Eclipse-o-Mania hits the Oregon coast

IMG_20170817_111230377_HDR[1]I drove cautiously to the edge of Highway 101 as if driving into a war zone. Would I see an impenetrable line of cars? Would tourists crowd the roadsides, strewing trash and lit matches into the salal and blackberries? Could I possibly get to Newport in one piece? Judging by what I was seeing on the news and reading on my computer, no.

But yes. Yesterday, already suffering from cabin fever, I ventured to the post office and the jetty, and it was fine. The gulls and cormorants bobbing in the blue ripples of Yaquina Bay did not know or care that the solar eclipse is coming on Monday. The surf lapped against the rocks, fishing boats cruised in and out, and the sun peeked shyly through the morning clouds. The only unusual sight was a truck delivering portable toilets to the area where the jetty meets the beach.

Eclipse-o-mania. Depoe Bay, just north of here, is supposed to be the first place in the continental U.S. to see the moon completely cover the sun when the eclipse happens on Monday morning.  The “path of totality” will continue southeast through Oregon and on across the country. Over a million people are expected to come to this state, thousands of them to the coast, to see the eclipse. Officials predict traffic jams and shortages of food, gas, and cash. Eclipse-watchers will stream onto private property looking for places to camp. We may lose electricity and cell phone coverage. Or not. Will this be like y2k, when nothing really happened?

For weeks, we have been warned to stock up on supplies and plan to stay home from Aug. 17-21. The roads will be impassable, we’re told. Businesses and government offices are planning to close on Monday. Stores, restaurants, and motels that serve tourists are putting their employees on extra shifts and urging them to sleep over so they won’t get caught in traffic. Police and firefighters are working overtime. The National Guard is on standby. The county has declared a state of emergency.

It’s as if a tsunami, a snowstorm and Woodstock were all happening at the same time. The eclipse will begin at 9:04 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Totality, starting at 10:16, will last for two minutes. It will get dark. The birds will hush. Night animals will come out. And then it will start to get light again. By 11:15, it will be all over, except for the traffic jams.

Meanwhile, life goes on. When the moon slides over the sun, my dad will be on his way to Kaiser Hospital for a doctor’s appointment. Other people will be at work and not even see it. Me, I’ll probably retreat to my office and write.

We don’t really know how many people will come to the coast for the eclipse. If I were traveling to see it, I’d go somewhere else. We have a 50 percent chance it will be too cloudy to see anything. Whatever we can see, I’ll be able to watch from my backyard with the eclipse glasses I picked up at the community college. Don’t look at the sun without them, ophthalmologists warn. The glasses are so dark the sun is the only thing you can see through them. It looks like a little orange dot.

My father can’t understand why people would travel great distances to see the eclipse. Neither can my 96-year-old friend Doug, who says he’s seen them before. No big deal. The next eclipse will be in 2024, and it won’t be here. I hope to see it, but I’m not making any extra trips out of South Beach. I vaguely remember a previous eclipse in 1970. It got dark, it got light. No big deal in San Jose, not like the craziness happening here. I don’t even know if we got out of class to see it.

The mania had already started last week when I went to the Fred Meyer store to buy groceries. It was a madhouse, jammed with people stocking up for the big event. Yesterday, a friend posted pictures on Facebook of empty shelves where the milk should be. Did I stock up? I have bagels, grapefruit, tea and cookies. Annie has two boxes of Milk-Bones. We’re ready.

I have seriously thought about walking to town if I can’t drive. Four miles to the bridge, three more to church. News outlets are showing photos of bumper-to-bumper traffic, but not here. Not yet. Maybe not at all.

The eclipse will happen. But whether the crowds will come and whether it will be cloudy or clear, we don’t know. The human show may turn out to be more mind-blowing than the one in the sky. Meanwhile, the gulls bobbing in the bay and the dog at my side don’t know or care.

Has eclipse-o-mania hit where you live? Would you travel to see the eclipse?

