Buying Books in the Age of Amazon

I’m working on a review of the book Woke Antisemitism: How Progressive Ideology Harms Jews by David L. Bernstein. It has answers to many questions I get asked about Wokeness, and I recommend that people read it. No matter what words I string together, my answers never seem to satisfy anyone.

But there’s a problem: The book is only available via Amazon. I admit that that is only a problem for a handful of Amazon resisters such as myself. But I do wonder why it isn’t more widely available. Granted, it might be aimed at a fairly narrow audience, though it deserves the attention of anyone who cares about the narrow confines of acceptable dialogue these days. 

Before I caved in and created an Amazon account just to buy this one book, I searched for it via the websites of several bookstores in my area, both indies, Barnes and Noble, and the University Bookstore. The only place I could even order it was Barnes and Noble and the price plus postage made me pause. It’s the sort of book I might buy as an ebook, though I usually buy ebooks through Apple, just to avoid dealing with Amazon. Nope. No ebook through Apple Books. Grrr.

Why do I even care where I buy a book? A question that deserves an answer: I simply don’t want Amazon to have total control of which books are made available to the world. Once I caved, created an Amazon account, and bought the Kindle version of the book, I could see that it has an actual publisher behind it: Post Hill Press. But when I went to their website, and then to the division behind this title, WickedSonBooks.com, and then to the title, I learned that it supposedly is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Nook, and Kobo. Funny how those other options didn’t show up when I searched (via DuckDuckGo) for information. And, again, why is Apple absent from the list?

I would have bought a hard copy if I could have obtained one locally, but it didn’t show up in searches on my favorite indie websites either as an ebook, or in paper, even to order. Nor does our public library have a copy. If I were the author and actually wanted to sell some copies of this book, I’d be talking to the publisher to find out what the heck is going on. 

Back to my concern about Amazon. If there is any industry where I don’t want to see a monopoly, it’s the publishing industry. And there’s simply no doubt that Amazon has monopoly power over book publishing. If Amazon decides that Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage is likely to garner the ire of trans activists, it can refuse to sell it (fortunately there was enough resistance that that tactic didn’t work), or it can make sure that the title won’t show up in ads (that did work). We simply need multiple ways to get ideas out there into the “marketplace of ideas” so they can be read, digested, commented upon, and subjected to fierce battles. Without being contested, ideas won’t get refined and improved so the best ones float to the top. 

Fortunately, the seemingly lost cause of free speech has a serious new advocate as of 2022. When the ACLU decided that some speech didn’t merit its support, FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, took over the vacant advocacy territory. FIRE used to focus entirely on campus free speech issues, but expanded its efforts to include many more arenas in which ideas can be censored. It has hired new staff and is learning the hard way that defending our First Amendment is a very big job. I’m confident they are up to the task – and I hope they will keep an eye on the publishing industry for me. Yes, I know that publishers are not the government. 

If you, like most Americans, already buy everything at Amazon, look for Woke Antisemitism. I’ll be writing more about it soon.  

Can I Meditate My Way Out of Here?

Let’s imagine you are shopping for a new place to live. You want a walkable neighborhood, meaning that you can walk to a drug store, a grocery store, a bank, a library, a movie theater – the essentials of urban living. You find a neighborhood, find a dwelling place, the vibes seem OK. You move in. 

Your new place seems pretty good. It’s not ideal, but then few things are. You’re a stranger, but you soon discover that most of your neighbors moved here because they had friends or family already here. They ignore you. You join in some neighborhood activities, but in between organized events, no one calls, your doorbell doesn’t ring. Eventually, you offer up an open house for your nearest neighbors. People come! They mix with enthusiasm, they linger. But after they leave, your phone doesn’t ring; your doorbell doesn’t ring. Hmm.

As you sample the various public activities, you find a few that interest you.  You attend and join in the conversation. You begin to learn more about your neighbors. You learn that they are not exactly what they claim to be. They claim they are all about inclusion, that they seek out diversity, but the diversity they seek does not include the likes of you. What will you do now?

Will you pull up stakes and look for a different neighborhood? How far would you have to go to find one where your sort would be welcome? You could go back to your home town, but you’ve changed in ways that it hasn’t. You could move to Canada, but it’s changed, too, and now it’s worse than your new neighbors. You could find property in the country where you wouldn’t expect your doorbell to ring (but it did!), but you have health concerns that couldn’t be met there. 

