Story 5Aug2022: Day Off

Susie is improving, and I have no symptoms of Covid-19. Therefore, I continue with the second long weekend I have scheduled for August. I will get a four-day break this time, taking off Friday and Monday. I still cannot visit Susie as she is locked down in her room at hummingbird house.

The morning started with waking and getting started before my 7AM alarm. I was up and making breakfast when the alarm went off. I took the blueberries I bought at the farmer’s market on Thursday and made pancakes with them. I made buckwheat pancakes remembering back to Laingsburg, Michigan, in the 1970s and the Pancake Breakfast put on by the Lions. I was always surprised that it was this flavor, but Mr. Hurst or Tom Mahoney insisted (I never learned why). So I fried hot cakes with huge berries, and they were so good I ate three fry cakes.

Aside: Pancakes, fry cakes, and hot cakes are all the same thing.

I then wrote the blog and managed to finish it before 10AM. After that, I put away my work laptop to help me have a break from the shoe company.

I then showered and dressed. Next, I grabbed the ladder and more tools and went after the light fixture in the hallway. It is a sealed LED fixture and matches two others in the hallway and entrance way but is blinking. This is the second time I have had to replace one in the exact location. I discovered that I had purchased a mismatching fixture after I opened the box (it looked right on the box), and this new one uses LED lightbulbs.

Frustrated that I could not match the fixture. I got on the ladder and took down the failing fixture. I saw this fixture is the first in the series of hallway lights and that the twisted wires looked old. I thought maybe the connections failed as the wires are over forty years old. I cut off the ends of the wires, after turning off the lights, and retwisted them (not as neatly as an electrician but good enough, got new twist-on wire connectors (I have a jar of them I had to then find in the garage), reconnected the old fixture, and put it back. I was now tired and reached my limit for ladder work, and the blinking did return. I will have to replace it after all of that.

I put the ladder in the spare bedroom and then heard the doorbell. My network repeater had come from Amazon. It was expensive ($90) and uses the house wiring to connect to the network and then broadcasts WIFI. I want to use Corwin’s room as an office, so I need fast Internet. I managed to plug in the new hardware and start new WIFI access.

I tested it, and it was slow; I was disappointed. Next, I tested my normal network from Xfinity (Comcast); it was slow. I reset my modem using Xfinity’s website–still slow. I called Xfinity after trying to get the bots on the website to do something. The phone bot then insisted on resetting my modem and texting me back. I consented. I had also looked at replacing the Xfinity cable connection with a new fiber network apparently available in my area for fifty bucks less a month.

Ziply Fiber is a new, less than a few years old Internet provider that bought out another company in the area. It does not provide cable service but can provide phone service. It is about $100 a month and provides 3x the speed offered by Xfinity. Tempting.

After more back and force and a call from the bots of Xfinity, a human finally decided to help me when I asked for additional help, “Cancel my service.” I was still not talking to a tech person but a sales person trying to “save” the account. On Monday, a service truck will be coming to look at the issues at the house. I suspect the cable connectors outside the house have started to fail; that was wrong last time. I have coverage of all the cables, including those in my house, for a few bucks a month.

This started to become a big issue, as I am often online. Zoom meetings at Nike are reporting that I am garbled, and I don’t want to be “that guy” with the cheap Internet connection. It is vital with us working from home that the Internet connection is excellent and fast.

I will switch to Ziply if this continues ending my twenty-year with Comcast. I was one of the original fiber customers–they had to run a wire from the switch down my street (we are still on poles here) to bring me their service. So I had unusually clear and fast service for years in the early days of the Internet.

I called Susie at hummingbird house in the late morning and talked to her for a bit. Susie is feeling better, and I spoke to her for a bit on the phone. Jennifer, the nurse aide, puts it on speaker for her. Susie is bored and tired of being locked down in her room. They did get the cable working on her TV in her room, according to Jennifer. Susie sounds better.

After talking to Susie and dealing with Comcast, I was ready to board Air Volvo. I flew Air Volvo into the Friday morning traffic to reach Portland. I headed to the Northwest area near Good Samaritan Hospital (a place I know well) and parked at the synagogue, which allows paid parking at any time except Saturday morning and early afternoon. I paid $5 for an all-day pass and walked down the hill after helping a gal to understand how to pay for parking with the machine (you supply your car’s license plate number, the time of your stay, and pay money–paying for up to two hours or all day).