Hanging out in the Alternate World of Nursing Homes

A world exists in the midst of our own that many people are not aware of. It’s a world none of us want to live in, but it’s not so bad to visit. I’m talking about nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care centers, whatever you want to call them. Buildings with old people in wheelchairs and walkers, staff in matching shirts, institutional meals and alarms on the doors. The kinds of places where old people land when they can’t stay at home anymore–if they can afford them.

Long before I had family living in these places, I sang in them with the Valley Chorale in California. We didn’t pay much attention to the residents back then. We just wanted to know where to dress, where to set up, and where to plug in our amps. We performed in our silky dresses and jeweled shoes to a sea of white hair and glasses, absorbed their applause, shook a few hands, changed clothes and went out to dinner.

It’s different when someone you love lives there. I started frequenting nursing homes when Grandpa Fagalde started living in one after a series of strokes. He was 94, and it was a shock the first time I saw him in a wheelchair, saying things that didn’t quite make sense. It was easier to sit at the piano and sing than to sit with him for the hour or two I visited at lunchtime or after work. But I came regularly and gradually became part of the family there. I greeted the staff and the other residents. They grabbed for my hands and sought my attention.

Toward the end, my grandfather didn’t know who I was. He knew only that I played music and that I would listen to him for a while. It was heartbreaking to see my grandfather this way, but while I was there, I could forget about my job as a newspaper editor, the errands I need to do on the way home, the teenage stepson who was driving me crazy, or the odd noise coming from under the hood of my car. It was just these old people in their limited world.

I never guessed that fifteen years later I would be visiting my husband Fred in a nursing home. He had Alzheimer’s Disease. He stayed in four different places before he died, but the longest was at Timberwood Court in Albany, Oregon, 70 miles from where I lived. Occasionally I played music there, too, but mostly I hung out with Fred and the gang. We watched TV, ate ice cream, batted a big rubber ball around, sang with visiting musicians, and went on field trips in the little bus. Some days, I would sit on the couch resting my head on my husband’s shoulder, even falling asleep sometimes.

I got to know the names of all the other residents and the family members who visited. I knew the staff. I would walk into the offices to demand things I needed for Fred—a haircut, his lost shoes, a doctor’s appointment. I was part of the Timberwood family. Yes, the residents had dementia. They screamed, they fought, they got sick and died. Some constantly begged to go home. But most made sense at least part of the time, and day after day, it was a beautifully furnished oasis from the rest of the world, unaffected by winter storms, summer heat, or the news on TV.

Beyond the coded-lock door, we were all safe and within shouting distance of an aide who would take care of everything. Fred soon forgot he had ever lived anywhere else. When his physical health failed, he moved to another facility that was not pretty at all. It was much more like a hospital. The hiatus was over.

This year, I found myself hanging out at another nursing home with my father. He wanted only to be back at his own house taking care of his own stuff, but I fell easily into the nursing home rhythm at Somerset. Here’s the living room, the dining room, the courtyard. Here are the aides in matching shirts. Here’s the office. Write Dad’s name on his clothes, hang them in the closet, make sure he has his meds. Get everything set up, then sit with him. Talk, listen, be. Meet the other family members doing the same thing.

Janet, the daughter of one of Dad’s housemates, arrives every day at 11 a.m. and leaves at 4 p.m. It’s like her job. She feels enough at home to go into the kitchen and help herself to coffee and cookies. She joins in the activities. Her sister handles the bills and such, but Janet is the one who has become part of the Somerset family.

It was different for me this time because I live 700 miles away. I visited in concentrated doses. Three days, a week, two weeks. But I got to know and care about the other residents and staff. I liked walking in to a chorus of “Hi, Sue.” I liked that there was someone waiting for me, even on days when my father was El Groucho, as my mother used to call him. While I was at Somerset, I could do nothing about work, home repairs, the needy dog or the emails calling for my attention. All I had to do was sit in the courtyard or the living room talking to my father. When it was time to leave, time to face traffic and take care of business, part of me didn’t want to go.

But of course I had to. These places are only pleasant to hang out in when you have the option of leaving. I didn’t have to eat their food, follow their schedule, or wait an hour for help going to the bathroom. I could walk out on my two strong legs whenever I wanted to. That’s the difference. For the residents, it’s a pretty prison which is eating up their life savings.