Maybe the problem is you, not the neighborhood. Well, not maybe: it is. You actually are hoping for a neighborhood of adults, similar to the neighborhood of your childhood, where adults were curious to learn more about their neighbors without immediately sorting them into my kind and not my kind. I remember a remarkably inclusive neighborhood where my blue collar parents were invited to mix with the hoi poloi (they generally didn’t). Jews and gentiles mixed regularly. No, my neighborhood wasn’t racially mixed, but people had serious conversations about issues of the day including serious ones such as how to sort the town into two high schools in a way that didn’t create a ghetto school and a privileged school. 

I know a handful of adults, by which I mean people who are curious about what other people think. They want to learn why someone has an opinion that is at odds with their own. They admit that people with whom they disagree have some good points. Inclusion to them includes people with ideas that challenge them. If you are reading this, you are probably one of these people that I view as adults. Thank you for at least being curious if not actually open to my point of view. 

As for my dilemma about where to live, I don’t know what to do. This is a good place for my husband. If I followed my mom’s example and died before my husband, I’d want him to be here. But it’s not a good fit for me. Society in general is so thoroughly sorted today that there may not be a good fit for me anywhere. I’m not confident that I could find a place where I fit, and I probably couldn’t afford to move anyway. 

I have a few good role models here; people who likely share some of my views but just never share them publicly. I’m doing my meditations today on whether I need to give up, shut up, and join them. They have somehow found a way to be here without hoping to find any personal support here. Could I do that without descending into madness? I might have to. Wish me luck.

Israel Solves Our Problem With Israel?

Israel. Aargh! My sixth grade social studies teacher (this was 1955) told us that he expected the problems in the Middle East would set off WW III. Basically, for my entire life, it has seemed as though he would be vindicated any day now. You might be thinking that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would be the most likely location today for the outbreak of a new world war. But I would remind you that Putin and Netanyahu are an interesting pair of leaders; they are frenemies in a way that keeps everyone guessing about where their relationship will go next.

A column by Tom Friedman in the Jan.17 NYT urges Biden to make it clear to Netanyahu that the US will not be Israel’s “useful idiot.” Why is he so vexed right now? He sees a political situation in Israel that could dramatically change the nature of the “only democracy in the Middle East.” He worries that Netanyahu will support ultra-conservative partisans in order to avoid the consequences of his own corrupt behavior. The fallout of adopting policies that further privilege orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews over conservative, reform, and sectarian Jews, plus non-Jewish citizens of Israel, could precipitate a crisis within Israel that would force the US to seriously re-evaluate its relationship with the Jewish state. 

I’m fascinated by Friedman’s confidence that Biden is the one person who could prevent Israel from going over this cliff. Perhaps he could talk some fundamentalist Islamic states into backing off their extremist policies while he’s at it. Meanwhile, we are left to watch from a distance and hope that Israel pulls back from the cliff of extremist policies. 

But wait! What if Israel doesn’t pull back? Maybe there are some positive aspects of that scenario. At present, many people throughout the western world are concerned about the fate of the Palestinians in territories controlled by Israel, namely the West Bank and Gaza. A few decades ago, Americans still remembered that at the time Great Britain divided the area into Israel and Palestine, the Arabs in and around the territory refused to accept the division; most continue to reject the division today, yet many Americans continue to hope for a two-state solution to this now hopeless conflict. So: what if Israel doesn’t moderate its internal conflict? Might moderate Israelis leave rather than live within Orthodox constraints? Might the country simply implode with some version of a civil war? (That would be interesting because the Ultra-Orthodox do not serve in the military; they might wish they had taken basic training.) Might Israel’s supporters outside of Russia pull back and say, no, we’re not dragging ourselves into this conflict?

Is it possible that Israel will solve our problem for us? If it ceases to be the only democracy in the middle east, it could also cease to be our concern. Where would moderate Israelis go? I’d welcome them here. Most countries love moderate immigrants. Is another diaspora on the horizon?

