As the Whirled Turns

I am posdef a cat that is in horror of its trip to the vet, in horror of the very prospect of the veterinary. Nonetheless, on Wednesday it was my turn to keep an appointment made some six months earlier. Odin’s day indeed… But I shoved myself, squalling, into the cat-carrier and went.

For once I was running on time rather than early. The office tries to keep the patient density to a minimum so I was promptly escorted to an examining room where a nurse of some sort began with the basics, including the seasonal, senior citizen sized flue shot. The doctor was running late that day, however, so as the nurse was leaving, she asked if I’d like a bottle of water.

No thank you, I replied. I’m a geezer, after all, and we’re as bad as dogs when it comes to watering trees. I’m fine.

In truth, there was nothing particularly gruesome about this visit. It was not so much an examination as a negotiation: What medications would I continue, resume or cease taking? What diagnostic screening tests would I schedule? The doctor and I do not exactly have a unity of purpose. He wants to cure whatever ails me and whatever might someday ail me and whatever might be ailing me without my knowing that it ails me while I would simply prefer not to ail. Interventions that would have seemed perfectly sensible just a few decades ago now seem like maybe an unnecessarily speculative use of time and comfort and … money. But we came to something of an agreement and, on my way out, please stop at the lab for The Drawing of the Blood.

The lab has its own small waiting room though I was the lone patient waiting patiently (how else?) but not long. The phlebotomist, unfortunately, was having an off day so it was a bruising experience. But I got through it and the lab got its blood. And I refrained from making stupid vampire jokes.

My next stop was the immediate care clinic. No, not about the phlebotomist but for my fourth covid vaccination, this one of the new bivalent variety. The generic health care professional administering the vaccine used my right shoulder as my left was already preoccupied by that extra-strength flue shot. The generic health care professional was a delightful nerd, however, and we got to talking about vaccine dosage volumes and such.

But all good things must pass, it seems, and so I headed on home where, despite a cheerful voice mail from the pharmacy about my prescriptions being ready to be picked up, I decided I’d rather have soup: cream of tomato with sautĂ©ed onions, maize corns, carrots and potato dumplings… Not all from scratch; I’m not that good a cook nor that industrious. But it turned out well and that was good.

It was not especially cold outside yet I was chilled. The apartment didn’t help matters as management had yet to fire up the furnace.

With the two vaccinations, I was in fact mildly ill for the next 30 hours or so, not so much sick as simply unwell or maybe under the weather or perhaps an aching malaise. It was a fine occasion for a long hot bath and a somewhat early to bed.

Despite that, I did pick up the prescriptions the next day. The one mile walk to the pharmacy was done in slo-mo, it seemed… and sad, sad Touhy Park where now the homeless gather in larger numbers each year it seems and now the Park District has closed its field house there.

It seems entirely plausible that I might join them on that lawn where old man Touhy once had his manor, if not sooner from a World War III catastrophe or a flood of storm refugees then later as the good doctor continues to cure whatever it is that ails me.

Smoke Break

This from director Alan Sahin’s Vimeo channel: “Before changing a tyre, between a starter and a main course, after admitting a patient: seven places where people are on a cigarette break.”

For a while before smoking was banned altogether on METRA commuter trains, smokers were segregated into designated smoking areas, usually half a passenger car. The cars were divided in the middle by an entrance / exit foyer so the halves were separate.

On late evening trips returning from the suburbs, I generally sat in the non-smoking half. Most of us were bound for the Chicago terminus so there was always a queue to exit the car. And as the train pulled onto the arrival track, the doors between the sections would open. My non-smoking side would shuffle forward in silence but from the smoking section a wall of smoke, conversation and laughter rolled forth. The contrast was amazing.

Whatever else it is, nicotine addiction is convivial.

“Perfecting the Art of Longing”

I don’t know if this was intended as poetry, but it is poetry IMHO:

Newly posted on Vimeo by the National Film Board of Canada, the video’s description doesn’t quite do it justice, but:

Cut off from his loved ones due to the pandemic lockdown, a quadriplegic rabbi in a long-term-care facility is filmed remotely by his daughter. Offering powerful meditations on love and hope, Perfecting the Art of Longing shows us what it means to be alive in a state of profound isolation.

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.

In the Time of Feeling Fragile

Photo by Roman.

I became ill several days ago. Oh no… I’ll not burden you with a mantra chant of symptoms: coincidental or otherwise, imaginary or all too real, amusing or gross.

So what is wrong and what of it?

How can I tell you? I mean… I do not know. Could be one thing. Could be another. Could be several things. A label would be idle speculation.

And so what of it…

Simply that it slowed me down… Yet that only made a small difference in what I’ve accomplished. No, this is not a triumph. Rather it is that I was already moving that slow.

–Yip

Dental Plate Tectonics

A portrait done in colors beyond the blues of the spectrum: Oh, those subducting plates! Oh! Those erupting molars! Not to mention, please don’t mention, the sedimentary layers of tartar, geological ages fossilized, never seeming to erode… but mined instead. Is there gold in them thar petite tetons?

You really should smile more.

Photo by a forgotten dentist.

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.