Wednesday, March 11, 2020. I went by Trader Joe’s on the way home from pilates. It was busy but not too bad. Thursday night I stopped at Vons after work, and that was okay too.
Friday we learned we were going to work from home. We all raced around the office, except at the sink, where we’d spend 20 seconds, methodically scrubbing our hands just like we’d been taught on YouTube. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.
How long would we work from home? A while. A few weeks, maybe. Surely no more than a month?
“Did you go to Vons recently?” Liz asked me. “Yeah, it was fine,” I told her.
I stopped by Vons that night. It was not fine, and the checkout queues stretched down the aisles, so I didn’t hang around.
I was in high school the first time I learned about the perils of walking-while-black in the USA.
Our family friend, Les, showed up at our house a little later than expected, and explained he was late because the police had stopped him. I was confused. Why would the police stop Les?
He explained this had happened to him often. He'd be stopped, spread up against a fence, frisked, and told he fit a description. He'd cooperate and then be on his way. The description was usually black, male, tall, about his age.
I was stunned. I was by no means naive. I'd grown up with plenty of poverty and violence nearby, and the neighbors...remember the (white) neighbors in the adjacent row house were always drinking, shouting, fighting, cussing, battling it out in the yard, and when they got more creative, one of them was arrested (in my attic) for firebombing a car in Georgetown. The police were actually quite helpful. My mother called them when those same neighbors tried to burn down our house. When my sister fought with one of them in the yard. When they traveled as a pack and assaulted my sister and mother walking to the supermarket. It's entirely possible my family might not be alive but for the Alexandria police force in the seventies and eighties.
Twenty days after leaving out of LAX, I flew EWR-SFO-BUR.
I was much less anxious this time around. Since my last flight, I'd been on buses, PATH, light rail, the #4 subway, one taxi with the windows open, three Lyfts, two Citibikes, and had been in a laundromat. I'd ordered grocery delivery, which I'd never done before. I'd ordered a pillow on a website and did curbside pickup (walk-up, actually). I'd sat masked in the park or on the stoop with friends, with several feet between us. I'd ordered from various delivery services ($$$$) and from restaurants that delivered to my neighborhood in Jersey City (most don't--yet). I'd worn four different masks and gone through over a dozen vinyl gloves.
Newark Airport was nearly a ghost town. There was no food for sale except for the self-serve "Global Bazaar" prepackaged stuff, so I was glad to have brought my own. I had nine seats to myself on the EWR-SFO flight.
SFO was a little better, and I was able to buy a salad. The United Club in SFO was open, FWIW, which wasn't much, but at least I could sit in a distant corner, remove my mask, and guzzle water.
TSA was easy and empty in both EWR and LAX. Precheck is meaningless without queues.
Would I fly again? Now, sure. Next month assuming flights are fuller, maybe not. My SFO-BUR flight was half full, and that was awful. Just too anxiety-inducing.
My FedEx Ground box looks like it had quite a few adventures in the Jersey City depot since it arrived there on 5/21.
It looks like they tried to deliver it and and I wasn't home. (Which is completely false.) The tracer person told me the problem was they thought it was a business, and so the business was constantly closed because most businesses are closed now.
I suppose it's possible they thought it was a business in spite of the sender (me) marking it "Residential" and in spite of it being sent "Home Delivery." And in spite of me calling about 12 times and saying my name, address, and "It's residential" over and over.
A different tracer told me it kept almost getting sent out from the depot but had never actually left, that's just how far behind they were.
Do you remember how furious I was when that motorcycle cop stopped me for "jaywalking" across a deadend road while I was walking to work?
I felt hot rage. It took me a few minutes to ramp down my challenges to him and realize that the guy with the gun had me at his mercy. I had to play dead, essentially, which was even more humiliating than being detained for walking to work instead of participating in LA car culture. What a waste of my time, his time, and Burbank's time.
