The book has been launched on an unsuspecting world. The publisher sent everything to Amazon and to Ingram book distributors on Thursday night last week and we figured that it would take at least a week for all the computers and algorithms to do their thing but lo and behold, it popped up as ready to go on Sunday afternoon. Thanks to the rapid spread of the news via social media, early orders have pushed it up the Amazon charts and it is in the top 10 in two of its categories (epidemiology and vaccinations) and top 50 in its other (industries). I’m not sure those are the most accurate descriptors of what it is but I’ll take what I can get. There was no Amazon category for plague diary. I hope everyone who is purchasing a copy enjoys it and, if you do, leave a good word on Amazon or Good Reads or some such so that all of the little algorithmic twists and turns bring it to the notice of other people who might enjoy it. There’s one little Easter Egg in the newly published edition. I rewrote the afterword last Wednesday so those who get their copies this week are going to have material less than a week old. The miracles of modern publishing and print on demand technology…
This is my last work week before some extended time off (three weeks with bookending long weekends). I haven’t taken this much time at once since well before the pandemic began. The EU has suggested to its member states that American tourists again become personae non gratae so the planned trip may not come off and I may not even know if things are on until I’m on my way to the airport in a week. No matter what happens, I am determined to enjoy myself, recoup some of my energies, and think about what the next projects are going to be. Finish up a second volume of The Accidental Plague Diaries? Get an e-book and audio book of the current volume done? Finally get around to some of my home projects that have been languishing? Watch a bunch of movies and write a number of my movie columns on which I am woefully behind? Audition for and book a decent role? If there’s one thing the last eighteen months have taught me, it’s that I’m pretty terrible at predicting the future so it’s probably not wise to plan too far ahead. Just keep moving, keep breathing, and go with the flow.
The rains of Hurricane Ida are pattering down outside. No major wind to speak of as we’re only getting some of the outer bands herein Birmingham. From what I can tell, all of my New Orleans friends have come through all right, but there’s a lot of damage – dormers blown off roofs, trees down, that sort of thing. I am quite concerned about the state of the hospitals, overcrowded with Covid and no power to speak of anywhere in the metro area and the latest estimates I have seen are up to three weeks to get everything back up and functional. The inpatient healthcare workers are exhausted already and additional privations related to power failure may send some of them over the proverbial edge.
The local Covid mask wars appear to be calming down as more and more prominent antimask/antivaccine personalities fall ill with the Delta variant. The number of news articles I’ve seen regarding someone of this type being hospitalized with critical illness or dying are heading towards the triple digits so maybe the message is finally beginning to seep through that defiance of public health precepts in the presence of a highly contagious viral illness may not be the best strategy for a long and happy life. We shall see. Rumor has it that the hold out local school district over masking is capitulating and I have certainly seen more and more adherence to masking and social distancing in my journeys around town over the last few weeks. My pharmacist friends also say that they are booking more and more appointments for first vaccine.
I’m trying to think of a good story to tell as it’s been a while since I recounted one of the adventures of my misspent youth. I’ve told all my personal hurricane stories in previous installments of these diaries so I’ll have to think of something else that involves Stormy Weather but without Lena Horne. (I did see her one woman show on stage in London back in 1984 and she was fabulous). I am the eldest child. My sister and brother are five and six years younger than I am respectively. In adulthood, that doesn’t mean much, but in childhood, it was a bit of a problem as I tended to be in a very different developmental stage than they were. My parents solved some of that by sending me off to summer camp for a few weeks every July to a place that specialized in horseback riding. My mother had been quite a horsewoman as a teen and she wanted her kids to have that experience as well. The camp I went to was called the Flying Horseshoe Ranch and it was in the Teanaway Valley just outside of Cle Elum. (For those of you who are not Washingtonians, this, of course, means nothing). I took to camp life and, although I was physically quite small, I had inherited some of my mother’s horsey genes and was quite good on horseback and came home with a number of blue ribbons from the horse show over the years. We did all of the usual camp things although, as this was the early 1970s, our counselors were a bit more permissive than they might be today and looked the other way sometimes when we were up to no good.
One year, we had a boys campout/sleep under the stars overnight away from the camp. We were all bussed to a campground on a stream higher up in the Cascades where we were allowed to run around and be little hooligans and work off our excess energy. It was a beautiful day but, that night, there was an unexpected thunderstorm. Lightning, pouring rain, and we were all just stretched out under the pines in sleeping bags without a tent in sight. Most of us crawled under the picnic tables which didn’t help a hole lot in terms of keeping the rain off and the counselors (old and wise to 12 year old me but likely all of 18 or 19) tried to figure out what to do. They decided to get us back to the camp that night. Of course the bus wasn’t slated to return until the next day so they stuffed us all in the three cars they had available and drove us back. I still remember being crammed in the back of an early 70s El Camino with nine other 9-12 year old boys, whizzing down a mountain road in a roaring rainstorm and having a great time. My frontal cortex not yet having developed enough to understand that maybe this wasn’t the wisest of ideas. We got back about 2:30 AM, nobody was hurt, and we all had stories to tell each other for the next few days in the ways of twelve year olds.
I’m hungry. Going to raid the refrigerator. Remember the litany. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Wear your mask in public. Get your vaccine. Maybe I can make a campfire song out of it.