Yet Another Journal

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» Thursday, March 19, 2020
The Weekend That Almost Wasn't (Atomicon, Part 1)

The news was bad enough about sickness and death in other places, but then came local school closings, runs on supermarkets (the difference between Thursday and Friday was astounding), and doctor's appointment cancellations (we had three in one day). But our weekend in Helen was approaching, what should we do?

There was discussion online. The hotel had cancellations right and left and asked us not to cancel if possible; they said they would be taking extra sanitary protections, would not serve breakfast via buffet, and the pool and hot tub would be closed. There was no coronavirus in White County, where Helen is located.

Some folks dropped out. A few weren't feeling well already. One had to take care of her parents after a car accident. One just wanted some alone time after returning from a visit to her son's college. Some were still working. Another could not fly. Once the dust settled, we were under the 50 person limit for groups requested by the governor. So we all kept an eye on our health—James and I have been taking our temperature every day for about two weeks now—and one by one this smaller group came together, with bulletins flying fast the last couple of days of which restaurants were still open and if groceries could be had there.

Tucker arrives at "camp."
Our Thursday morning was the usual combination of remembering everything, including James' blood pressure cuff, the thermometer, etc. I discovered nearly at the last moment I had not packed Snowy's food! More flurry there. So instead of leaving the house at noon, we left...a bit late. Tucker allowed himself to be carried to the back and, after giving me a rather smart bite, Snowy went off with the extremely young-looking vet tech a few minutes later.

Before we headed up to Helen, we stopped at the East 48th Street Market across the street from the vet's office, which sells Italian food, sandwiches, and baked goods. It was St. Joseph's Day and they had zepolli, the traditional pastry for that holiday: a puff pastry filled with cream, with a little sqiggle of cream on top and a maraschino cherry as an accent. I got two, one with custard and one with cream, although I couldn't tell the difference once they were in the box! I felt bad that they were losing business because of coronavirus, so I also got a cannoli and two chocolate walnut biscotti, and a package of our favorite fusilli pasta. Everyone was very nice as we did the social distancing thing.

Then we headed up to Helen, the traffic very light on GA400 and therefore from Dahlonega through the country road that heads to Helen. It was all so normal compared to the "new normal" that I wanted to cry: horses calmly grazing in newly-green pasture where they give trail rides, the cattle (beef and dairy) scattered across great swaths of green grass, the trees blooming in whites and purples and pinks and the azaleas in pink and red, the little farm stands both still open and crumbling away. We used the new bypass and arrived at the Country Inn and Suites only an hour later than we wanted, at four p.m. The Spiveys had arrived just before us, and the Butlers pulled in soon afterwards, and we started setting up the common room with snacks.

Dinner du jour tonight was at Spice55, the wonderful Thai place we ate at last year. They would only take ten to a table, and we were just under the limit with us, the Spiveys, Aubrey, Juanita, and the Butlers, with the Boulers showing up later. It looks like we got there just in time, because they are going to take-out only starting tomorrow. Dinner (pad thai) was fabulous, and I had enough to make a lunch tomorrow. James had only a tiny portion leftover, so when we stopped at Dollar General—the person who was to bring disposable eating products was nursing her mother after a car accident—I not only picked up some plastic plates, but a couple of low-sodium burritos as well for a supplement.

After dinner is always gameplay, but we spent time talking instead. We don't see a lot of these folks often. John and Oreta live on the other side of town, as do Kristine and her husband, and Naaman Taylor as well, along with Nancy and Jake. Nancy's son Tony is a trucker and usually on the road, and we don't visit with his wife. There were two little ones with us this year, in fact, Max, a little over two, and August "Gus," an adorable little blond girl about two. They had a playmate in Juanita's new little Shetland Sheepdog puppy, Riley, who is being trained as a certified therapy dog, and Juanita hopes one day to train him to alert to her occasional spells of ill-health. Riley, is, frankly, adorbs! All these people except for Aubrey and Alice and a few more are new to him and he regarded the whole common room of people reading, talking, gaming with wide-eyed enthusiastic wonder, trotting about playing fetch, puppy romping, and desperately seeking and sometimes finding the odd crumb.

Alas, the nights when we stayed up until one and two in the mornings playing Uno are gone. Most everyone drifted out about eleven, as did we, to try and get some sleep in a strange yet familiar place.

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