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.

VoilĂ . That’s my COVID report update.

1968

[1970 anti-war meeting at the University of Illinois at Chicago, photographer unknown, scanned from a print in my possession.]

For geezers much like myself, the covid lockdown is still pretty much in place. I spend a lot of time, days on end, at home. Far too much of that time has been spent as a couch potato in front of this computer screen, though in fact I’ve not owned a couch for at least a few decades. Whatever. Somewhat less time has been occupied by re-reading books from my own library. (The Chicago Public Library has reopened but in an understandably not-so-user-friendly format.) I find the non-fiction to be more engaging.

Right now, I’m re-reading Garry Wills’ Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man. The dust jacket bills it as a “study of Richard Nixon and a deeply troubled America.” This was originally published in 1969, and neither Wills nor anyone else really knew how the next several years would work out, but it was pretty commonly felt to be a time of crisis (for the United States but also for much of the world) not unlike this time of Trump.

I don’t mean this to be a review of the book but maybe something of a reminder about our history.

Wills is at his strongest as an observer and describer. As a political analyst, he mostly reflects the commentariat of the time: the “politics of resentment” for example. It’s an individualistic, psychological approach, so it should be no surprise that Wills began his career as a public intellectual as a conservative. Covering the civil rights movement of the time moved him to the political center, at least, though a 21st Century conservative might consider him a flaming lefty. That said, for all those who feel that 2020 U.S.A. has become a strange, foreign land, it’s a worthwhile to pause to read chapter 2 of part I: “The Center Cannot Hold.” It begins:

“There was a sense everywhere, in 1968, that things were giving. That man had not merely lost control of his history, but might never regain it. That palliatives would not serve, and nothing but palliatives could be found… The cities were in danger, and the college campuses, and the public schools.

“And the President. Lyndon Johnson traveled nowhere, toward the end, for fear. He was allowed to run out his term because he had, in effect, abdicated. It was the year of the Secret Service men, their faces variously angled out across the crowd as it faced in, each trained pair of eyes raking an assigned arc. A time of mutual surveillance, when those of different races, when young and old, when policemen and ordinary citizens passed, if possible, on opposite sides of the street, warily; or — too late to cross over — went by each other with eyes down. A time of locking up and closing in, of “How to Defend Yourself.” Michigan housewives pushing baby buggies down to the pistol range for practice.”

Wills goes on to describe George Wallace’s independent campaign for President as “a weird ‘third party’ — no party at all. It lacked platform, personnel, history, future, or program. It was a one-man phenomenon… Wallace offered neither palliative nor real cure; just a chance to scream into the darkness.” Wills asserts that a “nihilist vote is something new in America, the home of the boosters.” I’m not convinced that was true even then. Any political system that customarily presents the electorate with just two viable choices will have “kick the bums out” as a major motivation for voters. That’s not a form of nihilism?

Well, okay, creeping nihilism perhaps. Wills goes on to write:

“…In 1964, many thought it shocking that, at the Republican Convention, delegates turned to the press booths  and shook their fists in anger after Eisenhower’s criticism of reporters. But by the 1968 convention, cops beat newsmen and broke their cameras… Meanwhile, newsmen who followed Wallace said they felt like patsies, straight men for the candidate’s act, so much did he use them to elicit boos and jeers from his crowds. Spiro Agnew got a similar response when he held up a copy of the New York Times and mocked it.”

It was all so very familiar and far more violent than today, including state-sponsored terrorism in places. And there were periods of U.S. history that were so much worse.

Having said that (and yes, I also said that back in the 1970s), one uses the past as a template for the present and the future only at a pretty fair risk. 2020 is not 1968 nor is it the 1933 Weimar Republic. Crisis? We may be standing in the middle of one, but it’s our crisis not the demons of the past come to do battle. History rarely really repeats itself. It may have rhythm. It may rhyme. Just what that means is irrelevant except to invoke a vision of parading historical actors, ranks hands in hands, marching down the avenue (This is Chicago. It’s an avenue.) on trochees and iambs.

Google Books has 60 pages of Nixon Agonistes available as a “preview” so you may be able to read the chapter if you wish.

On the other hand, if music is more your thing then here is “John Flip Lockup” by the Daughters of Albion, a bit of cultural commentary from that same time that is every bit as apt as anything Wills ever wrote about it:

Shamrock Shadows

Photo by Roman.

St. Patrick’s Day never quite happened this year (2020) in Chicago; any green in the Chicago River was come by naturally. Weeks later, the bar looks more than a little forgotten and forlorn. You’ll pardon me, I hope: I did not miss the celebration. St. Patrick’s Day, in Chicago, seems to be an excuse for drinking to excess with the illness and the intoxicated stupidity that alcohol usually entails. Not to worry: You won’t find me glowering in judgement at all the partying masses. Instead, a long hot bath and early bed is my way of marking the day. Top o’ the morning to ye! Right. I’ll speak less loudly, then.

Maybe in 2021, we can all be Irish again for a day. I might even join you for a drink.

 

Geezer Notes

Gossip! That wonderful trade in information and misinformation and lies that lubricates our friendships and quarrels, that provides vital insights to condition our expectations and social strategies. Gossip! That wonderful filler that makes up at least two-thirds of all politics. Gossip! We can’t live without it even when we can’t live with it.

Being reclusive means being gossip deprived, so I have very little to share except that I’m still alive and still well, uninfested by the covid-19 virus — though who can tell for sure? While the disease is tough on a pretty wide age range, geezers with coronary artery disease have a higher casualty rate than most other demographics. There is some informed speculation that some of the medication typically prescribed for coronary artery disease make covid-19 worse — ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers have been nominated, maybe. For more information, see this Science News article dated 03/20/2020. In any case, “geezer with coronary artery disease” is me, unfortunately.

Unfortunately because this virus is not going away any time soon, even if we can keep the rate of contagion low enough to not swamp critical care facilities. It’s also not clear whether covid-19 will leave its victims with effective immunity to reinfection. Unless a vaccine is developed, that herd immunity provided by survivors would be our main hope for relatively quick relief. Even then, the virus will continue lurking as if it were an ambush predator. At this point, there is just so much we don’t know.

If I come down with covid-19, I’ll try to have the energy to document it here, although it may end up being posted after the fact. But should I croak… if you hear about it at all, it will be from this blog, albeit some time later. That is a promise I can keep, actually… unlike Clarence Darrow.

The plague has put my already lagging Geezer Downsizing Project even further behind, but I’m not sweating that.

See ya later, alligator.

Photocopier graphic by Roman.

Toilet Paper

1973 was about the time I dropped out of college. You would assume, therefore, that I would have some memory of this. I do not. Whatever this video is, it is outrageously funny: where the surreal hits the road. From the Atlantic (or “A” as they currently style themselves):

For my part, when the time of novel corona came, I had already purchased a years’ supply the previous September though I was aiming more for when the lease on this apartment expires.

Incidentally, if you think this is far out, look up Radio Lab’s program about Orson Wells’ radio play, “War of the Worlds,” and the three panics it induced.