner said the woman then reached out to touch the alligator, which grabbed her by the leg, pulled her under and that was that, more or less proving she did, in fact, look like a deer (at least to the alligator).

A man told me earlier this week, because I asked him to please back up at the grocery store checkout, that Covid-19 is hoax and I should just “relax.”

“What would be the purpose of such a hoax?” I asked, stupefied.

He rolled his eyes and spoke slowly, so I might understand, “It’s all to make Trump look bad before the election.” Ah.

Let me get this straight. Every country in the world (except those represented by four little yellow spots) has somehow been convinced to join liberals in the United States in an effort to make one man look bad…by pretending a common flu is really something much worse. In fairness, if you were going to pick a guy to mess with, this dude would be a good choice. I mean, he’s been insulting world leaders, citizens and entire nations (shithole countries anyone?) pretty much since the day he took office, but it seems preposterous even by wackadoodle standards to believe the whole frickin’ planet is in on a Covid-19 hoax. What would that sales pitch even look like?

outbreak-coronavirus-world
Map provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

“We need something big,” Nancy Pelosi perhaps said to 193 Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, Supreme Leaders, Emperors, Emirs, Sovereign Princes and Grand Poobahs representing every nation on earth except the spoilsports in Turkmenistan, Kiribati, Tuvalu and North Korea. (I would think Kim Jung Un would have been the first to join the charade to get rid of Trump, with the ‘Rocket Man’ barbs and cracks about his hair and height, but one has a sense that North Korea’s Great Leader Comrade is not much of a team player.)

“All we need you to do,” liberal mastermind Pelosi says, “is play along until November. Your economies will tank and you’ll have a lot of people starving, unable to afford housing or clean water, but don’t you worry. We’ll be in the exact same boat. Hell, Flint hasn’t had safe water in years.”

Pelosi leans in, looking each world leader in the eye for a second. (I imagine a large circular seating arrangement such as at the U.N. or when the baddies get together in James Bond movies.) After the minute and a half it takes to look 193 leaders in the eye for one second, Pelosi rocks back on her high heels and smiles. “Who’s in?” she asks cheerfully. Hands fly up. Hoax initiated.

After careful consideration, I don’t really buy the coronavirus conspiracy theory, but I do hope to be reunited with my childhood dog Tinkerbell when I die. Also, what are the chances the Rolling Stones would postpone a world tour because of a hoax? Some things just speak for themselves.

I could watch turkey vultures all day. (So long as I had snacks and the proper hydration.) (Jalapeno margaritas are loaded with tequila antioxidants and they are mostly tequila water.) For birds who survive on a diet of roadkill, these pterodactyl-sized creatures are able to catch a thermal and glissade through the skies for hours on end. What must that feel like? (My reverie on this imagining comes crashing down when I see them picking the decaying meat off a run-over deer.) Still, they’re cool to watch then they’re not eating.

I’m doing a hundred day challenge with my friend Cindy. Week One, the goal was to walk five miles a day. Week Two, we added in various stretching and home work-out activities to the roster. The roster looks wonderful—very professional—and if I checked off the items on it, so would I. Mainly, I bake things to eat. (And clean out closets and drawers, which I find really works up the ol’ appetite.) My husband remarked again this morning, “I don’t know what it is, but I just keep losing weight!” I have added a little sumpin sumpin to the 100 day plan. It includes a dry cleaning bag, duct tape and a shovel.

And just in time for Mother’s Day, another polar vortex event is bringing frigid air and freezing temperatures to pretty much every place east of the Rockies—an obvious attempt to discredit the president who claimed warm weather and Lysol suppositories would make the invisible coronavirus monster go nigh-nigh. Polar bears, Santa Claus and a handful of sciency elves have figured out how to export tremendously cold wind in an attempt to embarrass our leader. I personally feel they are also responsible for COVID toe, which looks suspiciously like Rudolph’s nose, but I don’t want to start any rumors.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and whether we are wearing electric underpants and fleecy bras or not, I want to wish all the moms a very happy Mother’s Day. I have such fond memories of Mother’s Days as a child—homemade cards, bouquets of violets—her favorite—and always a little poem I’d written in my childish hand to say how much I loved her. I remember they were usually warm Sundays in May, my mom’s perfume floating in the air and a lightness in our house on this special, extra sparkly day. I can see her putting lipstick on in the bathroom mirror, foot slipping into a pretty shoe and how excited I was to have a whole day to celebrate my mom.

In my wistful memory of those bygone days, I forget about the difficult years—me, between the ages of 13 and 30—when we’d clash over everything then forget about it and move on, usually heading over to TJ Maxx for a little retail therapy. From where I sit now, especially now, the nearly 60 years I was lucky enough to have my mom were just not sufficient. Hug your mother close. (And give her a kiss for me.)

Loves ya,

Pam

mom and me

 

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Week 6.2 Surrender

white flag of surrender

Murder hornets.

 

(I will be back as usual on Friday assuming I am not dead, in which case I may need a couple extra days.)

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Week Six: DIY Quarantine Fun

omelet for blog

If you are like the 3.5 billion humans who have internet access you’ve probably discovered there are tutorials for absolutely everything on YouTube, which is not to say you will necessarily master all that you attempt. For me, making a French omelet was a more successful enterprise than say, cutting my own bangs or a misguided stab at elective surgery. (Note to self: home liposuction video likely fake.)

Being a stickler for details, I follow tutorials to the letter. If someone tells me I need a nonstick omelet pan, salon-quality scissors or a Vac-Assist Suction machine, I am on it like Trump on Lysol. I was thrilled to find a perky blonde woman with her own YouTube channel who teaches viewers how to DIY sexy curtain bangs v. the cut-straight-across-the-bottom look that made fifth grade the nightmare it was for me.

