The Tidalist: …And I Run Up 2000 Stairs

Well that last is a hilarious exaggeration, but you’ll see what I mean in a bit. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s been a month since I last wrote in this thing. It has also been a month since that wonderful, relaxing trip. But I’m still going to capture the second half of it as best I feel like. After all, memory is fallible, maleable, and all-kinds-of-things-ible anyway, and all that really matters is the story.

If what I have of it serves, and even the bestselling author John Grisham confessed to being “too lazy” to go back and make sure his book series still fit together, I stopped on that Monday May 3. This was the only day we didn’t get in the pool, well other than that Thursday when it was far too cold to do so. What we did do on Monday evening was have some delicious spaghetti with homemade meatballs. This was the only non-breakfast meal they prepared in-house, because hey we’re on vacation!

Tuesday dawned as easy and relaxing as the rest, but it was the birthday woman’s big day. As it happened, it was also the day the temperature swelled well into the 80s. Did this stop me from going outside? Is water wet? So after happily warming myself on the porch, my wife and I made our way to the store to pick up some odds and ends for the night’s celebration. First, she moseyed along that crazy endless road of highway 12 that always makes me feel like we’re experiencing the kinds of space time dilation that the theory of relativity predicts. There wan’t a whole lot to see, though.

When it came time to cut the cake, one baked by her mom and re-frosted after the first frosting attempt had gone awry and tasted strangely for some unknown reason, we teleconferences with her sisters who were not able to attend. It was fun, and of course has become the norm during these pandemic times anyhow. Then those of us who were there had Sooey’s again, with me choosing their cheeseburger and somewhat bland fries (I wish I had tried the beer-battered onion rings). The burger was quite delicious, despite that.

After eating, we went back out and, after taking a casual stroll along the sea with our niece in tow, took another dip in the kiddie pool. This time, the water was near-scalding. It felt sauna-like for a while though, and even though by the time we exited I pretty much had to, I found myself feeling uncharacterstically chill.

This chill followed me into Wednesday, as I prepared for the day’s main event, a “discussion” about a possible position within my company. Sadly, kind of as I struggled to decide if it was the right move for me, that position has not worked out to date. But that’s ok, I still gained confidence from the smoothness of our conversation.

They had opted to rent a tent and have some company set it up by the ocean with chairs and the like, and while I had missed the morning’s fun prepping for the talk, my wife and I did have a picnic out there with “hotdogs by the sea”. It was pleasant just basking in the shade and listening to her describe the National Geographic-type scene of seabirds swooping down to pluck fish from the waves then soaring away with their still squirming prize.

And now we come to the stairs. I had already told her before we embarked that I wanted to climb the Currituck Lighthouse, because I couldn’t imagine what that would even feel like. The lighthouse has, I think, approximately 209 steps (remember that part I said about memory and fallibility?) But our 7-year-old niece, on seeing that, declared ‘I’m not going up those 2000 steps, y’all can do that on your own!” So my wife, brother-in law, two nephews and I went for the $10 climb, while her mom, sister and said niece stayed on the ground. Going up was the hard part, believe me! I was glad they were at least broken into sections of 7-10 steps apiece, and by that last landing I thought my heart would explode from my chest. We stepped out into a whipping wind after emerging from an indoor well, and after snapping a few queasy pictures and taking a look over the railing, my wife decided it was time to reverse course. I had worried about this part, but fortunately going down was a cynch.

A cool, rewarding hot fudge sundae from Dairy Queen and a Wendy’s burger that we had to drive 30 minutes to get made up the rest of that evening. If you do go out there, just be prepared for the near lack of name-brand restaurants.

And that basically made up the trip. Thursday was spent relaxing inside, as the temperature had dropped into the lower 60s and the drivers wanted to rest up for the long trek home the following day. I did take one last wind-chilled sit on a chez longer on the porch, gleaning what little sun I could and enjoying the roar of the ocean till I could take no more.

Hopefully more of those trips are in my future, and especially as we begin to crawl out of our shells again. The isolation had its pluses and minuses, but on the whole it was a very welcome experience.

