Quote for the Day: January 24th, 2022

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Today’s quote is especially meaningful to me because I, like so many millions of people all over the country and around the world right now, am stuck in quarantine. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tested positive for COVID-19 on January 15th. Since then, both of my parents have tested positive as well. I’m grateful to be able to have the time off work to recuperate and to have subordinates who can do the work while I’m not able to, but it’s also put a great deal of financial stress on me and my family because my job doesn’t offer paid sick leave and I have bills to pay and groceries to buy. I’m also extremely grateful that while all three of us are a little the worse for wear, we’re all vaccinated and able to ride out the storm together, at home.

I’m grateful to be able to have the time off work to recuperate and to have subordinates who can do the work while I’m not able to, but it’s also put a great deal of financial stress on me and my family because my job doesn’t offer paid sick leave and I have bills to pay and groceries to buy.

It would be nice if, instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year on defense, the United States would invest more in social infrastructure, on programs that would lift people out of poverty and help them during times of crisis (like, say, a global pandemic). If we’re being honest, the pandemic would already be over (or at the very least would be more manageable) if we could have been paid to stay home while the government built up our healthcare infrastructure and shored up basic social services. It is easy to tell what a society values by what it spends its money on, and by who is authorized to make decisions for the rest of us.

It is easy to tell what a society values by what it spends its money on, and by who is authorized to make decisions for the rest of us.

Instead, we are now in our third year of the pandemic and our government cannot (or will not) even provide clear guidance on testing, quarantining, or living with the after-effects on infection. Instead, we’re thrown bones. We got a measly stimulus payment in March of last year that for most Americans didn’t cover (or barely covered) a month’s rent, and now the government has announced that it will mail out four COVID-19 tests to each household. That’s great, but not for multi-generation or multi-family households which are most likely to be BIPOC. So, just so we’re clear: $1,400 and four tests to be split up among however many people live in your household.

I’m reminded of a scene in Michael Bay’s 1998 doomsday science fiction film Armageddon, where deep-core oil driller Harry Stamper (played by Bruce Willis) is commissioned by NASA to help prevent an asteroid the size of Texas from colliding with Earth. He’s talking with NASA executive Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) about NASA’s contingency plan should something go wrong:

Harry Stamper: What’s your contingency plan?
Truman: Contingency plan?
Harry: Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?
Truman: No, we don’t have a back up plan, this is, uh…
Harry: And this is the best that you-that the government, the U.S. government could come up with? I mean, you’re NASA for crying out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up! You’re telling me you don’t have a backup plan, that these eight boy scouts right here [gestures to USAF pilots], that is the world’s hope, that’s what you’re telling me?
Truman: Yeah.

We are all Bruce Willis right now shaking our discombobulated heads at the government.

We are all Bruce Willis right now shaking our discombobulated heads at the government. I mean, not to get on my soap box or anything, but what are they truly doing to help us right now? They won’t pass voting rights legislation. They won’t protect a woman’s right to choose from draconian state houses just waiting for Roe v Wade to be overturned (or weakened beyond repair), and they won’t help their most vulnerable citizens through the most dire public health crisis of our time. What are they willing to do? A concerned (and sick) citizen would like to know.

What are they willing to do? A concerned (and sick) citizen would like to know.

Despite all of this, I know that living through COVID-19 has made me a stronger person. It’s also made me grateful to be as privileged as I am with relatively good health and people who love me and can take care of me when I’m sick. I know that my life could have looked very different had just one or two things been shifted by a measure of a couple degrees. I hope that this is over soon. I am tired of people getting sick and dying, of getting sick and staying that way, of losing their jobs and their homes and their loved ones, of an indifferent government ran by charlatans, of a night that refuses to end. But still I rise.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

My COVID-19 Diagnosis

Well, dear readers, despite all my efforts to stay safe for the past two years during this global pandemic, I am sad to say that I have been infected with COVID-19.

