The Art of Entertainment

Thank you to all of you who replied to my blog of last week. Basically I was told that the view my writing group was inadvertently giving me was not accurate. In fact, some of you are scared–the mask rule has been relaxed, no social distancing. My sister, who has the ability that my father had–to take in the larger picture and make a fairly accurate assessment–wrote: “Michigan is about the scariest place in the country right now; your last blog really, really romanticises what’s going on in the U.S.  You’re making the mistake of generalizing from a few anecdotal stories from your friends–basic social science error!!!!!  The result doesn’t read authentically or match people’s experiences here.Which isn’t to say that you’re not being authentic; it’s just you need to be more careful with your comparisons.” This is one of the reasons I love her. I can absolutely depend that she will tell me the truth. So, this week, I am not going to talk about the Pandemic or vaccines. Rather I want to talk about the way each one of us has found to self-entertain during these non-ending times.

MAKE EVERY MILE COUNT! You’re no longer just going for a run, a walk, a ride, or a swim, you’re working towards conquering a S.M.A.R.T fitness goal. VIEW ALL THE CHALLENGES

I enjoy entertaining myself and I’m easily pleased. I just have to watch Bijou run around in circles chasing her tail, falling all over herself, and I am in gales of laughter. I have discovered something else that I find so much fun. There is an App called The Conqueror. It is run by My Virtual Mission. I don’t know how I discovered it but it happened during the first week of January. I picked a real walk somewhere in the world and signed up to have my Fitbit talk to the app and record all the miles I walk. I was sent postcards by e-mail telling me where I was, describing the village and giving me some history. For every 20% of the walk I finished, a tree was planted. The website says, “We will donate toward the planting of a tree for every 20% of the challenge you complete. There’s no extra work or cost for you — just make sure you keep exercising! By the end of the challenge, you will have planted 5 trees. Imagine what we can achieve as a community! So far we have planted more than 450,000 trees since August 2020.”

My medal for walking 90 miles of Hadrians Wall. Now when the Pandemic is truly finished, I need to go do it for real!

I picked Hadrian’s Wall for my first walk-90 miles. I was also to pick an amount of time that I would do the walk in and I put 8 weeks. I had no idea how motivated I would be. As it turned out, I finished the walk in less than five weeks! About a week later, a gorgeous medal arrived in the mail. No photo on the website showed how really handsome and substantial the medal is! For my next walk, I picked The Ring of Kerry, a walk of 124.5 miles in Ireland. Again I received postcards, had trees planted, finished in five weeks, and now my medal is on its way. Last week I picked St. Francis Way which, like the others, is a real walk of 312.4 miles from Florence to Rome. This is more than twice as long as the Ring of Kerry. I am hoping to do this in 12 weeks.

What I see on my phone each morning when I’m checking if Fitbit added my miles!!!

I have always been competitive and not always in a good way. I learned awhile ago that competing against one’s self is a good thing. Every morning, I check what my FitBit told the Conqueror app. I wouldn’t dream of not walking every day (well, I do take a day off once in awhile for various reasons) and, according to the app, I have walked 250.9 miles since I first signed up on January 8th. Here I am, in my apartment in Paris which is in a third lockdown, and I have walked Hadrian’s Wall, the Ring of Kerry, and am 11% thru the St. Francis Way! So if any of you are, like me, staying inside most of the time but walking every day, you may enjoy this great app that tells you you are doing great things, walking long distances, and sending you medals to prove it!!!

We all find different ways to entertain ourselves during hard times. At the beginning of the Pandemic, I was too cautious to go outside. I discovered Walk with Lesley Sansome, and watched her on my computer following along with all her in-house “friends”. But I’ve never been a big fan of going to the gym. And, as soon as I screwed my courage up and started walking outside, Lesley Sansome went the way of a lot of my amusements. I love walking outside. I love walking. I’ve never thought of walking as exercise. I don’t like exercise therefore walking can’t be exercise (one of those philosophers that I studied in college would agree that my logic is correct!)