Nursing homes are a business where they charge a fortune and often give less than wonderful care. We can only hope our loved ones end up in the good ones. But sometimes since Dad went home, I find myself missing those people and those places where I could just sit and be. Also, I miss the Somerset dog, a white fur ball named Sonny.

When it’s my turn to move in, I hope I can be one of the ones who accept it with grace and smiles. I hope I still have enough working brain cells to make the best of it.

Just Give Me a Plate of Hash and Eggs

20750606 - a frying pan with corned beef hash and eggsI seem to be a food peasant. A plebeian. Totally lacking in culture, even if do have a master’s degree.

I splurged on a slightly expensive hotel on my way to California two weeks ago. It was about a thousand degrees out, and I was exhausted from planning, packing and driving all day. I dreaded what lay ahead in San Jose, and hell, I deserved it. Too beat to leave the building, I ate dinner in the adjoining restaurant. Mostly I just wanted cold air and a cold drink.

A hostess dressed in a silky black dress and wearing far too much makeup for off-stage led me to a small table against the far wall, one of those places they put people who dare to come in alone wearing faded jeans and a T-shirt promoting a literary magazine.

A waiter dressed in black and packing a snooty attitude handed me the menu. Holy smokes. All the entrees cost at least $20, nothing included. And there was nothing ordinary. All chipotle this and cream sauce that. As I pondered, a different black-suited waiter brought me a basket of cold French bread, a tiny bowl of ground nuts, and a plate on which he poured olive oil and a swirl of balsamic vinegar. How are you supposed to apply them to the bread? Where’s the butter? Yes, I’m a peasant. The oil made my lips feel greasy.

A couple specials were written on a blackboard in chalk. I couldn’t read them. Glare, plus half the words were in French.

When a third black-suited waiter arrived to take my order, I asked him to tell me about the specials, and I chose the steak and linguine after asking, “How much?” $22. Fine. It came with steak slices carefully arranged in a half circle, the odd-tasting sauce decorated with peppercorns, bits of red bell pepper and flakes of aioli cheese. Laid across the plate was the big spoon in which I was supposed to swirl my noodles, something I never do at home.

Folks at the next table were all dressed up and raving about the food. I savored the memory of the hamburger I had eaten for lunch at the Apple Peddler in Sutherlin, Oregon.

I hate to admit it, but on the road I usually seek out the familiar chain restaurants: Denny’s, Apple Peddler, IHOP, Black Bear Diner, Elmer’s. I already know what they have and know I can read, write or stare into space and not feel out of place. Plus when you order pasta, you get a salad, too, even off the senior menu. Sometimes you even get dessert.

Maybe it’s how I was raised. Mom was not an adventurous cook. Slab of meat, potatoes, canned veggies, white bread. We went out to eat at the Burger Pit or got takeout raviolis from Pianto’s. I never tasted any kind of Asian food until I was in high school. A lot of foods—Swiss chard comes to mind—I never saw until I got married. Heck, I had never used a salad bowl. Kabobs? Tofu? Quinoa? Are you kidding? Homemade bread? Why? And booze? At our house, it was canned beer, screw-top wine or highballs, and only for special occasions.

As an adult, I like to create with food. I make some weird salads and Boboli pizzas and freely adapt recipes. But apparently, I’m not as sophisticated as I thought.

At the fancy restaurant in Redding—Redding, off I-5, where the locals still wear cowboy hats—you can watch the flames as a chef deglazes a pan with his favorite liqueur. You can order almond-encrusted halibut with apricot horseradish, pan finished pork tenderloin—free range, of course—with creamed pan jus, apple burrata crème fraiche and fresh sage, or pulled chicken with smoked gouda, carmelized bacon and onion jam on artisan bread. They’ve got peach bourbon bread pudding for dessert.

Can I just get a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lots of mayonnaise and a scoop of vanilla ice cream?

Sigh. I have such a plebeian palate. On the way back to Oregon, I stopped at my usual place in Yreka, a little cheaper, best bed ever, and across the street from Poor George’s. The lone aproned waitress, limping with a broken toe, served me hash and eggs and biscuits and gravy–$11—and told me the saga of her pit bull who ran away and just came home. She even showed me the dog’s picture on her phone. That’s my kind of restaurant.