BE PREPARED: Lessons Learned from First Podcast Interview Attempt

So, remember the idea I had of getting episode 2 of my podcast up by today? Well… not so fast. I guess one might say I had to eat a big piece of humble pie, in at least trying to fully grasp the challenges that would come with actually interviewing someone. I’ve sat on it for a little over a week though, and have learned a few things that one might think I’d have recognized from all of my years of listening to NPR and the like.

I’ll begin by saying that the issues I faced were by no means a result of my interviewee, a person whom I’ve known for many years from my time as a UNC student and considered a mentor throughout that rocky period. In fact, she tried to take my shakiness and do the most she could with it, clearly having experience in the area of participating in interviewing. (And just to give her the plug I still hope to in a future podcast but can’t at the moment for reasons you’ll see later, she is Dr. Brenda Mitchell, author of a wonderful hildren’s book called Anthony’s Adventures, Already A Winner!)

I suppose the first lesson learned is that listening does not equal doing? Man, I have a much higher respect for those who can carry on complex conversations, following different lines of thought and coming up with great questions to bolster or deepen the audience’s understanding of a given subject. Do they teach that kind of stuff in journalism school? Or is it something you just have to have.

One thing I’m sure they cannot teach is awareness of the need for time flexibility. Whenever you’re asking someone to speak with you and they’re willing to give of their time, you must be prepared for that time to shift due to changing circumstances. The interview had been scheduled for 2 PM on Saturday, but as I settled on the couch with my coffee at 1, she texted asking if I could go ahead with it. This meant I no longer had the 30 minutes prior to meditate and try to get myself into the right headspace, as well as working out exactly how I would record it. But well now I know that I had better do those things well ahead of time and not depend on things to stay the way they had been planned.

After coming up with a nominal solution, she would record the Zoom call and send it back to me as I discovered that one cannot record Zoom from the phone, we began. And therein lay my second lesson: it’s probably best to give the author heads up on what the topic will be. I’d vaguely told her that it was a podcast focused on disability issues, but hadn’t explained that I would talk about her children’s book which addresses dealing with bullying as a result of visible difference. Worse, I just launched right into the body of questions saying “and in this book” with no indication that the title would be given later, meaning she covered for me and told the audience what it was indeed called. Next time I’ll just make sure that the author knows I will give the book blurb prior to playing the recording, or I will go ahead and do it in the introductions.

I would have liked to learn whatever other lessons that recording held, though I could guess that some were to speak more slowly and give myself time to thing so that I’m not “um, ah, ur-ing” all the time, but unfortunately the file was too large to share easily. That was fine though, as I was already pretty sure it wouldn’t meet basic posting standards. So, I need also to make sure that I have already worked out how I will record things and whether I can get everything to fit together in the end.

This is a big mountain to climb indeed, but I think it’s still an idea worth pursuing. I’m trying to be really careful before attempting to get another guest to make sure that I at least have a good enough understanding of what I’m trying to do to experience success. I want after all to promote myself and to elevate others’ work who have taken the time to highlight an experience, the experience of disability within the world, that is important to me and so many others I know. I hope you will still give it a listen whenever I can iron out all of the kinks, and as always, I hope my sharing helps someone else who is considering podcasting.

Hit Me With Your First Shot: On Finally Getting the COVID Vaccine

My employer decided, after some long, hard thinking, to host a COVID vaccination clinic so that those of us who hadn’t gotten poked yet could safely do so. As soon as this option was mentioned, I signed up. I do not, after all, know when another opportunity might come for me to take this important step not only to improve my own chances of avoiding this nat virus, but also to make that much more of a dent in the still-too-high overall case count.

I guess because they did not wish to waste doses, people who were not employees were allowed in to get shots as well. Last I heard, we had 150 available, and only 115 employees had signed up. (I bet the others who came in were wide-eyed at all the blind folks roaming around, the modified paths with variable flooring and low plastic fences to keep us all in line that make me feel like we’re in a cattle chute, and the unusual-looking machinery).

And speaking of cattle chutes, that’s how the process of vaccinating all those folks in a relatively short time felt to me. My scheduled appointment time was 2:00, but I was not surprised when someone came to get me at 1:18 to “pre-register”. They tried to collect my basic information at a table set up right in the middle of the factory floor, which meant not only was I competing with pounding said strange machinery, but also with very high ceilings which does odd things with the sound. I could barely hear myself speak, let alone what the woman sitting there was asking me. We managed though, I signed the consent form, and took a seat in my second chair after having arrived over there.