Statuette: Oscar ® Statuette © AMPAS ®

It also occurred to me about three weeks ago that every single one of the Oscar nominations, in almost every category, is available to stream. I’ve always tried to see as many of the nominated films as possible so that when the Oscars rolled around, I could make intelligent guesses. I also consider myself a huge film buff and the nominations from all the different festivals give me a great list of films I should have seen but didn’t know about. This year it was never clear to me what was streamed and what was only available in a theatre.Not to mention that I hadn’t heard of most of the streaming services..I mentioned a couple weeks that I’d seen Nomadland on Hulu. I discovered that Hulu will give anyone a free 30 day trial. So far I’ve seen, along with Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Mank, Promising Young Woman (had to rent on Amazon), and last night, I rented The Father (the fee is more than a movie would cost if theatres were open). Of the nominated films for best foreign film, I’ve seen Deux, from France and, from Denmark, Another Round (the director, Thomas Vinterburg is also up for best director). I have seen all the films in which an actress is nominated for best actress. I didn’t make it through the US vs Billie Holiday. Andra Day is terrific, her voice sounds very much like Ms. Holiday’s, but the film itself just isn’t compelling–to me. Maybe next week, I will give you my opinion on who will will and who should win but today I just want you to know they are all available. They are all good and it’s worth spending your time being entertained by an industry whose job it is to entertain you.

I finally watched Soul. I discovered that something I belong to also gives me Disney plus. Soul is nominated for best animation. I usually associate animated films with children or youth. Pixar has been coming out with terrific films-as much for adults as children. This one, starring the voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey , is very much for adults. I’d watch it again if I didn’t have a date with The Sound of Metal.

This is all to say that there are many fun things to do still in Lockdown. Many of us are genuinely fatigued by the last fourteen months but we are being advised everywhere to not let our caution down. It would be so easy to say ‘F__ it, I’m finished. I’m going back to the way it was.’ As I was writing, a notification popped up on my phone: over 3,000,000 million deaths around the world. I intend to not be one of those statistics.

A bientôt,

Sara

Vaccinating in French

Saturdays are a day when I write. I join an on-line community that writes together. No prompts, no class, just a leader and many writers. It is structured: we tell the group our intention for the next six hours (which can include a meal, a walk and whatever one needs to do in between timed writing spaces. Of course we don’t need to say that!), then check in twice to tell each other our progress and, then we meet for a final time six hours after starting. I love it. It has made writing a constant source of both discipline and fun for me.

Last Saturday, I wrote a blog, reached the number of words I had given as my intention, and took myself out for a three-mile walk. When I returned, there was an e-mail from my friend, Barbara, telling me she had just made an appointment to get her first vaccine. She wrote exactly what site to go on to make the appointment. The centre is outside the peripherique and my first thought is always “how am I going to get there without a car?” For once, I decided to tackle that later, went on line, went through all the instructions, and finished three minutes later with a first and a second appointment. I was ecstatic. I had just written in the blog that no one knew what was going on with vaccinations. I looked up directions and saw that it was easy. Take the #1 metro and get off two stops before Vincennes and walk five minutes. Easy Peasy. I called Barbara and left a gushy message of gratitude on her voice mail. When she called back, she told me it was the Phizer vaccine. I hadn’t even looked assuming it was AstraZeneca because we’d been told that was all France had. I was even more grateful. I would have taken whatever was available but, given the choice, I didn’t want AstraZenica. Too many problems. As it turns out, France and Germany have temporarily suspended AstraZenica until they can solve these issues.

That was Saturday around 4:30pm. My first appointment was for Monday, two days later. We’ve all heard tales of appointments being cancelled so when I proof read my blog on Sunday, I decided not to write anything about vaccinations other than to say it was no longer true that we knew nothing, that I’d gotten an appointment and more would follow.

Sunday came and went and then it was Monday morning. Barbara’s appointment was earlier than mine. I hadn’t even left my apartment when she texted me to tell me that she was in and out in about twenty minutes. I live in the 16ème, about two blocks from the Bois de Boulogne. Paris is sandwiched in between two wonderful parks. The Bois de Boulogne is the smaller of the two and is the very west of Paris just after the peripherique. The Bois de Vincennes is at the east of Paris just beyond the peripherique on that side. Saint-Mandé, where I was receiving my vaccine is located just as Bois de Vincennes starts. In other words, it is as far away from the 16th as one can get. Yet, because of the transportation system here, it is about a 50 minute straight shot with only one change of metro. And this is at a time when they say, transportation is not running at 100%. I put on my earbuds, turned on my audio of The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian (a fascinating thriller), and headed for the metro.

