Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Smoke and malls and travel

It’s like day nine or ten of the extreme wildfire smoke-out here in the bay area. An air quality index (AQI) over 100 is bad bad and the point where you’re not supposed to go outside, and we’ve been well above 200 all week. The scene outside is post-apocalyptic, with dark gray skies, a weird gold color when the sun is out high, and everyone scurrying about in filter masks. Word is this will continue until it rains on Wednesday. It wasn’t this bad last year, but this makes me wonder if we’re going to have a once-in-a-lifetime fire every year from now on.

I’ve been super busy at the day job, so not leaving the house has dovetailed nicely with that. From Sunday until Friday, the only time I crossed the threshold of my front door was to quickly run downstairs and get my mail. So it felt surreal to actually go to the mall this weekend, drive on the highway and go do some shopping and walking and whatnot. I’ve been trying to walk in the apartment for exercise, which is horrible and doesn’t work well. Walking at the mall was like exercising the day after having the flu. It’s going to take some work to get back up to full speed here.

The malls are all at full swing for Christmas. Trees out, Santa working, decorations hung, pre-pre-black Friday sales. A few of the vacant stores have transformed into temporary quarters for seasonal pop-ups. I don’t know if people are shopping, or were just avoiding the smoke, but it’s been busy the last two weekend.

Also, there were a large number of Pokemon Go players. I didn’t know this was still a thing, but I’d see packs of kids wandering around, cell phones in front of them. I can’t tell if they are 14 or 24. I saw one girl with three different phones in front of her. At least they are moving, so that’s cool.

Sears is depressing. The one in Pleasanton is closing, and I walk through and circle around the Christmas section, and it’s such a punch to the gut. My department at Wards was Four Seasons, which transformed into the Christmas wonderland (or whatever), with toys and trees and lights and tinsel and all that good stuff. Snowblowers, too. So wandering the aisles lined with plastic trees and strands of lights is a weird time machine for me, bringing me back to 1988 again. That Sears is hiring temp help to close out the year and if it wasn’t 30 minutes away, I’d almost be tempted to apply, just to see how much Sears swag I could steal before the place went under. But then I remember I’m too busy with work and writing and whatever else, so yeah, no.

I did buy a Craftsman bottle opener today, though. I don’t really drink anything in bottles, and I have two toolboxes full of real Craftsman stuff, back when they were still made in America. But I felt some need to spend the seven bucks there.

Headed to Reno for the Thanksgiving break. Still headed to Indiana over Christmas. I have done zero planning for either trip, so maybe I should look into that. I’m still shooting a lot of film, so maybe I should figure out what cameras and film to bring, especially since I can’t really run to the drug store and buy a few rolls of Ektachrome while I’m gone.


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