The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Late Friday afternoon and the week was winding down. Do COVID era weeks really wind up? Today it’s the day to day to day, Drudge. Monotony. Colorless repetition.

CNN’s Erin Burnett was interviewing a couple of the big giant medical heads who’ve held sway on damn near every aspect of our daily lives. That’s not necessarily a bad thing given our situation. I put it this way because I think that we’d all like to return to the days when the big giant medical heads fade back into the relative obscurity of research and writing articles in medical journals that everyday people never read.

Cora and I were only half listening to Dr. William Haseltine a regular big giant medical head on CNN. And then he started in on masks and for some reason this caught our attention. Haseltine in the now familiar pedagogic, voice from on high of big giant medical heads suggested (paraphrasing here), “We need to start thinking about wearing two masks and a face shield.”

I – lost – my – shit.
“What the actual fuck did he just say? TWO masks AND a face shield?”

The dogs know the “f” bomb. Chloe the eldest walks back up stairs and Lexi quietly heads into the back of her crate. On this particular afternoon Lexi wasn’t exactly certain what to do. It was raining “f” bombs. This was the full out squadron of B-52s; an indiscriminate carpet bombing of “f” bombs. Thermonuclear “f” bombs. Lexi’s head was on a swivel.

At about the point that I said something about “these guys” not being able to locate their behinds (not the word I used) with both hands, daughter Jessica came down to check the laundry. At least that was the excuse. She probably wanted to know just what all the brouhaha was about.

I told her about the two masks and a shield and railed, “the shit keeps changing.”
“I know,” she said. “We’re basically on our own.”

I turned to Cora who, after the first wave of B-52s had passed over, had probably tuned me out.
“Two masks and a face shield? Why stop there? Why not three masks and a shield? Howabout three “f’ing” masks, two face shields, and a partridge in an “f’ing” pear tree. Let’s throw in Bernie’s mittens while we’re at it.”
I suggested that maybe the obnoxious, Trump sycophant, Congressman Matt Gaetz, was a man ahead of his time, a veritable medical pioneer, when he facetiously wore a gas mask into the Halls of Congress a year ago.

Just for the sake of clarity, anyone who’s followed my site knows that I’m all in on masks and face coverings. I get angry at the “masks violate my Constitutional rights” crowd and have taken my life into my hands by admonishing perfect strangers to wear their masks in the local Lucky Store.

I have all sorts of masks and face coverings. The paper ones, the surgical ones; masks with nose clips, a gaiter and a rainbow of bandanas. I wash them and neatly put them in little plastic bags to keep them clean. Used ones get their own plastic baggie. I’m anal about the damned things. Hell, I even have a Bill Clinton mask, and a horse head mask rat holed with the Halloween stuff. There’s even a Jason hockey mask. I suppose I could wear that one and carry around a machete; that should cover the social distancing issues.

My problem isn’t so much the masks. It’s the messaging – or more accurately, the mixed messaging.

On Monday of last week, Doctor Fauci, the biggest of the big giant medical heads, said on The Today Show that double masking, “just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.”

Two days later on CNN, Fauci, reversed course saying that we should follow CDC guidance which doesn’t call for double masking. On the same CNN town hall CDC Director Rochelle Walensky discouraged using N-95s, the so-called gold standard, not because they’re rare but because they can be uncomfortable.

And then two days later there was Haseltine and his two masks and a shield.

The whole mask/face covering thing has been mystifying for, well, just about a year now.

It’s almost nostalgic to think back to Doctor Fauci emphatically advising people not to wear masks. I remember indignantly looking at masked people and mentally tsk-tsking them for not following the rules.

And then the big giant medical heads abruptly said, “OMG, we have to wear masks.”

When the big giant medical heads were called out for this 180 degree course change they claimed that it was because they didn’t want to create a run on N-95s as they were required for healthcare workers.

Even at the time I called BS on that. My feeling then and now is that the big giant medical heads were using that rationale as an ass covering excuse for giving wrong information. They could have advised people to use anything other than N-95s, a sort of anything is better than nothing. Besides, back then finding an N-95, along with TP and hand sanitizer, was like randomly picking up the winning Powerball ticket.

Ever since those early days the advice has changed more than I change my socks. Gaiters and bandanas were frowned on at first, rated as the least effective of face coverings. A short while later gaiters were upgraded on the efficacy scale and bandanas were deemed sufficient if they were folded over (I don’t know how else you could wear one without it fitting like a bib).

A few weeks ago on one of the Bay Area radio stations, a local expert, I guess you’d call him a small medical head, suggested that if you’re outside running and moving around in swirling air a mask is more or less an option; etiquette more than anything.

Some time before that another small medical head on the same radio station warned that the hazardous period of exposure to COVID is understood as 15 minutes and that it could be a cumulative thing. In other words if you get exposed one day for 5 minutes, a second day for 7 minutes and a third for 3 minutes then you’ve reached that danger zone of 15 minutes. His conclusion was mask up, all the time.

The point of all of this is, as my daughter suggested, “We’re on our own.”