I headed to the Red Onion Thai restaurant. I had last been there when Susie was in the hospital, and Leta and Barb (Susie’s mother and sister) came to see Susie around Easter. I wanted to try it without all the worries that distracted me before.

The food was terrific, and the service friendly. I discovered about 10% of the folks are still masked in Portland, with those who deal with the public more often masked for all the obvious reasons. I wear my mask when in buildings or when it gets crowded.

Next, I went to Paxton Gate, a store specializing in old skeletons, taxidermy animals, and other dead things, including insect boxes. The store is not creepy and not dusty, and the staff is all good-looking young people (all masked, and the store has a sign that “Masks are Preferred”), creating a friendly feeling amongst all the dead things, very Harry Potter.

I purchased an anthology: The Weiser Book of Horror and The Occult. The book includes Crowley, Poe, Lovecraft, Smith, and other well-known spooky storytellers. The store has other esoteric for sale and did I pass on the little vials containing tiny rattlesnake fangs. Definitely, a place to purchase party favors for a wicked Halloween get-together.

They provide a mystery box service. You give some money, at least $40, and some suggestions that will help them select appropriate items from their stock, and they will create a curated gift for you. A store that I think an Addam’s character would love.

After that, I tried to get the ice cream from Salt and Straw, but the place was packed. So I headed to Function Hospitality‘s basement bar. They had a focus on beer from North Dakota. Got to try a bar that uses a math function as its logo!

They were playing newish rock and serving very fresh beer. I got a table and started to do some writing. The place was busy, and I was the only gray-hair person. While there, I finally got my groove back and started on a Dungeons and Dragon 5E adventure I have tried to create a few times. I wrote most of one encounter while drinking beer. I wrote for an hour or more.

It was now 3ish, so I decided to try for the ice cream again. I went into a madhouse that services ice cream. Every inch was a person in line, eating or paying for ice cream. No-go for me.

Disappointed but unwilling to be infected with whatever version of Covid-19 goes best with ice cream, I walked back up the hill. I took Air Volvo across Portland; I love driving through the town (now that the protesting is mostly over) to Guardian Games. There I grabbed a table; I had the colossal gaming hall all to myself–I was allowed to play until 6PM as they had an event at 6:30, set up the board game Pax Parmir for solo play, and enjoyed trying to remember how to play. The game is lovely and is not intuitive or easy to follow. You play on a small cloth map printed to look like a carpet with a map of Afghanistan. Cards in the board game represent the events, personalities, and opportunities of the Great Game in the 1800s and early 1900s. The game includes a deck of cards to run a special artificial player that represents not a faction but an idea, the Wakhan. And as you can imagine, an idea is a hard thing to defeat–and it is.

Pax Parmir is a political simulation game where you align to Britain, Russia, or the tribes of Afghanistan and then collect a court of supporters represented by cards you purchase. A player is aligned to a faction and has a wheel to express your current alignment, which, as the wheel suggests, is a temporary direction. The solo device, Wakhan, is aligned to all factions, making it easier for it to score and can keep supporters from other factions in its court. You, as a player, can add another faction supporter to your court, but you must then drop any factional supporters you have and change to your wheel to show your new alignment. Thus players can add neutral supporters without change. Sudden alignment changes are a feature of the gameplay.

Points are scored when dominance is determined. Armies and bridges are counted by faction; if one faction (Britain, Russia, or Afghanistan) had four more, they dominate. Supporters of that faction and the Wakhan score points by how strong their support is for the faction. If there is no dominance, the player with the most spies and tribes they have in the game scores. So scoring can be surprising in Pax Parmir.

This is just the setting for a solo game! I have metal coins made for the game that is hard to find. You can usually only get this game as a Kickstarter.

After 6PM, I packed up and walked through Guardian Games. I did buy the newest book for the Role Playing Game (RPG), Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Cults, and promise M@ that I will not read the adventures at the back of the book so M@ can use them. Guardian Games will supply a link to a free PDF version of the book, so I like to buy RPG books from them.

