March 28, 2020

Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody. Must be time for the next entry in Andy’s plague diaries. I’ve eaten my gumbo and now I’m finishing up a glass of red wine and eating some cookies that Tommy baked for our last holiday open house together that I found at the back of the freezer. We actually were a tag team in the kitchen when it came to holiday baking. He made the dough; we portioned them out together onto the baking sheets and then I was responsible for rotating them through the oven and getting them out onto the cooling racks. After fifteen of those parties over the years, we had it down to a science and were able to do most of the baking in one long evening, with some favorite music on the stereo and each of us with a glass of wine. Neither of us could foresee that some of those last batches would help sustain me through a viral pandemic after his untimely death. Life’s funny sometimes.

It’s the weekend. I don’t have much in the way of work to do. The few little projects that were left over from the week were completed this morning without difficulty and then I cleaned out all the cabinets in the dining room and felt very accomplished. Most of the first floor has been dejunked and is ready for packing with the exception of the kitchen. A lot of that won’t go. I don’t have the talent to cook for 100 at a time so I don’t see the sense of holding on to huge amounts of cookware. I can cook – I was the cook for me and Steve, but I’ve never been terribly interested in cooking for one. Maybe once I get moved I’ll have a dinner party or two but I doubt I’ll have any of the huge soirees that Tommy and I used to throw.

The number of Covid 19 cases continues to climb, both locally and nationally. We seem to be weathering the surge locally OK from what I can tell. Perhaps the relatively early closing down of things locally is starting to pay some dividends. Fingers crossed and all that. We should know by the middle of April if local health systems will do OK or will be buckling at the strain. I think Birmingham will be OK. I am afraid the combination of poverty and ignorance in more rural parts of the state may lead to some serious issues outside of the urban core.

Today, I’ve been thinking about what comes after. Eventually, even this will pass and we’ll all come out of our isolation and have to confront a lot of changes in our lives: social, political, economic. I read somewhere about the choices that one can make after upheaval. Imagine two tribes on opposite sides of the river after some great calamity. The first tribe, being strong individualists, adopts an every person for his or her self mode of survival with each member trying to hoard as many resources as possible. The second tribe, being more cooperative, come together and share resources and skills to reinforce the group as a whole. Which tribe is likely to position themselves for long term success? I think most of us would agree that the second is more likely to win over time. We have to start laying the ground work of that cooperation and sharing now so we can hit the ground running when society begins to resume.

I threw out an idea today to the local theater community. Once upon a time, there was an uber organization, the Birmingham Area Theater Alliance (BATA) that all the companies supported and which acted as an umbrella. It became nonfunctional in the decline of local theater after 2010 when the 2008-9 crash drove a lot of companies out of business. My thought was that this organization needs to be revived to create a mechanism of cooperation and communication between all the local companies that are likely to emerge from this time in dire financial shape. If everyone hares off in their own direction after funding and resources, things aren’t likely to go well. If there is a large and strong lobbying organization on the behalf of everyone, there’s a greater chance for survival. I am not putting myself forward as organizer or any other such thing. I don’t have the time or energy. But I wanted to get the idea out there because the time to start figuring such things out is now. Not after shelter in place and quarantine orders are lifted.

A lot of people I’ve been talking to have been complaining of excess fatigue and needing a lot of naps, even though they haven’t been doing all that much. There’s a basic biologic reason for that. We’re all marinating in a high stress/high anxiety environment and our sympathetic nervous systems are working overtime getting us ready for fight or flight. However, the current situation is not conducive to fighting (how do you punch out a virus?) or fleeing (where you gonna run? where you gonna hide?). Therefore, it’s switching over to the only other alternative – play dead. We all have to remember, we’ve all got that little lizard brain ticking away deep inside our cerebra and no matter how intelligent or witty we may be, it still holds sway in a very primitive fashion.

I’ve been falling down rabbit holes of reading about new antivirals, large numbers of cell service cancellations in China that belie their official numbers, the conditions of hospitals in NYC, trying to separate wheat from chaff and add to my knowledge base and armamentarium so when I get calls from patients this next week, I can sound somewhat authoritative and reassuring. I may not be able to visit with them face to face easily at the moment, but I remain their doctor and will continue to fight for anything they may need to be as healthy and functional as possible. It’s been my calling for decades now and I’m not backing out.

Stay well.

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