Volume 3, Issue 61: I Must Be High
"You always wanted more time to do what you always wanted to do. Now you got it."
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On Monday, two days from the moment this newsletter is sent, I, two weeks out from my second Moderna shot, will join the ranks of the Fully Vaccinated. According to The New York Times’ vaccine tracker, 27 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, with 41 percent having received at least one shot. I know that we all have our own bubbles, a space in which we (often to our detriment) surround ourselves with people who are at least somewhat like-minded, and after years of trying to figure out the best way to describe my bubble (former bloggers? Cardinals fans? earnest schmucks? people who can name multiple Dinosaur Jr. records?), I think I finally now have it accurately described: My bubble consists of people who get vaccinated for Covid-19 more quickly than 59 percent of the American population. I am mentally shuffling through my imaginary Rolodex right now, and I cannot think of a single person in my extended circle who is not a child that hasn’t gotten at least one shot already. I’d like to be proud of that fact, but it probably means I’m not expanding my circle enough. Fifty-nine percent is a lot of people.
Being fully vaccinated is, to put it mildly, a massive deal. It is a symbol of re-emergence, of persistence, of survival. I don’t think there’s any doubt that what we have endured in the last 14 months is the biggest thing any of us will ever live through. For the last 20 years, I’d always assumed my grandchildren would be asking me what it was like to be in New York City on September 11, but I think it’s now clear they’ll be far more fascinated by the pandemic and its aftermath. I’m not sure any of us have wrapped our minds around all this yet, still.
More than 3.1 million souls worldwide have perished. Every social movement and societal faultline was exposed and frayed. There wasn’t one aspect of human life that wasn’t upended in every possible way. We went through so many different stages of the pandemic that, at a certain point, the only goal for many people was just to buckle down and do your best just to make it through—to survive. The pandemic is not over to any stretch. (And even when we get through this part, we may need booster shots for a few years.) But to be fully vaccinated is to have survived it. To be fully vaccinated is to have made it through.
And then: Then it’s time to party. Right?
This is, after all, the best-case scenario, no? It was almost exactly one year ago that the now-milkshake-duck’d New York Times science reporter Donald McNeil wrote that, “Dr. Fauci has repeatedly said that any effort to make a vaccine will take at least a year to 18 months. All the experts familiar with vaccine production agreed that even that timeline was optimistic. Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that the record is four years, for the mumps vaccine.” It is difficult to imagine how this pandemic would be playing out if we still had three more years—at best—until a vaccine was available. Can you imagine? It feels like we are barely holding ourselves together right now as we approach re-entry. At four years, we would surely have long since blown apart. It has only been one year, and here we are, with vaccines available to everyone. It’s remarkable.
And for me, Monday is the day. Monday is the exit ramp. There are various perspectives and arguments about what is safe and/or appropriate to do after you are fully vaccinated, and I am trying to be mindful of all of them. I will still wear a mask and keep my distance and follow all the protocols, both as a nod to the uncertainty of any new virus like this and as a way to show my a willingness to be a part of the communal experience of living on this planet: We’re still trying to finish this thing off, and just because I’m fully vaxxed doesn’t mean that I’m not still a part of the same experience we’re all having. But I also do believe that being fully vaccinated is an off ramp, a clear one, to whatever comes next, whatever New Normal awaits us.
Personally, I am going to feel comfortable doing all sorts of things that would have been unimaginable any time in the previous 14 months, like eating indoors, comfortably visiting with people inside their homes (and inside mine), not sweating being at a public event where there are strangers within six feet of me. I’m cannot wait, perhaps more than anything, to travel to see old friends I haven’t seen in, well, I guess it has been years now. (And then hug the shit out of them.) Being fully vaccinated does not mean that the pandemic has instantly evaporated. It just means that I’m going to enjoy being fully vaccinated by doing things I haven’t been able to, things that are vital components of being alive. And I’m going to appreciate them. I’m going to let them wash over me like I was never able to before.
I’m not going to do any of those things Monday, though. Back in April 2020, had you told me there would be a specific day that I would be clear of this, that I would no longer have to constantly fear getting sick or, worse, getting somebody else sick, I would have told you that I would spend that day running through the street, screaming in joy and embracing everyone in sight. But that’s not how this works, as it turns out. I’ve got a lot of deadlines on Monday, and an early interview Tuesday: Heading out to go nuts and rage on Fully Vaxxed Day isn’t practical or smart or prudent. (Also: I am old.)
