Friday, April 24, 2020

Gone viral: part IV

Congratulationsyouve made it to part IV of my lockdown diaries. Parts I, II, and III are available here, here, and here, respectively. Thanks so much for your support, comments, shares, and likes. We will make it through this together! Maybe!

April 15
As previously mentioned, I have developed a rather unhealthy relationship with my vacuum cleaner; i.e. it has become the channel by which I rid myself of my (considerable) pent-up frustrations. But as I have discovered, one can only hate-clean so often before one’s thumb begins to develop tendinitis from activating the button of one’s turbo brush. So I decide to move on to the garden. Lots of possibilities there. I start with our leafless, flowerless Clematis, which seems to have gone dormant. I have had it with putting every last thing on hold and I REFUSE to wait for next spring to see if this lazy plant comes back to life. I am not the captain of much these days, but by God, I am the captain of this. Out comes the trowel. Goodbye, Clematis. May your successor flower abundantly OR ELSE.

April 16
I need soil. Like normal potting soil. The kind that one can procure whenever one wishes when one is not locked inside one’s home indefinitely. I also need mulch, preferably of the coastal pine variety. I turn to my most loyal lockdown ally: the internet. But alas! After toilet paper, then flour, now it appears soil is all the rage. I lose about two hours hunting for it on many, many websites, each with its own lame excuse. One is delivery-only, except for what I want. One offers in-store pick-up, but not at any store within a 50-km radius of our home. One is under maintenance. One offers pick-up near us, but doesn’t know its own inventory. One knows its inventory and offers pick-up near us, but doesn’t have any openings available. AARRRRRRGGGH!

I would turn to trusty ol’ Amazon, except Amazon France is under attack by the French government for catering to needs other than “essential” ones (which during lockdown is illegal, except when it’s not). Someone needs to explain to me how it is possible that things like WOOD and DIRT, which are the VERY STUFF OF LIFE, are somehow not essential enough to be sold on Amazon. What’s next, water? Sunlight? TOILET PAPER? And that’s without taking into consideration how bloody essential it is to my wellbeing that I find something other than compulsive vacuuming to release my anger. Is hate-gardening a thing? Shall I try to make it one? OH WAIT, I CAN’T BECAUSE NO ONE WILL SELL ME ANY #@*$% DIRT.

April 17
Speaking of being out of stuff, the subject of masks is becoming quite préoccupant. Like, how come we don’t have any? My parents in California and my brother in NYC have been sporting masks for weeks, while France remains maddeningly ambivalent. First we were told that masks were only for medical professionals. Then we were told that masks could be worn by the public, but only the sick public. Then we were told that masks should in fact be worn by everyone, but that only medical grade ones were effective. Then we were told that ALL masks had merit, but that there weren’t enough for everybody. Now we’re being told that masks will be an obligatory part of post-lockdown French society, and that handmade ones are better than nothing, but there are no details on how, when, or where we can get our hands on any. Overall, I am left with the impression that nobody knows anything about anything, and a distinct desire to engage in a vigorous round of vacuuming.

April 18
Today I am suspending all sense of reality and am doing my bi-annual wardrobe transition. Out with autumn/winter and in with spring/summer! Hooray! I have too many clothes. Some are over five years old and still have their tags on them. Some went out of fashion so long ago that they’re back in fashion now. I should do the “sparking joy” thing and triage the hell out of this closet to decide what gets saved and what does not. But with everything closed, where would I put all the insufficiently joy-procuring items? Guess I’d better wait. My daughter is almost four and is already about half my height, so hey if I wait long enough, maybe I can just give it all to her!

April 19
We are out of coffee. My husband informs me darkly that coffee is probably going to be next on the “aggravating nation-wide shortages” list. Considering that my mental and emotional stability at this point is 100% dependent upon wine, coffee, and the grace of God, any of these things being added to “the list” is out of the question. DO NOT PANIC. I may have to suck it up and hit the supermarket in town, dressed in a garbage bag, dishwashing gloves, and my son’s diving mask. 