Four chairs, two rooms, and a somewhat disconcerting number of people later, (I do think we were fairly distanced at least), I was finally ready to be jabbed. Ever the baby, I had to psych myself up as she said “3,2,1,” and popped the needle in. I was then given a fact sheet, a card that noted how long I needed to wait to watch for reactions (mine was 30 minutes, since I noted a Penicillin allergy) moved through two more chairs and left in what was formerly the break room but had been re-purposed as the “Observation room”. Makes it sound important, doesn’t it. Anyhow, I regretted not having brought my phone along, because what was I to do to kill the time! Think? Listen to people gossip? Yup.

It’s hours later now, and so far so good. The only issue I have is soreness at the site of the shot, but I fully expected that. My second dose of the Moderna vaccine will be on April 26th. If you are able to safely, I hope you can get vaccinated too, and especially as we’re seeing the numbers start to inch back up again. I feel very sad that we can’t do anything for those many who have already lost their lives, but perhaps the best tribute to them would be to get past this thing and retain some normalcy. I am looking forward to the things I’ve not done in a year, such as: eating in a restaurant, having a hot beverage at a coffee shop while absorbing the writing vibe, riding public transit and enjoying the background hum of my local community, and going to the occasional live sporting event again. Here’s hoping! Continue reading

2020 In Life: My “Year like no other”

This past year has left and will leave its stain on us for the rest of our lives, and will be one mentioned in history books. I am, and I do not say this lightly, thankful that I survived, and always mindful of all those lost to the pandemic and to the other issues that have rocked us throughout. In the midst of our national and world strife, each of us have had a personal story in 2020, and so I’ve decided for the archives to capture a bit of mine.

January opens the same way it had for the previous 2 years of our marriage, with my wife and I preparing for and getting excited about our anniversary (January 27) trip. We have this crazy theory that the enjoyment or lack of in our trip sets the tone for the whole year going forward. Miami in 2019 is one we still talk about, having lived up to our hopes for a honeymoon destination. Tampa of 2020, about which I only wrote that one entry because I figured you didn’t really care,… did not. For several reasons but probably the biggest was that it was so cold! We were shocked that the temperature never really got out of the 50s from the Monday we arrived until it finally climbed on that Thursday as we readied to depart.

The second reason, at least in our opinion, is that there just wasn’t a whole lot to do. We got caught in a gale really at St. Pete Beach on Tuesday and were fortunate not to have been swept into the water at the edge of a long pier. On Wednesday, we opted to go to Orlando’s Universal Studios, which was pricey but a unique experience as most of the rides were inside and based on movies. A very visual experience, I still managed to have fun filling some of it in with my imagination.

We had already known that February would be quiet, as she needed to get a personal surgery that would put her down for most of that month. But we were all fired up to get back going by the end of March, with plans to attend River Dance at DPAC. I think I would have enjoyed that, but…

There came COVID. Well after I had already been officially diagnosed as diabetic at the end of February, a condition I’d no doubt had for at least a year prior and probably longer.

Even as I dealt with the complications of starting to manage that, I remember the shock and fear I felt as the pandemic kicked into full gear. I first took it seriously when the NBA and other sports in rapid succession shut down on March 11, and only a week later I’d left work and entered a 2-month quarantine. Remember that just prior to then, we were being told to worry more about the flu than this new thing called Coronavirus that was not likely to spread widely. Oh how wrong they were.

April and early May proceeded relatively quietly, until a jaw infection that had probably been festering for a year decided to rear up and cause big problems, leading to three teeth being pulled. Ouch. I was glad to have gotten through that challenge as well, and more that it hadn’t turned out to be something a lot scarier.

In June, I lost my father to cancer. I think I’m still dealing with the grief of that loss, as I was hoping to have time after COVID (whenever that is) to hang out with him. I was also tasked that month with returning to work under the mask mandate and no longer using public transportation because of all the safety changes that had been made. But fortunately for me, things have mostly gone smoothly with regard to that transition.

