I’m Back!

I know, I know. Contain your enthusiasm.

But I am back, and I’m happy to be here. Several readers asked about my absence. Apparently it seemed mysterious.

Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to worry anyone. As a rule I don’t discuss travelling before or during a trip. It’s a privacy thing. I see no reason to tell the entire planet I am not home. In this case however, I had to tell you folks something. Otherwise I’d have had quite a few questions about why I hadn’t posted on schedule. If I’d been able to write while on the trip I’d have done that, but I knew I was going to be too busy to pull that off. Again, my apologies.

Anyway, let’s play a game. I’ll show you a few photos and you can guess where I was.

Here are three, all taken at the same place:

I’m sure those will not make it easy, but there is a slim chance someone will have a clue based on what you see.

Assuming those don’t give it away, here’s a final photo:

Yes, those are my feet and I am sitting on the floor of a long, carpeted hallway.

So where did I go?

I was in Chicago for two weeks. Mom was in for her first cataract surgery and I wanted to be there. Thankfully it went really well.

Back to the photos. The first three were taken on an L platform. We’d climbed some stairs and moved out of the way of other passengers. I glanced through an opening looking down and saw the rusting metal and flaking paint. It caused me to wonder what — exactly — was holding the platform together. So I snapped those photos. The train did not derail, the platform did not collapse, and we made it to and from a Cezanne exhibit at the Art Institute successfully. (It was a nice show, but I’d have preferred it in chronological order. I was trying to pick up on the details of how his painting technique evolved and while I have some idea it could have been easier. Oh well.)

The last picture is from my trip home. I found a quiet — nearly empty! — corridor in O’Hare Airport. It connects terminals E and F, but it is well past the fork where most people pick one terminal or the other, so it doesn’t get much use. It’s even carpeted, so while there are no benches, there are out of the way places to sit and hide.

I needed that because I got through security in mere minutes and had three full hours to waste before my plane departed. I spent a lot of time pacing, but I also holed up in that hallway for a while. It was a welcome refuge. If you are ever stuck in O’Hare and are flying out of terminal E or F, look for the corridor that connects the two sides of the Y. It’s past the food court and has the entry to the United Club on the terminal F side.

For the curious, flying was a withering experience thanks to COVID. I knew I was going to spend hours in the airport on both ends in addition to the four hour flights, so I needed to be well masked. Getting a good seal on a mask is tricky when you have a beard, so I shaved a week before I left town and stayed clean shaven until I flew back. I used a mask brace over a KF94 mask and kept it on the entire time except when I had to eat or drink something.

The mask brace isn’t exactly comfortable, but it does create a better seal around my nose and that’s a big help.

So far I appear to have avoided the disease. Despite cases in Illinois being much higher than here in Vancouver, I’ve stayed healthy. It’s only been six days since I got home though, and the incubation period is longer than that. However, I think Omicron tends to incubate faster than previous variants (statistically, at least). Regardless, I am being cautious for now but I suspect I did OK.

Even better, two days after coming home I got my second COVID booster. Here in Canada we may be given our choice of which vaccine we want as our booster, and I opted for the new Novavax version. My reading leads me to believe this vaccine is currently the most effective one against the Omicron variants, so it’s what I asked for. Beyond that, I am a weird case. My COVID vaccine history looks like this:

  • Dose 1: AstraZeneca
  • Dose 2: Moderna
  • Booster 1: Moderna
  • Booster 2: Novavax

There are no studies anywhere that cover that combination of vaccines, but there is evidence that mixing vaccines might help improve immune response. There is also evidence that longer intervals between doses is a good thing, and up here in BC we’ve been doing long intervals (eight weeks or more) from the beginning.

Interestingly I had essentially no side effects from the Novavax shot. All three previous shots hit me very hard, giving me chills, fever, body aches, and a sore arm. The Novavax gave me almost nothing. My arm was slightly sore — but less so than with any of the others — and I had no other symptoms.

In the US I think they have just recommended that younger people hold off on getting their next boosters until the fall. It seems that Moderna and Pfizer are both saying they will have bivalent vaccines (that is, vaccines targeted at both the original Wuhan strain and at Omicron) out relatively soon. I’d like to believe that, and it might be true. However I’ll bet we run a bit behind getting those up here in Canada (and possibly in the US as well, if there are any manufacturing issues), so I opted to get my second booster now.

If you are young and healthy waiting may be an option, but I just turned 58 and while that still doesn’t put me in a particularly high risk group, I am more comfortable getting a booster sooner rather than later. It had been eight months since my first booster, and I wanted the extra protection.

Back to my time in Chicago. Cataract surgery is pretty simple stuff these days, so why was I there so long? Well, here’s the to-do list waiting for me:

A couple of things on the list were finished off by my mom before I got there, but quite a few were added after I arrived as well. As you can see, the complete list was long and complicated, but we got it all done.

I even managed to unclog a downspout on the back of mom’s condo building. That job never even made it to the list — and it was a mess — but it got done too.

There is one more bit of news worth sharing. While I was gone I was notified that the Canadian government needs a set of my fingerprints to proceed with my citizenship application. That’s great news because it means there is progress. I got those taken and submitted shortly after returning.

Amusingly, Anne’s background check passed without needing fingerprints. I went to a local RCMP office to get this done and the woman working there told me this happens regularly with couples applying for citizenship. She has no idea why but thought perhaps there might be some demographic factor at play. I wonder if they do a search in some database and if they find someone convicted of a crime with a similar name they decide to request fingerprints just to be sure the applicant is not that person. Regardless, Anne’s application has cleared in that regard, and mine should clear pretty soon.

There are several more steps awaiting their attention, and we don’t expect to be granted citizenship for quite some time. But forward progress is much appreciated!

That’s all the news from the past three weeks.

Next time the window replacement should be in full swing. If that really is the case I will have photos to share.

Cheers!

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Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.