My fancy professional shears arrived not a moment too soon. By the time I had decided to trim my own bangs, my hair had grown below my eyes and on several occasions before my morning coffee I’d blindly stepped barefoot into dog poop, mistakenly having placed clumps of mud and tree bark in the dog poop bags the day before. I’d used Pledge instead of dry shampoo (nice shine and lemony fragrance) and learned that kibble tastes only faintly similar to peanuts although crunch-wise they are a close match.

I placed my iPad on the bathroom counter, closed the sink drain and had a poofy make-up brush ready to dust away any pieces of hair stuck to my face and eyelids. Mallory, possibly 12 years old but maybe 19, covered with ink and overly fond of the word “like,” demonstrated how to section the bang area with one of her long pointy bejeweled fingernails. (FYI the business end of a meat thermometer works just as well.)

Grasping the designated clump of hair between forefinger and badfinger, also known as middle finger and technically, in the Latin, digitus me’dius (even dead languages have YouTube channels), you take the clippers in your other hand and “chip in,” basically snipping off an infinitesimal, pert’ near invisible amount of hair. As if reading my mind, Mal assured me that the teeniest flecks of hair in the sink meant I was doing it correctly—and I needed to budget 2.5 hours for the project. Look, even though I had nothing better to do than bake something, eat something or drink wine, this was too much for me.

I gathered my bangs between the recommended extremities and decided to be more assertive with my chipping in. A chunk of hair fell into the sink, and with it some blood and a portion of my index finger not completely insignificant in size. (YouTube hosts a First Aid Channel. I found the episode on bleeding especially insightful.)

Bangs cropped
(The bangs eventually grew in quite nicely. Thank you, Mallory!)

My dad’s gorgeous silver mane, cut months ago to match a picture of silver fox Michael Douglas, is starting to look like Albert Einstein’s electric shock mop. Pops asked if I would cut it for him. I am an only child and as perfect a human being as one could possibly be (to my dad) so he didn’t notice the 2” x 2” chunk of hair missing from the middle of my forehead or the tourniquet on my left hand. I’ve found the perfect tutorial for the job. We are just waiting for my finger to grow back and a new shears to arrive from Amazon. Somehow the last one got broken with a hammer.

Each evening at the kitchen table as I serve platter after platter of the complicated cuisine I learn to make on YouTube’s New York Times Cooking channel, my husband and pops discuss a light at the far shore of Lake Nagawicka that blinks white until sunset at which time it blinks red. I am reminded of the unrequited love expressed so eloquently in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which a green light across the lake, at lovely Daisy’s East Egg dock, represented Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future in the most luscious, glorious prose. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work out how he wanted.)

My two Toms waxed poetic on the the size of the lightbulbs, how tall the tower is and how far away it is exactly, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise when last Saturday, wearing what can only be described as expedition gear, they loaded up the Suburban with snacks, filled my dad’s Korean War canteen with tap water and took off for the far shore of Lake Nagawicka six minutes away. God only knows what they were doing out there, but it gave me almost an hour to “Learn How to Love a Married Man.”

tower copy
(I truly do not make this stuff up.)

These past six weeks I have learned how to love jicama, quinoa-infused vodka and my bathtub time so I figured a refresher course on romance to spice things up might be in order. To my amazement, the lesson had nothing to do with cooking, which I thought was a slam dunk, and even more startling it appears the married man to whom the tutorial refers is not the guy to whom you are currently married. (Suffice it to say, I am up on the how-tos should Bruce Springsteen stumble into Delafield minus the missus.)

This morning over coffee the guys sat at the kitchen table studying birds at a feeder on the deck, looking them up in A Field Guide to the Birds, courtesy of husband Tom. In addition to illustrations identifying the various birds, the book also describes, in words, consonants and vowels, various bird calls. Just imagine two men named Tom chirping, “what-cheer cheer cheer, whoit whoit whoit” like an anguished Northern Cardinal. All morning long. (The instant I find a lobotomy tutorial, I am down.)

There’s a YouTube video that teaches you how to imitate a blue jay imitating a hawk (that is trying to avoid being attacked by the blue jay) (FYI—blue jays are idiots). It is a very high-pitched, eardrum-piercing EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEFUCKKKKK!!!!!! It is a sound that flushes wildlife from the woods and occasionally shatters a glass in the china cabinet. I am learning how to do it. Three can play this game.

People are also using YouTube to lift our spirits and make us smile and for that I am grateful. My favorite this past few weeks is Some Good News with John Krasinski. This episode with a little girl whose opportunity to see Hamilton was dashed due to coronavirus is my very most favorite. The whole show is magical, but the chills start at minute 8:28. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Stay healthy, safe and sane!

Loves ya,

Pam

 

 

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Week Five: The Thrill Is Gone

Female Doctor or Nurse Wearing Scrubs and Protective Mask and Goggles Banner.

Common Words, Terms and Phrases Heretofore Little Used by Most People

  • Mitigation
  • Misophonia
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • PPE
  • Vodka and prune juice
  • Netflix and chill get that thing away from me
  • What day is it
  • The Mayor of Las Vegas
  • I wish I were a squirrel

It’s not even 9AM and I have eaten a bowl of linguine Bolognese with my coffee and almond milk. I’m not going to lie. I thought about having a nice glass of red wine with my breakfast pasta, but we are down to one bottle and I won’t be hitting the grocery store until my weekly run on Saturday when I don a makeshift hazmat suit and squirt hand sanitizer over my entire body every 30 seconds. I’m not really sure what day today is, but I know it’s not Sunday or I’d be having chianti with my cornflakes.

Twenty million years ago, before we locked ourselves into self-quarantine, there were a handful of things I dreaded—things like surgery, doing taxes and demonic possession. Today, I’d rather gurge up pea soup whilst my head does 360s as I’m being wheeled into the OR for a bowel resection than wash my hair. The idea of my head getting wet is suddenly revolting. I have also developed an aversion to laundry. There is something about reaching into a long-sleeved shirt or pair of jeans and turning them right side out that makes me want to kill.

