Friday, March 26, 2021

Domestication Amongst The Doom: Nesting During a Pandemic

In March of 2020 the Corona-19 virus was declared a deadly global pandemic with the potential to infect hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. In order to protect ourselves and others from spreading the virus, we were required to stay home and adopt new safety procedures that would alter our daily lives in ways we had never experienced: working exclusively from home offices, wearing medical masks in public places while social distancing six feet or greater, no indoor gatherings with anyone outside of our immediate family, controlled numbers of shoppers at grocery stores, and constantly washing our hands. 

Though it seemed the experts were changing their safety recommendations weekly - masks, no masks, double masks - we were reminded that they are part of a select group who are encouraged to alter their thesis after reviewing new evidence. Thankfully, the requirement of diligently washing your store-bought produce fell quickly by the wayside as it garnered first prize in the Pandemic Retrospection Awards for the category of ‘I Can’t Believe We Did That’ (‘Hoarding Toilet Paper’ was a runaway winner in the ‘Herd Madness’ category). However, it quickly became evident that some people were basing their disregard for safety protocols on information from the same fringe organizations who were claiming that a cabal of Satanic cannibalistic child pornographers had stolen the 2020 election. The distinction between science, science fiction, and lunatic conspiracies was never more evident, yet great numbers of people continued to make bad choices and put everyone at risk.

When things started to ease a bit, people would assume the worst was over and rush to public gatherings which would then cause a spike of new infections. This added ‘super spreader event’ to our new lexicon while sending us bouncing between color coded levels (and sub-levels) of lockdown that were different between counties, states, and countries. And every four weeks or so, we looked anxiously for news that the worst was over, but it never came.

It would be more than a year before big pharmaceutical companies had developed, tested, and received fast-track approval for vaccines to inoculate the world from Covid-19.  As people hurried out of their nests to get their vaccination shots, I found myself at the back-of-the-line in terms of the color-coded chart for vaccine eligibility (under 70 with no underlying health conditions). Destined to a few more months of sitting on the couch looking glassy-eyed and wondering how I could have possibly exhausted all the interesting content on Netflix and HBO, I instead began looking back on some of the things that have changed, for me and with me, in my year of trying to turn our apartment into the perfect nest.


I have painted every room in the apartment except my girlfriend’s bathroom and closet, because there are some places that you just shouldn’t mess with for any reason.

We have cleaned out every closet, cabinet, cupboard, nook, and cranny of content that no longer serves its intended fit or function and, using the new popular mantras of decluttering, made sure to bow respectfully and chant “thank for your service” to anything we deemed we would “not bring forward into our future.”  Note: The ‘fit’ criteria as applied to my wardrobe has been a moving target since April 2020 and still requires review on those rare occasions when an outfit of more than sweat pants and a tee-shirt is required.

I have been in search of the perfect dish rack. With the money I have spent on racks of various sizes, materials, and designs, I could have hired someone to wash and dry the dishes while I sat on the couch watching Netflix and HBO. The search for a dish rack and interesting streaming content continues, yet I refuse to watch The Home Shopping Network knowing full well that the perfect dish rack is probably sold there (with plenty of operators standing by).

Since we could no longer just pop into our favorite restaurant and have someone bring us an over-priced steak and a chilled martini, home cooking proficiency received a new priority while the dinner menu became the de facto challenge of the day; this became clear when I noticed the “what should we do for dinner tonight?” topic started being discussed shortly after the second cup of morning coffee. I have been sifting through a ton of chicken breast recipes on the internet and working on developing a successful breading technique, but I have yet to find a recipe that I am happy with. However, based on a similar amount of research,  I have found that I am a fan of the ‘reverse searing’ method for cooking steak. You would not believe how many websites and blogs are devoted to the intricate art of cooking steak (probably more than are devoted to chicken breast recipes, and that’s saying something).