While I don’t want Israel to disappear, I also don’t want to see it become an extreme religious state. I want Palestinians and other Arabs to support a two-state solution rather than continue to want Israel wiped off the map. I want the vision of a two-state solution to be viable again. Or maybe let’s just bring back the Ottoman Empire. Jews were accommodated in that era, and maybe that’s the best we can hope for. 

If you’re interested in some short histories of the Jewish people and of Islam, here are some links:

History of Islam in 10 Minutes

All Jewish History in Under 18 Minutes

I Am in Awe of the JWST

Folks, if you are discouraged about the state of humanity, I have a fix for you. I finally got my act together last week and did whatever was required to get PBS streaming programs on my TV. I’ve been paying a monthly contribution to PBS for quite a while, but hadn’t set up the app for streaming. Finally did it, and the first thing I treated myself to was the Nova program from last July about the James Webb Space Telescope.

Humans are amazing when they can cooperate to reach a goal, that’s all I can say. We are so accustomed to the daily news about crime, wars, health care chaos, traffic rudeness, and other misbehavior, that I had settled into a very dark narrative about the human condition. Yet after I watched this program detailing the decades of work of over 20,000 scientists and engineers who developed new materials, new mechanical details, new schemes to complete this marvel of technology, fold it into a rocket, blast it into space, then watch it unfold and get itself into operational mode without a flaw, I was stunned. Everything that happened after the launch had to occur without any tweaking by developers here on Earth.

Now it is a million miles from home. Far too far away for any tinkering by earthlings such as our astronauts did by putting a pair of glasses on the also amazing Hubble telescope. JWST had to work its way through more than 300 points in its deployment; failure of any one of which could have ruined the whole thing. Imagine the testing and revising and retesting that happened before it was folded and packed into its rocket.

Best bet for curing your despair over human nature: watch the PBS video. If, for some reason, you can’t stream it, borrow it from a library. Nova, July 2022: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/ultimate-space-telescope/

Second best: jwst.nasa.gov

The NASA website is great, but the video really tells the story, and you’ll get caught up in the anxiety in the room as each bit of the deployment unfolds (literally) a million miles beyond our ability to fix anything.

I Wish I Were Sick

Seriously? Nobody wishes they were sick. Well, maybe when you were a kid, and you just didn’t want to do something such as go to school. But now we’re all adults, and we don’t have to go to school if we don’t want to. So what’s going on here? 

As I was waking up this morning, I moved around in bed to see if the vertigo was acting up. Yep. How about brain activity: present or absent? Present but minimal. Energy? Ha. Lost track of that months ago. Should I call the doctor? Ha. I could say something like, “I don’t want to go to school today.” And she’d say: “Get dressed and get out of here.” 

Seriously. What is this? Is this what it feels like in the months leading up to a diagnosis of something serious? Or is this what it feels like to have one of those chronic things that never gets a name? If it’s the former, OK, great. At some point, I’ll get a diagnosis, and the amazing American medical machine will gear up to poke me and prod me and take images of me and schedule one appointment after another and rack up amazing bills, and maybe it will all work and I’ll get cured or at least get better. 

But: if this is a chronic thing that never gets a name, then what? I could spend my own money trekking around town to various people with various titles (some they’ve bestowed on themselves) who want to sell me various products or procedures or tests that will give me ambiguous results but fail to give my condition a name or a cure. Or maybe they’ll give it a name, but not a cure, but I’ll convince myself I’m just enough better to justify spending yet more money on their tests, products, or procedures. Or maybe I’ll just settle in for the long haul. 

Long Haul? Isn’t that one of the names given to people who caught Covid and failed to fully recover? Yes, Covid Long Haulers. Am I one? I don’t think so. I caught Covid in early August, got Paxlovid, and recovered quickly. Did I recover fully? Yeah, I think so. I don’t remember feeling like this, but we were traveling at the time. When we got home, I was tired from traveling, as usual. I didn’t have vertigo then. I’m not sure what it would feel like to have a fully functioning brain because I’m a bit scattered in the best of times, but I think I felt OK. I was still taking walks back then, so I had some amount of energy. 

