Monday, November 2, 2020

Georgia on my Mind

This is my online writing home but I also have an analog home: I keep a hard copy journal and I have for years.


I find that during Quarantimes, time has gotten a little wiggly for me. I find myself thinking of things from the past more and more. I told some friends that I think it’s my brain’s way of filling the void left by lack of social activities. Brain says, “Well, if I can’t go out and talk to a bunch of other people, I’m going to console myself with all these people from forty years ago. So there!” 


Add to that a terrible sleeplessness due to thinking about the election and things get weird. 


The Magnificent Jake Tapper, on his daily CNN show, usually mentions one or two people at the end of his broadcast. People who have succumbed to Covid-19. It’s a sad but kind tribute. One day, he was talking about this guy and gave his town as Clarkesville, Georgia. My ears perked up immediately and it brought back a flood of memories. 


When I was still in high school, my parents bought a small place in the Georgia mountains—in Clarkesville. We had spent some time there because I had (and still have) relatives in north Georgia. It’s a beautiful area, and the house they bought was right on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. I liked the area, too, but I didn’t want to spend my senior year in high school at a brand new school, one in the South. I would feel like a fish out of water. Mom and Dad agreed with that, so they hung onto the Indiana house and while they started working on the Georgia house (there was a lot of cleanup to do, and that’s a fascinating tale in its own right, but that’s a story for another day), my sister and her husband stayed with me in the Indiana house. 


When I graduated, we sold that house and I moved to Georgia with Mom and Dad, at least for the summer before college. I spent three summers there during college breaks and hearing a mention of Clarkesville (our address) brought all those memories back. 


I had a nice little corner bedroom. I didn’t like the air conditioning so I kept the two doors leading to my room closed and my two windows wide open to the hot and humid Georgia air. (My leather shoes and purses paid the price by giving their lives to mildew.) I had a high iron bed and loved to perch up there (I had to hop to get up onto it!) and read books, listen to records, and write in my journal, as well as letters to friends and family back home. 


As I thought back to that time, I could almost hear the loud buzzing of the cicadas, the rustling of the big rhododendron bush outside my window, and smell the scent of its blooms wafting through my room. I was 18-19 when I lived there and I was filled with all the uncertainties and longings of that age. I was trying to figure out my place in the world and trying to figure out this impending adulthood thing. 


But for the time being, I was a college girl from the North living in a rural mountain town in the South. As I told others when I was thinking back to that time, I feel like it was the last time when I didn’t have a care in the world. I had the usual anxieties of the time, like nuclear war, and the usual anxieties of a teenage girl just starting to understand the power of being a woman. But no bills, no job to go to, no homework...just enjoying the present and dipping my toe into adulthood.


It was a heady time and it gobsmacked me to feel all that like it was yesterday. 


The point is (and there is a point here, I promise!) that it prompted me to find all my old journals. I spent a manic half hour late last night hunting them down, but I found them! As I read entries from that time, I had to laugh at myself, but it was also...what would be the word? Poignant? Bittersweet? I wanted to tell the 18-year-old Beth, “Listen. You’re gonna be okay. You’ll never figure it all out, because no one ever does, but you’re just starting your journey. Be true to yourself, and you’ll make your way.” 


This started out as a completely different entry, one about my brief romance with my Georgia boy, one that never came to fruition but was intoxicating nonetheless. I realized the back story was a little too long and deserved its own entry. 


I’ll eventually read through all of these old journals and I’m sure it will be an emotional experience for me. I’ll share a few things on here but there will be plenty that I keep to myself. A gal’s gotta have some secrets, after all. 


But Dear Diary knows all.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Just Because You Can (Part One)

 


“Deanie! Hurry up! We’re gonna be late!” Calvin hollered from the living room. 

Deanie hollered back. “I’m coming!” She put the backs on her pearl earrings, the ones Calvin had given her on their tenth anniversary. She looked at herself in the mirror and smoothed her dress. Not too bad, if she did say so herself. She grinned and slipped into her shoes, grabbed her purse, and sauntered out to the living room. “How do I look?” 

Calvin saw her and said, “Finally! Let’s go.” 

Her face fell and he realized he’d hurt her feelings. He stepped over to her and put his hands on her waist. “You look beautiful.” He kissed her forehead. “But we need to get going! I don’t want to be late to this party!” 

Deanie nodded and smiled at him, and they headed out to the car. He held the door open for her. All these years later and he was still a gentleman. Mostly.

As they pulled out onto the road, Deanie said, “So tell me about this new boss of yours.” 

