Day 32 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

What is to be done when everyone in your world decides they need to “help” you see the light? Who knew the people you care so much about could be so dang irritating!

Thursday, April 16, 2020 – Live to Blog from Delirium

The Confrontation


I was working peacefully in my office early this morning when I heard someone make one of those sounds you know is supposed to get your attention even though they try to make it sound like they aren’t trying to get you attention. It usually sounds like a little cough or a fake clearing of the throat. Writers typically portray it as “Ahem!”

So I turned around and they were standing in doorway to my office: Bert (Left), Ernie (Right), Beto, Enrique, and Matt Damon. Bert, always the mouthy one, started it off:

  • Bert (ever so rudely): Hey, bonehead, we need to talk.
  • Me: What? Who needs to talk?
  • Ernie: We do…all of us!
  • Beto and Enrique (together): Si! Nosotros nececitamos hablar!
  • Matt Damon: Definitely! What they said!
  • Me (puzzled): Why? What’s going on? (Then to Matt Damon) And, what are you doing here, Matt Damon?
  • Matt Damon: I’m not Matt Damon. I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum. I only look like Matt Damon because you think you look like Matt Damon.

Okay, as an aside, Matt Damon did have a point. I sometimes introduce myself as Matt Damon because Matt Damon played a character in The Informant who was a dead ringer for me in the 1980’s, which was also the time period of the movie. See for yourself.

Not wanting to make too much of the similarity, I have carefully clarified to people, when they seem a bit taken back by my introduction as Matt Damon, that I can pass myself off as Matt Damon now because, when he is my current age (almost 66), he will look like me anyway. Seems logical, right?

Is it Tom or Matt? Ha! Gottcha! Was I right?
  • Me: Well, I do look like you, Matt, not right now…but when you are older…but, WAIT, what? You said you’re Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum? Why do you look like Matt Damon?
  • Matt/Winthrop: First, because I’m a handsome investigative news reporter. Second, because this is how you imagine me.
  • Me: Okay, that makes sense. Now, what’s this all about?
  • Ernie: Look, bonehead, we’re all getting fed up with how you are treating us.
  • Bert: Yeah, bonehead, we’re fed up. We don’t like it!
  • Me: What do you mean? What don’t you like?
  • Bert: What about us? Here we are hanging out with you and we don’t have any PPE. You’re an old coot. How do we know you aren’t infecting us?
  • Enrique: Si, bonehead! Lo que da?
  • Matt/Winthrop: What he said! We are essential employees and we deserve the PPE!
  • Me: First of all, you are not employees. You are volunteers.
  • Bert: What! We are not, bonehead! You think we are, but wait till you hear from our lawyers…and our union!
  • Me: You have a union?!? Oh, come on! You do not!
  • Beto: Si! Tenemos!
  • Ernie: Look, bucko bonehead, you are messing with the wrong people here!
  • Me: You know, this is ridiculous and you are ridiculous…well, maybe not Matt Damon…but the rest of you are. I’m going to get Clemencia to get you out of my office. (Calling out.) Clemencia! Clemencia! Clemencia!

Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my left side.

  • Me: Ow! What’s that for? What are you doing?
  • Clemencia: Tom, wake up! Roll over. You’re yelling in your sleep…and snoring.
  • Me: Well, I’m sorry about that but, geez, that hurt. I was just having a nightmare and I needed your help.
  • Clemencia (softly and sympathetically): Mi cielo, lo siento. I’m so sorry. What was your nightmare about?

So I told her everything, except that Bert and Ernie were unwashed socks. I also didn’t mention that Winthrop was a dead ringer for Matt Damon and me (in the 1980s). She listened patiently and quietly to my story. Looking lovingly into my eyes she said, “Que gueva!” and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

The alarm was going to go off in 10 minutes anyway, so I got up. Besides, I didn’t want to have to deal with those gueva and their union reps.

The Adventures of Chickman

We need a hero today and I can’t think of anyone better than Chickenman – who was a radio superhero to me as a teenager. Chickenman had the super powers of distraction. He was born in the midst of the Vietnam War and was featured on stations across the country and in Vietnam on Armed Forces Radio. Chickenman always made me laugh, or at least smile. Today we need more smiles and less stupidity…unless it is intentional stupidity (like Chickenman) and it makes us smile.

Chickenman is Benton Harbor, mild mannered shoe salesman in a downtown Midland City. Please enjoy Episode 1, the 1 minute 33 second origin story of Chickenman and how he got his unique look and name.

Gotta Dance!

Here’s a video of a New Orleans performer I got to see live in the Fall before Katrina took it’s toll on the city. Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots. (Sunpie is the guy on the accordion.) I was attending a conference in the city and my friend (and CDC Project Officer) Kim Nolte was there. She had, if I remember the story correctly, been in college with Sunpie. She learned that his band was playing not far from the conference hotel. She convinced me and few other folks to go with her to see him perform and try some zydeco dancing. It was much fun and I fell in love with Sunpie’s music. It’s hard to keep your feet from moving when you hear this…as the little guy in the yellow shirt learned! Enjoy because sometimes we just gotta dance!

