I have something in common with Aaron Rodgers: COVID

I pride myself on having things in common with famous people.

For example, New York Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter and I have the same birth date: June 26. Jeter is exactly a year older than me.

I used to tell my editors at the local newspaper that I expected to be making what Jeter made when I was his age. The joke, of course, being I will never be Jeter’s age because he’s a year older.

The other joke is that newspapers don’t pay more for writers. They lay them off and hire young people at half the salary. That’s less funny.

I recently learned I have something in common with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: We both share a fondness for actress Shailene Woodley.

Nah, I’m kidding. I’ve nothing against Rodgers’ fiancée, but to give you an idea of how big a fan I am of Woodley, I had to look up how to spell her first name.

Like Aaron Rodgers, I have tested positive for COVID-19.

Unlike Rodgers, apparently, I am vaccinated.

This is one of those breakthrough infections that took out so many of the Yankees’ players and coaches early in the season. See? I still have things in common with my beloved Yankees.

I do feel a little lame. I got COVID more than 18 months into the pandemic. How behind the times can I get? No wonder my younger classmates sometimes shout “OK, boomer!” at me. I’m actually Gen X, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings with facts.

I don’t feel bad. If it had been any other time in my life, I would have assumed this was a chest cold. It feels like I get one with every change of season.

That’s how I treated the symptoms: runny nose, a slight wheeze, and a mild, productive cough.

What an odd medical term “productive cough” is. I suppose you need some less inelegant way of saying “hacking up lung butter,” but still “productive” is something I associate with work rather than the convulsions of my chest while ill.

Anyway, Mom 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines hairdresser who raised me after my parents died, suggested I get a test. My Uncle Jim recently endured a breakthrough COVID infection.

What could it hurt? The test is free. I drove to a sight by Hoover High School. They offered a rapid test with results within an hour and a slower, more accurate test.

I chose the slower route.

I got a text in just more than 24 hours: I was positive for SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

I informed Drake University, which told me to stay off campus for 10 days since I started showing symptoms, which was Saturday.

I went to my Shakespeare class Monday morning to deliver a presentation, felt more peaked, and went for my test.

I feel bad for my classmates. Not only did they have to endure my Shakespeare presentation — which included references to “The Simpsons,” “Petticoat Junction,” and Akira Kurosaki’s “Ran” — they were also exposed to COVID.

That’s a crap morning.

I mean I think they can forgive the COVID exposure, that’s life in a pandemic. But a “Petticoat Junction” reference? That’s a step too far.

I informed my doctor, the magnificent Shawna Basener. She worries about my asthma, which tends to be sensitive to seasonal changes and my animal allergy.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” star Sarah Michelle Gellar has asthma and is allergic to cats. We’re practically twins! I’m not famous, just fame adjacent.

Dr. Basener wants me to go to the hospital Friday for something called Bamlanivimab treatment, or Bam treatment for short.

I like the nickname “Bam treatment.”

The 1966 “Batman” TV series displayed a symphony of onomatopoeia. “Bam!” I’m almost in the same company as the late, great Adam West.

Anyway, the Bam treatment, delivered by IV, sends in some synthetic antibodies to fight the spread of COVID while my own immune system churns out its own virus Avengers team to pummel the virus out of my system.

Bam is best for people within 10 days of their initial symptoms (that’s me) and have a complicating health factor such as asthma (me!) and obesity (sigh, also me).

Quarantine isn’t so bad, other than being sick.

I recall a time in high school when I got grounded for having a girl over to the house while Parents 2.0 were out of town.

That sounds more adventurous than it was. We sat in separate chairs and watched a video we rented. It didn’t rise to the level of “Netflix and chill.”

We actually sat and watched a movie — nothing happened. Then she dropped me off at my grandparents’ house, where I spent the night.

Anyway, Parents 2.0 were ticked off. A girl in the house without supervision was out of the question. They grounded me for the weekend.

I remember it being a beautiful October Saturday.

I mowed the lawn, showered, and finished my homework. I watched the baseball playoffs on TV.

Mom 2.0 decided to give me a haircut. She asked me how my day was going. I told her it was a great day. The baseball game was good. I was caught up on my reading.

Mom 2.0 tells this story to this day. My response chagrined her. She thought I would be mopey, forced to stay home all weekend. The lesson for both of us is you can’t punish an introvert by ordering them to stay home and keep to themselves.

I am, however, ready to be done with my Aaron Rodgers impression.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
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America in the age of permanent unease

Photo by nikko macaspac via Unsplash.

Everything feels wrong. The pandemic. Quarantine. Economic collapse. Unemployment. Racism. Violence by police. Violence against police. Outside agitators. Vandalism. Destruction. Theft. Curfew.