It's a testament to the patience of our black community that it took this long, militarized enforcement, and Donald Effing Trump in the White House for our young people to start breaking shit.
We’ve thought this before. We’re usually wrong, at least in my lifetime. We see a moment, Los Angeles on fire, fury in Ferguson, women on the streets, protestors chanting “I can’t breathe” in cities across the country. But the moment passes. We leave Charlottesville, Trump Tower, Baltimore. We return to our devices, games, Netflix obsession, our comforts, our almond lattes, our gluten-free oatmeal, our consumerism. We are the Amys, not the Karens.
Is this even real? Who are these guys with umbrellas? The instigators systematically breaking windows, their eyes devoid of fury, anti-Soros conspiracies fueling their methods? Has the shit stirred up by online bots spilled over into physical life?
"Somebody hold my blunt."
I was too young to understand the late sixties, the fury on city streets contrasted with the Cold War-fueled space race. You’ll believe a man can fly. Only white men with access to advanced degrees, of course. The street-based fury hadn’t reached the upper echelons of power yet. The outcome of those
I shipped my old Apple monitor FedEx Ground from Burbank to myself in Jersey City. I got a newer (used) Apple Monitor to use in my home office in California, now that I have to take the term "home office" seriously, so I thought it would be nice to upgrade my home office in my Jersey City house too.
I shipped the screen in one narrow box on May 15 with signature required, because it was scheduled the arrive the same day I would, and I wanted to be sure I was there before they left it.
I sent the stand in a bulky square box on 5/16, knowing it would start moving on Monday 5/18 for arrival 5/22. I didn't do signature required since I for sure would be there by 5/22.
In a world where individuals guilty of existing-while-black are murdered by law enforcement or by racists who own guns, I keep reading comments where people suggest my--our--friend Chris is guilty of being a jerk for OFFERING A DOG A TREAT.
I'm not saying he was trying to make friends with the dog. He was clearly offering the dog a treat so the dog owner would leash the dog which was illegally off-leash in a migratory bird habitat.
The number of commenters in the world who claim Chris had ill-intent toward the dog due to offering it a treat is small, but nevertheless horrifying and absurd.
Sometimes, I just want to give up, you know? People are just so...god, they're just so dense. I don't want to be that person, but sometimes it's hard to see the good, the smart, the reasonable in people. They want so badly to prove they are uniquely more clever, they are special, they see an angle no one else sees. "They're both jerks."
48 hours ago, if you'd asked me "What do you think Christian Cooper would be famous for," I'd have guessed for something he'd written, a science fiction book or maybe the Star Trek comic he used to write where he introduced the first gay character in the history of Star Trek. Or maybe I'd have said "He was featured in that documentary about Central Park birders," because he's a dedicated and locally famous birder. He gets up at some obscenely early hour in the spring so he can be at Central Park by dawn to watch migratory birds.
If you wanted to dig in more to his background, I might have told you about his global travels, his days editing at Marvel, how he's a Harvard grad whose friend from college was the first male ob/gyn I'd ever met, or how he'd jumped through all the hoops necessary to get a small condo in the East Village back in the day, and he'd made his exclusive roof rights into a tiny, green paradise. I might have mentioned he had a fabulous 30th birthday party at a private mansion which inspired me to do the same a few years later (at the Frying Pan lightship). He hired a few drag queens to come to his party--were they telling fortunes? I no longer remember. I might even have mentioned I vaguely remember he knows some Klingon, but maybe he just had the Klingon dictionary and I read a lot more into that than I should have. I probably would have told you that Chris is never one to back down from taking a stand on a moral issue. He's gone to his share of righteous protests.
My little ground floor apartment in Jersey City is more a bolthole than a residence. It's about 450 square feet, maybe a little less. The bedroom, living room, and office are the same small room. Likewise, the kitchen and dining room share the same quarters. The bathroom has no separate shower. The bathroom IS the shower, plastic curtains serving as dividers.
