Since my first pandemic column in the April 3 Kennebunk Post, there’s been many changes but still too many uncertainties still ahead.

Grocery store shelves

Back then, the biggest surprise was the panic buying and hoarding of toilet paper. Months later, when the hoarders discovered that their rolls would outlast their own lifetimes, they tried to return their carloads of once precious white gold for credit. They were shocked that they were told nope.

A sign at the entrance of a Hannaford supermarket, reminds customers to stay six feet apart while shopping in the store. Gregory Rec photo/Press Herald

I had predicted that sheltering at home, comfort meals, snacks, TV binging, and lack of exercise could lead us down the road to another health crisis of our own making. After I had restructured the once healthy Food Pyramid, two Post readers emailed that I should have included Spam in my new Four Food Groups. One said that Spam is in every survivalist’s storeroom and has a shelf life of 100 years.

Nutritionists are confirming that during the past four months, we’ve also been avoiding the bathroom scale. They’re calling our new collective weight gain the “COVID 15.”

Each week, face mask on, I make my weekly excursions to either Hannaford or Market Basket to restock our larder. Keeping an eye out for what aisles are getting hammered, my unscientific survey shows that it’s an ethnic food fight out there.

The Italians are winning hands down. The cuisine — pastas, spaghetti and pizza sauces, pastes, shells, and cheeses, while the largest food shelf space, is always the most depleted. The Hispanics with a much smaller but growing shelf section are close behind. The pandemic choices have a heartburn edge with all the hot salsas, burning chilies, nitro sauces, taco ingredients, beans, shells and wraps being sold.

The Chinese, Thai, and Korean section has the hot sauces, stir fry makings, rice, canned fish, herbs, soy sauces, and products that I can’t pronounce, and always looks like it’s just weathered a tsunami. With every Maine Chinese and Thai restaurant closed for three months, the craving for Asian food, even home cooked, is winning out.

In two other store sections, there’s a common thread. The soup aisle is always hard hit, and many times the only remaining Progresso soup is split pea, while in the vegetable freezer case, I can seldom find non-gourmet peas. Either a lot of casseroles are being cooked or parents are doing pay back on their kids for being at home. Our son always called peas, “little green balls of poison.”

Early studies are telling us that during this pandemic, people have really upped their drinking. Restaurants have just reopened, but the bars are still closed, so wines in all price ranges are flowing off the shelves and craft beers are pouring out of the stores.

Drive-in theaters

In early June, I had written that my wife and I were adrift without the big screen movies in our shut-down movie theaters. This was a serious problem for us, because 55 years ago we both had listed on our Searching-for-the-Compatible-Spouse lists, ‘has to have a love for movies.’

The pandemic seemed ready made for a possible resurgence for drive-in movie theaters, but would they find a new life in this tech driven 21st century? During the past two months, these dinosaur-like survivors are once again drawing families and dating teenagers to the really, really big screen. They’ve also done daytime double duty for Sunday church services and high school and community college graduations.

Though, leave it to Garth Brooks, the master country-music showman to make the drive-ins profitable again. Garth, who knows how to pack some of the biggest arenas and stadiums, decided to perform a virtual concert at more than 300 drive-in theaters. Perhaps, remembering as a youth being stuffed in the car trunk, he charged a flat admission rate of $100 per car.

Doubters predicted that it wouldn’t work and that Garth’s career would be damaged. The decision was made to tape the concert weeks before in a Nashville studio, since a live performance couldn’t run at dusk in four different time zones. His team signed up 300 drive-ins with their 379 screens.

When Ticketmaster opened up the sale of the concert tickets, 50,000 tickets were sold in the first two hours before the computers crashed. The final ticket count was 350,000. Scores of bands and musicians — pop, rap, golden oldie groups, and country music singers, are now scrambling to organize, promote and carry off late summer and fall drive-in concerts. Opera? I don’t know about that one.

Our local movie theaters have just reopened with social distancing, mandatory masks and a maximum capacity of 50 in a theater. Will movie goers like my wife and I return?

A month ago, when Jim Cramer, the investment guru was asked on CNBC whether the stock price-battered movie theater chain companies could now be a good buy, he replied, “I believe that drive-in theaters are the only cheap and safe place to go to a movie.”

A Post reader did enlighten me that yesterday’s speaker clipped on a side window is now passé. Flip a couple of switches now, and the movie soundtrack comes alive through your radio without draining the battery or breaking the window.

Home haircuts

Our hair salons and barber shops have reopened and female and male locks are again being professionally sheared. I had written in early May, that after being prodded by my wife and called scruffy, I agreed to put the top of my head in her hands. This was done with some trepidation because I’ve seen her handiwork with her electric trimmer/shears on our bushes at home.

Now, four haircuts later, I’m not going back to the $20 haircut and tip. I’m now trained that when I hear her first, “It’s time,” we head out to our new scalpatorium, the patio, where I wrap a towel around my shoulders, and “snip, snip … and I wake up later. It’s all done with scissors and comb. Agreed to back in May — no power tools.

A Post reader emailed that she had watched a how-to-cut-a-man’s-hair video. Though it was all in Spanish, she concentrated on just the procedure itself and her husband was very happy with the finished product. She did have one caution — cut his hair outdoors not in the kitchen.

My wife hasn’t yet told me what her tip will be, but given the $20 savings per haircut, it’ll probably be dinner in the indoor dining room (first time in four months) at a newly reopened local restaurant.

Tom Murphy is a former history teacher and state representative. He is a Kennebunk Landing resident and can be reached at [email protected]

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