The rest of the year, July to December, was relatively uneventful. Unusually so really, thanks to this virus. It’s why I managed to set a new books-read record and get something like 10 book reviews out in total. We, like everyone I think, had that brief period from July till October where we almost thought we had COVID coming under control, then boom! It’s been up, up, up, since then sadly. No more trips, and then basically locked inside once the October temps dropped.

On balance though, I am thankful to still be here dealing with these minor inconveniences. Hopefully things are truly starting to look up, as we wonkily roll out the vaccine and some degree of immunity develops. I seem poised to have a fantastic, if incredibly busy 2021, but there’ll be more on that in the subsequent entry. Hang in there folks, I think it’ll get better soon.

WRAL Nights of Lights: Light Show from a Blind Man’s Perspective

And FINALLY! We find ourselves in the last, cold, bleak month of 2020. I hope it’s the toughest year any of us experience for a long time, as nothing has come close to matching it that I have ever known.

With this month comes your typical holiday celebrations, most of which are scaled down if they exist at all. For instance, my employer, from which I am to take off for the next two weeks due to lack of product via COVID-related shipping delays, has decided they won’t even bother trying to stage a holiday party. Instead, they’ve upped our usual $50 Walmart gift cards to $65 ones. We will appreciate that, once it arrives by mail sometime this coming week. I knew that I’d likely need to save the cushion gained during enhanced unemployment payments, so I should be ok for these weeks off. I know there are so many who are not though, and I feel bad for that.

Anyhow, even as individuals try to come up with some way to make the season at least a little festive, cities and their news outlets are doing the same. Here in the Raleigh-Durham metro area, WRAL created what they called the WRAL Nights of Lights. This is an intricate, 1.3-mile stretch within Dorothea Dix Park, located in Raleigh not too far from downtown. Each car is charged $15 to enter the field, and the theory was that people should arrive ten minutes prior to their time slot and roll through in 30 minutes. Only this didn’t quite work out as planned, as the 500 cars per time slot that were allowed led to traffic jams that, especially in the first days, resulted in 3-hour long waits and cancellations.

My wife and our family had decided that we would Attempt to go on Saturday, which is fortunate as they had ironed out some of the kinks by then. We stopped at Snoopy’s, a (I think) relatively small chain of restaurants specializing in good hot dogs and even better crinkle-cut fries, to pick up a portable dinner. My wife and I were in the lead vehicle, with her mother and two of her sisters trailing. We were due to go through at 6:30, and actually entered the long line around 6:20. As we inched forward over the next hour and 20 minutes or so, we enjoyed a playlist of top songs from 2020, music we would normally have consumed while traveling but were not able to partake of this year. I called this our travels to nowhere. With snappy conversation and the food, the wait was actually enjoyable. Heck, we were just glad to be out of the house for a change.

We finally reached the point of entry, where she had both tickets scanned at once. This was why we needed the vehicles to remain in proximity, otherwise we could have cut in from another street as other motorists had done, shortening wait times to only about 5 minutes. But, it was all good.

Naturally, one might ask what a blind man gets from a light show. I wondered if there would be any tactile elements for me to take in, and surprisingly there was one: fake snow. I stuck my hand out of the window and felt what was more like water than anything spraying me as it blew by. Of course, given that we were not at freezing temperature the stuff would not stick around for any amount of time. It was cool, I suppose. (There had been the possibility of a White Christmas in the forecasts few days ago, but looking at it now that possibility seems to have dried up. In this year? Why not!)

Other than that bit of fun, there were of course lots of lights. She saw a giant frosty the snowman and reindeer, as well as elves, penguins, and other cold weather pieces. We listened to a little Christmas music while rolling through, but both of us can only really handle that in small doses. While there was little for me to take in, I still enjoy other people’s happiness. Therefore the experience was worthwhile for me.

I don’t know what kinds of fun you have planned for the month of December, but I hope you are able to find some safe way to celebrate. And more than anything, I hope that we will soon start to see the end of this raging pandemic and keep its lessons close. Even as we rolled out of the event, there was signage reminding us to stay at least six feet apart, mask up, and wash hands. So sadly everything has been touched by this. I hope that you and yours are not, or are only slightly, affected.

A COVID-Era Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is, in my opinion, the beginning of the end of the year. And because of the bumpy, ultimately horrific nature of 2020, I think most of us would agree that there are no more sweeter words. Not that I really expect a simple calendar change to solve all of our problems, but I still can’t wait for it.

