October 21, 2022

South Beach

Dateline – Miami, Florida

It’s been a lazy couple of days hanging around the South Miami / Coral Gables part of the metro area. I’ve been staying with my friend who lives just a few blocks away from the University of Miami campus as he does not like to drive. He moved here at the same time I moved to Sacramento to start my internship so he’s been in this job and this house for nearly thirty five years. I’ve been down to visit him a half dozen or so times over the years, to say hi to his dogs (several generations now), the peacocks that wander through his yard and jump up on his roof (A peacock on the roof, sounds crazy, no?), and the very large banyan tree in his front yard that looks like it came out of a theme park Adventureland. We’ve spent a couple of days catching up, reminiscing about our times together in undergraduate and graduate programs, trying to outdo each other with outrageous puns, and reminding ourselves why we have remained close friends for over forty years.

Having been to Miami a number of times over the years, I did not feel a particular need to sight see. I did head over to South Beach to people watch and to have brunch at the Birdcage Cafe, occupying the building where the movie was filmed, and to walk a bit along the beach. The locals are beautiful but as vapid as ever. I remember my first trip to Miami with Steve thirty some years ago. We went to the beach in South Beach and started to tune in the conversations of the pretty people around us and realized there were only three topics – the gym, drugs, and nightclubs. We looked at each other and wondered what was going to happen to them in another decade or two when they weren’t as pretty, there was a new generation of hot young things, and they hadn’t managed to build a life. We both remembered that attitude vividly when we had the opportunity to move to Miami Beach five or six years later and it was one of the things that pushed us towards Birmingham instead. I also spent a little time in Coconut Grove and at the Biltmore Hotel which is just up the road from where I’ve been staying and remains one of my favorite pieces of 1920s fantasy architecture.

The Biltmore

Tomorrow, I begin the trek back to Birmingham. I could do it in one very long day but I’m getting too old to put that many miles in alone in the car so I’m going to split it in half and spend the night in Gainesville or Tallahassee or some other equally exotic place. Then, feeling somewhat rejuvenated, I’m going to sit down and take a long hard look at all the projects that have to be completed by the end of the year and make sure they are on appropriate timelines and that I haven’t forgotten anything significant. The second volume of the book is chief among them. There’s been a bit of a delay with Ingram, the book distributors, so the proof is still not ready. It should be ready next week and, as soon as I get it and check it, I’ll announce the publication date, likely mid November sometime. As long as it’s out for the holiday shopping season so you can all add it to your Christmas lists.

On the Covid front, it’s kind of hard to know just what to think. As so much of the world has acted as if it’s over, the data just isn’t being collected in the way that it was and it’s hard to determine just what trends are at this point. From what I can tell in the national numbers, we’re holding pretty steady. Daily deaths remain in the mid 300s and new cases remain around 35,000 a day. As so many of the diagnoses are now done through home tests and are relatively mild, it’s had to know how accurate those numbers actually are. All signs point to new strains of omicron rapidly arising and promulgating. Whether this will change the trend of the numbers back up into another surge remains to be seen. That’s certainly happened in Europe so it’s likely. Whether that surge will translate into more seriously ill individuals requiring hospital care is also unclear. There’s some data out of Germany suggesting that serious cases, while going up, aren’t soaring so that’s relatively good news. I suppose we won’t really know if there’s going to be a fall/winter surge until we’re actually in it given the lack of data and the disinterest of the media in actually presenting or explaining what data there are.

What can you do? Get your bivalent booster this fall. From what we can tell immunity, whether natural from infection or from vaccination starts to wane after about six months so regular boosting is likely going to be necessary going forward, just like flu shots. It won’t necessarily keep you from catching Covid but it will help keep you from needing the hospital and there’s some evidence that it reduces the chance of long Covid symptoms. (My fatigue, after two months, is still there but continues to improve). Keep your hands washed and sanitized. Should you continue to mask and where and when? Isn’t that the $64 question. I don’t know that anyone has exact answers on that. I continue to mask at work as I am in close proximity in enclosed space with people for some time. I’m not masking much in my private life unless it’s going to be contact of more than fifteen minutes in enclosed space with poor ventilation and a high likelihood of individuals who are unlikely to follow good public health measures. I think we all have to run our own risk benefit calculations.

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