Pandemic cooking

Like many people, I am working from home right now (for the most part, anyway; I have to go into the office every third week). So I am trying to step up my game in terms of cooking at home. (Spoiler alert: I kind of hate it. I feel for those of you who have to feed tiny humans as well as feeding yourself!)

The whole process of getting groceries has been strange and complicated and weird. In one of my first supermarket trips, back at the end of March, I wanted to buy some Bisquick for my “Grandma Chicken”. I have been using rice flour, but my fear of scarcity had me feeling like I wanted to stockpile. I reached for the Bisquick, but it was expensive. Reached for the Jiffy brand and hesitated…it says “pancake and waffle mix”-was that right? You can make pancakes with Bisquick too, so it must be right?!

I thought that it probably was *not* right, but I had touched the box already…and there was someone there stocking the shelves. So despite my doubts, into the cart it went.

Fast-forward a month and a half, and it’s time to bust out the not-Bisquick to make some Grandma Chicken.

I can now say with great certainty that this was NOT regular biscuit mix. The chicken came out so weirdly sweet. I mean, I still ate it, of course…

You’ve heard of chicken and waffles? I’m pretty sure I just invented chicken and pancakes. And I’m definitely not a fan.

For a split second, I considered starting a cooking blog, but then I remembered how bad I am at keeping up with the two blogs I already have. So I’m just hear to help you laugh at and learn from my lack of reading comprehension. You’re welcome.

Of self-cleaning ovens and Covid-19

So this is supposed to be a blog about how wonderful it is to be alive in NYC…and it still really IS wonderful and I am still so thankful every single day that I get to live in the greatest city in the world.

But as anybody who is alive right now is aware, things have gotten…a little bit weird.

I’m beyond grateful that I got to see Six before Broadway closed down indefinitely. And I know things will come back to life…eventually.

But I also just (ummm, I suck at finishing things, so actually it was a month ago) took an antibody test, admittedly a questionable one, and tested positive for IgG antibodies to Covid-19. Or maybe they’re actually antibodies to other coronaviruses, such as HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E, among others (mice, bats, cattle, more bats…germs are gross, man…)

I like to tell myself that I have super-immunity. I am proud of the fact that I so rarely get sick and like to think I am impervious to the germs that swarm around me on a daily basis.

I am also an insane hypochondriac, and spend too much time on the Internet for my own good. I know way too much about the typical symptoms of even “mild” Covid-19. (spoiler alert: you can hardly call it “mild” in most cases). So I watched with interest and started to write down my extremely mild (actually mild, not Covid-mild) symptoms, “just in case”. Because there are apparently a million different ways that this virus might manifest itself, and it’s nice to try to be able to identify what it might look like for at least one person.

In the Reddit world, the questions asked are always age (50), blood type (A negative), pre-existing conditions (high blood pressure, mild asthma, “morbid” obesity-that last one I’m spelling out in case the name of the blog didn’t give you a hint. I hate the expression but clinically it fits me, so here we are), and ummmm, maybe exposure? I live in the Bronx, hung out in at least three boroughs in February and March, and work in Westchester. My supermarket is ShopRite of New Rochelle – which is the city where the Westchester “patient zero” was. There were maybe half a dozen confirmed cases in my workplace, a three-story building, and that only includes people who were actually able to get tested. I have a friend whose mother tested positive and she clearly had it as well, but there wasn’t a test available for her. I would really love to know how many more people in my workplace were positive but couldn’t be tested for it, but this is one of those things that we’ll probably never know.

On Monday, March 23rd, they finally got us set up to work from home. Tuesday was my first full day working at home, and for some reason I felt this was a good time to finally try out the self-cleaning function on my oven. Only problem was, I am not quite sure where I put the directions, so I had to wing it. I don’t know which came first, the oven-cleaning or the sore throat, but the sore throat was definitely my first symptom.

(I kept an almost-daily log of the symptoms that I thought might be significant, but looking at them now, I am realizing how boring it is, so I’m going to summarize instead. Disclaimer: The summary isn’t much better.)

From March 25th until around April 4th, I had a cough that came and went but was not consistent. I had a little bit of tightness in my chest, but it felt like asthma. At some point during this time, I was out of my Singulair (asthma meds), so I was attributing it to that and honestly it didn’t feel any worse than any other time I have been out of Singulair.