Calvin gripped the steering wheel. “He’s coming straight from Atlanta! Can you believe that? He’s a real bigwig, Deanie, and it’s a big deal to get invited to his house.” He glanced over at her. “So be on your best behavior.”

Deanie looked out the window. When was she not on her best behavior? They’d both grown up in the mountains, but sometimes Calvin seemed to think that she was nothing more than a dumb hillbilly. Of course, that made him one, too. She snorted quiet laughter. 

Calvin looked over at her. “What’s so funny?”

She resolved to not pick a fight and turned to him and smiled. “Nothing, sweetheart. I think a little bug just flew up my nose, that’s all.” 

He stared at her for a moment and then turned his eyes back to the road. He began to talk about the new boss, Mr. Jenkins, and prattled on about how smart and sophisticated he was. Deanie’s mind wandered and she looked out the window. They’d come a long way from their little mountain town and although she was happy with their nice house in the suburbs, sometimes she missed the days when she’d meet Calvin late on a hot summer night and he’d kiss her under the mountain laurel, the cicadas singing in her ears. She missed that boy. And she missed the girl she’d been then. 

She snapped out of her reverie when Calvin slapped the wheel and said, “Here we are! Won’t you look at this place, baby?” He pulled through a gate and up a curved expanse of blacktopped driveway. “We play our cards right and we could be the ones livin’ in a place like this! Woooo!” When Calvin got excited, he reverted back to his deep accent. 

She looked at the house and had to admit that it was impressive. A lot bigger than their modest ranch. Seemed a little cold and imposing, though. She shook it off, and when he parked near the other cars and opened her door, she took his arm gratefully. 

They walked up the steps and rang the bell. They heard a clattering of steps from inside and a woman opened the door. 

When Deanie saw her, she almost let out a gasp. She was the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. Her hair was a deep auburn, framing her face in gentle waves. Her skin looked like porcelain and her vivid red lipstick was in stark contrast to her pale complexion. She was dressed in a white satin cocktail dress, one that hugged her curves intimately, and Deanie suddenly felt embarrassed by her off-the-rack dress that she had just moments ago thought she looked so good in. 

But when Deanie raised her eyes to the woman, she felt an electric shock. She’d never seen eyes that were such a deep, emerald green. The spell was broken when the woman said, “Hello! Welcome!” Her voice was deep and somewhat husky. Deanie wondered if the woman smoked. 

“Please come in!” The woman beckoned them in and asked, “And who might you be?” 

Deanie was silent, deciding to let Calvin introduce them, and when he didn’t say anything, she glanced over at him. He was standing there with his mouth open. Deanie moved a little closer to him and gave him a discreet elbow to his ribs. He looked over at her in astonishment and then back to the woman. “Oh! I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m Calvin Marshall. I work for Mr. Jenkins.” 

“Oh, yes, of course! Ferlin has mentioned you. And is this your lovely wife?”

“Yes, yes. It is.” 

Deanie looked at Calvin and inwardly rolled her eyes. It? Really, Calvin? She put out her hand to the woman. “Hi there. I’m Deanie.” 

The woman took her hand and squeezed it. “Deanie! What an adorable name!”

“It’s short for Deanna. Deanna Joy.” 

“Well, that is just lovely. I’m Jolene. I’m Ferlin’s wife. Do come and join us. Ferlin has mixed up a batch of his dirty martinis and they are to die for!” 

They followed her down a hallway. Deanie looked around at the furnishings and artwork. She looked over at Calvin to point it all out to him and realized that he was watching Jolene. Deanie sighed to herself. It was shaping up to be a long night. 

Jolene led them out to a covered patio and over to a rather beefy man holding court with a couple of others. She put her hand on the man’s arm and said, “Ferlin, Calvin Marshall is here.”

The man looked up and grabbed Calvin’s hand. “Good to see you! Welcome to our home. And who is this lovely lady at your side?” 

Jolene spoke up before Calvin could. “This is his wife, Deanie. Isn’t she adorable?”

Deanie was getting a little tired of being spoken of like a cocker spaniel, but smiled and took his hand. “Mr. Jenkins, it’s so nice to finally meet you. Calvin has said so many wonderful things about working for you.” 

“None of this ‘Mr. Jenkins’ nonsense, please. Call me Ferlin.” 

Deanie nodded. 

Ferlin smacked Calvin on the shoulder. “Same goes for you! But only here. At the office, you call me Mr. Jenkins!” He laughed loudly and the other men he’d been talking to joined in. Calvin just looked dazed and finally tore his eyes away from Jolene.