So we all had to figure out ways to celebrate one of the biggest family holidays in a safe manner and still find a way to feel together. Our choice was to have two households, my wife and I and her sisters, mom, and niece and nephew, eat in a good-sized living room. We were socially distanced, wearing masks before and immediately after meal consumption, and with air purifiers on and windows open. With all that alteration, I kind of worried that the celebration wouldn’t feel the same. And honestly, I just hoped that we all would leave in the same condition we had arrived.

And I and we managed to have a pretty good time. As always there is the food. I had fried chicken, the always-required macaroni and cheese, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and lemonade. The drinks were served in faux fancy wine-stemmed glasses, and the plates were encased in the decorative plates that folks use at high-end dinners. Each household ate at its own table, and we laughed a lot at the absurdity of it.

Once we finished, the kids engaged in a rousing game of charades, where everyone tried to guess what roles they were acting out. They’re 6 and 8, I think, so only just getting to a point where they can actually figure out which kinds of gestures might indicate what. I just sat there and smiled, until the older nephew asked: “Uncle John, what are you doing?” He was observing me utilizing my Braille Display. “Reading a book,” I replied. “He says he’s reading a book!” The kid said, skepticism in his voice. My wife and I laughed about the idea that his schema was too small to take in the notion of a “book” being caged in such a device. Such thoughts are curtesy of my having been a Psych major, my apologies.

So my weekend is already winding down, and I’m just glad I managed to enjoy it. Other than that Thanksgiving outing, I’ve been tucked in here “reading a book!” Soaking up the last of the November warmth and sunshine, and still writing my NaNoWriMo novel which is now over 13,000 words. (I even opted to lean into my bookish nature on Twitter, changing my handle there to @jay_biblio if you wanna follow me there. I’ll make that change here probably, but it’s gonna be more involved.)

No idea what’s up for Christmas, but lets pray that somehow the numbers start winding down shortly. I hope all of you are staying safe, but also taking care of your mental and physical health. More soon.

Musings on NaNoWriMo and Creativity During COVID

So how are we doing, folks. I think it’s already been over a month since I did the last check-in regarding COVID. And, *sigh* Just when we thought we saw that light at the end of the tunnel, the numbers have skyrocketed to points higher than they were at the so-called peak. Here in North Carolina, for instance, we set two consecutive new case records last week and have just set a record for the most deaths in one day from this virus. Believe me, I know that behind every one of those numbers is a person, family, friend, co-worker or other connected individual who is hurting. I just keep praying that it stops soon enough.

As I continue to look out for my mental health during this time, I strive to at least thrive in the world of creativity. And as was the case when this started, my wife keeps driving me forward in that area. She’s doing her own impressive stuff (shameless plug) with a recently launched Etsy store she calls Carrol Creations. Therein, she makes decorative or inspirational wooden signs that can be hung on doors or walls, customized earrings, t-shirts, and most recently Christmas ornaments and “quarantine reindeer,” each with its accompanying facemask. Of course family and friends have been supportive in stimulating sales, but in this month alone she’s also received three outside orders. Cool stuff. If you’re into that sort of thing, hop on over there and check it out.

Seeing her put in the “elbow grease,” as I often tease, has motivated me to get back off the proverbial snide and attempt to re-launch an idea I initially conceived in 2018, to write a book about two brothers with Norrie Disease who face different variations and thus experience different outcomes. I’m thinking this time that it will be the basis for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not exactly sure for how long National Novel Writing Month has been going on, but my first real shot at producing a 50,000-word piece of fiction was back in 2006. I think I got up to approximately 25k words before the whole thing just dissolved into a puddle of goo, and I posted excerpt 1 and 2 in my old blog. I particularly liked the second one.

I made a nod in the direction of trying again in 2017, but that never got off the ground given that I was about to get married and also wrapping up grad school. Now that nearly all travel except that to work and home has stopped, maybe I can make myself sit here with some music on as I am right now and pound these Mantis Braille display keys. I’ll update as November progresses.

