Plague year pleasures

ENOUGH OF GLOOM and doom. Let’s focus on pleasures, which we have quite a few here at the Hacienda on a daily basis.

They start at dawn. The window is open for the cool night air, and when the sun rises, the birds start to sing. Neighborhood chickens too, but the birds are nearer, sweeter.

And waking at age 75 with a sleek, smooth child bride at your side on the king bed is quite the pleasure, believe me. Were I still with wives No. 1 or No. 2, I’d been waking with crones. Let’s not underestimate the pleasure of this.

Then there is food. Neither of us is a foodie, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t find pleasure in eating. This morning was special in that we had waffles, which we rarely do because we like to remain svelte and healthy.

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Aunt Jemima mix makes the best waffles.

Atop the waffles we pour real Canadian maple syrup from Costco.

To burn off the waffle calories, we did the usual morning exercise walk around the neighborhood plaza. We normally don’t encounter many people, but during these trying times we find even fewer folks. The plaza is ours, a pleasure.

A hot shower is great too. That happens later so we smell nice, a pleasure to others.

For lunch today, it’s minestrone, which I tossed together from a very simple recipe I’ve used for decades. It’s a healthy, low-cal version, which was the reason we ate syrup-drenched waffles earlier. We deserved it.

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Old Felipe makes the best minestrone.

In the afternoon, I make coffee at home, pour it into a thermos, and off we go to the big plaza downtown where we sit at a sidewalk table. I, of course, read my Kindle, and my child bride gossips with her sister. Bringing our own coffee negates the need to have the coffee house employees involved in the process during this plague year.

The less touchy-touchy you do improves your survival chances, it’s said.

That’s the primary period each day in which we escape the confines of the Hacienda to avoid going stir-crazy. Then it’s home for salads and Netflix before beddy-bye and pleasurably slipping into a world of dreams till it starts over the next day.

Plenty of pleasures available during the Plague Year.

Minestrone and O.J.

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My minestrone

I WEAR A SILVER ring on my right hand. It sports a miniature version of the Aztec Calendar. Maybe it slows my life down, or maybe not.

I’ll be 75 in a few days more, and that seems to have had an effect on my mind, perhaps because my father and I were near clones, and he died at 75. If the cloning continues into that realm, I still have a ways to go because he almost made it to 76.

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a mental and/or emotional switching of gears. I’ve always been a real chill guy, but now I’m chiller than ever. I think it’s related to my birthday.

Enough about that.

I made minestrone for lunch today. It’s a spectacularly easy recipe I discovered years ago, and when we find ourselves nearing lunchtime and no plans to eat out and no leftovers in the fridge, I just toss together this minestrone.

It requires carrots and cabbage, the only two things I normally do not have on hand, but the day this dilemma normally presents itself is Friday, and there’s a veggie market on the nearby plaza every Thursday. I must think ahead at least 24  hours.

But enough about that.

We recently watched a mini-series on Netflix called American Crime Story: The People  vs. O.J. Simpson. It was quite interesting even though I knew how it would turn out. The program ended, O.J. walked, and I ordered Marcia Clark’s written version of the event, Without a Doubt, from Kindle. It added far more detail than did the TV series.

Clark, of course, was the lead prosecutor during the famous Los Angeles trial. Without a Doubt was written with a co-author, one of those ghost writer situations. Clark reportedly earned $4.2 million off the book. Not bad for a failed prosecution.

She left the District Attorney’s Office after the O.J. fiasco and turned to other things like writing books and making TV appearances.

She’s written a series of novels based on a defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman. I’m about halfway through the first novel, Blood Defense, and it’s pretty darn good. There is no ghost writer. Clark wrote it herself.

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Leak was falling from the tip of the beam second from the right.

I was on the upstairs terraza this morning reading Blood Defense when my attention was distracted by a small leak at the far edge of the new glass roof, a leak that began almost immediately after the roof was installed weeks ago. It drips just inside the terraza, not outside where it would ideally fall. It was super annoying, a puddle-maker.

A lightbulb lit above my noodle while sitting there, looking out thataway, holding Marcia Clark, so I got up, walked downstairs to the Garden Patio, picked up a tall, folding ladder, lugged it upstairs and, with a piece of sheet metal and metal shears, made a water detour that I jammed into where the drip was originating. Problem solved.

The new upstairs terraza is so relaxing that we have 99 percent abandoned the renovated yard patio, which was once known as the Jesus Patio. Had we done the upstairs terraza first, we would have left the Jesus Patio in peace. It was a waste of cash.

Oh, well.

Work and solitude

WHEN WE first wed years back, I was the primary cook and dishwasher. I remain the latter.

But I tapered off on the cooking, mostly due to shiftlessness. It’s not that she took over so much as we just prefer the easy route. Quick stuff, takeout, restaurants, etc.

I used to do other work too. Decorative painting on the Hacienda’s walls. I’ve stopped. Too much effort.

Due to feeling increasing shame recently for my laziness, I’ve begun fixing more meals. I have some old standards. There’s jambalaya and gumbo. Jambalaya is lots easier than gumbo, so gumbo hasn’t returned to our plates just yet.

Maybe it never will. It’s not a quick meal.

I prefer easy fixings. I do a nice 15-minute minestrone. And there’s a pasta dish on which I dump steamed broccoli and garlic. Just today we’ll be having meatballs that I made yesterday in a crockpot.

And I’ve decided to work more in the yard, easy stuff. And wash the Honda more. I’ve been letting carwash guys on the plaza do it because it only costs a bit over two bucks.

Paying anybody to wash the car in these parts from June through October is akin to burning cash since it rains every single day. A clean car lasts about an hour.

But you gotta do something or, come November, you won’t even remember the color of your car.

So I’m working more now. Cooking, gardening, carwashing. It’s good to keep fairly busy, I think.

* * * *

The hermit life

I‘m reading a fascinating book called One Man’s Wilderness: an Alaskan Odyssey. A writer named Sam Keith used the journal of Richard Proenneke to construct the story of a man who moved alone at 51 to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1960s where he erected a cabin and lived solo for 30 years.

Proenneke’s talents with his hands and mind were awesome. He wasn’t an actual hermit because he received occasional guests, which he enjoyed, and, now and then, he returned to the Lower 48 for brief visits with relatives and amigos.

The book spoke to me perhaps more than to most people due to my longstanding hermit inclinations. Were it not for my love of womenfolk, perhaps I would have been a Proenneke. But I would have needed to hone my handyman skills first.

As a youth, I dreamed of living alone in an underground home on the bank sweeping down to the pond among cypress trees that rested on my grandparents’ Georgia farm.

Decades later, my hermit dream was to live in a half-buried school bus in the desert near Big Bend National Park. I read of a woman who did just that. I was flush with envy.

One wonders what a psychiatrist would say about those two dream homes being half buried beneath ground level?

I would have required a hermit woman, but doesn’t that negate the concept of being a hermit?

New ImageI would have cooked her gumbo in the school bus. And I would have washed her dishes. And maybe I’ll fix gumbo at the Hacienda again one day.

One must be kind to women.