Journal of the Plague Year 2020: Did I Tell You How Much I Miss Your Smile?

I live in an adobe bungalow built in 1929. Most of the pipes collapsed long ago. When I moved in, the washing machine, tub, and sinks all emptied out onto the foundation, in proud defiance of every known principle of gray water management.

When my weird little washing machine broke down, I started to use the wash and fold service at Sparkle Cleaners on Stone and Drachman. I kept meaning to hire a plumber to make it like a real house for actual grown-ups. I’ve been working overtime and traveling for work, so the temporary arrangement has become permanent, and the folks at the Sparkle are officially my peeps. They hook me up and take care of me in a hundred little ways, since apparently I can’t take care of myself.

When I picked up my laundry this morning, I asked the woman behind the counter how she’s doing. She told me they’d laid off more than half their staff, and she’s been cut back to four hours a day. She said, “It was so hard! We were all crying, because people have families and the bills keep coming. The rent doesn’t stop because you got laid off. I’m just glad I paid off my credit card before all this happened.” Then she added, “Keep coming in! You’re keeping us open.”

As I was driving to work, I thought of a young guy who works there who’s a DJ. We always admire each other’s tattoos and talk about the music we’re listening to, and how vinyl is better than .mp3. He carries my laundry to the car, saying, “No, no! I gotcha. Don’t worry.” When I was driving down Stone two nights ago, I saw him waiting at the bus stop. The laundromat had just closed. And I thought, as I often do, how tough it is when you’re young and you don’t have much money. It’s hard to believe that things will get easier. And I thought, I hope he’s okay. 

All the way to work I sang “Wonderful” with the windows rolled down. It’s a love song with a gorgeous, soaring bridge. There are many passages in my novels where Inglorion or Tereus bursts into song. If they’re not singing Handel, you can assume they’re singing “Wonderful.” Here’s a really lovely acoustic performance from 1995.

When I got to work, I texted my hairdresser, the fabulous Danielle Harris of Tangled Salon. I wanted to make sure she’s okay. She told me she’s had to cancel many appointments for her clients’ safety, but in the meantime she’s putting together “a list of resources within the community, so people can feel comforted and like they have somewhere to go when in need.” She also offered to add to my toilet paper collection, which proves — if proof were needed — that she has a big heart and a practical mind.

I will have to do a bit of research to add to Danielle’s collection, but this I know:

Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal church has an outdoor labyrinth that you can walk at any time.  In a more practical vein, they have a food pantry, and a shower ministry, which gives people a place to bathe three days a week. It’s currently being disinfected between uses, to comply with CDC guidelines. Their services are now being live-streamed. As their pastor points out, for the first time you’re invited attend mass in your pajamas.

The Heirloom Farmer’s Market is open with modified guidelines for vendors and customers. They accept SNAP, and have a program called Double-Up Food Bucks to make that money go further. They’re the best source I know of locally grown produce and amazing, free-range beef.

Session Yoga is streaming classes on Zoom. I got certified there, and it’s the best place I know to get your om on.

My favorite record store, Wooden Tooth, is temporarily closed, but they’ve set up an ordering website and pickup station, and I want so many of the albums they’ve listed — think Beastie Boys, Marc Bolan, Joy Division, Velvet Underground.

And here’s one of the nicest things I’ve seen this week: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo saying that every life is precious, and New York loves all of us. It’s over an hour, but really inspiring to watch. Just drag the counter back to zero if it gives you a weird message about the live stream.

Here’s one of many inspiring passages (best heard in a thick New York accent): “We are going to fight every way that we can, to save every life that we can, because I think that’s what it means to be an American…. That’s why I gave [the law] my mother’s name…. The one or two percent [of vulnerable people] is Matilda. My mother. Your uncle. My uncle. And they are precious, and I’m not giving up. I am not giving up.”

pizza takeout salad
Merguez pizza and a beet pistachio salad from Tucson’s Time Market, my neighborhood grocery and all-around happy place.

I was too tired to cook tonight after all my mission critical work doings. Thank God the wonderful Time Market is still open for takeout and selling groceries. I ordered pizza with Merguez sausage and a beet pistachio salad. It was ready in 10 minutes, and so very, very good. The Time Market is one of my happy places, a true blessing on Earth. I love to sit in a window seat, watch the trolly, and admire their artfully arranged produce section. It’s silly, but when I’m there I feel like everything will be okay.

And, yes, that’s a Chinese silk carpet in the background. Because when it comes to vintage home decor, I don’t mess around.


J.A. Thompson

Covid-19 cases in Arizona: 450

People Hospitalized: 8

Deaths: 6

For the next few weeks, I’ll be writing hyper-local observations on the Covid-19 outbreak. Those entries will be titled Journal of the Plague Year 2020, while episodes from the ongoing fantasy novel Biography of Inglorion will have chapter numbers, and appropriate categories and tags.

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