I pray for dreary days now. Sunshine and squirrels cavorting on the lawn, racing up and down trees with brains so tiny they couldn’t measure a six foot distance between them if their rodent lives depended on it—which our lives do—makes me weepy. Give me rain, freezing if possible, and a wind so blasty and biting neither man nor beast can abide it. Then I don’t feel so bad. (Feel free to set this to music. Just make it catchy and irritating.)

We learned this week that billionaires, many of them tech execs, have for years been commissioning the construction of survival bunkers in New Zealand. Apparently, there is no finer place for elite doomsday preppers to escape a pandemic than beautiful subterranean New Zealand. Ranging in price for a bargain basement unit at $3 million, to something more “livable” at upwards of $11 million, the shelters include basics like guns, ammo, bowling alleys and 2lb. tins of $34,500 Iranian Beluga caviar. My apocalypse survival kit includes a Louisville Slugger that I keep under the bed in a split level mid-century ranch in Southeastern Wisconsin, a semi-deflated Bosu ball (the plastic pump inflator thingie has been missing for years) and half a case of expired protein shakes on the bottom shelf of the pantry behind a Nutribullet that hasn’t been touched since 2003. They ain’t getting me without a fight.

In 1823, the poet Lord Byron wrote in the satirical poem Don Juan, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Imagine legions of billionaires emerging from luxurious underground lairs to discover they are the last people on earth. They literally have all the money in the world and very strong boss skills, but there isn’t one person alive who can unclog a toilet.

Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas, is perhaps the stupidest person currently alive since…what’s the name of the guy who just fired the nation’s top vaccine expert and who is also a former New Yorker reviled by New Yorkers? In interviews this week, Mayor Goodman said she wants Sin City open for business now. As in today. Casinos, hotels, sports arenas. Let’s go already.

Unlike scientists, the Governor of Nevada and anyone with a brain, Mayor Goodman is not at all worried about “testing” or people picking up Covid-19 off slot machines that hundreds of thousands of people have just touched, smoking and drinking (which weakens the human immune system), breathing recirculated air and then getting in planes, trains and automobiles to return to their respective homes, families, co-workers and everyfrickinbody else all over the world.

“Let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down,” she told MSNBC’s Katy Tur, who blinked speechlessly in the wake of the incomprehensible statement like Bambi upon discovering hunters had just blasted Mother to smithereens.

At one point in his interview with Goodman, Anderson Cooper removed his glasses and covered his face with his hands because it’s hard to believe anyone, much less a three-term American mayor, could be so completely and utterly witless. “It reminds me of 1964,” Goodman said, smiling. “I can drive anywhere quickly. There are no traffic jams. It’s wonderful.” Hey Vegas, gotta feel good to know this twit has your back.

Five weeks ago, I did not know that there was a recognized medical diagnosis for my reaction to the sounds some people make when eating. There is and it is called misophonia. Those who have misophonia might describe it as when a sound “drives you crazy.” According to medical journals, reactions can range from anger and annoyance to panic and the need to flee. But I can’t flee, can I? To me, misophonia is the indescribable raging urge to murder, and was even featured on an episode of Criminal Minds in which it triggered a serial killer to assassinate those who slurped, burped, groaned, chewed open-mouthed and made a wheezing/crunchy inhale/face fart sort of noise while eating a sandwich. I can relate.

Every other post on my Instagram feed has the hashtag #cocktails. At 4AM this morning I watched Stanley Tucci make the perfect Negroni from his sumptuous New York abode. If I had clean hair, I’d flip on the phone cam and #cocktail my recipe for vodka and prune juice. (Obviously, prune juice is a substitute for any other liquid whatsoever, but the real beauty lies in its virtue as a dual-action drinkie. In these times of great uncertainty and the disruption of our habits, give the Metamucil and Smooth Move tea a rest and say hello to our old friend the prune.

Apparently, my honey do (and honey do not) litany list is cumbersome to my newlywed husband of four months. I can only think it is irony he’s shooting for when he sticks Post-Its on every surface in the house reminding him to turn it off, turn it on, close it, clean it, put it back, reseal it, don’t eat the last one of it and for godssake put it right side out before throwing it into the hamper. Such a sexy kidder, this guy.

It has become too easy to focus on the aggravations of everyday life in captivity quarantine. If everyone croaked tomorrow except billionaires in 5-Star badger holes, how would I want my last days with my husband and pops to have been spent? I mean, we never know what the future holds. Even in the best of times people get hit by busses and flying pieces of space junk that withstand reentry into earth’s atmosphere. I think a lot of us are on edge—worried about what the days, weeks and years ahead will look like. If this is a jumping off point to a new normal, I think I’d like to jump off being kinder. More patient. Loving.

I’m breaking out my own Post-Its and I’m gonna stick one right on my forehead that says, “Let it go.”

Oh, and I might consider one more while I’m at it. “Wash your hair.”

 

Be healthy and safe. Loves ya,

Pam

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Week Four: The Siege

A young boy getting ready for a pudding bowl haircut

Alfie, a three-legged rat terrier mutt with six teeth and his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, has taken to lunging at my husband and attempting to bite his (well, gum really) face off when he tries to kiss me. It is super cute. Also tres adorbs, I have never seen my husband ambulate so quickly.

My cousin Melanie Bekos’ children are home from college for the rest of the semester. She looked at son Jack’s flowing blonde locks yesterday and volunteered to cut his hair. “Do you know how?” he asked. (I imagine he almost imperceptibly cocked his head to one side as a lone eyebrow went up a fraction of a fraction.)

