After 7 months of lockdown, we broke my dad out of the old folks home.
Since March, he was not allowed to leave the building. No walks to the grocery store, no excursions for a meal that didn’t come from their institutionalized kitchen, no trips to Barnes and Nobel.
If he went to see the doctor, he had to spend 3 days in isolation in his room.
After a scare in August with 2 staff members and one resident, no more cases of Covid in the “village” — which is my new, least-favorite euphemism.
Oct. 5 they lifted the embargo. On Saturday, Oct. 9, my sister and I put him in the car and took him from the desert up to pine trees north of Payson.
It was an hour ride that covered 3 climatic zones. Two of them were burned to a crisp. The desert north of Fountain Hills, Arizona, had burned for a week in August. The fire was only 30 miles from my house, and I never heard about it. Between the news of the pandemic, the tantrums of Orange Baby Hands, and the massive fires in California — a few thousand empty acres burning 30 minutes from home didn’t make my Twitter feed.
But the browned ground, blackened Palo Verde trees and fried Saguaros didn’t bother dad. He was as happy as a hippie with a fresh bag of weed.
Climbing past Roosevelt Lake we finally drove beyond the fires, over a mile high and into the Arizona pine.
We stopped for an outdoor meal in Christopher Creek. A little tiny town off the highway with two restaurants, two small “creekside cabin” hotels, one volunteer fire station and nothing else.
My favorite restaurant there (the Landmark Steakhouse) has a huge patio and big garage doors that open to the inside eating area. Perfect for the first meal out in the pandemic. Nothing but cool mountain air to blow away the viral load inside and out.
It was closed. Private party. The parking lot was full. The restaurant was packed like a Trump rally. Shit.
Half a mile up the road, the next bar had a tiny patio. We got the last table in the corner. Fortunately, two pine trees growing through the pavement and towering over the building forced the other customers to stay at least 4 feet away from us.
We all took and deep breath, took our chances and took off our masks.
The cool air felt good. The pine smell was even better. I don’t remember a word of the conversation, but it was great. Just to be able to rip off the muzzles, hear the words clearly and see the facial expressions — while stuffing greasy burgers and fries into our moving mouths. It’s the small things…
Small town Arizona didn’t seem to recognize the risk. The staff should have been wearing masks. They weren’t. The customers should have worn masks around the building and in the parking lot. Most didn’t. There should have been signs and warnings. There weren’t.
The line to the bathroom was shoulder to shoulder and packed from the bathroom door past the front door and into the bar. I decided to hold it.
But Dad’s 89-year-old bladder couldn’t wait. I just told him to wear his mask and keep his distance as best he could.
Bathrooms are full of virus. That’s why they measure it in sewers. Every flush throws up a plumb of vapor with microscopic droplets of piss and shit. Perfect little homes for Covid-19.
The whole trip was not the smartest thing we have done. But after the pandemic held down the cap with social distancing while shaking up the angst humans feel in isolation, sooner or later a ton of fizz was going to come pissing out of that bottle.
For us, that fizz was our common sense. We threw away the rules and broke out of the “village” like the last day of school. We didn’t run out of the building screaming and laughing like little kids — but that’s exactly how it felt to breakout of the home during the outbreak of Covid-19.