Songs for the Struggling Artist


I Am a (Partially) Vaccinated Puppy
April 6, 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Healthcare, pandemic | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I AM DOSED UP! I got a shot in the arm and I am feeling good. Feels good! Feels good! Just like Lionel Richie exclaimed on the radio in the waiting area as I waited for the man with the megaphone to call my number so I could book the appointment for the next dose.

After hearing the podcast where Sherry Turkle described her feeling of overwhelm in being with so many people at her vaccination center after all the months of isolation, I was worried I’d be a nervous wreck. But I was more like an excited puppy, truth be told.

I was excited like I was going to Disney World. And truthfully, I’ve been to Disney World and I was much more excited to get my vaccine than I was to see Mickey and Minnie.

I feel like, historically, I’ve thought of myself as an introvert but the way I perked up with all those people is making me reconsider. I was like a thirsty person who just came in to a bar from the desert. Yes I will drink that pitcher of water, thank you very much. And the pitcher of water is this group of people making it possible to get so many New Yorkers vaccinated. I will drink them ALL up.

I mean. To GET OUT OF OUR APARTMENT and go to a shitty high school and talk to MULTIPLE PEOPLE and get to say thank you to each and every one of them. I was giddy as hell to be there and when it was over, I couldn’t put my jacket back on because I was burning with relief. Was it relief? Or just a kind of joy at being with other people even in the most bureaucratic insane situation. Like, they’re all doing this incredibly tedious job of shuttling people from one place to another – and it’s for me, it’s like – I GET TO COME HERE AND GET A SHOT IN MY ARM THAT EVENTUALLY WILL ALLOW ME TO SEE PEOPLE I LOVE, TO DO STUFF AGAIN. HOW CAN I NOT JUST EFFUSE ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE? I TOOK THE SUBWAY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR AND IT WAS SCARY BUT ALSO MAYBE A LITTLE BIT EXCITING! HI EVERYONE! HELLO! I’m just…HELLO!

Yes – we are in a shitty high school with a shitty cafeteria and a shitty gym and a dirty restroom but I have spent many many hours teaching in such places (not the restroom!) so this was like a trip to the old shitty high school homestead. (But this one has planes parked in their yard?! Man, this school is weird.) I have walked in sunny to such rainy day places before and never have I ever valued that experience more. I know the vibes of school secretaries who are tired of everyone’s bullshit – but in this case – they’re not school secretaries, they’re people trying to move large numbers of humans through a complex maze of patient numbers, lines, second appointments and safety precautions. But it’s like – I walked into that school the way I’ve walked into many a school before it – ready to charm the school secretaries into giving me the key to the rest room. But this time – it worked. First, I didn’t need a key to get into the restroom and second no one working the vaccination site is as hardened as a school secretary. So I felt like a hot knife through butter.

But saying I went in there with my school energy makes it sound like I was doing an act at the vaccine center – and it was nothing of the sort. It was all a surprise to me. I came in fully prepared to freak out about all the people after so long in isolation. I thought I’d be shaking and huddled up in a corner and instead found myself radiating sunshine like a damn solar lantern. Did I fall in love with the nurse who gave me the vaccine? A little bit, yes. I was just so happy to be there and she got such a kick out of me being happy to be there, it was a really nice time. Sure, she stuck a needle in my arm – but she did it with love, man.

I keep hearing people being worried about what it will be like to see people in person again and I honestly have not for a moment worried about that, though I understand the feeling. (“Will I know how to small talk anymore? How do we hang out?”) I’ve been pretty sure I’ll be mostly just delighted to see all the humans I know and from what I’ve seen today, it seems likely that I’ll be an enthusiastic puppy. I mean, I know not to jump on people and I will do my best not to lick any faces but I will be ready to play.

Actual footage of me at my vaccination

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Gen X and the Deadly Virus

There’s an article about Gen X thriving in these pandemic times that came out back in March when the lockdown started and has been making the rounds again recently. I haven’t read it since it came out but I remember it as “We’ve been training to sit at home alone eating pop tarts our whole lives. We’re built for this!” If I remember correctly, it spoke to Gen X’s ability to stay home and keep ourselves busy. Our time to shine! At home! With pop tarts!

But I’ve been thinking about this and thinking about this silly tweet that the city of NYC put out last summer where they admonished Gen X for the numbers of cases going up, when it was clear that they did not know who Gen X was. Did they confuse Gen X with Gen Z? On the chart, Gen X lines were sharply going in the right direction. Gen X Covid cases were the lowest on the diagram. I haven’t seen a lot more evidence in this territory but anecdotally, it would seem that Gen X generally has not been hit quite as hard by Covid as other generations, both older and younger. If it’s true, I’m sure the reasons are complex. Maybe we have more of the kinds of jobs we can do from home. Maybe we’re in a weird safe age bubble. But I suspect that Gen X just, generally, does a pretty good job of staying the fuck at home. Why? Why do I think this?

I think we heard there was a deadly virus and the way to beat it was to stay home so we stayed home. You don’t have to tell Gen X how to beat a deadly virus twice. And I think the reason you don’t have to tell us twice is that we came of age during the AIDS epidemic.

When people talk about generational markers, I’ve heard lots of folks claim that the Challenger explosion was a big one for us. That seeing that space shuttle blow up while we watched in our classrooms left a generational imprint on us. And, sure, that was a terrible tragedy – but for me, the deaths of those astronauts didn’t have nearly the impact that the death of Ryan White had on me. I was twelve when the Challenger blew up and I was already terrified of a nuclear holocaust – but the Challenger seemed to me like a dangerous situation that led to a logical conclusion. Going to space seemed risky – of course you might die!