But then there was that Covid booster in mid-October. I’d had a bit of vertigo before that, but only as I was going to bed. It wasn’t interfering with anything. Then, the day after the booster, I was sicker than I can describe with the most intense vertigo ever. Better the next day, and the next. Then I saw a PT and got worse (yes, worse). ER, Rx for nausea, and it’s been on again/off again since. I had 48 gleeful symptom-free hours following a massage, but then it’s been on again/off again since. My walking stick is by the door for days like today when I don’t even want to walk to the elevator without it. 

A friend with ME/CFS loaned me “The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness” by Meghan O’Rourke. Am I just trying on the experience of chronic illness which she so articulately describes? Oh, please, no. If so, I don’t want this role! Let me out of here! I’ve had other experiences that have taken months and months to right themselves (broken leg, broken foot). But they were so definitive: See this fracture here on this X-ray? We’re going to fix it! And yes, eventually, I was fixed. 

Today, I’m wondering if this was how my father felt in the months before he was diagnosed with a form of chronic leukemia. Was there just a malaise that slowly settled over his life? Was there a pain that couldn’t be attributed to anything in particular? Was his brain less clever than it had always been? I wasn’t home then, so I don’t know what the prelude was like. But today I wonder.

I have a previously scheduled appointment with my primary care doc in two weeks. I’ll find out if the lung nodules that appeared in my ER X-ray have resolved. I’ll tell her that the physical therapist who specializes in vertigo has told me he has no new ideas to resolve my persistent vertigo. I’ll tell her that when my brain is working so hard to figure out where I am in space, it can’t seem to do anything else I want it to do. And I’ll tell her that I don’t want to be chronically ill. What ideas will she have for me? Anything useful, or just a shrug?

Flu Shots, the Senate, and Sikhs

Flu Shots

We got flu shots, yes we did. And what a chore it was. I could have signed up for them at the end of October at our retirement home, but I still trapped in a lengthy siege of vertigo. I just didn’t want to risk another reaction to another shot. But once I started feeling better, I discovered that it’s no easy trick to get flu shots this year.

Our medical center that is across the street is not offering them. I suspect the reason is the labor shortage. They usually bring in people just to give shots to everyone who shows up for an appointment. Others can just drop in and get a shot. This year, they refer everyone to “their local drugstore.” 

I started calling our local drug store before we went to Canada for a short trip. I never got to speak to an actual human, nor did I get to a phone tree to choose “how to schedule a flu shot.” Last Monday, we were at a different pharmacy, so I walked up to the counter and asked about flu shots. Not on weekdays, the man said; I’m the only one working. 

Then we hit the jackpot. We’d gone to COSTCO for some things, and hubby saw a sign that said “Flu Shots Today!” Great. We went to the pharmacy, filled out some forms, and were told to come back at 2:00. We did some shopping and returned at 2:00. We were directed to some chairs. We sat. We waited. Others showed up. They sat. They waited. A person in a pharmacy uniform came and asked our names. She left. We waited. She returned, and asked about our insurance cards; she photocopied them; she left. We waited. At some point, she emerged from a different door and called someone’s name. Progress!

Eventually, we got our shots, but we were glad we hadn’t put frozen food in our cart before we returned to the pharmacy. 

The Senate

Hooray for Raphael Warnock, and thanks to Hershel Walker for a gracious concession. (Yo Kari Lake, that’s how it’s done.) But not so fast, Dems, your 51-49 Senate is no more. Krysten Sinema is now an Independent. Seems right, somehow, because she never aligned clearly with the Ds. 

I Want to be a Sikh

We learned this week that our favorite doctor, whose parents immigrated from India, is a Sikh. He took some time to give us a lot of background on the role of Sikhs in Indian history and culture and talk about Sikhs in the West. He came alive when he was talking about all of this. He’s always upbeat, but this was special. 

He doesn’t wear a turban and explained that in the West, many Sikhs felt they weren’t needed, both in order to blend in a bit, but also because the turban held military significance in India that was irrelevant here. We learned that Sikhs were from Punjab, a rich agricultural region, hence the many farmers in his family history. We saw pictures of his children attending a recent wedding with their grandmother in India. Weddings are a vey big deal, but, he said, Sikhs will celebrate almost anything. 

We really enjoyed seeing this doctor, who we’ve seen for many years, light up as he took the opportunity to share what he loves about his Sikh heritage. He no longer observes the details of the religion, though he shared positive aspects of it (women are equal? – though they don’t show up online in descriptions of Sikhism). 

