May 2021: Everything is Broken

As I typed the title, my somewhat flawed memory was telling me that was the title of a Bob Dylan song a long time ago1. I am too lazy now to pull up MusicBee and confirm but it describes my current state accurately. My job is broken and I have an increasing number of broken appliances. My sleep pattern is in need of repair and my spirit fluctuates between broken and “meh“.

Just in the past two days, my toaster oven burned out its heating elements and stopped working. I was really enjoying using it to cook a range of hot food. It stopped working shortly after I began to bake a batch of frozen French fries. I did not want them to go to waste as I’d noticed earlier they were thawing out while sitting in my freezer (the fridge and freezer have also stopped cooling properly but still manage, barely). I transferred the fries to my rice cooker (the only other thing I figured would work — there were too many to fit into the sandwich press) which kind of worked — it took nearly two hours to heat them up enough (and get them semi-crispy) to eat. At least the broken toaster oven will save me money as I will no longer buy frozen foods or uncooked meat until I can afford a replacement. That might be a while as I am entering my third month without an income.

Yesterday, I tracked down the source of a mysterious puddle of water in my bathroom to the pipe connecting the sink to the wall. Just gently feeling around caused the pipe to shake back and forth, nearly coming unattached from the connection into the wall and leaving a coating of flaking rust on my fingers. When I reported this to my landlord, I was told that they couldn’t look at it until “after virus”. Oh, yes. The wonderful government has made it illegal for ANYBODY to come into your home who isn’t related to you. I guess that means maintenance workers as well. I am certain that I will wake up from a deep sleep to find water spraying everywhere when the pipe breaks (this happened a few years ago when the shower knob broke and again when the hose connecting the toilet sprayer burst). At least I know where the water shut-off valve is for when that happens. I am now somewhat afraid to use the sink; I brushed my teeth quickly this morning but failed to shave. I might try that in the shower later.

At least my electronic devices are still working properly although I will need a new mobile phone at some point. Hopefully, it can survive until the end of the year. Most days, the laptop gives me all sorts of grief when I first boot it up and then settles down eventually. Some days, it never does and I will just shut it off and go read after yelling at it for long minutes. The tablet I gave myself for Christmas last year still looks brand new as I usually just use it for reading eBooks for an hour or two every day. Increasingly, I am using it to browse social media (Facebook, Twitter, my RSS feed reader — yes, I still use one of those) but I want to try posting blog entries using it to see if it works better than using the laptop. I would still have to edit images on my Windows software (a blend of and PhotoScape X) but can upload them before actually writing the articles. Maybe I will try that today (too late for this end-of-month summary).

It is the blogging (and associated website) that has broken my sleep patterns. For most of this shutdown, I maintained a fairly regular schedule of waking up early (between 6 and 7 am most days) and going to sleep around midnight. Two days ago, I had some ideas that I wanted to follow through with and so did not go to bed until 10:30 the following morning (I’d awoken about 7:30 the morning before) and slept until three in the afternoon. I then was up until nearly six a.m. today and got up just before noon. I think tonight I will make a real effort to at least lie down around midnight. The real frustration is that the internet connection is now extremely slow at best (overuse by everyone else stuck at home) and cuts out completely whenever there is a storm (often the past week or so).

Just like the lyric from Bruce Springsteen’s “Murder Inc.” Well, sort of.

Indeed, it seems like this apartment I live in is just a place to hide2, a prisoner existence away from both the monsoon and the virus. The only times when I leave home are Tuesday and Friday evenings when I walk to the nearby mini-mart to restock my food supply. I might have to do that more often as the frozen meals I cooked in the toaster oven were a big part of my grocery purchases. As long as the refrigerator can maintain a reasonable amount of coolness, things like sandwich meats will remain a part of my stock lists. I certainly drink room temperature bottles of soda and water much slower than ice cold ones! I can no longer “rapid cool” my drinks by throwing them in the freezer, however.

My spending has gone to a minimal amount and I find it “fun” to check my spending averages in my app (I love Bluecoins — best financial tracking app I have ever used, and I have tried MANY over the years). At one point last week, it said my daily spending was just over 150 baht! Indeed, my only expenses right now are rent/utilities and food/beverages with the occasional toiletry item such as shampoo, razor blades or toothpaste thrown in. I also pay for bandwidth once per week (a total of 1000 baht per month). The end of the month sees a few automatic payments for things such as my website host, photo storage, Microsoft 365, Google Drive upgrade, and a couple of app subscriptions. These don’t amount to much more than 1000 or 1200 baht per month.

I have put a complete moratorium on all other spending. Earlier this month, I did buy a few new pens and notebooks in preparation for the new school year. I won’t be needing those anytime soon but at least I have them. I am now happy that I was too lazy to purchase new work clothes. I bought a few stamp-related items last month including stock pages for some of my many covers (collectible stamped envelopes) but this month has seen no stamp purchases. The Phuket post office was unable to receive their shipment of the one new Thai stamp issue that occurred in May. The truck containing the stamps was turned away at the island’s checkpoint as have been many food deliveries, etc. Thus, I wasn’t even tempted to buy stamps locally. I do have enough stamps to keep me occupied for a long period into the future.

A few days ago, I finished mounting stamps into my Part I Scott International album (Big Blue) which covers 1840-1940 (having started in mid-January). These are stamps that I have bought over the period of the last ten years or so but have resided in envelopes or on stock pages until now. It is nice to get them into the album which now has about 3000 stamps in it. I will tabulate country totals from my spreadsheet at some point, perhaps in the next week. I had wanted to begin doing the same thing with my Part II album which has spaces for stamps issued between late 1940 and mid-1949 but my hinges have succumbed to the high amount of moisture in the air, a result of the rainy weather we have been experiencing recently (we were hammered by the fringes of a huge typhoon — AKA hurricane — in the Gulf of Bengal). Many of the hinges have fused together and my fingers find it difficult to peel these tiny bits of folded glassine apart. I may have to wait a while before ordering another batch from a dealer I use in Texas (they come in packets of 1000 and the total cost, including shipping, is very low — I think I have about 500 remaining that are all stuck together). I also have four other albums (two each from France and Germany) for which I can catalogue the stamps already inside so that might be my next big project.

I have been reading quite a bit as well. I finished four books in May and will finish another within the next few days. That last book is Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier and I am reading it fairly slowly to savor the wonderful language. I have been reading long passages of it aloud as it is just that good.

As far as anything else goes — who knows? Thailand keeps changing its mind on vaccinations — how to register, who will receive them (although they repeatedly stress it is for Thai people ONLY) — while cases and deaths continue to reach record-breaking numbers. They dangle carrots and make promises which are quickly dropped. It is mostly lies at this point in order to save face. The latest scheme was to declare that ALL foreigners would be vaccinated with SinoVac yesterday (30 May) but then not a single word was said. Sunday came and went and there were no vaccinations. Now, they are claiming that we can begin registering on 7 June but they have said that before. I won’t hold my breath. Yes, the government wants to reopen Phuket for tourism (dangling the “no quarantine” carrot to potential tourists) on 1 July but are not making it safe for those tourists other than making empty promises. There are some businesses which will be able to reopen tomorrow but that does not include any place where one can consume alcohol (the bars of Patong being a primary selling point for many tourists, it seems). The health minister and various other high-ranking government officials have also done their best to increase the xenophobia and racism already prevalent in the kingdom to the point that almost every new announcement of added restrictions now carries the caveat that FOREIGNERS breaking the rules will risk deportation for violations. There is no similar calling-out of Thai people. I suppose they never break any rules.

My spirit is broken every time I look at the daily COVID-19 reports. I thought it was bad when they were reporting a thousand cases per day. I was shocked when it went to 2,000. A few days ago, it was just shy of 5,000 cases in a single day. I have stopped believing the various plans about vaccinating foreigners. One thing will be reported only to be forgotten or contradicted the next day. It is highly frustrating not to mention confusing. The brain will remember one promise but forget that they decided against the statement. I do not even know if the vaccine will make my life significantly different. I will still have nowhere to go except the market but will still be required to wear the mask and have my temperature taken. I do not even know if whatever vaccine they might give me is really effective (or even accepted elsewhere) but I suppose it will give me some peace of mind to get it whenever that might happen. It will be one less thing to worry about, I suppose, whether or not it really works. It is important to remember that most things I worry about never happen anyway3.

It is also somewhat frustrating when the only contact I have with the company for which I have worked for nearly 10 years (my anniversary will occur on 5 July) is when they send a photo by the LINE app further extending their closure. I have quite a collection of these at this point (and despite my pointing it out to the branch office manager, there is still a misspelling in the image). It would be nice if one of the students would tell them they would like to learn online as that might bring in a bit of work.

Well, that sums up my current state of being and mind. Earlier this month, I did go into a spiral of deep depression but that is never a solution. The more you dwell on the bad, the harder it is to find the good again. I refuse to let that happen. So, I stay busy working on stamp stuff or reading books. I have plenty of each. I am stretching my savings and that is going very well. It won’t last indefinitely but I have to believe that I will survive this. I have survived so much in life up to this point (and am a bit worn-down from previous battles) that I know in my heart that something will eventually break. And I mean that in the best possible way. This virus will break and life will, eventually, resume in a upward manner. It is the waiting that is the hardest part4.

With that, the rains have resumed for the day and I plan to spend the remainder of the afternoon writing New Issues articles about stamps from Brazil. If you haven’t already, please have a look at my site Philatelic Pursuits. Let me know in the comments whether you can see a way that I could monetize the site and at least generate a bit of income that way (given the amount of work I put into it, although most of that is a labor of love and commitment).

Let’s hope that June sees some fixes in every way that is possible.

While reading through this, I did notice a few musical references so I thought I would point them out as a sort of soundtrack for this post:

  1. “Everything Is Broken” by Bob Dylan (released on Oh Mercy, 22 September 1989)
  2. “Murder Incorporated” by Bruce Springsteen (outtake recorded in April/May 1982 and first released on Greatest Hits, 27 February 1995)
  3. Interview quote by Tom Petty, circa 2014
  4. “The Waiting” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (released on 5 May 1981)

And making this list reminded me that I did not mention my music listening total for May in the above article. I played more than 440 different songs from 44 different albums with most being by early period Chicago (great for rainy days!) and Paul McCartney (soundtrack for preparing an article about new Royal Mail stamps issued last week in his honor). I also rediscovered Hope Sandoval, both with Mazzy Star and solo, and was very pleased to be sent a free copy of St. Vincent’s new release, Daddy’s Home. As I write this, I have Dylan’s Oh Mercy album playing; I’d forgotten how great the album is and I now remember this was probably the work that first made me a Dylan fan (although I’d previously enjoyed Highway 61 Revisited and a few singles, I don’t think I really considered myself a fan until the 1989 album, purchased new on vinyl).

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