Friday morning I walked into the Campbell County Public Health building at 8:35 a.m. and when I walked out at 8:51 a.m., I was halfway to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
My appointment was scheduled for 8:45 in the morning, so I arrived early because I’d been told there was some paperwork to fill out. As soon as I completed my form, a nurse was ready to escort me to the exam room to administer the vaccine. It was quick and painless, both figuratively and literally. The majority of my time there was spent in the lobby after the shot, where the nurse advised me to wait for 10 minutes to make sure there were no adverse effects.
I started my 10-minute wait-and-see four minutes before my scheduled appointment time.
Gillette, Wyoming, is a somewhat strange place to sit and think quietly about having just received the vaccine, this wonderful achievement in medical science. I’m quite certain I was able to get the vaccine as early as I was because Wyoming is a sparsely populated state, and of those sparse numbers of people, many in this town and county did not want the vaccine. I am a beneficiary of their hesitancy or disbelief, whichever you wish to call it.
It felt like an accomplishment, all the same, like I’d gotten this special thing that so many others also want. But my life hasn’t looked as disrupted as many in other cities. I don’t have the stories of days on end cooped up in my apartment. I don’t have the stories of months between fill-ups at the gas station. I’ve been at work, in the office, since I started the job in June, back when there were only 10 cases in a county the size of Connecticut. I was in the office in the late fall when our county’s positivity rate was truly mind-boggling. So was the rest of the office. I met sources in person for interviews. So did the rest of the office. Despite all of that, I was never sick.
While life slowed down, it looked normal here. We made personal decisions to do fewer things out and about in the community, but there was little local pressure to curtail our activities. There’s little rhyme or reason to any of this, from those who the virus affects so seriously, from those it seems to overlook, from those who get it and those who don’t, from those who live and those who die.
As a result, it felt backwards or unfair, in a way, that I would be able to get the vaccine with so little effort. One call on a Tuesday and an appointment for the same Friday. The vaccination scheduling makes no sense. An editor in our office called in mid-February to get an appointment; he’s scheduled for March 19. Another reporter called maybe half an hour before I did to get his appointment: March 19. Then still another reporter called the same day I’d gotten my shot, and his appointment is scheduled for next week, a full week ahead of those scheduled for the 19th.
Maybe it’s because of how little sense it makes that I feel so thankful. Maybe that’s what I was reckoning with as I sat in the lobby of the Public Health building, never really fearing that any adverse reaction was going to happen. And it didn’t, which is perhaps yet another thing with no rhyme or reason. But here I sit, feeling exceedingly lucky to be one 17% of Americans with at least one shot so far.
Ten Worth Your Time
This cover story from the most recent Texas Monthly was a trip back to elementary school and Accelerated Reader for me. Hank the Cowdog had plenty of editions as of the mid-to-late-90s, but now John R. Erickson, the character’s creator, has written and published more than 70 books of the famed Australian shepherd who’s the head of ranch security. As entertaining as those stories are, they pale in comparison to Erickson’s own story. He’s like a cowboy version of The Most Interesting Man in The World.
This perfectly timed story from Denver’s city magazine 5280’s senior writer Robert Sanchez about the challenges and drawbacks of distance learning for students is near and dear to my heart. It’s very reminiscent of the work I’ve been doing all year in the realm of writing feature stories on a strange year for students and educators and parents. It’s been a year of remote education for many, and the ramifications are still not fully known. But there are countless stories of students falling behind, and it puts in perspective how lucky those parents who live where I do feel about being able to get their students back into the classroom back in August.
This Vanity Fair story reminded me of a podcast by the same journalists that I started but never kept up with called Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen. Both are the story of a fraudster who was impersonating powerful women in Hollywood, including Deb Snyder, the wife of Zack Snyder about whom I wrote about last week from this same issue of VF. The fraudster would target various lower level Hollywood types, like trainers, make-up artists, photographers, etc., who were looking for their big break. The fraudster would convince them to fly around the world to take part in movies that weren’t actually being made, despite projects looking like they were real. I finished the podcast, which is 10 episodes long and thoroughly reported. Whether it needs to be 10 episodes long is up for debate, but I will give it credit that most longform podcasts don’t deserve: It comes to a conclusion as opposed to just trailing off after taking up so much of your time. (For more on fraudsters, check out this previous post.)