Wouldn’t it be helpful if the biggest of the big giant medical heads would put their big giant heads together, come up with some hard and fast rules and release those from up high? Through the CDC maybe? That’s what they’re doing, right?

Sure, until they aren’t, such as what happened last week with Fauci’s two step and Haseltine’s two masks and a shield. Throw in Sanjay Gupta, Leana Wen and Oscar the Grouch on the CNN Kid’s Town Hall and it’s dizzying.

Of course there are always going to be the radiologists and proctologists and some guy named Eddy looking for their few minutes of fame on YouTube by saying that the whole thing was made up by aliens from space so that they can take over the world without firing a death ray.

It’s been difficult enough to get some people to use masks at all, especially in states like South Dakota, where the governor takes the laissez faire, people should use their best judgment (because people ALWAYS use good judgment and NEVER text and drive) attitude. Two masks and a shield are going to have them storming the battlements with torches and pitchforks.

At this point the only thing that we’re sure of is that we aren’t sure. And this isn’t true of just masks. We’re not sure about sending kids to school, or letting them participate in sports. We’re not sure what constitutes outdoor dining.

One of the restaurants in nearby Pinole is touting it’s outdoor dining in the back parking lot but when you go back there the outdoor dining is in a big three walled tent. How is that not indoor dining? The same is true of Pinole’s Orangetheory gym; a three walled tent.

And who is supposed to enforce all of this? In the same town of Pinole where I actually got a ticket for doing 27 in a 25 mile zone, the overzealous minions of the law are oblivious to the apparent fudging on what’s outdoor and what isn’t. And who, including the business owners, knows if three walled tents are a violation of the law? And are they laws, guidelines or just the result of someone pulling some wild idea out of his….ear?

For a year now it’s been clown car confusion which has probably fueled some of the anti-regulation rhetoric. After all if the experts, the big giant medical heads, keep changing their minds then why bother?

Since I haven’t done a COVID Chronicle for some time, here are some odds and ends.
As expected, the rich, the famous and the connected are pushing aside the old folks and buying or lying their way into a ticket on the vaccination train. Soul Cycle instructor Stacey Griffin who is apparently the royalty of Soul Cycle instructors got a vaccination by claiming to be an “educator.” When called out she of course apologized with the standard boilerplate language, “truly sorry;” “error in judgment.” At least she didn’t use the ever popular, “if I offended anyone.”

Before getting my first vaccination my doctor warned me about the side effects she’d had with the Moderna vaccine – almost enough to give me pause. In the end I had a sore shoulder for two days, less than with my flu shot.

I recently took a COVID test and the protocol now skips the throat swab and goes straight to the nose. The result came back in just over 24 hours – negative.

I’m back to vacation planning. Anything requiring air travel is off the itinerary. I’m thinking about a trip to Death Valley National Park in April when the wild flowers are in bloom. Camping would be great but Cora’s over it with camping.

Depression comes and goes. I’m going on a news diet because news is feeding hopelessness. I feel like I’m watching the years that I have left slip away. To that end I’m blowing off any surgery on either of my torn rotator cuffs. As with everyone else in the world I’ve lost a year with COVID, I don’t want to lose 6 months of time recovering from shoulder surgery. I’ll go with discomfort and a cortisone shot every now and then, if needed. The shoulder specialist is in agreement.

Finally, I want to clarify the purpose of my COVID and other news related pieces. A commenter recently seemed to call me out, in a roundabout way, for focusing on my own feelings. That’s fine. Comments, pro or con are a good thing. It’s discussion. To be clear though, writing about my own feelings is the purpose. This is meant to be a journal. This will all go on a flash drive for some great-great-grandchild to read and understand what the COVID era was about (the same goes for my political posts). Anything other than my feelings would just be rehashing the nightly news.

Meanwhile I’ve figured out my solution for the masking dilemma.

Photo by Mike on


16 thoughts on “THE COVID CHRONICLES: Masquerade

  1. eden baylee says:

    Christ, Paul, you’re grumpy!

    Now I understand why I haven’t seen or heard you in a few days.

    Breathe …

    Breathe …

    Breathe …

    Hope you feel better.

    If it’s any consolation, people who swear like fucking sailors are more honest and more intelligent.


    1. Paulie says:

      Eden, I can’t,
      Breathe …
      Breathe …
      Breathe …
      I’ve been wearing too many masks, not to mention Bernie’s gall darn (see no cussing) mittens between masks two and three. 😷
      It’s all good. There’s nothing like a good rant to relieve the pressure.
      In all honesty I think that the experts need to keep it more simple and straightforward. All the different permutations are not productive.
      And I get it…it’s a learning curve for everyone.
      BTW, the Shutter Island question related to the twisty endings of your stories. After reading some of your work my thoughts went right to Lehane’s book. That story has a creepy gothic flavor that disturbed me for a while. I guess Mr. Lehane did his job well.
      And if people who swear are more intelligent then I must be a *&$^# genius. 😀

      1. eden baylee says:

        A good rant is needed sometimes, no problem with that. I was just a bit worried I hadn’t seen you in days. You’re so good with responding, and I hadn’t seen any responses, so I’m glad you’re okay. That is more important than anything.