“Yes, sir. Ferlin it is, sir.” 

Ferlin rolled his eyes and then said, “Here. You both need a martooni. I make ‘em special. And extra dirty.” He winked at Deanie. 

Deanie thought, “Yes. This is going to be a really long night.” 

Ferlin poured them drinks and watched as they took a sip. Calvin started coughing and Ferlin pounded him on the back. He said, “Hey now, Calvin! Can’t you handle your drink?” 

Deanie choked for a moment on what seemed like straight gin, but recovered quickly. She smiled and said, “It’s delicious, Ferlin. Thank you.” 

He beamed at her. “Atta girl! You’re all right, Deanie!” He looked at Calvin. “You could take a lesson from your wife!” 

Calvin flushed a deep red. Deanie looked at Jolene in desperation, and Jolene sprang to the rescue. 

“Calvin!” Jolene’s voice rang out. “Let me take you and Deanie on a little stroll through our gardens. Yes?” 

Deanie nodded gratefully and Jolene took each of them by the arm and led them down a pathway, pointing out various plants along the way. She mentioned nothing about Ferlin’s remarks, and Deanie was grateful. Calvin seemed nothing less than smitten by Jolene.

As Jolene showed them the ornamental trees, Deanie wondered if Calvin’s aspirations were really what they needed in their lives and if these were the people they wanted to be around. But she had to admit that Jolene was charming. As they strolled down the garden path, Jolene asked her about her hobbies and passions. Deanie found herself responding enthusiastically about various books she had been reading and about how she’d been dabbling in a little painting. 

Jolene continued to ask her questions and despite her initial feelings of intimidation, Deanie decided that she liked Jolene a lot. She was kind and warm and seemed to be interested in what Deanie had to say. Which was more than Calvin was lately. Deanie glanced over at Calvin, on the other side of Jolene, and he was openly gaping at Jolene. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Deanie stopped on the path and said, “Jolene, I’m feeling a little warm out here in the sun. Your garden is lovely, but I think I need some shade.” 

Jolene turned to her and said, “Oh, of course! Are you okay?”

Deanie nodded. “I just need to get out of the sun. And probably a glass of water.” 

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. Let’s get you back and get you cooled off!” Jolene put an arm around Deanie’s shoulders and led her back to the house, Calvin trailing behind them.

Jolene got them to the house and firmly told Calvin to talk to Ferlin, then took Deanie into the kitchen. She sat Deanie down at the table and ran a cold glass of water at the tap. She handed it to Deanie and sat down at the table with her. “Have a sip. Are you sure you’re all right? You do look a little flushed.” 

Deanie sipped the water. It tasted good. “I’m fine. I’m so sorry.” 

Jolene put her hand on Deanie’s. “Don’t be. It’s a warm day.” 

Deanie looked up at her. “My husband likes you very much. He keeps staring at you.” 

Jolene sat back. “I had noticed that.” She picked up a pack of cigarettes on the table, shook one out, and lit it. She held out the pack to Deanie. 

Deanie didn’t smoke but she kind of felt like having one now. She picked one out of the pack and Jolene lit it for her. Deanie coughed a bit and Jolene smiled at her. 

Deanie took a drag and coughed again. Then she bucked up and decided to be honest. “Listen, Jolene. I know you could have him if you want. It’s pretty obvious to me that he’d be happy about that. But he’s all I’ve got. Please don’t take him from me.” 

Jolene stared at her for a moment and then stood up and went to the sink and stared out the window. She finally turned to Deanie. “You know, I thought you might be different.” 

Deanie blinked. “What do you mean?” 

Jolene walked back to the table and sat down again. “You seemed nice. Genuine. Not like the usual women I encounter.”

“I AM nice!” 

Jolene laughed. “Honestly, you are. But do you have any idea how many times this has happened?” 

Deanie shook her head. “How many times what has happened?” 

“Another woman thinking that I want to steal her husband away.” 

Deanie didn’t say anything. 

“It’s so predictable. Ferlin hires someone new, we have a party, the new employee and his wife come, the husband is smitten with me, and the wife thinks I’m trying to steal him from her.” She waved her cigarette in the air. “It’s so typical.” 

Deanie bristled. “I’m not typical!” 

“No, you aren’t. That’s why I thought you might be different.” She laughed. “Honestly, do you really think I would want to steal your husband? Why?” 

Deanie was dumbfounded. She realized she didn’t know how to answer that. 