If you’ve been watching WandaVision like I have, you know the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first foray into television came to an end this week. Some were disappointed with the finale, but if you, like I, found it to be low stakes gap-filler between the next films, then maybe you too found it to be just fine. This article for Vulture highlights the very OK-ness of it all. A fitting paragraph reads:
The lovely thing about WandaVision is that it doesn’t have to matter that the ending is a big obvious rubber band looping this show together with all the shows and movies to come. Its episodic TV form means that there’ve been little endings all along, homey little sitcom-y conclusions that propelled the show forward into next week’s episode, yes, but which also gave Wanda and Vision a chance to sink down into a brief feeling of calm resolution. Endings of TV shows are overrated; the end of the last episode of a show is just one more ending after a whole long string of them. If a series takes advantage of that form (as WandaVisiondoes), the finale does not need to become a referendum on whether the whole thing mattered. Finales do not have to be — should not be — pass/fail final exams. Feeling disappointed with an ending does not have to change how you felt about the beginning. Platitudes can sometimes be true! It’s the journey, not the destination!
While on the topic of comic books, I thought I’d share a collection of podcast episodes that I’ve been enjoying about the business of superheroes. The fine folks at NPR’s Planet Money have done three episodes where they go about trying to break into the superhero comics game, just on a scale much smaller than that at which Marvel and DC play. The first episode sees them trying to buy a bottom-of-the-barrel Marvel superhero that is unlikely to ever be revived. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go that well. The second episode is an exploration of the concept of public domain, where creative works eventually revert after a long enough time. The third episode sees them assembling their own team of comics creators to revive a long-dormant superhero that had reverted into the public domain.
Recently, I bragged about my subscription to the newsletter called The Browser, which sends a daily collection of five articles that are guaranteed to be unique and interesting. This week, it shared a gem from years ago, a story that had originally been printed in the print edition of Rock and Ice, a magazine dedicated to rock climbing and mountain climbing. During the Cold War, the CIA paid some of the best alpinists in the country to climb a peak in the Himalaya Mountains to set up a plutonium-powered spy device to watch over the Chinese missile tests. The devices were lost in avalanches and are still buried somewhere up there, leaking radiation.
Rueters published a powerful photo essay of a man who won’t leave his contaminated home near Fukushima, Japan’s nuclear zone but rather devotes his time to saving and caring for the forgotten cats of the area.
Speaking of cats, The Atavist Magazine recently released a gripping story of a community coming together after it became apparent that there was a serial killer preying on cats. This is a story that will sound somewhat familiar to those who’ve seen the Netflix documentary series Don’t F* with Cats. (If you haven’t watched the series and think you might (or simply want to do so unspoiled), I encourage you to watch the series before reading the story. The series, if unspoiled, features a great “Oh shit!” moment when the story shifts directions and becomes something bigger that initially thought to be. The Atavist story will spoil that turn in the span of a few sentences, but they aren’t the same story, so don’t think having seen the series means you should skip the piece.
Now that we’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean, here’s the mashup you didn’t know you needed. Famed (yet elusive) street artist Banksy synched up a recent project with the inimitable Bob Ross narrating one of his classic landscapes. Banksy’s art is on the wall of a famed prison that held Oscar Wilde for the crime of “gross indecency” (being gay). The piece is a clear homage to Wilde’s incarceration there. (h/t to Kottke for first making me aware of this.)
On the topic of the United Kingdom and homosexuality, you should absolutely watch the five-episode series It’s a Sin on HBO Max. It’s a powerful coming of age story of five friends in 1980s London as the AIDS crisis is gaining momentum. The story is a fantastic lesson in economy of writing. In just five episodes, the show crafts characters that feel fully realized and have you rooting for them, worrying about them, hoping for them. With the subject matter known at the outset, it’s no surprise that there is no small amount of tragedy and sadness in the story, but it’s incredibly moving on many levels.
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