COVID-19, cohousing, snowstorms, and last meals

ssv corona spam shelf

Going to the food store was depressing with not much on the shelves. I switched to shopping on line.

I quit going to the grocery store, mostly because it was so depressing to see all the customers there grabbing whatever was remaining on the shelves, as if the last can of Campbell’s soup will be their last meal.

I live in a cohousing community. In the pre-COVID-19 world, if someone is homebound, neighbors step forward and provide a coordinated care giving response.

That would include picking up groceries or medicine from the store, providing prepared meals, and stopping by to say “hello.”

With COVID-19 self-isolation, those tenets of community have pretty much ground to a halt. There are occasional meetings on web streaming services like Zoom, but the personal connections are nil.

ssv zoom happy hour

Community members get together for virtual happy hours, but it’s not the same as face-to-face gatherings.

There are some community members who view themselves as more bullet proof than others and are gadding about, much to the dismay of others who are much more vigilant and take the self-isolation mandates issued by the city of Boulder, Boulder County, and state of Colorado much more seriously.

There are exceptions from the mandate. Going to the food store is viewed as “essential.” I’ll be suggesting that all my fellow community members come up with a list of ingredients for their “last meals” and have the more cavalier neighbors go on food and beer runs over the next few weeks or months.

What’s your “last meal” – you know the one you’d scarf down if you’re on death row and your fateful number finally pops up.

These days, as my personal movements are constrained by the local and statewide COVID-19 “stay at home” mandates, I have accumulated the fixings for my last meals, just in case.

Around the time time I was recovering from my death-defying illness back in 2014, King Soopers started home delivery. I resurrected my account and have food delivered to the house now, which is handy.

Over recent years, I’ve been in and out of some harrowing situations and think about my last meal.

black ice tie siding
Snow and blowing snow; slick and slick in spots from the state line to Laramie.

One weather-related risk I, as well as most anyone who’s lived in Wyoming have experienced, is winter driving. While I no longer live in Wyoming, I spend quite a lot of time on the road traveling around mostly to other towns in Wyoming, and haven’t had any death-defying driving experiences nor any really close calls other than a couple 360 degree black ice spins and sliding off the highway after winter weather closed the road behind me.

On March 9, 2019, after attending the inaugural Boulder International Film Festival in Fort Collins, I took off for an uneventful Saturday drive through Fort Collins and north toward Wyoming for a community-building workshop presented by my friend and colleague Yana Ludwig at the Solidarity House Cooperative community in Laramie.

Before deciding to drive up to Fort Collins for the film festival, there was snow in southeast Wyoming. I was undecided if I wanted to make the trip, in the first place, but figured if I got on the road fairly early in the morning, there would be plenty of daylight if I had to turn back.

Do Mother and Father Nature plan for weather to drastically change at the Colorado / Wyoming state line?

The  the trek suddenly became very eventful at Virginia Dale.

Early-morning sunlight glistened off 30 miles of the black ice encrusting the highway. Blowing and drifting snow buffed the icy road surface to an opalescent sheen from the state line to Laramie.

I didn’t eat anything before I left thinking I would get something along the way. Based on these road conditions, that may not happen. “What if my ‘last meal’ was nothing,” I thought to myself as I passed jack-knifed trailers and cars stuck on the sides of the road. Some nutty driver in a pickup going way too fast was fish-tailing his way up my tail pipe, before he slid off the road behind me.

That in turn, reminded me about a drive I made from Riverton to Laramie in November 2015.

IMG_2750
Iggy John C’Hair explains the traditional Northern Arapaho bison uses to Wind River Reservation students.

I was on the Wind River Indian Reservation documenting a traditional bison ceremony, which was a big success. This was my third trip to the Wind River Indian Reservation in three weeks. It takes a while to come to consensus.It was a successful hunt and traditional ceremony. I was anxious to get back on the road, but didn’t think to check the road reports.

When I hit the road, it was a typical November fall day in 2015 when I was driving back from Riverton. The weather was pleasant with the skies a little overcast and the outside conditions requiring a light jacket.

As is my routine I made a stop in Rawlins for a gas and a pit stop. The clerk informed me that I-80 east and west were both closed due to snow and blowing snow.

What gives?

IMG_2696

I-80 was officially closed when I was driving back from Riverton recently. White knuckle driving is an art form in Wyoming.

It’s calm, sunny and warm in Rawlins. The options were to turn around and return to Riverton or backtrack and go way out the way to Casper and Interstate 25, which would likely be worse. I stuck it out in Rawlins.