And, not a whole lot else. Just working on some cosmetic changes around this my blogging spot, mostly to make it easier for folks to find my book reviews and how they can contact me. I’m not done yet, but all that movement takes so long that it will be mostly reserved for the weekend. As far as I can tell, this viral wave is surging throughout much of the northern hemisphere at the same time, rather than the spikes we saw popping up in varying locations earlier. So wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe and keeping yourself up as best you can. And maybe do some creating of your own. If you have, how so? Has anything worked out?

Despite Panthers Loss, My Birthday Hits The Spots

As one of my sisters says, happy life day to me! It was yesterday, and despite it, like everything else these days, being in the middle of a pandemic, I had a wonderful time. The fun thing about birthdays is that one gets to feel special, even if you know that millions of others actually share the day with you. My family and friends definitely made me feel special and helped me enjoy exiting what was, by all accounts, the most stressful year I’ve ever experienced.

The day started early for me, shortly after 8 AM. I came in and read a little, taking time periodically to view the Facebook and other posts as they streamed in. Then sleep claimed me around 10:30, and I stayed there for about 45 minutes until my wife announced breakfast time.

Then at 1, I opted to watch my Carolina Panthers (NFL) take on the Las Vegas Raiders. First, as a long-suffering Charlotte Hornets fan I hate the idea of teams moving, as I feel the NBA snatched ours away just as they were becoming respectable and has since given us a poor facsimile as replacement. And the Raiders? They’d already left Oakland once and returned to the city, only to leave it again.

Anyway, the game was interesting. A stadium with no fans presented an unusual listening experience, but truthfully I got used to it after a while and just enjoyed the announcer’s cadence and the game’s momentum. And the Panthers did a pretty good job seizing that momentum down the stretch. With Teddy Bridgewater, our new quarterback, it looked like we would pull off a decent comeback and top the Raiders after all. But after the Raiders popped it into the end zone to retake the lead 34-30, we failed to convert a critical 4th down play (I’d say because we didn’t give it to our all-world running back Christian McCaffrey, but to be fair he may not have gotten the needed half yard either). There was no more magic in the bottle after that, so we went down. I’m not too concerned yet, though the Panthers have started so many seasons this way that one can only guess how things will go moving forward.

That disappointment finished, I scrambled upstairs to have dinner with my wife and two of her sisters. She and I chose Olive Garden, and each of the sisters picked different restaurants. As we enjoyed lively conversation around the table, we rocked out to Michael Jackson’s Bad album, well the B side anyway. Remember the concept of turning records, or for that matter tapes, over to complete listening? Seems antuquated in the era of streaming, but it also kind of makes you really listen to a singer’s artistry more. For this reason and one of just having that older, better sound, we are starting to collect vinyl records. We now have, in addition to Mike, Lauryn Hill and one of Bruno Mars’ albums. It’s a cool throwback.

After my delicious meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Italian sausage, served with a house salad, they sang Happy Birthday as I turned red. Then we sank our teeth into some chocolate cake from Publix. And later I had one of my true favorites, butter pecan ice cream.

The only other thing I did, a really important thing, is to have a nice phone conversation with my mom. If this year has emphasized nothing else, it has highlighted the need to try and stay connected to those we love and let those who need to know of our love for them. None of us knows just how much longer we’l be here. I need to do a better job of remembering this within the scope of my ever-crazier life.

And that was about all for my celebration of turning 41. I am tremendously thankful to still be here and in relatively good health. I have so much to reflect on, most of it already written in previous entries. Now I look forward to finding my new place, and this might sound crazy to say as a 41-year-old man, as an adult; as I really feel like I am only now finishing growing up. Here’s to many more for me, I hope?

My Covid Testing Experience

In this year where any kind of disaster imaginable seems possible, one could hardly blame me for being a little jumpy. Over the past couple of weeks, at my job’s temperature checks, I have realized that my core body temperature is almost always below normal. Well especially in the morning, as it often clocks in at 96.7 degrees, and I feel that cold when sitting in my room after dressing for the day.

On top of that, my nostrils have been a bit drippy and my throat congested for some time now. When this happened last year, I simply assumed that it was some kind of allergic reaction that would eventually calm down, as it did. But this year, with the ever-present threat of Covid-19, I was wary.