This is a woman he has literally known his entire life, but who is so stealthy and tight-lipped that Jack thought for a nanosecond she might just possess a fantastical life-altering skill, with a very high degree of difficulty and equally vast margin of error, of which he was previously unaware. Melanie is the executive director of the Wisconsin Chapter of the ALS Association. When not performing bowl haircuts on innocent victims, she reminded me that people with ALS and all terminal diseases are having a particularly difficult time during this pandemic. Please donate whatever you can to those who are worse off.

My godson Chad and his lovely wife Nolene gifted us an iRobot Roomba for Christmas. How I love him! (There is no doubt in my mind that Roomba is a boy.) He’s a good little fellow dutifully collecting every crumb and hair on the floor. When he gets stuck, he doesn’t yell “Paaaaaaam!” like some others (especially when Paaaaaam is in the bathroom). He chirps, and then a woman’s voice announces in dulcet tones, “Roomba is stuck.” Roomba and the lady inside of him are telling me “don’t hurry. Relax. We’ll be patiently waiting for you until you find the time to unstick us. Go on, do what you were doing. Finish that chapter. Or the large pizza you made from scratch and are eating in the attic, so you don’t have to share. We don’t mind. We are here for you.”

Pet hair is my pet peeve so I was both hopeful and skeptical when I saw an ad on my Instagram feed for the Chom Chom Roller. How on earth they knew I had a thing about dog hair is beyond me. I mean, I get why I am inundated by solicitations and sexy ads from Stuart Weitzman, TJ Maxx and Sweaty Betty (their butt-lifting work-out pants do the work so you don’t have to), but that I was included among the lucky people to learn of this miraculous device on social media can only be chalked up to voodoo.

My lint roller habit was setting me back about a grand a month even though the dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture. (Everyone knows a bed is not furniture.) I’d go through a super thick Costco roller every other day defurrifying the bed each morning. (Everyone knows dogs shed their coats overnight, grow new ones and shed those before dawn.) My ChomChom Roller cost $25 and I’ve had it about six months now. (If Roomba and the ancient Mayans had a child it would be ChomChom and it would be gender fluid.)

My heart-as-big-as-the-world friend Teri, who rescued, fixed-up and fostered Zuzu and the three-legged toothless assassin known as Alfie, tells me she is super busy running Henry’s Hope, the foundation that rescues dogs, cats and all manner of sweet creatures from high kill shelters in Los Angeles (and then ships them out to suckers animal-lovers in Southeastern Wisconsin, namely Delafield). In spite of the 24/7 nature of the animal rescue vocation, there are still hours during the night when a person used to sleep (but is now in a semi-permanent semi-somnambulist state) that can be used for all kinds of important new work. Like many of us, Teri finds cleaning baseboards with a toothbrush and organizing and reorganizing the same junk drawer over and over worthwhile pursuits if the goal is to keep your hands busy enough not to bitch slap people with whom you are stuck living out the pandemic go crazy. (Got pictures of a super spiffy junk drawer? Whoosh them off to pam@pamferderbar.com I’ll publish them with next week’s blog.)

My dad has taken to humming and thumping out showtunes with a special affliction affinity for “Good Mornin’, from Singin’ in the Rain and ‘Tea for Two’, from hell. I used to think things looked better in the morning. Now it just scares me. I overheard my dad on the phone with someone who must have asked what he did all day. “Work on my computer, read and after my nap I watch the Trump show.” They used to be called press briefings, when they were conducted by actual literates public servants.

I did it. I went to the grocery store last Saturday. At first, I thought, that’s insane—the busiest day of the week! Then I realized there is no difference between Saturday. There was a line outside. Most people kept their social distance. Maybe a third wore masks. Two-thirds irritated me. Inside was another story. Hardly anyone kept their distance and they all frickin’ annoyed the crap out of me. For example, one ahole man stood right in front of what was once a bountiful Campbell’s Tomato Soup display that promised the warm comfort of bygone days when our moms cooked for us and we were not shut in like death row inmates. As I tried to see how many cans were left, a good ten feet away and using the opera glasses my ex-husband bought me years ago so we might take up opera because ‘enough Springsteen already’, I spied maybe four or five cans on the shelf.

As I barreled toward him with my cart, I doubt the man noticed I hadn’t washed my hair in a month, that my roots looked like a wide silver zipper, or that my eyebrows crept over my forehead like an extra furry Pyrrharctia Isabella. What he saw was a face mask, goggles, a shiny rubber yellow slicker and those paperish bootie things people wear in highly contagious hospital situations, to open houses in nice neighborhoods and on the show Dexter. I was perfectly attired to murder and dismember the man without getting a speck of DNA on my actual person. We were on the same page, he and I. He leapt out of the way and I snagged three cans of the soul-saving elixir known as Campbell’s Classic Tomato Soup. (I left two on the shelf so as to not be rude.)

I am not selling anything. I am appreciating the little things that under normal circumstances would be the unsung heroes of my life—pet hair removers, soup, dog rescuers, cousins. (If the ChomChom peeps are listening, I would totally take a case of rollers off your hands to give as gifts.)

Our governor, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, just extended the shelter-in-place order until May 26. He did this without legalizing pot. smh.

Be healthy and safe, and love each other.

 

Loves ya,

Pam

 

PS

It ain’t opera, but it sure is regal. Prince, Motherless Child.

 

 

 

 

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Self-Quarantine: Week Three Bazillion

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) on a bird feeder, eastern Ontario. Masked mammal has a bit of fun while he looks for and finds an easy meal. Friendly animal lovers helping the woodland critters.

I don’t know how you all are doing with this self-quarantine thing, but for me WEEK THREE has lacked the gaiety and novelty of the early self-quarantine experience. I tire of cooking constantly (I have yet to grow weary of eating, however). I’m thinking day drinking probably isn’t good for a person in the long term but was intended to be a naughty flight of fancy, enjoyed while on a tropical or Alpine ski vacation, or in celebration of a nationally recognized holiday. Tuesday is simply not a convincing argument for a breakfast of poached eggs and tequila.

