I was recently visited by a young stonemason (that is, a stonemason, not a stoned mason), who mentioned something about his training “back in the day.” He didn’t look old enough to have an actual period in his life that could be called “back in the day,” but you couldn’t say the same for me, and suddenly I was transported to my very own “back in the day,” when I worked at Mass General Hospital as a young 20-something, some 100 years ago.
I was a brain surgeon back then. I’d cut into people’s heads to fix aneurisms and so forth, and occasionally would screw with people’s minds by performing a little sneaky rewiring, as a kind of practical joke. It was hilarious to visit patients afterward and see them try to drink from a cup of water but instead pour the water over their heads or throw it into their faces. (Don’t worry – I’d always fix it later, for a relatively small fee.)
When I wasn’t performing high-end brain surgery, I was ordering supplies, making photocopies, and answering phones for the cardiac unit. I’d get calls from vendors about bills, and sometimes from lab personnel calling in sick. “Cough, hack, achoo! Tell Dr. Stragglebeard that I’ve got the dreaded cantankervirus, and I’m very contagious.”
One guy always used to tell me when his wife had diarrhea. “Can you tell Jerry that I have to take care of the kids today? It’s my wife: she’s throwing up, diarrhea, whole bit.” I heard this often over my tenure. When he called in sick, diarrhea was often involved.
I was made to tell his boss these details each time. The throwing up. And the diarrhea.
Now you understand what life was like back in the day. Wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.
Of the thousands of things that this godforsaken coronavirus headache has made me appreciate about those days, not so long ago, when I could walk down the street, breathe the air in deeply, and exhale it upon just about whomever I pleased, none seem quite so unlikely to return any time soon as the live rock show.
Cut to this current moment in time: it is late May of 2020 and my best rock show opportunities are happening via YouTube. And that’s not going change any time soon. You can’t even go to church right now, let alone a rock concert. As God has lobbyists aplenty, I’m pretty sure churches will get the green light to change water to wine in front of a live audience well before a bunch of aged punks like X will be allowed to play the song White Girl while people scream and applaud wildly.
The fake news media is bound to claim that wild applause is not only a symptom of Covid-19, but is also a means of spreading the virus, alleging that when people smack their palms together, as they do when they see a good rock show, the dried-on virus particulates that are hidden in the creases of their palms are dispersed like sound waves into the atmosphere, where the virus particulates then deploy wings and make a bee line for random strangers’ nostrils and open mouths.
Don’t believe the hype. The germs known to be dispersed by enthusiastic applause are thought to prefer clogging up pores rather than sinus cavities, which is considered not a very effective means of infecting the host. Ergo, fear not wild applause.
Once my message gets out I suspect a goodly number of people will applaud my efforts to get rock going again. But please don’t applaud too loudly. I don’t want my pores getting any more clogged up than the already are.
Since this viral headache began, my wife and I have been consistent cookers from home, slow-cooking and roasting and fricasseeing whatever the hell we can get our hands on to avoid getting out there and looking people straight in the eye and giving them the honest truth, which I am told is a risk-factor for getting the newest and hottest and sexiest coronavirus.
This, even though we love to get our food prepared.
We turned the page last Friday, as our meal plan consisted of takeout, which we expected to be sourced from Bernard’s, our favorite Chinese restaurant in Boston, or, failing that, from either Frank Pepe's and Bertucci’s pizzerias.
Bernard’s is situated in the gritty “Street” section of what used to be called the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center. I’m no stranger to tough ‘hoods and was willing to brave the toughest street gangs Chestnut Hill could muster for a little taste of Bernard’s awesome dumplings. But Bernard’s website indicated that the restaurant is currently on hiatus. Probably forced to close by Chestnut Hill gangs, or maybe that godforsaken virus I keep hearing about. (To be honest, I fear I’ll never taste those Bernard’s dumplings again).
So we ordered instead from Frank Pepe's. This was a no-brainer. How long had it been since I had had a Pepe’s spinach and gorgonzola or white clam pizza? Literally months! The online ordering was a breeze, and I would be picking up my pizza curbside.
Of course, it didn’t happen quite that way. I arrived to find a line of 25 cars, and another 25 people hovering outside the pizza shop, announcing their names to the friendly man whose job was to sort through orders and bring them out to hungry patrons hoping to eat clams and parmesan cheese on a pizza.
We were an understanding bunch, until a couple people arrived who seemed unaware of the gloabal crisis we were all dealing with. Where’s my pizza? What’s the system? Why aren’t you doing it this way, which I think is better than the way you are doing it? Somehow, getting into the pizza organizer’s face was deemed to be the best way forward.
Ultimately, I left, snagging pizza for the kids from Bertucci’s, and returning to Pepe’s an hour or two later to get my adult pizzas (“Oh, you’re here, finally"). I gave a big thanks to the young people working through the mess of the a-holes demanding the kind of service we expected back in 2019.
Did you know that there is a national election happening on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2020? Apparently, the president himself is up for reelection (who knew?), and I‘ve come into some inside information on his political strategy.
First, he plans to tout his cool-headedness in difficult times. His campaign manager is going to stress at every turn that he has an incredible knack for calming the waters when everything has gone completely to shit. Just when it seems like everything is dark and dreary and you want to curl up and die, this man tickles you with bits of accessible poetry not more than 280 characters in length. He loves to take to the airwaves with messages of hope and unity, instilling in you a sense of duty and pride in acting for the collective good. His voice is like a soothing balm on a sore joint. Makes you feel warm inside.
Or they could try to make a case for him being honest, with a homespun “just-the-facts” manner of communicating and a humility that renders him unable to take credit for almost anything. Everyman interviews on Main Street U.S.A. will call him “refreshing!” and “just what the doctor ordered.”
And none of this nonsense where politicians denigrate the office with cheap shots at opponents and use daily COVID-19 press conferences, ostensibly meant to inform the American public about plans for battling the pandemic, to pat themselves on the back and promote their own political aims.
Put it this way, those are the qualities I’m looking for in a candidate.