So all of those things converged this morning, as my temperature bottomed out at 96.1, and I was so cold that my hands shook and teeth rattled. I also felt so congested in my head that it seemed my brain was swimming. I am aware that this is probably not Covid, but on calling out of work to get the sleep I needed I decided I should get myself tested for the benefit of my coworkers, if nothing else.

And on that sleep? Ah, it was glorious. After some Covid-induced dreams, I finally, wonkily emerged around 12:30 and stepped outside for some air. I was relieved to learn that my temperature had increased to 98.4, and I certainly was warmer. But I still felt so yucky that my time outside did not last long.

So, my wife had made the testing appointment at a Cary, N.C. Urgent Care center at 3. After running some other errands, she drove me over to the clinic. This was not a drive-up appointment, but rather we were to enter the room to have the test administered. I was surprised by this, but admired the way they had things working.

First, we called a number and checked in, at which time we were told to wait in the car until contacted. It took about 12 minutes to get the call, with the office having texted a link that would have let me see my spot in line. Their texting was used well and kept the patient abreast on all progress throughout the experience.

Once we entered, with the support nurse holding the door ajar so we needed to touch nothing, she first asked about symptoms and then affixed something to my pinky finger, I think she said to test blood flow. Then another quick temperature. Check, still holding steady at 98. And finally, the real fun started.

Another man, in what capacity I am not entirely sure but I suppose a doctor-type person, came in to do The actual test. “It’s not too bad,” he said even as he offered me a Kleenex. Then, after helping me extract the mask from its entanglement with my hearing aids, he stuck the swab into my nose.

Ok, that’s it right?” I thought. But no! It went back, and back, and back, and surely took some of my whatever lobe when extracted. “Ow ow ow!” I said as I tried to keep myself from separating from the swab. Whew! That may have popped something into place, because much of my congestion has actually stopped, at least temporarily. My nose still hurts a bit, but yeah I guess it’s survivable.

And now I wait for probably three days. He said if it’s positive, then I’ll hear from the health department and that center. If negative, I’ll get a letter in the mail in approximately 2 weeks. We’ll see. If nothing else, it’ll give me a little peace of mind for as long as that lasts. I’m sure there are thousands of other tales of those who have been tested, many less dramatic than mine. But this is my quintessential 2020 story, and let’s hope it’s the last I have! Maybe things will settle down now?

Live! From Hurricane Alley

Welcome to the eighth year of 2020! I’m probably not the first to say that, but I’m the funniest, right? Right? … Ah well.

Jokes aside, this period has seemed and been for many the longest and most difficult ever. Especially here in the good ol’ US of A, it feels like the Covid crisis will never end. Still so many deaths, and even for those who survive they are changed for good in as yet unknown ways. This without mentioning our myriad personal struggles. I will be all too happy to put this 365 days behind us, if that actually makes any difference.

So, I’ve been back at work for just over two months now, and things in that setting are starting to catch up to the times. They have constructed pods of plastic around my primary section, which centers around a conveyor belt onto which boxes of light sticks are flung. With the frontal barrier of the wooden boxes that contain the sticks and the small boxes we must fill, it does make one feel significantly safer and more socially distanced. The only nerve-wracking thing is sometimes we work at open tables where people are sitting relatively close together. Thus far though, I hope, I’m fine.

Outside of slogging continuously through these workdays, I really go to and from that job and spend the rest of my time at home. I miss vacations, but do not yet feel entirely safe taking them either. Our last trip of sorts was to Tampa Florida in January, where it was a lot colder than it should have been. According to my scientific, randomized poll that I administered via Twitter, 28% of you are planning to travel somewhere at least 100 miles by car for a vacation, while the rest will do as we are and indulge in a staycation. Well that will leave a lot of time for some good reading at least, and I am on pace to shatter my record of 60 books consumed in one year.

And oh yeah! To add to the excitement, here in North Carolina we’re about to get a relatively small hurricane. That is actually the most “normal” thing that has happened in the last few months. Isaias, one of the more unusual names I’ve ever heard of for a storm. According to a cursory Internet search, Isaias is something of another name for The biblical prophet Isaiah. Interesting. We’ll probably get some tropical storm-force winds and all oto ain,and. I’ll likely hang here in the crib and, if power holds, get some stuff done. I think our pandemic numbers are finally starting to trend in the right direction, and I just hope that continues amid the storm. And of course that we all stay safe.