I was coughing at times, particularly when lying down. I used my rescue inhaler for the first time in more than a year. I had a few random sharp abdominal pains, that felt different than what I would normally experience, but those (as with many of the symptoms I will describe here) could well be psychosomatic.

 There were times when I felt like I needed to cough up something, but wasn’t able to. A little bit of phlegm here and there (sorry, gross comes with the territory, and I am sparing you some other stuff). There were one or two days that I coughed up a little bit of blood-tinged sputum, but that’s something that can happen if I run out of water in my CPAP humidifier, so it may or may not have been relevant.

From my journaling of my experience, around March 27th:

Sneezed a few times…throat scratchy, nose stuffy. Is it possible to catch the common cold during a time when you and everyone around you are washing your hands 800 times a day?!

I was taking my temperature morning and night, but never had a fever. I had moments when I felt dizzy or felt really tired, but I felt there was another explanation for almost all of these symptoms. It did feel like I had a cold.

I had a long weekend off at the end of March, and I slept a ton, but that’s not necessarily unusual either after working and when I can’t go anywhere.

Not that it stopped me from eating, but I didn’t have much of an appetite for a couple of weeks, which I attributed to stress. I only noticed my appetite coming back around mid-April, two weeks after my symptoms had dissipated.

I noted a few times that I was trying to figure out how not to cough when I went out in public. More because of THE LOOK that people would give me. I was still convinced that this was a cold/allergies/hypochondria. But for the most part, I was able to contain the cough and it was never out of control to where I couldn’t hold it back until I was away from people.

I never lost my sense of taste or smell, but I did have a weird taste in my mouth for a few days. Headaches on and off. A few days of sneezing and coughing, but it was never constant. When I was at work, I didn’t even cough often enough for it to be difficult to talk to customers. If I had thought there was any chance that this was Covid-19, I could have and would have called out from work.

I had one day where I had two short moments of of gagging that came out of nowhere. The coughing seemed to start when I stepped outside, lending itself to my “allergies/asthma” theory.

I had an antibody test on Wednesday, April 29th. The following Sunday I got my results. Positive for antibodies. So did I or didn’t I have it? I am working on trying to get another test, one that measures the number of antibodies in my blood, not just the presence or absence of them.

I am pretty sure that this account is still boring, but for what it’s worth, I want to have a record of this. I realize that antibodies don’t guarantee immunity, and obviously I plan to continue to take the same precautions (because my fat, menopausal ass LOVES the idea of wearing a mask in the middle of summer…), but I feel a slight bit of relief anyway.

I can only hope that this was my bout with Covid-19, or better yet, that I was exposed but asymptomatic…but time will tell, I suppose.

That’s all I’ve got for now, except maybe a promise to get back to serious blogging when the city starts to open up again…

Thanks for reading, if you’re still here. Wishing all of you good health and antibodies!


Worst. Haircut. EVER.

So I know it’s my own fault because I always look for the absolute cheapest haircut I can find. I was doing so great in Greenpoint; Oralis did a great job, really knew my hair, and best of all, wasn’t too talkative. (Believe it or not, I really prefer a limited amount of conversation when I’m getting my hair cut.) Not to mention that the salon was located near the most amazing donut shop.

Then one day I called to schedule, and was told that Oralis had moved to Miami. Next haircut I got with the owner, so that was fine, but then after that there was a New Guy. Some of you may remember the lovely line on my neck where his clippers had dug in. I went back one more time after that, but skipped the clippers. Then it was back to Supercuts, because coupons!

Supercuts has been hit or miss, which is fine because it’s what I’m used to my entire life. Cheap haircut, might come out okay, might not come out that great, but hey, cheap haircut!!!

So tonight I walked in and there were two people working, neither of whom I had seen before. At first glance, I knew who I hoped would be cutting my hair.

Spoiler alert: I got the other one.

I thought we started out okay, until I realized that she was cutting one side of my hair shorter than the other. Okay, maybe she’ll fix it. I had asked to have the bottom back cut with a #3 clipper, and at first I don’t think she sliced me (that came later). Her scissors were dull, though, to the point that she commented, “I don’t know what’s going on with these scissors”. Ummm…you cut hair. I would think good scissors would be important… but what do I know?!

