Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"My Crickets": A Little Decameron

my crickets: a little decameron

For the last week, a cricket has entered our house and rubbed his legs together endlessly. I love him as he moves from my bathroom to the living room and kitchen and back into the bathroom again. He's even grown a bit used to me; at first he'd stop his cricketing when I entered the bathroom in the middle of the night, but soon he realized that I meant him no harm. I now know even where he hides under my shower, and I encourage him to continue his leg thrashing, which he somewhat reluctantly does.
      Although Howard is terrified of the small, not-very-good-looking insect (no cricket ever looked like the Walt Disney Jiminy Cricket) I do think our visitor now realizes we are benign. I've always loved crickets, and won't allow Howard to kill him, even though today Howard announced the cricket had nearly accosted him at 2:00 am. We're very early risers.
      All of California, as you may have heard, is now in a kind of lockdown, the only exceptions being grocery stores, gas stations, banks, hospitals, and a few other community-based activities. Howard's doctor is doing a telephone conference with him today. And wonders of wonders, Howard is reading Moby-Dick.
      I've never heard the large and bustling combination of Los Angeles communities—in total larger than even New York City—so very quiet. I can't even hear the subway construction under our feet, nor the new museum building that will soon approach our doorway. The newspaper and e-mail announcements now consist mostly about closings.
     Silence. Silence. Thanks, little cricket, for bringing some noise back into our lives. He doesn't even seem to mind my endless background reportage of CNN.
      I hope my cricket friend will accompany me today while I finish my taxes. But he seems to sleep throughout the day. Crickets are nocturnal creatures.

March 20, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (March 2020).

The cricket I wrote about on March 20th is still here, in my bathroom, and has been joined by another cricket. I feed them fruit at night. And they've gotten so used to my comings and goings that they don't stop their rubbings anymore when I enter in the middle of their nocturnal paradise.
      In fact, one actually ventured out from under the shower last night. I think they're taking the “shelter in place” rule with us. For a while the new one was in Howard's bathroom, but now they have moved in together.
      A dear friend replied that they might be mother and son. But only male crickets rub their legs in this manner as a mating call. And when I entered my bathroom the other night, both seemed to be chirruping away, a boisterous noise that uplifted my spirits immensely, particularly after falling twice upon concrete as I went across the street in an attempt to return my Netflix movie in what I have always perceived as an empty mailroom. No one was there anymore to help me to even stand up. And the building itself was closed without a proper statement of admittance.
      Since they both seem to be cricketing, rubbing their legs together, I believe them to both be males. A funny coincidence, two gay crickets in a gay house. Since all of our windows have been closed, how did they even enter?
     Last night bananas, tonight maybe mashed blueberries. Alas, I ate the apricots.
     Actually, I fed them two plates, one consisting of a bit a leftover meatloaf, the other of mashed blueberries.
     In the morning when I take the dishes away, I can’t even tell if they dined upon dinner plates. Tonight, I’ll offer a ramekin of water. They have become my saints.
     As my Italian friend Monica Gazzo, wrote on my Facebook site: Two Grilli Parlanti‼️ Double good luck‼️
      I think we might need it in these Coronavirus days. They might live, so I read, for several weeks or months. May we also live as long.

March 30, 2020-March 31, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (March 2020).

After offering my lovely crickets a ramekin of water last light, the more dominant one, who has visited us now for at least 3 weeks, has moved out into our living room again. No sign of his live-in partner. If female (which I doubt), she is busily hatching more crickets beneath my shower; if male perhaps they fought it out. I do not live in a cricket world, so I can't (and don't want to) imagine. This morning I opened the patio door to see if the remaining cricket desires to return to nature.
    Clearly he's not worried about the vibrations of my stomp into his world anymore (crickets evidently don't see you; they hear the vibrations around them); they are creatures of sound, not vision.
      The last time I offered him escape, he entirely ignored it, returning to his little crack in the plaster. We'll see what happens this time. But I'd love to sing to him, from Frank Loesser's song, which is reality today even in Southern California: "Baby it's cold outside." But then in the sunlight, he's sleeping.

April 1, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (April 2020).