April 20
Spring vacation is officially over, but all the schools are still closed, and that means returning to my state-enforced alternate profession of 1st grade/preschool teacher. President Macron recently stated that schools would be reopening on May 11, but in light of the widespread skepticism that greeted this optimistic announcement, the government is now back-pedaling and retroactively asterisking like mad and my hopes of a return to normalcy in the semi-near future have pretty much evaporated. I’m getting used to disappointment, however, and am handling this one admirably. *sob*

April 21
For those of you not in the know, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been offering free 48h broadcasts of his greatest hits, with a new one available each weekend, on the YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On! I watched The Phantom of the Opera with the kids last weekend, and have been humming most of the score non-stop ever since. Incidentally, teenage me was a Phantom FREAK; I once travelled from San Diego to Los Angeles with my piano teacher and her friend in the middle of the night in order to camp out in front of the Ahmanson Theatre in the desperate hope of catching Michael Crawford as the Phantom prior to his imminent retirement. We made it in on cancellation tickets for three seats in row H, dead center (i.e. right underneath THE chandelier), literally five minutes before the performance began and yes—the experience absolutely blew my mind. It’s ironic that the Phantom would be streaming now, because if there’s one dude who would never ever have allowed a nation-wide mask shortage, it’s him.

April 22
What day is it? What year is it? What does anything even mean? I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. But even my astral body does not have a mask because THERE ARENT ANY.

April 23
The talking heads on TV all seem to agree that not much is going to change in May, and think we shouldnt get too excited. Cross-regional travel is likely to be banned until at least June. We are advised to lower our expectations regarding summer vacation. Still no masks in sight. Also no printer paper, maybe because my kids teachers keep asking us to print roughly a gazillion pages of classwork every week.

April 24
Things we’re out of: flour, yeast, dirt, wood, paper, masks, patience, and potentially our minds.


To be continued...

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Gone viral: part III

Welcome to part III of my lockdown diaries. If you have a little oh, I dont know, FREE TIME on your hands, part II is available here and part I is available here.

April 6
Amazon delivers a box. This is the highlight of my day—a box! With stuff in it! Stuff for me! Actually, it’s stuff to occupy my kids, but no matter; I bought it, so it’s sort of for me. Deliveries these days are bizarre. When UPS came with our new printer last week, the delivery dude basically threw the box at me and ran off before I could contaminate him or whatever he was so worried about. *cough* 

April 7
In an abundance of completely misguided wisdom, the government decides that there are entirely too many people strolling about during the one hour of exercise we are allowed outside of our homes per day. So they limit exercise to before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m., which as any common idiot can imagine is ABSOLUTELY going to worsen the problem.

April 8
I go running at 7:01 p.m., along with what feels like half the town. WTF was the government thinking? I do my best to steer clear of everyone, even leaving the trail and running in the middle of the road (“Thanks for the asphalt,” say my knees and ankles). An older woman leaning on a walker glares at me, as though I were the Grim Reaper in the flesh, despite my respecting about 2x the recommended social distance AND holding my breath. Sigh.

April 10
Oh look! Our local authorities have noticed that the whole 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. restriction thing was an epic failure. But have they recanted? Not a chance! Instead they have doubled down, and now my entire neighborhood is encircled in barricade tape to keep folks off the most popular running paths, i.e. the ones that aren’t full of roots, leaves, and rocks. Speaking of barricades, I kind of feel like climbing one. Where’d I put my French flag?

April 12
Christos Anesti! I slip outside early in the morning and hide the 48 plastic eggs that I ordered online last month and spent 30 minutes filling with chocolates before going to bed a few hours ago. I sit in the garden and enjoy the silence. Having an apartment with a garden is an absolute lifesaver and I am incredibly grateful to be able to do this. The kids soon wake up and have a fantastic time racing about collecting the eggs. This feels like a solid win.

