Quarantine Chronicles Day 8: The days of wine (and vodka) and roses (and toilet paper)

Reader Don Jensen, a dislocated Long Beacher who somehow wound up in Indiana, sent me an email over the weekend about how life in Isolationland is going in the Heartland:

“We have a little more flexibility in Hoosier Land,” he writes. “We can get out and walk beyond our property lines allowing us to say hi to neighbors. This is usually accomplished by yelling from across the street. There is virtually no traffic so there are few interruptions. Unless of course another person comes walking by at which time we sort of form an equilateral triangle with 6-foot sides. We can accommodate a fourth person but after that it gets too complicated.

“Since everyone pretty much knows everyone else in the neighborhood, we occasionally hear of a random act of kindness. For instance, the other day our neighbor found a bottle of wine on her front stoop with a roll of toilet paper stuck on the neck. She was brought to tears. I cannot think of a more thoughtful gift even if the wine was a bottle of 2-Buck Chuck (which by the way is 3 Bucks here).”

Nice, huh? But like so many other rumors that have been spawned by COVID-19, the wine/TP story wasn’t true. Jensen turned himself in on Monday morning.

In an email, he wrote, “Trying to be cute yesterday I wrote you an email about an ‘act of kindness,’ suggesting someone placed a bottle of wine with a roll of toilet paper on a front stoop as a surprise gift. That did not happen. I woke up this morning thinking ‘Don, you’re 75, you ain’t cute anymore.’ So I apologize for that.

“I will tell you what did happen. We opened our front door and found a small bouquet of flowers placed there by our neighbor. It did indeed bring some sunshine into our life.”

In a postscript, Jensen wrote, “P.S.—A bottle of wine with a roll of toilet paper is still a good idea.”

And he’s absolutely right. A bottle of wine and a roll of toilet paper just might be the signature gift of the Coronavirus Era. Flowers are nice, too, though not as unique.

Jensen might be a bit of a fabulist, but he also shows you can still be cute at 75.

Meanwhile, down in the Lone Star State, another brilliant idea is percolating.

You will recall that an early coronavirus yarn was circulating about how you can make hand sanitizer with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. It turned out to be untrue because, despite, perhaps, your own experiences with Tito’s, at 40% alcohol, it’s just not strong enough to take on a role as an effective sanitizer.

But making hay out of the apocryphal story, the Austin-based Tito’s announced Monday that it’s rejiggering its distillery in a sort of wartime repurposing of its plant, to manufacture Tito’s Hand Cleanser. Its initial run will produce 24 tons of the hand sanitizers and to show that the company is making hay rather than cash, the company in its Monday statement said, “Details are still being ironed out, but this hand sanitizer will be given out for free to the community and to those who are most in need.”

I wish it went without saying that the product is for users’ hands only and will not make an excellent Bloody Mary, but it does need to be said, I’m guessing.

What else? We had a Zoom-based Happy Hour last night with a dozen family members from New York to Seattle to the Bay Area to Southern California. It was a pleasant enough way to spend 45 minutes, even if it was a bit difficult to keep conversations straight and intelligible. It’s something people are probably going to have to get used to and perhaps work out a protocol for who gets to talk when, though that’s always been a problem when you throw 12 people together with cocktails.

Another way to spend some time safely apart with your friends and relatives is to watch a movie together by using the Netflix Party app, which allows you to stream and watch movies remotely with your friends while text-chatting and character-sniping in a box off to the side. The app is, despite its name, not affiliated with Netflix, so if you’re having problems using it, don’t come crawling to the streaming-service company for tech help.

Zoom and the Netflix app are just two of the things that you’ll find helpful in the wave of the present, which is growing more and more into something of a bad post-apocalypse novel which I hope has an unrealistically happy ending.

Email and coronavirus tips and suggestions are, as ever, greedily accepted. You’re encouraged to send them to [email protected], or catch me on Facebook and Twitter as just plain @grobaty.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.