Jolene laughed again. “You can’t answer that, can you?” She leaned over and took Deanie’s hand again. “I don’t want your husband. He’s as much of a pig as Ferlin is.” 

Deanie gasped and pulled her hand back. 

“Oh, don’t act so shocked. You know it’s true. We put up with this all the time. I’m expected to be a good hostess for Ferlin and put up with him. I suspect it’s the same for you.” 

Deanie stared at her in shock. Then she took a big drag on her cigarette and blew it out. She stubbed it out in the ashtray and looked into Jolene’s green eyes. “It is.” 

“I knew it.” 

They both laughed and then Calvin appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. He leaned his arm against the door frame and said, “What are you lovely ladies up to?” 

Deanie turned back to Jolene and they covered their mouths to stop from laughing out loud. 

Ferlin came up behind Calvin and clapped his hands on Calvin’s shoulders. “Where are my girls at?!” he yelled. 

Deanie and Jolene looked at each other again, barely able to contain their laughter. 

Ferlin moved up to Deanie and put his hands on her waist, and Deanie’s laughter dried up. She stared at Jolene and when Ferlin started to move his hand up, Jolene said, “Deanie and I need to go powder our noses. Excuse us.” She took Deanie’s arm and hustled her to the restroom. She got her inside and shut the door behind them. 

“Deanie, are you okay?”

Deanie nodded, but she couldn’t get the feeling of Ferlin’s hand out of her head. 

“Listen, Deanie. I’m so sorry. Ferlin gets handsy sometimes, especially after he’s had a snootful.”

Deanie nodded again and then decided she needed to say something. “Thanks for getting me out of there. I don’t want to hurt Calvin’s chances at his job, you know.”

Jolene rested her hand on her hip, turned on the overhead fan, and lit a cigarette. She held out the pack to Deanie, and Deanie took another one. At this rate, she’d be up to a pack a day in no time. They smoked in silence for a moment. Deanie began to relax and leaned back against the vanity. She shook her head and laughed a little. 

She looked up at Jolene, who smiled. “I know, honey. Believe me, I know.” 

The rest of the evening passed without incident, although Calvin still acted odd and out of character. He stared at Jolene a lot. After a round of charades and more of Ferlin’s martoonis, the party wound down and people started to leave. Calvin was more than a little unsteady on his feet, but Jolene and Deanie had absconded to the kitchen for a few glasses of water during the evening, so she felt fine. She told Calvin she’d drive them home. 

Calvin sulked a bit but was in no condition to put up a fight about it, and Deanie and Jolene got him into the passenger seat of the car. When Deanie slid behind the wheel, Jolene leaned in and asked, “May I call you tomorrow?”

Deanie looked into her lovely face and nodded. Jolene smiled and said, “Wonderful. Drive safely and get Calvin home and into bed.” 

Deanie finally smiled back and said, “I will, thank you. And thank you for a lovely evening!” 

Jolene patted the side of the car and leaned back, with a smirk on her face. Deanie put the car in gear and backed out into the driveway. “Jolene understands me,” she thought. She pulled out onto the dark road and pointed the car towards home.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal


~~ The Declaration of Independence


Last night, like so many others, we watched the movie of “Hamilton” on Disney+. We had seen the Chicago production of it a while back and loved it, but seeing the original Broadway cast perform it was mind-blowing. The acting, the music, even the lighting, were just spectacular. It was fun to see friends who had never seen it experience it and realize how incredibly good it is. 

If I were a history teacher, I’d do everything in my power to get my kids to see this. Not only does it teach history, it teaches it in a modern way, bringing those original ideas into the present and helping people understand what a remarkable experiment our country is. 


While we watched the movie, the “president” was having a photo op at Mount Rushmore and talking about the “leftist mobs” in the country. His comments were divisive as well as dismissive of the suffering happening in our country right now. Thousands of people are getting sick and dying every day, and he chose to stoke racial and partisan anger, as well as endangering all those who attended. This so-called president might want to ignore the coronavirus, but it is not ignoring people. It struck me as a terrible message to deliver on a day that means a lot to our “grand experiment.” 


Those of us bearing witness right now will tell this “president’s” story. And it will not be kind. 


It also struck me that those who founded our country would be particularly appalled by such a demagogue. They did what they could to prevent someone like him from gaining power, but they were far from infallible. They were imperfect in many ways, but they did have a visionary view of what our country could be. We obviously haven’t achieved that yet, but we are a work in progress. We work towards a more perfect union. 


On this day, we should resolve to defeat not just this “president” in November, but to defeat this toxic form of nationalism. We know we can do better, and we must. 


