Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Seven

April 24th

 The exterior work on the house is almost done. All they have left to do is replace the rails on the front porch and paint the new rails and also the rails on the back porch (but we aren’t replacing those). They will be here tomorrow to take care of that. So it will be a somewhat welcome respite for the noise. I have to say, the paint job looks really good. This morning, I walked out to the street to take a look. A few people driving by stopped to say how nice it looked. Even the local meth addict was impressed with it. It’s quite the face lift for the old gal. The house was built in 1932 and turned 88 this year. From outside, it looks like a brand new house. Inside…well, that’s a different matter entirely.

There is increasing chatter in some of the college faculty groups I frequent made up of faculty from all over the country about what the fall semester will look like. As it stands, my college has made the decision that all summer classes will also be online, but no word on the fall yet. That’s okay, since the fall is still quite a ways off and there is plenty of time to make that decision. I’d wager my college will make it by mid-July, and a lot can change in between now and then, both good or bad. I suppose it is always like that though. I quit making long term plans after I got hurt. Now, I take things day by day. In a way, it makes life a little more manageable. I don’t know. Some may disagree with me. But that’s the way that works the best for me. Your mileage may vary somewhat.

The weather was damn near perfect today too! We had a nice breeze off the Bay and sitting on the front porch in the evening reminded me of why we bought this house in the first place. (Other than the fact that at the time, it was one of the few we could afford…)

April 25th

 Today will be the last day of work! They arrived at 0800 and got after it. My hunch is they should be finished around noon, maybe two pm. Now, on Sunday, we have to reseal the decks out front and back, but we are doing that ourselves. Rather, my wife, my brother, and my nephew are doing it and I will supervise. (Since I am unable to bend at the waist, not to mention do a whole host of other things like twist, lift more than five pounds, etc, I am useless when it comes to doing anything physical which frustrates me beyond all measure since I had a very physical job before I got hurt).

Also, April 25th is ANAC Day. It commemorates the landings on the beaches at Gallipoli during World War One. The best book I’ve read recently about the campaign is Gallipoli by Peter Fitzsimons. You can find it on Amazon here, but I actually enjoy the audiobook which you can find here. Eric Bogle told the story of the doomed landings in a song called And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, though I prefer the cover by the Pogues. Go here and give it a listen, but have a tissue handy. And while we are on the subject of songs written about the Great War, Bogle wrote another one called The Green Fields of France. Check out the cover by the Dropkick Murphys here.

This is the roughest day I’ve had physically since this whole Rona thing started. Words do not and cannot describe the pain. My whole back is locked up solid and my knees are throbbing too. I have some medicine, but I can’t take it until bedtime since it makes me fuzzy headed, and so I’ll be suffering all day long. I badly need something to do distract myself, but the pain makes it hard to think, focus, or concentrate. I can’t work on anything writing related at the moment, since I’m not only in this pain, but also stressing over where we’ll find the money to get all the wiring in the house replaced, not to mention waiting to find out if the insurance changed their mind and will pay. I sent an email to the claims handler at 1230 on Thursday, but have heard nothing since. I don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing. Initially, the adjuster came out on a Thursday and the claim was denied on Wednesday. We sent the additional documentation in on a Thursday, and now it has been over a week. I’m not holding out much hope. If they deny it again, we’ll probably end up taking them to arbitration. In thirty minutes or so, I’m going to lay down on some of my giant ice packs. Sometimes that helps. Sometimes that doesn’t.

Well…crap. There was ZERO chance of rain in the forecast for today. ZERO. And as soon as they had the new rails built for the front porch and were ready to start painting, what happens? A fucking thunderstorm. Lightning. The whole nine yards. I doubt they’ll be able to finish today, so maybe tomorrow or more likely Monday. Damn weather guessers. I wish I had a job where I could be wrong half the time. Imagine if half the patients we touched in the fire department died. Or we could only put out a fire half of the time. Or if I entered the wrong final grades for half my students. When I was a kid, we had a local weather guesser come and talk to my elementary school. When I went home, I told my grandfather that I wanted to be a weatherman when I grew up. He said, “There’s only two kinds of people who try to predict the weather on the Southeast Texas coast. Newcomers and fools. And you’ve lived here all your life.” So to the fire department I went.

