Day 259. I found my favorite socks. They were hiding right where I imagined they’d be, in the top third of a ‘scarves and wooly socks’ bag, stored away since last March, mistakenly, overzealously chucked in amongst the cold weather things. I know a lot is going on in the world, but King’s journalism taught me never to bury the lead. These super socks are so high performance that I can wear them two days in a row or on a trip around the world and still feel fresh. I’m delighted they’re back in my life. With the right pair of socks on, I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.
I’ve got an eight-day Golden Week holiday, Mooncake Festival, and the National Holiday. We decided not to tempt fate and fly to Sanya (Chinese Hawaii) but instead spend a few days at Fairy Mountain, a foggy and mystical area 4 hours drive from the city. The news is reporting, with bated breath upon the 550 million Chinese traveling this week, calling it an extreme test of our ability to root out the virus and our claim to be mainly safe. We are casting large nets and trawling the houtons, mahjong halls, buffet lines, amusement parks, national gardens, and hotels. I am using my better mask now and will keep high-level vigilance and protocols up for the month of October, after months of more lax ones because we’ve had no community spread in Chongqing.
In order to satisfy hotels and national parks that I’m not a danger to myself and others, I was informed I’d need to go back to the fever clinic and get another swab jammed basically into my brain so I can prove I’m COVID-free. I woke up – on holiday – at 7, made coffee, some honey water for Shaolin. We drank some yogurt and left in a taxi. I was waiting at the fever clinic desk at 5 to 8:00 am and got swabbed deep and hard in my nasal cavity.
Back at home, Shaolin took a nap. I finished off my coffee, played, and won two NHL hockey games with my dad. He’s doing well, still quarantined at home since January, his only outings being a weekly drive to the cottage and recently, after dinner walks with Ming around the neighborhood, keeping a reasonable 10-15 meters distance from anyone else.
After a quick homemade pasta lunch, I asked Shaolin if we’d be doing her ‘coffee meet with old friend’ bilingual or if it would be better for her to go alone and not sweat having to slow down for me. It was a good friend, one of the best friends from Beijing, she said, so I decided to come along.
Starbucks has an Irish cream ice coffee now, and I got a massive one, and it was pretty awesome. Her friend, Li Jun, showed up soon, with a lovely looking Leica camera, and started snapping candids of us. It’s hard to be grumpy when someone tells you that you look fabulous and takes your pictures, so I guess it got off to a good start. You never know when you’re going to be snapped in iconic photos that might best represent your gift to the world by a famous photographer you bump into at a Starbucks, so you should always look your best. Well, it’s one theory anyway. I was happy I’d shaved and was wearing one of my favorite shirts for the impromptu photoshoot, and enjoyed watching Li Jun and Shaolin catch up and interact. Everyone is a universe, and he opened doors to her Beijing days when everyone was a fashion designer, model, famous photographer, or movie star and when an up and coming singer wrote a song about the prettiest girl in China and suddenly started playing sold-out stadium shows. And then she dumped him so that she could enjoy her life without paparazzi in her face. At least that’s how a Leo tells it, and I kind of don’t mind it that way, because if Elton John couldn’t keep her happy, I am not going to feel bad if some days are touch and go. It always is, in any relationship, I think. Resilience is the key to good living. All in all, Jun is a nice guy and a great photographer. Later we bought some warm PJs for Shaolin and two new pairs of jeans for me. New jeans are comfy. We bought Ethan a gap sweater with fire trucks. It’s a bit big for him now, but it’s cute, and he can grow into it. He likes it.
Later we had family hotpot, and there was one’ brother in law’ that loved to smoke; from the moment I saw him outside the restaurant, through the dinner, and I remembered how much smoking bothered me when I was a kid, so I talked Shaolin into getting him to swap seats with us, so he’d be farther from baby Ethan, but the smell of it started tickling my throat. I went home feeling like I was fighting a bug myself.
We surpassed 1 million COVID deaths this week, and have 35.4 million cases recorded now worldwide. The actual numbers of infections could very well be 10X that many, but it’s a grim recorded milestone. What do I think of this pandemic? I think it really depends on your experience. I definitely didn’t expect I’d still be discussing the efficacy of masks after 250 days. If you’re in a rural area, safe with low or no COVID numbers, and just annoyed about lockdowns and shutdowns, it feels like a nothing-burger. When I woke up, 800 KM from the first epicenter in Wuhan, and we had to work really hard to protect our city. Meanwhile, all of China sent medics and supplies to the front line; I really felt like we were fighting the invisible war. We were painfully aware that if we had outbreaks all over like this and weren’t able to pool supplies, medics, and resources to a hot zone, it would have been a very different story.