I am now able to identify 9”, 11”, and 13” frying pans by sight. Though I have not found the “perfect fry pan” yet, we now have enough cookware to warrant one of those slide-out cabinet trays to manage them. However, I now realize that I have been putting off this project because making a great metallic crashing noise while reaching for the right pot or pan gives me something to curse loudly about, which always feels therapeutic. 

Though we have very limited storage space in our apartment, I now find that I can not resist supermarket deals like ‘buy one, get one free.’ I currently have 6 boxes of Tricuits in the cabinet as result of a recent sale, and enough bottles of ranch dressing to open my own restaurant (at whatever the currently required color-coded level of limited capacity, of course). Note: if I open a restaurant, I am now very confident in my steak preparations, but I had better get serious and decide on a chicken recipe.

I have been talking to the plants in my balcony garden and asking them if there is anything else I can bring them while assessing their level of health and happiness. As such, I am fairly certain the folks who live directly below us think I have lost it (in this concern, they might be right). I now become ridiculously excited when small birds rest on a swinging perch I bought for $6.95 and placed near the bird feeder. I have identified the small birds that feed at our feeder - Juncos - and what months of the year to expect them. Though I am sad when they stop coming, and I now know that means hummingbirds will soon be here. Seems I have created a seasonal bird vacation getaway on the balcony of apartment #D708.

I have spent a large sum of money on wi-fi enabled light bulbs so my computer can turn on my lights with various multi-color scenes at scheduled times, but since this process is computer-driven, it never works quite right and I am constantly fucking with it. One of the only times it has worked properly was when we weren’t home: we came back late one day from double-masked grocery shopping to find the TV and living room lights on; a bit disconcerting. Note: I have not enabled those voice-control sisters Siri or Alexa, but we have a sneaking suspicion they are somehow listening anyway. 

Baseball season came during the pandemic, and the powers that be decided to not have fans in the stadiums (good), but instead sold fans cardboard cutouts of themselves which the teams placed in their stadium seats (ridiculous). Excited as I was to have baseball to watch while being sequestered, seeing cardboard people in the stands and hearing piped-in pre-recorded crowd noise did nothing to lessen my “what the hell is going on out there!” fatigue.


Though cases finally seem to be on the decline in most places and holding steady in others, scientists are saying we shouldn’t let our guard down now that people are being vaccinated because there are many new mutated versions of the virus making their way around the globe. But you can see it in the news and feel it in the air if you go out; people are rushing to leave their nests and experience life like it was before all this happened. Only thing is, life is not, and may never be again, like it was.

The last time I went out on a Saturday, I seemed to notice an extra bit of a general grumpiness amongst the drivers on the road and the shoppers in the store. That’s when it hit me: after a year of staying home alone or with our loved ones, re-learning how to safely and civilly re-enter society is going to take some effort (and I’m not convinced we were all that good at this before the pandemic). To this end, once I get my shots, I look forward to practicing my social skills by having a lengthy discussion with the sales person at The Container Store about high quality dish racks…..from six feet away….while wearing a mask.

I can’t wait.

Ken Owen

March 2021     Van Niddy Press

Monday, March 1, 2021

Phases of Retirement: Part 1

Seize The Day

Phase I: 

As each day 

presents itself 

inside a small cloud 

of unidentifiable mystery

we begin

by creating an extensive list of 

chores, errands, and goals 

that need attention

knowing that 

upon completion

we will have deserved 

a nice nap at 3:00pm

which will ready us 

for the 5:00pm cocktail hour

when we will gloat over our 

vanquished tasks.

Phase II: 

Realizing that solving the riddle of 

“What day is it?”

no longer has any bearing 

on the day’s possibilities

we begin 

by identifying the lone objective 

that promises the greatest odds of completion 

based on today’s energy and outlook

which is then scheduled 

so as not to interfere with 

the afternoon nap 

around which all things are now adjusted

while entrusted with the power 

that the ceremonial anointing of 

the cocktail hour can now commence 

whenever we deem it necessary.

Ken Owen   March 2021

Van Niddy Press