April 26th

 They managed to get the first coat of paint on the porch rails despite the rain, but they’ll have to come back either today or tomorrow, probably tomorrow, to put on another coat or two. That said, it is basically finished and looks great. I haven’t been paying much attention to the latest news on The Rona apart from the occasional headline. In the early days, I followed the headlines about the virus quite closely. In fact, I started paying a lot of attention to it in January, long before most people here had even heard of it. We started taking steps towards managing in a potential lockdown scenario in mid-February. Thus my wife and I were well prepared. That said, I kind of got burned out with the constant news coverage starting in mid-March. It’s odd that I paid so much attention to this story to begin with since I swore off watching the news years ago. I find it better for mental health that way.

I finished Season One of The Sopranos yesterday morning. It was pretty good and definitely well written. Still, as I mentioned in a previous entry, mafia movies/shows aren’t really my thing. Instead, I’ve turned to Boardwalk Empire. I’ve seen the first season before. The fashion and period music alone are enough to highly recommend it. Did you know that Steve Buscemi was a New York City firefighter before he became an actor? He spent four years with Engine 55 in Little Italy. And then, after 9/11, he returned the day after the attacks and spent two weeks working at Ground Zero recovering remains. He wouldn’t let the media take any photos of him, and so a lot of people at the time didn’t know about it. Once a firefighter, always a firefighter.

I’ve seen some people talking about how you should spend the time in quarantine learning a new skill. I’m learning how to colorize black and white photographs. As you can imagine, most of them are of my history crush, Mashka. But I’m also doing some old school firefighter photographs and even my grandparents’ wedding photograph. It is kind of fun, though some photos lend themselves better to the addition of color than others. Although honestly, I think there is something hauntingly beautiful about old black and white photos.

There are a lot of period dramas on Netflix and Amazon in series format. You have period crime dramas like Boardwalk Empire and Peaky Blinders. You have period family dramas like Downton Abbey. You have alternate history dramas like The Man in the High Castle and The Plot Against America. Not to mention the myriad of period war dramas such as The World On Fire and many, many others. Do you know what we don’t have any of? Period firefighting dramas! Imagine, you could combine it with a crime thriller (arson, perhaps) and have it set in late 19th Century with horse drawn equipment, or, for heightened drama, in the late 1910s as horse drawn equipment is phased out and replaced by motorized apparatus. If you look across the whole scope of television (including Amazon and Netflix), there haven’t really been all that many firefighting dramas, mostly because of the expense. Or at least, not all that many when compared to police/crime dramas. And, historical dramas are even more expensive due to sets, costumes, etc. But it would be really cool to one day see a period firefighting piece. Don’t look at me though. I’m not a scriptwriter. I just do books and blog posts and shit.

April 27th

 The painters haven’t show up to do the second/third coat on the porch rails. I guess I’ll have to call the contractor this evening. But it’s nice having a day with no work going on. Yesterday, my wife and my brother did a bunch of yardwork. I had another electrician out today to give me a second estimate (it will be emailed to me later) and I am having a third come out tomorrow morning. That’s the government employee in me…get three estimates before you make a decision! For example, when we had our HVAC replaced in 2017, the first company to quote the job quoted me a price of nearly 13K (for a 900 square foot house)! My neighbor suggested another company, and their quote was just below 8K. When I asked that company why their quote was so much lower than the first company, the technician took a look at the original quote and said that the first company wanted to replace all of the duct work which wasn’t necessary. So you can guess who I went with!

I think our governor is supposed to be giving a public statement at 1430 hours talking more about his plan to re-open the state, despite our issues with testing. I’ll give it a pass. There are lots more interesting things on TV to watch at this point than another self-congratulatory press conference. Politicians standing in front of the cameras talking about how good a job they are doing every time there is a crisis gets on my nerves. That would be the equivalent of me giving a news conference and praising myself every time I grade something. Or the firefighter me giving one and singing my own praises every time we ran a call. Speaking of grading, I think I may be behind on some of that at the moment.