It was early and I decided to get a room before the truck traffic started to back up.

I didn’t want to give an arm and a leg for a nuisance stay-over and took a room at the Econo-Lodge.

Even as Econo-Lodges go, this one was stark. It’s nestled up against the north side of a bluff where it didn’t get much afternoon sun.

Might as well make the best of it.

I cruised around downtown Rawlins. The streetscape has drastically improved over the years. Before Rawlins created its Downtown Development Authority in 1991, it was a declining business district. The year I drove through, Rawlins was awarded the coveted Great American Main Street Award.

alan i80 topo chico

I stopped at this Tex Mex place in downtown Rawlins. I was impressed with the offering of TopoChico agua mineral.

I prefer local joints to the chain restaurants and tried a chili relleno at a small Mexican place called Rose’s Lariat. The meal was pretty good especially when I could wash it down with Topo Chico fizzy water, which is my go-to agua mineral when I’m in Mexico.

I made my way back to the room, if that’s what you want to call it. The Econo-Lodge was more of an Econo-Fridge. The heater hadn’t been on for quite some time. I flicked it on. The heater parts banged and clicked and finally started began to whir and spit out heated air.

While the room warmed up, I’d always wanted to take a look at the “Frontier Prison.” It was the old state penitentiary that was abandoned in 1981, but now a tourist attraction. As a kid one of the parental threats when I was scolded was, “You don’t want to end up in Rawlins making license plates, do you?” The prison made money from inmates stamping out car tags.

I pulled up to the now historic sandstone block building. By this time, it was snowing again and the attraction was closed, probably because of limited “winter hours.” It was getting late in the afternoon and I headed back to the room for good.

Closed roads are a growth industry in Wyoming.

The Department of Transportation closes the interstate because there are no more parking spaces along the route to accommodate any more trucks, let alone passenger cars. All the cities lining the road sell out motel rooms from Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Wamsutter, Green River, Rock Springs to Evanston.

Pizza Hut advertises on the plastic room keys. Bored, I decided to order my “go to” Canadian bacon and mushroom thin crust with extra cheese. I was able to eat half of it.

Rawlins has pretty good cable. There’s not much to do here on a school night in the dead of a snow storm.

wreck on i80
Roads can be treacherous, even when there isn’t much snow.

I dozed off with the TV on and at 2am, the “REEEEE REEEEE REEEEE!” screeched out on the TV speaker. The roads were open. I would still wait to get out around 10am when the sun is higher.

After waking up, I gobbled the rest of the cold pizza and downed a warmed over cup of yesterday’s coffee before getting on the road.

It was a bumper-to-bumper parking lot from Wolcott Junction to Laramie. Traffic was stopped by an accident on the westbound lane. It took three hours to go 90 miles.

Wyoming winter driving takes practice – more like baptism by fire. If you can successfully drive in Wyoming during any small snowstorm, you can drive anywhere.

Riverton, like most other Wyoming communities, is centrally isolated from just about every place else when the weather gets nasty.

verns prime rib
The day I drove from Fort Collins, I stopped at Vern’s Place in LaPorte twice.

There aren’t any places to stop. In the event of road closures, there are lighted barriers like at a railroad crossing that prevent traffic from passing and drivers are required to turn back.

I grew up in Cheyenne and let me tell you, if you’ve never experienced a blizzard in southeast Wyoming, it’s quite the experience. During certain times of year, it’s so windy, there’s no Final Net hair spray on any store shelf.

I always felt lucky about living in Lander and now Boulder, Colorado along the Front Range foothills.

It’s so nice to wake up, look out the window and notice that the snow has fallen into neat little piles on tops of fence posts and not rudely strewn about in seven-foot-high drifts.

I’ve met several people in my travels who have been to Wyoming. Besides having visited Yellowstone Park, the second most frequent comment is, “Oh, yeah, one winter I was stranded in Cheyenne on my way to California.”

Hmmm.

eggs verns

My last breakfast consists of eggs over easy and bacon from anywhere. This trip to Laramie, I ate at Vern’s Place in LaPorte, twice.

Under most circumstances, I’m a calm and collected driver, but when the interstate suddenly disappears in a puff of white, the highway turns into the “Snow Chi Minh Trail.”

Luckily, I didn’t get stranded on the interstate this time. When that happened back in the days before cell phones and GPS, travel could get problematic. The seasoned drivers keep on plowing ahead since the weather will likely get worse before it gets better.

