Watching Old Movies and Sitting Still

Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in “The Birdcage”

Thanks to COVID-19, our network TV shows are gone, replaced by endless game shows, weird Zoom “best of” conglomerations, and reruns of shows I didn’t like in the first place. Since COVID hit, I have watched news and reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” “Friends,” and “Sex and the City.” I did watch four seasons of the BBC series “Being Erica” via Amazon Prime, then turned around and watched some of it again, but I crave something new. The Democratic and Republican conventions, gag-inducing as they were, at least offered fresh content.

Now, I don’t watch TV all day. I work hard at my writing, read constantly, walk the dog every afternoon, and do my home and garden chores, but there comes a time when a person gets tired and just wants to be entertained.

The new TV season should be starting in September, but mostly it’s not. Production companies have gone on indefinite hiatus until it’s safe for people to get together again. As a musician with limited outlets these days, I feel for all those actors who have nowhere to act. At least I can still sing at church and in my living room.

This has been a weird season for me, not just because of COVID. I have restless leg syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation describes it as a neurological syndrome that “causes an irresistible urge to move the legs or other parts of the body, often accompanied by unusual or unpleasant sensations that may be described as creeping, tugging or pulling.” It’s torture.

This is why you may see me getting up in the middle of a meeting, class or concert to stand in the back of the room or do yoga on the floor. I may be squirming in my chair, kicking off my shoes and massaging my feet, trying to stave off the inevitable need to get up. You cannot sit still, not for five minutes. At night, you can’t sleep because your legs keep wanting to move. Some people call us “Nightwalkers” because we’re up walking around at all hours, trying to get our legs to relax. Sometimes a hot bath helps. Sometimes nothing helps.

Experimenting with new medication in July led to the worst flare-up of my life. The side effects were bad, and it made my symptoms worse instead of better. Instead of mostly happening at night, it was 24/7. At its worst, I couldn’t sit, even to eat or play a song on the piano. My legs kicked involuntarily and threatened to give out when I was standing or walking.

That period led me to try CBD, aka a marijuana concoction which allegedly will not get you high but will make you feel better. I may be one of the few people my age who had never smoked pot, but there I was in the cannabis store choosing the raspberry gummies. The CBD didn’t stop my legs from acting up, but I felt a lot more mellow about it. Now I’m on a new drug that so far works great, but I can’t mix it with pot or alcohol. It’s a worthy sacrifice if it lets me be still.

Read more about restless legs syndrome at the RLS Foundation website, on the RLS Facebook group, or on my friend Judy Fleagle’s blog post on the subject. If you have this, too, I’m so sorry. Let’s stand in the back of the room together and dance.

Now that I can sit still again, praise God, I got the urge to watch something on my TV. But what? Old movies and older movies. I caught part of a 1957 movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. So corny. I watched a rerun of “Knocked Up,” in which Kathryn Heigl as a budding TV news personality who gets pregnant after a one-night stand. It’s dumb, but amusing. However, two of my favorites were on this weekend, “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “The Birdcage.” Such great acting, love, music, drama. It felt so good to just plotz on the couch and go back to favorite places with favorite people. Annie the dog, who follows me everywhere, was delighted that I stopped moving for a while.

There are real consequences of the pandemic—people dying, jobs lost, fear and loneliness. When I think about people dying in hospitals and nursing homes alone because their loved ones are not allowed in, it breaks my heart. But we all crave entertainment, and that has suffered, too. Oh, to sit in a darkened theater and watch the magic happen again.

God bless you all. I hope you’re well and at peace in this time of tremendous unrest and uncertainty. We’ll get through this. How are you entertaining yourselves? What movies can you watch again and again and never get tired of them?

Faces without COVID Masks are So 2019

mask embroidered
Seen on Facebook today. Why wear an ugly mask when you can wear this? Click here.

Remember back in March when the idea of wearing masks was new, and nobody who didn’t work in a hospital, doctor’s office, or construction site had one? That seems so long ago now. As we’re closing in on six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel almost nostalgic for those days when I searched Google for ways to make my own mask out of whatever I had on hand. I remember trying to fold my old brown bandanna into a mask of sorts. It didn’t work out quite the way it did on YouTube. I looked around for old tee shirts, scarves, anything that would work in a pinch if I had to leave home.

