May 9, 2020

Maske-erade – every face a different shade

It’s mother’s day weekend, I’m two months into my socially isolated life, and still the number of cases of Covid 19 continue to grow. I use the Johns Hopikins Corona Virus Counter to keep track of the numbers and trends world wide. We’re at about 1.3 million cases in the US, Alabama is going to crack the 10,000 mark tomorrow and the national curves show little signs of flattening outside of the states hit badly early on that responded aggressively: New York, California, Washington. In most of the rest of the country, exponential growth continues on its merry way.

With things showing little signs of slacking off, our brilliant governor has jumped on the conservative Southern governor band wagon of ‘lets open everything up again’ starting this weekend. Friends of mine are describing ‘hooray we’re out of lockdown’ parties in suburban cul de sacs, traffic has picked up, there were lines outside of the mall waiting to get in right at the stroke of 9 am. I am personally in need of a washer and dryer for the new condo but when I went past Lowe’s and saw the crowd, I decided to wait for a midweek afternoon. I did do my every three week grocery shopping today but the local Piggly Wiggly is enforcing masks and is nowhere near as crowded as the Publix so it was a relatively quick and painless experience.

With the media full of propoganda about ‘it’s not so bad and everyone back to work’ that’s coming straight from the top, I’m just waiting to see what happens in two to three weeks. We’ve been very lucky locally to not overwhelm the health system and we’re just now developing some breathing room. That could all come crashing down again shortly. The amount of societal arrogance on display over the couse of the last few weeks from those who should know better would be tossed out of a Hollywood writers’ room as too far fetched. Perhaps we deserve every single thing we’re going to get. I had an imaginary conversation with Tommy and Steve over these issues as I had my dinner tonight. In my head, Tommy was arguing that what we’re seeing are simple extensions of the nastiness that has always existed in American culture. Steve was busy planning a counter demonstration to the next right wing ‘open up’ rally complete with a parade float, Earth Wind and Fire on the PA system, and a socially distanced kick line of aging Act Up members.

Out of curiosity, I downloaded all the entries in Andy’s accidental plague diaries and found they amount to roughly 30,000 words so far. That’s half a book. If I keep at this, I may have a book by the Fourth of July. It isn’t the one I started to write last year but sometimes life makes funny turns. A lot of the material I had been digesting for my book on Baby Boomer aging has made its way into these long posts, just with a somewhat different emphasis. I remain open to suggestions on topics related to aging, health policy, the interaction of the pandemic with the health system, and all the Ds of growing old: debility, depression, dementia, dissipation. I’m thinking I need to do a discussion of iatrogenic disease in the not too distant future (diseases caused by doctors and the health care system) as we’re likely to see a bunch more of these if Covid cases spike again and people start grasping at straws. (Hydroxychloroquine anyone? Multiple studies now suggesting it is not helpful at best, and dangerous at worst). I also really haven’t tackled dementia yet even though it’s sort of my specialty. (I am well known at UAB as being one of the few doctors that knows how to communicate effectively with the demented and the downright crazy. What that says about me, I don’t know.)

Not to change the subject or anything, but I have been a little productive. Still working on moving things. Slowly but surely the discards are being removed from the house. With the studio empty, I have somewhere to put them. My out of work actor packers are coming on Monday to pack things like the books and the art and the DVD collection – easy to box and won’t be needed for a while. I spent my Thursday evening on a video project involving most of the music-theater types in town, repetitively singing the Bass 2 part of an eight part arrangement to a prerecorded track and filming myself so that I can be mixed in with forty others by genius sound engineer Joe Zellner. Take after take ended up with my filming myself cursing my latest mistake but I eventually got a couple that would do and sent them in. It was a healthy reminder that I am strictly a character singer and that I should never be allowed to sing a cappella in public. Tomorrow I have to finish up my notes for the week. My volume of visits in clinic is nearly back to pre-Covid levels. Of course the visits are telephonic but they still require the same sort of documentation that takes hours of my fime.

Mom and Dad together

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, the first without my mother. She ceased to understand or care about such things a number of years ago as her dementia advanced but she was still here and I could think about her when the weekend rolled around. My birthday usually coincides with Mother’s Day weekend (it’s the day after this year) so there were usually dual celebrations in mid May when I was growing up. In a different life, the clan would have gathered in Seattle a couple of weeks ago for her memorial service and we could have all been together and swapped stories of the remarkable woman that was Alison Beatrix Saunders Duxbury. Her keen intelligence, her love of language, her use of the cutting word that could put Dorothy Parker to shame, her affinity for the natural world. But it was not to be. We may be able to do something as a family later in the year but we’re getting too distant from her passing for a public memorial to have the same meaning. As international travel is out for the forseeable future and as I am in need of some time off, having not had a vacation since last Thanksgiving, I may work out a way to go to Seattle sometime this fall. I figure they’ll have gotten air travel figured out by then. Or I could drive… I’ll just have to allow an extra nine days for that round trip. But that is a challenge for another day.

Be safe, be well, be happy, call your mother…

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