I am still processing this fact. I started feeling poorly around 7:00 PM on Friday, January 14th. Extreme fatigue, tiredness, shortness of breath, etc. All of which I at first attributed to the week I’d had. My store’s Regional Vice President visited on Wednesday, January 12th, and I had spent more than twelve hours the day prior prepping for her visit, which was my first as General Manager. I knew she liked me already from prior visits she made when I was my store’s Assistant General Manager. I am just about as Type A as a person can be. I leave nothing to chance and always make sure my ducks are in a row.

Tuesday, January 11th was a perfect storm. As anyone who’s worked in a bookstore knows, Tuesday is the day most major publishers release their hot titles so those days are always busy with updating bestseller features, putting new product on the floor, and changing out in-store marketing. On top of that, we’ve been bombarded with after-holiday resets, sales sets, and overstock scans (oh my!). I didn’t have the manpower I’ve been enjoying because sales and foot traffic have slowed (though only marginally, following this unprecedented sales year). When I got to work, our truck shipment had arrived. The receiving area in the back of my store is chock-full of voided and overstock titles awaiting their journey back to our warehouse. And this truck was huge. So I had to play quite a few rounds of Totes Tetris to even be able to process my truck shipment.

Then, in the evening, I found out that my fellow (and only other) closer had been in a car accident early that morning and had stayed at school the rest of the day because she wasn’t having any complications or soreness. When she got to work, though, she started having shoulder pain and I made her go to the ER and closed by myself. No biggie, I’ve done it before. More than once or twice, in fact. One of my other managers volunteered to come in after her dentist’s appointment to help me get the store ready for our RVP visit. We were there until after 11:00 at night.

Had I known then what I know now…but I couldn’t have, could I? Sometime during that day, we were both exposed. She had opened that morning and came in after closing with me that night. We are both vaccinated but haven’t gotten our boosters yet, and we wore our masks at work at all times. But we still got infected.

I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.

I started writing this post after I left urgent care on Saturday, January 15th. It is Friday, January 21st. It’s only been in the past couple of days that I’ve been able to string more than one cogent thought together and even now I’m aware of the haphazard and jumbled state of my mind. Whether that’s COVID-19 itself wreaking havoc on my mental faculties or simply the by-product of being deathly ill for days on end, the effect is the same. I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.

Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.

You see, I live in a small two-bedroom apartment with my disabled parents. My first thought when I got my test results was of their welfare, and my second thought was pure unadulterated rage at the fact that despite my best efforts at protecting them and myself, I had failed. Miserably. Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.

I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.

How do I reconcile all of that? How do I cope with my anger at the fact that I am supposed to return to work tomorrow when work is the farthest thing from my mind, the thing which concerns me the least? I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.

My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system.

I forgot to mention that I discovered during all of this that my health insurance had been switched without my knowledge, so I went into urgent care thinking I’d have to pay out of pocket because I was dropped by my previous provider. I’m still working all of that out and unfortunately it’s just been one more unnecessary piece of bureaucratic red tape I’ve had to navigate to get basic care. My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system. It’s unfortunate that something so essential is so politicized, with right-wingers decrying “SoCiAlIzeD mEdIcInE” every time someone mentions single-payer healthcare. Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.

Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.

I’d like to end this post on a positive (or at least lighter) note, so please enjoy the following memes I’ve saved from Twitter in the past week. Note that I am unable to provide attributions to their original creators.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Machete: Poems by Tomás Q. Morín

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

I’m going to be honest with you. When I first started reading Morín’s forthcoming collection Machete, I didn’t think I was going to like it—and then it snuck up on me. Pretty soon, I couldn’t stop drinking in words, even when they were sharper than a mouth full of knives. Machete is one of those collections poised to become era-defining, and I think if we somehow make it past climate change and the threat of nuclear proliferation we’ll remember it as one of the essential works of the pandemic. With its tonal shifts, manic ebullience, and hyper focus on finding the sublime in the quotidian, it is the perfect read for a world that has been forced to stand still even while it’s on fire. I can’t wait to put it in people’s hands.

Machete: Poems is due to be released on October 12th of this year and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.