The kitchen has no oven, but it does have two small gas burners, a microwave, a toaster oven, and now, an Instant Pot.
Oh, and I have my tiny backyard with patio umbrella, but it hasn't been that hot here yet, so while I cleaned up the patio and dragged out the umbrella stand, I didn't make use of it yet.
My upstairs tenants have been out of town during the entire pandemic, so I could use their oven. And they wouldn't mind since they're not using it and I'm feeding their cats and sending them video of the nice cat to show their five-year-old twins. (The kids are less interested in the mean cat.)
But I wanted to see if I could make a successful meal using the tools I have, so I'm pleased to announce that...
...I successfully had a delicious meal of baked chicken breast with parmesan and spices, partially microwaved and partially toaster oven-ed sweet potato, and Instant Pot asparagus spears.
Now if only I could figure out the right approach to an overripe banana and Bisquick.
I headed home from the airport, put on my disposable gloves, got a takeout coffee at The Grind and an egg-in-a-wrap from Martha's, took them home to dump into my own dishes, scrubbed my hands carefully, and had breakfast in my own home.
ShopRite miraculously opened up delivery slots, so I got as many groceries as fit in my half-size fridge. They even had Lysol wipes, which I hadn't seen since early March. I stopped by the dollar store--they had hair wraps, the right kind for maskmaking, and I pulled out my cheapie sewing machine I hadn't touched since I moved to Los Angeles.
Plus, I apparently went back in time and bought a huge number of disposable gloves and left them in my Jersey City house for Pandemic Marie to find. Part of the DIY experience! There are several woodworking masks under the sink and in the basement too.
The apprehension I had before flying home is starting to dissolve. People just get by, but with more social distancing and masks.
I took a plane Wednesday night. Crazy? Maybe. My theory, based on reading some reports about air filtration on planes and how many (very few) people are flying, was that flying is pretty safe. While my experience seems to bear out this hypothesis, I have ten days of isolation in Jersey City and then another two weeks on return to LA to find out if I guessed well.
My biggest concern was getting from my apartment to the gate. I waffled for days over which airport to fly out of. Burbank Airport is a ten-minute bus ride away, on the nearly empty 222 bus, while LAX can be anywhere from a half-hour in the dead of night to two hours in traffic. Longer if I take transit and hit all the connections wrong. But flying from LAX means a direct flight to Newark, and flying from Burbank means a connecting flight via SFO or DEN. What’s safer, two flights and waiting in a second airport, or getting to LAX?
I talked it over with Steve B, who had driven to Burbank a few weeks ago and hit zero traffic. Ultimately, I split the difference.
Fly out of LAX, fly back to Burbank.
I obsessively checked the United seat assignments for a few days leading up to my flight. Was it crowded? Where could I sit and be far from others? Should I switch to a day flight instead of a red-eye?
Today was the day I expanded my world beyond the mile surrounding Warner Bros. and my condo.
I figure nothing is going to change in the near future--possibly not for more than a year. So the question is...what is it like out there? If California reopens on 5/15, how do we alter our behavior so our world is safer than it might have been otherwise?
I donned my homemade mask (two layers of quilting cotton and one thin interfacing between), stuffed latex gloves into my bag, and headed out.
I caught the #222 bus north to Pacific and Hollywood Way. All buses are free at the moment, and able-bodied passengers can only enter and exit through the rear door. There were only three passengers on the bus, all keeping their distance. All wore masks.
I used my bag to push the button when I wanted the driver to stop, and then walked a mile to Lowe's. I only saw one other person during that walk, a dog walker two blocks away.
Lowe's was...not empty. It wasn't crowded, and everyone had on masks, but the number of shoppers was disconcerting.