Back in those days, cassette tapes played music mixes through the stereo that soothed me while my car pounded through invisible snowdrifts and crept around 18-wheeler convoys near Elk Mountain.

White knuckles.

This time, the roads were open but barely navigable. Espying disgruntled travelers examining their jack-knifed u-Haul trailer and contorted semi-truck silhouettes in the highway median made me realize how out of control these drives can be.

pork noodles 20th street

My last lunch would be pork noodles. This bowl was at the 20th Street Cafe in Denver.

I couldn’t imagine being killed by a wild and crazy trucker or freezing to death knowing my last meal was cold pizza and day-old coffee.

My romanticism has me eating bacon, eggs over easy with a pancake for my last breakfast at the Luxury Diner in Cheyenne; Japanese-style pork noodles from the 20th Street Café in Denver as my last lunch; and a good steak from just about anywhere for my last dinner.

Black ice covered the roads right into Laramie. It was a relief to negotiate slushy roads in town.

By the time my meeting was over around 4pm, the sun had warmed the pavement and dissipated the ice.

Just another winter drive in Wyoming.

I pulled into the parking lot at Vern’s Place in LaPorte for a well-deserved prime rib dinner, hopefully, it won’t be my last.

Unless my neighbor agrees to pick up my COVID-19 King Soopers run, the order includes, bacon and eggs; I have T-Bone steaks in the freezer, and always a healthy supply of Japanese udon noodles. If I catch the COVID-19, I hope my reaction doesn’t include loss of smell and taste.

COVID-19 preparedness and a throwback to the Cold War

bomb shelter blue prints

This is what our bomb shelter looked like, particularly the separate wall that made for a vestibule.

Being self-isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic is a throwback to my childhood. In the cohousing community we’ve agreed upon how to support one another in the event of illness, lack of food, and when cleaning supplies are short.

The Cohousing Association of the US is sponsoring a series of webchats providing a way for communities to share their “secret sauces” about preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The community common house, and that of the cohousing community across the street would be good large-scale places for others in the neighborhood to shelter in place, if need be. More likely in the event of a bad storm.

As a course of our day-to-day cohousing lives, the community keeps stores of paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies on hand. When this coronavirus thing blows over, we’ll refine our civil defense protocol.

The mutual support that’s come about today is a lot like how things were back during the Cold War. My family and extended family were tight-knit enough to hunker down together while preparing for the impending nuclear holocaust.

We were the only household in the neighborhood to build a “fallout” shelter. In the 1964 Barry Goldwater favored the use atomic warfare to end the Vietnam war. I’m pretty sure my dad voted for Goldwater, which may be one reason behind our family civil defense project.

Similarly, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a high degree of international and national tension. but soon friends and foes worked together to slow the viral spread.

As for COVID-19, it’s pretty easy to build consensus around stomping out a bad virus, since there are no people involved, and, for example, no disagreements around having to determine who are the good nazis compared to the bad nazis.

Baby Boomers and older likely remember October 1963 when Russia installed nuclear missiles in Cuba in response, in part to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion to take back Cuba from Fidel Castro. There was a political stand off between President John Kennedy and Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev. Lots happened after that, JFK was assassinated, some conspiracy theorists think that was somehow connected to the Bay of Pigs, and the missiles of October.

While I was growing up, Cheyenne had the highest concentration of nuclear missiles in the country. Francis E. Warren Air Force Base was the command center for the Atlas missile program following World War II. The Department of Defense figured out that a better way to deploy nuclear weapons was to install lighter weight nuclear warheads on rockets. Missile installation was a booming industry in middle-of-nowhere places like southeast Wyoming.

Not that we were any safer, but my parents decided to build a bomb shelter in the basement of our home in the Cole Addition, one of the suburbs on the east side of Cheyenne. Suburban growth was a result of the missile boom.

I imagine the bomb shelter was for peace of mind more than anything.

One of the guys who worked for my dad at the Coke plant was Bill Fisher. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War and lived in the basement of a house that was started but not built. Part of the foundation was completed, but there were dirt tunnels where he kept stuff. I was never quite sure what to make of Bill living underground in a series of tunnels.

He was a hermit, maybe that was PTSD-related, but very smart about science. He worked around the plant sorting bottles, helped on the production line, but his main job was working on the vending machine refrigeration systems.

His place was located across the street from the Coke plant. When I went to work with my dad on Saturdays, I goofed around inside the plant, but eventually made my way over to Bill’s.

