I’ve launched myself into the editing process for volume 3 (and volume the last assuming American society will quit collapsing for a while) of The Accidental Plague Diaries. It’s going to cover the age of omicron and has a definitive ending date of mid September 2022. Something happened then which makes a good marker for a shift in societal attitude toward Covid away from constant reaction to one of more basic indifference, a change from the acute to the chronic phase of the disease as it were. When I started writing the material that became The Accidental Plague Diaries, I had no idea I was writing a book much less three. Actually, it’s pretty much one long narrative in three volumes covering March 2020 to September 2022, roughly two and a half years. That’s not all that long a time span but it was enough to change pretty much everything about our society and we’ll be coping with the fallout for decades; that’s even if the virus doesn’t mutate into something exceptionally nasty or cause some long term side effect like early death of cardiac muscle or brain tissue.
The FDA had a big pow-wow this past week trying to figure out how to deal with Covid boosters going forward. They’re trying to clarify their messaging, make sure that public health is protected, and make sure that the more health illiterate among the population know what they should do moving forward to keep themselves well. No final decisions were made but my reading of the tea leaves of reportage that emerged from the sessions is that we are likely to enter a period of annual booster updates, much like we have with influenza. Some will take them, some will refuse (which is also true of flu shots) but my advice remains that we should all get any sort of booster that comes down the pike. There’s one significant difference between Covid and flu and that’s the rate of mutation of the virus to new strains. Covid mutates roughly four times faster than influenza. There are some arguments that we should really be aiming for boosters every six months going forward because of this as, by the time strains are identified, vaccine is manufactured, distribution is in place, and shots go into arms, they may be seriously behind the times. Fortunately, mRNA vaccine technology allows vaccines to be tweaked relatively rapidly. The other big issue, of course, as is so often the case with the American medical system, is one of economics. There is a feeling in the political landscape that the pandemic is over and the political will to keep publicly funding vaccines is fading fast. This means they will likely be privatized under Big Pharma and we can guess what that’s going to mean to American pocketbooks.
My work life has settled down somewhat over the last few weeks. I still can’t get people into specialty care in any sort of timely fashion and the emergency department remains a zoo due to the wide spread respiratory virus season which continues in full swing (mine is finally calming down after nearly three weeks – it wasn’t flu or covid, just the cruds but boy has it lasted…) But the office and house call programs seem to be flowing as designed, even though we remain significantly short staffed. We should be OK until somebody gets sick… or pregnant… or needs to take a vacation… I’ve decided that as long as I can get my breaks and staffing stabilizes and improves, I can probably do this for a few more years but who knows what’s to come? Would any of us have expected to be where we are at New Years 2020?
I went to Opera Birmingham’s production of dwb(Driving While Black) last night. It’s a short one woman chamber opera about a Black mother as she watches her son grow and she starts to fear what could happen to him given societal racism. It was a bravura performance by Allison Sanders who has never been in finer voice and who brought her own personal perspective, as the mother of a young son, to the role. When Keith Wolfe-Hughes had brought up this piece as a good fit for our chamber opera slot a couple years ago, I knew that it would rise or fall on just the right director and I happened to know just the right person, Aija Penix. I had met Aija a few years earlier when I was cast in Birmingham Black Repertory Theater Collective’s production of Choir Boy. She was responsible for the musical staging and, as I got to know her over the next few years as a musician, director, actress, and committed activist for a more just world, I knew she was exactly the right match for this project. And sometimes my good ideas bear fruit. The nature of the piece is such that it would be easy for a director to bring its messages forward from a place of anger. This production did not do so. Ajia and Allison and their collaborators create it from a place of deep humanity which makes the end result much more powerful and moving. It’s a production that needs to tour so other audiences can see it because, while it is an opera, it speaks to far more of the world than an opera audience.
As for my current theatrical project? I’m quite pleased with how Dearly Departed is shaping up. My cast seem to get the tone I’m going for (a sort of heightened reality, but firmly anchored in the plausible and not just played for laughs). They’re supposed to come off book this week and then I’ll really start to know what we have. The set, props, and costumes are all on schedule. We’re a bit behind in the son et lumiere department. We’ll figure it out. We’ve still got two weeks until tech. I think I know what I’m doing as a director, but it’s been so long since I put together a straight play that I occasionally have to take a deep breath and remind myself that I’m an intelligent human being and that this remains within my skill set.
Should probably go to bed now. Have to be up for church in the morning. It remains to be seen if the laryngitis has improved enough for me to join the choir for the anthem or not. Either way, I said I’d teach upper elementary Sunday school so I’d better turn up.