But Ryan White was a kid about my age who had AIDS and – while word on the street was he’d gotten it from a blood transfusion – there was still a lot of confusion about how a person might contract the awful disease that was shaking up the country. We sort of knew we couldn’t get it from touching someone – but we couldn’t be sure. And maybe kissing was dangerous? I mean, maybe not. Probably not. But it could be! And while Ryan White fought just to be able to attend school, I think my generation, or at least a percentage of my generation in the USA, had the bejeezus scared out of us.

It was quite some time before the facts came in on how AIDS was transmitted and I suspect, as a generation, a lot of our nihilism or cynicism is probably connected to our responses to the AIDS crisis. Some lived fast and died young. Some lived fast and survived. And a lot of us just stood off to the side and made fun of everything because that is a lot safer. We are Beavis and Butthead. We are Mystery Science Theatre. We are the footnotes in Infinite Jest. We are Daria. We are Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice and in Heathers and in Reality Bites. Actually, we’re more like Janeane Garofalo in Reality Bites. It’s not her story. She just makes fun of it. I mean, reality bites for us, in part, because we were formed by the presence of a deadly virus – so we are particularly primed for this new one.

That’s why you don’t have to tell us twice to stay home. That’s why we look at crowded gatherings of younger and older people and shake our heads.

You don’t see us out there trying to dodge the restrictions. We’re not throwing parties or “socially distanced” festivals that are really just people hanging out in pretty normal ways. We’re not going out to restaurants as soon as they open. We’re at home. Where science has told us it’s the safest place to be.

It’s not like Gen X folks are generally rule followers. Believe me, we are not. Dumb rules are made to be broken and we break them when it makes sense to. It’s just that when the rules are clear and clearly there to protect everyone – those are good rules and we follow the guidelines. (With some exceptions, of course. You can read about those here.)

Yes, we know how to stay home, entertain ourselves and eat pop tarts (though most of us don’t eat pop tarts anymore, I’d wager) but more than those things, we came of age in a moment dominated by a deadly disease.

I watched a few minutes of the Geraldo show from 1990 where he brought in the Club Kids from NYC’s night life and they were explicit about their fashion being a direct response to the AIDS crisis. They say something like, “We can’t have sex, so we wear crazy clothes.”

Before now, I didn’t think much about the impact AIDS had on Gen X but I do recognize that defending against an epidemic is a familiar feeling and it would explain why Gen X has been more vigilant, on the whole, than other generations. We have practice, actually. We came of age with a deadly virus. We will all try very hard not die of one now, having made it this far.

The Mona Lisa is not Gen X but she does have a very Gen X look going on over that mask.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Theatre Is Dead. Long Live the Theatre.

For the last few months, I have been trying to grapple with the loss of my primary art form. When theatres shut down back in March, it was painful but we all hoped it was temporary – just a little disruption in our theatre lives. As time has worn on, and the virus has gotten worse here in the US than it was when they shut the theatres down (Florida reported 12,000 cases this week, which is twice what New York had back in April at the height of things.) it has become increasingly clear that theatre won’t be back any time soon. The art and business that we knew and loved is dead. There’s a small chance of zombification but theatre as we knew it is probably over.

The actually real theatre folks over at Beef and Boards may be giving their dystopic socially distanced dinner theatre a shot there in Indiana, but not many are clamoring to follow their very disturbing example. Institutions are crumbling (maybe this is good?) smaller venues are closing and many a former New York theatre maker has moved back to the place they came from. As unemployment benefits expire, the small inner tube that was keeping many a theatre person afloat is floating away with their future, hopes and dreams. Without some support, the American Theatre, which was already struggling, will start to lose its limbs and then fall apart entirely.

Maybe it will reassemble into something more equitable and beautiful but it is falling apart, no question. And despite much more substantive support, I wondered, too, if the UK theatre was also in decline. I wondered if theatre was dying all over the world.

And then, I tuned in to the live-streamed production of The Persians at the Epidaurus Theatre in Greece. I assumed we’d be watching performers in an empty theatre, doing their work for the cameras – but when I opened the link, half an hour before the show, the camera revealed an audience settling in, making their way to their seats, the way an audience does. I found myself weeping at the sight. An audience! There’s an audience! I had convinced myself we’d never see their like again and there was a giant crowd assembling to watch a play. There went the President of Greece and her entourage to go and sit in the front rows! They’ve brought the country together for this!

And here was the world, on the internet, gathering to watch an ancient play in an ancient theatre – and there, in the seats, were the people who lived there. (I’m assuming the majority of the people in the audience were Greek, since no one’s really traveling these days.) It was all very moving, even before the play began.

It was the sight of Theatre, alive and well and vibrant in a place where it has thrived for over two thousand years. Theatre may be dead here in the United States (along with over 140,000 people who might still be with us if we’d handled this crisis with anything like the skill of the people of Greece – or New Zealand where they are currently resuming live performances again) but in other parts of the world, theatre is bringing people together and demonstrating its extraordinary power.

Theatre may be dead for us here but it lives elsewhere and I have to hope it will live for us again one day. It won’t be any time soon, except for at, the actually real and not a satire, Beef and Boards, but one day we might all sit in a room together and cheer at an expression of our national pride the way the Greeks did during The Persians. I don’t know what will make us feel proud in that far away future – but I have to hope we will be proud of something, If only our survival of this moment, this administration, this mess. We will have theatre in the future and we might feel pride again, too.

Not now. We’ve let our theatres die alongside so many humans – but theatre will rise, I hope. It lives and thrives elsewhere. We can look to those places for inspiration. Long live the Theatre.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me revive theatre when the time comes?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 




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