Hoarding comfort food – NO; Hoarding baseball cards – YES

I went to the store and picked up some of my favorite comfort foods.

I’m a hoarder from way back. Anyone who collects stuff is a hoarder, but just more organized about it. Baseball cards, political campaign buttons, but certainly not food, even during times of crisis like the current COVID-19 sequestration.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Maybe we should enjoy life as much as possible, because it will be over soon. This saying is based on verses from the biblical books of Ecclesiastes and Isaiah.

I imagine this is one reason why some people are in a panic and are hoarding toilet paper and Lysol – as a side note, I just ordered clorox pellets on Amazon for those of you who are into making DIY disinfectant.

I went to the food store yesterday, mostly to just look around and inventory what wasn’t there. I’m not really a very creative shopper and tend to buy the same things, plus, the random emergency food I have in the pantry isn’t exactly what you’d think a Boulder person would buy, as such, I haven’t been in a panic when I go to the store these days.

At Safeway, there haven’t been any lines. My next door neighbor said there are lines at Whole Foods. My upstairs neighbor said there were long lines at Costco.

My anecdotal cultural guess based only on stereotypes of Boulderites? Whole Food shoppers only buy for the day or the next day, and aren’t in the habit of buying processed foods. The last time I was in the big Whole Foods was a few years ago when an exchange student studying sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica wanted a “tour” so I showed him around. The last time I was in Costco I had to buy a six pack of Colgate shaving lather. I think I still have a few cans left.

I tend not to use a grocery cart, either.  When I do, it gets filled up with stuff I didn’t really need. Generally, I shop with a bag, plus, I don’t worry about contracting an infectious disease from the cart handle.

These days, the shelves are picked over pretty well, but the extra emergency items I like to keep in the pantry don’t seem to be in short supply.

I picked up a pack of cherry Pop Tarts. I heard that when there’s a hurricane, Pop Tarts are the first to go when people are holing up. Not last night in Boulder – all the Pop Tarts I wanted were there staring at me from the shelf. Originally, they were plain and unfrosted and scored to eat them on the diagonal when broken in half. I didn’t know that the packaging technology was originally used to wrap up the moist dog food Gainsburgers.


Churros are deep fried snacks from Mexico made from corn meal/flour.

As for Cheetos, I didn’t become a fan until I tried the crunchy ones. My grandparents were fans of the puffed Cheetos, but I didn’t care for them. I lived off and on in Mexico for six years in the 1990s and learned about churros that are made out of corn flour and deep fried. I always thought that cheetos were cultural misappropriation of churros.

Then there’s Velveeta processed American cheese. Lucerne, the grocery store brand, is three dollars cheaper, so I opted for that. Since I was a kid, I’ve always liked Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread dunkable in any Campbell’s Soup, but tomato is preferable.

That’s also a throwback to my Hastings College days. The food service called SAGA (A GAS spelled backward) served chili or tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, but I can’t remember which, but maybe Saturday lunch.

Velveeta Box

Velveeta was sold in wooden boxes. I imagine you took it back for refills.

I don’t know the manufacturing process, but Velveeta is kept at room temperature until it is opened. Velveeta was invented in 1918 and later sold to Kraft Foods in 1927. It was the first cheese product to obtain the American Medical Association seal of approval in the 1930s.

Despite it looking like cheese, the FDA classified it as quasi-cheese, “cheese spread” because it’s made with milk. In 2002, Velveeta was classified as “cheese product” because it didn’t have any actual cheese.

Nonetheless, there’s as much “cheese product” on the shelves as you’d care to buy.

kramer beeferino

Kramer feeding his horse Rusty Beeferino.

Another one of my comfort food staples is Beefaroni. The Chef BoyArDee canned version of macaroni spaghetti came on the market in the mid-1960s, “Hooray, for Beeferoni!” was the TV ad pitch phrase. A chef in New York City named Hector Boiardi founded the company because there was high demand for his marinara sauce that he sold in milk bottles.

