Dear Diary: March 20, 2020. Have you heard the theory that sun showers are good luck? Rain is a rare occurrence here in the desert, but relatively speaking, sun showers are not quite as unusual. We often get tiny little pockets of rain, a single heavy cloud or two that pass overhead while the rest of the sky remains blue and bright. Such was my experience today, while driving home from grabbing a large no sugar added mocha latte from a Coffee Bean & Teal Leaf drive-thru. Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” played hauntingly through the speakers and the rain cloud seemed to hover just above my car, though all the world around my path shone azure. I needed the pick-me-up following my latest doctor’s appointment. The call started with good news: your chest x-ray is normal! But. Yes, then the but. They wanted me to come in to “discuss a few things in your bloodwork.” Ominous, no? I had a feeling, I’ve had a feeling, that much of my problems with lethargy might be related to an iron deficiency. It seems I wasn’t far off base. Severe anemia. But the doctor, who walked in and called my lab results “very strange,” isn’t satisfied with all my problems being the result of an iron deficiency. She indicated that there are actually three deficiencies noted and that when those three happen in combination, they’re typically the result of one of three problems, all of which are very severe. So, we’re off to more testing! I returned a half-hour later for more blood work (my lord did they take a lot of blood!) plus urine samples, stool samples, and ultrasounds. “But, could it be COVID?” They’re not even testing me for it. Doesn’t that seem strange? It doesn’t make sense to me, all things considered. Anyhow, I’m very likely immunocompromised, which means I need to do my best to be even more socially distant.
Currently Reading: I made just a little progress with The Princess Bride yesterday. It’s really a hilarious book, super meta, and a parody almost on par with Cervantes’ Don Quixote, though Goldman is having much more fun with layered narration. It’s quite a trip, really, and I’m eagerly looking forward to watching the movie to see just how they managed to capture these depths of storytelling and the complicated relationship between author, fictive author, narrator, and fictive narrator, and then of course all of that and the truth. I did not tackle any other reading yesterday, though, so I need to find some time this weekend to make more progress with In the Time of the Butterflies. I might focus, tonight, on my current poetry collection, Cohen’s Book of Longing. It seems like a good day for poetry.
Currently Writing: Ironically, after posting about Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel yesterday, PEN announced a new interview with Chee today. Maybe that’s some kind of serendipitous sign telling me to tackle it after all. Well, if one believes in that sort of thing. Sort of like sun showers, isn’t it? My sleep and tiredness problems have kept me from waking up on time lately, so I haven’t gotten nearly as much writing or submitting done as I’d like to. Hopefully that changes soon.
Currently Listening To: Billie Holiday Lady in Satin (1958). “For all we know this may only be a dream / We come and go like a ripple on a stream / So love me tonight, tomorrow was made for some / Tomorrow may never come, for all we know.” How’s that for an upper? It’s hard to deny the power of music in my life. Everything I do or feel or remember has some connection to a particular song or album or genre. Yesterday, I note, in feeling a bit rebellious and a bit jaded by the lack of seriousness with which people are taking the pandemic, I was diving into Nirvana and thinking about the could have beens, if we were a better people. Today, as my health news apparently continues to worsen and as this crisis also grows, I sink into the Blues, quite literally, and wrap myself in the warm lush embrace of Holiday and Del Rey. They seem to feel just as deeply as I do, and that’s not nothing.
Teaching Updates: I think my students are slowly moving into the routine of the semester. I’m hearing from some of them, and others are quietly doing their work. As for me, I’m reaching out as much as I can but trying not to overwhelm, either. At the moment, I’m responding to a set of essays in one class and to a set of reading responses in another class, and interacting in discussion threads with three others. My attention is all over the place, which is the nature of teaching, to be frank; but what makes it difficult is that each of these types of interactions is different. They require different kind of responses from me, so I’m constantly flipping switches in my brain so that I can move from one rhetorical situation to another. Reading responses get personalized responses; discussion boards get a mixture of individual and classroom response (my responses are meant to address a specific student’s post but in a way that the entire class can benefit from); and essay responses are highly instructive. It’s a bit of a juggling act, and I’ve never had to do it for five online classes simultaneously. But I see these students showing up and communicating with one another, and with me, and that’s all I need. As long as they’re learning and succeeding, I’m keeping on.
Current Status: I haven’t seen any new numbers related to the cases in Nevada, not since yesterday when we were near 100. My area of Las Vegas (which, by the way, is home to about 1/3 of the entire state population) has, as far as I know, just one drive-thru testing center, and that center was absolutely overwhelmed. No surprise. The latest news is that they’re going to shut down temporarily because there aren’t enough medical professionals available to keep up with the demand. There’s also a further tightening of restrictions in southern Nevada coming, as suggested by the CDC. At the moment, restaurants and cafes are still open but for carryout only. My understanding is that, sometime around 7pm tonight, only drive-thru locations will be allowed to continue operating. There’s still a great deal of confusion about that, though, so I’ll await specific news reports tonight. Perhaps another address by our Governor. I will say, I’m extremely annoyed at how the news is talking about California (and sometimes even New York) being the first state to implement a full “stay-at-home” order. No, my dears, it was Nevada. We led the way and we deserve the credit for that, particularly considering how much our economy depends on tourism in Las Vegas. Shutting down the world’s most notorious 24-hour city was no small feat. Wake up, journalists, and give credit where credit is due. The people of Nevada deserve to be seen. Edit: 20-minutes after writing this, our Governor announced that ALL non-essential business are now ordered to close and that all the help we have requested from the Federal government, including requests for test kits, is on “indefinite hold.”
Positive Thoughts: Despite this semester becoming quite overwhelming, both physically and mentally, and due to both health issues and professional issues, some really wonderful things do remind me why any challenge is worth it for me. At least as an educator. I wrote earlier about responding to student reading notes. I received one from a student today that had me nearly in tears. It reminded me just how important the things I do can be, and more specifically, the choices that I make in my teaching methods. I won’t get into detail about what the student said, because that should remain private, but it provided me a much needed boost. It’s probably something I’ll never forget.
For the ink-hearted
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You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. Octavia E. Butler
My life as a black, disabled teenager
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