 

It all happened so suddenly. A week before everything shut down, I took a mini-vacation through western Oregon with not a thought of masks or that in a week the places I was visiting would be closed. How spoiled we were then, walking around with bare faces, breathing freely, touching each other, hugging, shaking hands, eating from buffets, sitting so close our thighs touched. Oh man, are we still in the same year? The same century?

I also have vague memories of President Trump’s impeachment hearings, which seemed to be the biggest news at the time. I listened to the testimony for hours, day after day. And what came of it? Nothing.

We still have the same president, who declared early in the pandemic that he would not wear a mask, that he didn’t think it was a good look for him. Now, 5 million U.S. cases of COVID-19 later, he’s wearing a mask, too. Gold-plated and diamond encrusted, I imagine.

When I look at the old black and white photos of the 1918 flu epidemic, everyone seemed to be wearing plain white masks, likely just repurposed handkerchiefs. But this is 2020, and nothing is that simple anymore.

My first mask came from my friend Phyllis, who had switched from making pillows and stuffed animals for hospitalized kids to making masks. May I have one, please, I asked. She left it in a baggie on her screened porch for me to pick up, lest we make contact and infect each other. I left her a copy of one of my books in return.

For a little while, masks were as hard to buy as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but within a few weeks, they were everywhere. Church ladies gave them away. Crafters started selling them online. My chiropractor started selling masks with his logo on them. Suddenly masks weren’t just masks. These little cummerbunds for your face were blank billboards to advertise your products, flaunt your talents, or promote your causes.

Via Facebook, I ordered a mask with a keyboard and music notation on it so everyone would know I was a musician. The company that does my postcards, mailing labels and such has offered to put my publishing company logo on a mask. I could have masks made with each of my book covers if I wanted to. Or maybe one with all the books!

Any day now, the charities that send me calendars and return address labels will start sending out masks. Here are your Christmas labels and your Santa Claus mask.

On Saturday, my friend gave me a mask with dogs on it. I can’t wait to wear it. Wait, did I just say that? I remember the first time I wore a mask to the grocery store, the blue one with pink flowers from Phyllis. I felt self-conscious and claustrophobic, like I wasn’t getting enough air. By the time I got to the car, I was shaking. I tore off the mask, drowned my hands in sanitizer, and sucked in oxygen, sure I was going to get COVID-19 anyway.

Now, it’s almost like a bare face is not completely dressed. I no longer need to wear makeup to go out. People can’t see it, and it stains the mask. Makeup is for Zoom meetings, not for in-person encounters. But I do try to match my mask with my outfit, just as I do my earrings, shoes, and purse.

I have six masks now, one for almost every day of the week, not that I go out every day. Masks do need washing, (by hand, not machine. I learned the hard way), and if you have eaten something potent, the mask will send your breath back in your face. Onions bad. Mints, good. Mexican for lunch? Wash that thing.

Masks have one drawback I could not overcome: singing. Some of my singing friends manage to sing with their masks on, but I couldn’t do it. When I launch into a song, the first thing I do is take a giant breath, and my mask choked off the air. It also slid around with the movement of my jaw. Most of us have heard horror stories about church choirs where COVID ran rampant. Singing (or shouting) reportedly pushes out more invisible virus droplets than other activities.

People watching our online Masses complained that the few of us who have been doing music were standing too close—farther than usual but not six feet–and not all of us were wearing masks. I ordered a face shield from Amazon last Tuesday. It arrived on Thursday. I look like a space monster in my shield, and it trashes my hair, but I can breathe and sing at the same time. The plastic bounces my voice back at me, and I can’t get at my own face to push my glasses up or take them off, to eat or drink, or to scratch my nose if it itches. But I can sing safely, so it’s worth it. As a bonus, I can wear lipstick and smile again.

When I take the shield off and let the wind fluff my hair, it feels so good. Was it only March that we could do this all the time? We had no idea how lucky we were.