You may recall a Seinfeld episode when Kramer is driving a Central Park horse and carriage, then feeds the steed a big can of Beeferino with unsettling results. Last night, there wasn’t one can of Beeferoni, regular or mini ravioli. My thought, frantic shoppers grabbed anything with no intention of actually eating it. The beeferoni will end up in the next food drive basket.

fb spam sushi

SPAM sushi

The same holds true for SPAM, I’d be surprised if anyone in Boulder bought that reconstituted pork product other than out of desperation. It was always a staple around the house when I was young, SPAM was a hold-over from World War II in Hawaii.

My dad liked SPAM and eggs. The Village Cafe on Folsom and Arapahoe in Boulder offers SPAM as a meat option, as does the 20th Street Cafe in LoDo Denver. That place is owned by a Sansei Japanese and his family. I got this can out to make some SPAM sushi.

mantle sig decalI still don’t know what to make of this coronavirus thing. I’m thinking people are hoarding food and dry goods thinking, “Well, if it’s nothing, at least I have a stockpile of toilet paper and lysol to last me until the 22nd century.” The talking heads and politicians make no mention of the 2009 swine flu pandemic that infected a billion people and killed 500,000 around the world. That all happened a year after the international financial system crashed.

I’m pretty sure that it being an election year, adds to the panic with an incumbent president trying to make hay; cable tv channels wanting to up their ratings and riding the coronavirus pandemic and election waves.

Maybe I should dump some of my baseball cards. I doubt Safeway will accept my signed Mickey Mantle card in exchange for a case of Cheetos, at least in the near future.


Cohousing is a vaccine against COVID-19 isolation, loneliness

ssv corona lindy

RN Lindy Cook gives a community orientation about the corona virus at an early meeting when the pandemic was still in its infancy.

A version of this story is now published in the fall 2020 edition of Communities No. 188. You download the publication here, courtesy of myself.


One thing I’ve learned over the years, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned emergency to bring a community of any size together, from meeting your neighbor for the first time as a result of a power outage during a huge snowstorm to quickly spreading diseases like the coronavirus.

Cohousing communities and their residents are well equipped to deal with crisis situations, such as implementing current COVID-19 / Coronavirus prevention measures without resorting to martial law.

Internationally, nationally, and locally, hyper-vigilance will create political heroes, increase ratings on cable TV talking heads shows, sell more toilet paper – but in the long run, save lives, and bridge social and cultural divides.

We cohousers are predisposed to be hedges against isolation through collaboration, sharing of time and resources, and keeping track of one another. We’re big on meetings and getting together to make decisions about stuff.

Cohousing Association of the U.S. held a national online webchat about what other communities are doing around the country to respond to COVID-19. There is an online series that continues. Recordings will be available for those unable to participate live.

At my place, we have several neighbors self-isolating because of actual illness, having returned from travel or just being cautious. That hasn’t deterred the community from getting together.

ssv corona zoom

A virtual community meeting was held on the zoom.us platform for residents to talk about how to limit outside use of the Common House. All households were represented.

My community has convened a series of Zoom.us online conversations and reached consensus together on a set of common sense guidelines around how to use the community common house during lockdown.

Over the past few weeks, our resident opinions were all over the spectrum from “This is a hoax” to “I’m not worried” to “Put on the haz-mat suits.”

Myself? I’m more of a “Business as usual” guy, as far as my being “freaked out” quotient goes. I’ve been catching up on pandemic-related movies and TV shows. Last night “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo was on Prime Video.

On Netflix, I’m watching a TV series called “Containment” about what happens among frustrated people during a viral outbreak in a quarantine area where there are too many “rats in a cage.” Next are the classic “Andromeda Strain” and “Contagion” with Gwyneth Paltrow. There’s a good one called “Flu” from Korea, but it’s subtitled – I’ll watch that when I can concentrate more.

But in the cohousing community, my behavior is to observe the the most important lowest common denominator, which is hyper-vigilance.