I wish we had to time to delve into the cultural history of all of our doctors. We’ve had docs and other providers from Lebanon, Iran, India, Seattle(!), Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Nigeria, Russia, and all over the US. 

Fall Colors and Good News

Was fall a long time coming this year? We had such warm weather during the first half of October that the trees seemed to hang onto their greenery a bit longer than usual. And now it’s the middle of November when a wind storm has usually blown all the color away. But not this year. It’s still beautiful. Many leaves are blanketing the ground, but enough are still on the trees to make for a wonderful reward for getting outside.

And I have good news regarding my war with vertigo. Wednesday, a week after my last post, I got my latest Covid Booster. The next day, I couldn’t move without throwing up. So I spent the day flat on my back, moving as little as possible. I had the absolute worst case of vertigo that I’ve ever had. I was better the next day and the day after, then it hit again. Monday, I saw a physical therapist who did the Epley maneuver for BPPV (when the canaliths in you inner ear move from their proper place into one or more of your ear canals). BPPV causes your brain to go crazy because it disrupts the means by which your brain figures out where you are in space. 

Normally, the Epley maneuver, when done a PT trained in it, helps nudge the canaliths back into their proper place. It might take more than one nudge, but over time it all gets better. Not this time. I was in the emergency room the next day, again unable to walk without throwing up. I’ve been better and worse since then, and getting very discouraged. Last week, I had one night without the vertigo, but the next day I was staggering around our parking garage unable to walk a straight line to our car. Ugh! 

I had a massage scheduled for Thursday, a rare treat, but one I decided I needed after a month of on again/off again vertigo. When I mentioned the vertigo, my massage therapist said she’d try a technique she’s used with some success for people with vertigo. Voila! I’m better! 48 hours and not a single swirl in my head. (She called it “lymphatic drainage” in case you need to ask for it.)

So: Yesterday, I had a normal day. Today, I’m having a normal day. I can barely remember whatever it is I do on normal days. I think I’ll bake biscotti!

During my long siege of vertigo, the country had an election. The results were not perfect, but my anxiety has decreased a bit. I don’t relish the antics of the Republican controlled House, but at least they can’t block judicial and other appointments that go through the Senate. And Washington’d 3rd district elected a very exciting young woman, Marie Glusenkamp Perez. Even Trump’s announcement didn’t shake me up because it just seems that the wind is out of his sails. 

On the other side of the world, Ukraine is suffering in the dark and cold after Russia aimed at infrastructure throughout the country. Russia can’t seem to get its act together with the actual war – it’s losing ground almost daily. But it can still fire rockets at cities. Think War Crime Trials when this is over, please.

The other good news in the culture wars is that the New York Times actually printed an article discussing concerns about the potential down side of using puberty blockers for young people who want to pursue gender transition. If you’ve had zero interest in the gender/transgender wars for the past five years, the fact that this nicely balanced article is newsworthy may confuse you. To help bring you up to date, just know that the NYT and most other mainstream media have been on the extreme trans-activist side of things. By this, I mean that any doubts about the wisdom of medical transition for teens has been verboten.

Now, however, European countries are facing up to the fact that there is insufficient research regarding puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for young people. As more de-transitioners go public with their experiences, these countries are rethinking their guidance on treatments. 

Sadly, in the US, this has become a political football. Red states have passed laws prohibiting medical transition for teens; Texas threatens to take kids away if parents approve treatment. California, leading the blue states, proudly proclaims that it’s a sanctuary state for any teens who want “gender affirming” care. Aargh! Keep the bleeping politicians out of this! Let the medical folks sort this out. If more research is needed, do the research, but IMHO, it’s stupid to legislate on the basis of insufficient data. 

Well, folks, I’m just going with the good news this week. We didn’t put election deniers in charge of elections; Trump is deflating, and I’m not worried about him; the NTY wrote a balanced article about a thorny topic; and I got outdoors to enjoy the still stunning fall colors. Hooray!

Whose Lives Matter?