I headed on to Target, but the line to get in was kind of nutty, so I walked over to Walmart. There was a queue there too, but Walmarts have actual sewing sections, so I was interested in stopping there. The line went quickly...but apparently so did the fabric. I haven't seen shelves this empty since my last look at the toilet paper section in any major grocery store. I bought the last fat quarter of fabric--it has tacos on it. (Not sure who will want a taco mask, but someone will.)
I left Walmart, passing a tremendous queue of cars all waiting for their curbside pickups. The line to get into the store stretched around the block now.
This is a cool-looking house with the original tin front, but I think it's worth $600-675k, not $799k. I think that because that's what my house is worth, a few doors down, and I have the end so more light. Bizarre that I was able to get my house for less than my one-bedroom condo in Burbank. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Still, if this house were in LA, it would be worth way more than this, so maybe someone with spare money will come along.
So this happened. Click to see the larger version, or you can go to the site.
I am not sure what it's specifically about. Maybe for trying to get out assignments to people, spreading them out when a lot of people were suddenly out of work? Or maybe the digital material I'm overseeing side-by-side with a big event comic and a young readers graphic novel.
In Jersey City news, apparently Liberty Storage wants to close and turn into an 8-story hotel. It was only a matter of time--it's located directly adjacent to Liberty State Park.
This makes me wistful for an earlier time when I'd drop off Henry the 1990 Ford Taurus at Liberty Storage for 2-3 months, and he'd live next to the sailboats and RVs in their parking lot, while I'd live in Australia, Spain, Mexico, Kuwait, Uganda, Egypt, wherever. My car lived in the storage lot as often as it lived in front of my apartment.
I kept all my stuff in Liberty Storage for about four years.
After the first year, I should've just thrown in a match.
Here's a photo, but it's low-res as it's the only scan I have of a physical photo, which is...wait for it...in a box at A-1 Storage in Jersey City.
"Pedestrians in Burbank will no longer need to worry about pressing a button at traffic intersections to activate the walk signal as the city has automated the process in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Longtime pal Steve B and I were going to see X at the Wiltern tonight for my birthday (which was a few days ago) but I guess we get to see this instead.
I always loved this band. I even spray-painted the cover to More Fun In the New World onto the back of a black denim jacket when I was a teenager. I only wore it a few times before giving it away though...broadcasting affinities makes me uncomfortable, even for awesome music.
The pleated kind and similar (like a cloth version of a surgical mask) are more comfortable than the bra-cup looking masks, but your glasses fog up. This isn't a problem if you don't wear glasses, but today I put on my sunglasses and they fogged up immediately.
The bra-cup ones are better for people with glasses, but they feel a bit more suffocate-y.
Both of the above are more comfortable then the N95 pro masks, the kind I've worn while tiling the floor or scraping something likely to include lead paint or toxic fumes.
I'm pretty sure the comfort is inversely proportional to the efficacy. Meaning...the more breezy the mask, the more pleasant it is to wear. The more you feel like you're going to hyperventilate from being unable to breathe normally, the more likely the mask is to be doing its job.
Of course, you might not want to take medical advice from a comic book editor. This is purely anecdotal.
At least the handmade ones look like a bit more fun. Here are a few I've been working on recently.
Remember back in February when I had the little pop-out bay window roof redone on my Jersey City house? And the drainage system down the house's side?
I'd been thinking about asking the roofing company if they are working during quarantine. Now seems like a great time to get the roof redone, when my tenants are in another state, and my house/cat-sitter could handle the work crews.
I know this isn't likely to happen, I thought. How would I get a construction permit? I idly went to the roofer's website to see if they were open. No indication. I clicked the Instagram link to see if that had more current info.
And found this. Oh, ha ha...oh no. My house is the cautionary tale on the roofing company's social media!
March, 2017. Emerald City Comic Con. Boss and I met up with Gene Luen Yang. This wasn't our first meeting with Gene—he was already writing comics for us. But I'd had great results with the DC Super Hero Girls series I'd been producing for a few years, and we were ready to expand.
"I have this idea," Gene said. "It's about Superman."
