There are a lot of strands running through old Duder’s head as we pass the one year anniversary of Covid disrupting our lives here in Boston. Last year at this time my family cancelled a scheduled vacation and spent a week at home hunkered with a list of activities and goals for ourselves to pass the time. One year later, we again have a week of vacation, and again we’re home with a list of activities and goals. One of them was NOT to watch the Zach Snyder “cut” of Justice League, but my son Ezra thought we should, and we did, and now I’m 4 hours older with little to show for it. With that behind me, let’s get caught up on a crazy year.
Covid at work and at home
Despite a year of working in the ER with Covid all around, very few people I work with got sick and none died. Likewise, none of my close family or friends have gotten very sick or died. I am fortunate that between my well prepared emergency room and living in a city where people generally took Covid seriously, Covid has not taken a greater toll on me and my loved ones. Some of my friends were not so fortunate. Masks and social distancing were and remain the most important steps in keeping yourself and those around you safe, period. Don’t let up now!
A year ago I was scouring hardware stores looking for PPE and respirator masks. Thanks to hard work by my colleagues in the ER and donations from friends and family, we’ve generally had what we needed to stay safe, at least we thought so given the limited information we had as things unfolded. We still reuse single use N95 masks and I horde stacks of them in my locker, but I don’t think of that as weird anymore, just gross. I only ended up using my full face respirator with internal microphone and speaker pack for a few days, but trust me it was awesome being a medical Darth Vader.
More than the sick patients, the fear of getting sick, and the work conditions, the hardest thing for me was the foolishness and ignorance of our nation’s leadership. Coming home after seeing case after case of Covid only to hear from social media, pundits and our President that “it’s just the flu”, “it’ll disappear,” “stop testing”, “just wait for herd immunity” and “hospitals are faking it for the money”, that idiocy made it hard to go back the next day and do it all again. A year later with over 500,000 Americans dead, it should be clear how competence, compassion, belief in science, and commitment to effective government are crucial qualities in the people we vote for. I hope enough of our country learns that lesson.
As for Covid in Boston, cases dropped off from the post holiday spike but have plateaued at a high rate still. I see a heartbreaking pattern of multigenerational households where the grandchild gets infected, often from someone they are dating, and the rest of the family gets sick, and the grandparent gets it the worst and winds up in the hospital. At this point there is little mystery in how Covid spreads and how to prevent it, and letting up on masking and social distancing is just as dangerous now as it was a year ago.
Vaccines to the rescue
After a year of visiting my parents in the parking lot of their building, last week, with all of us vaccinated, we got to see them indoors and eat a meal. That isn’t a miracle, that is the result of hard work by thousands of people who believe in science and the role of government. Though my state is making strides in vaccination, there is still mistrust of the vaccine among many and lack of access for many more. If you have access to the vaccine, please please please take advantage of it, for you and the people you love. Developing this vaccine within a year of the Coronavirus outbreak is one of the greatest achievements in the history of medicine, so don’t miss out.
With all the news about vaccination and restrictions relaxing it is easy to think that the danger has passed, but sadly it hasn’t. I think we will see further spikes in many places as relaxed Covid precautions outpace the vaccination rates, and we may see another tightening of Covid restrictions before we get to a new normal.
Can’t stop the comics
Thanks to and in spite of Covid, I’ve kept the comic book projects rolling over the last year. We successfully funded, produced, printed and shipped By the Time I Get to Dallas #2 and the Trinity Project Vol 1+2 in June, for a total of 54 pages of new story produced in 2020. Then for fun I did a specialty book, the By the Time I Get to Dallas Creator’s Edition, which is finishing up at the printers now and should ship to backers in the next month. And we’re going strong with art production well under way for Dallas #3—ten pages are already pencilled by Juanfran Moyano. I’m resisting the urge to show everything, but I’m am giving you the first reveal of artwork for #3.
The Trinity Project is going strong as well, with art production on the next scene underway. As I approach the midpoint of both stories and they start to intertwine things will get tricky for me as a writer and producer, but I hope it pays off. As Chuck Pineau said in a recent review, “It’s like a mini-Lost.”Which is awesome cause Lost is definitely an inspiration for me. Spoiler alert: my ending will be way better, I promise.
The goal is to have all this stuff ready for a Kickstarter launch near the end of the year, maybe sooner. Must…keep…moving…
How I’m staying sane today
The only thing I hate more than running is hearing about running, so I will not be proselytizing or posting times here. But I’ve been itching to feel like I still live here when all the things I like to do—eat at restaurants, sit at bars, see live music, go to museums—are difficult or impossible. In the fall I thought running would be a way to at least get out and feel like I still belong here. So I thought that, and keep thinking that, for 6 months, and finally made myself do it for the first time last week. I’m three runs in and don’t hate it like I thought I would, and I really enjoy exploring Boston in a new way. There, enough about running.
The Shadow Doctor
Cool comic alert #1. I usually focus on indie comics, but this book from Aftershock Comics written by Peter Calloway is a direct market title worth seeking out. It is a true story about Calloway’s grandfather, Nathaniel Calloway, who as a young Black man during Prohibition helped mobsters smuggle whiskey, then struggled to put himself through medical school, only to find no hospital would hire a Black physician and no bank would loan him money to start a private practice. Broke and desperate during the Great Depression, he returns to the mafia looking for backing to start his practice. I’ve only seen the first book but man what a start!
Cool comic alert #2. This comic a real inspiration. I’ve talked about this one before but I finally have the finished book in my hands. Writer artist Geoff Weber began this story with his friend Trent Beckett in 2005, developing a classic 80’s style kid’s adventure—Stranger Things way before there was a Stranger Things. Trent died in 2007 but Geoff kept the torch burning, continuing to write, draw and self publish The Scientists as a four-part comics series. He finally completed the project with a hard cover collection in the summer of 2020. It is a great package and a fun all-ages read. Most of my comic books are on a basement shelf but I keep this one at my desk next to Save the Cat and my other “how to” books. If I hit a rough patch in my comics projects I just need to look at The Scientists to remember all that matters is to keep moving and finish the thing.
Okay, this was a long blast but we had a lot to catch up on. I’m going to try to be more consistent with this newsletter, aiming for a shorter post every two weeks or so. We’ll see which last longer, that or the running, but goals are important…
Bonus punctuation fact
Did you know that ellipses are considered the height of passive aggression among young people on the texting/social media? You’ve been warned.
Colin is an emergency physician in Boston, Massachusetts. The seeds of his comics project were sown when he took a sabbatical from the ER for creative writing. His creative non-fiction has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.