May 5, 2023

It’s the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo, that totally made up Mexican holiday which was developed to popularize Mexican beers some decades ago. I like Mexican food as much as the next person but I am staying well away from my usual Mexican joints today as I don’t particularly care for the species of young Alabama male who has imbibed entirely too many beers and margaritas. I’ll have my chimichanga some other day. Instead, I am home from work a bit early, looking at my ‘To Do’ list which seems to have tripled over the last week, and despairing of ever getting to the bottom of it.

The WHO today declared that Covid is no longer a world wide health emergency. This will bookend neatly with the upcoming expiration of the US public health emergency status upcoming on the 11th. Mind you I don’t think that Covid is done with the human race yet, not by a long shot (and I was reading somewhere earlier today that some authorities think that the chance of another omicron type wave arising within the next two years is somewhere around 20-25%) but we are more or less at a point where we can pretty much resume where we were pre-pandemic, at least as long as we have functional immune systems and have taken advantage of vaccinations. When I last checked, we’re still losing about 1,000 people a week in the US to the disease and that number has been holding fairly constant for a while so I don’t imagine it will drop all that much in coming months. Of course it will be tough to tell. The ending of the public health emergency will mean the ending of federal funding for appropriate data collection so we won’t be able to track things in real time the way we have been.

I think, at least in part, my burgeoning ‘To Do’ list is a side effect of journey’s end. As more and more people feel more and more comfortable doing the things they were used to doing pre-pandemic, the social obligations begin to mount and the projects with deadlines start to multiply and they all seem to end up in a neat little list on my dining room table. I’m keeping up so far, although those things without specific deadline tend to slide further and further down the list with time and there are a few that are unlikely to be crossed off until at least 2025. I’d like to say that this is an OK state of affairs but a trained physician with a protestant work ethic is never very happy at seeing tasks unaccomplished.

The problem is, of course, that while the world wishes to go back to 2019 as if 2020-2022 never happened, it can’t. The second law of social thermodynamics prevents it. We are all fundamentally changed by our experiences of the last few years and trying to lay a 2019 life on top of a 2023 reality is doomed to failure. It’s a variation on You Can’t Go Home Again (unless you’re Thomas Wolfe). I’m still trying to tease out the differences between who I was then and who I am now. I just know I can’t pick up the same burdens and shoulder them in the same manner. I’m trying to do so but it just doesn’t feel right somehow. I think my capacity for multitasking has just lessened. Is it my personal aging? Is it the still unknowable mental/cognitive changes that years of stress have caused to happen? I just know that at times there’s a sense of deep exhaustion that I did not have in the past. And it’s not something that can be alleviated by a nap or an afternoon vegging.

I’m continuing to edit the final volume of these Accidental Plague Diaries. It will run from Thanksgiving of 2021 through September of 2022. In looking back over my writings, last fall was a major inflection point regarding how I and society as a whole were dealing with the pandemic and pandemic issues and little I wrote after that would be of much interest to future readers trying to puzzle through just what was going on in the US during this period. If anyone wants to read beyond that, there’s always the blog where these posts are archived and will likely dance around in the electronic ether long after I am gone. I’ve been trying to figure out what the third volume is really about. The first is about the failure of our government to do the first job of government, protect the citizenry. The second is about the failure of our society to care for each other. I think the third volume, in some ways is about my own failures – mainly my failure to be the person I conceive of myself in my brain. I have to settle for the messy contradictory human being I am over the idealized version I try to construct for myself and for public consumption.

Theater is creeping back into full swing locally. I went to see a production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at Belltower players last night. I’ve seen a number of productions over the years (but never the original which is still running in London’s West End 70 years later… maybe I should fix that when I’m there next month). I therefore, of course, knew whodunnit going in so it was more of an exercise in cheering friends in the cast on, admiring the construction of the play itself (whodunnits and thrillers are amongst the hardest plays to write which is why few playwrights have ever managed more than one classic in the genre. Christie is unusual in that she has three – the other two being And Then There Were None and Witness For The Prosecution), and admiring the absolutely terrific set Greg Boling and Ichabod Temperance skillfully constructed and decorated. By all means go see it. It runs this weekend and next.

I’ve been a huge fan of the classic British mystery for decades and worked my way through all of Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and others while in high school. They fit in with my general love of puzzles. I’ve written a few interactive mysteries for fund raisers over the years so I’ve figured out a thing or two about putting them together. I did one as a Halloween game for my college roommate’s tech company back in the late 80s. We created a number of fictious employees, had them assigned offices and voice mails and other such things and let the several hundred real employees try to puzzle it out at work that day. Somebody did solve it so I guess I made it not too difficult. I don’t remember all that much about it other than the big clue was a missing fake red fingernail that was among a bunch of spilled peanut M&Ms. A few years later, I did my first that required live actors where there was skullduggery among turn of the century residents of Sacramento with everyone having a whole lot of sordid secrets they were trying to conceal. Steve played one of the suspects, a local businessman who secretly ran the local brothel. He had great fun trying to entice some of the players into visiting his wholly fictitious establishment. Steve would have been brilliant on stage. He was a natural performer. Unfortunately, he was also totally undisciplined and you would never have gotten the same performance (or set of lines) twice out of him so improv murder mystery was about right for him.

I will continue to ponder the changes Covid has wrought as I launch into my sixteen unwritten progress notes for the week. Pray for me.

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