No one in my house actually knows what day of the week it is anyway. We tape Post-It reminders to mirrors and our foreheads on Garbage Day Eve. Noses pressed to the glass, we watch as the G-Men take away our trash and we wonder what it would be like to have a coffee with them, maybe a burger and a beer once. (We are also speaking more Wisconsineze than before, like ending sentences with the word once. “Hand me that walleye once, would ya?” That sort of thing.)

We’ve been unconsciously free associating, and in this parallel universe of new normal self-isolating rational conversation deprivation, the other person knows what we’re talking about. Let me give you an example:

Husband is reading and brushing his teeth in the backseat of the car. I go into the garage to get a bra because that is where I am keeping all my undergarments now, pretending that the shelves over the weed whacker, rakes and bag of steer manure are a Victoria’s Secret display.

“Masky things,” I remark, wrapping a bra in ancient pink tissue paper. My husband spits toothpaste into a coffee can and answers, “Soon as I finish this chapter.”

“Falling from the sky, starving,” I mutter, heading into the house with my sale items. (If I’m play shopping I sure as hell am doing it during a sale.)

Translation: Racoons have eaten the bird seed again. My husband will refill the bird feeder in a month or two.

We can’t stand to see the other person sleep. I woke up after having dozed off watching the 10th episode of Luther in a row only to discover my husband was asleep on the sofa next to me. “Your eyes are closed!” I shrieked. “I thought we were going to watch Luther together!”

My dad looked up from his armchair and shook his head. “I’m going to watch the golf channel in my room,” he said. “There replaying the 1997 Master’s.”

“Sweet dreams, pops,” I told him, rolling my eyes. “He’s just gonna fall asleep,” I said to my husband who had begun to snore. “Wake up,” I hissed, poking his ribs with my big toe. “Hand me the clicker once.”

The dogs have become needy. It’s not enough that we are home with them 24/7. They now insist upon constant petting, and the female rat terrier, Zuzu, must carry an item of my clothing or shoe/boot/slipper/flip flop with her at all times. I fell asleep in bed last night watching the 23rd episode of Frankie and Grace in a row when something hit me on the head. Assuming it was my husband, I opened my eyes and said, “I’m awake!” He, on the other hand, was sound asleep with Zuzu sitting beside him, atop my pillow, the lace of my hiking boot dangling from her mouth. She was smiling.

I have become very good friends with all the live chat help people. (I feel like I’ve known Crystal at Drizly for years. Crystal, if you’re reading this—big hugs to Derek and tell him I’m very sorry about the rash. I’m sure it’s just stress.)

How nice that grocery stores offer pick-up and even delivery. Too bad the soonest either of those things is possible is forever from the day you order. An order I placed March 23 was scheduled to be delivered April 5. On April 5, I placed another order only to learn it would be delivered same day. Although both orders went through the market’s website, a company called Instacart was responsible for the shopping and deliveries.

Late that afternoon I received texts from the shopper on the same-day order asking about substitutions and whatnot. He didn’t like the way the green peppers were looking and did I have feelings one way or the other about red or yellow. At 5PM I received a text that said he was on his way followed by a text five minutes later saying the groceries had arrived. He placed the bags in the driveway and waved to my husband who was shaving at the bird bath.

A few minutes later I began receiving texts from a woman shopper with substitution questions. They were all out of diet Orange Crush and diet A&W root beer. Was diet Dr. Pepper cool? She included a photo of the depleted soft drink shelves, but I saw what I thought was a supply of diet A&W root beers.

The trouble with texts is the potential for misreading tone and intent. I meant no ill will, really, when I texted Rochelle that perhaps she could just grab a couple 12-paks of the diet root beer in the center of the photo. There is no way she could have heard what I was thinking…”are you blind, you frickin’ twit?” And yet it seemed she had.

“You want the diet cream sodas then?” she texted me. “Bitch” was definitely implied at the tail end of that. I didn’t want to further piss off the person handling my groceries, so I apologized for my terrible vision—“been bad ever since the accident” I told her, and then begged her forgiveness. I heard nothing until I received a text half an hour later telling me my order had been delivered.

My husband walked in from the garage with the badminton set and I asked if he noticed anyone dropping more groceries off. He did not. He sat down at the kitchen table where he proceeded to restring the badminton net. “Do we have a large ordinary sponge anywhere?” he asked. “If I trim it round, to about the size of my fist, it should make quite a satisfactory substitute for the shuttlecocks which seem to have gone missing.”

I went outside and looked around. Front of house, back door, the vacant adjoining lots. Nada. I texted Rochelle a dozen times to no avail. I hopped into the car and drove around the neighborhood to see if our groceries had been left in someone else’s driveway. They had not. I called Instacart where the robovoice told me the estimated wait time was 324 minutes and I was number 323 in the queue. I never did receive the groceries. My credit card was charged. I hope Rochelle chokes on French Onion Dip. (I know how the birds feel when the masky things get away with their food.)

On the positive side, we love each other. I am blessed that my dad and husband get along so well, and I look forward to taking a very long vacation by myself knowing it could be weeks before either of them notice I am gone. That, my friends, is what you call a win-win situation.

I truly enjoy conversations with complete strangers who are going through the exact same thing as we are. Everyone is doing their best. (Hear that, Rochelle? I am giving you the benefit of the doubt.) Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though everyone is just a bit kinder these days. More gracious. Compassionate.  I had to call the DMV earlier this week and I swear, when I told her about my husband brushing his teeth in the car, I heard a little laugh. “Mine’s taken to eating sandwiches in the bathtub,” she told me.

We are all in this together. Be safe. Be healthy. Love each other.