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep smiling and dancing…even when you don’t feel like it!


Day 29 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Oh, nuts! Dog walking confusion and controversy again! Even Bert (Left) and Ernie (Right) didn’t quite get it. But they stuck with me (or maybe that’s to me) and we did our duty.

Monday, April 13, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Thunderstorm Warning

The Monday Morning Dog Walking Controversy

Keeping Social Separation

We awakened this morning to thunderstorms and tornado watches throughout the day. At 4:00 AM we had a very heavy rain that awakened me. I went to the deck to check on Bert and Ernie and to make sure the wind was not blowing them about too hard (they were fine, by the way). At 6:00 AM, when the alarm went off, it was still raining very steadily. Clemencia looked out the window and started our conversation.

  • Clemencia: Are you going to take the Girls out in the rain or will you wait to see if it stops?
  • Me: I don’t think it is supposed to stop all day so I better just…HEY, wait a minute! It’s your job to take the Girls out! Remember?
  • Clemencia: Yes, but it’s Monday.
  • Me: Yeah, it’s Monday. So?
  • Clemencia: So you take the Girls out on Monday mornings.
  • Me: What? Since when? We just decided you were walking the dogs in the morning so I could get right to work.
  • Clemencia: That’s right, mi cielo. We did. And we decided you’d take the Girls out on Mondays.
  • Me: Oh, sure! Only the Mondays when it is raining and storming, right?
  • Clemencia: No. Every Monday. Including this one.
  • Me: What? Why?
  • Clemencia: Because I start my first online Spanish class on Mondays at 9:00 AM. We talked about it. You agreed to take them out on Monday mornings so I wouldn’t feel so rushed to get prepared.
  • Me: No, that’s not correct, mi amor. I’m so sorry. But remember you were annoyed that I took them out once last week and you insisted it was your job…each day…every day…rain or shine.
  • Clemencia: That’s correct, mi corazon. Except for Mondays. We talked about it and we agreed.
  • Me: I don’t agree and I don’t agree that we talked about it.
  • Clemencia (smiling sweetly): Yes we did. It is right here…in my calendar.

As I stood in the pouring rain waiting for the Girls to do their doodies I began to think about how I could get a look at that calendar. I hate that calendar!

Pardon the Interruption for…

“Truth Be Told” with Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum, public radio’s voice of integrity. This is a new segment in Tom’s blog starring me, Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum. It appears only when needed because Tom is being less than honest. “Truth Be Told” is dedicated to correcting the record whenever Tom feels it is in his best interest to stretch the truth a bit in his stories, especially where Clemencia is involved. Remember, there is always the story as he tells it and the story as it really is. “Truth Be Told” is my eyewitness account of the conversations he has with Clemencia.

In this case, he agreed, last week when they discussed it, to not only take the Girls out for a walk each and every Monday morning but any time it was raining, snowing, blowing, or below 40 degrees fahrenheit because Clemencia is a “tropical girl” who, after nearly 35 years in the Northern Hemisphere, is still not used to cold temperatures.

That’s the truth…and you can count on it because you can count on me, Winthrop Dijkstra Baum. I’m now returning you to Tom’s drivel.

Actual Humor

I’ve been doing this blog series as a diversion for myself and for anyone else who wants to ride along. My recipe is simple.

  • 1/4 Cup Attempted Humor
  • 1/4 Cup Personal Stories (at least inspired by true events)
  • 1/4 Cup Truth (see above)
  • 1/4 Cup Rant (though I try to make them coherent and rational)

All of this adds up to a whole cup of drivel, of course. But that’s the way it is today in the time of COVID-19. It is the drivel that sometimes helps us get through.

Some folks…but not me…have been at home long enough that they are beginning to go a bit off the rails.

This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I felt a bit sorry for her but went back into our house, told our dogs anyway…and we had a good laugh.

About three years ago I saw a sketch on Saturday Night Live that made me laugh until I cried. I know…that is not often the case with SNL sketches, right? It may also be because, as I get older, this one had a certain ring of truth about it and so the only choice was to laugh or cry.

Back to Reality…

Used by Permission – Copyright 2020 Dave and Political

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep pressing for truth.


Day 13 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Saturday, March 28, 2020 Live to Blog from Under an Umbrella

Dear Winthrop,

I learned last week that Tom places Bert (left) and Ernie (right) on the deck overnight to give them a rest and to hide them from Clemencia. However, last night it rained and curious minds wonder: What happens to Bert & Ernie when it rains and are in their mumble spot on the deck? Thank you!