We can look at three outbreaks in particular: Wuhan, Lombardy (Northern Italy), and New York City, as places where an outbreak got heavily embedded into the population, spreading far and wide before any measures were put into places such as distancing, masks, and lockdowns. These areas were reported by folks on the ground as battlegrounds, with horrible triage decisions to be made and far too many dead bodies to dispose of them with dignity. The memory of mass graves and freezer trucks full of the fallen will last in the mind of New Yorkers for a long time, I believe, and the other areas are similarly scarred. This is the power of the virus unchecked. Even with all of our measures to slow it and cut the R0 (spread), we have heavily surpassed a normal year’s flu numbers. Regular, serious flu kills 650,000 people globally in a year. Since the WHO formally declared COVID-19 a pandemic in six months, we’ve lost 1,042,000 souls with all of the lockdowns, distancing, and masks. It would be in the millions if we hadn’t. I’ve talked about this before, but with an average of 10-15% of those infected requiring serious medical care, once the hospitals become swamped the 1% fatality will look more like 8-10% or even higher, which is why it’s so important we flatten the curve and allow our front lines times to treat everyone and save those who can be saved. In itself, treatment is coming a long way, despite the politicization of medicine and a seeming preference in western countries for more expensive, less efficacious drugs than generic and effective ones used by developing nations.
In Ottawa, where my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and father’s family live, where I grew up, the chief medical officer is throwing up his arms, saying the hospitals are already close to capacity and that people need to take this seriously again. This was a gut punch for me because the second wave is just starting and we haven’t even hit flu season yet, with the fears that flu X COVID will create new problems, not only in huge numbers of sick but the combination of influenza and COVID-19 will create aggravated cases even in children with organ damage and other unknown problems. It’s grim, and I’ve always taken a precautionary attitude because it’s novel, but I’m still shocked that we’re close to capacity and haven’t even got started in terms of this new wave—— I feel some shocking, gut-wrenching days are ahead and hope my advice can help and comfort some of you.
So in a firestorm of news, Hope Hicks has COVID, then US President Trump and First Lady Melania were confirmed to have the virus. Now it seems that several senators who were involved in RBG’s replacement hearing have also contracted it. The timeline seems terrible, and people have been gaslit by the administration so much that no one knows what to believe. His debate performance was so bad against Joe Biden that you could believe he wants to get COVID, get out of the next two debates and then ‘beat it and say it’s no problem’ and he’s a superman. But has was admitted to the military hospital and in a video release, sounded really humbled. After months of referring to it as the China Virus (I cringed each time I heard it), he contracted COVID-19 on China’s national holiday and called it the coronavirus for the first time. Humbled, but still dangerous, as the supreme court is trying to undermine mail-in ballots’ legitimacy. What does an election look like where all the smart people stay home and safe, and the only people who vote don’t believe in masks, social distancing, or even that there is a virus? Joe Biden was in the spray zone at the debate, but so far has tested negative. It’s almost like masks work.
A picture is circulating from Trump’s drive around the hospital, waving at fans, that he’s got an oxygen tube tucked into the collar and behind his mask. It’s all got a bit of a trumped up North Korean feel to it, and it must be his ego rattling against the fever and effects of the virus. At his age, health, even with great treatment, it’ll be a rough ride. Schadenfreude is up 3800% as a googled term today. People are thrilled to see the “let’s make fun of the masked and the sick people” get COVID himself. Does that make us bad people? It’s debatable. What’s not debatable is after all those rallies, public appearances, and refusal to take precautions, it was high time for Trump to come face to face with Karma. Oh, and the newest news is that he was told of his COVID positive status before a $250,000 a plate GOP fundraiser and feel-better rally, at which he did not distance or wear a mask. I really can’t understand how, with what we know, anti-masking isn’t prosecuted as criminal manslaughter. I used to think that secretly, other than loving m work and life in China I missed Canadian culture, but with so many mask holes going on about their rights and freedoms, with no thought given to their obligations, it’s really just language proficiency I’m missing, well, and a bit of our art scene.
So when I plugged in my ‘Lacie Rugged 2TB’ backup drive to get a few movies off for the mountain trip, and was told the drive was corrupted and to save the data ASAP, I was shocked, plunged into damage control mode. 100GB of D&D and fantasy world-building characters and novel stuff. 300GB of music. 250GB of photos from my old life before China – for that book I’ll write one day. 50Gb of docs and random bits. What to try to save? I grasp at failing files, preview these ghostly photos, songs, and memories of a life that no longer served me and I grew out of? Why do I feel anxiety to lose them?
I remember leaving my iconic blue and white snug jersey at Dylan’s place after a party. I used to wear that for so many legendary gigs, hardcore battles against the best of the best, but I looked at it one day and said, “you have it” and moved on. What would have been a jersey for the museum became rags for cleaning up paint. Is that the audible to call? Does a writer need 300 GB of dance music? Yet I struggle. There is a book, a lesson in my life, a gigantic shift from the West’s most extreme hedonist, literally a fire breathing superstar DJ to the most reserved, hard-working Expat in Asia. How did I do it? Why? What have I learned about life and the human condition, and can any of it be distilled into a how-to guide for those that want to save the troubles I endured? It might be possible. So I will persevere to save as many pictures and docs as I can, in case they’re the one that makes it all make sense.
Now there’s a critical error, some techie glitch on the invisiblewar blog, it’s running, but the backend is on fire, so I’ll go back to posting on jorahkai.com for now and see if I can figure it out sooner than later.
I can sense a turn, up ahead.
So I took a rest, some time to double back around and am piecing some of them back together. In the end, I’ll save some, and I’ll lose some, and that’s about the best I can do.