Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

I am a hopelessly public social being. The annoying kind who says Hi there! and Good Morning! to every passerby on the sidewalk or the park trail. Who stops perfect strangers pushing strollers to comment on cute toddlers in puffy snowsuits. At random moments I’ve been known to walk up to frazzled moms in grocery stores whose small boys are demolishing the place and say, “One day he’ll be 26 and he’ll send you flowers for no reason at all, and you’ll know it was all worth it.”

So now, along with all the rest of you, I am silenced. Who can toss out a muffled Hi there! before the passerby has long passed? Masked strangers in their faces have to be pretty scary for toddlers in strollers. Increasingly isolated from friends and family by the coronavirus itself, we’re getting more isolated from our fellow masked humans by the day. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by joyce huis on Unsplash

Looking for a Senior Living spot for a parent or friend — maybe even for yourself? Here are a few tips to speed the process, in these upside down times when you can’t simply go visiting.

Where to start? There are almost as many varieties of Senior Living as there are seniors on park benches. Or there were, when people could go to parks. The site to which I’ve directed more geezer friends than I can count is A Place for Mom. (Why is it always mom? Well, sorry dads, but we seem to outlive you by a long shot.) …


Image for post
Image for post
A couple of blocks from Union Square

There was dancing in the streets all over San Francisco on November 7th. I was walking in the Presidio, trying not to get wiped out by flying cyclists whizzing downhill shouting Biden/Harriss!!! It’s been pretty much party mode ever since.

Image for post
Image for post
A few lonesome walkers pass ‘We’re in this together’ on a lonesome Market Street

But downtown — and in a few other areas — preparations had long been made for the mayhem that wasn’t. It would be hard not to agree with business owners who boarded up. Protests following the George Floyd killing and racial unrest at other times in recent months brought out the bad guys along with the earnest. There was widespread, costly looting. I live not far from a BevMo store that looked as if someone had tossed a large bomb through the front door. …


Image for post
Image for post
Al fresco images from around the city

San Franciscans are big on dining out — lunching out, breakfasting out, drinking out, all things gustatory and convivial. So COVID has not been fun. But bars and restaurants have discovered a happy workaround, and the city seems equally happy to assist.

In virtually every corner of San Francisco, outdoor tables have sprung up. They hug the storefronts on the sidewalk, they cluster on hillsides with propped-up legs to keep dishes from sliding to the pavement. They spill into the street where parking spots vanish in their wake, and if anybody’s complaining I haven’t heard about it.

Image for post
Image for post

Officially, they are “Parklets,” at least the ones with sidewalls that create more or less permanent booths. Several I’ve seen have not received Parklet status, so they are set up every afternoon and taken down at closing time — a new job for wait staff that may drive them nuts, but at least it means there are customers to wait on. …


Image for post
Image for post
Lamott & Johns onstage, 2015

Probably most of us hate COVID-19. But when it comes to identifying the reasons why, Anne Lamott can condense them into a few very well chosen words. In this season of poorly chosen words — face masks represent “a culture of silence, slavery, and social death,” or carefully chosen no-words, if you watched the Amy Coney Barrett hearings — Lamott’s words have the effect of a lemon verbena air spray.

“I miss the recognizable world,” she says. “the casual warmth of the old world. I used to hug and kiss everyone, and you can’t hug and kiss anyone when you’re standing in your little circle. I miss hugging and kissing everyone. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Shane on Unsplash

Madeline knew her mind was slipping. After a long and successful career, renowned in her field, she knew her brain — and knew it was no longer working as it always had. Never a forgetful woman, Madeline now misplaced important items — and, more distressing, her thoughts. She spent days talking with her doctors and searching the internet for understanding. Then she would forget why she had gone to that website.

After weeks of worry, weeks of increasing confusion, Madeline had a moment of absolute clarity: she wanted to end her life now, before she became unable to make her own decisions. So she told her family she was choosing to stop eating or drinking. Not everyone in the family agreed or empathized, but her husband said he would support her. …


A Love Letter to Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Image for post
Image for post
Ted Eytan — Creative Commons

Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I were born the same year. 1933. It was a good year for music (Willie Nelson, James Brown . . ,) the arts (Tim Conway, Carol Burnett . . ,) literature (David McCullough, Reynolds Price . . .) Unfortunately, our birth year is about the only thing I have in common with the Notorious RBG. I would happily have given her six or eight of however many remaining months I have, if life only worked that way.

Since life doesn’t work that way, here is a post-mortem thank-you note.

Thank you for opening doors for women’s education. I spent some happy weekends at the Virginia Military Institute in the early 1950s, when I could visit for dates but could not have even gotten an application for admission. Your persuasive argument in United States v. Virginia’s 7–1 ruling (1996) changed all that. In the words of historian Richard Morris, “VMI’s story continued as our comprehension of ‘We the People’ expanded.” …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

How — and Why — to Try Working with a Life Coach

Getting a Life Coach: good idea, worth the money? Maybe. I am becoming a convert.

But I started as a skeptic. I had known two certified “Life Coaches” — both of whose personal lives were pretty much wreckage and to neither of whom would I ever have gone for counsel of any conceivable sort. Then, however, I heard of another friend who had entered the coaching business. This one had a successful, decades-long career in the corporate world and has long been influential in all the right causes. …


Armageddon: A Report from Inside the Unbelievable

Image for post
Image for post
Andy Goldsworthy’s “Spire” reaches into an ash-darkened noonday sky

It’s Armageddon. The Apocalypse. Those are the terms most frequently being tossed around, alongside “Really? Can you believe . . .” “This is surreal . . .” Nobody seems able to come up with words expansive enough.

Mostly, however, there is an eerie quiet. Everyone looks around wide-eyed, behind their masks, speaking in whispers or small-child voices.

Northern California awoke to dark, burnt orange skies that created an impression of early evening at nine in the morning. We were already shaken by months of uncontained pandemic which by now has killed at least one or more we knew and loved, and sickened others who live with after-effects still unknown. Then came the racial unrest erupting in our cities and neighborhoods. Followed closely by the wildfires consuming beloved parks, forests, homes, communities. Uncounted mornings began with a cautious look at the air quality index, realizing it was too toxic outside for a walk around the block. And now this? …

About

FranMorelandJohns

Lifelong newspaper & magazine writer, author, blogger at franjohns.net, agitator for justice, kindness & interfaith understanding.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store