At first, it feels like a hangover.
My head’s pounding like there’s an stupid jackhammerer inside it, and my throat feels like I’ve been doing Adam Sandler voices all night. There’s a thickness when I swallow. I try to count the drinks I had the night before. How many wines did I have? I remember at least two IPAs. Why do I keep going back to the IPAs? [Pacino drunk on IPA voice] Every time I think hic I’m out they pull me back hic in!
Ordinarily, I’d just roll over and try to fall back to sleep, but I have to catch a plane in about two hours. My wife and I have been in Kentucky visiting family for the past few days and each night has involved more drinks with my brother-in-law Lewis than what I would truthfully jot down on any medical questionnaire. I mean, it’s Kentucky. Bourbon country, amirite?
But there’s a little voice in the back of my head saying the state’s propensity for brown liquor should be the least of my worries. No, it’s the state’s—and the region’s—response to COVID that should concern me. I’m not trying to be all coastal elitist up in here, but anyone who’s been following the news knows that The South is not exactly a role model of COVID mitigation. It’s a literal hotbed of sickness right now
I shake the thought away. Just feeling those IPAs I think, hope.
At the Louisville airport, booze is still working through me, but now the hangover feels like it’s becoming something else. Flourishing, thriving, living its best life. It feels like the Ibuprofen has taken the pain in my head and dispersed it throughout my body like some perverse version of trickle-down economics (although not as perverse as actual trickle-down economics).
We board a small commuter jet that’ll take us to Chicago. It’s only when we’re in the air when I can relax, so I sleep a little and when we land, wow, the hangover is gone.
But now I have a runny nose.
Because our flight’s significantly delayed, every person on the plane is jonesing to make their connecting flights. They bargain with people standing in the aisle, trying to buy just more seconds: “My flight’s boarding, can I go ahead of you?” They mush their faces with exasperation and sigh.
I, too, am in a hurry, but I also feel like I am now one-hundred percent a sick person. A catalyst, a triggering event that’ll undoubtedly be traced back to The Great O’Hare COVID Outbreak of 2021. I pull my mask tighter around my face and watch all the people queued up to exit the plane, revving and trembling to get wherever they’re going. Infected with whatever I’ve given them.
I try to think back to where I could’ve gotten sick. It could’ve been when I dragged Lewis and my father-in-law to Waffle House. All respect to the servers at the Shelbyville Waffle House, but I’d wager that each of our meals contained no fewer than 10 human droplets. Or maybe it was the Cracker Barrel? (I sure do eat fancy in Kentucky). Or the little gelato place where the woman practically put her entire, unmasked face into the freezer? Or maybe it was just an errant virus floating through the air. Given the alarm surrounding the Delta variant and how easy it is to catch, any of these situations seems plausible.
We power walk through O’Hare to make the connecting flight. Does the body shed particles at higher speeds? I imagine sheets of viruses just peeling off me, covering unsuspecting victims who will then go home to their vulnerable grandparents and children. My headstone will be etched with “Typhoid Ryan.”
But it might not be COVID, I think. People can still get regular sick, right? I hope so. I haven’t been sick in 18 months besides the flu-like side effects brought on by the second Moderna shot. I try to self-diagnose: I can still taste the whiskey and hops from the night before. I can smell my gross breath. Both good signs, but is it enough?
I know there will be people who will judge me. Why’d you get on the second plane? Why’d you even travel in the first place? Questions to which I have no answers that don’t involve some synonym of selfishness. And it pisses me off because a lot of people have chosen not to take a magic elixir that could essentially make COVID go away, and yet, I’m the one who has to get defensive?? Fuck outta here.