How are you doing with masks? Do you have any special ones? How do you feel wearing them? Have you graduated to a shield? What will we do with these things when the pandemic is over?

 

What treat will come in the mail today?

WIN_20200803_11_17_42_ProIt’s like Christmas every day around here. Last Monday, the mail carrier brought me a book, bubble envelopes and what I thought would be a flowing yellow blouse that turned out to have no sides. Poncho? Vest? Alb? I don’t know, but it’s pretty.

Another day, my mailbox held sky blue curtains I ordered to replace the broken blinds in my bedroom. For $31, they’re cheesy and don’t quite reach all the way across my windows, but they’ll work. The new blind-free view revealed my beat-up garden shed that really needs a new door and a coat of paint. Home Depot delivers!

This weekend, I ordered more bubble envelopes, another book, and three online auction items that I could totally live without. I have been ordering new stuff almost every day of the COVID pandemic shutdown. Normally I hate shopping, but this is so easy, and who doesn’t need something bright, shiny and new about now?

Some of what I have ordered: a crazy-colored cardigan (shown in photo), two pairs of earrings, a dog ramp, mandolin music, books, books, and more books. And then there was the ocarina. Shaped like . . . an ibis head? . . . it’s a musical instrument that sounded so beautiful on the video I had to have one. Turns out it plays like a recorder with the holes all turned around, and it’s extremely difficult to play in tune. Did I need to learn another instrument? Let’s see, I have one piano, one keyboard, three guitars, two mandolins, a ukulele, countless harmonicas and recorders, a couple kazoos, two tambourines, and my grandfather’s accordion. Uh, no.

Some of my orders have been things I needed, office supplies, for example. The dog ramp seemed essential after the last time I tried to lift 75-pound, bad-knees Annie into the SUV, couldn’t do it, and we stood in a parking lot staring at each other for a long time before I mustered the heave-ho to get her in. I’m still working on training her to go up the ramp and not around it.

Most of what I have ordered could not be found in local stores, even pre-COVID. This is a small town. Staples moved out. Our music store has downsized to a cubbyhole. I’m not thrilled about the clothes at Fred Meyer, plus I haven’t even looked there in the coronavirus era. Like most of my friends, I buy the groceries I need, get out ASAP, and sanitize the heck out of myself and everything that came out of the store.

But day after day at my computer, here’s Facebook–which knows everything I ever Googled or peeked at in any online store–dangling pretty things in front of me when I should be working. If I click on them, they keep coming back. You know you want them. You know you want them. Just give in and click “buy.”

That’s how I got the crazy cardigan. One day, after many viewings, I said, “If it shows up again today, I’m buying it.” It did, and I did. It took almost two months to arrive, and it’s even gaudier than it looked in the picture, but I kind of like it.

I just love getting packages. In my childless, widowed, orphaned state, I don’t get much for Christmas or my birthday, but why wait? Click, and it’s mine. I don’t have to touch any actual money, so the cost doesn’t sink in.

I think COVID has made us all a little nuts in this regard. A few Sundays ago, when in normal times I’d be at church, I posted on Facebook: “I will not buy anything online today, I will not buy anything online today, I will not . . .” One friend after another commented that she too was buying all kinds of stuff online. Many had bought something already that day. I held off, but on Monday, I was back at it.

I love the mailman and the UPS man—they are men in my neighborhood. Some things take forever to arrive—I’m still waiting for my iced tea machine replacement pitcher which I really do need–but other things, wow. Those bubble envelopes were here the next day. I can’t imagine how Amazon did that.

All this shopping seems to be a crazy COVID side effect. Not only are we at home and online way more than usual, but I think many of us have a feeling of why not enjoy ourselves now. We could get COVID and die next week.

What have I ordered today? Bigger bubble envelopes for my bigger books (which I would be delighted to mail to you. See suelick.com.)

Self-indulgent? You bet. But we all need a little dose of happiness these days.

So, how about you? Are you buying more than usual online? Is this the Internet equivalent of the Home Shopping Network? What’s the best or weirdest thing you have bought during the pandemic?