Fast, Masked & Waaay Far Apart: Corona House Closings

Six months to clean, 73 days to sell, and ten minutes to close.

That’s a pandemic time stamp to wrap up the “house” part of my sister Mimi’s life.

This timing mimics, with numbing speed, the roller coaster of grief and estate matters that first hijacked my life last October.

Like clockwork, coronavirus hijacked our last biggie: the closing of my sister’s house last week. But this day brought the quick dealmaking I’ve ever experience with a house sale.

The red alerts began with the title company’s final email the day before: 

Email screams: “This is not your average house closing!” At least we were warned: nothing ‘ordinary’ here. But we’ve known that since last fall…

We gathered at the house of my other sister, Merrilynn Stockton. The thick wad of house‐closing papers arrived.

Thank the hand model (Merrilynn) for displaying the customary wad of dead trees, all “required” for a house closing.

We sisters signed. And signed. And signed. Even as our fingers and palms cramped and ached.

DH had paperwork, too: a silly affidavit with legalese about inherited versus community property.  

Merrilynn delivered the completed papers. I took the historic photos. Terri, the Title Lady, inspected our signatures.

Who’s missing from this party?

Yes, the buyer.

A young couple from outside Houston bought our sister’s house. From the documents we’d signed, we discovered they had sat in their own remote location the day before. They wrote their names a bazillion times, too. All we learned or saw of them was their signatures.

Closing on a house used to be fun. Now, it’s only memorable.

This one I’ll remember as the most creative. Which has taught me one thing.

When chaos reigns, you can do anything — even clean, sell, and close a house.

All you need is willpower.

By the way, have you updated yours—your will, I mean?

I promise that’s my last friendly reminder.

You don’t want to live this road trip.

Pandemic Road: Week 17

Last I wrote, I was on the cusp of beginning a 10‐day writing intensive retreat. I had planned on doing this in Boulder, Colorado and sharing the glories of a road trip with my faithful readers. However, thanks to Covid‐19, the road trip turned into a zoom fest. I imagined the flat irons every time I logged on for a meeting.

While it wasn’t as scenic as actually being there, I did get a lot of writing done. So much so I wore out my printer. No problem, you might think. I thought I could get a printer today via curb side pickup. Silly, silly me. My dear friend and I looked up both Office Depot, Microcenter and Best Buy.

Apparently too many people are working from home and ink jet printers are nowhere to be found within the city limits of Houston. We even checked with Amazon and could not get the printer delivered in under 10 days. Great big expensive laser printers.….no problem. Practical, compact, inexpensive ink jet printers.…..no luck. So I ordered one that should arrive before the middle of July. I will keep my fingers crossed that my old and cheap printer will last.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I’ve just been invited to join a new critique group. It meets via zoom once a week and I need to be able to print out submissions so I can give feedback. I will figure out a way. I am honored to be included in this group and many thanks to Fern Brady, author and publisher for inviting me.

All this reminded me of how things have changed during the global pandemic. Tuesdays used to be the day that DF and I would enjoy culture from any of the local museums followed by a quiet and relaxing dinner at one of our many favorite restaurants. Bollo Woodfired Pizza was one of those establishments that we would visit.

Today we dined again at Bollo’s…virtually. We ordered the pizza by phone, picked it up and took it home. It’s amazing how easy it was! Have credit card, will charge!

Printer ink will be delivered tomorrow, critique group begins later this week, and the printer will show up soon.….I hope.

Please send positive thoughts to my old printer so it won’t die in the next 7 working days. If it does, I will come up with “Pandemic Printer Plan B”.

Until next week.……

Why I Became a Street Walker

Note to Reader: She’s on the war path. Just sayin’…

I walk four miles every day.

Before dawn each morning, I don my black pack then stuff my orange towel into the waistband.

My exercise comes from a habit born of a health crisis. It mimics, on a much smaller scale, this Covid‐19 nightmare that whacked us all three‐plus months ago.

The lessons, however, are the same.

I walked and I’ve kept walking. Then the neighbors joined in. Great! I thought.  A collective pursuit of better health!

Not so great anymore. Now, we’ve got neighbors of neighbors walking our sidewalks and pedaling our streets.

Frustration overwhelms me these days because of this one simple irritant: a common lack of sidewalk manners.

I do not mask up to walk. I would suffocate in such a four‐mile adventure.

I do, however, step off the sidewalk when someone approaches. In one fluid move, I cover my nose and mouth with my towel and never lose my stride.

The two actions matter as much as my breath. Together, the pair of moves protects my fellow walkers. And me.

