My cobbler opened this week, a good surprise, causing me to think, mangling Shelley, “if my cobbler comes can my flower lady be far behind.” Yesterday she was open. I bought two stems of tightly budded lilies and, as there were no lilies of the valley, too late in the season for them, three big mottled pink balls of peony buds. My flower lady is thinner, worn, her dark eyes large in her long face. The tension of this time has marked her. When she spoke of the future it was not with optimism but concern about the recurrence of the virus. But I am so grateful to have her back.
The lilies have been reluctant to open but the peonies are ruffling out like a closet of fin de siècle dresses in a Parisian closet. They even have a slight scent. When I was a child, peonies had a wonderful perfume but they have been improved until they are odorless.
My other memory around peonies is that they attracted ants and Japanese beetles. I don’t think the ants are harmful but the beetles, which have the most gorgeous, metallic, green and gold backs, munched right through the buds, destroying any possibility of bloom. My insomniac Aunt Liz used to drift out on summer evenings with a jar of kerosene to collect and drown them. She did this in her white night gown, a horticulturally appreciative ghost, a wisp of misty white in the gloam of the garden.
An aside. If you have never read about the Japanese beetle man in Gerald Durrell’s MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS you have missed a fine portrait. He is a hunchbacked peddler on Corfu who ties thread around the beetles and attaches them to his hat. He sells them to children on his route or at fairs since if you whirl them about they make a satisfying buzzing sound as they circle over your head.
Further gratitude. The café on the corner opened earlier this week. I had my first café con leche in over two months under the trees in the minute square containing the monument to Margarita Xirgu. When I make coffee at home I drink it black. The café con leche followed a lunch of callos with chickpeas and spinach salad. What heaven to eat what someone else has cooked. How superb to not have to wash up. The tables were properly separated and we smiled shyly at each other across the open spaces.
As if to prove that nature is in tune with us, opening up as well, the gulls brought their two fluffy babies up to the roof ridge of the hospital. There seems to be an equal amount of care from the parents, the one with the broken leg doing both guard duty and food gathering. She/he stands on top of a little metal chimney and screams at any with the audacity to come near or stands, meditatively contemplating the webs of her feet, until she regurgitates while the babies dance frantically about her squeaking in my imagination, “Throw up, Mommy, throw up. Hurry up. Throw up. I’m starving. Hurry.”
But I don’t see them today. I hope everything is all right.
Before my flower lady opened I walked up to Valencia to see if the stores and the flower market there were open. I like just inhaling the their wet earth and greenery odor. But they were closed, sealed tight. However, it did give me an opportunity to admire the stained glass in windows on Valencia in that neighborhood, appropriately of flowers, iris I believe, which is exceptionally beautiful.
I did find a florist shop open near my cat food store on Aragó but the cat food was so heavy I was unwilling to add to my load. Also they didn’t have lilies. I am glad I was faithful.
Some stores seem to be open fitfully; the Chinese ones on Balmes, which bless them, are not at all nationalistic but have Thai, Indian, Indonesian ingredients, fresh as well as packets, boxes and cans. One, the smaller, has used the pandemic to do a thorough housecleaning, so thorough it was hard to find things. But I can never tell when I come by if I will find them open or closed. The pair form a sort of tiny Chinatown.
The disturbing event of the week was an email from a friend in Hong Kong that included a video of women demonstrating the apparent dangers of hand sanitizer as an inflammable liquid. My first thought was, have I heard of any cases of people being burned when cooking after using sanitizer? Or have there been reports of smokers with burned hands from lighting up after using hand sanitizer? Surely this would be all over the TV news as well as in newspaper headlines.
My friend had not fact checked the video, so I did. What I found was that the only danger from sanitizer being inflammable is if a bottle is in direct sunlight perhaps in your car or in an airplane. If you leave a bottle on your dashboard in direct sun your car will not explode but you may have a gooey melt down of bottle and plastic dash.
Much more disturbing was to find that this video is available in a number of languages with women whose faces are appropriate to the language. The one my friend sent me features women with Chinese faces. Another in Spanish features “Spanish looking women”. In other words this video is being calculated to a linguistic audience. It is also telling that the women are not pretty, indeed a bit homely, as that makes the video appear more authentic, not like an commercial.
It is not an innocent video. It’s intent is to do harm by causing people to distrust and stop using hand sanitizer. It is a malignant video. I am nonplused by the desire to do this kind of gratuitous damage. I reminds me of the incident in the U.S. years back when strychnine, or was it cyanide, was introduced into Tylenol pills causing a small number of people to die horribly. The perpetrator was never found.
What is further alarming is how easily people accept these “informative” videos. My Internet attitude is, everything is suspect until proved innocent.
A young man I know, not the brightest button in the box, asked me this past week if I thought the Corona-virus came from a laboratory in China. I was horrified that a man in Spain would have “contracted” the Trump lie. I told him I did not think it came from a Chinese laboratory but was a relative of the SARS virus, which never made it to the West.
Then there are those people burning cell towers in England and America because they think Covid is being transmitted by 5G technology. Some of us, and I suppose this will always be true, are mentally, emotionally and informationally in the 12th century. We might get a few Baptist preachers to rant at people that the virus is their fault; God is punishing them for their sins and issue them whips with which to lash themselves. The reference here is to a scene in THE SEVENTH SEAL.
I don’t want to end on this note. I had lunch again today at Mendi’s at an outside table from which I watched the cat ladies cleaning up the cat park while a small, white Scottie-type dog ran along the fence peering in at the cats with intense excitement and an elderly man with his mask covering his chin fed the pigeons. A gull came down to see what the pigeons were getting—the pigeons gave him backed off; the males even stopped chasing the females—ate a few large chunks of bread, it looked uncomfortable as it went down his throat, before deciding it was “pigeon food” and leaving.