While walking past a bus stop yesterday, I saw a person with a red T-shirt and a jacket. The jacket covered some of the letters of the message on the shirt, but I could read … Lives Matter. The first word was not “Black,” so I paused and asked about the missing word. Turned out to be “Deplorable.” I smiled, because I really liked the sentiment, but I also smiled because the person was a middling aged and middling sized black man who was also wearing a MAGA hat. 

We chatted briefly, agreeing that “Deplorable” is a wretched word for a huge section of our voting population. His words: “It’s so disrespectful.” Yes, I said, and we wished each other a good day and parted company. 

If you heard Hillary refer to the small “basket of deplorables” back in 2016, you will know that she was referring to a small group of people who were engineering Trump’s campaign. She was trying to convey that millions of his supporters were being duped, that they were being seriously misled. I happen to believe that she was right about that.

But I also believe that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have paid sufficient attention to our struggling working class. Thus when the Republicans seized the opportunity to push the narrative that Hillary considered all of Trump’s followers to be deplorable, it was too easy for millions to believe it. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about my fear that the word “deplorable” could bring about the end of the Enlightenment. Since then, one thing has led to another, and here we are facing an election that could actually bring about the end of the Enlightenment. What’s odd is that I would wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “Deplorable Lives Matter” today. I am that concerned about the disrespect that is heaped on people who are not on board with the furthest reaches of the progressive Democrats. 

I’m a centrist who believes in incremental reform based on what we’ve learned from past reforms. I’m not on board with the extreme left or the extreme right. Millions of people are like me, but we don’t control the media. So we struggle to be heard. To progressives, I’m deplorable. To the extreme right, I’m unprincipled, never mind the fact that the far right has no principles at all today. 

I no longer consider myself a Democrat. Yet I want the Dems to hold the House and win a couple more Senate seats, and I want moderate Dems to be in the majority of their caucuses, and I want the progressives to rethink everything. And I desperately want the Dems to find a way to win over the deplorables who think the Dems disrespect them all. 

I urge you to read any and all things written by Ruy Teixeira on his substack: The Liberal Patriot

If you can’t spend an entire weekend reading his articles, read at least this one: The Democrats’ Common Sense Problem.

A DEI Altenative

This post is just a plug for a four day online conference put together by Counterweight Support. Counterweight was created to fill a need for support for people trapped in schools or workplaces where rigid social justice jargon is enforced. It offers videos and resources (including real humans) to help people who have other points of view survive in these difficult situations.

Find the Conference information here: https://cw.heysummit.com

Lots of good speakers. For just $50 (I think) you can get a pass that enables you to access all of the speakers programs for a year after the event. Given that the schedule emanates from the UK, (i.e. 4:00 a.m. on the west coast!) I don’t expect to hear them all live!

A Different Point of View

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to listen to people who have a different point of view. Today, I offer links to two young black people whose perspectives I appreciate. Read/listen and offer some feedback if you like.

Chloe Valdary has an amazing life story which is worth learning about, but it’s her current work that impresses me. Read or listen to her interchange with Yascha Mount on his Persuasion website: https://www.persuasion.community/p/valdary#details

And/or listen to Coleman Hughes on Triggernometry. Both Chloe and Coleman are people who have forges their own path over the past few years, and I love hearing their thoughtful remarks.

https://www.persuasion.community/p/valdary#details

Your Neighbors Are Not Fine

A week ago, I was on my way home from an appointment with my psychologist. Yes, I need therapy. And, not your business. In any event, I took light rail to Westlake, then walked up the hill from there. I met a friend in Freeway Park, we chatted a bit, then I decided to be brave and ask her a question I rarely ask people. 

Her husband died last winter, but I’ve seen her out and about in our retirement community since then, and she looks “fine.” By this, I mean that she is dressed as smartly as ever, seems always to have a destination in mind, and simply looks as she always has. But frankly, I’m curious about how people deal with the death of a spouse, so I asked her how she is with life alone. Without hesitating, she said, “I hate it. I really hate it.” 

“Wow,” I said, “I’m glad I asked because you always look fine, but I don’t know how you could be.” “No,” she said, “I really miss him. I miss the things we used to do together. Everyday, I miss him. I don’t like this at all.” 