He subscribed to “Things of Science” which was an educational program launched by the nonprofit news syndicate Science Service in November 1940. The program consisted of a series of kits available by subscription and sent by mail monthly.

things of science box

My interest in science was reinforced by the Things of Science kits given to me by Bill Fisher.

They were packed in a small blue cardboard box about the size of a portable hard drive with a yellow address label. Included inside was a simple science project. I remember one being a crystal radio set, and another was a small motor run on electromagnetic current – battery not included.

Bill had the little boxes categorized by year and stacked up on a ledge in a niche carved into the dirt wall of his of literal “man cave.”

One Christmas, he bought me a subscription – the cost was $5.00 for the year. He was a quiet guy. Since he had no family, Bill was always invited over to our place for Thanksgiving. On Christmas, we always stopped by to see him and drop off a gift and some food on our way to the grandparents’ for Christmases 2 and 3.

Anyway, Bill had done research about bomb shelters and helped build ours. Bill was also a very meticulous mason. He taught me how to mix mortar, and lay blocks, which are life skills I’ve used on occasion over the years.

Our shelter was located in the northeast corner of the basement at the bottom of the stairs, which made for easy access. There was also a window well that led to the outside. Bill welded together an air shaft from steel pipe that led from inside the shelter and vented to the outside.

There was a set of surplus bunk beds, a pantry where canned goods and water were stored, along with plates and table ware. The fallout shelter temperature was always the same and was a good place to hang out during hot summer days. There wasn’t a place to cook, but there was a Sterno camping stove that could heat up a can of soup in a small space. There was a downstairs bathroom, but in the shelter the toilet was a galvanized steel port-a-potty with a sealed cover.

The threat of nuclear attack was real, but largely theoretical. If Cheyenne was targeted, a missile that hit in Torrington, would be considered, “close enough.” The main reason for the shelter was protection from “fallout,” the residual radioactive dust spewed into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast and eventually fall back to earth. The amount and spread of fallout is based on the size of the weapon, the altitude at which it is detonated, and prevailing winds. Since Cheyenne is so windy, locals though any fallout would be blown to Nebraska and Colorado.

In school, we watched short Civil Defense movies and film strips about how to prepare for a nuclear attack, “Do not look at the fireball,” we were warned. There were air raid drills similar to fire drills, except we sheltered in place. One exercise was to dive under our desks and cover our heads with our hands or a pulled over garment.

We also practiced exiting the classroom and going down into the school boiler room that was manned by the custodian, Mr. Costello.

maris topps

I collected cards like this Roger Maris from the backs of a Post cereal boxes. This particular one was a “giveaway” from a LIFE magazine ad.

During the summer time, I liked to go to the grocery store with my mom. Not that I like shopping, I stood in the cereal aisle looking at the backs of all the Post cereal boxes that had panels of baseball cards looking for the ones that had the most New York Yankees players – particularly Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

After returning home from the store, one of my jobs was to rotate the bomb shelter canned goods out and replace them with the new stock. The cans were dated using a magic marker. I’m still a food hoarder based on those days. Rather than buying one can of Beeferoni, I get four.

My dad and I spent Saturdays making the rounds at the local war surplus , Goodwill, and Salvation Army stores looking for items that would make living in the bomb shelter with some of the creature comforts, like extra can openers, and cooking utensils. That’s a habit a learned from my dad. I don’t have one tool kit, I have five – one in the car, house, garage, and two in my office – one dedicated to the camera equipment.

One item was a manual air circulator. I don’t think that thing was ever hooked up.

After Khrushchev backed down to JFK and the nuclear weapons were removed from Cuba, tensions decreased, even though there continued to be an escalation in the arms race between the United States and Russia. While the threat of nuclear war was lessened, everyone was more aware and vigilant as a result of preparing for an unforeseen war.

At my cohousing community, early on, there were some who didn’t think the COVID-19 thing was any big deal. They attended the community dinners with hubris. There are others who have self-isolated since the beginning.

Since then the community approved a set of guidelines concerning use of the common house. Most of my neighbors have come around, don’t go out much, and observe social distancing when talking to neighbors. If the governor orders Coloradoans to stay home, our cohousing community has been observing much of how that’s being handled in California. Since we’re all over 60 here and a “vulnerable” demographic, we may get more flexibility. I saw that Safeway now offers “senior hours” from 7am to 9am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Today, we’re celebrating one neighbor’s 80th birthday outdoors in the courtyard. Hopefully, the prevailing winds will keep any airborne COVID-19 away from the party. Even if they don’t, I have peace of mind knowing that there is a stash of toilet paper in the common house basement.