April 28th

 We had another electrician out today. He gave us some slightly better news. He said that we don’t need to get the panel replaced and to rewire the house would cost around $7500. That’s not a bad price and is doable IF the insurance reimburses us for the roof. He said it would take around three days. The bad news is that he thinks that they would still have to cut patches in the sheetrock to run the wire. This would mean that eventually, we’d have to float it and paint the inside of the house, which we will do at some point in the future anyway. Until then, it isn’t like we host lavish dinner parties or anything. The only people that ever set foot in our house are relatives or very close friends, and that is a rare occurrence anyway. So we will probably go with this company IF the insurance pays. I did get an email from the claims handler this morning and she said that it is “in review,” but I guess it has been in review since April 16th or 17th. So that’s a lot of reviewing.

So I’ve starting reading (actually listening on Audible) to Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy by Max Hastings. He is an esteemed historian of World War Two, though he has written on other subjects, including the Korean War. It is interesting to hear the story from an outside point of view, as most of the Vietnam War books that I have read are written by Americans. Hastings did spend time in Vietnam as a reporter during the War, but he notes in his introduction that the book contains none of his own personal reminisces as he wants the book to be a full history, not a memoir. Fun Fact: Many years ago, I had the pleasure of befriending a veteran of the French Foreign Legion who had fought at Dien Bien Phu. I actually find the French War in Indochina fascinating, though it doesn’t get much coverage in American books. If you are likewise interested in the roots of our involvement in Vietnam, check out Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place by Bernard Fall. The first book was written in 1961 and, if our own government would’ve headed the warnings contained therein, might have prevented our own debacle in Vietnam. Fall covered the French war as a reporter and returned to cover American involvement. He was killed by a landmine in 1967. Fall was dictating notes into a tape recorder when he stepped on the mine, which captured his last words.  “We’ve reached one of our phase lines after the firefight and it smells bad—meaning it’s a little bit suspicious… Could be an amb—”. I don’t know how I ended up here, but to return to my original point, check out Max Hastings’ book. It’s very good. (And read Falls’ books too, for that matter). And if you are interested in the full history of the French Foreign Legion, check out The French Foreign Legion by Douglas Porch.

So I finally got the quote from the company that came out yesterday. 17K which is completely ridiculous for a 900 square foot house. I’m okay with a plan to upgrade the wiring now and wait until later to do the panel, but honestly, I think if we are going to do it, it might be a bigger cost and inconvenience up front, but less down the road if we get it all done. We have decided to go with the first company which quoted us 11K, but that is conditioned upon getting the insurance reimbursement and securing the funds to pay the remainder ourselves. If the insurance doesn’t reimburse us, then there is no way we can afford it and we will just have to take our chances.

April 29th

 It’s a good thing that we got the roof fixed. We had a strong line of thunderstorms move through around 0500. Very high winds, lightning, and heavy rain. Thankfully, we did not have any hail. (How messed up would that be? Get a new roof and then have it damaged a week later). I didn’t sleep all that well last night, I guess I was nervous with the knowledge that we had storms inbound. Funny…I never worried about the roof when we had the old one, but now that we have a new one, I do. That makes no sense, but human beings aren’t necessarily rational by nature, so there’s that. I’ve mentioned before that the college has made the (correct) decision to move all summer classes online. We are waiting for word on the fall semester, but I image it will be a few months until we find out. For the time being, I’m not making any advanced plans for the fall until I know for sure.

I’m still not planning on getting out of the house any time soon, apart from my doctor appointment on Friday. I fear that the governor’s rush to re-open the state in order to ingratiate himself with the political leadership in Washington will lead to dire consequences for a lot of people. Our per capita testing ranks in the bottom five in the country, so acting like we don’t have many cases (when we are still adding over 800 new cases a day) is gross negligence, in my opinion. Sure, the economy is suffering. But it’ll suffer a whole lot more if The Rona really blows up and reaches the dire predictions in the death toll made in mid-March. The reason why the hospitals in this state haven’t been overrun with patients is because people have followed the stay at home orders. Lifting them, while perhaps giving a short term benefit, may have serious consequences in the long term. But I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Time will tell.

