CoVid Star Power

We are all the stars of our own lives.  This applies to each of us, whether we choose to luxuriate in the spotlight or are repelled by the mere thought of being noticed.

All of this is to say we have the ultimate say on every choice we make because at the end of the day we are the person taking the action.  It’s not only our name and reputation, but it’s our decision that keeps the entire project that is US afloat.

And nowhere has this been more apparent than in the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases across the United States.

Oh god

New COVID-19 cases are increasing in all 50 states in the US at an alarming rate.  Sure it’s worse in Florida, Missouri and the Arkansas border than it might be than where you’re reading this, but rest assured cases are also UP where you are.

Thanks Delta-Variant.  Thanks mask refusers.  Thanks pandemic deniers.  And most of all, thanks TO THE NON-VACCINATED.  They are all truly the STARS of their OWN SHOW.

Me, 24/7

The above sentence is meant to be read and/or said aloud with sarcasm.  You can also throw in a dollop of anger, impatience and even hate on my part on any given day or if the mood strikes you.   And given the news lately, it likely will.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Friday that this is becoming the pandemic of the unvaccinated.  This is because that population accounts for over 99% of recent COVID deaths.  However, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t get a mild case of sick with perhaps lingering  lifetime effects from this disease.   

Nor does it mean that kids under 12 years old, who right now don’t even qualify to get a shot, won’t soon be in danger.  In fact, doctors tell us that if virus keeps surging the youngest members of our population will be the most affected.  Even now in Mississippi, a state with one of our lowest vaccination rates, seven children are in intensive care with COVID-19 and two are on ventilators.

Never more relevant

I won’t bore you with too many figures but just know that new cases are up 10% over what they were a week ago and 38 of our 50 states have seen a 50% increase. 

Across the US there were an average of 26,448 new cases per day over the last week. 

That might not seem scary in a country with 328 million people until you realize this figure was 67% higher than the week before.

If you take into account where we were in COVID-19 cases in, say, January 2020, and then look back and do the math of just a few months later, you’ll catch my drift.  Meaning we could be moving into deep sh-it once again if we don’t get our acts together.

Translation?  The answer is not to run to the nearest bar or local Med Men outlet (Note:  Google the latter) to not deal with what’s happening.  Instead, it’s to act like the best star in the world (Note: Think Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep) and step up, do your homework and carry the entire production on your shoulders if need be).

If we lockdown again, I’m ready for my Wilson phase

I live in Los Angeles, the most populated county in the country.  Because we’ve had a FIVE HUNDRED PER CENT increase in cases in the last month, an indoor mask mandate has been reinstated  as of Saturday night this weekend. 

What does this mean?  It means that if you go inside a supermarket, a workplace, a gym, a theatre or ANY INDOOR PUBLIC SETTING YOU HAVE TO WEAR A MASK.

It’s said that L.A. is leading the fight against the Delta Variant of COVID-19.  But, well, are we?

Or is it more like this?

I was fully vaccinated at the end of February and since then have always worn a mask at indoor public settings.  Except, well, a couple of times where I sat indoors at a restaurant when there was social distancing and I had to take my mask off to eat.  And then slowly decided to keep it off while I was inside because it seemed easier and no one else had one on.

Translation:  Truth be told, I never felt totally comfortable being unmasked in an indoor public space after I was vaccinated, even when I was six feet apart from others.  But I did it a few times (Note: Okay, maybe even more) anyway.

As a guy who used to lean towards the hypochondriacal, until I got older and realized there is truly NO escape from death, I figured that with the vaccine I could drop a shoulder strap or two at a socially distanced indoor restaurant. 

The Delta variant’s best friend

Still, there was no way I’d be doing a full strip indoors, even in L.A., at the movies or the, well, supermarket.  At this point, I no longer have any desire to prove just how comfortable I am onstage or center stage EVERYWHERE, even though, living in Hollywood, there is ALWAYS a chance you can be discovered, or rediscovered, at any moment and at any given age.  Or so the legend goes.

Nevertheless, it seems far too many Americans do see themselves as the center stage star of their own burlesque routine in towns big and small all across the country.  Rather than recognize they are part of a cast of millions in a daily blockbuster production called real-life, they see themselves as the spoiled pampered star at their local dinner theatre doing the same old thing in the same old way to less and less and FAR LESS success.  But, I mean, why change now, right?

Keep tellin’ yourself that, Norma

Those who’ve spent their adult lives in the entertainment industry realize at some point there is no reasoning with certain of these types.  They believe it is their right to act and strut and sing out exactly as they always have even if they put the entire rest of the cast and crew, in fact the entire show or project, at risk.

There is no shared responsibility. There is only the wants, needs AND DESIRES of the STAR. The star’s only real life are those moments that they are center stage and, for stars like these, those moments are every second of every waking hour of every single day. Consequences for all others be damned.

By the way, that kind of star doesn’t always have to be the performer.  It can be the director, the producer, the writer or the financier in the background.  It can even be, um, a former president of the United States.

HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED

Or it can be the person staring back at you each morning in the mirror, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

We all have the final say on what we do individually.  It’s our names, our reputations and our decisions that keep us afloat and, en masse, it is all of those things that keep the entire project that is the U.S. afloat.

Or sink it quicker than a summer stock production of The Sound Music in Atlanta featuring the Trump family.

