Bubble Bubble Toil & Trouble

Photo / Graphic by Roman.

Gosh! I’m gloomy. Even if gloom is justified, it wouldn’t hurt to lighten up a bit, no?

Well, okay. Think of the title as the name of some super-group of talented, popular musicians and the graphic being the cover of their first album, very rare, collectable, and all yours.

What do they sound like? Anything you like yet hopeful.

Booster

And a happy Saturday / Weekend to one and all: I got my Pfizer Covid booster this last Wednesday.

What took so long? Being an already vaccinated, reclusive geezer who rarely spends time in the presence of other humans or indeed other creatures of any sort, it wasn’t a priority. The mechanics of making and keeping an appointment seemed a bit more work than it was worth. If it were a new product, a vaccine tailored to the latest versions circulating, for example, the calculation would have been a bit different.

What happened instead was a regularly scheduled visit to my doctor. The agenda resembled one of those “death panel” visits that conservatives had so much fun using to scare the living bejesus out of their credulous supporters some years ago. But there was some actual medicine in the queue as well.

It didn’t start well. The office is in Evanston and involves a transfer to the Purple line in Evanston. And it was bloody cold, not far above zero Fahrenheit. So I allowed an hour for the trip and this was good. First, the Red line train promised to stop in Rogers Park at a quarter after the hour was late, throwing off its connection with the Purple line. Then I arrived at the office, still with time to spare, only to find they had moved. The sign provided an address, but I’ve never bothered to learn more of Evanston’s geography than I needed to know at that particular moment. The street number was similar and the street name vaguely familiar but… is it a north / south street or east / west? Where do I go? No smart phone, you see.

Well, back to the Davis CTA station. CTA stations frequently have neighborhood maps posted or maybe I’d run into someone willing to help. The Davis station had a map with a numbered street grid and the new address was no more than a block away. I got there in time.

It turns out that the “immediate care” clinic attached to the operation was providing free COVID booster shots the latter half of the week without an appointment (an appointment is required at both of my local pharmacies), so I was able to complete a long physician visit, lab work, and the booster shot in one long stop that day.

The entire errand took up about four hours. As I had been fasting for about 24 hours prior, that was getting toward the limits of my endurance.

Of the three Pfizer COVID shots, my reaction to the third shot was the worst. By winter’s early evening, I was aching, possibly feverish, exhausted. My kingdom for a hot bath and bed! And that’s where I was by 7 PM and where I remained until twelve hours later.

I awoke Thursday morning feeling great!!: that energetic joy that I’ve so often felt upon awakening after an illness.

Here’s my bottom line, folks. Your immune system may get better training to resist subsequent COVID infections by having an actual exposure to one of the new strains of COVID, but this is not a virus you really should mess with as “long COVID” is a real possibility, it’s not good to be contagious, and there is no way for you to predict the course of the disease, the outcome. If you think that you are tough and lucky and don’t need this shit and furthermore nobody is going to tell you what to do… please pardon my lack of diplomacy but you are at a very stupid place in your life. Get vaccinated. Get boosted.

(Photo by Roman.)

Two faux post script paragraphs

Some people seem to forget (or perhaps wilfully ignore) that vaccinations have been a part of routine medical care for over a century. We’ve all had a lot of them. For my part, smallpox and the three COVID shots together were the worst with side effects, but that makes the COVID shots sound worse than they actually are. My reaction to the smallpox inoculation was an order of magnitude worse than Pfizer’s COVID. I got the nurse to target my smallpox scar with this latest COVID shot… still aches a little. Speaking of smallpox, people generally give the socialist author Upton Sinclair’s portrayal of Chicago’s meatpacking industry for motivating the passage of the pure food and drug act. But there were also issues with the quality of smallpox vaccines at the start of the 20th Century. It makes for some interesting history.

