Strange Days

I wouldn’t want to compare my quarantine days with anyone else’s. I haven’t learned any new skills, and the next great novel isn’t going to come out of this Capitol Hill, Seattle apartment.

I’ve been obsessively following the news and stats sites. That hasn’t been a total waste of time. I’ve (re)gained an appreciation for public policy, I’ve walked myself through a lot of the epidemiology debates, and I’ve rediscovered some basic home economics lessons. But I’ve stared way too long at my computer screen, and I’m about as far away from a set schedule as you can get. Worse, my many frustrations with our elected officials has me snapping at friends in discussions. (Sorry, Chris.)

This is life now for a while, time to adjust.

I watched Hell or Highwater over a few nights. It’s set in Texas and stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham. I thought it was a solid movie. For most people, it’s not going to serve up any surprises, but the acting and visuals were good. I’ve never wanted to live in Texas, but damn, Texas is beautiful, often starkly so. It’s also a great setting for movies. No Country for Old Men, A Perfect World. The list goes on. If you’re looking for a sleeper of a Texas movie, check out As Far as the Eye Can See. David Franklin, a friend of a friend, directed it, and it’s a wonderful little film.

The Hell or Highwater soundtrack is incredible. I heard those dark violin strings and immediately guessed Nick Cave for the score. I was right. I might be wrong about the violin, though. Let’s call them dark strings. It wasn’t long before Townes Van Zandt showed up with Dollar Bill Blues. I’ll never say anything bad about a movie that has a Townes Van Zandt song. I still have a crush on the bartender in Bisbee who introduced me to Townes Van Zandt. Embarrassed that it took me well into drinking age to be familiar with his music.

I made lunch before sitting down for the last part of the movie. Having your parents read your blog has pros and cons. I employ some colorful language at times. I cringe when I think about them reading that. The benefits are great, though. I mentioned that I was craving salmon the other day. They sent me a quarantine package of Seabear wild salmon out of Anacortes, Washington. It is delicious. I wanted to employ some more colorful language there. It is really delicious.

There’s a point to me mentioning the salmon.

  • Elbow macaroni. I threw in some curry powder with the boiling water. I’m not sure that the macaroni really takes in any of the flavor.

  • Smoked salmon filet.

  • Sriracha.

  • Red pepper flakes.


I’ve been social distancing since early March. Hell, my normal socializing would probably earn a social distancing advocate’s nod of approval. I’ve still made quick trips here and there to the store. I reckon we’re all just one random droplet or careless nose scratch from getting this thing.

That’s why I can’t stop thinking about the people who are out there keeping the wheels from falling off – grocery store workers, health care workers, transportation workers. I’ve worked in situations that carried some personal risk. The pay and benefits were good, and you knew if you got hurt, there’d be a lot of support.

Those support structures just aren’t in place for a lot of the people we are relying on most right now. I know local governments and businesses are in survival mode, too, but I hope we can get them and the community to recognize their risks and service. Protective gear, hazard pay, guaranteed access to high quality zero stress health care. I got hazard pay when I worked a desk job in Baghdad. The grocery store clerk is facing more risk right now than I did.

I recently got a new credit card. Nice thing about getting a new credit card – those things you sign up for and never use have to reach out to you and ask you to update your payment information. Well, I use The New York Times all the time, and I think it’s a great paper. But years ago I got tired of most of their opinion writers. Maybe opinion writers and half-assed bloggers have a shelf life. I thought the last last last straw was Thomas Friedman’s column about his into the wee hours discussion with the reforming Mohammad bin Salman. It was Friedman’s version of Bush looking deep into Putin’s eyes. Friedman is the worst. I thought I was onto a discovery when I noticed him rolling out “the next six months will be…” columns every few months throughout the entire war in Iraq. Turns out everyone caught onto that. You can google “Friedman six months” and see for yourself. There’s even a Wikipedia page.

Tangent, sorry.

So I let my NYT subscription slide. I’ve still been there every day, and there are things I will definitely miss. The ten people who visit this site know I like talking about and reading about restaurants and food. This article by Tejal Rao was excellent. You want these amazing people and important places to come through this storm, but is there a chance that short-term assistance leads to longer-term harm?

I was going to discuss another quarantine meal, but it’s similar to all of my quarantine meals. But I will throw in some quick observations. Garlic is never a bad idea. If I were more industrious, I’d cook some up even if I didn’t plan to use it in the meal. It just smells good. Garbanzo beans are amazing with everything. I keep meaning to re-assess my desert island beans list. I don’t cook black beans as often as I used to. I’m overdue for a simple black beans and rice meal. I’ve recently added in an occasional decadent treatment for my simple pasta – a couple of dabs of butter stirred in.