I saw the store had four copies of the Arc Nova board game–a hard game to find, but I decided I could play Richard’s copy for a bit longer ($75). I did have the game in my hands for a while, then regretted the price and put it back. I drove home, recrossing Portland again, and saw that the bronze elk was not yet back on its stand.

Air Volvo reached home at about 7:30ish, and I made a salad for dinner. Next, I made a pot of tea and wrote more Dungeons and Dragon 5E encounters. I regretted the tea later as it was hard to sleep when I went to bed at 10:45ish.

It was a good day off, and I was happy to finally sleep after 1ish.

Thanks for reading!

Story 4Aug2002: Thursday

Susie is stable and improving in isolation. Her Covid-19 did not go into her lungs and appears limited to light flu symptoms. I had my second negative test on Thursday, so I seem to have avoided Covid-19 again–even being kissed by someone (I was still masked) did not give me Covid-19. Unfortunately, Oregon is still trying to kill me with pollen, and I often sound like I have Covid-19.

The morning started as most do for a work day but not going into the office–my last 1/2 day of isolation. I performed all the rituals to start a day, including breakfast and creating liberal coffee; I ordered more from Equal Exchange, which unsurprisingly has a Portland warehouse and will soon be delivered. I was quickly in a Zoom meeting (yes, I usually drive into work and am then surrounded by mostly unmasked people who seem to be between isolation episodes, to be on Zoom calls all day).

Once I am through the overlapping Zoom calls (I am late for some when the ones I attend finish early), I continue the morning rituals and am soon showered, shaved, and dressed. I added to the morning festival of work-start the dishwasher and the laundry as I am on paid time off (PTO) on Friday. I remember Thursday’s put-out-the-trash rite and debated that it was lawn-waste day, not recycling day. I was right as I saw the lawn-waste pick-up on Friday morning.

Despite a perfect set of rituals, I was not accepted as a worthy sacrifice to various Cthulian deities; I continued my meetings and made lunch. Lunch was leftover pasta and sliced-up meatballs I made a few days ago. I had put the leftovers in separate zip lock bags, dumped a bag’s content into my glass measuring cup, my only glassware, and microwaved it. As often happens with Italian-style sauce and spices, it was better reheated.

I read a bit as a break and then returned to the crises of the moment and a Zoom meeting with old friends I had not seen for a while at work. I am returning to some of the other work I did before the current project; the project has included me for more than five years now, took over most of my time at work, and consumed some of my holidays and twenty or so weekends.

I finally reached Susie–my first call went unanswered–and her nurse aide, Jennifer. Susie is improving and bored. Susie has a TV in her room that is connected to cable. Susie has an Alexa that is part of the Volvo Cave account, so Susie can play music and all those other cool Alexa things (Alexa is programmed to respond to “echo” for all the obvious reasons). Leta later got a call, and it was Susie. Susie is calling folks now–she is really bored.

Feel free to call or send cards. Susie resides at:

Allegiance Senior Care
Adult Foster Care Home
9925 SW 82nd. Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97223

The house phone number: 503 246-4116

I had a short break and reached the end of my isolation, so I took Air Volvo to Rite Aide. Sadly, our local one has been closed, and thus I have to drive a few miles to another one. The pharmacists knew me and would shout out that they had a new flu vax or other inculcation options for me. I was always first. Flu, shingles, hepatitis, yes, I have done it. I will miss them.

At the newish store (it is rather run-down), I grabbed my bag. The prescriptions are filled at the Rite Aid warehouse. The drugs are stuffed and sealed in a non-recyclable bag (!) and mailed to the Rite Aid store, so I just went there, apparently, to pay the co-pay and pick-up. I will soon move the prescription to mail service, cut out the middleman and spend more (!). Oddly, the Rite Aid is cheaper even when picked up at a store. Likely, Rite Aide costs and infrastructure are sunk costs while cool new Internet companies have to recover their costs and cool website explosive costs plus pay back investors. Yes, the existing brick-and-mortar stores are more expensive but once in place, like many things, the cost is minimal and less than bleeding edge tech. It is an interesting trade-off.

I picked up two more Covid-19 test kits, which are no longer free. After about $50, I am ready to test again. I bought two double test kits.

A farmer’s market was running in Rite Aid’s parking lot. I bought peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and locally made honey. I tried to support local farmers at the market; it just seemed the right thing to do. Plus, the fruit is wonderful.