Loves ya,

Pam

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BEST MARTINI

Self Quarantine: Week Two

BEST MARTINI

I’ve been staring at the same blank page for two weeks now, resisting the urge to tell people to eff off whenever they chirp, “You must be getting so much writing done.” What I am getting so much “done” is cocktails, cooking and eating. I have also discovered the joys of baking. (FYI there is no reason to fire up the oven for chocolate cake. It is god’s perfect creation raw, right out of the bowl.)

Last night we had Driveway Happy Hour with our neighbors Robyn and Steve. It’s a simple concept. Bring your booze and glasses to the end of someone’s driveway while they have their booze and glasses at the opposite end of the driveway and you stand around drinking and shouting at one another down the length of a driveway. Lest this sound too hillbilly for y’all, Ernest Hemingway once did the exact same thing when his little boy had highly contagious whooping cough and he spent several weeks in self-isolation with the sick toddler, his wife, the nanny, and his mistress.

Summering nearby, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald would pull up to the Hemingway residence in their Duesenberg each evening for a roaring twenties version of Driveway Happy Hour. By the end of the summer, which was the duration of the Hemingway’s quarantine, the Fitzgerald’s had stuck their empty liquor bottles on the white picket fence running the length of the sprawling estate the Hemingway’s occupied. The fence stretched for miles in either direction, bottles lined up as far as the eye could see. My question is what did they eat???

Right now, I have a second window open on my laptop so I can peruse the recipes that are trending on the New York Times Cooking app while I am simultaneously writing trying to write eating homemade chocolate chip cookies with walnuts. Indian food is delish and labor intensive—an excellent combination for these long days in captivity quarantine. Alas, my pantry is lacking in mung beans, pigeon peas and paneer.

I wish there were an app where you would enter all the crap you’ve got in the kitchen and it would spit out recipes using those ingredients. I would love to know what I could make with black beans, mandarin orange slices, cream of mushroom soup, sweet and sour beets, wonton sheets, four dozen cans of solid white tuna and a craft fair jar of pickled asparagus that expired in 1998. (If you know of such an app, hit me up at pam@pamferderbar.com) (Lo and behold, Pamela Vidovic, a reader in Croatia, sent us this link: coolinarika.com. And Nan Teske from Milwaukee sent this: Supercook.com) Thanks, ladies!!!

In addition to new cooking terms (bard the bird with bacon) I find myself using words and phrases that have only entered the daily lexicon since the coronavirus pandemic. Pandemic is one of them. So is coronavirus.  I bet in my whole entire life until now I said or heard those words maybe a dozen times total. Today, they pepper every other sentence.

The expression “conscious uncoupling” made me throw up a little in my mouth each time I heard it. I am no fonder of the phrases ‘social distancing,’ ‘shelter in place,’ ‘makeshift morgue’ and ‘the president said.” But here we are, forced to deal with all the above…and for those of us “lucky” enough to be consciously coupling during the quarantine, i.e. being confined with family living with loved ones, I have begun to collect words and phrases that reflect current events in our home.

What is that sound you make while you eat?

What is that sound you make while you brush your teeth?

What is that sound you make when you breathe?

Hectoring.

Temporarily out of stock.

Estimated delivery time: 12-72 weeks.

Same day chocolate delivery guaranteed.

FUPA.

Clairol Root Touch-Up.

Hair dye allergy patch test.

Contact dermatitis home remedies.

And this is only week two. God knows which words and phrases will develop in the coming weeks, but I am gonna go out on a limb and suggest the following:

Justifiable homicide.

Self-immolation.

Will the remote work from up your ass?

It’s nice, eating dinner all together like this every single night. Breakfast and lunch, too. Snacks even.

I envy squirrels.

Did you really spend $500 on resistance bands, kettlebells and Spanx?

What’s Drizly and did you really spend $1000 on it?

I laughed when I saw @mom_needsalife’s tweet this week, “Gwyneth Paltrow said in an interview we should take this time to learn a new language or write a book. I just shook chip crumbs out of my bra & I don’t know what day it is. I’m fairly certain I’m not going to attempt either of these things.” Clearly, we need distraction from the horrors of the daily news whether it’s cooking, eating, having cocktails behind the garage or simply staring out the window thinking calm, sane thoughts and praying for the best possible outcome and a quick end to the pandemic.

In the meantime, there is one phrase that should be our mantra; Better safe than sorry.

Visit CDC.gov for up-to-the-minute guidelines meant to keep you and all of us safe and healthy.

Loves ya,

Pam

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Lucky in Love

Fortune cookies with blank paper for your message.

I am married. Three weeks wedded. Consciously coupled. Legally linked. My mate is a deep thinker who has deeply thought about what this means in the here and now, how it differs from the combined four marriages of our past and how we might navigate the intermittently placid and occasionally churning headwaters of our union. Me? I’m a more leap-before-you-look individual driven by what I can only describe as chemistry—the zing and shwing of how and why we combine or separate to form partnerships, and how we interact with energy, i.e. WHOA! I don’t know a thing about this dude, but ima marry him because I can’t breathe when he’s around.

I’ve now done the wedding dance three times. The first two really put my mantra “what could go wrong” to the test in some very imaginative and unforeseen ways. (To be honest, I was the only one who did not foresee a bad outcome. Husband #1’s parents warned me that marriage to their son would be a catastrophic error in judgment, not to mention my own family and friends who concurred in no uncertain terms.) The first unholy union lasted eight months.

I might have known better the second time around, after I’d transplanted to Los Angeles, when someone I’d only just met found out who I was dating and immediately remarked, “He’s the most inappropriate man in LA.” If you haven’t been to LA, that is quite some distinction. Married him quick as I could.

Which bring us to #3. My deep thinker asks how my thought process, my “picker” has changed. What made me finally choose a good man, an appropriate man, a man who supports himself and is successful in every way a man can be successful who does not bear the weight of substance abuse, narcissism, an inability to tell the truth and a general air of entitlement to which I should cater.