Not an hour later, I was leaving the laundry room on our floor and bumped into another friend. I say friend, but in neither case was this someone I would call on for help. Yet, we are friendly to each other, and we chat from time to time. Again, I asked this friend how she was. “I’m finally starting to feel more like myself again,” she said. The last time I’d seen her, it was near noon, and she’d just gotten dressed and left her apartment, still looking a bit disheveled. This time, she was brighter and told me she’d started taking an antidepressant. A closer friend than I had told her she really seemed depressed and needed to get help. Fortunately, she trusted this friend enough that she followed through and did find help. She said the pills were kicking in, and she was doing better.

Those two encounters made me wonder how many other people I pass in the halls or see in the dining room or lounge each day are not “fine” no matter what they say. I rarely tell people when I’m down in the dumps, and I’m sure most of us are pretty good at passing for fine. So how is it that we can not see that some of us need more than a “Hi, how are you?” in passing. 

Many of the 500 residents here had friends or relatives living here when they moved in. We did not. Neither did the friend who was depressed. And we did not find it easy to make new friends here. Yes, there are plenty of activities that we can join in. We have exercise classes, speakers and programs, committees galore. (That is we did until Covid. We’re just starting to get back to a semblance of normal.) I’ve volunteered for a few things, but I haven’t made close friends from those ventures. I have one good new friend here. One. How many others are in the same boat? 

I’m not sure if there’s a fix for this conundrum. But I think we should ponder it. Residents who moved to Seattle to be near children or grandchildren still need friends here. Unlike college, when we were all looking for friends, not everyone here needs new friends. But those of us who do, don’t have an easy way of advertising that fact. And people who’ve moved in to join an existing cadre of friends or family don’t need to reach out. 

At the very least, I will try to be more attentive when I ask how people are doing. Perhaps I’ll follow up with another question or two and give them an opportunity to open up a bit if they choose to do so. And maybe I’ll open up a bit. Truth be told, I don’t always share much during down times when I could really use a friend, and I’m guessing others don’t either. So I will need to experiment. I’ll report back.

Stop Fearing Covid?

Is it time to stop fearing Covid? Rip off our masks and get some hugs? No one is really getting sick anymore, so let’s get back to normal.

Wrong. If you’re double-vaxxed and double boosted, you’re not going to die of Covid. You’re unlikely to wind up in a hospital. If you’re fortunate like us, you’ll test negative a week from when you first tested positive. But even mild Covid cases can still bring lingering effects. These might not qualify as Long Covid, but even post-Covid hives (yes, that would be me) can be annoying enough to make me regret our lapse in judgement that led to our trip to the ER and subsequent treatments. 

Hives? Yup. When your immune system ramps up, your body can ramp up masses of red blotches here, there, and everywhere. Extra doses of antihistamines are helping to keep the annoying itching to a level I can live with. But I’m not sure this is my only after-effect. My legs are reluctant to walk; waiting for the elevator is more tiring than it used to be. I’m just not sure I’ve fully recovered. 

I’m old enough that I can never tell why these things are happening. Is my body embarking on the long, slow winding down process that happens when people near 80? Is my mild case of Covid going to speed up that process? Will I be fine in another week? Time will tell.

You’ll see a lot of references to Long Covid if you’re following sites that have been tracking Covid since 2020. But I’m not at all sure that “the economy” has incorporated Long Covid into its planning. I heard an interview with the CEO of United Airlines recently; he said they’ve added 5% to the number of crew members they need to have available to avoid cancelling flights. That increase is due to people taking days off for acute Covid. But what if Long Covid reduces the pool of people who are employable at any point in time? Raising wages won’t make them healthy enough to return to work.

And what about health care? Today I read that our local trauma center is turning away new patients because people who could be discharged to skilled nursing facilities can’t leave because there are not enough beds out there. Is this because of inadequate pay (yes) or Covid (yes) or Long Covid (yes). There are lots of “Help Wanted” signs around, and if you’ve called a clinic and been put on hold, you’ll know there are severe staffing challenges in some sectors. Of course we need to pay more for workers who care for ailing elders. These jobs are often held by immigrants, and immigration has not been opened up after Trump’s restrictions. Why is that? But with or without new immigrants, wages for these workers are simply a disgrace. 

My rant is winding down, but the answer is yes, we still need to avoid Covid. Good luck on that score.