I stopped at Safeway, a mistake, and picked up a sandwich–a huge sub–for dinner. I had three slices of the sub for dinner. I got the things I forgot last time. I tweeted again about the lack of checkers, only two with three-plus deep waits. Again, Safeway, as a corporate direction, is trying to drive folks to DIY checking. That had a long line too. I am using back my complaining.

I did one more, the final status call of the week. We are reducing the calls to only 5:05 PM PDT Sunday-Thursday. After that, I was free, having done my out-of-office rituals and the required time-sheet rite. I took a four-day weekend and do not return to the office until Tuesday.

I had my sub for dinner–saving most for later. Once the last meeting was over, I headed out to Central Taps in Beaverton. The convenient free parking was full; thus, I went for the parking garage–a buck an hour. I took my laptop and Nemo’s War, a solo board game.

I got a beer and a table and played my game for about two hours. I knew about 1/2 I was being crushed, and it was time to hand in the Nautilus until the next time. I then thought about a Dungeons and Dragon adventure I wanted to write about.

I drove home, finished my brain cookie, The Bridge of Birds, and fell asleep early.

Thanks for reading. Our 32nd Wedding Anniversary is Thursday, and I will try to get some nice ice cream in celebration to share at hummingbird house.





Story 03Aug2022: Wednesday

I could sleep in a bit as I was working from home again in isolation for another day. I will test again on Thursday morning. If I am negative, I have avoided Covid-19 again. Susie is stable at the hummingbird house, eating, drinking, and listening to music. She has an Alexa (we use the name alternative awakening word “echo”) that can play anything for her.

My morning started at about 7:15, with me reading email, text, and Slack messages. I spent the day working on a few crises of the moment and made little progress on the issues.

I called Susie’s place at about 10ish and spoke to Susie. She was feeling better but was tired of her room. So Susie is locked down in her room for a week–boring!

Peter Koper called by accident, and we chatted for a bit. He sent his best to Susie and asked about how I was doing. I have my last test, a new colonoscopy near Christmas, which is likely to be negative.

Lunch was again feel-good food for me. I had a pair of Nathan’s Hotdogs with mustard and freshly chopped onion. I made baked beans from a can and microwaved them to go with the dogs. I used my new battery-powered can opener to access the beans. I was surprised that the new-fangled openers cut off the top of the can instead of cutting open the lid like the openers of old. I bought a new one from Amazon after I failed to cleanly open two cans with my old manual opener–I think it is too dull after twenty years. Also, it is strange to use a power tool to open a can.

A bird nest, likely a robin’s nest–I was told, was on the deck this morning. The mud that had locked it to the tree branches gave way in the light wind last night. I carried it to the little girl next door and gave it to her. I remember an intact bird nest was a prized item when I was a kid. Harper appeared to be delighted, and her father was happy when I said, no, it is an outdoor thing, and it stayed outside. I remember having them in my room when I was small, but the world is neater now.

I read some more, but the breathing issue is much better today–reading helps me ignore the breathing issue. The weather reached about 80F (26.6C) with lower humidity and a nice breeze. So, I was comfortable all day.

I made dinner while listening to my last meeting at 5:05. I got a bone-in pork chop from the freezer and put it on a plate, still frozen in a plastic bag, and let the sun outside defrost it. I fried it in butter and then put some chopped onions (left over from the hot dogs) and garlic. I also heated some butter in a pan with almond slices and more chopped garlic. Next, I microwaved some frozen green beans and then put them in the pan with almonds and garlic. Finally, I heated some Texas Toast to finish up dinner.

My item was the second to last thing on the Zoom meeting, so I gave the update while eating the dinner I made while listening to the first part of the meeting.

I called Corwin and took him an important item that showed up in my mail for him and then drove to McDonald’s, got us hot fudge sundaes (I was wearing a mask in Air Volvo to keep him safe) and a burger combo for him for dinner. We then went to the local park and ate in the fresh air. So I would be safe to unmask there outside.

We chatted about the history he has been watching on YouTube. We talked about ancient history and some more recent stuff.