This was not something I had ever considered—my part in choosing a suitable mate with whom I had a better than average chance of real happiness and a solid partnership. The question forced me into the unfamiliar territory of introspection. After many minutes of deep reflection, I reckon I did not consciously change a single thing in the way I selected this mate although something about the guy scared me a little and after one of the best first dates ever I dodged him for exactly 14 days. Despite intoxicating chemistry, I went completely MIA—a decidedly different tack than any mating protocol I have employed in the past.

All the reflection in the world isn’t going to tell me why I did that. I can guess at it; I wanted to slow things down, think about my future, clear my head. Uh, nope. I responded to every call and text from him with cool detachment. I legit did not want to start it up. Maybe I subconsciously developed some sort of emotional intelligence armor that told me to take it slow, really get to know the man…think for once. But that is not the case. I knew if I saw him again there would be no rational thinking. I would be all in. Done for. Dum dum-dee-dum…here comes the bride…

I like to tell him he wore me down with his texts and phone calls, but that is also not true. After two weeks, all I could think about was him. And I didn’t really know the first thing about him. What I knew was how he made me feel, which was not unlike the heady first blush of all my ill-fated relationships.

I have admired and often envied people who possess the ability to choose mates wisely. I have no clue what that looks like. From age 16 to this very day, the key to successfully choosing a life partner remains as elusive to me as molecular gastronomy and beet foam. When my pulse races, everything is a little blurry, I can’t breathe and 10lbs melts off like nothing, it’s love.

So here I am, married to a truly wonderful perfect-for-me, great, great man. How the hell did that happen? After further minutes of reflection I have finally figured it out. Luck. Plain and simple. (Or maybe the law of averages.) I am grateful to have found a grown-up, smart, generous, hilarious, silly and all-round awesome man who loves me with all his heart, and whom I love without reservation, but I can take no credit for this turn of events. Given my forethought in these matters it could as easily have gone the other way. Without an inkling as to what I was getting into…again…I jumped feet first into what has turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me. How else to characterize the outcome other than luck?

I believe most of the goodness in life comes down to luck. Where we are born, to whom, and the privileges afforded us as a result are all a matter of luck. I could be struggling in a refugee camp outside of Syria, worried how my children will survive another day when instead I’m sitting in a comfy chair writing an essay about luck. Growing up, I took crazy chances and survived while some of my friends did not. Dumb luck. And every so often I have showed up in the right place at the right time and made discoveries that opened a new world to me. Blind luck.

Two and a half years ago I walked into a museum and saw Tom standing in a beam of golden light and I just knew. In addition to the knowledge he’d soon be wearing better-fitting clothes and cool boots, there was no doubt in my mind this was it. The big love. My future. I couldn’t have planned it better. I actually couldn’t have planned it at all because luck is random and unpredictable. The trick is you have to be open to it. So fear not if you’re looking for love and all you’ve found so far are the most inappropriate partners on the planet. And don’t beat yourself up if you married one or two or four of them. All that energy, heartache and experience has given you perspective, and maybe a hint at what you do not want in your life. With an open mind, open heart…and a little luck…the universe will deliver. Good luck!

 

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What’s love got to do with it?

Romantic Dog runs across the meadow - Jack Russell 6 months old. Hair style rough

An article appeared in my inbox yesterday asking what I had in common with the macaroni penguin, sandhill crane, gray wolf, barn owl, shingleback skink, bald eagle, gibbon and black vulture. I like to think I share a certainly badassery with the gray wolf, bald eagle and black vulture although I fear the creature with whom I share the most traits would be the gibbon—a “lesser” ape with a big personality. But that isn’t what the authors were driving at. It turns out all the creatures on the list are monogamous, and they mate for life. Happy Valentine’s Day the email cajoled as though I should be thrilled to be lumped in with a skink.

Without doing a ton of research on the cohabitating customs of faithful varmints, I suspect there are biological reasons that drive them to select a partner and then stick to her or him like glue until the end, which according to Animal Planet, is often bitter. Jeez Louise, you sit down with your five cups of Skinny Pop, intending to watch a lovely nature show with soothing ocean sound effects only to be assaulted by footage of a ravenous sea lion culling a shrieking flightless bird from its posse, ultimately making a meal of someone’s penguin husband (or wife—it’s hard to tell).

Divorce penguin-style is brutal although being party to two human-style “conscious uncouplings” I will say there were times I wouldn’t have minded being a Mrs. Penguin whilst a peckish sea lion were nosing about the old man.

When my mom passed away in 2016, my folks were just a few months shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. I often asked my mom how she knew pops was “the one,” and the answer was always unsatisfactory to my romantic notions about such things. “He was a nice guy from a nice family and we got along.” What now? No fireworks, volcanos of lust, poetry even? The way both my parents described mate selection could as easily been the same formula for purchasing a car, which explains my childhood ride—a dependable if unsexy Rambler.

While my mom advocated for good guys and sensible transportation, I gravitated to the fast and undependable in both. Every so often I’d miscalculate a man’s character, meaning I figured I had found someone without any only to learn I had accidentally stumbled upon someone with scruples, morals, ethics and a job, and I would find myself out on the town with a nice guy—exactly once.

But bad boys…ah. We don’t need to itemize the various criteria that comprise the classic rogue for each of us has our own reasons for pairing up with guys in rock bands and the federal witness protection program. My friends told me I had a bad “picker.” Pshaw. I knew exactly what I was doing.

People cite growing apart, changing needs and falling out of love as the reasons for splitting up. Didn’t my parents grow, change, throw china at each other’s heads from time to time? Oh, all right, so they didn’t chuck Fiestaware at one another, but between the ages of 13 and 16 I drove them to the brink by employing a divide and conquer strategy worthy of Julius Caesar as he defeated the Gauls. Yet they remained a team—unwavering. Powerful. How?