Waiting in line to get into the Vaccination Centre

I got off at Saint-Mandé. Barbara had instructed that I look for exit #4 and I’d be as close as four minutes walk. When I emerge from the depths of the metro stations into a part of Paris I don’t know, my first response is to find a way to orient myself–I hate feeling lost. I couldn’t figure out whether to walk straight or turn around and walk the opposite direction. I saw that I had three choices. They say third time is a charm! Four minutes and a budding anxiety attack later, I looked down an alley and saw a line of people. I walked to the building. Six people, my age, crowded around the front door. They made sure that I didn’t get close to the front door, that I understood there was a queue, and I was at the end of it. Really!! This “me first” attitude never goes away no matter how old we get? Then I realized the obvious. Everyone has been anxious about getting the vaccine especially people over 65 of age. Everyone is scared something will happen and their appointment will be cancelled. Barbara told me a story of a woman in line while she was waiting to get inside the building. The woman didn’t have an appointment but was hoping that, since she there, they would let her in. They wouldn’t. Barbara said she was practically in tears as she turned to go away. We all do and often say things when we are anxious and scared that we’d never say or do in calmer moments.

The waiting room once Inside the Vaccination Centre

As it turned out, the queue didn’t make much difference. The time of one’s appointment did. A man stuck his head out the door after I’d been waiting about five minutes and called my name as well as two others. I went inside. He handed me a questionnaire to fill out. I told him I’d already downloaded it and filled it out so he told me to take a seat in the waiting room. Once inside, people’s kinder sides emerged. There were a number of handicapped older people, some who could barely walk, arriving with a caretaker. People made sure both had chairs to sit on. Their names seemed to be called first to go to the next station. When my name was called I was shown a seat in front of a huge Plexiglas window. The woman behind it asked for my questionnaire. She looked at it, made a few notes, then directed me on. Behind a screen, I was shown a seat where I got my shot. This person took my questionnaire and handed me another one which she said to bring to my second appointment. Did I know when that was? I sure did. Down to the minute and seconds.

The Salle d’Attente where we were to sit for 10-15 minutes just to make sure we didn’t have an allergic reaction.

She pointed to a door and told me to go into the large room and sit. First, I had an “exit” review. I was asked a number of questions and then given my certificate of first vaccine. I am to bring that to my next appointment along with #2 questionnaire. I looked at my watch. About fifteen minutes had passed since I first arrived at the Centre. I found a chair and sat for twelve minutes. I assumed we were monitoring ourselves so I just stood up and left. As I walked out the exit door, it seemed so quiet, the air so ordinary. I thought there should be drum rolls and celebratory music. I’d been hoping and praying for this since mid-December. I had accepted that I might have to wait until May or during the summer sometime. But no, it was the third week in March and my second appointment was exactly four weeks later. We were all told that the vaccine didn’t really kick in to full effectiveness until two weeks after that: April 26th. Could I really plan some travel? Whoa, hold your horses, Sara. One thing at a time.

I went home again listening to my wonderful book. My arm was quite sore for about thirty-six hours and I felt fatigued. And that’s it. Done and dusted! Like everything else, the waiting is far worse than the event itself.

Official poster for Nomadland

While feeling fatigued, I treated myself to watching Nomadland on Hulu. I knew very little about the film. The director had won a Golden Globe, the film was Best Picture in the Drama category, and it has been nominated in the Best Film category for the Academy Awards. (This year, it’s actually possible to see most of the nominated movies before the event itself.) And best of all, as far as I was concerned, it starred Frances McDormand. I didn’t need to know more information than that. I have been huge fan of hers since the film Fargo was released. I’m not going to write a review of Nomandland. There are plenty available. I will say I was completely mesmerised. It’s rare to see an American film that is so beautiful, has so little action, and is completely dependent on the craftsmanship of a superb actor. I highly recommend finding a way to see it.

But this is fantastic!

A bientôt,

Sara