In these recent weeks, a minority of walkers has matched my move. Sometimes they even beat me to covering up or stepping away.

But the more common reaction involves what I call the barrel away. These strangers scooch steadily toward me, never slowing. As they barrel into their shortened version of social distancing, I hop down to the street. These walkers, oblivious, continue their barrel away down the sidewalk. It appears only their walk matters. Is this their corona daze?

On the worst walks, crowds come. I’ll spot three to five walkers jammed in a horizontal line across the concrete, aimed head‐on at me. And as I step down, they glide by like an incoming tide.

The guiltiest party involves the high school track team but I’ll forgive them. They’re teenagers, self‐involved.

Even so, age shouldn’t matter—aren’t we all in this together?

Elected officials have re‐opened most places. To get to any of those locations, we must walk. Through parking lots, malls, and airports; along beaches and dirt roads, into/out of restaurants and shops; even down to the mailbox. Then there’s those of us who walk to live.

Can’t we all walk and, when it may save a life, step away from each other? It’s only for a few feet and a few seconds. It might keep all of us safe.

Perhaps it’s a futile question and I should give up my rant and pray. Maybe, ultimately, the littlest among us are correct in their offering of sidewalk calm:

Pandemic Road: Week 9

Ah! Springtime in Houston. According to the meteorologists we are enjoying our last few days of low humidity and cool morning temperatures. As long as it is this perfect outside, I am walking in the park. This time my dear friend and I chose Hermann Park.

There were a few minor changes to the landscape due to our new friend, Covid‐19.

For starters there were many signs telling everyone to maintain social distancing. Then the hill at the Miller Outdoor Theater was blocked off with yellow tape. It is a popular spot for folks to gather in small groups, talk, picnic and such. I was glad to see that everyone was following all of the new rules in attempts to keep everyone safe. 

I took some more pictures of turtles. I notice that I take a lot of turtle pictures. They just look so relaxed sitting on rocks in the middle of ponds. This particular pair live in the Japanese Gardens section of Hermann Park.

I also tried to take some pictures of these two rabbits, but they were a bit camera shy and insisted on hopping away. I am guessing that many of the animals had quickly become used the lack of crowds in their habitat. So many have quarantined themselves during this pandemic. Yet, this was a beautiful day and many folks were out walking, jogging, cycling and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Except for a few crowded spots on the jogging trail, there were lots of places to walk and maintain distance.

Then there were some very interesting birds.

Are they herons or egrets? I’m not sure. Let me know if you know. All I can say is that the one on the right is glaring at me. Again, the animals are not all excited by nature paparazzi enthusiasts.

What was the best picture of all? Check out this duck with all of her baby ducklings. The little ones are adorable and the mom is making sure that I am only taking pictures and mean no harm to her waddling brood.

I’m going to miss these days when July gets here and we start experiencing triple digit temps. Actually, we may start seeing some of that next week. It was nice while it lasted.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Five

By Jove! I think I’ve got it! Covid Choreography!

Will someone please contact the Houston Ballet? By the time the dancers return to the stage in the fall, some brilliant choreographer will surely come up with a dance about Covid‐19.

I realized this the other day when I was walking around my neighborhood. Walking is something I have been doing a lot of lately. It is my major form of exercise now. I can walk alone or I can walk six feet apart from my nearest and dearest friends. Although, I notice that even while walking, I am not getting away from the global pandemic. Before Covid‐19 I never would have noticed this protective mask sitting on the grass. But now I noticed that it was not an N95 mask. It was used; I did not dare pick it up. I left it on the grass.

But, I noticed something else while walking. Many of my neighbors are also walking. We smile and nod. Good morning wishes are exchanged. During the pleasantries, we dance! One moves to the right and the other to the left. One stays on the sidewalk while the other moves over to walk on the street. “Social distdancing.” It’s our new dance.,

I am reminded of the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show when they perform The Time Warp dance. Again, I may be showing my age, but

.….It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right

With your hands on your hips

You bring your knees in tight.….……

That’s a bit of the song from the movie. With so many out walking by themselves, with children, with baby strollers, and with spouses, the possibilities for dance moves are endless!

Then there are the long lines for groceries. The really nice stores have put up awnings so customers can stand protected from the sun and rain. Wouldn’t this be a great place for a line dance. Only instead of standing shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor, we could stand six feet apart in only two rows. I am envisioning the line dance for Achy Breaky Heart. Or maybe you would prefer a Harlem Shuffle?  Maybe the Macarena? Crowd consensus should set the tone and genre for the dance.

