What to say about 2021?
This time of year I’d usually reflect on the travels and travails of the previous twelve months. I used to post year-end concert reviews, but that was back when concerts were a thing. Maybe I could post about something as benign as the smiles on people’s faces, but somehow we’ve now been convinced that masks are more effective at stopping germs than vaccination is, so it’ll be another decade before I see someone’s smile again.
It’s been at least two Novembers since I’ve written about what I’m thankful for. Ironic, huh? When the world is on fire, it’s harder to focus on the things that keep us sane. Maybe we’re too afraid that by naming them, they’ll drop into fuck-up mode. I think if you say family three times out loud, then Bloody Mary’s going to come through the bathroom mirror and give us the omega variant.
So fine, here’s the story of 2021: You only have to wear the masks until the vaccine gets here. Hah, hah, just kidding, keep wearing the masks. And that vaccine? Yeah, even though it’s working, it might not be working, so get the new one. Well, you don’t GOTTA get the new one. It’s approved, but not recommended. Or is it recommended but not required? This shit’s worse than iPhones. Steve Jobs says all the cool kids are swapping their Pfizer for a Moderna.
I’m not saying 2021 was worse than 2020. Sure, I haven’t seen a concert in two years, but at least in 2021, I was able to see a few movies. But I’m supposed to wear my mask while eating popcorn, even though the closest person is five seats away and probably vaccinated. We’ve known the virus doesn’t travel via touching the same object an infected person touched for a good eighteen months now, but we’re not acting like it.
2020 was pure chaos. The entirety of human society was touch and go for a few months. It was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, kiss-your-hand-and-slam-it-on-the-car-ceiling-through-the-yellow-light kinda year. We pulled out ALL the metaphors in 2020.
But 2020 gets a bit of a pass. “Unprecedented,” one might say. Right before you punched them in the mouth. From six feet away.
2021, by comparison, was torture. Without a fore-ordained excuse. One might call 2021 precedented.
Not that you’d know it by how we acted.
Honestly, I’ve been fully vaccinated since March (or at least what was once considered fully vaccinated), but I still have yet to travel or go to Happy Hour or allow my students to see my mouth. 2021 was supposed to be different.
And don’t get me started on the motherfucking omicron variant. We’re all aware that omicron is, like, ten letters after delta, right? What made this carriage sexier than the last nine? It might be a little more contagious, but less deadly. Many epidemiologists are saying we need to focus on hospitalizations, not pure numbers. My scant understanding of virus biology is that “contagious but not deadly” is where we want our viruses to be for long-term stability. Flus and colds are contagious but not deadly. Viruses don’t like killing us their host.
It feels like the pearl clutching over the omicron nothing burger seems suspiciously tied to the children’s vaccine being approved. Because the last time we thought we were in the woods, and people stopped clicking on every media clickbait, they reminded us that the kids still couldn’t get vaccinated so make sure you keep coming back and seeing our advertisements. Once we got our kids vaccinated and could finally say, “Everyone who wants it is vaccinated and the rest deserve what they get, I’m going to stop following the clickbaits,” they come back with, “But wait, here’s OMICRON!”
It could also be explained by the media people wanting an excuse when they knew it would be spiking in places like California and New York after they’d been blaming it on dumb rednecks all summer long. They know it spikes when we go inside. The south is really hot in the summer, so people go inside. In New York and California, we go inside when it gets cold. But OMICRON gives us an excuse.
My favorite Herr Kommandant out of all the Herr Kommandants, Monsieur Newsom of California, recently re-implemented a mask mandate throughout the state, which was an ironic turn of events considering we never really got rid of the mask mandate in the first place. But he has to do that because, wag finger, we’ve been “spiking” since Thanksgiving.
Also because poor Gavin’s name has been out of the news recently and he’s got to run for re-election next year. When the first omicron patient was found in San Francisco, he couldn’t roll out the press release fast enough. Slick back the hair and grab some tv cameras, baby! Like Navin Johnson when the new phone books arrive. “The new variant is here! The new variant is here! I’m finally somebody!”
But this new mandate isn’t a statewide mandate. It only affects every single inch of the state outside of San Francisco. Because, I shit you not, San Francisco been “taking the virus seriously.” So I guess the other 39 million Californians are all dumbasses. Including Marin County and Santa Clara County, which both have HIGHER vaccination rates than San Francisco, but somehow are not exempted from the mask mandate.