I’ll be at the birthday party in spirit.

Boulder Co-living – Nuts and Bolts

ssv coho alan boulder

The burning souls organize gatherings for the future residents to get together and talk about the nature of their community.

What are the general steps to building the Boulder Co-living community? There will be people who get involved with various levels of interest ranging from the “Burning soul” advocates to the passively interested who sit back and watch how the project comes together. Nonetheless, there are three basic steps:

Feasibility study

  • Discuss and agree upon community values and perhaps, a higher purpose, which would fill the need to walk their community values talk while participating in service projects;
  • Whether you’re 30 or 80 people, come up with a name and “elevator speech” identifying the community. Referring to yourselves as a “bunch of housemates” doesn’t tell about your community story;
  • Community cohesiveness could be built around a higher purpose of community service that binds a community together.
  • Once you kick the can down the road a few blocks, check your state laws about homeowner association regulations. You will find they set up HOAs that do not mirror co-living very well – lots of centralized power and control, lots of voting.

Develop budgets

  • There likely will be common expenses that relate to community activities, coordinating transportation, common meals, intra-community communication and a fee structure to pay for all or part.
  • Community values and mission are implemented through the budget by teams – overall steering team equivalent to a board of directors, social events, managing building and grounds, proceed and governance, finances and legal matters,
  • The entire community approves by consensus the budget or any action for that matter, and the steering team ratifies the action also by consensus.

Design and Construction

  • If you’re sharing a big house, there will be design issues about designating common spaces and storage. Some design and construction in retrofits may be necessary if you’re in an existing condo community or apartment building is adapted. This may include renovating an existing dwelling unit into a common space with a guest room and common kitchen which was the case at Boulder Creek cohousing in Colorado;
  • Identify resident needs, how the “site” functions – if it is in an existing physical development like a condo association, apartment complex, or households dispersed within a given boundary;
  • Determine what are considered “common spaces” which may not be literally common, but function in common. These may be in private homes for shared meals and meetings, civic spaces, churches, libraries

Hoarding comfort food – NO; Hoarding baseball cards – YES

I went to the store and picked up some of my favorite comfort foods.

I’m a hoarder from way back. Anyone who collects stuff is a hoarders, but just more organized about it. Baseball cards, political campaign buttons, but certainly not food, even during times of crisis like the current COVID-19 sequestration.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Maybe we should enjoy life as much as possible, because it will be over soon. This saying is based on verses from the biblical books of Ecclesiastes and Isaiah.

I imagine this is one reason why some people are in a panic and are hoarding toilet paper and Lysol – as a side note, I just ordered clorox pellets on Amazon for those of you who are into making DIY disinfectant.

I went to the food store yesterday, mostly to just look around and inventory what wasn’t there. I’m not really a very creative shopper and tend to buy the same things, plus, the random emergency food I have in the pantry isn’t exactly what you’d think a Boulder person would buy, as such, I haven’t been in a panic when I go to the store these days.

At Safeway, there haven’t been any lines. My next door neighbor said there are lines at Whole Foods. My upstairs neighbor said there were long lines at Costco.

My anecdotal cultural guess based only on stereotypes of Boulderites? Whole Food shoppers only buy for the day or the next day, and aren’t in the habit of buying processed foods. The last time I was in the big Whole Foods was a few years ago when an exchange student studying sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica wanted a “tour” so I showed him around. The last time I was in Costco I had to buy a six pack of Colgate shaving lather. I think I still have a few cans left.

I tend not to use a grocery cart, either.  When I do, it gets filled up with stuff I didn’t really need. Generally, I shop with a bag, plus, I don’t worry about contracting an infectious disease from the cart handle.

These days, the shelves are picked over pretty well, but the extra emergency items I like to keep in the pantry don’t seem to be in short supply.

I picked up a pack of cherry Pop Tarts. I heard that when there’s a hurricane, Pop Tarts are the first to go when people are holing up. Not last night in Boulder – all the Pop Tarts I wanted were there staring at me from the shelf. Originally, they were plain and unfrosted and scored to eat them on the diagonal when broken in half. I didn’t know that the packaging technology was originally used to wrap up the moist dog food Gainsburgers.

churros

Churros are deep fried snacks from Mexico made from corn meal/flour.