In other medical news, stop the presses: I’m vitamin D deficient. In fact, the blood test returned a zero value. Unless they spend a fair amount of time outdoors, everyone living 42 degrees north (Rogers Park / Evanston) is likely to be deficient and I doubt that I’m a record-setter. Vitamin D goes in and out of favor for various aspects of wellness (aside from maternal and newborn health) but currently there’s some clinical evidence suggesting (which is to say, maybe or maybe not) that the vitamin (D3 in particular) is useful in resisting the virus. It all sounds about as tentative as the question of whether ACE inhibitors (taken for blood pressure, for example) have any affect on COVID, and that question is still open, I think. Still, my physician recommended supplements. The last time I took vitamin D supplements, my kidneys got rid of it as quickly as I consumed it and there were no other observable effects. I think I’ll pass on the supplements. Still, water has been my beverage of choice after breakfast. Now it’s milk.

Time Mythmanagement

not quite the man-cave it once was, eh?

carpet 14
Loyola Park. Photo by Roman.

It’s not that I’ve desisted in being a slob, but I spend more time cleaning the apartment than I once did. How to explain this puzzling behavior? Think of yourself as a cat licking its butt. The cat does not like licking its butt, but it’s not as if any of the present alternatives offer much competition.

Vaccine!!

Here’s an update: I had my second dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine yesterday.

So far, the only definite side-effect so far has been that classic sore arm. The arm was sore for a day from first dose also, but that soreness seemed to be as much mechanical as anything else: The result of having liquid forcibly injected into a spot not intended for such. One can imagine the cells in that vicinity on the nerve-wire to the conscious “I” complaining vociferously about the insult, ending with: “Furthermore, we’re calling the police!”

Yes, thank you, that was the intent.

This time the shot seemed smaller in volume and the soreness had a burning quality that suggested something other mechanics. To pursue the earlier image, this time the T-cells were reenacting the 1968 Democratic National Convention police riot. Chicago cops seem to like that idea. And this time, there’s a virus worth clubbing.

Some folks have reported fatigue, but there was none that I noticed. Bedtime that day was at its usual time. But I ended up awakening just three hours later, and it was a wide awakening, that definitive certainty that this day’s sleep is over. Don’t bother to try to recapture sleep. It’s gone.

Unlike the first dose, I was unable to avoid the weather. It was a chill and rainy day until an hour or two after I got home. It may not have warmed much, but the rain stopped and the sun appeared.

But this did offer the amusement of watching some of my fellow CTA passengers come on board dressed for yesterday’s weather. There’s always a few.

Coming home, the bus pulled away from the Michigan Avenue bus stop just a minute or so before I got to the stop. Bummer! But there is a shelter for the stop, and the kiosk helpfully informed me that the next arrival for that bus route would be in 10 minutes.

A Story Goes With It

“Now,” Herbie says, “wait a minute. A story goes with it,” he says.

Well, of course this is a different matter entirely. I am such a guy as will always listen to a tip on a horse if a story goes with the tip. In fact, I will not give you a nickel for a tip without a story, but it must be a first-class story, and most horse players are the same way. In fact, there are very few horse players who will not listen to a tip if a story goes with it, for this is the way human nature is. So I turn and walk back to Hot Horse Herbie, and say to him like this:

“Well,” I say, “let me hear the story, Herbie.”

–“A Story Goes With It” by Damon Runyon

Within a few minutes, other buses arrived and the shelter’s population dropped to two. On a quick and careless glance, the other inhabitant might be a bag-lady about my age. On reflection, I’m not so sure, but she suddenly demanded my attention.

When this happens in the big city, it usually means that something is wanted of you. My strategy is to give that person my undivided, non-judgemental attention, even sometimes including questions to expand on some point or other. All the while, I’m listening “with a third ear” to what is included in the story, what is left out, but not whether it is true or not because I do not need to know.