I took him to his new home off of 214th and returned home. I read for a bit and then wrote the blog. I chatted with friends while writing and exchanging travel stories. Plus, texting replies that Susie was stable to worried friends and family.

Thank you for reading.



Story 02Aug2022: Covid-19 Reaches Us

After years, Covid-19 finally breached our defenses, and Susie is quite ill with flu-like symptoms at the hummingbird house. She is coughing and lethargic, and Susie has a positive Covid test. I am not feeling well and have many early symptoms, but it could be stress and allergies; my test was negative, proving I don’t have it, or I can’t properly perform the take-home test kit. I am exhausted, sneezing, and my breathing is troubled. The symptoms we saw with Susie a few days ago.

I have spent the day home and resting between meetings and some crises of the moment at the shoe company. I am worried about Susie and my asthma is trying. I am exhausted after a day of just contacting people and not panicking.

Returning to the typical narrative I do, Tuesday started with my typical rushed morning and meetings at 8:05. I had to go with efficiency to be at the office before my meeting. I had breakfast, a bagel-like local bread product, and a banana. Then, of course, I had liberal coffee from the French press. Since President Trump’s election, I have been drinking Fair Trade and other liberal causes supporting coffee. It reminds me of what I stand for every day: I am liberal.

The trip to work was uneventful, even in the Portland area, where naked bike riding is the norm in the summer and slowing down for a green light is usual. I completed my first meetings when Michelle Nixon, owner of the facility where Susie resides, called me and informed me that Susie had a positive covid-19 test after they noticed she was coughing too much for it to be caused by allergies. Standing back from everyone with my mask on, I told my boss and others I had to leave work and isolate myself, and I also had a light cough. My boss, Brad, waved me out.

I tested negative, as I said.

Later, I talked to the nurse aid and asked if we should intervene with anti-virals for Susie. She will check with the RN. Susie was mainly sleeping. Also, Susie’s mother called hummingbird house and learned that Susie was eating and drinking and then going back to sleep. So that is a good sign.

I made hot dogs in buns with mustard and fresh chopped onion for lunch, feel-good food with potato salad, and macaroni salad. I watched some how-to model videos while I ate to relax and forget my problems. After that, I tried to return to work, but I was troubled both by breathing issues and worry.

I read a bit when my breathing got harder, likely a panic attack, and it was soon OK. Reading has always helped me put my mind somewhere else and relax. So I grabbed my copy of Barry Hughart’s China series, signed and one volume (my copy is a special edition now worth a few $100), and started to let my mind drift. I also wanted to remember how Barry put the stories together as I want to write some more soon. It helped. I love these books.

I will test again in the morning.

I made taco salad from three frozen patties and put the meat on a taco salad. I was hungry and ate the whole salad. Maybe I will be OK as I seemed to have only allergy (and panic) issues.

Susie will be locked down for seven days. I will be isolated for at least three days or longer with a positive test.

I did finish the last parts of Death and the Conjuror: A Locked-Room Mystery by Tom Mead. I liked the characters and the setting. I did not care for some of the writing and the use of bizarre descriptive words; some I thought were just wrong. When there is another one, this is the first, I will try it. The book improved as it continued, as often happens with new mystery series. 

I am worried, tired, breathless–not in a good way, and not alone. Friends have been supportive, and I do not feel alone. I have plenty to eat and plenty of booze if I need it.

Until the next chance to write…

Be well. Be safe. Don’t kiss people with Covid unless you love them.

Michael R Wild

Story 1Aug2022: Looking for my Groove

I started the day at 6:30ish, even though it was my day off. I had vivid dreams about work and was tired of that on my first vacation day in August! So I have taken off most Mondays and Fridays and 1/2 the Thursdays. I logged on to the Nike corporate laptop and arranged my auto-relies to emails that I was out on Paid-Time-Off (PTO) and sent reminders that I was unavailable today to my colleagues.

After that, I enjoyed my liberal Free Trade French press coffee with an everything bagel (actually a local bread made to resemble a bagel) smeared with chive and onion flavored cream cheese and a banana. I read my email, even work email, and some messages (including some work ones) and then closed my laptop, promising myself I would leave it closed until Tuesday (I failed to do my timesheet and would have to break that promise).

