A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 251

White-out…and not the kind from Staples.

Saturday, January 29

The weather people seem like nuclear-weapons-expert wannabes. Currently, according to AccuWeather, the National Weather Service is speaking of the snowy nor’easter that hit overnight as a “bomb cyclone.” Or, you might prefer “bombogenesis”—a good name for a heavy metal rock band!

THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE! Where is Premier Kissoff when we need him?

But take away the scary verbiage and it means that we’ve gotten around 10 inches of snow so far here on Long Island, more in New Jersey, and—especially since it’s still snowing—ultimately perhaps two feet in Boston.

O.K. Whatever.

At the moment, we have heat and electricity, unlike the unlucky 111,000 in parts of Massachusetts. 

Serial crises and never-ending pandemic precautions have prompted me to jot down a timeline of our experiences since March of 2020. During the past two years, we have known lengthy periods of inactivity punctuated by bursts of frantic appointment-keeping. 

Here’s what I mean.

Starting in March of 2020, we fled the COVID-overwhelmed city for Long Island…and stayed here for the next six months. Subsequent moments of high drama (yawn) involved arranging bi-weekly food deliveries and getting the local Internet-providing monopoly to hook us up with broadband service.

Then, we spent the month of September, 2020 back in the city. I saw three doctors and a dentist; Emily got two rounds of mammograms, saw two doctors, and took her computer for a virus checkup at Best Buy. We each got haircuts. 

Late in September, we returned to Long Island where we spent the next four-and-a-half months…reading long books, streaming videos, doing online word puzzles, cooking, and eating.

Then in February of 2021, we went to the city again. It was at this point we each got our first COVID vaccinations, which we had arranged in a panic via the Walgreens website. (You’d go to NY State, Walgreens, and/or CVS websites early every day, then suddenly…you couldn’t believe it…there’d be an opening! QUICK, BEFORE IT GOES AWAY, make the appointment!) We stayed in Gotham for five weeks, each getting a second vaccination on March 12.

Back to East Hampton, where three more uneventful months elapsed—then back to the city again on June 15 for a frantic round of trips to dentists and doctors.

One medical drama overshadowed all others during this period: a painful, ever-worsening rash on Emily’s midsection. This got so bad that in one area it became an open wound. She tried various ointments and fixes, but nothing worked until her dermatologist gave her samples of a Tylenol-size, salmon-colored pill named Otezla. That was increasingly effective—but to which she appeared to be allergic. With no alternative, she stayed on it for months. And, not to be forgotten: Otezla is jaw-droppingly, mind-bendingly expensive…maybe $68,000 for a year if insurance doesn’t cover it. And for a while it seemed they might not cover it.

In August of 2021, there were compound crises. Late in the month, we ran back to the city to avoid Hurricane Henri, which the weather savants said was certain to hit Eastern Long Island! (It missed.) At the very end of the month (after Emily got her COVID booster shot), we ran back to Long Island to avoid Hurricane Ida, whose flooding made city streets into rivers.

This is beginning to remind me of a shaggy-dog Joseph Conrad story, “Youth,” which I described on this website back in October.  Conrad’s ship, Judea, experiences disaster after punishing disaster on its way from England to Southeast Asia. Conrad recounts how the tumult of the cruel ocean “seemed to last for months, for years, for all eternity….”

Anyway, back to us. Three trips to and from the city in November and December put an end to our suffering for 2021. Much of our frenzy at that time was due to my former employer—now known as S&P Global—having canceled our dental insurance. So we had to get lots of treatments finished before the end of the year—multiple crowns, root canals, and gum fix-ups. 

Back in November, we had the one social get-together of recent years, aside from our occasional meet-ups with niece Montana. We took the train up to long-time friend Amy’s Westchester apartment, where Jim Guyette (of Hormel strike fame) met us. We sat around and stuffed our un-masked faces for several hours. Momentarily, the worst of the pandemic seemed over. Would we do that again today, after the arrival of Omicron? Probably not.

Dinner: The spicy egg dish shakshuka, cold sesame noodles, and some salad.

Entertainment: the Netflix spy drama In From the Cold.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–Chapter 230

A Unification Church mass wedding.

Monday, August 30

People today are looking frantically to relinquish responsibility. 

There’s just too much to feel responsible for. There are the unending weather/climate disasters including Hurricanes Henri and Ida—and their link to your gas-guzzler and plastic-bag addiction. The decision about whether you and/or your dependents should get the COVID vaccination. The failed military adventures from Iraq to Afghanistan, which thanks to W.’s administration many Americans supported. The fool’s gold promises of globalization, which said that trade competition and lost industrial jobs would all balance out to everyone’s advantage. And the refugee crises from Italy to the Mexico-U.S. border. Lots of people just can’t take it all and long for somebody else to give them direction.

The novelist Don DeLillo has long understood Americans’ desire to let somebody else for god’s sake make the decisions. Even planning what’s for dinner or what to watch on the boob tube is just too much…not to mention how to find or commit to a mate.

DeLillo’s Mao II begins with a depiction of a 1980s mass marriage ceremony of  Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s followers—an event in which over 4,000 people got hitched to the absolute strangers that Master Moon dictated they should wed. In the vast audience, the father of one bride ponders the bridal parties: “They are a nation, he supposes, founded on the principle of easy belief. A unit fueled by credulousness….They follow the man because he gives them what they need. He answers their yearning, unburdens them of free will and independent thought.”

Surely this is the impulse at work in some people’s substitution of Ivermectin, a de-worming medication intended for livestock, for the science-supported COVID vaccine. FOX News’s personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham have all recommended Ivermectin as a COVID cure—as they seek a similar blind-faith audience response to that commanded by Rev. Moon and, for that matter, to the loyalty so many have given to Trump.

But Carlson et al. should take warning: Today, Moon’s Unification Church has withered. With no more than a few thousand members, it has split into three, with the largest of these led by Moon’s wife, Had Ja Han Moon. (Moon himself died in 2012 after declaring his church closed.) Smoke and mirrors will only take you so far.

Dinner: cold sliced roast beef, corn on the cob, and a green salad with yogurt dressing.

Entertainment: Episodes of the Italian courtroom drama The Trial (Il processo).