Happy Birthday, America. You’re having a really weird mid-life crisis, but I’m going to hold out hope that you will learn from this and strive for better. I still believe in you. I need you to believe in yourself, the way Alexander Hamilton and others did. 



Saturday, June 27, 2020

American Idiots

Don't wanna be an American idiot

Don't want a nation under the new mania

And can you hear the sound of hysteria?

The subliminal mind-fuck America


~~ “American Idiot” by Green Day


AHAHAHAHA

I’m not sure, but I think I might have reached my limit when it comes to idiocy.

Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow but at the moment, I’m ready to break out the Rick Dalton flamethrower. Die, you Nazi bastards! AHAHAHAHA


Shit. 


I honestly don’t know how to process the sheer dumbfuckery that I’m seeing right now. A former coworker—a scientist!—posting bullshit conspiracy theories; a spike in cases in states that opened too soon; a so-called “president” who thinks that pretending that this virus doesn’t exist just makes it magically go *poof*. Presto! No more virus! No more cases! No more DEATHS. 


Blaming China like it fucking matters at this point. First of all, there is zero scientific evidence that this was engineered in a Chinese lab. Second, there is such a thing as “global travel.” People travel to and from various countries all the time, whether for business or pleasure. Third, viruses and other infectious agents don’t give one single fuck about supposedly closed borders. Fourth, it is already here and has been since late in 2019, so isn’t the whole point to do what we can to contain and mitigate it? Yes! Yes it is! 


FInally, we fucking told you so. Even little old me, just a lowly microbiologist working in a local lab, has been warning about a pandemic for years. Scientists much more knowledgeable than I have been sounding the warning for even longer. The Obama administration listened to those scientists and had an actual playbook that laid out what a global pandemic might look like and how to deal with it. Every lab I ever worked in and every company with any concern about operations in such a scenario had an emergency plan. 


The current administration basically tossed it in the trash. 


I am so disgusted and angry that I just want to break stuff. In fact, I need to pause for a few hours before I throw my laptop across the room because I am PISSED OFF. 


[break]


[three days later]


While I’m in a better frame of mind, I am still disgusted. Yesterday, we were subjected to the Idiot’s Pet Ghost VP standing in front of the American people and lying right to our faces with what Seth Meyers calls his “dumb little hyphen mouth.” The response to this has not been a success, and anyone with half a brain can see it. One of the things I find most infuriating is that they all seem to think we’re stupid and can’t see what is happening in front of us. It’s obvious that their rabid supporters are suckers supreme, but the majority of us aren’t. The polls are showing it. 


A couple of things occurred to me over the past couple of days. 


First, I’m seeing a certain subset of Americans that are practicing what I would call “toxic individualism.” I don’t know if I coined that phrase or if I read it somewhere and it stuck with me, but I suspect the latter. Either way, I think it is fitting. At the press conference yesterday, Dr. Fauci spoke truth to power and told the American people that we don’t just have responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones, we also “have a societal responsibility.” The Idiot “president” and his acolytes have severely damaged the social contract and it may be beyond repair. We’re seeing a weird evangelical defiance about gathering to worship and not wearing masks despite the outbreaks traced to church gatherings. One has to wonder about how much some of these people care about others as their god directs them to. Ken and I and plenty of our atheist friends obviously care more than some of these yahoos do. 


Real men wear masks
Second, I really think we are mainly on our own right now. The federal government has provided some stimulus and relief money for those who are suffering right now, but the lack of true leadership is painfully obvious. More still needs to be done, but they are ignoring the increase in cases and what really needs to happen in order to control this pandemic and tamp out the fires. All it would take would be for this dysfunctional administration to come out with a statement saying that it is vital to American interests for everyone to stay home if possible and to wear masks if it isn’t. And then be publicly present wearing masks. Can you imagine how much that would help?


Sadly, they won’t do that and I honestly don’t know why. They aren’t just dysfunctional. They just don’t give a fuck. They really don’t. And all those poor saps who say, “He cares about us!” are as delusional as he is. 


Also sadly, while I think it is up to us, I really don’t think we’re up to the task. The majority of us know the reality of things, but there are far too many people who seem to be blissfully ignoring reality. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out for them, and unfortunately, it impacts all of us. 


I think it’s important that all of us with an ounce of reason and common sense start speaking up a little more. I’m not going to go out of my way to confront maskless people who are distant enough from me to not pose a danger, but if someone gets up in my grill or says something shitty to me, I will not hold back. Time to start shaming people, if you ask me. 


