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Hamsterin-500 Wide.jpg

Well. The Great Toiler Paper Famine of 2020 may be subsiding. We got a package of six rolls (one package only!) this morning, and we should have enough now for a couple of weeks.

We have the stores to thank for that. Both Fry’s and Safeway are now limiting quantities on hoardables and even non-hoardables like milk. One per household is the general rule. We know that Fry’s usually gets a truck on Monday nights, so we were there first thing in the morning. Like many other grocers across the country, Fry’s reserves the first hour for people over 60. We got there at 5:50, and there was already a considerable line. At 6 AM sharp, they opened the doors, and everybody made for the toilet paper aisle at a dead run. And lo and behold: Piles and piles of toilet paper! And paper towels. And baby wipes. And rubbing alcohol.

Alas, no bratwurst. What, they’re hoarding bratwursts now?

So we got our one package of TP and one package of paper towels. Carol got a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and a few other things before we ran through Mickey D’s drive-thru for breakfast. All in all, a good and useful morning.

Oh–and at 5:45 AM when we backed out of the garage, I remembered that this morning is Mercury’s maximum elongation, so we jumped out of the Durango and searched for that most-difficult planet. Even at max elongation, the little snot is unholy hard to spot, but spot it we did. (It helps to have few trees and no two-story houses in our neighborhood.) Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn were in a tight little group much higher in the southeast.

The lockdown here in Arizona has been cordial and mostly voluntary. Local government is not harrassing people who walk for exercise. My barber shop closed last Thursday, but others are still open, so if I get a little too pointy-haired, I have options. The Jewish Community Center is closed, so we’re not doing our usual weight training every Monday. I’m going to buy an 18-pound ketttlebell if I can find a store still selling 18-pound kettlebells. You can do a lot with an 18-pound kettlebell. We had to cancel our writers’ workshop because restaurants can’t provide indoor or patio seating. We meet in a biggish sandwich place, so we’re out of luck. We’re trying to figure out a reliable teleconferencing system for the interim.

We no longer go to Costco. That’s a shame, since I like their frozen blueberries, but with conventional grocery stores limiting quantities to stop hoarding, all the hamsterin’ is now being done at Costco. People line up around the block to get in and buy truckloads of TP and cart-sized bricks of plastic bottled water. I’ve seen photos. It’s surreal.

We’ve learned the secret: Go to small stores. I don’t mean convenience stores. I mean specialty stores, like the little Polish/Russian grocery down in Mesa. We bought six bags of their excellent hand-made pierogies a few days ago. They had a lot of other stuff I couldn’t quite identify, since I don’t read Polish, much less Russian. But nobody was hoarding pierogi.

Our days are heating up. It’s still snowing in Colorado Springs, but in Phoenix our daily highs are beginning to creep up into the 80s. We’re about to engage in an interesting experiment: Warmer temps slow down most viruses. There’s a debate raging about whether or not that’s true of COVID-19, but we’re going to find out. Arizona is not a virus hot zone by any means, with only 326 cases and 3 deaths. (New York has 26,000+ cases and 271 deaths.) Is it the warmer temps, or just good clean livin’? Nobody knows…yet.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that UV light can kill viruses, and we lead the nation in the production of UV light. In fact, when we get a package from Amazon, I put on gloves and take it out to the backyard, and set it down on the pool deck. I turn it a couple of times to make sure all surfaces get a dose, but if 15 minutes of Arizona sun can cause sunburn, it will damned well kill viruses.

So here we are. I read books, or write them. I program. I tinker in my workshop. I throw the ball around the yard for the dogs. I cook. And I wash my hands. Hoo-boy, do I wash my hands. So life goes on. Don’t let the panicmongers mong you any panic. We don’t know how bad COVID-19 will ultimately be, but it will almost certainly not be as bad as the media are insisting. I see a lot of people on Twitter trying to stir up panic, and they sure sound and act like paid operatives. If you catch them with a question they can’t answer, they vanish. If you ask them for their credentials, they vanish. Do whatever you can to discredit such screamers. And carry on. This too will pass, perhaps sooner than we think.


  1. Roy Harvey says:

    “We had to cancel our writers’ workshop because restaurants can’t provide indoor or patio seating.” I would have thought it would be because it would be a Bad Idea to have a gathering.

    Perhaps if I lived in Arizona I would think the other way round.

  2. Spencer Arnold says:

    pierogie? Sounds like an invitation to a visit by the MIB!

    Fortunately my job here is secure during our shutdown, I contract to the government thru a large services company, and my partner is a direct employee of the govt, so spare a thort to those who are not assured an income!

  3. Orvan Taurus says:

    No shortage of bratwurst here. Store even had them on sale at $1/each. Then, this is MN (and MN is NOT just Norskies…) so if the beer & bratwurst run out, there’ll be trouble.

    Gov. Walz has declared a full(er) shutdown starting midnight Friday night, but it seems like almost everything not already closed will go on. Even though, supposedly, liquor stores are NOT affected, I fully expect them to a land office business today and Friday.

    “Selling like hotcakes? No, selling like toilet paper!”

  4. Donald R Doerres says:

    Big 5 for your sporting goods needs.

    In store only. Who would pay freight on a thing like that?

    I’ve had good luck through the years a Big 5. Items often cheaper than Internet lookup.

    Denise and I are looking into Skype workouts with our trainer.

  5. Jason Kaczor says:

    Up here in Canuckistan, our grocery stores are returning to normal.

    Still some things that are weird to see out-of-stock (all yeast? who knew a pandemic would turn everyone into home bakers). Also interesting to see many many frozen items that are not normally sold at the around-the-corner grocers.

    But you are definitely right about going to tiny places – 2-weeks ago, I went to an East Asian/Indian grocer – and bought a giant (for us) bag of rice – even managed to get beans and black-eyed peas, while the local Walmart supercenter was sold out of all of that.

    On a personal note, our family unit has not eaten take-out, fast-food or delivery (or of course – a “dine-in experience”) in 21-days. The bank account and waistlines appreciate all the home-cooking. They say it takes 21-days to break a habit, I am hoping we keep it up.

  6. Tom says:

    Local stores completely sold out of yeast. Go figure.

    Fortunately, there was a two year old jar that had been hiding in my cupboard. Just add some flour, warm water, sugar and a pinch of salt and what do you know? Fresh baked bread. Incredibly delicious.

    On a more somber note; how much longer can this go on? The choices seem to be; either a tragically increasing death toll brought on by an incredibly vicious virus or an almost equally tragic national economic suicide?

  7. Jason Kaczor says:

    Well – I have never baked anything before – but a couple years ago my stepdaughter gifted us with a break maker machine.

    But… I had never used it (we do not have alot of kitchen room).

    Reading the instructions, it wants special yeast… Going to the internet shows that normal “active dry yeast” works fine (just adjust the amounts).

    Fast forward a couple weeks… two loaves of plain white bread and two more of banana bread (we had been freezing bananas that were past their “peel & eat” perfection for more than a year, so have ample stock to work with), and I am the new family “baker”. (And… I screwed-up both the 2nd attempts (lack of butter softening and a little too much salt in the white bread (I blame reading the recipe from my phone and mistaking tablespoon for teaspoon), but they still came out tasty and edible… Apparently there is a little wiggle-room when baking (I had lived my entire life believing that you had to be absolutely perfect on measuring the ingredients)

    But… am going to run out of flour and sugar soon, and as of last Thursday – I still cannot find them in our local stores…

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