August 18, 2022

Time to shift focus away from Covidland and back towards itinerant wanderings for a few days. I haven’t wandered far off my usual beaten path, just off to Seattle for a few days to see the family. I try to get up here about twice a year but pandemic fallout of various stripes has made that a bit more difficult over the last couple of years. Anyway, I am ensconced at my father’s senior living facility, after having partaken of the special Roaring 20s dinner they were having this evening to celebrate the 13th anniversary of its opening. My parents moved in during its first year so my father is among the original cadre of residents that remain. The dinner was good as was the Manhattan cocktail that accompanied it. My father, at nearly 90, had two and was a bit wobblier than usual but obeyed my strict instructions of not to fall over.

This was my first cross country flight in eight months, the last one happening just as the omicron wave was beginning to envelop the world. Flying has changed a bit. The FAA no longer requires masking on planes or in airports. In Atlanta, there were very few masks in evidence other than on employees where they seemed mainly to be decorative chin straps. In Seattle, there were more – roughly 5% as compared to the 0.5% in Atlanta and far more were worn correctly. If I return from this trip with a Covid infection, I’m going to blame ATL although there’s really no way to know.

The trip went smoothly in general, unlike my last major flight with it’s nine hour delay. Round trip from Birmingham to Seattle was roughly $1,000 more than round trip from Atlanta to Seattle so I decided to fly out of Atlanta, driving over last night after work and spending the night in an airport area hotel. The drive was uneventful until I hit Atlanta around 10 PM, just in time for a monsoon which led to minimal visibility on the interstate and an interesting time had by all trying to negotiate all of the lane changes between I-20 and I-85 in downtown Atlanta. I survived, went to bed, slept in, and then made the short hop to the airport this morning. I allowed an extra hour or so due to all of the travel horror stories of the summer but things seem to have quieted down as ATL was calm and it didn’t take any longer than normal to check bags and clear security. The plane was on time, the entertainment system worked, and (per usual) I slept about half the way. On the Seattle end, no delay at baggage claim, and a brisk walk to the light rail which stops three blocks away from my father’s building.

Tomorrow I sing for my supper by giving a talk to the residents on geriatric issues. As I’ve been showing up regularly for over a decade, I long ago exhausted most of my usual community focused lectures so these days I just put out a call for questions the week before I arrive and make it an ‘Ask Me Anything’. The usual things that come up are specific questions on medications, medical marijuana and the octogenarian, how to stave off dementia, issues with the functioning of the health system and the like. I do my best but occasionally I get thrown a curve ball like ‘Why can’t I live to 125?’ I like giving talks to general older audiences. They’re one of the few groups that actually listens to what I have to say as they’re actually living with the real issues of aging, be they medical or social. My least favorite group to speak to is physicians. In general, they tend to think that because they are physicians, they are already omniscient and as geriatrics doesn’t deal with fancy new drugs or equipment or miracle cures, it’s not worth paying much attention to.

I’ve learned from thirty five years of public speaking on professional topics how to read the room. Whether my audience is with me, or checked out. When to go off on tangents. When to insert a joke. When it’s safe to insert a macro on a topic so that I just go through it by rote and don’t have to think much. I suppose it’s a skill. I tend to get pretty high marks on evaluations when I teach (except by physicians) so I must do something right. I figure even if I formally retire, I’ll probably keep that piece up. I’m hoping to develop some new talks out of The Accidental Plague Diaries at some point. And there’s still the idea of it becoming some sort of performance monologue piece of some type but that’s going to take a very skilled director to take that material and shape it in such a way that it plays theatrically. If that ever comes to fruition and is published and someone besides myself plays it on stage, I suppose I’ll get to sit in an audience some day and watch someone I do not know interpret my life. That will be an odd feeling.

The only thing of note on the Covid front was Monday’s announcement by the FDA that they were going to approve an omicron variant specific variant this fall and that Moderna’s SpikeVax would be getting a nod shortly (it has been approved in the UK). People are asking me, if they have not yet had a second booster, if they should get one or wait. As one can get a booster thirty days after a previous one and as there is no calendar yet as to when the new omicron booster will actually roll out, I’m suggesting that people go ahead and get a booster now and then also get the omicron booster when it becomes available in a couple of months. I got my second booster in late June and will get my omicron as soon as it becomes available. Likely October but anything is possible.

I seem to have brought the weather with me as Seattle is in the mid 80s today and humid (yuck). At least my dad’s building has air conditioning which is usually in short supply around here. It’s supposed to cool down over the weekend. I look forward to that. I am still on Central Time so it is now past my bedtime so I am now going to sign off. My Manhattan is draining my energy…

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