Any guess where Herr Kommandant was spending his holidays? Had he only declared the French Laundry a “Covid-free location,” he could have avoided the whole recall election. So glad he’s learned from his mistakes.
BTW, I just checked the numbers. Want to guess which location is leading the state in cases per 100,000? I’ll give you a hint: they’re taking the virus very seriously.
Sorry, this was supposed to be a post about 2021 and here I am taking about variants and mask mandates. And I’m breaking my rule, talking about case numbers instead of hospitalizations. And using the numbers to prove I’m better than people I don’t like.
But that’s what’s so frustrating! We shouldn’t still be talking about variants and mask mandates in December 2021!
Last year, we took Daughter for a picture with the Grinch instead of Santa. Seemed fitting for 2020. While there, we bought a couple of funny Grinch masks. “Six feet? I prefer sixty.” Ha ha, way to thumb our nose at 2020. But I remember saying at the time, “This is silly, because I’m only likely to wear it at Christmas time, and by next Christmas, masks won’t be a thing anymore.” I should’ve known better. I ain’t saying shit about 2022.
The worst part of this entire story? The mall didn’t having a Grinch’s Grotto this year. Santa was the only option.
2020 was unprecedented. 2021 is just an asshole.
Fine, you want a concert review? Let’s return to New Orleans, where I was scheduled to go see Vampire Weekend in October 2020, before it was canceled. In October 2021, I tried again.
The Jazz Festival, which I’ve always wanted to go to, was postponed from May to October. That’s how 2021 rolled, or was supposed to. Instead of canceling outright, we merely postponed, as if the light at the end of the tunnel was not some decades-away illusion.
This postponement worked great for me. Normally the Jazz Fest is in May, which is a really bad time for me to take an extended weekend. AP Tests and finals and students who have slept in my class for five months magically “finding” all their “late work” to turn in. But in October, my school gets one week off in between first and second quarter. That’s why I was planning to see Vampire Weekend last October. Even without concerts, it’s a great time to travel because nobody else has it off.
But Vampire Weekend is no Jazz Fest, and this particular Jazz Fest seemed poised to triumphantly announce, with the trumpets of Jericho (or at least Trombone Shorty) our return to the living. The lineup included Elvis Costello and Stevie Nicks and Jimmy Buffet! I even convinced Wife, who has a substantially lower impression of the Crescent City, to accompany me. I don’t understand her negativity on the subject. Who DOESN’T want to deal with their husband pissing himself after his seventh hand grenade?
In the end, it didn’t matter. The postponed 2020/2021 Jazz Festival was canceled back in ye olden days of the Delta wave. That light at the end of the tunnel was an approaching locomotive.
The irony was that they canceled the concert, scheduled for October, because New Orleans were spiking in August. Had we not already lived through seventeen waves of this bullshit, such a decision might be understandable, but don’t we know by now that a place spiking in August will be fine by October?
Spikes usually last about four weeks. We start changing our behaviors in week two. We cancel shit late in week three, so by the time the event would have happened, the surge has moved on to some other locale.
Sure enough, when they canceled the concert in August, the Louisiana 7-day rolling case count was hovering just under 6,000. By the time the concert was scheduled, in mid-October, it was below 700. As anyone who’s paid any attention over the past two years could have predicted.
Again, if this came to pass on 2020, I might give it a pass. 2021 has no fucking excuse.
Unfortunately, we only like to focus on surges when they happen in locales belonging to the other political party. Then it proves that they’re doing everything wrong and we’re doing everything right. Then we like to ignore it when it hits our party’s part of the country. If the only pattern we’re looking for is red or blue, I guess we’ll never find that subtle nuance of four-week surges. It’s not like we can find them ad infinitum in the statistics.
Such is life here at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. Make your plans, have the plans change, then after you’ve adjusted to round five of the bullshit, they just cancel it altogether. Take the vaccine but then act like the vaccine doesn’t work. Who are the real anti-vaxxers, the people who refuse to take it or the people who take it and then ask all the other vaccinated people around them to wear triple-ply masks?
So yeah, 2021, it’s time you move the fuck on. A sequel is supposed to switch things up a bit, using the same characters in different contexts, maybe try a different theme. But this Covid sequel is just marking time, retreading the same tired plot with promises that some special guest star might excite us here and there. If the writers can’t nail Empire Strikes Back, dare I ask what drivel is coming in Return of the Jedi?
Or Superman III.
Let’s at least hope this is only a trilogy. If it’s Fast and Furious, schedule my aneurysm for 2023.