a september cocktail hour during coronavirus: venturing to chicago & mourning rbg

Here we are, continuing to expand our horizons on this 4th Saturday in September. Welcome to my 13th and final cocktail hour, during a time where we venture a bit further from home and enjoy a beverage. I offer you Cheers! À votre santé!  乾杯/ Kanpai!  Saúde!  Salud! May we all remain healthy, safe, financially afloat, and hopeful.

On August 25, we drove to Macedonia, Ohio, halfway to Chicago, where we visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park the next morning, taking two hikes in a light rain.

We spent four days in Chicago, the Windy City, going on a public art walk and an architecture walk in the Loop and through Millennium Park, seeing “The Bean,” which was blocked off, and Crown Fountain, which wasn’t operating because of coronavirus. I flipped off Trump Tower along the Chicago River. We enjoyed the Impressionist paintings at the Art Institute.

We took a bike ride along the lakefront of Lake Michigan in the 90°+ weather.  We enjoyed great views of Chicago at 360° Chicago and strolled around the 9-sided Bahá’i Temple of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois.

We walked among the headless armless iron sculptures, called Agora, at Grant Park. We learned all about company towns and labor strikes at Pullman National Monument. We were serenaded by bagpipes at University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel as the university welcomed the Class of 2024. We saw a number of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, including Robie House and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. We enjoyed colorful street murals at Pilsen and visited Ukranian Village, where we had potato pancakes and vodka at Tryzub.

Our last morning, we drove through the colorful Boystown and strolled through Wrigleyville, where we admired the classic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. That afternoon, we enjoyed the amazing Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour and learned all about the famous architecture along the Chicago River. We took a short stroll along Chicago Riverwalk.

We drove back the long haul of 12+ hours in one day to get back home again on August 31.

After returning home, we enjoyed a dinner out at Kalypso at Lake Anne. We celebrated my sister-in-law’s 69th birthday on our screened porch (socially distanced) with take-out Thai food. This was the first time we’d seen her since the pandemic began. We dined in at Ariake; this was the first time they’d opened inside dining since the pandemic.

At the end of August, just before our trip to Chicago, I saw the GI doctor for a Stretta consultation, and found that after I do that procedure, which should help toughen and thicken the muscle around my lower esophageal sphincter (LES), I will likely have to have another treatment to help the function of my esophagus.

I took the COVID-19 test once again in preparation for my Stretta procedure on the 17th, and had to self-quarantine until the procedure. The test came back negative.

On September 17, I actually had the Stretta procedure, after waiting an agonizing 2 1/2 hours past my scheduled time, not having had anything to eat or drink since midnight the night before. “The Stretta is a non-surgical outpatient procedure that takes 60 minutes or less.  A Stretta device travels through the mouth, down to the LES (muscle between the stomach and esophagus). Once in place, it delivers radiofrequency (RF) energy to the muscle.  This regenerates the tissue, resulting in improved barrier function that may prevent reflux and reduce GERD symptoms,” according to the pamphlet for Stretta.

The effect of Stretta works over time; patients usually begin to see improvement after about two months.  Some patients improve more quickly than others. Studies show that some symptoms may continue to improve for 6 months or longer. This requires much patience on my part, not a strong suit of mine!

Since the procedure, I had to be on a liquid diet for 24 hours, then a very soft food diet for two weeks; this is extremely limited: water, milk, yogurt, soft drinks, fruit drinks, soup broths, pudding, ice cream, applesauce and cream soups. I’ve been on the very soft diet for 9 days.  It’s so boring!! As of today, I’ve lost over 20 pounds since my highest weight on May 7.  This includes the two months I was on an “acid watcher diet” and cutting many foods out of my diet. I’ve lost 5.6 lbs. since I had the procedure.

After two weeks on the very soft diet, I can move to a soft diet, which includes more foods, but is still very limited, for two more weeks.   I hope it will all be worthwhile in the end. So far I see a slight improvement in my symptoms, and I’m hoping for more in the coming weeks.

On Friday, September 18, our beloved Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed away after battling various cancers and trying like hell to hang on through the presidential election.   On Sunday, we went downtown to the Supreme Court to pay our respects and to read the tributes written by mourners. I won’t even get into the political ramifications of this loss; let’s just say it has created a firestorm, as the corrupt and amoral Republicans in the Senate will go ahead and nominate an ultra-conservative judge to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg, despite being so close to an election where many of us (anyone with a shred of decency) hope like hell that Trump will be removed.

We also stopped by to see the new Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in D.C.

I stood in line for an hour and 40 minutes on Wednesday, September 16 to vote early in Fairfax County.  I wanted to get my voting done before we take our Canyon & Cactus Road Trip in later October.  I’ve done my civic duty, and now we just have to see how it all unfolds with our dictator-wannabe POS president, as he tries to steal the election and even pretend the results are falsified. And we’ll see what the spineless Republicans do to enable him to destroy our democracy.  I will be protesting in the streets if there is any chance it looks like he has not been legally elected and he tries to hold on to power.

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We still have the highest number of COVID cases in the world, over 7,059,200  as of September 26, 2020, and the highest number of deaths at 203,575. Worldwide, there are nearly 32,590,000 cases and 989,128 deaths.  The U.S. has 21.6% of worldwide cases and 20.6% of deaths, despite having only 4.2% of the population. Isn’t America really GREAT?

Here in Virginia, we are holding steady, but not doing as well as we did early on, with 144,433 cases and 3,136 deaths. Our governor has eased restrictions and has made rules about mask-wearing inside public places, and for the most part, at least in Northern Virginia, people seem to be following the guidelines. However, since the state has begun to reopen college campuses, cases have increased, especially in college towns throughout the Commonwealth.  We are just going about our business, with much reduced activity, wearing masks anytime we are indoors or in contact with other people.

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I have been writing a monthly cocktail hour/diary about this challenging time; this will be my last one.  I invite you to share your own experiences with what we’re going through right now, either in the comments below, or in your own blog post, which I invite you to link below.  I hope that we will get through it unscathed, sooner rather than later.

Peace and love be with you all!