        Shutter Island is great for the twist … one of the best. 😉

        I know life is crappy now, and everyone is sick and tired of this lockdown, sick of the revolving door of advice from medical pros.

        I’m not going to tell you it’ll get better, or to hang tight, or to stay positive, or any of that bullshit.

        I only hope life continues to treat you well, and the end of this pandemic is just around the corner.

  2. David says:

    I would have thought people would realize the whole point of most of your posts is to express your thoughts and feelings about a particular subject. Oh well.

    To the extent possible I avoid news stations/channels that are not pure news because I want to know the facts and any back story that helps explain or amplify the facts. I could care less about the opinions of the people on the CNNs and Fox Newses of the media world. I started listening to them for the first time ever during this last election. No matter which wing they are flying on (left or right) all they do is make my blood boil with their obvious bias and subjectivity. Each takes the same story and spins it the way they want.

    And then they say things based on their spin as if they are fact as opposed to opinion and a biased take on reality. What makes this worse is that too many of those being governed do not have the willingness or don’t have the capacity for analytical thinking. Instead the jump on the band wagon of any meme that sounds good to them not knowing if what they are agreeing with or promoting is anywhere neat true.

    On a lighter not I think that mask photo is really cool!

    1. Paulie says:

      Hi David,
      Low hanging fruit first. I can’t take credit for the mask photo. It was taken from the WP free photo library.
      As regards thoughts and feelings on my posts, no harm no foul.
      As for news, well, I have been watching CNN with the full knowledge that it’s more opinion than fact (despite their claims). Maybe CNN makes me feel good. I can’t do Fox. I watch PBS and the local news and read AP and Reuters on the internet for some real perspective.
      I really think that the medicos need to keep the advice as basic and as consistent as possible without being irresponsible.

  3. You’ll find just what you need at the Philadelphia Museum Of Art: They have a world class collection of armor.

    1. Paulie says:

      We probably have some here in SF too. Two problems. It’s hard purloining a suit of armor and the museums are all closed.

  4. KDKH says:

    The experts are trying so hard to keep us from panicking that they are just pissing us off. These new strains must be scaring them.

    1. Paulie says:

      So sorry for the late reply.
      They’re pissing me off but I’m still trying to be a good soldier.
      It’s the ones on the fence who I’m afraid are going to throw up their hands and say “I’ve had enough.”
      Thank you for visiting and commenting.

      1. KDKH says:

        It seems like everyone is pissed off about something! Good luck!

  5. The Dogfish says:

    I love your rants, and I feel you 100%. You’re totally right about the mixed messaging coming from the government medical experts. Like you, I am pro-mask because I have faith in the science, but I think this confirms for sure that no one knows what to do.

    I liken it to my recent consulations with my local clinic to try and get on top of my anxiety and depression. They give me drug after drug that does nothing for me, when I can go get ketamine from my source and have total relief. I’m trying to get my doc to get me on ketamine therapy but I don’t think my insurance will cover it. It’s frustrating when things I can get illicitly do far more to help me than the pablum these so called ‘experts’ give me. Truth is, they know as little how to cure anxiety and depression as they do COVID.

    Glad to hear you got your shot anyway. Good luck on your travel plans! Maybe you can get your wife on board with camping, I hope that works out.

    1. Paulie says:

      Once again I apologize for the late reply
      If I’m not mistaken you’re relatively local to the SF Bay Area so as far as the masks go I think we’re in a pretty good place. I rarely see people who don’t comply and when I do they’re usually in a wide open space.
      Your story is just another one of the far too many that are proof we need to do better with a healthcare system. I think I know more people who are either frustrated with the limitations of their coverage or can’t afford the cost of the coverage or the copays for the care or the medication that they need.
      Wishing the best for you.
      Take care and stay well.

  6. Hi Paulie…Nice rant my friend. You’re definitely right about the confused messages coming from on high – and it’s not just in America. People can wear masks or not wear masks as far as I’m concerned, but what does piss me off no end are people who wear a mask but only cover their mouth and leave their nose uncovered. It’s like wearing a seatbelt but driving with your eyes shut…..makes no sense. Wear it or don’t wear it but don’t half wear it!!!
    All the best and stay safe.

    1. Paulie says:

      I still lean on the side of “wear the damn mask.” The anti-maskers here in the states are taking their cues from YouTube videos by self proclaimed virologists on the one hand or Constitutional lawyers on the other. As I write this we’re going through the latest super spreader – the Super Bowl and all of the requisite parties and gatherings.

  7. Amy says:

    Glad you got your vaccination and will be back on the road again.
    I’m also on a news diet, but do listen to the WH press briefing.

    1. Paulie says:

      So sorry for the late reply.

      II get shot #2 in 2 weeks and I’m being told by those I know who got it that #2 has some seriously uncomfortable side effects 😬

      Vacations are going to be to places where we can socially distance and take care of our own meals.

      Take care and stay safe Amy.

Would love to hear from you

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