Curious Mind

Dear Curious,

Winthrop here. Thank you for asking this important question. Frankly, I have not been pleased with Tom’s treatment of Bert (left) & Ernie (right) given their amazing, sacrificial service to him. In fact, I’ve been inclined to report him to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Socks, better known as the ASPCS…

Stop it, STOP IT, STOP IT! This is NOT your blog, Winthrop, and nobody wants to hear from you. Just…just…just SHUT UP!

(Deep sigh.) My sincere apologies, friends. I don’t know what Winthrop’s deal is. Now he’s opening my blog app and reading comments. In fact, I did receive that question as a comment. So, here’s the real answer…

Dear Curious,

Example of Using Clothespins to respectfully, kindly, and gently hang socks. (Representation only, not actually Bert & Ernie.)

Thank you for reading and for asking about Bert (left) and Ernie (right). They mumbled very excitedly, almost audibly, when I read your question to them. Our deck is on the forth floor of our building but it is a covered deck. Hence, rain and snow do not fall directly on them overnight. To make sure a breeze does not carry them off the deck, I take great care to use clothes pins to carefully and comfortably secure them to the back of an Adirondack chair. To ensure they can enjoy conversation with one another throughout the night, I make sure they are hung no more than about 6 to 8 inches apart. Hence, they can mumble in a whisper and reduce their risk of discovery, especially after such a close call earlier this week.

Each night I intently watch both Tom Tasselmyer (WBAL TV 11, Baltimore, Chief Meteorologist) and Topper Shutt (WUSA TV 9, Washington, Chief Meteorologist) to get the weather forecast to the North and to the South of us. (We live exactly 22 miles from either downtown Washington and Baltimore so we are in both TV markets.) Once I have assessed the risk to Bert and Ernie, I take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and well-being from the elements. Last night, per their predictions of substantial overnight rain, I took extra care. Bert and Ernie were each given their own quart-size resealable plastic bag to keep them dry. Each bag was left open just enough so the rain would not get in and so they could breathe easily. Also, the open seal assured their ability to continue their mumble chats.

I can assure you, Curious, that Bert and Ernie remain in good hands and on healthy feet, regardless of what Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum says. He may think he’s a public radio personality, but he is not and he certainly does not know truth from fiction. He is a “journalist” in name only, despite his high-falutin name and sophisticated, bordering on arrogant, tone. As always, please ignore him and his really fake news.



The Therapy of Fun: This blog series started as a way for me to manage my own anxiety about the growth of COVID-19 and being a person at high-risk. In just 13 days this dumb blog series has become a larger-than-life joyful diversion for me. It has refocused my imagination from the worst that could happen to the possibilities of imagination all around me…even though I’m confined, like many of you, at home.

Until I sit down to write this blog I have no idea what it is going to say. Sometimes it isn’t written until late at night when I’m already exhausted from the long days I’ve been working. Sometimes it is written in the middle of a sleepless night. Sometimes it is written when something serendipitious happens, like getting that wonderfully funny question from Curious Mind, who is a real person with a real name that I’m not using because I haven’t asked his permission.

Never before would I have considered writing such an odd blog series. In the past all of my blogs have addressed serious topics and issues. (You can see them on this website if you wish.) This one is about nothing in particular except that which catches my attention in the moment and makes me giggle. I didn’t start the series with the expectation that anyone else would read it. Writing is a type of therapy for me which I’m usually content to do privately when I have the time and space to do it. I have never done it for as much fun as I’m having right now. Actually, I really don’t have the time to do it, but I need the therapy of fun so I make it a priority.

I’m delightfully surprised that people, like Curious Mind, are spending a few minutes each day reading this blog series. Maybe you take the time to read my drivel because you also need the therapy of fun. Or you are a masochist; but I prefer to think you need the therapy of fun. I find myself wondering how many others facing down COVID-19 with us also need the therapy of fun through a bit of daily drivel. For this reason, I’m going to ask you to share this blog with others whom you think would appreciate it’s strange humor. I promise…you won’t be exposing them to cussin’, spittin’, or runnin’ with people who do. There may be a little bit of rantin’ but I try to keep it reeled in, and I try to keep it nonpartisan to boot. You can share it via social media using the social media buttons at the bottom of this blog page. You can also share it by cutting and pasting this link into an email: Include a personal note of invitation, if you like. In this way, I hope together we can provide the therapy of fun to a few more than the 7 (including Bert and Ernie) who already read this blog. 🙂

BYON (Bring Your Own Nose) Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: One of the unintended consequences of this blog has been the formation of a weekly gathering (Thursdays, 5:00 PM Eastern, via Zoom). It has been a wonderful way to make new friends, hear how COVID-19 is impacting life in Hawaii, Ontario, California, Washington, Colorado, Baltimore, New York City, and other points throughout North America, and, especially, to laugh together. If you’d like to join in, just use the link information provided below.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to keep your appointments for the therapy of fun.


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