For those following the Dad saga, I helped my father move home from the nursing home and hired a homecare agency to help him with meals, cleaning, errands and such. So far, he’s not getting along very well with his caregiver, but he’s happy to be back in his own house, walking very carefully with his walker.


Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

Photo Copyright: markstout / 123RF Stock Photo

The dirt on soap: bars vs. liquid vs. cream

6244101 - man washes hands by the green soapWhatever happened to plain old soap? I’m talking about bar soap: Ivory, Dial, Dove, Irish Spring, or the Sweetheart brand my mom used to buy. You pick it up and rub it on your hands or face or your whole body, depending on what you’re up to, swoosh it around, and rinse it off.

I grew up watching commercials for these products. You want Ivory because it floats. You want Dial because it gets you clean. You want Dove because it has cream in it, and you want Irish Spring because a gorgeous Irish woman says it will make her man smell manly.

As for Sweetheart, I never saw an ad. I think it was the store brand, but I liked it, and I loved the way it had raised writing and scallops all around the oval rim. A little whittling, a little glitter, and you had an art project. Now you can buy it as “antique soap” on Ebay.

I think our Sweetheart soap was usually pink to match the bathroom tiles. Soap came in colors in the ’50s and ’60s, just like toilet paper. You could buy everything to match. Now it’s all white, and bar soap seems to be going out of style.

Back in the dark ages, we had powdered soap. I loved the way the scratchy Boraxo soap felt on my skin when I washed my hands at school. Anyone remember Ronald Reagan’s “Twenty Mule Team” Borax TV commercials? Here’s one you can watch. I don’t know what mules had to do with soap, but when you washed with that stuff, you were CLEAN.

Oh, and remember Lava? It was mud-colored and felt like it had sandpaper in it. If you used it every day, it would take your skin off. You used Lava when you got really dirty, not just averagely dirty. It’s what construction-worker dads like mine used after work.

Then liquid soap came along. I like the decorative containers, although I find the pumps frustrating. When the bottle is full, you get more soap than you want, and when it’s half empty, you have a hard time to getting it to spit out a few drops. You can certainly buy all kinds, white creamy soap, orange anti-bacterial soap, scented soaps like the coconut-lime soap I bought for the kitchen because the green color matched my décor. But I’m still using my bars of Ivory soap.

Yes, bars get gooshy. They shrink and fall apart as they get used up—but I never feel as if liquid soaps get me clean. Bacteria builds up on the soap, you say? I just read a scientific study that says bar soap is no more germy than liquid soap. Visit “Pros and Cons of Liquid Soap.”

Besides, I live alone. All the bacteria on my soap is my own bacteria.

Anyway. Now there’s this thing called “body wash.” I have a growing collection received for birthday and Christmas gifts. Because I’m a woman of a certain age, I guess folks don’t know what else to buy me and figure I’ll like the pretty packages of soaps, “crèmes” and lotions. I don’t know what to do with them. I’ve got this green puffy thing on which I can pour “body wash” and rub it all over my body. It feels good, but is it getting me clean? And why do I want to smell like ginger or mandarin oranges? I just want to smell clean, as in no smell.

Soap is rumored to dry out the skin while the creams and gels add moisture. But they also make you feel greasy. I don’t want to come out of the shower feeling like I need another shower to get clean.

Do people think I spend all day slathering stuff on myself in the shower or massaging pseudo-soap into my face? I’m a get wet-lather-rinse-get-out kind of girl. Give me a good old bar of real soap and a washcloth and I’m good to go.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift, don’t send me shower gel that smells like cookies. Send me actual cookies.

How about you? Bar soap, liquid soap or shower gel? Why? What’s your favorite brand and flavor?

Check out this article: “Body Wash shower gel or bar soap?”

Photo Copyright: mallivan / 123RF Stock Photo

You Stupid Squirrel, Get Out of the Road!

20322984_mThe most dangerous predators in these parts have four tires and an engine. Cars and trucks mow down more critters than the bears and cougars that live out among the trees. We humans operating them rarely even know what we have done.

