Coming to California from Mexico was going to be a family reunion. All that changed in a flash. I arrived at my son’s in Huntington Beach after diligently sanitizing every airplane surface I could touch. My hands are raw from washing and sanitizer. Small sacrifices. Every sniffle and cough is alarming. I’m hoping it’s allergies. One site I read says, if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without coughing or chest tightness, you don’t have it.
Hard to know what to believe.
Meanwhile, the party we were all going to was cancelled and we decided to stay put, institute social distancing and flatten the curve: sister and brother-in-law in Santa Cruz, and brother in Thousand Oaks. I’m here chilling and cooking with my boy. I’m sure we all have similar stories.
Meanwhile, I brought four rolls of toilet paper from Mexico and eight bottles of hand sanitizer. There is no TP to be found in Southern California. I’m getting photos from friends in Denver, Santa Fe and Chicago that shelves are bare. We have resorted to paper napkins as back-up. I’m rationing as I wipe.
Now for the Comic Relief. I received an email from my friend Ellen Benson. I suggested after reading this that she become a Stand Up Comic. She said her only gig was the Oaxaca Lending Library presentation she gave in February when she mistook the podium lamp for a microphone. She gave me permission to share this with you:
“Hi all! I came home from Oaxaca on Wednesday, March 4, which now seems like many weeks ago! No one on the plane or at the airport had on masks or gloves and i saw very little wiping down of surfaces. So, in the face of a potentially lethal worldwide epidemic, i did what i was born to do, and a few days later i went to Marshall’s!! Actually i was on my way to Target, and i have to confess that i grabbed a shopping cart without a second thought. I also grabbed a 4 pack bundle of kleenex, paper towels, liquid hand soap, granola bars, peanut butter crackers and purified water. Later, at the food co-op where i toted the shopping basket without wiping it down, i added mango popsicles, tomato sauce, chocolate chip cookies and canned string beans (which i rarely eat, but this time may be different!) and i went to the ATM and then pumped gas, without wearing gloves! And of course i’ve had no guidance from any authorities on whether plucking a beard hair, fiddling with my hair and putting in earplugs to mask zak’s snoring, count as touching my face!
“I had lunch with Rita, at highpoint Cafe WHERE I TOUCHED THE BATHROOM DOOR HANDLE ON THE WAY IN, but used a paper towel to grab it on the way out, thank goddess. Of course i leaned on the counter and then pulled out my chair—but that was just for a few seconds. The real problem is that Harin joined us and SHE HAD JUST RETURNED FROM SEATTLE THE NIGHT BEFORE! So—this may be the last newsletter i ever write. I just called the Phila Health Dept hotline to find out what it means for me that my husband is still going to work at a senior citizen health care facility, but the voicemail message that told me to stay on the line, also said i was 67th in the order of calls!
“So now i have reverted to what i was born to do in an emergency if i can’t go to Marshall’s: i am stuffing myself with starches, fats and sugars. I had planned to go back to Weight Watchers when i got back from Mexico but hey, it’s NOT MY FAULT THEY MEET IN GROUPS IN SMALL SPACES!! I do wash my hands a lot. however i know it’s supposed to be big lathers and long enough to say the whole alphahebt, but i keep getting stuck at “P” and the lather is pretty weak. I guess i should not have bought the hand soap at DOLLAR GENERAL. None of this is as bad as the reporter who actually asked if we should stay away from Chinese food! As everyone knows, you should only stay away from Chinese food that uses recipes from Wuhan!
“So now it’s days later and i’m wearing rubber gloves (but only to brush my teeth), have wipes and purell everywhere, have bought the last 3,000 rolls of toilet paper in the city (no logical explanation except other people felt it was important), and am at home because everything’s cancelled and i hate taking walks in nature. I would love to use a 50% off coupon at MICHAEL’S but have to keep telling myself it’s not worth it, even if the Lord and Taylor shoe department is right next door. My plan is to clean out my studio, make art, try cooking something, talk on the phone a lot, give myself a pedicure, and of course, to write to YOU!!
Are we having fun yet? love, ellen”
As for Mexico, the minister of public health says the virus will hit in full force between March 20 and March 30.
Anyone traveling from Mexico to the USA should bring a suitcase filled with TP and hand-sanitizer and distribute it to family and friends upon arrival, and before Mexico goes crazy about tushie hygiene, too.
Stay healthy, everyone. I’m trying my best.
Next big question: Should we eat out at a restaurant tonight? What do you think?
For All the Bad Hombres and Nasty Women: An Essay on Voting
Yesterday was opening day for early voting in North Carolina, where I live when I’m not in Oaxaca. The top priority for being here now was to change my voter registration to my new legal name of Norma Lee Schafer and to vote in this presidential election. I drove to Graham, North Carolina, the Alamance County seat of government, stood in line and cast my ballot. Done.
But not really. The politics of anger, bitterness, biting and back-biting, hurled insults and what it means to live in a democracy where voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility are taking its toll on me. It was a sleepless night for me on October 20 as I reviewed the October 19 “debate” and its aftermath, what it means to have a clean election that is not rigged.
Vote Protector Volunteer. I see this as reassurance.
So, this is what is prompting me to write this essay about voting, elections, and the tone of discourse in the USA. To say I am disturbed is to minimize what is happening in our country. I know many of you join me.
To disrespect the electorate and the electoral process by a major party candidate who says he will not accept the election outcome unless he wins brings our democracy to a level I have never seen in my lifetime. Political analysts say it is without precedent.
Tell the African-Americans and Latinos in line with me at the Youth Services Building set up by the Alamance County Board of Elections that this is a rigged election. Tell all the traditional country born and bred southerners with teased blond hair or baseball caps standing with me in the hot afternoon sun that their vote is discounted unless a certain candidate wins.
Standing in line waiting to vote this year meant even more to me than usual. I feel proud to participate in a several hundred year process that is safe, respectful, honest and peaceful. Standing in line, I’m reminded that not many countries in the world offer this to their citizens. I am reminded that many don’t vote in Mexico because they believe the elections are pre-determined.
I take this voting responsibility seriously. Especially this year when so much is at stake.
As I waited in line that continued to grow as the afternoon lengthened, neighbors and strangers exchanged greetings, smiled, held on to hands of children, tipped their hats for shade. I have no idea whether the kindly man behind me was Democrat or Republican and I didn’t ask as he helped me take off my jacket to use as a sun shield. We stood patiently, waiting our turn. Election officials told me they would not close the doors. Everyone in line at 5 p.m., however long it was, would vote.
In line, I felt this sense of urgency, of significance, of something extremely important happening in a small, rural North Carolina county seat. I felt what I was about to do was important, very important for the future of this country and the world. I thought about poll taxes and voting rights, and the struggles for equality, legal and social, that each of us deserves. I thought about women’s right to vote and to choose, about borders and walls, about haves and have-nots.
I’m angry as I watch the national drama continue to unfold, unravel, and discharge the next epithet: Bad Hombres and Nasty Women. Political theatre has become the Theatre of the Absurd, and I wish for something better, more redemptive, something that will heal our differences and take us forward together.
And, I’m afraid of a post-election aftermath where we now tolerate personal attacks that turn from verbal to violent, led by a candidate who will not accept a process in which he has failed.
But, mostly, I urge all to vote, to make your voice heard through your ballot as we continue this important tradition of peaceful transfer of power, a tradition that makes democracy work and prevents anarchy.
From One Nasty Woman, Norma
Posted in Cultural Commentary
Tagged 2016, civility, Cliinton, early voting, election, essay, North Carolina, politics, Trump, United States of America, US Constitution, voting