April 5, 2023

The muse is whispering in my ear. Write something, write anything. But I have nothing to write about I answer her in a vexed tone. She doesn’t care so I open the laptop, plunk myself down on my bed and begin to type away, hoping that something worth reading might come of this. I’ve thought about commenting on the state of our politics, but it just makes me sad. There’s no sense of jubilation in seeing an ex-president indicted for various crimes and misdemeanors, just a sense of melancholy that our politics has fallen to such a base level. And it’s everywhere. Attempts to expel sitting legislators based on party affiliation, rapid passing of non-sensical laws designed to inflict cruelties on individuals who don’t conform to usual social norms. A refusal to even think about common sense firearms reform when more and more children are dying every day. I see only one glimmer of hope, the significant turn out of young voters in Wisconsin yesterday which led to a blow out for progressive forces in their supreme court judiciary race. We’re about to see a shift as was seen a century ago when the youth of the lost generation, scarred by World War I transformed politics or when the youth of fifty years ago, scarred by Vietnam did something similar. How will it play out? Who knows but those setting policies antithetical to what the young people of today are looking for are likely to find themselves going the way of the dodo in short order. It’s not an international conflict this time, but the failure of our nation state to protect our children from entirely preventable dangers, be they gun or pandemic related, is going to have very real consequences when those children attain voting age, and they are doing so rapidly.

I received very kind and very positive feedback on my pulpit message from this past weekend. I never know what to think when I’m asked to speak ex cathedra; there’s a special feeling of responsibility that comes with that assignment and I’m always afraid I’m going to get it dead wrong. I don’t see how pastors come up with a sermon on a weekly basis. I have to think about the ones I’ve written for several weeks before I can even begin to get something down on paper. But once I do have a theme and an idea of how I want to explore it, the words do come rather quickly. And then I reread it a few days later and want to throw most of it out. This time, though, there weren’t a lot of changes from initial draft until finished product. I thought I caught my ideas relatively well and I got a thumbs up from Rev. Julie when I showed it to her a couple of weeks ago.

I still don’t know where to go with these writings, or with any writings for that matter, now that the pandemic recedes into our collective unconsciousness. We’re three years after the initial shut down and it all seems like it was a bit of a bad dream. I reread things I wrote at the time and there’s a sense of unreality about it all. Our psyches are probably designed that way. To take horrific experiences and to minimize them once they are safely past so that we can keep on with the myriad tasks of living in the present. This is all well and good but it does mean that when the next bad thing comes down the pike, our collective knowledge base and ability to cope has severely eroded and we find ourselves having to reinvent the wheel. And, of course, this time around we’re enshrining in law lots of things that have more basis in our believes of how we want the world to be when it comes to biologic reality than how the world actually works. Which may make the next time even more difficult that this past has been.

The pandemic, of course, continues to hum along in the background. I get a call about three times a week from a patient who has turned up Covid positive and requires Paxllovid. Most of these have been mild cases but I still have people I care for hospitalized. No deaths in the last month or so but the national mortality rate remains around 250 a day and 1.125 million over the last three years. I will lose more people this year, and the year after that. It’s here to stay. There are rumblings that the FDA is going to approve another booster for those over 65 or with immunodeficiencies in the next month or so. My general feeling: it won’t hurt and it might help. The general trend seems to be that the more an older person is boosted, the more they are likely to continue to survive and to avoid long covid symptoms (which remain significant, affecting somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of patients and with chances going up with each reinfection.

We’re getting towards crunch time with Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Chorus rehearsals for Izcaray Carlos new Requiem which gets its world premiere next weekend. It continues to grow on me musically. It’s been difficult to learn but as we continue to attack it in rehearsal, I’ve started to understand the effects he has been going for. His music and my writings both come from the place of deep pain that comes with early widowhood so perhaps that’s the thread that makes it speak to me in ways that a lot of modern music does not. For those of you in Birmingham, it’s on the masterworks program being performed the weekend of the 14th and 15th along with Brahm’s Fourth Symphony.

I’m itching to get on stage in a play or a musical but there’s nothing happening locally that fits my personal schedule. I have commitments in May and early June that knock me out of participating in most of the late spring productions happening around here. Things free up after June 15th but there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of summer theater going on. Something will turn up. It usually does. I suppose I better roll those energies into getting Volume III edited and out. Then I can sit around and try to figure out how to sell a few copies and how to get Kindle and Audio editions of the books completed. There’s also still the idea of adapting it into a Spalding Gray type monologue/performance piece. There’s a piece of my ego that thinks that would be a really interesting project and another piece of me that thinks trying to learn a ninety minute monologue, even one based on my own life and experiences, would be an almost insurmountable task at my age. And then I remember that Elaine Stritch was a good ten or fifteen years older than I am now when she did At Liberty and I think Quitcher Bitchin. I do have a Spolin technique dramatic improv class scheduled for Saturday so that should help scratch the itch a bit. I have found that the things I have learned there from master teacher Jeanmarie Collins over the years have served me well in both performance and medicine. I am much better at thinking on my feet and presenting myself the way I want to be seen in unusual situations and on very quick notice. It works very well in the house call environment when anything can happen and usually does. There’s only one thing that really scares me about house calls (and I’ve dealt with meth labs, collapsing structures, brothels, drug dens, puppy mills, and chop shops) and that is demented individuals with access to guns. I’ve only had to take a pistol away from a demented person once, and that was one time to many. I’ve also unloaded shotguns while people weren’t looking, and slipped boxes of ammo to family members to hide, but that’s nothing. I’ve also cooked breakfast for patients, set up their pill boxes, played with their pets (including the snakes), rescued baby goats, and had every body fluid you can name dribbled all over me. All in a days work.

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