On our long walks through the coastal forest, my dog Annie and I see the victims lying on the pavement: snakes, squirrels, birds, frogs, newts. If they’re dead but not smashed, I wrap my hand in an unused poop bag and move them into the grass at the side of the road so that their bodies can deteriorate naturally—or be eaten by hungry animals as part of the food chain—rather than being smashed by cars.

We all see dead animals out on the highway, where cars swoosh by too quickly for anyone to rescue their corpses. Only the crows dare to nibble at them, flying out of the way at the last second. The dead animals get roller-pinned by our tires until there’s nothing left but a few tufts of fur, then a discolored spot on the road that eventually gets worn away. I always feel bad. And helpless. At least I can do something to help these small creatures on our country roads.

Annie sniffs and backs away, but I often stop to study these victims up close, to admire their colors and shapes, to feel how light or heavy they are. I moved an Anna’s hummingbird last week that seemed to weigh nothing. A dead squirrel on the same walk was surprisingly solid.

I used to be squeamish about touching them, but all these years in the woods have made me more courageous.

If they’re injured but still alive, I struggle to decide whether or not to move them. Yesterday, we came upon a garter snake. Alive or dead? I stroked its red-striped skin. Dry and warm. I could see blood dripping from two places in its middle. But its tail flicked threateningly. I backed off, then berated myself for my cowardice all the way to the end of our walk and back. Garter snakes are harmless. I hoped that somehow the snake would be gone. It wasn’t. Only one car had come by, a silver Prius, but now the snake was truly dead, its head smashed, already merging into the blacktop, too late to rescue.

All it wanted was a little sun. Just like me.

When I see animals on the road that have not been hit yet, I urge them to get out of the street. I will nudge the garter snake to make it swirl out of danger, clap my hands at the squirrel to scare it up a tree, cheer on the newt crossing the street. “Hurry! Come on!” Traffic is intermittent out here, but I’m all too aware that while I’m trying to save tiny critters, I could get run down by a 4 x 4 and become roadkill, too.

I hit a raccoon once, right in the middle of Newport. It banged hard against the bumper of my Honda. It was Christmas Eve, and I was on my way to Mass. I parked the car and went looking for my victim, hoping it might have survived. Perhaps it did. It wasn’t there. I’ll never know if it went off to die or I just missed finding the body in the dark, where any second a car could run into me. I felt bad as I went on to sing with the choir.

I have hit birds, too, and of course I kill countless bugs that smash and drip down my windshield. They’re living their lives and our cars come roaring through, heedless of the rights of all the living beings crossing their paths.

Bigger animals pose a danger to us and our cars. If we hit elk, deer, and bears running across the road, it’s like running into a mountainside. But the animals usually die while we call the insurance company to fix our cars.

As children, we humans are taught to “look both ways.” If we dash into the street, our terrified parents yell and spank us, telling us to “never ever do that again.” Animals don’t get these lessons.

Even Annie doesn’t understand. She’ll drag me into the middle of the street to sniff a tantalizing smell, which could be grease, urine, food, or the last traces of a dead animal. Hearing a car or truck coming, I drag her to the side of the road. She looks at me like, “What?”

Yes, it’s dangerous out there. Especially if you’re a garter snake. And I know I sound like a hippie kid from suburbia. Too bad.



Annie is doing well with her recovery from knee surgery. She still limps sometimes, and we walk shorter distances much more slowly than usual. It gives us time to smell the wild roses, watch the bumblebees, and notice that the blackberries are coming.


Photo Copyright: leekris / 123RF Stock Photo

All airplane flights are not created equal


After my last plane trip to San Jose, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. I’d go by car, train, boat or on a donkey, but not in an airplane. Ha. Last week, I was up in the air again. Same flight, same plane, same cheesy cracker snacks. But all flights are not created equal.