At a time when the American people need to show the resolve that we’ve been known for throughout the decades, I believe that we are woefully inadequate to the task. It makes me sad to say that, but it is obviously and painfully true. 



Monday, June 22, 2020

Boring


I won't stoop to your level
You'd have us fightin' everyday
If you had your way
I'm always wrong, you're always right
Now I'm getting on with my life
'Cause you bore me
Yeah you bore me


~~ “You Bore Me” by Blue Flannel

Hey, I'm yelling at you!
I didn’t watch the “president’s” Tulsa rally because I’m not a masochist. But I watched the coverage leading up to it and I watched clips after it. 

Empty seats. Subdued attendees. The Little Overflow Area That Wasn’t.

It reinforced something that I’ve been feeling for some time now: his shtick has gotten old. Old, boring, and dumb. Just like him. 

I remember way back in the old days of the 2016 primaries, when we watched the Republican primary debates with a weird combination of fascination and horror. What would that idiot say next? Ahh, we were all so naive then. We thought it couldn’t get worse than a candidate talking about the size of his dick on national TV. Silly young things, weren’t we? 

I think he realized how disastrous that Tulsa rally was. We’ve all seen the video of him getting back to the White House that night, getting off Marine One looking all disheveled, downtrodden, and defeated, his tie draped around his shoulders and his sad little MAGA hat crumpled in his hand. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for him. 

ALMOST. 

I don’t, not one bit. This horror show is all of his own making, his fragile, hungry ego crying out for adulation and praise and full-throated approval. Health concerns be damned. He needed his fix. When he didn’t get it, we saw the sad clown (with apologies to clowns) at the core of him. A hollowed-out shell of someone who never got the approval he so desperately desired, whether it was from his father or the East coast “elites” who didn’t accept him despite his supposed wealth. He is a sad and broken excuse for a human being. 

The whole thing was pathetic. But what struck me most about that sad spectacle was that he was so goddamn BORING. Even his die-hard supporters, the ones who were actually there, were yawning. Honestly, how often can anyone listen to his bullshit and find it even remotely interesting? It’s the same shit, different day. Yet another airing of his grievances. 

At a time when thousands of Americans have died, people of color fear for their lives from a police force that has abused its power, and our economy is tanking, he uttered not one word about the dead, the pandemic, the people who have been killed at the hands of police, or the millions of people who are out of jobs and struggling to pay bills. It was all about him. All of it. 

It was not a good look, to say the least. 

I think that a lot of people are starting to wake up to that. Even if they liked some of his policies (bless their hearts), they are starting to understand that he’s just not capable of fulfilling his duties. I know that there is a subset of people who will follow him to the end (that’s a subject for another day), but any fence-sitters or hesitant supporters are starting to grow weary of his lame washed-up comedian routine. Maybe when we boot his sorry ass out of the White House in November, he can get a decent gig at a seedy dinner theater in the Poconos. 

Even long-term comedians know that they have to come up with new material. This idiot doesn’t get that. 

I’m starting to feel a bit of a turning tide. With every humiliation, defeat, and failure, he continues his death spiral. We have months to go before election day, but things feel different now, don’t they? 

Christ, I hope so. My liver is about ready to cry “Uncle!” and I’m not sure I can take four more years. 


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Hit me with your best shot

Hit me with your best shot
Come on!
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

~~ "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar


Be Best
No, I'm not kidding. I want your best shot. 

It seems that the Idiot-In-Chief and self-proclaimed genius epidemiologist (he's really good at that stuff, y'all) has decided that we're going to have a vaccine against the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 by the end of 2020. Amazingly, some scientists are all on board and going along with that timetable, although the vast majority think that is way too optimistic. 

Count me among the latter. 

I never was part of vaccine development but I studied a bit about it and spent my entire career in healthcare. One thing I did do as part of my job was testing new methods against old methods. I.e., when a new test was developed and became available and we thought we might want to switch to it, we ran duplicate tests comparing it to our current test. We needed to make sure it compared well and that the results were shown to be accurate before we adopted the new method. 

Let me tell you...that was involved and tedious enough. With vaccine development, we're talking a whole other level of complexity. Formulating a vaccine itself isn't going to be extremely difficult; it's the subsequent testing that it must endure that takes time and large numbers of tests. The main goals are to find something that is both safe and effective. This does not happen overnight or with the snap of an artificially orange tiny finger. 

