Not-so-rapid Transit

Photo by Roman.

Here is a CTA Evanston Express train sauntering northward to the Howard Station. One can’t exactly call it “rapid” transit at this leg of its run… “brisk” maybe? In any case, this is also one of the spots on its route where the train sometimes gets stopped in traffic: some interfering Red Line or Skokie Swift train or a recalcitrant switch or some unauthorized personnel on the right-of-way… But not today.

Have I mentioned that I’ve always liked trains and railroads? So this CTA train in a classic train photograph pose should be no surprise. One would expect more, yes?

Except that I rarely have occasion to ride trains these days…

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.

Deep in the Evanston Jungles

Photo by Roman.

So you didn’t know Evanston has jungles? Well really… it does not. But the overgrown fringes of the CTA right-of-way on a warm summer day was a great excuse to contemplate leaf, light and shadow. And judiciously cropped, what is essentially an overgrown patch of weeds might substitute for jungle… though machetes are not allowed on CTA platforms. Listen! The cicada are restless…

Waitin’ on the 147

Whenever you are ready, driver…

(Yes, it is true that the bus route has a schedule and he’s keepin’ to it, as best he can. Furthermore, it’s no use asking him when that departure will be as if you innocently ask “When are we leaving”, he will hear instead the prelude to a hostile “Why aren’t we leaving right now!” And that plastic barrier is so not assault-proof, what with people so irritable these days. Still, if you gotta go, you gotta go.)

Photo by Roman.

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.