All my options and observations in this post are warped by the fact that the world is in the mist of the Covid19 pandemic. If and when this is all over, I will have to revisit my thoughts and see if they still hold true.
When I booked my Airbnb in Texas, I was just looking for a nice place I could afford. (Check out this post for the sad story of how I got trapped in Texas.) I found a place, and was surprised that the location was great. I am in walking distance from everything I need. Of course with the pandemic in full swing there is little that is open. It is an efficiency apartment with the kitchen off to one side and a large bathroom, changing room, walking closet in the back. That area is surprisingly big for an efficiency.
When I first arrived I met my next door neighbor, who is a really nice guy, who turned out to have some bad habits. He stands outside his door smoking and talking on his cellphone all the time. I could make waves but he lives in the building permanently, and I am just passing through. His girlfriend on the other hand is harder to take. She has a voice that could curdle new milk. Luckily it seems as if he has broken up with her.
One night I had to get up and yell at them for getting it on in front of his apartment. Her voice was cutting right through the earplugs I was wearing. The next day I took him a cold beer and apologized for tripping off line. He has been pretty quite since. I only once had to let him know that his music was cutting though the wall. That is when I noticed that the wall of his living room is a display of quite a few guitars. I guess for a musician, who probably has damaged hearing, he isn’t all that noisy.
I was surprised to find that an old college, merchant marine, and marine surveying chum lived only 10 minutes from here. Yes, chum, singular. All those roles have been filled by one friend.
Seeing how social all the young folk, who live in the apartments are, I decided to give them all as wide a berth as possible. That included not using the laundry room. I am continuing to wear my travel clothes since they are well suited for washing in the sink and hanging up to dry.
As a wrote in a previous post, I had a rental car for two weeks, because I was only supposed to be in Texas for two weeks. I had to drive down to Pearland to sign the contract for my storage unit. I chose that area because of its proximity to my friend in Friendswood . As I drove through Houston the streets were vacant, except for the homeless. I bet some of them had no idea what was going on. There was one man playing racketball by himself against the pylon of an overpass, in the middle of a major road leading up to the highway. He was keeping any eye out and would move to one side when when the traffic light changed. He reminded me of Baseball Mike, in Honolulu who spent all day bouncing a baseball off the side of a parking garage.
When it was time to return to return the rental car, I contacted the rental car company to make sure they were open. The drive to the airport was very strange, there was very little traffic. When I got to the airport rental car complex it was even more strange. There was only one person, who I could see working the whole area. He received my car and I walked off looking for the exit.
It was so strange, being in that huge building filled with cars and seeing no one. Finally I made my way into the lobby of the building and found a few clerks working. They directed me to the visitor parking lot where my friend could pick me up. I contacted him and sent him a map of where I was. All I could tell him, was that I was on the east side of the building standing on a big staircase on the second level so he would be able to see me.
My friend offered to loan me his truck while I was living nearby. I told him that I would let him know when I needed it. My household goods, which I had shipped from Texas arrived several days before I was expecting. My friend came to pick me up and had me drive him back to his house.
I arranged to meet the movers at my storage unit the next day. The movers were very fast and efficient. Even while they were working they took the time to converse we me in Spanish. I was also glad that despite the work, they were social distancing and wearing masks. I gave them a very good review with the moving company. I returned the next day to sort things out a bit. When I was done, I looked around and thought, I paid how much for shipping so little? Oh, well it is done.
One problem I had on my trips to Pearland, was that Google Maps kept tripping off. At first I thought that it had been tripped off by in incoming phone call, but the second day I received no calls while I was driving. Luckily I saw the exit to Pearland. It wasn’t the shortest way to get there, but I pulled over to check my phone and found that Google Maps had closed and I was about five miles out of my way. I got lost far worse on the way back to the apartment. I know, I should have switched to Apple Maps for the drive home, but old habits die hard. I did get to see a lot of Houston I didn’t know existed.
After the adventure of settling the remains of my old live into storage, my current life can be summed up as:
- Get up around 0430
- Spend hours drinking coffee and playing jigsaw puzzles on my iPad, while telling myself that I should go out for a walk.
- Go on Facebook and assure folks that I will be blogging again soon.
- Start playing the RPG StarDew Valley for hours.
- Between rounds of StarDew Valley study Spanish
- Remember to eat breakfast around 1130
- Actually eat breakfast around 1400
- Go back to StarDew Valley promising myself that I will start blogging again soon.
- Between rounds of StarDew Valley wash clothes in sink (every two to three days)
- Realize it is too late to eat lunch and have dinner just before going to bed
- Sleep badly wondering what the future will bring
Actually it isn’t much different than my schedule the last few weeks I was in Peru, when it was too rainy to go out. I got hooked on Stardew Valley during the rains. The difference is that there have been a lot of good days here in Houston, but with everything closed down for Covid19, there isn’t much to do.
Just as I was running out of excuses not to blog or work on my long delayed novel, I got another reprieve. Just after making a backup to an external drive, the laptop I dropped on the Bogotá airport floor nearly a year ago finally died, completely and irrevocably. I know, I could have been using my iPad for both things.
Lately I have been having some strange things happen. Finding the parking pass, which I go into below was one, but the other was the issue of my laptop dying. Not only had I just done a complete back up, but when I went online I found that Apple had put the new 13 inch MacBook Pro on the market in the past hour.