I think luck has a lot to do with it. There’s a certain amount of luck—kismet maybe—that brings people together, but after that you’ve got to bring in the heavy artillery; the big guns. You have to be lucky enough to realize you’ve got a good thing, and lucky enough not to fuck it up.

Sure, sure, sure, it all involves hard work, respect, love and patience, but without the component of luck—that mystical little song that breathes softly into your soul “be kind, be sweet, be loving,” you may as well be a dead penguin.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Wishing you love. And luck.

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America Is Still Land of Opportunity

Stunning young female fashion model entering a private plane parked on an airport taxiway. She is looking over her shoulder.

I am a billionaire. Actually, my family has a net worth of $23 billion. We are by no means the “richest people in America.” But we’re comfortable.

There are 540 billionaires in the United States—more than anywhere in the world. USA! USA! USA! We control more than 40% of all the wealth in the country and we’ve worked hard to get here—or a relative four generations back worked hard. That few million in seed money, plus favorable tax laws did the rest so all I have to do is decide which charities to support…and to go shopping. Before you get your underwear in a knot I’d ask you to remember my shopping isn’t like your shopping because when I plunk down my credit card I am injecting millions into the economy—money that pays people’s wages.

Friends like Misters Bezos, Gates and Buffett own more wealth than the bottom half of the nation’s population combined. They’re forever looking for ways to make life better for other people—their foundations and charitable trusts work tirelessly to provide medicine and put food on the table for families without. Of course they know better than the poor people themselves. Duh. If poor people were so smart they’d be the billionaires!

Billionaires, as a group, are so wicked smart that in 2018 (a year my dad says was a very good year for all of us) one family we’re close with saw an uptick in their wealth of $11.6 billion, bringing their net worth to over $175 billion. (Needless to say, lunch was on “Uncles” Jim, Rob and “Aunt” Alice when that report came out.)

I am so sick of hearing people say the system is rigged in favor of the rich. How do you think we got here, by being lazy? We, this tiny fraction of American families, are responsible for bringing in more than 24% of the total income in the United States. I get tired just looking at the math. But anyone can get rich…wealthy even. You don’t need a big inheritance. All you have to do is invent an app everyone in the world wants to buy, or invest in real estate, or start a grocery store chain.

And now that freshman Congresswoman from The Bronx wants to tax annual income over $10,000,001 at a progressive rate that could top out at 70%. Do you have any idea what that would mean to me and my friends? $10 million a year is chump change—I mean seriously.  People with real dough—people like us—would be taxed to death beginning with that very first dollar over $10 million. Mind you, “income” is kind of a slippery word in our circle. Stocks, real estate and all kinds of investments are not considered income, but still. You can bet your bottom billion we’d be paying more in taxes than we do today if some people had their way.

I read somewhere that when wealth is concentrated among only a small group of people, it actually increases demand for imported luxuries. Again, duh. I mean, you can’t technically call it champagne if it doesn’t come from France. When wealth is more evenly distributed (you should hear what Daddy has to say about that) it means more mass-produced goods are manufactured. But we buy stuff cheaper in China, mark it up for a little profit and sell it to Americans who can’t afford to buy American-made even if they wanted to. Win-win. I do not understand the bellyaching.

We own seven homes in the United States (and only three in Europe). “America first,” Daddy always says. We’ve got planes, helicopters, fleets of vehicles, a 164’ yacht and hundreds and hundreds of staff to take care of it all. That is money we are infusing directly into the American economy. (Daddy’s “America first” stance is the reason we are stuck with a 164’ yacht built in Washington State instead of a proper 250’ super yacht, like they build in Germany and the Netherlands, so don’t talk to me about sacrifice.)

You think it’s fun dealing with hundreds of thousands of employees who are not what you’d call “grateful to have a job?” They want more and more; healthcare, maternity leave, a 40-hour workweek. Know what smart people do when they’re backed into a corner by greedy workers? We give ‘em a work week just short enough so they’re part time, and we don’t have to provide any benefits at all, except compliance with certain federal regulations about dangerous working conditions and such—like Great Grandpa’s workers didn’t eat their lunch, feet dangling off an I-beam 200’ above Fifth Avenue and then thank the company for the opportunity to do so.

If you want benefits beyond a paycheck, and to work a 40-hour week, then you should go to college and get a job with one of America’s leading conglomerates or tech companies like GE, Hewlitt Packard or IBM. Or you could always work at Costco. Ugh. The average Costco employee makes $21 per hour, gets full benefits and they close shop on Thanksgiving so workers can spend time with their families.

Costco’s CEO makes under $5 million per year, so of course he doesn’t have to worry about that pesky 70% progressive tax thing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez keeps blabbing about. I’m sure Costco’s CEO is a nice enough man, but he doesn’t move in the same stratosphere as we do. Frankly, I don’t know how a guy like that makes ends meet.

But I look at Mr. Jelinek and his little $5 million salary (and the maybe $15 million he has put aside) and I look at my family, with a net worth of $23 billion and I recognize that obviously my dad is 1,533 times smarter and more hard-working than Mr. Jelinek.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median personal income of $900 weekly for all full-time American workers in 2018—that’s an annual income of $43,200. According to statistics, these people have virtually nothing set aside; no “net worth” to speak of. But I’m gonna throw them the benefit of the doubt and assume the average American has $43,200 in his piggybank. At that, my family is 534,883 times richer than the average American, which has to mean we are 534,883 times smarter. In order for this gap to exist, it must also mean we are 534,883 times more hard-working than the average American…right?

I am totally not sure what this looks like, exactly. I mean, I don’t think even Jeff Bezos could work 534,883 times harder, faster or smarter than a regular American, but statistics don’t lie. If you want to become wealthy like us, all you have to do is…well, start small. Shoot for working just a thousand times harder than you are right now and see where that gets you.

 

(Hey friends, I’ve stayed strong and I’m still off “the Facebook” so I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d share the blog on your social media. Thanks ever-so!)

 

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