When I return home, I immediately rush over to CVS to buy the Abbot BinaxNOW COVID antigen test, which is in such demand that they keep it behind the register. CVS also has the Ellume test, which analyzes your snot via digital reader and then sends the results to your phone via Bluetooth. It’s way more high-tech than the BinaxNOW, which gives results with a color-changing strip of paper. It’s pretty similar to an over-the-counter pregnancy test. I’ve read online that a negative result with a BinaxNOW is 98% accurate if you have symptoms, which gives me faith in the strip of paper. Plus, it’s nearly half the price. BinaxNOW it is.
I take that baby home and jam the swab up my nose. I probe each nostril until my eyes water, and then seal that gross stick into the reader.
Results take 15 minutes. In that time, I think about the steps I’ll need to make if it’s positive, but don’t really think of anything further than posting a self-righteous social media post full of liturgic damnation of the The South.
Hooo boy, The South, you better hope I don’t have it. I’ll burn you harder than Sherman.
When it’s been fifteen minutes, I reluctantly check the test. There’s one solid pink line.
I exhale. The relief is profound. Just regular sick.
The next day, we get some Ellume tests from a friend who works in healthcare. I take one and again get a negative.
But the relief is short-lived when I realize that this is how it’s going to be from now on. COVID has taken a lot, but I never would’ve guessed it would plunge us into a world where we second-guess our own bodies. This is the hell that COVID has rendered, where every ache is a threat. Every sniffle, a sign of irresponsibility. Every cough, an act of aggression.
THE WEEKLY GOODS
Get tix to this
There are some bands you just have to see live to “get.” Before I saw A Giant Dog, I thought the Texas band’s music was pretty good—a potent blend of garage and punk with DGAF lyrics that often veered into the sexaully explicit. But then I saw them play Soda Bar and they turned that place into the roadhouse in that movie, uh, Roadhouse, but before Swayze cleaned it up. The wildness, in part, was due to lead singer Sabrina Ellis’ madhouse physicality. Her performance was like a cross between a modern dance routine and a real-life exorcism. Check out their covers of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, which strips out the Canadian band’s grandiosity and pumps up the rocking. A Giant Dog is playing again at Soda Bar on Tuesday, September 21.
Last week on Twitter, Carl DeMaio’s spokesperson David McCulloch took a jab at San Diego CityBeat, which, as you know, was the paper I put a lot of heart and soul into before it fell apart.
Ryan Kost @RyanKostCome October, SF is going to be a town without an alt weekly -- that's bad news for everyone. Alt weeklies are a home for some of the most critical journalism out there. (Wish I'd had more than a couple hours to write a proper obit for the paper.) https://t.co/Dx1lS2Xkiz
Considering that the recall was DeMaio’s pet project (DeMaio is the chairman of Reform California), and the recall’s extraordinary failure last night, I’d guess McCulloch doesn’t feel very great today. So, maybe send him a word of encouragement? May I suggest a simple “haw haw”?
On Monday, students at Grossmont High School protested their restrictive dress code, and it got so intense that the school went on lockdown and police arrested at least one person. I never want to see any kids arrested, but, honestly, good for the students. Dress codes have traditionally and unfairly shamed girls and women, but the idea of restricting kids from wearing sports team apparel—which Grossmont apparently does (“No jerseys except GHS athletic jerseys are allowed.”)—is almost as ridiculous.
Malik Earnest @MalikEarnestIn the midst of the chaos, students took turns leaping onto a homemade banner which read “FUCK THE DRESS CODE.” https://t.co/nR2COf1Gl0
Watch this (All horror picks until October 31)
I’m of the opinion that James Wan is our generation’s premier horror stylist. While his films hardly bring much in terms of writing or cohesion, they more than compensate with Grand Guignol aesthetics and set pieces. And boy oh boy does he crank those up to eleven in his new film Malignant. I’m not going to get into the plot, because part of the fun is wondering where it’s going, but I will say that you have to stick around for the reveal in the third act. It’s truly something to behold. A lot of people hate it—I can’t remember seeing a discourse surrounding a film to be so polarizing—but I loved it. I think Wan delivered an updated giallo that surpasses the bonkerness of anything that Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci made.
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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.