The Inside Rail

Self Isolation. Day 9. Monday.

Still no symptons. Temperature steady in the 98 range. Back to work. Office work. Well, more like guest-room work. Trying to sell horses and advertising. During a pandemic. It's going well.

Self Isolation. Day 10. Tuesday.

Annie makes a Greek egg for breakfast. It is the best egg I’ve ever eaten. In olive oil, runny in the center, crisp on the edges, fresh sourdough toast to sop up the yolk. Nobody is eating better. Amazingly, I’m light, hovering at 159, first time I’ve been in the 50s since riding races when I would pass that number in the first few weeks after the Colonial Cup in November and hit it on a few glutinous Sundays during the season. Damn, they cancelled the Hunt Cup this year, I was ready. I won't hit the 40s.

I toil on my computer, trying to write, sell, interview. I’m not in the mood, not inspired, but at least it’s a distraction. Joe, Tom and I meet on a conference call, talk about immediate projects and possible projects, anything we can think of to generate revenue while we ride out the storm, worrying about our sources of revenue, Saratoga, mainly. Will it go on? Will the advertisers be there? Well, those questions are in our heads, we don’t dare utter them. We were planning celebrations for our 20th season, now, it seems so far away.

Miles getting restless. I hear him drumming from upstairs. I hope it doesn’t last.

Annie braving the Safeway in town. She has several pairs of rubber gloves, a scarf, hat and a disinfectant solution in her car and on ready when she gets back. We discuss bags, deciding to leave our bags in the trunk and use plastic. I’m usually the bag police, I agree, use plastic, recycle, can’t hurt. That’s what we’ve been reduced to, deciding on which grocery bags are safer. Crazy times.

Annie coping like a Greek, making duck over wild rice and escarole, with a side salad and a glass of Pino Noir from the Willamette Valley, because that’s what you drink when eating duck. She should be writing a blog – Cooking through a Pandemic. It would be a great read. 

Self Isolation. Day 11. Wednesday.

Temperature, 98.4. No cough. No shortness of breath. Feel fine.

Strange times. I wrestle with what to compare this to, can’t really come up with anything like it in my lifetime. 9/11 was cataclysmic, but it was abrupt, like a punch to the face, a wake-up call, a shocking dose of reality. I wasn’t in New York, wasn't in the Pentagon, wasn't on the flight that crashed into a Pennsylvania hillside, 9/11 was distanced, I was removed. In a way, it was like watching a movie. Brutal, but separate. This is different. I guess it’s the uncertainty, the impending doom of it all, the scope and breadth of the disruption. I’m more confident each day that I don’t have it, I feel fine, but worry and wonder about what happens next.

Of course, our politicians refuse to diffuse the situation or build confidence or agree on a plan. Somehow, a pandemic runs the great divide between our two political parties. Trump, always the bully, thinks he’s going to bully his way through a pandemic. This is why you don’t follow bullies, they know no other way, they always count on and fall back on bullying. Backed in a corner, they will still try to bully their way out. 

Miles has now decided we should play Stratomatic from separate rooms. Rockies vs. Dodgers. At least it stops me from delving into politics.

Self Isolation. Day 12. Thursday.

No symptoms. 100 percent. Starting to see the light at end of the tunnel, well, this tunnel.

Book excerpt of the Day. I Had a Hammer, the Hank Aaron Story. Hank Aaron with Lonnie Wheeler

“I have to admit, though, that some pitchers worked me over pretty good with a certain pitch before I started getting even. The thing I had on my side was patience. Patience – which is really the art of waiting – is something you pick up pretty naturally when you grow up black in Alabama. When you wait all your life for respect and equality and a seat in the front of the bus, it’s nothing to wait a little while for a slider inside.”

Nearly finished this classic. Riveting read, in Aaron’s voice, with poignant and precise excerpts from teammates, family, coaches. Just a captivating read.

Self Isolation. Day 13. Friday.

Running helps. It always does, but especially during isolation, through a pandemic.

I don’t wear a watch, a phone, a tracker, a GPS, a Strava, a hear-rate monitor. Nothing. That’s why I run. Escape. I never know how far I’m going, how far I’ve gone, don’t plan it, don’t want to plan it. Today, I was thinking easy-route, around the block, which is about 4 1/2 miles and takes about 45 minutes.

I usually make a right out of the driveway, but decide to go left today, to change it up. When I get to the top of Snake Hill Road, I have a choice, right as usual or straight for a new course, definitely longer. But it's early afternoon, I feel good, weather is crisp and clear. I go straight, figuring, traffic won’t be too busy on Foxcroft Road. Down the hill, past the Goodstone Inn, left at the stop sign, up the long and winding hill, an arduous climb. Past Foxcroft, only a guard at the shack and a woman with a dog on a leash are the only activity on what should be a lively Friday afternoon in the spring.

I run past Foxcroft, hop up on the grass when cars blitz past, then right at the top of the hill, past the Pink House, away from home, past Farmer’s Delight, catching bits of gravel and grass on the sides of the road to lessen the punishment of pavement. Left on a road I’ve never been on in car or on foot. Gravel road, winding, easy hills, nice. In a way, a pandemic and the social distancing that comes with it are liberating. There is really nowhere else to be, nowhere else to go, I keep running, making a left on Turkey Roost which I’m thinking should make another quick left and complete an easy loop.

There is no quick left, no easy loop. I run for miles and wind up on Route 611. Yowza. Dodging traffic on the busy thoroughfare from Middleburg to Purcellville, it’s unpleasant at best. Drivers refuse to tap their brakes, I dance (OK, slog) onto the grass shoulder as cars rip past, I guess they haven't heard about the pandemic. I pull off my sweat-soaked running shirt, tie it around my waist, hoping the sun will help heal me. Right, right, I’m not sick, just isolated. I keep reminding myself of that.

Left at Runnymede Farm, back onto Foxcroft Road, safer, quieter, right on Pot House Road, past Huntland, down a hill and one final hill to climb. I put my head down, knowing I should be looking at the horizon to lengthen my stride, but don't want to know how far I still have to go. I climb. Slowly, surely, past the trees spray-painted for chopping, past a sleeping deer hoping/thinking I don't see her. I ease to a walk at the crest of the hill, at the corner of Pot House and Snake Hill. I'm nearly home. Alone. This is isolation, this is social distancing. 

Self Isolation. Day 14. Saturday.

I’m out today. Well, tonight. Still counting the hours. No symptoms.

To the garden. Spinach to plant. Chard to plant. Peas to plant. Beets to plant. Radishes to plant. 

An interesting concept, self isolation. Will hug Annie and Miles tonight, for my first human touch in two weeks. Will, surely, turn on the TV tonight, for my first television encounter in two weeks, probably catch the Florida Derby. Will raid the kitchen, for my first free choice food in two weeks.

Annie has been a rock, like always, delivering breakfast, lunch and dinner. Handling everything else while I wait and hope. Like everybody.

Hope you're safe, your family is safe.