As for Cheetos, I didn’t become a fan until I tried the crunchy ones. My grandparents were fans of the puffed Cheetos, but I didn’t care for them. I lived off and on in Mexico for six years in the 1990s and learned about churros that are made out of corn flour and deep fried. I always thought that cheetos were cultural misappropriation of churros.

Then there’s Velveeta processed American cheese. Lucerne, the grocery store brand, is three dollars cheaper, so I opted for that. Since I was a kid, I’ve always liked Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread dunkable in any Campbell’s Soup, but tomato is preferable.

That’s also a throwback to my Hastings College days. The food service called SAGA (A GAS spelled backward) served chili or tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, but I can’t remember which, but maybe Saturday lunch.

Velveeta Box

Velveeta was sold in wooden boxes. I imagine you took it back for refills.

I don’t know the manufacturing process, but Velveeta is kept at room temperature until it is opened. Velveeta was invented in 1918 and later sold to Kraft Foods in 1927. It was the first cheese product to obtain the American Medical Association seal of approval in the 1930s.

Despite it looking like cheese, the FDA classified it as quasi-cheese, “cheese spread” because it’s made with milk. In 2002, Velveeta was classified as “cheese product” because it didn’t have any actual cheese.

Nonetheless, there’s as much “cheese product” on the shelves as you’d care to buy.

kramer beeferino

Kramer feeding his horse Rusty Beeferino.

Another one of my comfort food staples is Beefaroni. The Chef BoyArDee canned version of macaroni spaghetti came on the market in the mid-1960s, “Hooray, for Beeferoni!” was the TV ad pitch phrase. A chef in New York City named Hector Boiardi founded the company because there was high demand for his marinara sauce that he sold in milk bottles.

You may recall a Seinfeld episode when Kramer is driving a Central Park horse and carriage, then feeds the steed a big can of Beeferino with unsettling results. Last night, there wasn’t one can of Beeferoni, regular or mini ravioli. My thought, frantic shoppers grabbed anything with no intention of actually eating it. The beeferoni will end up in the next food drive basket.

fb spam sushi

SPAM sushi

The same holds true for SPAM, I’d be surprised if anyone in Boulder bought that reconstituted pork product other than out of desperation. It was always a staple around the house when I was young, SPAM was a hold-over from World War II in Hawaii.

My dad liked SPAM and eggs. The Village Cafe on Folsom and Arapahoe in Boulder offers SPAM as a meat option, as does the 20th Street Cafe in LoDo Denver. That place is owned by a Sansei Japanese and his family. I got this can out to make some SPAM sushi.

mantle sig decalI still don’t know what to make of this coronavirus thing. I’m thinking people are hoarding food and dry goods thinking, “Well, if it’s nothing, at least I have a stockpile of toilet paper and lysol to last me until the 22nd century.” The talking heads and politicians make no mention of the 2009 swine flu pandemic that infected a billion people and killed 500,000 around the world. That all happened a year after the international financial system crashed.

I’m pretty sure that it being an election year, adds to the panic with an incumbent president trying to make hay; cable tv channels wanting to up their ratings and riding the coronavirus pandemic and election waves.

Maybe I should dump some of my baseball cards. I doubt Safeway will accept my signed Mickey Mantle card in exchange for a case of Cheetos, at least in the near future.

 

Cohousing is a vaccine against COVID-19 isolation, loneliness

ssv corona lindy

RN Lindy Cook gives a community orientation about the corona virus at an early meeting when the pandemic was still in its infancy.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned emergency to bring a community of any size together, from meeting your neighbor for the first time as a result of a power outage during a huge snowstorm to quickly spreading diseases like the coronavirus.

Cohousing communities and their residents are well equipped to deal with crisis situations, such as implementing current COVID-19 / Coronavirus prevention measures without resorting to martial law.

Internationally, nationally, and locally, hyper-vigilance will create political heroes, increase ratings on cable TV talking heads shows, sell more toilet paper – but in the long run, save lives, and bridge social and cultural divides.

We cohousers are predisposed to be hedges against isolation through collaboration, sharing of time and resources, and keeping track of one another. We’re big on meetings and getting together to make decisions about stuff.

Cohousing Association of the U.S. held a national online webchat about what other communities are doing around the country to respond to COVID-19. There is an online series that continues. Recordings will be available for those unable to participate live.

At my place, we have several neighbors self-isolating because of actual illness, having returned from travel or just being cautious. That hasn’t deterred the community from getting together.

ssv corona zoom

A virtual community meeting was held on the zoom.us platform for residents to talk about how to limit outside use of the Common House. All households were represented.