“Listening with a third ear” is one of those phrases from mid-20th Century pre-feminist America, back when psychoanalytic self-help grifters suggested to women that, if their spouse was a troublesome character, the strategy to deal with it was not to dump him but rather to understand the root of his problem so as to avoid the next manifestation. In the meantime, the woman was to be alert for those “teachable moments” that would in theory enlighten said spouse to the errors of his ways. You can still find this advocated in family drama movies aimed at a religious female audience.

I don’t think it worked out happily ever after very often, but it is a useful technique.

I won’t go into her story, but it did make what turned out to be rather more than 10 minutes seem fairly brief. More to the point, it distracted her from the bite. The bus arrived and I was gone for the bus door before she could shift gears. It turns out that she just wanted to have someone pay her bus fare. And she really did not need me. She just contritely confessed to the driver that she had no money and could she ride the bus for a few blocks? She coulddah been his grandma and letting her ride would only cost the CTA a few pennies more in fuel. Why not?

She got off at Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place. Now do not jump to conclusions. She could have been going to work, even with her wheeled shopping basket. She could have been going to visit a friend. She may have been going home and home, on Delaware Place, could be an outrageously expensive condo, a tent, or a cardboard box. What is most certainly true is that she really did not want to walk in that rain.

Me neither.

Vaccine!

Just a small update on personal affairs: I had my first dose of Pfizer COVID vaccine. The recommendation for folks in my shoes was to use one’s own healthcare provider and for me that meant a trip downtown to Northwestern. Being a reclusive geezer in any case, the errand was something of an adventure for me.

(Plus I have the usual geezer obsession with “how far to the next restroom?” You probably don’t want to know the details so I’ll just say that it is really effective at keeping one close to home. Home, as they say, there’s no place like it!)

Northwestern was running a pretty efficient operation, probably over-staffed though when dealing with folks my age or more, over-staffing probably doesn’t hurt. The hospital’s risk-management folks must be purring. Likewise, they asked us to stick around for about 15 minutes so as to not scare the pigeons if there were any short-term reactions.

The shot was administered by a seriously perky young woman. Employee perkiness usually inspires a mildly sullen attitude in me, but this time I had the feeling the perkiness was all-at-once genuine, a technique for getting through the day, as well as a behavior desired by management. Plus these geezer ears are no longer adept at separating a young woman’s voice from the dull roar of a large and active room. Which is to say, I had too much to do to have time to cop an attitude.

And it could be that even recluses need occasional company. Conversation? I dimly recall such a thing.

The shot was a bit more consequential than a flu shot. It seemed to be more voluminous. The advice to rest for a short while afterwards seems to be good as well: for a short while, the connection with my feet seemed to demand my attention. And I do still feel a bit stoned but not unwell. The word is that the second shot is usually the one that makes one feel mildly unwell. Unwell? I’m old enough to have had a vaccination for small pox. Unwell? Bah! Go get a small pox vaccination then talk to me about side effects.

But then there was also the weather. Mid-March has been downright nasty for most of the “lower forty-eight” states. Here in Chicago, Thursday started out cold, wet and seriously windy. Not bad by comparison, but it was still classic “catch your death” weather for the underdressed. I was not one of them, but there were enough of them (sweet young things of every gender) on Michigan Avenue to be a tad concerning. By the time I left the apartment, the rain had pretty much ceased so at least I dodged that.

Still, I’m looking forward to bed early this evening. In the meantime, maybe I’ll find a stupid movie on the web somewhere.

Voilà. That’s my COVID report update.

Yip Abides in 2020

the ghost of 2020 reaches out…

Here lies buried in 2020 the content of this here blog for that year. By category in reverse chronological order:

Audio

Photo Wall

Video Wall

Poetry

Politics

Prose

Reviews

Meet the New Year…
Same as the Old Year.

Suzanne

i beg your pardon whilst i become slightly more improbable…

suerobert
Bob Roman and Suzanne Zumstein, December, 2003. Photo by William Zumstein.