Easter Covid-style turns out quite nicely, actually. I tell the children that I am going to church, which these days means disappearing into my bedroom with my laptop and the online worship service of the American Church in Paris, virtual communion included. It’s alternative, but kind of fun! I like the fact that I can hit “pause” to go to the ladies’ room instead of slinking out of the sanctuary through the back door like I would if I were at a physical church.

Later, we go out for our daily stroll, which lo and behold takes us to the very neighborhood where I have an invitation to a “through the fence” wine tasting. We meet a very nice wine merchant, who lets us into his front yard where he introduces us to his wife and two children, who seem elated to meet our two children and the four of them R-U-N-N-O-F-T together immediately, which makes me realize how lonely my kids probably are, and I’m about to start feeling guilty but I can’t because there is a glass of chilled rosé being handed to me and before I know it the four of us are laughing and telling stories and GOOD LORD IT IS SO NICE TO JUST TALK TO ACTUAL PEOPLE! Like not on FaceTime or Zoom or whatever. Actual people. We buy six bottles and I stop just shy of asking them if we can be friends IRL. Come to think of it, I still might.

We head home, where I make a fairly elaborate Easter dinner, complete with hard boiled eggs sculpted into little chickens and again, I feel pretty proud of myself. My son says, “Mom, this is the best Easter I’ve ever had.” Remembering this simple affirmation is the primary reason for my writing this entire post. Our Easter is full of hope indeed. 

April 13
Macron addresses the nation wearing his furrowed, “empathetic” look. No wonder he’s trying to look empathetic—he announces FOUR MORE WEEKS of lockdown. I’m about to go look for anything I can make into a noose when he adds that after these next four weeks, schools will reopen. WADHESAY? So help me, there IS a light at the end of this long-ass tunnel. And that light is called “public school.” 

This really won’t last forever. Imagine that.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Gone viral: part II

Welcome to part II of my lockdown diaries. Part I is available hereTo set the tone, let us conjugate the expression être confiné (to be on lockdown):

Je suis confiné(e) : I am on lockdown 

Tu es confiné(e) : You are on lockdown
Il/Elle est confiné(e) : He/She is on lockdown
Nous sommes confiné(e)s : We are on lockdown
Vous êtes confiné(e)s : You are on lockdown
Ils/Elles sont confiné(e)s : They are on lockdown


March 30

With the entire country being ordered to #RestezChezVous, work has been a tad slooow for the past few weeks. But that does not stop me from ordering 250 euros worth of clothing from stores that are naturally closed due to the epidemic and won’t be able to deliver a damn thing until June. My husband, who loves statistics, really loves the one about how men still do most of the earning while women still do most of the spending, but what he doesn’t realize is that in my world, e-shopping is a highly effective form of self-medication with calming powers akin to those of Hatha yoga or, say, hiding in the garage with a shot glass and a bottle of triple sec. Buying stuff has always done great good to my nerves, and this is ESPECIALLY true when they have been frayed into oblivion by these very loud, very needy little creatures we live with who, the way things are going, may never go back to school again, ever.

March 31

One of the very first cultural lessons I was taught about the French, even before I first arrived in Paris waaaay back in 1999, was that direct eye contact with total strangers is a big no-no. Smiling while engaging in wanton eye contact is even worse. Far too forward. Far too direct. Far too intimate. But over time this has, at least in my experience, relaxed somewhat. A smile and a bonjour, when directed at the right passer-by, may be returned—without the recipient taking you for a wacko, a nympho, or a tourist. And as lockdown drags on, I find myself searching the face of everyone with whom I cross paths, hoping to find a kindred sparkle in their eye and perhaps even a little smile of solidarity. Alas, people are so freaked out by the risk of contagion that not only do they avoid eye contact at all costs, but they CROSS THE STREET when I come within 10 meters of them. I know it isn’t personal, but it still feels undeservedly cruel.