April 30th

 Today is hair cut day! I ordered a set of clippers from Amazon when I realized I wouldn’t be going to the barber shop any time soon. I last got my hair cut in mid-January, right before the semester started. Normally, I get it cut every 8 weeks and I had planned on going to get a trim on the Saturday before we returned from Spring Break. As we all know, that didn’t happen. So now I am at 14 or 15 weeks since my last cut and my hair is longer than it has been since the 1980s. Since I normally keep it short, it is interesting to see what color it is. It’s actually lighter than I thought it was, though there is a bit more gray in it than I’d like to see. The gray hairs come from being married to a redhead. I have an outing scheduled today too! It is a quick trip to the pharmacy drive thru to pick up my acid reflux medication. Unfortunately, I’ll have to make another trip after tomorrow to pick up the prescriptions that come with my doctor appointment, but I need the acid reflux medication for tomorrow morning before the appointment, so I can’t wait.

I still haven’t heard back from the insurance company about reimbursing us for the cost of the new roof. It is amusing, in a way, that it took less than a week to deny the claim, but it has now been two weeks since we submitted the additional documentation and they haven’t said a word. Normally, I’d say that no news is good news, but that usually isn’t the case with insurance. The longer it takes, the more likely it is that they are coming up with more reasons to deny the claim. Whatever. At least the roof is fixed. That is the important thing.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

From a proper distance, of course.


3 thoughts on “Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Seven

  1. I always enjoy your pandemic updates. I don’t, however, like the pain that is so often relentless and the insurance company issue. I still say Go Fund Me. Permanently injured and teachers, especially these days deserve help. Little donations add up, and it would help so much. You never said anything after I said it the first time, so I won’t be a pain and mention it again. Thanks for all of your reviews and recommendations for books and visuals. You have been talking about Gallipoli lately…was the Mel Gibson movie made years ago realistic? I did see it and found it moving. What I am going to read next is about what happened there in the months and years following. Your house looks great, and I am so glad for you both. You have a nice porch, like the one my grandmother had in Louisiana. She was from Many, right down the street from Fort Jessup, and is buried right down the street from her house, along with several relatives on my father’s side. My parents were laid to rest in the DFW National Cemetery. I digress! No surprise you will be continuing distance teaching over the summer. As we both are substitutes, we are wondering if we will have jobs come fall. I can’t imagine all of the weird changes that would have to happen to keep people safe in such a congested place like a public elementary school. Not impossible to do something…but it will certainly be a new reality and not an easy task to say the least. I was so proud of how well teachers switched to distance learning, but most tell me it was quite a job, not to mention if you have kids at home, too. Blessedly their pay is not affected. We were blessed with the gov. help, but eventually we have to work again. I have always loved working, but age is finding both of us. I pray we won’t have to quit for good, but husband is 73. I inspire to be like one of the retired teachers at my school: she is 80 and still was volunteering pretty much every day, all day as a tutor and with various other projects. She works us all under the bus!!😊💕🏆. Please remember that we pray for your family by name, every day. Thank you for your perseverance! God bless you and yours. Looking forward to your books and other various writings and/or videos, not to mention the joys of hearing from Stasi and crew! Mrs. K 😊💕🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s my understanding that the Gallipoli movie is relatively accurate. The Aussies also released a television miniseries in 2015 to mark the 100th Anniversary of the landings, but I’ve not yet had a chance to watch it.


  2. P.S. My post went thru after all, so please ignore my comment about a glitch that I posted elsewhere. I have to laugh about your hair comments. So many people right now are frustrated because they can’t get in for a cut. Years ago I went from long hair to short hair because I began to run, swim, cycle, walk, do aerobics, weight circuit at spa, etc. I then just started cutting my own hair, and have gotten away with it for years, lol. Bob cuts were easy and I got better with practice. One good thing: it always grows out in awhile and I have another chance to get it right. Lol😳😏. Now, if I could just get that workout lift back. Now, it is mostly walking and some cycling. I will keep up my prayers for your healing and comfort! Mrs. K 😊🙏💕

    Liked by 1 person

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