Silver Sage Village COVID-19 guidelines  generally prohibit outsiders from entering the common house, and itinerant use by community members.

During normal times, the building is seldom frequented except for a few people using the laundry, residents checking the mail, getting items from the storage room, the new social distancing criterium isn’t much of an inconvenience. The mailman is asked to wipe the mail boxes.

Most Baby Boomers, including myself, were around during the 1950s and 1960s toward the end of the polio pandemic, and the swine flu that spread in 2009, which coincided with the financial system collapse.

My family provided support when the oral polio vaccines came out. In my grade school one kid recovered from polio and wore a leg brace ala Forrest Gump. He was bullied because he also wore a hearing aid – back then, they were very conspicuous, with earphones wired to a receiver the size of a Band-Aid box.

glass syringe

I remember my grandfather’s insulin syringe as looking similar to this Dr. Frankenstein item.

Jonas Salk developed the first vaccine that was administered by injection. Getting jabbed with what seemed to be a needle the size of a railroad spike was my first shot.I don’t remember being freaked out about it.

Living on top of others is not new to me. One time, my grandfather, who had diabetes stayed with us. My grandmother was unable to care for him at the time since she was running the family business, the Highway Cafe.

I had to give up my bedroom, but went in to see him every morning because I was curious about the insulin shots he administered to himself. He let me poke him with the big syringe. It was a glass barrel connected to a stainless steel contraption. I don’t know how sterile it could be, since it was only wiped off by a cloth and some alcohol.

Anyway, I didn’t have a fear of needles, still don’t.

Back in the 1960s, the vaccine development competition was fierce. In the case of polio, Albert Sabin won the oral vaccine contest. Polio vaccines were risky in that some people who were vaccinated contracted polio, but that risk was outweighed by the number of cases prevented.

I remember a big family social event was gathering at my grandparents house on 8th Street in the Southside of Cheyenne. We walked over to the fire station and stood in line with all the other neighbors to get a sugar cube with pink fluid dropped onto it. Seems like there were boosters necessary, but the most memorable was the first one.

ssv corona spam shelf

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, there wasn’t a run on food like now during the COVID-19 scare, but there were a billion cases and 500,000 deaths in 2009.

What about the swine flu pandemic from 2009? That was a pretty big deal. Obama had a lot on his plate back then keeping the auto industry and banks stable. He eventually declared swine flu a national emergency. I had to look it up to refresh my memory.

I don’t remember anything about self-isolating, wiping doorknobs with Clorox, social distancing or anything like what’s happening now – but 500,000 people died and a billion were sick around the world. Turned out, saving the world economy was more important than saving people.

There were warnings about the swine flu contagion, but no mass closures of schools or businesses, nor were employees self-isolating in mass numbers.

The coronavirus outbreak could be a lot like the swine flu and the crash of 2009. Getting ahead of the disease and propping up the economy is the best we can hope to minimize disruptions.

Cohousers have the wherewithal to fast track hyper-vigilant responses to the control the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. government getting out in front with an economic stimulus package that includes couple Andrew Yang-esque Uniform Basic Income payments of $1,000 to most people, will be a short-term shot in the arm.

I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet – I’m a hoarder from way back. I’m eating up all my emergency food, though. Next crisis, I’ll stock up on my least favorite snacks.
conrad dobler si cover
I mentioned at the start about meeting my neighbor during a snowstorm. It was when I moved to Laramie for graduate school in 1976 or so and living at my parent’s townhouse.

There was a power outage and I saw my neighbor out on the walk. We were both checking out the situation – snow drifted to the side of the house and no power.

Turned out, he was a University of Wyoming alumnus and a former linebacker for the Pokes.

He and his family lived in Laramie during the off season when he wasn’t on the field playing for the St. Louis football Cardinals – it was none other than Conrad Dobler, pro-football’s “Dirtiest Player.”

Conrad turned out to be a pretty nice guy, and if you do anything over the next few weeks, get to know your neighbors, even if it’s from six feet away. Your lives may one day depend on your friendships.