September 24, 2022

And Volume II of the book form of these Accidental Plague Diaries is complete. Proof copies should arrive in a week or so and if they pass muster, I will announce a publication date so y’all can run to your local bookstore and tell them to order it for you. (And have them order a couple of copies of Volume I to put in the window while you’re at it.) This is about the extent of my PR campaign this time around. Neither the publishing house nor I have a budget so it’s going to be social media and word of mouth, unless someone can figure out a way to get a copy to Oprah or an article in the New York Times literary section. When I started these essays, I had no idea they would become a book, much less two. And all signs are pointing towards a third volume in another year. I think I’ll call it quits at that point. I’ve pretty much said everything I can say, unless Covid makes some sort of strange epidemiologic turn this fall – which could indeed happen.

I have no idea where to end a projected and final Volume. Does it end with various public figures declaring the pandemic is over, even though it obviously isn’t? Does it end with the American public returning the control of congress to a political party riddled with science and public health denying charlatans? Is there some grand announcement yet to come from WHO or the CDC? Or does Covid simply peter out, slinking off into the background of our lives. One more social problem we blithely ignore the same as we have made our peace with excess gun violence, underfunding of education and social services, and a mental health system in tatters. I suppose it will eventually become clear and an inflection point that makes sense to me, even if it doesn’t to anyone else, will present itself.

Covid continues to run rampant through my circles of acquaintance. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear of someone down with it from some area of my life. My acquaintances are, for the most part, vaccinated and have had at least one booster so no one is getting sick for more than a few days and it’s been months since someone I know has had to be hospitalized. We can live with this. But there are a couple of big unanswered questions. It is not known how long both natural and vaccine mediated immunity will last in the face of a virus that mutates as rapidly and in as many different ways as a coronavirus. We may be able to keep ahead of it with annual boosters but that is no sure thing. And even if the vaccine and boosters prevent severe disease, they don’t seem to be all that effective at preventing long Covid.

Long Covid is here to stay. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know the mechanisms behind it. We can only palliate symptoms. When I had my first bout of omicron nine months ago, I was significantly ill for about 36 hours. Felt unwell for another three days and then felt pretty normal. My most recent bout last month had me feeling far less acutely ill but the post viral fatigue has continued to this day. The first two weeks after my acute symptoms went away, I could barely drag myself to where I needed to be. Things improved some this past week. I am feeling more energetic but I can still tell I’m not at 100%, maybe 75% on a good day. Is this the way I’m going to feel going forward? Will I be able to keep up my usual life pace? Are there unpleasant Covid related surprises busy percolating in my heart or my brain tissue? I don’t know. At least I’m not feeling so rotten that I don’t want to get out of bed and my breathing is fine. I may have a little brain fog, but that’s been hanging around since I turned fifty.

I did something highly unusual for me today. I took the day off from all responsibilities and vegged. It was probably good for me but it does mean that I’ve got a ton of neglected work to do tomorrow to catch up. This next week is going to be busy with dress rehearsals and performances of The Hallelujah Girls (Eastlake Methodist Church fellowship hall – Thursday Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2:30 PM). Then I’ll be over the hump with both the literary and theater careers quiescent for a month or so. And I’m finally going to get a vacation week in October. Granted, it’s only to Florida but I haven’t been much of anywhere since last holiday season.

Tomorrow is a reading of the new opera Touch that Opera Birmingham has commissioned. We’re doing the premiere production in January of 2024. It’s about Helen Keller’s life after her schooling and her complex relationships with Annie Sullivan and others as an adult. As president of the board, I’m helping steer this project forward. I’ve seen pieces on Zoom and video and I’m looking forward to hearing the music sung live. No, I will not be in it. I do not have a voice capable of singing opera roles. I can sing chorus, but I’d be laughed off the stage as anything other than Lillias Pastis in grand opera. I’ll stick with my musical comedy character parts when it comes to singing solo.

The bivalent vaccine is now available pretty much everywhere. Go get it. I would, but I have to wait for a while. You should allow twelve weeks between an acute infection and a booster. And keep your hands washed.

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