I have to start by apologizing: I'm currently in a beach house on the coast in Puerto Rico with my girlfriend Julie. Okay -- I can see the nasty looks and hand gestures you're giving me from here, thank you very much.
We came from New York just when the virus was about to arrive in the U.S. It was a fortunate accident of timing. We planned on staying for 10 days. (Insert hysterical laughter here.) Now the plan is to stay here until the pandemic begins to subside there (Thanksgiving?) or until we run out of money. I know that what's going on in the states is much worse than what's happening here and I don't want to seem like I'm gloating, so take comfort in the fact that I won't include any sunset photos.
I didn't say anything about sun rises.
Don't get the wrong idea -- it's not all rum and guffaws down here. They've been doing an excellent job of dealing with the virus. For weeks they have had a 7 PM curfew, take-outs till 6 PM only, and driving is restricted to every other day. There are 6 foot markers on the sidewalk in front of the supermarket, and before you go in they Purell your hands and take your temperature. (Orally, thank you.) True, there's a lovely beach nearby, but thanks to the virus no one is supposed to use it. This is the first time I've seen "look but don't touch" applied to the seashore. We have to wait for the police boat and/or helicopter to go by like inmates timing the rounds of the guards. "Quick -- that's the 2:15 patrol boat going off into the distance! Grab a bathing suit and a towel ... and don't forget the wire cutters!" You swim as fast as you can -- not for the exercise but because you know that the policia will be coming back soon.
By day, it's lovely here with palm trees, crystal clear water, and blue cloudless skies. By night it's another story. The local rooster proudly announces, "The time is 2:30 AM?!" He repeats this valuable information every 6 to 7 seconds. I know this because I timed it. What else am I going to do when I'm wide awake at 2:30 in the morning, thanks to that fu*#/n§ rooster? When dawn arrives I guess he's busy sleeping, because you don't hear a peep ... Except for the morning doves. They usually start cooing around 6 AM at a volume that causes the dinner plates to rattle in their cabinet. There's also a goose, but he's much better behaved.
Where we are staying, there is no air-conditioning and the humidity is in the upper 80s at night. Sure, each bedroom does have an air conditioning unit, but it's purely there for decoration. The only setting that works is "off." I think those mini-moths frantically flying around my reading light like an air traffic controller's nightmare, do a better job of lowering the temperature just by flapping their teeny little wings.
My girlfriend Julie is delicious -- not to me so much as to the mosquitoes. They sense my curmudgeon-ness coming through my skin and find me unappealing. As do many people. However they find Julie irresistible. She can spray the whole bedroom with insect repellent, close the windows and the door, and wake up in the morning with 23 fresh mosquito bites. Any meal we have outside is accompanied by so many citronella candles that it feels as though we're about to start a seance. This also makes it completely unnecessary to season food, as it's just going to taste like bug spray and citronella.
It's important these sequestered days to have planned activities. Our routine has been to get up, have breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner sometime after it's dark. Occasionally, we even shower and change out of our pajamas! But that's not really a regular part of the plan. During meals, we also take time to feed the neighbors.
To stay mentally sharp, we challenge each other to try to name the day of the week. For physical exercise, I try to wrest the carving knife from her hand before she can do something that I will regret.
We try to avoid watching the news, mostly out of guilt for our not-so-bad situation. Ordinarily, I would turn on the TV in the evening to see what I get. Mostly what I get here is disappointed. I didn't realize that a basic cable package could be this basic. Unless you speak Spanish, the viewing selection is quite limited. There's news, or TCMYGYM. Turner Classic Movies You're Glad You Missed.
Fortunately we each have our own iPads. This cuts down somewhat on the violence. You see, we are spending time together ... while we're doing completely different things. We sit opposite each other working our individual screens like Ferrante & Teicher.
Oh come on, you remember -- those back to back grand pianos? They're known for the theme from "The Apartment," "Exodus," and "Midnight Cowboy." Don't try to tell me you're so young you never saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show in a desperate attempt to make Ed look human. Come on now! I'll slap you upside the head with that adorable little mouse Topo Gigio!
Assuming that someday in the distant future we will return to the states, there are a few things that I'm concerned about. Having walked around barefoot for a few months, I'm pretty sure my feet have gone from an 11 C to a 12 EEE. Before I try to put any shoes on I'd better find a crowbar. Also, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to eat a meal again without the smell of bug spray and citronella. (I have found that many restaurants frown on it when you bring your own.)
Anyway, my heart goes out to people suffering through this in the states. I feel somewhat guilty being where I am ... but not so much that I'm running back to be with y'all. This probably won't be the best or worst vacation I ever had, but it certainly will be one I won't be able to forget.