Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Who Am Us Anyway? A stream-of consciousness pandemic rant

Starting in about 2014, I found myself posting more and more on Facebook instead of doing long-form blogging. I found it much easier, in these Years Of Unfocused Widow Brain, to just share articles with a short comment instead of  having to, say, put together coherent thoughts.  I started this blog in a moment of weakness, but found that the time between my closing of  the old place and when I started this did little to assuage my sense that the whole thing was just a slog. To this day, the most-read post here is a memorial for a young woman I didn't even know.

Unless you've kept up with your blog continuously, the landscape has changed. And that may provide a degree of freedom. With no readers and no ad feeds, there's no pressure to crank out content. It's become clear to me that 90% of people simply do not want to know what's going on in our country or in the world. It's so much easier to just draw inward, to focus on our families and our friends, and live day to day, because after all, what impact can any of us really have when everything around us is falling apart? What's the point of reading about it all, thinking about it all, having concerns about it all when it really does seem as if there's nothing we can do to change it?

Writing has always been an outlet for me, and it seems I'd forgotten about that. In the old days, I had dreams of being one of those Big Name Bloggers who either successfully monetized their blogs or got plum gigs at either nascent or prominent publications. As a lifelong Frustrated Would-Be Journalist, I had dreams. I coulda been a contenda, except that I also wanted things like a house and a retirement plan and health insurance. So long-form blogging allowed me to do both. But blogging was like The Job That Ate My Life in that the more successful you are at it, the more you want more. In 2007 I went to the conference then known as Yearly Kos and discovered that I had a bit of a decent reputation in the world of political bloggers. I was "known," if not famous. In 2008 I was laid off from my Real Job and got the Job That Ate My Life.  After two years I was given a promotion, which meant a bigger bonus plan. Then four years after that I was given another one, with an even BIGGER bonus plan. And the thing is, I LIKED it. I liked the recognition. And I sure as hell liked the money.

When I started blogging in 2004, it was because I'd been reviewing movies online since 1997 and THAT had become a slog. Even a wonderful film like Jet Li's Fearless had me hamstrung about what to write. For a decade, I cranked out content, some of it good, some of it great, much of it mediocre. But I think it's time to come  home. If people want to read what I write, they'll either find it or ask me. And on Facebook, I'll do what everyone else does and share nature photos, cat videos, and funny memes. If social media is about bread and circuses, I'll juggle on a unicycle in a clown suit throwing pieces of challah at my friends the way everyone else does.

So all that out of the way, here we are in August 2021. We are 17 months into the Great COVID-19 Pandemic of Seemingly Forever, and this virus has shown itself to be The Thing That Wouldn't Leave. What people have never understood about The Thing That Wouldn't Leave is if you keep feeding it, it WON'T leave. 

One time back in maybe 1985, Mr. Brilliant ran into an old high school friend at a bus stop and brought him home. And the guy stayed for 4 days, our apartment becoming littered with Chinese food containers, cigarette butts and pot resin. We'd stand in the kitchen and joke about how this guy was turning into The Thing That Wouldn't Leave, but it was four days before Mr. B. finally told him to go home. Perhaps if we'd brought in Chinese takeout for only ourselves, he'd have left sooner.

But here we are, with a new virus variant whose name is largely shortened to just Delta (which gives it a certain Greek frisson, unlike the vaguely Jewish sounding "COVID," which has always seemed unfortunate to me given that the GOP is rotten with anti-Semites who only need to keep Jews around  for their apocalyptic delusions). And thanks to most of the Republican Party and all of the right-wing media echo chamber, the same people who put Donald Trump in office have joined with the Great Medical Conspiracy "natural healing" contingent to make people skeptical about getting vaccinated, instead preferring to buy worming medicine for horses at the feed store because Michael Flynn's brother told them to use it. Every news report seems to have another GOP governor who has finally woken up and realized that rather than "owning the libs", vaccination refusal is simply killing off his own voters, being heckled by the ignorant, the deluded, the crazy and the misinformed.

Look, I understand vaccine hesitancy. I worked on clinical trials for nine years at the Job That Ate My Life. I know a little something about clinical research, and how long it takes, and how only about 14% of compounds that make it into human trials make it to approval and only about 3% of cancer treatments. And I too was hesitant at first, because yeah, they DID seem rushed to market, and then there's the question of the CDC and FDA reporting to Donald Trump for most of the pandemic's duration up to that point. But unlike people for whom research just means Googling conclusions you've already come to, I read about how mRNA research is not just something that a lab pulled out of its ass yesterday, but has been in the works for 30 years. Messenger RNA is like a teacher which tells your immune systtem how to fight this novel virus that it doesn't know what to do with. And of course you can see why this has focused on cancer therapies until now. After all, a treatment that can target just one kind of cell (cancerous) and leave healthy cells alone could go a long way towards reducing toxicity, right? So why NOT take 30 years of research and apply it to a vaccine? Once I knew that, I started doing whatever I had to in order to get this vaccine, and it bought me a few months of normal life, until people who have no idea how to read a protocol or a study decided that Google = research and that they knew better than anyone who actually had, well, knowledge.

I used to dream about Mr. Brilliant often. Sometimes I'd remember them, but more often not. I'd wake just with the realization that I'd dreamt about him. Often there would be other people in the dreams. Or he wouldn't be in them, but there would be other people in them. I spent about 10 months of the pandemic napping during the day because I was so busy at night. After all, my real-life social life was all but on hold other than on Zoom, but I was living a very full life in my sleep. Once I started being able to socialize again, I dreamt of him less. But here we are, with every social gathering bearing an undercurrent of existential dread despite vaccination (especially for those of us having exceeded the designated six months of confirmed protection), and isolation looming again, and there he goes again -- coming back from the dead in my dreams. The good news is that when he does, I can enjoy his company now instead of obsessing about having to buy him socks, underwear, and a new phone.

This is what isolation does to the widowed.

I could go on. I could talk about the Democrats' cluelessness about voting rights, and about corporate media, and about Andrew Cuomo being an asshole, and why Democrats are always held to a different standard and what does it buy us, and so on. But I have to save something for next time.

So join me as I shout into the void. Or not. You still have a choice.


  1. You have not been forgotten, for what it’s worth. I look forward to whatever, whenever you choose to blog.
    Your observation on the widowed and isolation rings true.
    I will gladly join you as you shout into the void.

  2. How does this work, again? I can't find the "like" button...

  3. Welcome back! I'm still blogging but never, NEVER as eloquently as you. To an extent I've retreated inward and tend to focus on Life During COVID (and of course Silly Sites) rather than The Big Picture, but I think that's just burnout after 4+ years of crazy-beyond-belief, plus the fact that I'm concentrating on the One Job That Pays All Our NYC Bills.


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