My community has convened a series of Zoom.us online conversations and reached consensus together on a set of common sense guidelines around how to use the community common house during lockdown.

Over the past few weeks, our resident opinions were all over the spectrum from “This is a hoax” to “I’m not worried” to “Put on the haz-mat suits.”

Myself? I’m more of a “Business as usual” guy, as far as my being “freaked out” quotient goes. I’ve been catching up on pandemic-related movies and TV shows. Last night “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo was on Prime Video.

On Netflix, I’m watching a TV series called “Containment” about what happens among frustrated people during a viral outbreak in a quarantine area where there are too many “rats in a cage.” Next are the classic “Andromeda Strain” and “Contagion” with Gwyneth Paltrow. There’s a good one called “Flu” from Korea, but it’s subtitled – I’ll watch that when I can concentrate more.

But in the cohousing community, my behavior is to observe the the most important lowest common denominator, which is hyper-vigilance.

Silver Sage Village COVID-19 guidelines  generally prohibit outsiders from entering the common house, and itinerant use by community members.

During normal times, the building is seldom frequented except for a few people using the laundry, residents checking the mail, getting items from the storage room, the new social distancing criterium isn’t much of an inconvenience. The mailman is asked to wipe the mail boxes.

Most Baby Boomers, including myself, were around during the 1950s and 1960s toward the end of the polio pandemic, and the swine flu that spread in 2009, which coincided with the financial system collapse.

My family provided support when the oral polio vaccines came out. In my grade school one kid recovered from polio and wore a leg brace ala Forrest Gump. He was bullied because he also wore a hearing aid – back then, they were very conspicuous, with earphones wired to a receiver the size of a Band-Aid box.

glass syringe

I remember my grandfather’s insulin syringe as looking similar to this Dr. Frankenstein item.

Jonas Salk developed the first vaccine that was administered by injection. Getting jabbed with what seemed to be a needle the size of a railroad spike was my first shot.I don’t remember being freaked out about it.

Living on top of others is not new to me. One time, my grandfather, who had diabetes stayed with us. My grandmother was unable to care for him at the time since she was running the family business, the Highway Cafe.

I had to give up my bedroom, but went in to see him every morning because I was curious about the insulin shots he administered to himself. He let me poke him with the big syringe. It was a glass barrel connected to a stainless steel contraption. I don’t know how sterile it could be, since it was only wiped off by a cloth and some alcohol.

Anyway, I didn’t have a fear of needles, still don’t.

Back in the 1960s, the vaccine development competition was fierce. In the case of polio, Albert Sabin won the oral vaccine contest. Polio vaccines were risky in that some people who were vaccinated contracted polio, but that risk was outweighed by the number of cases prevented.

I remember a big family social event was gathering at my grandparents house on 8th Street in the Southside of Cheyenne. We walked over to the fire station and stood in line with all the other neighbors to get a sugar cube with pink fluid dropped onto it. Seems like there were boosters necessary, but the most memorable was the first one.

ssv corona spam shelf

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, there wasn’t a run on food like now during the COVID-19 scare, but there were a billion cases and 500,000 deaths in 2009.

What about the swine flu pandemic from 2009? That was a pretty big deal. Obama had a lot on his plate back then keeping the auto industry and banks stable. He eventually declared swine flu a national emergency. I had to look it up to refresh my memory.

I don’t remember anything about self-isolating, wiping doorknobs with Clorox, social distancing or anything like what’s happening now – but 500,000 people died and a billion were sick around the world. Turned out, saving the world economy was more important than saving people.

There were warnings about the swine flu contagion, but no mass closures of schools or businesses, nor were employees self-isolating in mass numbers.

The coronavirus outbreak could be a lot like the swine flu and the crash of 2009. Getting ahead of the disease and propping up the economy is the best we can hope to minimize disruptions.

Cohousers have the wherewithal to fast track hyper-vigilant responses to the control the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. government getting out in front with an economic stimulus package that includes couple Andrew Yang-esque Uniform Basic Income payments of $1,000 to most people, will be a short-term shot in the arm.

I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet – I’m a hoarder from way back. I’m eating up all my emergency food, though. Next crisis, I’ll stock up on my least favorite snacks.
conrad dobler si cover
I mentioned at the start about meeting my neighbor during a snowstorm. It was when I moved to Laramie for graduate school in 1976 or so and living at my parent’s townhouse.

There was a power outage and I saw my neighbor out on the walk. We were both checking out the situation – snow drifted to the side of the house and no power.