Monday instead will be something much better: It will be something like a normal, typical Monday. It will be something resembling real life. I’ll work, I’ll talk to friends, I’ll make plans for the future, a future that is, at last, starting to slowly come back into focus. Being fully vaccinated isn’t about Monday. It’s about all the Mondays afterward. There’s a whole world out there, everybody. Let’s go. I can’t wait to see you there.
WEEKLY BOOK UPDATE: THREE WEEKS TO LAUNCH
Every week here at The Will Leitch Newsletter, we count down the weeks until the release of How Lucky, my novel that comes out May 11. This is the spot for weekly news, updates and pre-order reminders.
In the midst of the run-up to launch, many have asked if there will be any sort of book tour. There will not, alas. There is a pandemic still going on, turns out, and most independent bookstores (including Avid Bookstore here in Athens) are still closed. If you miss the book tour experience—and I sure do; the God Save the Fan tour of 2008 was one of the most truly fun fortnights of my life—we’re planning on doing one next March for the paperback. I suspect you’ll hear plenty about it here. But for now, we’re only having a launch event over Zoom. This is very common in the Covid age and even has its virtues: After all, it’s something everyone can be a part of, no matter where they live. There sure weren’t any book tours coming through Mattoon, Illinois, in the early ‘90s, that’s for sure.
Anyway, about the event! It’s May 12, 7 p.m. ET, hosted by Avid Bookstore. I’ll be having a conversation with Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing To See Here and The Family Fang. (Kevin is a brilliant, hilarious writer and I can’t believe he agreed to do this with me.) You can get tickets for it right here. They are free, though Avid Bookstore does ask for, if you can, for a donation to help offset the costs of hosting the event. (Also, for the cost of being an independent bookstore in the middle of a pandemic.)
You also have the option of buying an autographed copy of the book through Avid. This is different than the pre-ordering free-bookplate-with-receipt program I’m running through this newsletter, in that their books will be signed but not personalized; for Avid, I’m just going to sign every book they put in front of me, and probably not all that legibly. So you can pre-order through them for a signed copy they’ll send to you, or you can pre-order wherever else you wish and then send a receipt to email@example.com to get the personalized bookplate.
Either way: You should really, really come to the launch event. I will honestly feel less nervous the more of you all are there. So sign up: May 12, 7 p.m. ET. Put it in your calendars!
And, remember: If you do pre-order and send proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will send you a signed, personalized bookplate. The words on it will be soulful and emotionally satisfying.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.
Darnella Frazier Changed the World, Medium. This seemed like the best thing I could contribute to the week.
The Joys and Perils of Having Children Later in Life, Medium. This is a streamlined, abridged, breezier version of what I consider one of the best newsletters we ever did around these parts, for a series Medium is doing about Generations.
Ranking the Early Surprise Teams, MLB.com. Sorry, Seattle, but I’m not sure this is going to last.
Buy, Sell, Hold on the Best Ten Players in Baseball, MLB.com. Jacob deGrom is a wizard.
Internet Nostalgia: 2 Girls 1 Cup, Medium. Do not worry, there is no link to the video, or even a description of the video. It’s all about the phenomenon.
The Super League Is Hated Because It’s Very American, New York. This piece was fine, but good thing it went up when it did, because the league died, like, right afterward.
The Most Surprising Best Player on Several Teams, MLB.com. Well, Cubs fans, at least Craig Kimbrel is pitching well.
The Thirty: The First Impressions for New Guys On Each Team, MLB.com. At least Nolan Arenado is playing well.
Grierson & Leitch, we previewed Sunday’s Academy Awards and discussed “In the Earth” and “Don’t Look Back.”
Seeing Red, Bernie and I are pretty sure the Cardinals are just gonna bounce around .500 all year.
People Still Read Books, no show this week.
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK
ARBITRARY THINGS RANKED, WITHOUT COMMENT, FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON
Hold Steady Records
Boys and Girls in America
Open Door Policy
Heaven Is Forever
Thrashing Through the Passion
Almost Killed Me
(Make sure to read Grierson’s great interview with Craig Finn.)
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
Write me at:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“Flagpole Sitta,” Harvey Danger. The one-hit wonder band to end all of my era’s one-hit wonder bands. A bunch of journalism students at the University of Washington goofed around, made a record and somehow had a hit that got them on Letterman. This is still a good song, too!
Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.
Speaking of How Lucky, the hardcovers came in this week. It was nice of the children to pretend they were excited for me.
Have a great weekend, all.