Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Social Distancing Journal: Week 11 (May 25-May 31, 2020)

A quick note: I haven’t had enough time to accomplish everything I want to do, so I gave myself permission to let some things slide, including these weekly journal entries. I am going to try to get caught up by writing these as I can, which defeats the purpose of documenting at the moment but is better than nothing. Have I forgotten some things I might have wished to put in these? Most likely. Does this mean some of these will be shorter? Definitely.


I love getting mail. Let me qualify that: I love getting good mail. Lately it seems like I’m not getting much in the mail period, whether it’s fun mail, bills, or junk. I don’t miss the absence of the two latter items, but a package from an online order can still be exciting to anticipate.  My fascination with getting things in the mail started as a kid. My hometown didn’t have home mail delivery, so my family had a post office box that was shared with the family business and my grandmother. You needed to turn a dial to enter the combination to be able to get what was inside, an element that might have made utilizing this public service seem more thrilling. I always looked forward to taking a break from working at the grain elevator to pick up the mail.

As a kid and teen I sent letters, mostly to current and former professional baseball players, seeking autographs. I used the reference book The Sport Americana Baseball Address List, which provided the addresses for “virtually every player to debut in the major leagues since 1910.” I’d drop a letter in the mail, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope that raised the chances of a response, and then wait to see if anything came back. 

I learned that sending baseball cards to be signed was probably a fool’s decision, as there was no guarantee you’d ever get them returned. Sometimes the athlete would simply sign an empty space on  the letter I hand wrote and send that. Some were more generous in providing a signed memento while others used a stamp or autopen. I haven’t looked through all that correspondence in ages, although it occurs to me that one of the weirder things I have is a letter from pitcher Bob Knepper, which, if I recall correctly, addresses why he didn’t think a woman should be an umpire. (He made some controversial statements about the role of women as it pertained to Scripture and, in this particular situation, about a woman making calls in baseball games.)

In college a care package from my parents or grandmother was always welcome, and this week I was reminded of the simple pleasure of getting homemade baked goods in the mail. As everyone has been isolating, a friend and I have been exchanging photos of what we’re making in the kitchen. She’s also shared recipes with me, which I’ve had fun making. While these are small things for friends to do to stay in touch, they help me feel more connected and regain a sense of normalcy amid this strange time being physically disconnected from everyone but service workers at the grocery or drive-through windows. She offered to send me some cookies she and her family made for Eid, and I wanted to reciprocate by baking some things to mail her.

There’s nothing noteworthy about getting cookies in the mail, especially when they’re not even from out of town, but awaiting and getting that package lit up my day. I also really enjoyed the time I spent making molasses cookies and mini apple and strawberry rhubarb pies to send her. I think I’ve said it before--and this is not intended to sound like I’m patting myself on the back--but during this time of social distancing, I have found doing nice things for others has been a great way of spreading some happiness and getting out of my own head. I was happy to receive cookies in the mail, but I also found it really rewarding to spend time making desserts to give away too. 


Painting no. 5 - 5/28/20 - Photo by Mark Pfeiffer
Flowers were this week’s painting challenge. I thought this assignment would be easier to tackle--the video tutorials always make it look so effortless--but this one tested me quite a bit. I put more paint on the canvas than was probably beneficial and kept trying to correct from these early missteps. Texture is where I attempted to salvage what I began. I don’t think this is my best painting out of the few I’ve completed, but it didn’t end up the total mess that I worried it was headed toward being.


As I’m writing this in early July, I don’t specifically recall what I was listening to or watching during this week. It’s likely I was still in a mode of not watching much at all. I’m going to assume that David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) was among what I was spinning as it’s something I’ve turned to regularly. The album ranks among his best, but it’s also near the top of Recently Added in the library on my phone, which is as responsible as anything for it racking up plays. After his death in 2016 I bought several of his earlier albums to fill in gaps in my knowledge, mainly anything that wasn’t a single or rock radio staple, of his discography. This album was a more recent acquisition as I’d been holding out for a deluxe reissue that I don’t think  manifested. It features “Ashes to Ashes”, one of my favorite Bowie songs. This album sounds to me like a significant influence on Nine Inch Nails, but that may be less of a sharp observation and more of me remembering reading that when Trent Reznor’s band toured with Bowie. I’ve never had much interest in NIN, but of concerts that were nearby that I wish I’d seen, that’s one high on the list.

Previous Social Distancing Journal Entries:

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