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain

Light vs. Dark

When Joe Biden officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president this week in a forceful and, frankly, awe inspiring speech, he opened his remarks with a quote from the late African American civil rights activist Ella Baker:

Give people light… and they will find the way.

I’m not much of a light vs. darkness guy because I tend to see the world in infinite shades of over analytical grays.  This accounts for my lifelong disinterest in comic books and all things superhero and sword and sorcer-ish from the time I was a pre-pubescent up through the present day.

Sometimes I wonder if I ever would have made it out of young adolescence with all my limbs intact if I had grown up in the age of Harry Potter.  (Note: I’m the kid in the corner with his arms folded wondering why we can’t instead talk about Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie).

Also me in the corner

Though I imagine I might have figured out a way to find value in Harry’s lessons.  I’ve pretty much had to do this as a writing mentor for any number of students inspired not only by the worlds of Potter, but by the actions in Marvel, DC, Spielberg and Lucas.

I try to temper my enthusiasm

Of course, the lesson in this is to not be so quick to dismiss out of hand something that is not your thing.  If you do it that fast it is likely the universe will actually put you in a place where you will absolutely be forced to keep dealing with Dumbledore or the inevitable Avengers 5, 6, or 7 until you can stop dismissing it from way up on the very high perch from which you sit and choose to judge.

Such was my experience listening to Mr. Biden – oh heck, let’s just call him Joe cause that’s what he likes anyway and that’s what fits these days when you’re speaking with or writing about him.

And Joe it is

As Joe talked of being the harbinger of light in these dark Trumpian times I had a knee jerk, split second intellectual reaction of imperious resistance.

He can’t possibly be putting it this simply in these horribly awful and complicated times, could he?  I mean, this isn’t Star Wars or a Marvel movie or even one of my students’ basic notions for an as-of-yet unwritten studio blockbuster.  This is real life.  And real life these days is….

EXACTLY about darkness and light.

Much to my surprise.

It helps that it’s color coded

This is because in that instant I finally got why many young people of all ages crave superheroes and sorcery.  When things go so bad all around you it helps to have a powerful figure of stature on a stage that big drawing the curtain back, looking you in the eye and assuring you that the power of the light inside you is enough to fight the darkness attacking you IF you deign to believe in it.

In fact, in this case it is especially powerful because, unlike most superheroes, you don’t have to fight the fight alone.  You have a whole force of ordinary people very much like you and if you simply pool your forces together you can together shine bright enough to…

*cough* *cough*

Well, I was gonna say light up the lights of Broadway, which explains so much of why I never gravitated towards superheroes to begin with.  But instead, let’s go with vanquish the darkest of enemies, and call it a day.

Because by now you know what both I (and Joe) mean by the metaphor.

There are some moments in time where simplicity rules no matter how complicated you think it all is and I want to get.

Well, this too

We’re living through incredible darkness at the moment, as Joe’s 25-minute speech pointed out.

  • There are 176,000+ Americans dead from COVID-19
  • There are 5.68 million Americans infected with the virus
  • The U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths
  • More than 50 million Americans have filed for unemployment this year
  • More than 10 million Americans will lose their health insurance this year

And yet this just in from the President’s counselor and all-around right hand gal Kellyanne Conway when asked about plans for this week’s Republican convention:

You are going to see and hear from many Americans whose lives have been monumentally impacted by this administration’s policies.  We definitely want to improve on the dour and sour mood of the D.N.C.

Ah yes, behold all the doom and gloom.

But, um, how will that strategy improve on the dour and sour mood of the D.N.C.?  I mean, if we actually have real Americans speak? 

Well, there might be a casting call going on right now since its just been announced that two producers from Trump’s The Apprentice have been signed to help guide the festivities and wrangle talent.But here’s what we do know at the moment.  The Missouri couple that a few months ago toted assault weapons at Black Lives Matter demonstrators, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, are scheduled to appear.  As is Nicholas Sandmann, that smirky Kentucky teenager who got up in the face of Native American elder Nathan Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial last year and tried to stare him down with a Cheshire cat smile that only the Church Lady could love.

Talk about darkness vs. the light.  Or shall we say, the Light vs. the Dark.

Ugh, fine, I get it.

Well luckily, I don’t have to because Joe did it for us in his way.  All  we have to do now is follow his lead and make the right – I mean left – choice.

Though admittedly I have a ways go with that.  On Monday, the night before the convention began and three days before Joe spoke, an elderly masked woman and I were riding up the elevator alone to the same floor in a medical building on our way to different doctor appointments (Note:  Don’t worry, I was only getting an allergy shot).

In any event, during the ride she suddenly turned to me and  said:

Excuse me sir, I’ve taken it upon myself to be the town crier, in this upcoming election you must vote for Trump.

To say the least…

To which I proceeded to say things to her I have never heard myself  say out loud to anyone and couldn’t print or put on TV.  This was after excoriating her on her feelings about Black and Brown people and telling her to turn off Fox News and educate herself.

Though before she accused Joe of being senile and having Alzheimer’s.  To which I shouted back at her down the hall (Note: We were no longer in the elevator):

Well, you should know about that!  And good luck with your message in Los Angeles….HONEY!!!

Yep

This is all another way of saying the light has probably come for me and us just in the knick of time.

Sutton Foster – “Gimme Gimme” (from Thoroughly Modern Millie)