I’m a geek through and through, a hard-core geek you might say. Viruses fascinate me — complex particles straddling the ill-defined border between life and non-life. Having slaked my geek appetite mightily over the past year on Virology and vaccines I know how mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer work. I also know something about how vaccines like the Johnson & Johnson work so when I was at the dentist getting my implant bridge installed and the subject of the J & J came up I seized the opportunity to let my geek flag fly:
Fun geek activity: Drop the phrase “Adenovirus vector vaccine” in casual conversation then explain it to the blank stares.
These days, though many people have some idea what an mRNA vaccine is, adenovirus vector vaccine is another level of geekdom entirely.
Imagine my excitement when the eligibility pool here in Rhode Island expanded to include ages 65+. My 70-year-old self was now eligible for a my first dose of a life-saving high-tech medicine¹. I originally intended to drive in view of the forecast for the morning of my appointment at 9:18am — about 25F ². However, I got out of bed early enough to slake my Medium reading appetite and accomplish my dental care routine with plenty of time to bike the seven or so miles to the Dunkin Donuts Center in downtown Providence.
For the past year, the mammoth Dunkin Donuts Center remained spookily quiet. The usual A-list wrestling, B-list musical acts, and funny car races will return — unless we Americans stupid our way out of the opportunity to re-busy ourselves with our former stupid entertainments. For now, the DD center finds itself pressed into the service of public health. The administration of COVID-19 vaccinations requires only a small portion of its impressive capacity.
As the winter of 2020 set in I excused myself from bicycling whenever the thermometer dropped below 40F ³. Yet if there was ever an appointment that deserved arrival to by bike from Quasimodo-the-bike-guy, it was the Pfizer jab. I had the time and I had all the cold weather bicycling equipment imaginable left from my bike-to-work-no-matter-what days. Would this be the day I broke out of my year of pandemic-induced sloth to get back in touch with my former hard-core self?
As you can see from the lead picture, I pulled myself up.
Will I get back to my former level of activity or keep excusing myself? This question forced itself on me with considerable urgency when I attended the second indoor weapons class held at my dojo two weeks ago. Weapons practice is reasonably well suited to pandemic conditions in that even in partnered practice we rarely approach closer than six feet. When we do it is to brush by each other as our weapons collide with an impressive clack. It’s not a good idea to linger within the range even of wooden weapons! It even looks cooler to be masked while going at it like Alex Mallari Jr. in Dark Matter⁴.
However, at our second indoor session when we began with ukemi. That certainly brought me up short. Weapons practice is tiring, but it has nothing on ukemi. Ukemi is an important part of hand-to-hand technique but unlike the rest of hand-to-hand⁵, which requires getting right up in your partner’s face and so is unsuited to pandemic conditions even with masks and good ventilation such as we have in the dojo, ukemi can be practiced solo. Solo practice involves repeated falling and getting back to your feet quickly, elegantly, and ready for combat. This is much different from struggling clumsily to your feet like an old man. Proper technique will get you there, but it is exhausting even in the absence of masks. A few minutes of back and — God help me — front rolls together with recovery left me wondering, “am I getting too old for this?” The instructor told me to go at my own pace which was what I was doing anyway — no way could I keep up with him and the other 30-somethings!
Back at the dojo this morning⁶ we stuck to jo staff practice, solo and partnered. No rolls and recoveries. I am sure we will get back to them. That will require me to have patience with myself. I wondered what I lost during the pandemic. Now I know of one thing. It will certainly take time to get it back. The first time around I was six years younger, and it took time to work up to it in the first place even then.
One Down: That refers to the pairing of my first Pfizer jab⁷ and hard-core cold weather bicycling.
One to go: That refers to the pairing of my second Pfizer jab, which I understand will bring me to full immunity, and the resumption of Aikido practice in full — weapons, rolls, recovery, throws, pins, the whole thing as it was prior to March 2020. We will no doubt resume when we are all vaccinated. It will require persistence and patience.
¹ I have discussed elsewhere the trials and tribulations of getting my appointment.
⁴ Well, not quite. We have to take care not to injure each other.
⁵ Ukemi is important to weapons practice as well, but my focus for the purpose of this discussion is on falls and rolls.
⁷ Which hit me like a truck — God knows what the second will do to me!
Two cool virus related podcasts to geek out on: