greetings dear readers. as you might guess this entry into our adventure chronicles is not about being on the road and you’d be correct. quite the contrary, it’s about not being mobile. we, like most of the rest of the citizens, have become stationary due to the pandemic and resulting quarantine. i’ll try not to be too judgmental regarding how or why all this has happened. my intent here is to simply document an old man and his dog living out this science fictionesque drama. as usual i’m making a record for myself and sharing it with whoever would like to ride along (so to speak). what follows is probably one of the most difficult and demanding attempts to “live in the now” that we’ve faced so far…
the gnome is on lockdown. yeah, and it took a damned pandemic to bring him to a halt. today is wednesday, april eighth. you faithful readers may remember our last adventure this thing was becoming a serious reality. i, like many i suspect, was alarmed in march when this plague was still gathering steam. being alarmed was the tip of the proverbial iceberg. since then the news has become more dire on a daily basis. the news is filled with reports of casualties, new infections and predictions. this report will not rehash those sorts of things.
the gnome is remaining mum on the situation. he’s old (very) and has seen his share of this sort of stuff. his is a wise silence. sweet simple is pretty much retaining her puppy attitude. for that i am grateful altho i suspect that somehow she knows something is up. she’s hanging much closer to me than usual. there’s a very good chance that my anxiety, and i have a lot of that now, is registering on her radar. some things can’t be kept from a dog that shares your space. i’ve heard it said that human is the only animal on earth that knows that it will die. i suppose that’s true. empirical evidence leads me to that supposition. i mean, how many other animals buy life insurance and go to church? there’s other clues, but you get the picture. and i do welcome the puppy’s attention. going thru this ordeal would be considerably worse were it not for her. i’m holding up fairly well. physically i feel great. the puppy and i walk a mile and a half every morning. those walks are very different than “normal”. not many other folks out and no traffic. it’s a somewhat surreal situation (ha!) out there.
people are writing chalk messages on their driveway intended to make folks feel better. encouraging notes with religious undertones and humorous pleads for more beer and/or wine. i suspect that a deeper root is a desire to proclaim their continuance. whatever, i makes me feel as if i’m living in some sci fi novel. it’s time for that walk now…we’ll be checking in now and then.
thursday…one of the motivations for this entry about being trapped by the virus was/is an examination of my reactions to the whole thing. the trip home was via the i twenty six presented me with the first time being alone and trying to process the…well, what the hell was happening. all i had to go on was what i’d learned at the campground where most weren’t talking about it. those that were obviously less informed than i. (little or none). confusion, anger, fear and dread came and went and did several encores. i don’t like driving with the radio, etc playing while towing and i wasn’t about to make an exception. there’s a lot going on with a trailer zooming along at sixty two miles per hour and some of those things might be good to know about. i find the “highway sound” comforting (most of the time and when it’s not so soothing there are noises that are important to hear) and for the hundred and twenty mile ride home i need all the comforting i could find.
the arrival here at the dude ranch was another distraction from the pending calamity. my fitst goal was to get the trailer into the carport. i had to pat myself on the back for the most excellent backing job i’ve done with the new truck so far. i think i’m becoming accustomed that extra couple of feet in the truck’s wheelbase (that’s trailer geek talk). then i needed to transfer the refrigerated stuff and just the necessities for living in a different space. all of this was a great distraction as my ocd kicked in. then it was long hot shower time which led to cold beer time and the inevitable television. i’d sorta aimed for the news hour to park in front of the one eyed monster. that, dear readers, was a very frightening hour. you see (and i think i mentioned this from the hall), i’d intentionally avoided the news while on the coast. the four horsemen of the apocalypse that kept me company on the freeway came roaring back. there were check in calls to/from belle, bonnie and ri and it was obvious they had their own horsemen show going on. i wish i’d had a comforting speech to deliver. assurances that everyone was ok and promises to stay in touch were all any of us could do. it was a strange and fretful sleep with intense dreams. i woke early and immediately felt relieved that it was all a dream. that, as you might guess, didn’t last long….
my reaction to the reality of the situation went thru stages…
dazed and more than a bit confused i took to my couch and that monster television. i now understand the meaning of “binge watching”. netflix, hbo and prime are more than willing to provide endless doses of distraction. in the comfortable arms of digital algorithms i spent hours upon hours watching stuff that i can’t tell you much about now…it’s a blur. i do know that that watching was interrupted daily for watching of a different kind…the news. an hour’s worth of reality that was weirder than anything i got from the streaming guys. the first time in my life that i can remember being bombarded with seriously disturbing reality over a period of time was the polio epidemic. mostly kids trapped in those iron lungs which to my young eyes looked like bombs with heads. since i was a kid also i took the threat very seriously. then there was the vietnam war. every evening huntly and brinkley would update the body count and offer up some pretty scary visuals as well. again, i was at a vulnerable age. and now this…the deadly invisible enemy. striking rapidly and so frequently the infected count climbed faster than imaginable. and i found myself in the crosshairs of calamity yet again due to my relationship with that calendar. the news was full of, for lack of a better word, opinions. no, wait…there is a better word, bullshit. yeah, seems as if everyone was mostly saying stuff to make up for what they really didn’t know.
so, the comforting television lost it’s luster and i fell back on america’s perennial feel good activity…shopping. and amazon was at the ready to be my facilitator. i started off large. a new camera. my reasoning was that if i was going to face armageddon i was going to have a proper device to record that event. this was not a totally new notion. i’d not been completely captivated with my last photographic purchase. it was a competent instrument but very small and it forced you to hold it out in front of you to compose on an led screen (you know, like a phone). some people don’t have an issue with that but i’m not one of them. and my fat fingers made it damned near impossible to navigate the interface on that screen. so…imagine my delight when i discovered a modern digital camera that looks and feels like the first camera i fell in love with (the leica rangefinder). it can be programed to behave exactly like a camera. you can manually focus, adjust the aperture and shutter speed. all things that an old photographer appreciates. it’s still small but not so small that it’s lost in my hand. once that major acquisition was made i continued with orders for new blue jeans, underwear and t shirts. my spring wardrobe if you will. that box of roller ball pens that i’d so far avoided buying, some paper to for the printer and some new kitchen knives and other stuff i can’t even remember. knowing the chocolate santa was going to visit me was the payoff. one interesting order was for a thermometer and some face shields that haven’t arrived yet and i’m told it will be another week or so. something to look forward to. it didn’t take long to realize that my bank account couldn’t adequately support this buying frenzy and it was time to find another diversion.
this time i turned to a more productive diversion. actually doing some things that really needed to be done. i now have a washed and waxed trailer and truck. an organized work area in the back of my carport and will next do that organizing thing in the workshop out back. after that i’ll turn toward one of my least favorite activities. yard work. there’s a huge pollen mess that needs attention, grass to mow and weeds to be pulled. so, maybe i can make those tasks last until the stay at home order is lifted. stay tuned….
monday afternoon here in confinement at the dude ranch. the weekend was consumed with house stuff. my living space got hoovered and mopped along with a bit of dusting that cursed yellow pollen. i also attacked the deck and screen porch with a leaf blower…stage one in of destroying the evidence of the many pine trees’ procreation activities this spring. it’s been a banner year for the yellow scourge.
our morning walks remain blissfully uneventful. occasional passing cars and few other walkers. i’d imagine that with the stay at home decree nobody needs to get in that exercise in the wee hours. because simple and i prefer the cockcrow time we’re pretty much on our own out there. i did learn this morning from a neighbor (who knows all the scoop on what’s up here in the suburbs of forest acres) that there are two folks here in the hood that have the virus. both received treatment and returned to their respective homes. a hell of a lot better than dying all alone in an icu bed.
very early this morning a mighty storm blew thru the area. the first time it waked me was around two am. then, every hour or so it would do another act of the same play. finally at around four i gave up and decided to go get some live updates on what was happening. this, of course, had to be done with the assistance of a pot of coffee. the weather people on television were thrilled to be getting so much screen time and had lots of very colorful graphics obviously designed to scare you. it worked well. from the shelter of the screen porch the puppy and i were able to experience the thunder, lightening, pouring rain and swaying silhouettes of tall pine trees up close and personal. fortunately it was just a very dramatic display of momma nature’s mischief. other folks not far away were not as lucky.
early wednesday here at the dude ranch. i’ve noticed sleep pattern disruptions. waking fully two or three times nightly. not those oh, i gotta pee wake ups but full on i’m awake events. while i’m emptying my way too small bladder i’m planning morning activities which, of course, always begin with coffee. back in the bedroom i glance at the clock and realize that it’s still in the very wee hours of the morning and it’s gonna make for a very long day should i remain awake. so then i climb back into the bed, snuggle up with the puppy and thankfully swiftly return to dream land. when the real wake up time arrives i not as rested as i should be. this can’t be healthy behavior.
yesterday we resurrected the back porch. this involved stripping all the stuff that needed to remain dry and taking a high pressure hose to what was left. i waded for a long time in a yellow pond removing all that pollen. a short drying time break with the aid of a couple fans and then wiping off and replacing the dry stuff and taking the opportunity to rearrange a bit and toss some junk. by mid afternoon i was sitting on that pollenless porch with a celebratory cup of bourbon coffee feeling very good about having that space again.
i try to resist the urge to rant regarding politics on this blog. however…it really is absurd how they’ve politicized this pandemic. why can’t we put that stuff on hold while we try to deal with this worldwide invasion of the invisible monster attacking all of us. then there are the inevitable scams. no big surprise but, there has to be a special place in hell for those that are so quick to try to turn a buck on misfortune. times of crises sure expose the sordid underbelly of humanity. ok, i’m kicking the soapbox back into it’s corner.
the puppy is whining her “time for a walk song”.
later that same day…after our walk and my breakfast i set about paying some bills and then decided to get some groceries. so, in the interest of safety (mine and others), i figured it would be a great time to do the home shopping and pick up at the store thing. first off the site was a bit offputting but i persevered. for over two hours i persevered to get my order made. then, when i attempted check out and schedule pick up dates i was told the first open date was ten days away. yeah, april twenty fifth. i understand that things are busy in the grocery world and this service is in high demand but it would have been nice of them to let me know about this ten day wait period before i started my spree. time to find some rubber gloves and my homemade mask i suppose.
i’ve heard that this past march was the first in eighteen years without a school shooting. let that sink in for a moment…
today was grocery day. decked out in my purple rubber gloves and home made camo face mask. this wasn’t one of those relaxed, browsing events, more like an operation (in the military sense) and my mission was to safely get in, get grub and get out. trader joe’s and lowes market were the combat zone. i marched right in and much to my surprise and delight the crowd was scant on both fronts. with precision i negotiated each and every isle quickly scooping up the spoils of war. no wait at either of the check out stations, it did however take a bit longer than usual since i had two of everything. why go to battle more than necessary? i reckon i’m supplied for a month. broke but supplied.
our spring weather is doing it’s best to imitate winter the past few days. it’s been chilly for our morning walk abouts. forties early on and only warming to the mid sixties in the afternoons. the days have been pretty splendid with clear blue skies. it’ll warm over the weekend but it will be a wet warm. and that dear readers is your weather update from the poplar ridge dude ranch.
tuesday. well, not a lot has happened since the last post that i can remember. remembering seems to be a hard thing to do in lockdown alone. and by alone i mean no human companions. simple can remember and so can the gnome. the gnome isn’t talking and simple can’t. reference points in my mind seem to just not be there. i mean one day is just like the others. if i didn’t have a computer to keep track of the calendar i’d have no notion of which day we’re experiencing. this is not a good way to live. but then, there’s a serious lack of alternatives. there’s been a lot of talk about “opening the economy” which means allowing people to return to their jobs to create things that other people can go out and purchase. some people maintain that it’s too soon and we run the risk of a return of infections. there’s another crowd that thinks it’s a great idea to end the shutdown and “return our freedom”. these would be the folks protesting at state houses around the country. some of that crowd are heavily armed with their second amendment equipment. i’m not sure i understand the logic of that but i’d assume it’s a show of force to make a point about freedoms. at this point i don’t really care. i do know that whatever path is taken i’ll remain here at the dude ranch unarmed until those scientists and doctors say it’s safe and then for a bit longer to see if they’re correct.
well, that was a rather dour paragraph to start off with. why don’t we walk on the positive side of the road now. toward the end of last week simple and i broke our surly bonds and went visiting. a friend and her puppy invited us over for a proper social distancing visit in her delightful back yard. the puppies didn’t socially distance themselves and had a proper romp climbing all over each other. my friend and i didn’t romp but i will say that the sound of another human and conversation was delightful music.
then there was a virtual birthday party for my grand-daughter. while it was not as fun as the real thing would have been it was a great treat to see those smiling young faces and hear their squeals of delight. these are indeed times that create new and unique memories. i can’t help but wonder if these unique arrangements might become the new normal in our world someday….
in an attempt to achieve some variety in our everyday life simple and i have taken a new walking route around a couple of lakes in the neighborhood. well, not really “lakes” but large ponds. the change of scenery is nice and it’s about a half mile longer and according to simple has a plethora of new and interesting smells.
wednesday. i consulted my computer calendar and as best i can tell i’ve been living in fear for the past thirty three days. well, not really “fear” but a nagging knowledge that i or someone i care about may become infected and possibly die. but wait…isn’t that “fear”? i can deal with all the rest of it, the inconvenience is tolerable and many folks are even providing some good humor about it. i’ve a notion that lifting the contact limiting restraints is at the very least going to begin a new chapter in the crisis. good or bad, it will be new.
yesterday was laundry day and i used solar energy to dry clothes for the first time this year. i do prefer not to use the clothes dryer for well, clothes. and towels…gotta love those crunchy air dried towels! oh, and it’s free! i’m using a new method for doing stuff. the goal is to accomplish at least one task daily. and no, getting out of bed doesn’t count. this task is in addition to all those that get done on a daily basis. preparing meals, doing the dishes, taking out trash, napping and such all fall into that daily basis category. i’ve mowed the grass out back and pulled all the weeds from the cactus garden. i gotta tell you that weeding a cactus garden is something that needs to be done with great care for obvious reasons.
“testing” for the virus is a hot button topic now. all sorts of issues like how much, which test, who will do this testing and who will be tested are being debated. while others answer those questions i’ve devised my own test. “they” say that one of the first signs you’re infected is loosing your sense of smell. well, i can tell you i’m safe so far. every morning simple provides the material and i get a good whiff while bagging it. i’ll let you know if anything changes.
friday. i’m sitting here trying to remember what i did yesterday. i can’t. i do know it was a rainy day and whatever productive i accomplished was indoors. perhaps folding and storing clean clothes was about it. there might have been some domestic duties taken care of. the floors have been vacuumed along with a bit of other cleaning tasks and i guess they were done yesterday. i know that i took delivery of a new (yeah, there’s still a bit of shopping being done) bluetooth speaker. with this i can go onto my porch and listen to my phone (or any other bluetooth enabled device). this allows me to play my phone music and tune radio broadcasts (again, from the phone) . now, before you get all in my stuff about buying stuff, for a long time i’ve wished for audio on the porch. i tried several radio solutions which didn’t work out so well. this gizmo lets me have music and radio seamlessly without having to worry about rain messing with the functionality of the device. and get this… the speaker is solar powered! yeah, i know…there’s another trend here. a full charge will run for ten hours or so. this thing will be really great for camping (if i ever do that again). music outside the trailer will be a new experience. it was an impulse purchase from a company whose products i already use and it was only twenty five bucks!! i couldn’t resist…
today i did a bit of yard work. the carport/trailer nest has been blown out along with the driveway to remove what i call “tree worms” that fall after the pine pollen. i’m not sure what caused me to tackle this task, but…i feel better now that it’s done. my god, is this pandemic thing turning me into a neat freak regarding the grounds here at the dude ranch? all that leaf blower activity led to a nap which was followed by a very satisfying session with coffee on the back porch listening to music (on the new speaker of course). now, music is/was a very important part of my life. i don’t listen as often any longer, but, when i do i realize what a big deal is is. the emotions and memories those tunes reignite are amazing and comforting. for over two hours or so i just listened to the tunes that were a very big deal back in the day. i must admit that there were some moist eyes on the porch.
it’s a monday after a busy weekend. well, as busy as one can be under the circumstances. friday morning there was a visit to trader joe’s. taking advantage of the geezer hour (from eight to nine am) they’ve established. you gotta be one to get in. i had no issues gaining access (not even a second glance from the monitor stationed at the entrance). there were but a few customers (twenty or so). everyone was moving slowly and keeping socially distanced. not a bad shopping experience at all. except, of course, the nagging menace of the virus. saturday afternoon my sister-in-law treated our cousin and i to margaritas and fish tacos. we remained properly socially distanced and i went home with a belly full. that qualifies as a busy weekend in a pandemic.
if you can forget for a moment the massive loss of life associated with the pandemic there are some very positive things happening. ranging from folks just being a bit nicer, less traffic and associated noise to environmental changes. catalina island (thirty miles or so off the coast of southern california) can be seen from the mainland for the first time in a very long time. there are some stunning photos from the space station showing a much cleaner planet. no traffic on the freeways equals clear air. i saw some video from venice, italy of a large jellyfish totally visible swimming in one of these famous canals that was full of crystal clear water instead of the murky mess that was there not long ago. wouldn’t it be nice if, after the virus is taken care of, mankind could work a little harder to make momma earth as happy as she is now?
it’s trash pickup day here on the ridge. i know that because all my neighbors have pulled their refuse carts to the street. and that dear readers is how i know it’s tuesday.
yesterday and today are splendid examples of springtime is the south. clear blues with a few clouds and a breeze with just enough chill to let you know it’s simply spring. the weather guessers say we’ll be seeing nearly ninety on our thermometers by week’s end. those protective masks i ordered back when the pandemic was just letting everyone know it was here are yet to show up. in fact, yesterday wally world let me know that i would be receiving a credit on my card and cancelling the order. i’ve placed another order with a vendor that brags about their quick shipping. we’ll see…
so…we’ll not be camp hosting in vermont this summer. it was a tough decision made easy by al lot of doctors and scientists saying we’re just not out of the woods yet and if people get out and about too quickly a second wave of death is a distinct possibility. and what are people doing? well, in a lot of states, they’re rushing out to restart the economy. why, i could drive to georgia today get a tattoo, a haircut and workout in a gym and be back home by early evening. i sent an e-mail letter of resignation to the campground manager early yesterday. her reply was quick saying that she was about to contact me to dissuade me from reporting to duty. her reasoning was the same as mine…not worth the risk. she doesn’t even know for sure if they’re going to have a season. the park opening has been delayed and may not even happen. i do feel better knowing that we’re on the same page about this thing but, i was so looking forward to a vermont summer. perhaps next year.
a friend told me today that her new favorite drink was vodka on the clorocks with a twist. i also read that poison control centers all over the country are reporting an unusually high number of calls regarding the use of commercial disinfectants to combat the virus. my friend was joking but, the folks making those calls weren’t. people in positions of authority really should think before they speak. some however, seem to not be very well acquainted with the concept of thinking.
it’s about nap time and after that perhaps i’ll try to get these words posted to the blog. two very good reasons to ignore those yard work tasks that i keep saying i’ll do….
happy cinco de mayo! yeah, entering the third month of pandemic panic. things have gotten even more crazy and confusing. at first it was the federal government issuing directives and warnings. and that sorta went lunatic before too long. insufferably long “briefings” (briefing being a concept obviously not understood at the federal level) featuring our elected “leaders” telling the nation one thing and the doctors and scientists who work for them warning us of the misinformation we just received. this went on for a while until the elected guys (who really want to be reelected) sorta threw in the towel and told us that the states should decide the best path out of the mess. as you might imagine there wasn’t an abundance of agreement regarding that path. oh, and there were sideshows of heavily armed citizens gathering at various state houses demanding “freedom” (for them and at gunpoint). freedom to get haircuts, tattoos, to eat at public restaurants, play golf and even freedom to not to wear basic masks to help abate the virus. the good old us of a now has more deaths than any other country. we’re still counting. some states flung open the doors of infection wide, others are opening a few at a time but, in general, things are opening up everywhere. now, mind you, this is when the doctors and scientists are issuing serious warning about a “phase two”. yeah, a rebound which could very likely be worse that what we’ve been thru already. and…there’s a mutant form of coronavirus that’s even more contagious waiting in the wings. and that dear readers is your virus update.
the previous paragraph does a lot to explain why i and many others are scared and confused. personally this old guy intends to do what he’s been doing all along until the body count numbers start to fall. and then, i’ll wait just a bit longer to see if it stays down before i relax. long early morning walks with the puppy to start the day followed by some sort of “constructive activity”, longer than usual naps and enjoying my two beers ration in the evenings. my kids and i manage to stay in touch electronically and we all take comfort knowing the others are safe. but, you know, a hug sure would be nice.
there’s a shiny truck and trailer in my driveway. ready and waiting to take us to beautiful places with good times. while i take some comfort knowing that it’s there and ready, it’s still a sad reminder that we’ll not be hearing that highway sound any time soon. while my rig gently weeps….