I lost my sister this month. She was nine years older than I and had been diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis… essentially a death sentence diagnosis so it was not unexpected. It’s one of those mid-range horrible ways to go.

We were not close, not for the past several decades. This was entirely my fault though it was neglect not hostility. On the other hand, Suzanne was often understandably more than irritated about my failure to be a brother. Though we did have our moments. Still, she deserved a better little brother than I. And still,  for all that we did no more than talk on the phone occasionally, I miss her.

Funny thing about that photo. I somehow always remember her as taller than me.

An Old Soul…

Begins to Resemble a Ficus.

Do us the favor of moving us into a sunny corner from the neglected shade, and we return the favor by losing more leaves. No… get away from me with that watering can. I’m near enough to drowning as it is.

But that was almost my reaction to an email received last week announcing laundry utopia!! Put away those quarters: Now you can (you must) use a chipped debit or credit card. You can also use your phone by downloading this handy app that will even inform you when the machine is done. And, oh yes… lest we forget… the price of a washer or dryer, once a dollar, is now $1.75.

Well heck. It’s been a dollar for at least a dozen years.*

Even so, anxiety is an interesting reaction to this. It was accompanied by a deep feeling of alienation, almost disembodiment; I’ve never before felt (even temporarily) so elderly and disconnected.

Some of this is simply the new payment modes. And that may be more symbolic than anything else. After all, a currency-less economy has been creeping up on us all my life. Public transit excepted, I’ve never become accustomed to charging small amounts on plastic. It’s a pain in the butt to keep track of, there are security issues, and somehow it doesn’t seem like money. Still, it’s not something new. For the past several years, it’s not been unusual for me to spend less than $20 in cash over a month, apart from laundry. But just for that moment while reading the email, the situation seemed deeply alien.**

The other part is to wonder, if this doesn’t work, am I still physically able to schlep a week’s washing the half-mile or so to the laundromat? (Yeah, probably, if I get a cart. Bloody inconvenient. And preferably put-off until after the plague.)

This week’s washing went okay. Both the old and the new machines are “Speed Queen” brand. The new equipment is slightly smaller than the old but not enough to make much of a difference. The new washers worked not quite as well as the old (design compromises re: energy and water efficiencies, I think, and not unexpected) while the new dryers were a definite improvement, including a feature to purchase an extra ten minutes for twenty-five cents (pricing bound by now useless quarters). It’ll be interesting to see how this all gets listed on my credit card bill, especially as no receipts are provided. I also see some possibilities for overflowing the laundry tubs, if I can get all three washers working in phase.


* Did you catch this? It’s really the most interesting part of the whole story. The seventy-five cent increase is outrageous, of course. If the price followed the urban consumer price index from September of 2008, it should have been an increase closer to twenty-five cents. But in this digital age, why should we be bound by quarters? A simple inflation adjustment would only be an increase of nineteen cents. But not only was the laundry management greedy with an increase of four times that, they were also bound by quarters.

** Just to rub it in, there is this story posted on October 28 by Almaz Kumenov at eurasianet:

A technical failure suffered by a popular payment service in Kazakhstan momentarily caused headaches for retailers and consumers alike, while showing at the same time how much the population has come to embrace non-cash transactions.

Users of the Kaspi mobile application noticed the trouble on the morning of October 28, when they were unable to withdraw money, make payments or top up their accounts.

It would have gone mostly unnoticed if this had been a glitch at a regular bank – those happen all the time in Kazakhstan. But this is a service that around one-third of the population uses regularly.

As has become customary, flustered Kaspi users took to social media to vent. Some posted pictures showing ATM screens showing unimaginably large tenge figures, running into the trillions. (One million Kazakh tenge currently buy around $2,300). Others complained they were unable to pay for taxi rides or for their groceries. On a lighter note, one meme showing a group of hapless cavepeople without Kaspi did the rounds to illustrate just how much Kazakhs have come to rely on their beloved cash apps and cards.

MORE.