Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I mean, of course you’ve heard it before. Maybe just stop me before I even get started? Can we just stop, like an action-movie hero being chased down the highway who slams on the brakes and watches the cops fly by and then sneaks off to safety down some hidden back road as the pursuers struggle to change course?
In this same space during this same week one year ago, I wrote:
Is it possible to add the wildfire and presidential election seasons to the flaming pile of 2020 and still come out on the other end sane? I feel like it’s more than I can handle.
All I have to do is put “recall” in the place of “presidential” and the intro still works for 2021. Same as it ever was:
COVID is still with very much with us. In Butte County for that week of 2020 (Aug. 18-24), there were 240 new COVID-19 cases, and 22 hospitalized (8 in ICU) with the disease. One year later we have 513 new cases in the county last week (Aug. 10-16), and currently 65 hospitalized COVID patients (9 in ICU).
The fire and the smoke are obviously still with us. Led by the still-blazing Dixie Fire (the second-largest fire in California history), this season is thus far outpacing record-breaking 2020 for acres burned. Of course, at this point last year the North Complex, August Complex, SCU Lightning Complex and LNU Complex fires—which would go on to burn more than 2 million acres combined—had just started. That is especially frightening to consider as drought-striken Nor Cal stares down the barrel of high winds and a “red flag warning” from the National Weather Service for the next day or two.
And, of course, the people are still bitterly divided. The polarizing legacy of Trumpism lives on at all levels of California government, from Chico’s city council resignations to the upcoming recall facing Gov. Gavin Newsom.
So, I ask last year’s question again: Will we come out of all this sane? What happens if we add significantly more deaths to the COVID tally, or if the number of infected schoolchildren takes off? And if we do somehow manage to outrun the pandemic, can we handle another few months of wildfires in this area where significant fire potential is projected through November?
I’m not being cynical, I swear. I’m trying to slap myself back into the of reality of being on Earth in Butte County right now. If you’re like me, you have spent the last couple of months feeling cautiously optimistic thanks to the return of being able to go out and play in the world with others. Those various pleasures have made this guy start to feel invincible again, but thanks in part to my own COVID scare last week (all clear), I am putting on the brakes. I’m vaccinated, but the Delta variant can flow through me as strongly as anyone and then easily be spread to somebody who is not vaccinated. As much as I want (and my mental health requires me) to be on the street supporting the arts/music scene as it reopens, I am laying low for now.
Thankfully, my happy juices have been somewhat replenished with recent laughs and some good rocking; hopefully, yours have, too. None of us is going to be able to outmaneuver all the hits, but if the smoke comes hard and sticks around and I’m stuck inside in the weeks to come, this “Booster Shot” Spotify playlist should hold me over with a couple hours worth of beautiful noise. (For those who might want a lot less noise with their tunes, try my “Some of the Best Words” playlist.)