that’s about all there is to report from the dude ranch. oh, i could go on about the tortures of the yard work i’ve been using as an escape, the house is cleaner than it has been in some time. hell, i’ve even washed all the windows (in the part of the house i actually live in). and i’ve spent some quality time with the new camera. it’s a joy to use and has become an important part of our kit on those morning walks. all in all we’re hanging in there and hope you are as well. now go wash your hands…
friday morning here at the dude ranch ten days or so since our last post. all the news says things are opening back up. i think those that are still under lockdown are due to be reopened very soon. this has become a very polarizing circumstance (yeah, no surprise there huh?). all of this is sharing the stage with a virus that refuses to go away. one hundred twenty five new cases in the state yesterday. my plan of action is still the same…continue to lay low and pay attention. then when there are no new cases for a while i’ll start thinking about a meal being served to me before i go for a haircut, work out at a gym, get a tattoo and a massage.
over the years i’ve been accused of being a hermit (or a recluse). this accusation has some merit. i will not deny that i do enjoy my solitude, however, it’s not a total thing for me. i suppose we could just say i enjoy other people in small doses. these troglodyte tendencies (ha!) have lessened the impact of social isolation. my life hasn’t changed much as a result of mandated isolation. what has changed is the dread that i experience when i do venture out. it’s not really terrifying or disabling but, there’s something unsettling about putting on a mask and rubber gloves to run an errand. my solution has been to do what i can to make jeff bezos achieve that trillionaire status. then every couple weeks or so i go to trader joe’s and lowes foods, buy two of everything i want and scramble back home. our state park dog park has reopened and we do go there. it’s a very large facility and i never see more than a couple of folks there with their pups. we’re all aware of social distancing and it works out. we just have to talk a bit louder (we’re all old).
if (there’s that all important word) there was no pandemic going on, we’d be on our way to vermont for the summer. if you’ve ever experienced summertime in the middle of south carolina you’d understand why i was so looking forward to being in vermont. it would also be very nice to be on the road. but alas, twas not to be. maybe next year.
it’s been eleven days since i first wrote on this entry and not a lot has changed since. “restarting the economy” is in full swing here in south carolina. memorial day weekend has just ended and from what i saw on the television folks are not doing very well with the social distancing thing. crowds on the beaches, lakes and other attraction places were large and close. restaurants were serving inside at half capacity and from the looks of things there were lots of hungry people. speaking of food, i made a trip to the beer store last week (yes, it’s an essential product) and right next door there’s an eatery known for their crispy fried chicken. well, i got a whiff of frying chicken and thought why not take some home for lunch? i walked over and took a place in the queue. while i stood there i noticed that none of the cooks or servers were wearing masks or gloves. suddenly i began to question my decision and with but a bit of questioning i did an about face and marched out empty handed. that two piece chicken snack will just have to wait a while. another of those things that will stay on my “looking forward to it” list.
my dear sister in law, a woman with boundless energy, volunteered to paint my bathroom. either she was really bored or felt sorry for me using a bathroom with such old paint. a bit of both most likely. anyway i gladly accepted and spent a day removing everything that i didn’t want painted. then there was three days of spackle and sandpaper leading to primer coat and then final coat. in the meantime i’d been busy on the computer and ordered a small corner cabinet to replace all the old and somewhat rusted chrome shelves. and yes, there was “some assembly required”. it had been a long time since i’d assembled a mail order piece of furniture and i can report that the instructions provided (yes, i read the directions) have not improved over the years. one of those projects that could have been finished in a half day with good information which those line drawings of the thing were not. yeah, it took a day and a half. some things never change.
there was a notable event in the garden (i use that term very loosely) recently. the prickly pear cactus bloomed! now, this will not impress you folks from the great southwest, however in south carolina it’s pretty special. my yard work here continues at the blistering speed of an old snail. progress has been hampered by rain. we’ve entered our subtropical rainy season. over eight inches of precipitation in the past five days. the kind of rain that comes with storms. lots of thunder and lightening. it’s way too wet to plow.
and speaking of notable events…my son-in-law chris just this morning was notified that he’d been awarded the james beard award for his book about okra. okra! this is a very big deal (trust me). it was a big deal that he actually wrote an entertaining book about the vegetable but, to receive this prestigious recognition is over the moon! congrats chris!