He didn't venture out but returned to my bathroom last night, where I fed him smashed blueberries again. The peaches I bought are still too tough. This morning he was thrashing away in Howard's office. He's like a cat, carefully exploring our entire house, gradually realizing, as cats eventually do, that the house is theirs’ instead of the human owners.
      One of my Facebook friends said that she was never able to sleep with a cricket it the house, while I suggested that, in fact, my reaction was totally the opposite. A small (not very good-looking) insect had come to visit me and, through his mating song, sing me to sleep.
      I kill all centipedes, millipedes, silverfish, and ants who intrude upon our home; but everyday spiders, crickets, and others are totally welcome. Like the mourning doves, with their deep plea of love (incomprehensibly there were no mourning doves out today) I love their voices and the spiders’ lovely weaving. They help us get rid of the insects I don’t like.
     Strange today, the sun is out but in the background the sky is slate-blue, a kind of dark and foreboding look. 5,000-some people in the US have now died of covided-19 novel virus.
      Yesterday I wrote:

 I went to the grocery store today, replacing Howard. It was very, very bleak. Everyone, except me had a mask on. But worse, all the homeless people, gathered around the bus stops were seemingly desperate, with no place to go. I saw one man stretched across the curb as if he might be dead as I drove away. People kept running from one other, refusing to even recognize the other's presence, terrified, evidently of their very existence.
      I might have been the only being out there without a mask. This is what pestilence truly looks like, and I was terrified as I went to buy wine, fruit, and our prescription pills.
     No, no! this is not what my society should look like: it's out of some terrific book from the past. Every being is totally isolated from each other. Social distancing is not what it describes itself as: it is far more horrific. Masks don't truly help you. Life helps us all. This was hell. Yes, I intensely washed my hands when I returned, but I also shed tears. This is not what society is all about.

     Of course, I received a great deal of criticism for not wearing a mask, but doctors have been suggesting that a mask does not prevent you from getting the disease, but, if you’re asymptomatic, spreading it. This virus, so doctors now claim, can be spread by talking or even breathing.
     I think at age 72, I might very well know if I had a fever and pneumonia-symptoms (I’ve had that painfully devastating disease twice in my life). We would not, alas, be asymptomatic I am certain. And, moreover, I have an autoimmune which would signal my disease.
    We don’t own any masks, and I’ve never learned how to sew. We don’t own any bandannas, large handkerchiefs or anything of the kind. How are we to simply shop for food? And no, we don’t have a large pantry or refrigerator in which to hold any such provisions! We have always shopped day by day, like my cricket, waiting to be fed within a house he had never imagined into which he might be imprisoned. We are all now imprisoned, But the fear, of each other or even the little insect who came to visit us, is the worst devastation of this pandemic.

April 2, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (April 2020).

For the last two days the lovely Ukrainian elderly couple who daily swim in our pool were shamed for simply swimming there. I was shocked and called them over yesterday to ask if they truly were abused, on the first day, by the woman I perceived was shouting at them. They were, and we again bonded. They snack back into the pool later. But the next day, with another fascist neighbor it happened again. They're such sweet folks, and I felt so embarrassed that our neighbors were decrying their simply daily, quite healthy bathing. Today they didn't appear. So sad, so very sad. Please, I want to cry out, come back and splash in our now very cold pool! They are not spreading germs, but the people screaming at them are.
     An update on my lovely Ukrainian friends: they were back today in our lovely pool, splashing away. But they told me that the pool was soon going to close because the pool guy would no longer be able to care for it! I waved them a lovely farewell and felt a deep sense of loss for their delightful plashing. What is happening to us. I kissed them as a symbolic good-bye. We so very much need one another these days. I'll try to find their names and share with them the article I wrote about them. So glad to see them again, perhaps for a long time in the future, lovingly swimming.
      And delightfully, they have returned several times since that original event. They keep healthy in a time in which the world cannot.

March 18, 2020-March 20, 2020

Reprinted from Facebook (March 2020).

My little cricket was in my bathroom again last night, and I poured him out a small ramekin of water. But by 4:00 he had silenced himself and was not singing in other rooms either.
     I pray he has not died, just temporarily disappeared like by Ukrainian friends. Perhaps I just got up a bit late. Certainly, he must be so very tired of desperately trying to attract a mate to come out of the cold, find a way into our house, and meet up with him. Obviously, he didn’t much like his male companion, or maybe that other cricket was just too old.
    Even Howard and I have grown tired of talking, and we’ve taken to thrashing our legs during the night—although not with any intention of mating. Our legs simply hurt and need to be released from tight leg-on-leg constrictions.