I wrote my blog for the next couple of hours. I was in a writing mood, so there were various contents besides the narrative. Also, it was my day off; I tried to enjoy the usually rushed process of producing the daily blog. I was not done writing and posting until 9:50, thus not making my planned 10AM visit with Susie at hummingbird house.

Aside: I am using more and more semicolons now. I know that a sentence is a complete thought in English, but I often have more than one thought, and I want to join them; make these different thoughts flow together if you like. Thus, I am using the soft stop of a semicolon to make this work. I hope it is not too distracting.

I was in the shower and dressed efficiently but not rushed; again, I refused to rush on my vacation day. I was very late. I just could not get organized today.

Susie was still eating when I got there, just finishing breakfast (had I rushed, I would have had to wait, so my late timing was perfect). Susie was soon ready to enjoy the park, Metzger Park. It had rained, a very light and warm sprinkle, just a few minutes before. It was now steamy and damp–something we never see in August in Oregon. We usually enjoy the dry desert heat up from Death Valley and California. But today, you could get just a hint of ocean in the damp.

Susie and I risked the rain returning. I rolled Susie to the handicamp space near the tennis courts, which is paved to the road. I am always worried that the steep ride down the crowned pavement (where the center is higher than the edges) to the parking lot will knock Susie off the wheelchair. I have her lean back and hold on, but Susie was slumped today, so I took her to the safer area. I then hit the sidewalk that enters the basketball courts and push down on the back bar of the wheelchair to pop-a-wheely and then push forward. I mention this as the Park crew saw this and laid down fresh gravel to avoid this next time. I was very thankful.

Susie and I found a picnic table, not in use and dry; it was under some pine trees, and the rain never made it to the table. I sat there and called Susie’s mother, Leta, on the iPhone, and Susie and I talked to Leta on FaceTime. A rabbit, about 1/2 sized, popped into our area and then ran across the grass only to be scared by curious children. We saw a flash of a white tail, and the rabbit was gone. After finishing our chat with Leta, Susie and I explored the park some more, but no more bunnies surfaced. A dragonfly did circle us, and a hungry yellow jacket hornet was eyeing Susie, which was knocked away by me.

The sun appeared, and it was clear that it would be hot and even more humid soon. So we retreated from the park, using our new gravel to leave the park. Excellent.

I remembered some flowers for Susie that I bought at Safeway. I also brought her yellow shoes that Susie had been missing. But unfortunately, I did forget the Bluetooth speaker I use for movies. Again, my groove is not to be found.

Susie and I agreed on Gigi, an old musical that Susie has watched repeatedly. We know all the words and songs. I had trouble with the sound as I had to redirect the sound back through my Apple laptop.

The young star of Gigi, Leslie Caron, was also in an American in Paris, another fav. Susie sang along to some of the songs but did fall asleep for a bit of the beginning. She woke up to some of the best songs and seemed to enjoy the movie.

I left after the movie was completed with a kiss and a brave smile from Susie. Susie agreed she had a good day and would be fine. Susie was still a bit sleepy but was much more alert than yesterday. I am much relieved.

I got home at about 2:15; the traffic was terrible across Beaverton, with me taking three lights to get Air Volvo through some intersections! Finally, at the Volvo Cave (home), I made a salad for lunch. Mariah wanted to have dinner out, so I would meet her at BJ’s for beer and dinner. A salad was a good choice for the heavy dinner coming.

I was there on time, but Mariah was delayed by work items. I got a beer from our usual waiter, Eric, in the bar. Mariah was not terribly late. I was thinking about a lighter dinner, but they make the best pork chop in the area. So Mariah and I both had the chops. Mariah’s came plain, and mine glazed–I switched them. Mariah praised me for my deft handling of the chops–apparently, I am wasted on computers and should consider a career in the service industry. We enjoyed dinner, and we dallied until nearly 8PM.

I took Air Volvo home with Mariah’s bright Orange Challenger with the required Hemi engine growling in the lane next to me. I have to say I rolled down the windows to hear her car. It was so old school it was almost new. Wonderful! Mariah does not mind the gas usage; she can hear where it is going!

With dreams of old-school cars growling, I think I will stop there. I felt out of sorts. I did not get everything I meant to do today, but I managed the critical path. Still looking to get back into my groove. Maybe next time.

Thanks for reading.