Keeping despair at bay (part 14)

Being online for hours at a stretch day after day, week after week, month after month and now, almost, year after year, has its ups and downs. On one hand, without the internet many of us would be out of work and the people we serve would be out of luck. I can (and do) attend and speak at conferences across the country without ever having to leave my home or worry about weather-related travel challenges. Just this week, for instance, I gave a webinar to 154 shelter workers from across the country, was a panelist at a conference in Kelowna, British Columbia, gave a guest lecture at a gender-studies class at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and was a member of a gender-based violence panel with participants from several provinces, all without stepping outside.

On the other hand, living online – whether for work or pleasure – can be boring and tiring. A friend, who has taken seriously to online bridge during the pandemic, is cutting back her screen time because of neck and shoulder pain. Staring directly into the faces of colleagues at meetings is strangely intimate in a way that is not true when meeting with them in real life. Looking at yourself on the screen for hours on end is nothing short of annoying. And, how much online solitaire does anyone really want to play?

Last week, I had some unexpected excitement during a panel about gender-based violence, when a zoom bomber entered the space to tell all of us, in sexually explicit language, what he would like to do to/with me. He was removed from the space quickly and efficiently, and I continued with what I was saying, but it certainly livened up the proceedings for a minute or two.


In this new online world we inhabit, I am sure that many of you, like me, are creating passwords left, right and centre. Each time, no doubt, you are convinced either that you will never need that password again or that you will, absolutely, be able to remember it. And, if you are like me, neither of these hopes holds true.

I have passwords, or parts of passwords jotted down and tucked away in various spots around my house. I have an “official” password list locked in our safe, to which I (so far) can remember the password; although as I write this, I realize that list needs updating. My daughter has some of my passwords. Some are in my head and nowhere else. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

As Sirin Kale writes in The Guardian:

“Our ancestors lived short, brutish lives and died in childbirth, or were gored to death on the battlefield, but at least they didn’t have passwords, and that’s something. The tyranny of passwords colonises modern life. These petty dictators deny us access to our bank accounts, our baby photos, our phone contracts, even our heating. They reproduce as endlessly as bacteria, and yet, like Tupperware lids, you can never find the ones you need.”

According to Kale, a password-free era lies ahead, but in the meantime, he concludes:

“we labour on, brows furrowed, fingers typing in hope, before an endless flashing computer screen that reads “access denied.”

Slipping and sliding towards a new cocktail

Weather that moves from just below to just above freezing, as it has done this past week where I live, can create treacherous conditions for walkers, as I discovered on my early morning outing the other day. The sidewalks were minefields of hidden slippery spots, so I quickly moved to the street, where there was slush but no ice.

Walking in San Miguel has its pitfalls, most notably in the form of unmarked potholes and very uneven sidewalks, but there is no snow, slush or ice to contend with.

According to my travel diary, last year on February 26th, I enjoyed a long walk with a friend. We strolled around the central square, then did the daily marketing, including a stop at the liquor store (definitely an institution for tourists and ex pats; the locals buy their hooch at the grocery store), where we stocked up with cocktail supplies, before making the long hike up the very steep hill to our house.

My partner and I recently instituted a no drinking from Sunday to Thursday regime because we have become a bit overly fond of cocktails in the past 11 months. However, on Tuesday, I made the unilateral decision to suspend that regime in favour of developing a new cocktail, a decision my partner enthusiastically endorsed.

Our new concoction is a loose interpretation of a Painkiller, now renamed Pam’s Pandemic Painkiller. It substitutes agua de pina for pineapple juice, which increases the frothy freshness factor. I used the spiced rum I have been making over the past several months and added lime juice (not in the original recipe), just because it makes everything taste better. After carefully controlled scientific experimentation, we believe we have constructed a very tasty beverage:

First, I made agua de pina: Peel and chop ½ pineapple and puree with 1 cup water until the pineapple is crushed. Press through a sieve until you have wrung out every drop of liquid. Save the pulp for a smoothie. Add ½ cup simple syrup to the pineapple liquid, and you have agua de pina.

To kill the pain for two people, combine in a blender: 4 ounces rum, 6 ounces agua de pina, 3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice, 2 ounces coconut cream, the juice of 2 limes and ice. Blend until thoroughly mixed and frothy. Pour over ice in tall glasses and top with grated nutmeg.

After a few sips, your pain and despair will slip away, and you can look forward to sliding into March; truly — T.S. Eliot’s opinion notwithstanding — the cruelest month of the year.

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