    Fortunately, we have a California King mattress, a large monster of a thing that at our age we can’t any longer even flip or shift as we regularly used to. I hate the image, but it has stayed with me: in the film The Women, newly divorced Rosalind Russell declares, sardonically, at least when you lose your husband you can “position your body into a complete swastika.”
     The mourning dove did cry out a few hoots this morning shortly after the pool lights automatically switched off at 6:03 a.m. But they seem less active this year, with only one lonely dove crying out each morning, when before there were dozens. Maybe the rest have found their mates, and this is the one hold-out.
     In the last few days 6,068 people have died in the US.

Los Angeles, April 3, 2020

Reprinted Green Integer Blog (April 2020).

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

"My Last Restaurant Lunch"

my last restaurant lunch

My last dining experience with other people was just the past Thursday, March 12. We had joined friends Carol Travis and Audrey Stein for a visit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Luchita Hurtado show (more about which I will soon write). It was raining heavily, and despite out intention of traveling a bit further to one or another of my favorite restaurants—Mandarette or Matsumoto—we decided on LACMA’s excellent, if somewhat pricey, Ray’s. It was the better choice certainly given the heavy downpours, and the fact that neither Carol nor Audrey have ever eaten there. It is one of my favorites, and the waiters, the maĆ®tre-des know me well.

     I’m not here, necessarily, to talk about the food. It was as good as always, with Howard ordering up their famous Margherita pizza, and Carol and Audrey requesting their over-sized, but delicious salads. Feeling a bit like we were at the edge of The Decameron, I ordered the far more expensive combination of a gin and tonic and their famed Agnolotti, which consists of toasted pine nuts, mascarpone, fried rosemary, brown butter, parmigiano-reggiano, and pumpkin seeds—a truly delicious pasta that I simply couldn’t resist, particularly given what I internally predicted, that it would soon be closed.
     After a quick, laughingly elbow greeting we all enjoyed our pleasant lunch, talking about the show we’d just seen, Carol’s husband Case—who I was shocked to be told had died 8 years earlier, in my mind it might have been just a couple of years ago—and sharing Audrey’s experiences of other shows, one of which was Howard’s remarkable “Paper Show” at the Craft Contemporary museum (formerly the Craft and Folk Museum).

     To compensate for my far more expensive and expansive meal, I determined to pay for the check. But I just couldn’t regret ordering the more lavish lunch meal. A day or two later, the museum and restaurant closed until the end of March—which I can only imagine will be much longer of a time. People are nervous: when I offered my fellow diners a bite of my so very delicious Agnolotti, they quickly refused, while Howard’s offering up of pizza slices was easily accepted. Slices are more easily separated, surely, than a fork-based dish into my tongue had been wandering. I comprehended it without comment.
      People in the elevators these days look suspiciously at one another. A neighborly friend, wrapped in three bright red scarves, told me how nervous she was about the events of the novel coronavirus: after all we are both in our 70s. And all of us have now been told to stay in-doors for weeks. Even the art of conversation is now perceived as dangerous, let alone the lovely afternoon luncheon which Howard and I had experienced with dear friends.
      My close-friends Martin Nakell and his wife Rebecca have reported that they are now teaching on-line from home—individuals with whom, over long years, I have had so many breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners in the US and the now plagued Italy. I expressed my feelings, given my long years of teaching, about the difficulties of reaching out to students through a computer. Yet, I admitted, perhaps I had been long doing that already on my several blogs.
      All restaurants and bars have now been closed in Italy, France, and in most major US cities, including New York and Los Angeles. Social life has come to an end just when we most need it. That beautiful elderly friend in her three red scarves stood at the other end of the elevator which we shared, clearly a bit afraid of any plague I might be breeding. “We’re all terrified,” she whispered.
     Yes, we all are terrified, but perhaps we should and could be less so just by sharing with one another. I’m glad to have ordered that Agnolotti, and truly wish the others in our small, last time party—at least for a while—might have tasted it.
     At 72, with a long history of respiratory diseases (a childhood of Bronchitis, and two cases of Pneumonia, as well as an autoimmune response of Psoriasis), I too am a bit scared. But no one can ever take that afternoon luncheon joy away. The company, the food, the rain were just perfect. Howard joked that we were going to “swim home” in the downpour to our condominium across the street. I enjoyed the rain pounding my head like another kind of bathing we all need to share.

Los Angeles, March 17, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (March 2020).