After Apple botched up the delivery of my the 16 inch MacBook Pro, and I found that I was going to have to use a good part of the money they refunded to live on in the States, I had been going back and forth on what laptop to get. The old 13 inch MacBook Pro was out of the question because it had that horrible keyboard. I was going back and forth between a 16 inch MacBook Pro with much reduced specs and a MacBook Air which wouldn’t have met my need for processing power. I have the new laptop now and it really hits the sweet spot.
I have found that I don’t like walking in the park. It is too crowded and very few people are social distancing nor wearing mask. I think that even if I weren’t worried about being sick I still wouldn’t like the park here. It is filled with earnest exercise freaks. There are no old men sitting on park benches speaking about how much better the world was in their day. There are no grannies knitting. There are no mothers watching the children playing. The old men are swooping past on high tech bikes, the grannies are power walking with faces surgically rearranged to give an uncannily valley version of youth, and the mothers are jogging along pushing bored looking children in strollers that look more like formula one race cars than perambulators.
Sometimes I look at a word and it is as if I am seeing it for the first time. When I was studying Spanish and first encountered the word paragua I suddenly realized that as paragua was ‘for water’ parasol was ‘for sun’. In the paragraph above I looked at ‘perambulators’ and realized that it means ‘for walking.’ Wouldn’t it be better if the word was preambulator? I.e. before walking? But I digraess.
The park gives me the same feeling I have when I venture into a trendy gym. I look around at all the very cool, very fit people and just want to head home to a beer and a bag of chips.
Finally after many many hours of playing Stardew Valley, it got to a point where it was no longer completely immersive, and I started to chaff to get outside. That is when I came up against Texas weather. It seemed as if every time I wanted to go for a walk it sounded as if Odin and his hoards were bowling in the sky, and throwing massive lighting bolts to celebrate each strike.
Eventually I noticed that the weather was falling into a pattern. Storms at 0400 to make sure I didn’t sleep enough, sunny nice mornings, with storms rolling back in in the afternoon to evening. I kept promising myself that I would wrap up the coffee and breakfast sooner and get out of the apartment in the morning. Boy, I am I ever good at lying to myself.
I managed to walk down to the park often enough to be completely sure, that I didn’t like it. No, that is wrong, the park is great, but like so many parts of my life, it is the people that mess it up. When I first got here I was getting up very early and walking with my friend before he headed into work. That was when the pandemic was all bright and shiny and we nearly had the park to ourselves. Then I liked it … without all the trendy people.
When I go to Kroger I always try to get the same cashier, she is very nice and lets me speak Spanish to her. On the second day, in Spanish, she explained to me that you can’t buy beer on Sunday in Houston. I thought that was so funny, that I had completely forgotten that it was Sunday, and I had forgotten about the blue laws.
Looking out the window of the apartment today the sky looked good, so I headed out without my umbrella I should have known better. It was a nice walk but the lack of people walking was sort of spooky. Unlike the park, where people are jammed in far to close for the current situation, the sidewalks were empty. I wonder if there are normally more people walking or if everyone drives in spite of how close everything is in this neighborhood? I really can’t understand people’s who refuse to walk anywhere with a destination in mind, but will spend hours exercising.
When I was in South America negotiating the crowed sidewalks, I probably would have thought I would like to have the path all to myself. As it turns out, walking is very boring without the people watching.
My goal was to get to Trader Joes to buy my favorite cookies in the world, and maybe a few other things. You see, getting rid of the truck motivated me to get out and really explore. It wasn’t a long walk, but I had forgotten the trouble with Google Maps, and had to switch on the fly to Apple Maps. I have now officially given up on Google Maps. Hopefully I will remember that and not let habit take over next time I am out walking.
Finally I got to Trader Joes and took my place in the social distancing line to go in. No sooner than I had taken my place, a lady came up to me and told me that there wasn’t a line at the back entrance. She directed me to pass through a small clothing store to the back of the building where I found a young lady cleaning shopping carts. making sure they had no hand baskets, I took one and went in. It was a much bigger Trader Joe’s than I am used to, so it took me a little while to find my cookies. No sooner than I put them into my basket, the lights in the store went out.
Now if this had happened a few months ago, I am sure the reaction would have been quite different. Everyone in the store, quietly took out their phones, turned on the flashlights and continued to shop until the manager told us that he was going to have to evacuate the store. Everyone just left their carts sanding and walked out. There was no argument.
I headed back towards the apartment, intending to stop at a Specs on my way home and at least buy some beer and wine. I hadn’t gone far when I realized that the sky was black in the North West. I have tried my best over the years to forget when I lived in Texas, but I couldn’t forget that when the sky turns so black that it is blue, there is a chance of tornados. Of course that didn’t stop me from stopping at Specs.
This Specs isn’t as large as the one I was accustomed to shopping at in Friendswood. I found a few snacks and got a box of wine and a six pack of sour ale. The cashier’s mother was from Guanajuato where I once lived. I was to rue the time I spent chatting as I made my way home and the first drops of rain started to fall and bolts of lightning were coming down disconcerting close.
I had headed out in sunglasses, and didn’t have my normal ones, so everything was very dark to me. I was glad that I had spent so many hours finding my way around darkened ships, and carefully picked my steps on the way home. the most frightening thing was when I had to walk under a huge oak tree which was being whipped by the wind.
I managed to get inside before the rain started in earnest. Boy, I thought that there would be nothing to write about here!
One thing I have done to make myself feel better is to start wearing an Oura ring. It lets me track my temperature over time, so I can see what my normal range is and not get all freaked out when I think I have a fever. It also tracks my activity and it is sort of interesting to to compare it to my Apple Watch.