October 26, 2022

The problem with writing these essays, especially when I diverge into travel writing, is that I need to make sure I write a finish to each journey or people start to assume that I’m not coming back or that I’m felled by illness or accident in some foreign locale, languishing alone and forlorn. I assure you I am safely home in Birmingham, currently lying on my bed with my laptop in my lap and banging away at these words while Oliver the cat purrs beside me. Binx, the ghost cat, is no longer in hiding. He now wanders in and out of the room repeatedly, playing with various things on the floor, getting under the bed and clawing at the mattress, and shrieking and scampering out of the room should I happen to look at him for more than five seconds or make any sort of motion in his general direction. I assume it’s some sort of improvement in human cat relations and, at this rate, he may let me approach him from time to time around the holidays.

The trip back from Miami was uneventful. It’s about 800 miles, more than I will drive alone in the car on my own at my age so I stopped for the night in Tallahassee. Most of Florida is flat. The part of the panhandle with the capital at least has some rolling hills making it a rather nice small city, not that I saw much of it as I arrived around dusk and didn’t exactly feel like sight seeing the next morning. I finally got back home around dinner time on Sunday and did the usual post trip things. Unpacking. Laundry. Unwinding from long hours in the car (roughly 1,800 miles in toto over the week). I celebrated by doing not much of anything and starting House of the Dragon in HBO Max. I’ve read George R R Martin’s Fire and Blood so I know what’s going to happen to the various branches of the Targaryen family but now that all episodes have dropped, I can binge it over the next couple of weeks and get my medieval fantasy fix.

Of course, returning from a week off means having to dive into everything at work again. The issue with being gone for only a week is that the system isn’t very good about taking care of things in your absence, understanding that you’ll be back relatively soon and so things just pile up in inboxes rather than being dealt with. If you’re gone for two or three weeks, things actually get done in your absence as no one wants to be the person who let the urgent clinical issue molder for a couple of weeks leading to complications and unhappy patients. I got the last of the inboxes emptied today so I’m pretty much back at my usual square one. There were no major disasters while I was gone. The fire and blood were left to fantasy television rather than in my waiting room.

While I was gone, I was cast in a new show, The 1940s Radio Christmas Carol. A group of radio players, demoted from New York City to Newark, are doing a live broadcast of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Backstage drama, musical numbers, live foley sound effects, a Shakespearean lead in a dissociative state, hijinks ensue. I’m playing the host/narrator that’s trying to keep the whole thing moving along. It should be fun, although I have far too many lines. I think I’m going to cheat on the radio drama piece and keep my lines on my clipboard as I’m supposed to be reading them anyway…

The health press is full of provocative, if not entirely accurate headlines about a possible ‘triple threat’ this winter of colliding influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and covid. Will that happen? It’s too early to say. What does seem to be going on is that covid numbers are remaining relatively static. Various new variants continue to circulate but none of them appears to be surging forward with major increases in infection or percentages of cases. The surges in Europe, Singapore, and elsewhere over the last month are abating without huge impacts. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which usually affects children, is having a significant impact on childrens’ hospitals nationally with localized outbreaks in Texas and on the Eastern Seaboard. It’s a virus that causes mainly a bad chest cold in healthy adults but can cause serious pneumonia in the very young and the very old. The current thought among epidemiologists is that this is a result of pandemic era behavior. Most young children have been kept at home most of the last two years. This fall, daycares started to open up and fill at something closer to prepandemic rates. All sorts of toddlers who had had minimal exposures to peers and their viruses have all suddenly been exposed relatively quickly and so cases that would have normally happened over a year or two are happening over just a few short weeks.

Influenza is circulating. For some reason, there are relatively high rates currently here in Alabama and elsewhere in the Southeast. Usually it gets here later as it’s warmer here than most other parts of the country. Why this should be this year is unclear. I’m guessing that at least in part it’s because this is the part of the country least likely to have individuals mask or stay home when they’re having signs of respiratory illness so things just spread a little faster here, but that’s just a guess. Anyway, if you’re in this part of the country, I’d go get your flu shot now instead of waiting for later in the season. I got mine Monday morning. It made me a little under the weather for 24 hours but nothing I couldn’t handle or that required me to adjust my schedule at all.

No, I don’t know when Volume II will come out. My publisher and the book distributors are having words of some sort. When it all gets resolved and I have a proof copy in hand, I’ll be able to let y’all know. In the meantime, keep those hands washed, stay home if you’ve got respiratory illness symptoms, and get your flu shot and bivalent covid booster. You can get them at the same time for convenience, one in each arm. Just pretend you’re a military recruit in basic training.

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