Boss and I leaned forward. Yes?
"And he smashes the Klan. It's based on the old radio show."
We both approved his idea on the spot. Sure, we still had to run it through the P&L process, but neither of us ever had a single doubt, and as anticipated, neither did anyone else.
Three years in the making, and the bound preliminary copies showed up today on my doorstep during social distancing lockdown.
It's beautiful. Perfect.
I can't count the number of amazing books I've had the privilege to work on on one hand, but I can count them on two.
Gonna wait until evening to dig into this pile of bounty. I'm conflicted about how to view today. Yes, it's my Earth Day, but I'm not 8 years old or 40, so it's not exactly a huge deal.
And I've certainly had my share of bad Earth Days, and this isn't one of those. I usually go home this time of year and have dinner with friends, but obviously I had to cancel my flight this time.
My most memorable this-is-odd Earth Day was during the last MariesWorldTour. I'll post that day's account in below, so we can all relive it together.
* * * * *
I woke up on the Endurance ferry (why would I worry about that name, NO REASON) from Calabar to Limbe just in time to catch the end of a rain shower outside and a Nollywood video inside.
Where was my passport? I was starting to get nervous. A man from the shipping company had taken my passport at the start of the journey and I'd figured it would show up eventually. Now I was getting worried.
People protesting the stay-at-home orders should read some firsthand accounts by health workers. I have...and I'm ready to stay home until the governor of CA, the mayor of LA, Elizabeth Warren, my friends in NYC, Spain, and Italy, and my mom all tell me it's okay to go out again.
But it's not just about me not wanting to end up drowning in phlegm (alone, but that's just the icing on the goop when you think of drowning in phlegm). It's also about not adding to the dangers of exhausted people working in hospitals.
And yes, I'm statistically on the safer side of all this, but you know what, I didn't try to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro either. Because the thing about altitude sickness is you can't know if you get it until you've got it. And at that point, it's a little late to be going "Oh, hey, I didn't know I'd get altitude sickness."
Only the finest in mask fashion for my trip to the building dumpster.
I sometimes wanted pancakes for breakfast back when I worked at Teshkeel’s Egypt office. Something familiar for Sunday mornings in Zamalek, a touch of home in a world where Sunday was the first day of the work week, where I’d have to get to the office in Dokki by 9.
I knew how to make Euro-pancakes, the flat kind you use as a crepe, or put in Bavarian pancake soup, but that’s not what I wanted then. I wanted fluffy IHOP-type pancakes, the kind that kept me from desperately wanting lunch at midday, when the only nearby lunch options were McD’s, a Moroccan place (I spent many long lunches there with colleagues), and BYO.
There was one problem with my IHOP-mimic recipe. One of the ingredients was baking soda. Bicarbonate of soda.
My local supermarket nearest my apartment didn’t seem to have it.
Nor did the other supermarket, the one across from the hotel I’d stay in for four months later that same year.
So I set out on a quest across the supermarkets of Cairo. I went to the suburbs. To the mall. To the upscale and local markets. I knew how to do this—I’d traveled the world enough times, lived overseas in Berlin, Australia, Barcelona, Kuwait, Uganda, Cape Town, Namibia. When you want to make something that tastes like home, you have to visit multiple outlets just to make breakfast.
In the end, I made a lot of Euro-pancakes without baking soda.
Then one day, bicarbonate of soda showed up at my local supermarket. The first one I’d visited in my quest for pancakes.
I snapped it up, even though suddenly it was everywhere, like a giant container full of baking soda had found its way through the Suez last night.
This was no different from my experiences around the world, or how I’d lived in Kampala in 2005, once scouring ShopRite and Woolworths and Game stores in my quest for sesame oil, which was nowhere until it was everywhere.
This is all a longwinded way of saying I think I know why I bought this today, even though I’m pretty sure we’ll be out of quarantine long before a single person with a bidet gets through 36 rolls.
