Oh Happy Day! COVID-19 Vaccine First Dose

Yesterday I received my first COVID vaccine shot. I was amazed at how quickly it all came to pass after months and months of waiting. In Florida last week there was talk of possibly expanding eligibility to ages 55+, just days after it was lowered to 60. But on Friday, the state announced eligibility is now 50+ starting on Monday.

To seize the opportunity, I quickly registered on county vaccination sites and set up online accounts at pharmacies and grocery stores. Florida has a patchwork of vaccination paths, which makes it confusing and inefficient. The county-administered sites run on a first-come-first-served basis, while the retail outlets require appointments scheduled directly on their sites. With no centralization, there’s huge potential for overlap, especially for motivated vaccine seekers like me.

So at dawn Monday I had two computers and my phone ready to get in the Publix and CVS appointment queues which opened at 7 AM. I waited as patiently as I could as I watched the availability decrease steadily: 92%… 76%… 48% then to 30% quite rapidly. Suddenly, about 45 minutes after the hour my screen moved from “On Hold” to “Register Now” and I speedily seized the first available slot for Wednesday afternoon at a local Publix supermarket.

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The Perils of Travel: Weighing in the Balance

Pitfalls abound in the world of travel: Illness, injury, political instability, robbery, perilous roads and unfit vehicles. Yet I’m not really a fearful traveler. So far nothing serious has happened to me (knock on wood!) but I’ve had some close calls:

  • The worst is probably the time the young child tried to pilfer my $20 Casio watch at the Lima, Peru central station immediately after I drowsily stepped off an all-night bus.
  • Or the time I was involved in a slow-motion, multi-car accident on a switchback mountain road in the Venezuelan Andes.
  • Or the time I miraculously piloted a scooter many kilometers on the wrong side of a winding road in Bermuda — at night.
  • Or the time our octogenarian taxi driver in Morocco fell asleep while careening down the highway from the Atlas Mountains.
  • Or the time we were sideswiped on a motorcycle by a licenceless, prepubescent driver, mere miles from where Che Guevara met his fate in Bolivia.

I’ve survived so far despite civil unrest in Argentina. Scams in the Maghreb. Trading with the enemy in Havana. Attempted muggings in Madrid and Lisbon. Economic collapse in Ireland. A volcanic eruption in Nicaragua. A ferry accident off Cape Cod. Favelas in Brazil. An earthquake in Colombia. A springtime heatwave in Oslo.

Did I survive because I was invincibly young? Tenacious? Was it simply fate? If anything I was probably just plain lucky. While many things are out of our control, I believe the world is intrinsically safe. Strangers will help. Our bodies are designed to be resilient. It’s why we live so long, on average, despite all the risks and uncertainties that are thrown our way in life.

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Baby Daddy

I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be a parent. I chose not to have children. My decision to be with Paul was a factor in that, given our age difference (he being 11 years older) and the impracticality of having children later in life. But many people do, especially these days. I recall thinking that Dad was relatively old to be a new father: he was 33 when Erik was born, and 35 when he had me. But nowadays this is normal — nearly everyone I know with children had them in their 30’s.

Probably the most compelling reason to be a father is the opportunity to care for and teach someone so intimately and directly. To watch the child develop, learn, engage in the world. And I’ve always felt I would be rather good at this — I could probably find the right balance between control and independence. I’d want the child to have latitude and confidence to explore.

I’d prioritize travel and languages and art and ideas. I’d camp, go for hikes, teach them to ski and ride bikes at an early age. I’d encourage sports but would let the child seek that out without pressure. I’d encourage participation in social groups, and always promote ways to be creative.

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Desert Stories, Desert Stones

Writing Prompt (Natural Abundance): Find five pretty or interesting rocks.

Last month we visited Ray at his home at Sun City in Palm Desert, CA. It was really nice to see him after a year of pandemic-mandated distance — and the last time I saw him was the day Mom passed away. So it was a relief to reacquaint under more normal circumstances, even though we social distanced responsibly with masks and an outside patio visit.

Last June, Paul and I were guests at our friend Scotty’s family cottage on the Isle of Springs — a perfect place to get away from the world’s craziness. We cooked, kayaked, walked through the island woodlands, sipped cocktails, scouted the beaches for sea glass and dug for littleneck clams, listened to music, played card games, put together jigsaw puzzles, and enjoyed fine sunset views over the Sheepscot river to the mainland.

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5:30 AM: I just got back from dropping Paul off at the Sarasota airport, an early wake up for both of us especially since the time changed overnight to daylight savings time so we effectively lost an hour. He’s headed through Dallas on his way to Las Vegas for his second Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shot but the weather looks troubling at DFW.

We just haven’t had much luck with that airport lately. On our return flight from Palm Springs a thunderstorm diverted us to Austin which delayed our arrival by many hours. It was my second diversion at that airport — a few years prior when flying from Querétaro, Mexico storms diverted us to Houston which was a huge pain since we were an international arrival which complicated the security.

But hopefully things will be just fine for Paul today, I’m thrilled he is getting his second shot which means he will soon be free to interact more socially and travel more. Things are looking up, many experts are saying that things will begin to feel much more different in the next 45 days or so as vaccine injections continue to ramp up.

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One Year Later…

A beautiful morning in Florida, even here in tropical climates there is seasonal change, however small compared to the northern/southern extremes. The sun feels stronger, warmer, the sky a lighter blue than the thicker, deeper sky of winter. The windows are open, I have a vase filled with a generous bouquet of daffodils. I’ve always welcomed spring, time for rebirth and newness.

It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted our lives. On March 11 2020 the World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic. At work I was in a weeks of uncertainty about working remotely, there was a company-wide email from the CEO a few days earlier about this, some team managers interpreted this as an immediate directive, other teams (like mine) met to discuss options and preferences.

All of us were thinking this would be a matter of weeks or a couple of months; we all expected to be back in the office by May. We quickly threw together shared “checkout” spreadsheets for office items taken home (monitors, chairs, docking stations…), work schedules since some parents now had to balance their children’s at-home school, and guidelines on remote tools (like chat), meeting protocols and daily team standup meetings.

In any case, March 12 2020 was the last day in the office for everyone at Illumina — worldwide. I packed my bags for the bike ride home with as many of my personal items that would fit in my backpack. I made a trip by car the next morning to get my electronics and belongings from by bike locker (shoes, belts, workout clothes).

It was all very sudden and a bit surreal — in January there were scattered news reports of a new virus in Asia of the SARS and Ebola strains. But those past epidemics, while severe in localities where it struck, didn’t travel. Soon there were reports of cases in France, a surge in Italy, next Iran. But the “problem” seemed so far away — until it wasn’t. Soon there were cases in the Pacific Northwest as it spread like wildfire through retirement homes and the first U.S. death was reported in Seattle. It was upon us, and it felt different.

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