Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Social Distancing in the Time of the Plague

Hello from Plague Island.

People keep asking us how it’s going here. I don’t even know how to answer that. If I had to use one word, it’d be one that’s somewhere between scary and nervewracking.

We aren’t sick, first of all. Let’s get that out of the way.

But we are kind of at Ground Zero. My wife Julie works at the hospital across the street from where the first diagnosed coronavirus fatalities were documented in Seattle. And my current day job is driving a lift van that takes wheelchair patients to and from the doctor and so on, so we do a lot of business with the most affected populations in the area. (Including Life Care Center in Kirkland, where the virus blew up last week.)

Moreover, Julie is high-risk. She’s diabetic and catches everything. (“Bugs like sugar,” is how her then-doctor shrugged it off a couple of years ago. We have a new one now that takes things a little more seriously.)

Neither one of us can miss work– even if we could afford to, we have patients we serve who need us to show up. My disabled Medicare folks, especially, can’t just whistle up an Uber whenever they want. Most of them are low-income, scraping by as best they can. We even serve clients that are in homeless camps.

Most people think homeless settlements are just for the dregs of society, cesspools of drugs and crime. I suppose some are, but much more typical of the population are people like the one-legged lady in her sixties I take to dialysis, who shares a tiny house at Camp Second Chance with her sister because Social Security, even with a roommate, just isn’t adequate to cover food and rent. She talks wistfully about getting on the waiting list at Seattle Housing Authority for a real apartment. “You know, indoors.” (The wait time for those, by the way, is measured in YEARS.) At least they finally managed to string some wiring out to the camp so now residents have light and heat.

The virus is going to cut through those people like a machete, along with all the other low-income patients we serve, if Julie and I and everyone else around health care don’t take precautions. So we are taking it really goddamn seriously. We’re usually pretty careful anyway, because of all my wife’s various health issues.

And… so far, so good. We are self-quarantining/social-distancing/whatever as much as possible. We haven’t actually had to DO much because we don’t go out much anyway, and the few things we would venture out for have been postponed or canceled. No ECCC this weekend, so no CBR Northwest dinner. All the local theaters are shuttering, so seeing our Hello Earth friends in whatever play they’re in at the moment is off the table as well. We were kind of playing with the idea of a bookscouting trip down towards Centralia, but the rural areas we like to visit have the highest numbers of low-income uninsured and the worst access to medical facilities, so we discarded that idea. God knows we don’t lack for books around here, the to-read pile is still staggeringly high.

Plus we are continuing to amuse ourselves with all the old television archived on Amazon Prime. Something we kind of fell into without even realizing it… the shows we’ve been watching are the traditional ones we used to watch when we were home sick as kids. Amazon has a bunch of game shows archived like the old Password Plus with Allen Ludden.

Quick aside– I have a real soft spot for celebrities who were good Password players. I’m not a big fan of Bewitched but I loved seeing Elizabeth Montgomery play Password.

Likewise, I never looked at Binzer the same way again once I realized how smart Bart Braverman really was. This particular episode, wherein Braverman absolutely spanks Robert Urich during the heyday of Vega$, just tickles me. It’s obviously killing Urich that Binzer the doofus is running rings around the mighty Dan Tanna. Still makes me laugh.

Anyway, we’ve been watching those along with old episodes of Perry Mason, since the first five seasons are available on Amazon as well.

Wallowing in comics from that time, also. In a lovely and serendipitous coincidence after writing about a bunch of these books a few weeks ago, I scored a remainder copy of the DC Universe Jack Kirby Bronze Age omnibus for ridiculously cheap, so I’m working my way through that.

I finally put it together last night. This is a pattern that reaches back to childhood. That’s exactly how we did it when staying home sick from school. Game shows in the morning, Perry Mason at noon, toasted-cheese sandwich and tomato soup for lunch, then to bed with a big pile of comics until dozing off. That’s how my people (and Julie’s) traditionally dealt with the flu.

And now, even without being actually sick, we’re doing it again, even down to the toasted cheese sandwiches I had last night. Strictly out of the need for psychic comfort food. The only thing missing is the smell of mentholatum.

But the bottom line is, we’re hanging in there. So far so good. Hope all is well with you… and for God’s sake, wash your damn hands.



I can’t believe I mentioned Max Collins’s band Crusin’ last week and forgot to mention their version of The Theme From Ms. Tree. Some good angel put it up on YouTube along with a nice montage from the comics. Enjoy.

Also, I found time to do another episode of Radio Vs. The Martians, this time all about Disney’s Condorman.

It was great fun as always. That episode is here.

Back next week with something cool.


  1. wilcan

    Hey Greg, long time reader. If you can think of any good charity to help the folks you serve out, please pass it on. I’ve given up comics for Lent, so I would be glad to send some money their way. Stay safe!

  2. My wife and I are both very lucky. It’s a state of emergency here in NC and we’re above average risk (I’m 60 and asthmatic) but we can both work from home (IT and writing). And we can spend lots of time together without wanting to kill each other. And we have lots to read and watch.
    That said, canceling or avoiding all the events I had planned in the next month or possibly longer is making me feel a little cabin fevery, but I’m very conscious how well off we are compared to many.

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