That's why I am so dubious of a safe vaccine by year's end. And you know what? If there is a vaccine, and they actually manage to manufacture it in the large doses needed, I will not be getting it immediately, and Ken most certainly will not. You all know how I am about vaccines. They save lives. That is not debatable, although many try. (They are wrong.) I know the truth of it. But I also know the consequences of a rushed vaccine that has not been entirely vetted. Some vaccines have carried the increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (the swine flu vaccine in the '70s) and some, like the first incarnation of the Rotavirus vaccine, resulted in a rare but serious condition called intussusception, which is an intestinal complication that can result in blockage and the need for surgical intervention. (That vaccine was pulled from use and another one was developed.)

To summon an Internet meme, one does not simply walk into a safe vaccine. It requires development, in vitro testing, in vivo testing in animals, and then in vivo testing in humans. The level of antibody development needs to be determined as well as how long those antibodies last, which will determine if it will confer immunity for a matter of years or only of months. Follow-up testing needs to be done to see if any long-term issues arise. 

It might not be rocket science but it's pretty damn complex in a different way. 

Rushing a vaccine to market for mass consumption is a dangerous prospect. I trust nothing that comes from the mouths of political operatives. I trust the science. If the orange idiot starts talking up this vaccine and I don't hear scientists agreeing, I will run the other way from that vaccine. 

***


Time to make the vaccines
On a related note, I watched the testimony before Congress from Dr. Rick Bright, the whistleblower who said that his warnings about the urgency of this virus went unheeded. (Quote of the Year: "We're in deep shit.") I was dismayed to see many of the Republican congresscritters trying to shield the so-called "president" when it comes to his constant touting of hydroxychloroquine as a therapy, despite no valid scientific studies being done to test its effectiveness against this virus. Most of the studies so far have shown either no efficacy or actual harm, with a worse outcome in many cases. 

But one after another, they sat up there and grilled Dr. Bright about hydroxychloroquine and "why not try it?" I'll sum up Dr. Bright's answer and then I'll give my own to that question. He said, in essence, "Your anecdotal evidence doesn't count for shit." 

My answer is that you don't try treatments when you don't know the outcomes. While the treatment has been around for a long time as a malaria drug and for some other conditions, it has not been fully vetted as a treatment for this virus. There is a shit-ton that we don't know about this virus and about the damage it causes to various tissues and systems, and just shoving a drug at it willy-nilly is irresponsible and negligent at best and downright malpractice at worst. 

Some of these people in Congress keep trying to appease the toddler in the White House and say, "It works for malaria. Why not give it a try?"

The reason I gave on Facebook is basically this: there are many treatments that work for one thing and don't work for another. A simple example is that penicillin-class antibiotics can be quite effective against some Gram-positive organisms like Staph and Strep. (Not so much Staph anymore, but that's because it developed resistance, so much so that penicillin is no longer an effective antibiotic against Staph.) However, due to its mechanism against organisms (it involves differences in cell walls), penicillin and most other antibiotics in that class are completely ineffective against Gram-negative organisms like E coli or Pseudomonas. 

So, to give a treatment example: if you had a patient who presented with septicemia (a blood infection) caused by E coli and you gave your patient penicillin, you would be causing harm because that is an ineffective treatment. Your patient would die because that is a very serious infection, one of the most life-threatening you can get. "What do you have to lose?" Well, when you push ineffective treatments, your patient could lose their life. 

Here's another very simple example: a couple of ibuprofen works great on a headache, but it ain't gonna do shit for your yeast infection, honey. But if you take enough ibuprofen, you risk renal damage. But hey, what have you got to lose, right? 

That's why it is important to conduct the studies and determine whether or not the treatment can cure, mitigate or decrease the length of illness, or if it causes actual harm. We have not done those studies on the magnitude that is necessary and it is beyond irresponsible for people to be pushing any sort of treatment without the necessary vetting. 

I know this was way too science-y but everything I'm hearing from the non-scientists in this administration is grating on my last nerve. It is glaringly obvious that they have no clue what they're talking about. 

Although I have a suggestion. Perhaps some sort of bleach injection or ingestion could help. Come on, fellas.

What have you got to lose? 




Thursday, May 7, 2020

Lost and Found

Emma ran out of the flat into the tangled weeds behind their building and made her way to the gravestone in the graveyard beyond. She needed some air. She put her hand on her big sister's stone and said, "I miss you, Eliza." 

She cried a little but wiped the tears off of her face with the hem of her dress. Her sister had died two weeks ago and Emma still didn't quite know what to do with herself. She felt lost. Eliza had brushed her hair and had made her clean her teeth. Now that Eliza was gone, her hair had gotten more than a little ratty and she rubbed her tongue across her teeth. Emma resolved to at least clean her teeth today, to let Eliza know that she hadn't forgotten her. 