April 1

I’m out on another mind-clearing run, feeling more unnerved than ever by the deserted park avenues and grassy esplanades that in a parallel universe would have been brimming with families, teenagers playing soccer, and sweet elderly couples out for an evening stroll. But the voices and laughter are gone now, and in their place is an eerie silence that hangs heavy in the air, making it somehow harder to breathe. I think of an article a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook entitled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,” and  before I can stop myself, tears are sliding down my cheeks.

I want to sit down and weep. Weep for this town, for this country, for this world. To surrender just for a moment to the fear I feel for my brother, working on the front lines of this horror show in the emergency room of a New York City hospital, or for my siblings-in-law who are both physicians just south of Paris, or for my parents and so many other people I love who are “over 65” and live halfway around the world. For ourselves, too, and the uncertainty that has replaced the familiar and the safe. But I can’t allow myself to fall apart; not now, not ever. So instead I run faster, wondering how many people are hanging by a thread, doing their best to smile when what they really want to do is scream.

April 2

It’s Thursday. Thursday is D-Day for food shopping. We’ve been told again and again to avoid the grocery store, but we gotta eat, especially with all four of us here all day, every day. So online shopping it is—along with the entire Paris region, bien sûr. Result: in addition to the physical lines on the streets, there are now virtual lines just to access the largest online grocery stores. Plus, no sooner do you manage to enter these websites than you realize with dismay that the earliest you can be delivered (if you can be delivered at all) is in 10 days. Hmm. Pigeons are edible; shall we pursue that?

Never being one to give up, I ultimately find a trick that works: go to, open a browser window, and leave it open for 48 hours, at which point some algorithm or other must take pity on you because around 3:30 p.m., a magical free spot appears for pick-up the following day. Dude, I’ll take it. Actually, virtual grocery shopping in itself is kind of fun. What is not fun is when you choose a time slot, only to be informed that half your cart is now out of stock. Each week has its own “out of stock” theme. After the Great Toilet Paper Famine of mid-March, now the country is out of flour. No flour anywhere. Not in the stores. Not on the internet. Nowhere. No yeast, either. What in God’s name are people doing? Trying to bake themselves a time machine? IT WON’T WORK.

April 3

My son’s teacher sends a group email wishing us all good luck for the upcoming holidays. What? Oh riiiiight, tomorrow is the start of spring vacation! Two weeks of enjoying an all-inclusive resort in Majorca hanging out right here in the living room. She adds that she’s planning to put together a children’s Coronavirus recipe book filled with the delicious cakes and whatnot that her little students have surely been concocting with their newly-unemployed parents during lockdown. Two thoughts come immediately to my mind: 1. As a communication professional, believe me when I say that “The Children’s Coronavirus Cookbook” is not a well-thought-out title. 2. “The Flour-Free, Yeast-Free Children’s Coronavirus Cookbook” is infinitely worse.

April 4

Since the only thing I seem to have any control over these days is the cleanliness of our home, I have taken to somewhat obsessive-compulsive vacuuming. In a moment of stupendous foresight, we invested in a handheld Dyson a few months back and it has since become, perhaps not my best friendthat title is reserved for the corkscrewbut at the very least my close friend. However, today I am temporarily out of things to clean, so I decide to tidy up my travel laptop, which my husband says is woefully low on available disk space. I can’t even install the latest upgrade, Windows 10 version “1903” (because nothing makes sense anymore).

April 5

Seeking to free up my hard drive, I delete a bunch of stuff. I get a little overzealous and end up uninstalling Microsoft Office 2010, which is surprisingly easy to do, actually. Only now I can’t reinstall it because the license belongs to my husband’s former boss. All the little blue and white Word document file icons on my desktop transform into “blank page” icons.


April 6

I find Office 2016 selling for €20 on Amazon. Sounds shady, but the reviews look legit. I download it, install it, and it works. The little blank pages become comforting “W” icons once more.


To be continued!