Hell, even Lady Gaga’s album is only so-so.

I live with chronic depression and acute anxiety.

And, friends, I’m cracking.

This shit is getting to me.

I’ve sworn off the news. Me. A 27-year newsman. I once got beat up in a Des Moines park after hours while covering violence in the park after hours. I wasn’t trying to be ironic. It just worked out there.

That was me.

Today, in a mess of free-flowing tear gas and pepper spray?

Hard pass.

Admitting that to myself makes me feel … lesser.

I’ve no call to be there. I’m still doing my journalism, but I’m independent now.

If you’re going to get mixed up with cops, protesters and rioters, you better have a good brand name with access to lawyers.

I don’t.

So, I’m sidelined like an everyday citizen.

These distress the big chuck of me that fears missing out, that wants to be in the thick of it and wants to lead from the front.

Yet a sizable chunk of me feels relief that I’m out of the game.

Just typing that sentence forces me to choke down bile. It disgusts me that I’ve lost whatever it was that sent me running toward the fray with a police scanner on my belt and my Blackberry (yeah, I’m that old) Twitter feed open.

But now?

Now I’m just a morbidly obese unemployed guy desperately seeking jobs along with 10 million of my fellow Americans.

If I’m not a newsman, what I am?

The confusion of self-worth and employment is an ugly side effect of capitalism on personal psychology.

We all more than our jobs. Yet, we spent a lot of damn time on those jobs. What value do I have if I’m not producing anything?

If I’m not making money, then I must be a lowlife skimming off the bottom of society, getting by on government subsidies.

I want to contribute. But Wall Street told me to take a hike because after 22 years full-time, I made a salary just big enough to be too big for an industry burning to the ground before our eyes.

I struggle to sleep. More accurately, I struggle to get to sleep. Around 7 p.m., I start getting so edgy you could cut cheese on my raw nerves.

I know in a few hours the city will shut down. The quarantine gave way to the curfew.

There was a time I would be headed out to sling sentences and stack paragraphs. But I’m sidelined, probably permanently.

And that hurts.

I can’t go to the bar. It’s closed. Hell, I can’t even order a pizza.

I try to give my life some purpose. I make daily contact with my friends. I check in with my parents a couple times a week.

I’ve asked my friend Paul to call me when he leaves home for work in Memphis.

I’ll get up at the same time and start my day. I look for jobs, set up interviews for future columns and maybe write something that is less whiny than this.

Yes, I could set an alarm. But I will ignore that alarm. When my friend calls, I’ve made a commitment to another person to participate in the day despite my desperate desire just to check out.

Even with my buddy’s help, I just can’t seem to settle in. I feel like a house cat that sees some ghost on the spectral plain and then randomly sprints out of the room.

Except I don’t run and even if I did, I don’t know where I’d go.

I try escapism, my drug of choice. I put on some of the new Looney Tunes cartoons on the HBOMax streaming service last night.

They echoed the classics I watched as a kid, but they weren’t the same. They felt more frenetic and neutered at the same time.

Yosemite Sam doesn’t use guns anymore because of course not. Yet, poor Sylvester the cat was skinned and had his muscles peeled down to the bone in the kind of gross-out comedy I would expect from Ren and Stimpy.

But I will never be able to watch and enjoy new cartoons the way I did the ones I saw when I was a kid.

That’s because when I was a kid, my responsibility was to have pants and a shirt on, eat a bowl of cereal, generally be quiet in the early morning and not make a mess in the kitchen.

It was just me, my dad’s Navy cap from World War II and my Pink Panther doll, who was my very best friend.

To a 5-year-old, that’s all there is to the world: Saturday morning cartoons and peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches.

Growing up brings responsibility. Rent. Mortgages. Car payments. Insurance. Bills. Still, even with that responsibility, there’s a rhythm.

These days, everything is out of step and unpredictable.

Unpredictable, like spontaneity, is overrated. Give me consistency and calm. I am 45 and I long for slow news days.

Mostly I just worry. I worry I’m not going to make it. All these years into adulthood and I’ve never felt closer to failure.

People have been generous supporting this blog and every little bit helps.

I’ve picked up one or two freelance jobs, but not enough to make monthly expenses once my severance dries up.

Unemployment is increased at least through July. There may be more stimulus. There may be expanded unemployment.

The coronavirus may peak. The racial unrest may settle.

I remember the words of wise, old Randy Evans when I used the word “may” in a news story many years ago.

“Finney, do you know what the problem with the word ‘may’ is?” he said. “You could just as easily say ‘may not.’”

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

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