She made her way back into the house, picking her way carefully through the brambles. When she entered the flat, she called out to her Mum and Dad but got no reply. She walked through the small dining space to their bedroom and stood in the doorway. "Mama?"

She got no response and walked over to the bed. She shook Mama's shoulder but she wouldn't wake up. She seemed cold so Emma got a blanket from the sideboard and put it over her Mum and Dad. She patted her Papa on the shoulder and said, "Sleep, Papa. It's okay. I know you're tired." She noticed a bad smell in the air so she opened the window a little. 

She went to the kitchen and found an old biscuit that her Mum had made and sat at the table as she nibbled it. Mama hadn't made a proper meal for a few days, but Emma was resourceful and managed to find things to eat. She wished for fresh milk but was content to have some water. 

After Eliza had died and they had buried her in the boneyard, her Mum and Dad had retreated to themselves. Emma knew that they loved her but they had gotten so quiet and they didn't laugh and play like they used to. Papa hadn't said much anyway once he got back from what Mama called the Great War, and he had left half of one of his legs over there. He also had a hard time talking to everyone, because he was always so out of breath. Mama explained to the girls that it was the mustard, but Emma never understood that, because she always liked mustard when they had it with dinner. 

As Emma nibbled at her biscuit, she heard a knock on the door. She went over to the door, taking her biscuit with her. She opened the door a crack and looked out to see who was there. When she saw that it was Mrs. Brambadge from next door, she opened the door wide. 

Mrs. Brambadge said, "Hello, Emma. How are you?" She was usually a very cheery sort but seemed quite serious now. 

Emma shrugged. "I'm well, thank you." She continued to nibble her biscuit. 

Mrs. Brambadge cleared her throat and said, "I was wondering if your Mum and Dad are about. I had hoped to talk to them."

Emma looked up at her and didn't say anything. 

The neighbor continued, "I really need to talk to them if they're here, you see. There have been some things happening that...well, I really think I should talk to them. Can I do that, love?"

Emma took her hand and led her inside. She drew her over to where Mama and Papa slept in their bed and pointed. "They're in there. But you probably should let them sleep. They've been very tired and they sleep all the time lately." 

Mrs. Brambadge looked at her and then looked up into the dimness of the bedroom. She put her hand on the doorjamb and took a step inside. Then another. Emma heard her say, "Lila? James? Are you awake?" The woman stepped further into the room and Emma heard her gasp. 

The nice neighbor rushed out of the bedroom, braced herself against the wall, then leaned over and vomited profusely, all over the floorboards that Mama had just scrubbed last week. 

She looked up at Emma, who watched her calmly. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Oh, my dear child. How long have your Mum and Dad been...sleeping?"

Emma thought about it. "Well, Mama made these biscuits a few days ago." She took another nibble and looked at it. "There's a green spot here, but it still tastes good." Mrs. Brambadge looked up at Emma from her crouch on the floor, a look in her eyes that Emma knew was one of both horror and sadness. Emma didn't know how she knew this but she supposed that she'd seen enough of both in her short time on earth. 

Mrs. Brambadge made her way to her feet, brushing away the flies that seemed to have descended upon Emma's house lately. She closed the bedroom door firmly behind her, pressing her hand to her mouth. She took a deep breath and then grabbed Emma's hand. She pulled her along behind her to the door, her ample bosom leading the way. 

Emma held back. "No, Mrs. Brambadge! I need to be here when Mama and Papa wake up! They'll be hungry."

The woman looked down at Emma, who realized that the neighbor was truly very distraught. "Oh, child," she said, her hand on Emma's head. "Come with me next door."

Emma resisted. "I told you! Mama and Papa will be hungry when they get up!"


Mrs. Brambadge peered at her. "Emma, your Mum and Dad aren't getting up. They are sleeping, yes...but they...they aren't going to be hungry if they wake up. And yes, I said 'if.'" 

Emma bowed her head and then looked up at Mrs. Brambadge. "They aren't going to wake up are they, Missus?" 

Mrs. Brambadge shook her head. "No, child. I don't believe they are." 

Emma slipped her hand into Mrs. Brambadge's. They walked outside and Emma looked up at her. "Are you my new Mum?" 

The older woman looked startled and looked down at Emma. "Why, yes, child. I suppose I am. I seem to have found you, haven't I?"

Emma nodded. "Yes, mum. Will you brush my hair?" She smiled up at the nice lady and they walked home.