Turned out, he was a University of Wyoming alumnus and a former linebacker for the Pokes.

He and his family lived in Laramie during the off season when he wasn’t on the field playing for the St. Louis football Cardinals – it was none other than Conrad Dobler, pro-football’s “Dirtiest Player.”

Conrad turned out to be a pretty nice guy, and if you do anything over the next few weeks, get to know your neighbors, even if it’s from six feet away. Your lives may one day depend on your friendships.

Boulder Co-living – Who’s behind the curtain?

wonderland logo

The Boulder Co-Living community project people behind the curtain are three cohousing neighbors who have been active in the  cohousing, housing and affordable housing worlds.

Wonderland Hill Development Corporation (WHDC) – Jim Leach is a professional engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the design, construction, and development of sustainable housing, cohousing, planned neighborhoods, and urban infill development. Throughout his career, Jim has led the industry in creating green building strategies and community-based housing that combine high-quality design with maximum value.

He lives in Silver Sage Village cohousing.

WHDC is the pioneer in cohousing development having completed 22 projects since 1993. Projects include the La Querencia in Fresno California and the Nevada City project in Nevada City, California. In Boulder, WHDC developed Silver Sage Village, Wild Sage Cohousing, Nyland Cohousing, Nomad Cohousing, and Washington Village.

Jim has been a spokesperson for the solar energy movement since the early 1980s and was active in the writing and review of the Boulder Energy Code. In 1997, Jim was inducted into the “Built Green Hall of Fame” by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Denver.

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Jim Leach

His award-winning neighborhoods have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Association of Home Builders, National Council of the Housing Industry, Urban Land Institute, and The Congress of New Urbanism.

Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in construction engineering from Stanford University.

caddis logo verticalCaddis Collaborative – Bryan Bowen: has been a practicing architect since 1995, dedicated to the design of neighborhoods and eco-buildings, all with the vision of making baby steps toward a sustainable permaculture planet. He also lives in Wild Sage Cohousing.

The Caddis niche is cohousing. Caddis has been designing successful cohousing communities, both nationally and internationally, for almost two decades, including Silver Sage Village, and Wild Sage Cohousing – both in Boulder; Germantown Commons in Nashville; Memel Cohousing in South Africa.

Caddis Collaborative is a leader in sustainable design, zero net energy homes, and livable communities, and applies attention, sophisticated design, and creative solutions to every project. In addition to their skills in architecture, their expertise in grassroots community engagement is essential for large-scale projects, especially multifamily housing and institutional projects.

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Bryan Bowen

Caddis Collaborative, reflects their core values in their work, striving to create sustainable communities through sustainable building practices. Not only do they have the capacity to ensure a project’s success, but also have the talent and expertise to do it elegantly and artfully. If it’s worth building, it’s worth doing it well.

Caddis expertise and signature style of listening and engagement to play midwife to emerging communities. his work includes single-family homes, eco-retrofits, multifamily housing, mixed-use projects, community planning, and commercial work.

frogEnvironmental and Cultural Organization Systems (ECOS) –  Alan O’Hashi has been saving the world through his sole proprietorship since 1992.  He is no stranger to complicated multi-disciplinary projects. He has past lives that include affordable housing development, including community outreach and resident recruitment.

Alan lives in Silver Sage Village cohousing. He will be collaborating with his neighbor, Jim Leach, and Wonderland Hills Development in the community building aspect of the Boulder Co-Living community.

He was the first Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley based in Longmont where he worked in the community to establish collaborations to assist with housing construction. He developed a 2-acre HFH subdivision, including land acquisition, public improvement funding, processing subdivision through the city of Longmont planning department and city council.

In Wyoming, he served as the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Community and Economic Development Director and managed tribal housing rehab program. Prior to that he was staff to the Lander Housing Authority when it developed the Poposia Senior Housing Project. He was the city project administrator for the Smith Street Passive Solar Housing Project – coordinated joint effort among the state of Wyoming, Fremont County School District #1, city of Lander, private lending institutions.

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Alan O’Hashi

He coordinated outreach and selection of 20 eligible households to participate, and arranged for their USDA mortgage loan guarantees. While working for the city of Gillette, Wyoming, he coordinated the HUD CDBG citizen participation process for a Section 8 apartment building site development.

Alan is active with the Cohousing Association of the U.S. and served as a member of the city of Boulder Planning Board; city of Boulder Human Relations Commission; city of Boulder Affordable Housing Working Group.