Flying was the only way I could get down there on a Monday night and be back in Oregon on Wednesday night, spending two whole days with my father in-between. Tuesday was his big meeting with the orthopedic surgeon that would determine whether he could start trying to walk again—or not. At 95, a broken leg heals mighty slowly. The doctor said yes, “go for it.” What the bones won’t do, the metal plate and screws holding his leg together will. So, at the moment you read this, he may be roaming the halls of Somerset Senior Living with his walker. He says people there were surprised that he was so tall; they had only seen him sitting in a wheelchair. They probably look short to him now.

So, cautious optimism for Dad. The doctor also said he could go home as soon as he’s comfortable walking. That’s a lot of motivation for laps around the complex (And a lot of worry for his kids).

From above, Oregon is all green fields and trees
Back to the plane. Having done the same route before, I knew where to go and what to expect. It’s a long journey, even by airplane. I left home at 10:21 a.m. to take Annie to the Alsea River kennel in Tidewater on Highway 34 because, less than three weeks after her knee surgery, she needed to be restricted, medicated and watched over just like Dad. I ate lunch in Florence, where I discovered Clawson’s Wheelhouse. Good food, good people. Killer French dip. Then it was over the river and through the woods via Highway 126 to Eugene to check in at 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight.

Locals fly out of the Eugene airport if they can because it’s smaller than the average big-city airport. You can park in a lot just outside the terminal. It only takes a few minutes to get through security and to the gate. At the gate, there’s a lounge area where you can plug in your laptop or relax in a rocking chair watching the action on the tarmac through the big windows.

The actual flight from Eugene to San Jose was not so mellow for me. I have this condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. Essentially it’s a feeling of needing to move one’s legs or die. I get crawling sensations and involuntary spasms. It doesn’t happen all the time, but put me in a confined space with no way to get out, and boom, I’m miserable. Thus it was on the way to San Jose. Alaska Airlines assigned me a window seat in the second to last row. The views were spectacular, but I was wedged in by a non-communicative man wearing sunglasses and reading the Bible. Mark, Chapter 6. Beside him, I squirmed the whole trip, my left leg spasming about once a minute. I tried to distract myself by reading, writing, and taking pictures. I drank the complimentary beer. No good. I even started praying the Rosary without the actual beads. I quickly lost track of my Hail Marys. I was never so glad to see San Francisco Bay down below.

San Francisco Bay was a welcome sight. Note  fog creeping in.
The temperature was near 100 in San Jose, and Dad’s house was no cooler. But I was so glad to be walking out of that plane. Free at last! I dreaded the return trip two days later.


This time, Alaska assigned me a window seat in the very last row. When I saw it, I thought I was doomed. But God was with me big-time. The flight was half empty, and nobody sat in the other seat. I had the best plane ride ever. The back seat felt cushy and comfortable. I had room to spread out. I read and wrote and enjoyed the view. I guzzled a glass of pinot grigio. I was surprised when the flight attendant told me to put my computer away because we were beginning our descent into Eugene. Already? By the time we landed, I felt so mellow I wanted to hug all those pale-skinned Oregonians.

San Jose’s freeways look like a carnival ride from above
It was the day after the summer solstice. Getting off the plane at 9:30 p.m., I towed my suitcase toward the sunset, delighted to be up and walking on my two strong legs. I promptly got lost on my way to the motel where I was spending the night before the long drive home, but who cares? I was on the ground.

I wonder if it would be kosher to buy two seats so I don’t get penned in. Nah. Next time, I’m driving.


I don’t usually talk about my restless legs (RLS). It’s embarrassing. Does anybody else have this problem? I’m working on an article about it. How does it affect you, and how do you deal with it?

I’m afraid to stop watching the news

Click here to provide a musical accompaniment to today’s post. Your choices are  “Keep the Radio On” by The Lonely Boys and “Listen to the Radio by Kathy Mattea.  Listen to both. Why not?

I never used to listen to the radio while I worked. I preferred to allow my thoughts to run free in the silence, to deal only with the messages received by my own five senses. Not anymore. Not since 9/11, when I discovered that my grad school was closed due to the “national tragedy” and I didn’t know what the tragedy was. I turned on the television and saw planes crashing, smoke billowing, people running, crying, bleeding.