I was watching to see if she was going to even out the sides, sensing that this was not going to end well. At this point, I have to admit that I was excited because I knew this was going to be a great story…

I should mention that when I sat down, she actually didn’t start cutting my hair for a few minutes because she was listening to this radio show that was on and wanted to hear what was happening. No biggie, I didn’t have to be anywhere, but still.

She was talkative, but more “TMI” than awkward. First she had her diatribe about the radio bit (woman caught her husband cheating; cue “all men are awful” commentary, which I don’t disagree, but it was a little awkward with the male stylist cutting a man’s hair right next to us). This led to a conversation about how rich this woman was going to get when she divorced her cheating husband. Yada yada yada, different stories about money and the other stylist chiming in about how people who get a lot of money usually blow it. He gave two examples of this, one of a kid who didn’t do right by his mother, and she glommed on to that statement, saying “Your parents are pretty much the next thing to God, since they gave you life”. Now, she wasn’t saying this directly to me, but as you can imagine, I felt slightly attacked, especially when she quoted the 4th commandment in its entirety. But oh well, she didn’t know.

From there, the conversation trailed off, and she started talking about how tired she was. “I feel like I’m about to fall over…ha ha ha, I don’t even know what I’m doing with your hair!” (this while she was working on the back of my head, which turned out to be the least of my problems.) “I’m so tired; I’m beyond exhausted.”

I mentioned above that she hadn’t shredded my neck; however, towards the end she seemed to be haphazardly swiping at the back of my neck with the clippers.

And yep, that’s exactly what she was doing:


close-up of back of neck nicked by clippers

(meh, it’s just a flesh wound…)

But then she continued… “shaping”?! the sides. Still had the clippers out, and it’s hard to see from the pictures, but she did some random jagged thing on both sides (which I think are probably still not the same length anyway). She went beyond the pink part of my face (the part that sees the sun) and shaved past that to where I am now going to have to strategically apply sunscreen.

(I can’t get a good picture of it, but the primary problem with this haircut is what she did to the sides. Because I don’t KNOW what she did to the sides. Or why she did it. Or how she has a hairdresser’s license…but I digress.)

Close-up of side of head with uneven haircut

And then there was the front of the hair, which she really didn’t cut at all…but the way things were going, I didn’t think it was wise to request that she continue cutting.

top of woman's face with hair covering eyes

So much grey…

As I sit here, I am still in a bemused sort of shock, because seriously, this is probably the worst haircut I’ve ever had. And I don’t even know how or where I would begin to get it remedied, especially the fiasco with the sides.

But I have a feeling getting it fixed will probably cost more than $20…

Ah, it’ll grow.

The Pigeon Man of Ocean Parkway

Part of the adventure of living in a new neighborhood is in getting to know what kind of people you are surrounded by. When I moved in April, I was in a position where I ran out of time and felt like I had to “settle” for this apartment/location. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely neighborhood-but that’s just it. It’s a little TOO lovely for me. And not just because I don’t have a Target within walking distance, although that doesn’t help…

It’s fine, and it’s convenient, and safe, and it’s where I live, at least for now. But it lacks a certain grit or character that I would hope for in a neighborhood. Or at least I thought it did…

People still post signs on street light poles, which also gives you a sense of who is around you. No “se rentan cuartos” signs here; instead, there is a sign asking for the return of a lost scooter. The naive optimism of the person who posted this boggles my mind. First of all, that’s not how you spell “stolen”…

Another sign advertising a lice remedy was posted on a pole directly across from the local elementary school. Well-played.

But the sign that really caught my eye was this one:

Ah, yes. Of course they call him “the Pigeon Man”. I had seen him once or twice near the park. It’s hard not to notice someone who has managed to connect with winged rats Bert’s favorite bird so seamlessly. The pigeons would land on his arm and were literally eating right out of his hand. I was too intrigued by him at the time to be grossed out.

A few weeks later, the sign appeared. Forgetting for a split second that pigeons are rats with wings, I was angry, annoyed. It’s remarkable, really, what he does. Who is it really hurting? Besides the whole “carrying disease” thing, I mean. But that doesn’t distinguish them in any way from the subway railing or your morning coffee. It’s New York, kids. Build up that immunity.

All was not lost, however. A week after the first sign appeared, I was walking to the train and noticed there had been a slight edit…

I guess there’s hope for my new neighborhood yet. Like they say, you can’t keep a good (pigeon) man down…