Of course once you get inside the store, you are once again dancing with others. Maybe you want to go after your toilet paper and cleaning supplies while moving Gangnam Style.  Then while standing in line to check out and being careful to maintain the six foot safety distance, enjoy dancing The Twist!

At home, you can free style your dance while you clean your groceries, wipe down the kitchen counters and apply hand sanitizer for the gazillionth time that day. Hannah, my cat, does not care how I dance as long as I stock up on her cat food. We all have our priorities in life.

I do try to keep a daily balance during this time of global pandemic. When not walking, I have been reading a good deal. Since I am a lover of all things Halloween, I celebrated Quarantine‐O‐Ween the other day. Ah, yes. We must all make concessions to these pandemic times.

What have you been doing to entertain yourself during this time of Covid‐19?

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Four

Now we have a “stay home” order from our Harris County Judge and City of Houston Mayor. We can still go to the grocery store and drug store. I can still take my cat to the vet (which, believe me, excites her no end). I can still go to a restaurant and get an order to go. I can still exercise outside. Parks are still open; you just can’t sit on a bench or touch the rail on the bridge that goes over the nice pond.

So I have been walking quite a bit around the neighborhood and noticing a few things. The first item was the lone cowboy boot. That seems even odder than finding a lone sneaker in the road. You would think that it would be harder to walk out of a boot than a sneaker. Even if you were carrying your boots and you dropped one.…..don’t you think you would notice? Since there was only one and it wasn’t in my size, I left it alone.

The other thing I noticed is that there are a gazillion lizards in Houston. I am not sure where they all come from, but I understand they are good for gardens and don’t bite humans. They like to sit in the sun, eat insects, and scamper across the sidewalk when they see me coming. You can see that this little guy is doing a great job of blending into the landscape. And he appears to be ready to bolt for the bushes as soon as I turn away. I have seen both green lizards and brown lizards in my walking adventures. Since they have no desire to bite humans, I like them. Also, since everyone is having to “socially distance” themselves whenever they are out in public, it can be easier to talk to a lizard on the sidewalk than it is to talk to your walking companion standing six feet away. No, no. I’m not lonely. I would just rather be seen talking to lizards than to myself. That’s the healthier option don’t you think?

Finally, I saw this post that is holding up a STOP sign. I was amazed that the greenery was growing on both the inside and outside of the post. This I took as a very hopeful sign. Life will grow even if it is a bit of greenery on a post during a pandemic. Spring is here and there is definitely hope for the future.

I’ve heard it said that the pandemic will pass. All things will pass. It may feel like a kidney stone passing, but pass it will.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Three

Last week I wrote about going out to eat at a restaurant where all patrons were spaced out, food was cooked. Wasn’t that nice? I really enjoyed it. Today as I walk around the neighborhood, I see many signs like this one. Many shops are closed. The gym that I like to attend is closed. Movie theaters are closed. The Houston Theatre District has ground to a halt.

This provides me with a challenge. What to do with myself?

I accept this challenge. I am finding things to do every day. Today I went to a mid‐day mindfulness meditation group. There were six of us and we spaced ourselves out and used hand sanitizer and no one sneezed or coughed. We did not hug each other as we usually do, but it felt good to be in this group of people who are all working our way through these times that are like no other.

Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. By then bars were closed and restaurants were open on a take out/delivery option only. I even tried to ask that if I walked into a restaurant and placed an order to go, could I get a drink at the bar. NONONO! Okay, you only have to tell me once. Apparently the local pandemic police are really strict about that. However, I want to support local businesses that may be hurting right now. So, I am happy to order take out from my favorite restaurants.

Welcome to 100% Taquito and St. Patrick’s Day.

You may remember that I wrote about 100% Taquitos as my go to restaurant for El Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Now they are my new favorite restaurant for St. Patrick’s Day. As you can see the taxi with the leprechaun on top and skeletons inside is surrounded by tables that have been stacked up so no one coming in for take out will be able to sit down. On top of the front of the taxi are two floor mats as further evidence of the seating area not being open. Also, all employees who prepared the food wore gloves. Again, I ordered food that required cooking.

As you can see, instead of the well known phrase, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”, your only requirement at 100% Taquitos is to buy tacos. I did. My dear friend and I both bought vegetarian tacos. We took them home and ate them outside on the balcony. They were delicious.

As I left 100% Taquito with tacos in hand, I passed this cute doggie called “Lucky”. I didn’t pat him on the head, because I was respecting his social distance. But I did wave good‐bye. I will continue to go by my favorite local restaurants and support them with my take out orders.

What local businesses are you supporting during this unusual time?

Until next week.….