Day after day, I sat with the radio or television on, watching firefighters digging in the rubble for their comrades, hoping the missing people would somehow be found alive. I wept through the memorial services and listened to President Bush promise that we would stamp out the evildoers. I watched videotape of Afghani teenagers training for war and President Bush’s “shock and awe” attack on Iraq. It was awful, but I was afraid to look away. Who knew where the terrorists might attack next?

In 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated, my brother and I were home sick with chicken pox. Walter Cronkite interrupted our television show to tell us the president had been shot. Like most Americans, our family sat in front of the television the entire weekend. After the funeral, when it was all over, we turned the television off reluctantly, afraid something else would happen when we weren’t looking.

And it did. A few years later, I listened to the radio late at night as Sen. Robert Kennedy celebrated his victory in the California presidential primary. I fell asleep happy, not knowing that minutes after I pushed the off button, Robert Kennedy would be killed.

One day in 1986, while I was buying stamps at the Post Office, people seemed to be talking about some major event.

“What’s going on?” I asked the clerk.

“The space shuttle blew up.” He pointed to a TV screen behind him. We paused mid-transaction to watch videotape of the Challenger exploding in mid-air.

Three years later, during the Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated the Bay Area, I was doing research at the San Jose library. The first thing I did when I got to my car was turn on the radio. The Bay Bridge had collapsed. The World Series game between the Giants and the A’s had been canceled. The quake was worse than I thought.

Lately, we have seen terrorist attacks in London, Manchester, Orlando, Paris and other places. Men were stabbed on a Portland train for defending two women against anti-Muslim epithets. A few days ago, a gunman opened fire at a Republican senators’ baseball practice. It keeps happening. It’s online, on the screen and on the air. Sometimes it seems the media makes too much of things. Everything is “breaking news,” and the talking heads say the same things and play the same video clips repeatedly, but we watch, mesmerized.

In this volatile world of mass attacks and Trumpmania, I’m hooked up to Facebook, CNN and NPR all day long, afraid I’ll miss something. Even at the beach or in the woods, I can check the headlines on my cell phone. If something happens, I will not be taken by surprise as I was on 9/11. Maybe it’s partly my years as a newspaper reporter, but I need to know what’s going on.

Perhaps it’s genetic. My mother always had the radio on. Growing up, she listened to news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, to President Roosevelt’s fireside chats, and to reports of Roosevelt’s death. She also listened to baseball games, soap operas and the Arthur Godfrey show. The radio murmuring in the background kept her connected to the national consciousness while she baked cookies and ironed clothes. If anything happened, she would know.

Now when I pass a television, I can’t resist clicking on CNN to see what’s happening. The browser on my computer opens to the news. All of my radios are set on NPR.

It’s hard to write with the media on. The voices are distracting. Some of the music and all of the commercials irritate me. Why don’t I just turn it off? If I had no radio, TV or Internet, I wouldn’t be upset by distant events. I could just worry about whether the wind will knock down the aging spruce at the corner of my yard or whether the rain will turn to snow. On a sunny day, I could walk my dog on the beach with no idea of anything bad happening somewhere else.

When I hear about upsetting events, I am pulled into the national sadness. I have not personally lost anything. I’m still eating meat loaf for dinner and watching “The Bachelorette” at 8:00. But I fear that the day I turn my back will be the day events from far away suddenly roll over me like a sneaker wave and pull me out to sea.

So I turn on the news. Just in case. In fact, I think the president’s press secretary is speaking now. Gotta go.

More on this topic:

“Are You Addicted to the News?” This article offers a fascinating hypothesis, that perhaps we are addicted to the news, despite its anxiety-producing qualities, because anxiety is preferable to boredom. What do you think?

“We’ve All Become Addicted to the Drug of News” Writer Chris Moss talks about why we’re so addicted to something that doesn’t do us much good at all. Like booze or computer games.

In “Overcoming News Addiction,” Steve Palina says the news is depressing, slanted, shallow, and wastes our time, so why are we still checking the news? How would it feel to go cold-turkey?

How about you? Are you hooked on news or do you avoid it? Whom do you trust to tell the truth? How does it affect you to hear about disasters happening elsewhere? Why watch?