I never did get through all that baking soda either, though I did use up the sesame oil.
I got into an argument at the supermarket today. Which isn't really how one expects to spend one's day when making a grocery list.
A raggedy-looking woman tried to cut because "I'm just buying cigarettes."
I jumped in before the person queued up in front of me could respond. (She looked taken aback, at least as much as I could tell since we're all in masks.)
"Get in line like everyone else."
"Oh, you're gonna be a bitch?"
"You're the bitch, you see all these people in line? You're gonna try to cut in front of them all waiting here?"
"It's just a pack of..."
"YOUR ADDICTION IS NOT MY PROBLEM."
By now people were turning around and staring.
"You've got a pro..."
"YOUR ADDICTION IS NOT MY PROBLEM. YOUR ADDICTION IS NOT MY PROBLEM."
She slinked away. Sigh of relief.
The woman in front of me turned around with a nervous laugh. "I'm so glad you said that!"
The woman in the line next to us said "Me too! The other day someone tried to cut because they only had two things."
"I was scared," I admitted. "I'm glad that worked."
Then the woman in front of me told me "You are cool," so that's a win
Good Friday indeed.
(Yes, I would've let her go ahead if she were buying flu medication or diapers, and I wouldn't have used the addiction line if she hadn't continued to push. I'm not completely heartless, just mostly.)
I did some digging around online to see if I could fix my sewing machine. I got this for fifty bucks from a little sewing store that used to be on Magnolia, and that's probably the right price if you think of it as a dollar a year for the life of the machine.
The lightbulb wasn't just out—the little bulb was detached from the socket, which was wedged into the housing. My first inclination was to throw the whole thing away and order a new one, but then I realized I can barely lift the machine and probably couldn't get it into a dumpster by myself, and donating is out of the question right now. Everything is closed and will be closed for at least another month.
Finally, I just took the assembly apart. Oh. Easy-peasy.
A trip to CVS and a lightbulb later, the Dressmaker was back in business.
The mayor of LA has asked Angelenos to wear masks in public (we are already under mandatory stay-at-home rules, so this is additional).
Not to pretend these can stop us from getting C19, but in case we have it and are asymptomatic and are within 6 feet of someone else at the supermarket or post office, we won't accidentally sneeze on them.
I'm figuring out the mask thing. Still not very good at it, but I'm getting there.
I really needed a walk after barely leaving my apartment for more than a week. Also, I wanted some elastic to try to make a few masks.
I have an N95 mask, sure. But that's for emergencies. Namely, if I get sick and need to go to the hospital. (Its original purpose was for sanding pottery, or maybe I have it in case of SoCal fire season. I forget.)
But the point of these non-surgical masks people are wearing is to stop yourself from touching your face when you're in the supermarket or pharmacy. So I'm planning to make some masks tomorrow, but I only had a little strip of red elastic left over from I-don't-know-what project.
"Maybe Target has elastic," I thought. Followed by "I seriously doubt it." Have you ever seen Target's sewing section? It's for sewing buttons, really. (Walmart, oddly, has a great sewing section, but that's not nearby, and it's crowded and horrible even under normal circumstances.)
Anyway, there's one of those mini-Targets a mile away, and it has both groceries and a pharmacy, so it's allowed to open. And since I feel like a slug, off I went, elbowing the complex door open and not hitting crosswalk buttons. All the humans I encountered hugged the other side of the sidewalk. No one is going near each other for now.
When I got to Target, I had to wait on an X on the sidewalk since only a few people are allowed in at a time.
There were a lot of bare shelves where the TP and Purell had presumably once been, but that wasn't my mission. My target at Target was the sad little sewing section, which was indeed pathetic.
There was definitely no elastic in the sewing section.
So I went to the hair section. I think this will work.
Bonus: I got in 10,000 steps today, even though this mission required a lot of hand scrubbing and two Clorox wipes.