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June, 2021:

Birthdays and Horizons

69 today. That’s a good number, as it’s the same upside-down as rightside-up. The last one of those I passed through was 11, so it’s been awhile. (Ok, sure 1 and maybe 8, depending on the font.) Quick aside: 1961 also looked the same both ways, at least on pennies.

69 is the last year before one of what I call horizons rises to meet me: As a younger man, I thought of 70 as the horizon between ordinary people and…old people. So next year I’ll be a genuine, card-carrying Old Guy. Does this bother me?

Not on your life. Or mine.

Life is all about horizons. When I was in kindergarten, first grade was a horizon. When I was in grade school, high school and college were horizons. Marriage was a horizon, understanding it poorly as I did when I was six or seven. I remember wondering if you had to have a job before you could get married. I imagined living with a girl, and it was a…peculiar imagining, at 9 or 10. In truth, I could more easily imagine going to the Moon. I considered that a horizon as well; in fact, when I was a senior in high school, my lunch table vowed to meet on the Moon on New Year’s Eve 1999. It seemed so far away, in time as in space. We’d come so far so fast–how could it not happen?

Not every horizon comes when it’s called.

College, mon dieu. That horizon that hit me in the face and damned near broke my nose. I got past it. I graduated, and got a job. That was a horizon. Leaving home was a horizon, one I avoided for far too long. I proposed to my best friend–one horizon–followed all too quickly by our wedding–another horizon.

Ordinary life can be deceptive. If you squint a little, you can avoid seeing any horizons. You get up, go to work, come home, have dinner, write/tinker/work 20 meters, then go to bed, confident that the same thing will happen tomorrow. Nonetheless, the horizons are there. My father’s death was a horizon, one I could see coming a long way off, and it shook me to the core. Scarcely a year later, one of my friends died. He was a fireman, and a wall fell on him while he was making sure everyone had gotten out alive. Seeing friends die is a horizon that few of us see coming, especially when we’re still in our twenties. It was scant comfort to remind myself that Bill Nixon was a hero. He was only the first. There have been many since then.

Starting my own company was a old dream of mine, and in 1989 it jumped up and said “Hi!” Horizons can be like that. Losing that company 12 years later was another horizon, one that almost ate me alive. Having my first book published was an even older horizon. I remember a dream in which I was holding my first book, without knowing what book it was. Sometimes horizons don’t tell you much about themselves until they’re already in your rear-view mirror.

Retirement was a very old horizon; I remember thinking as a teen that 2017–when I would turn 65–was an eternity away. Flying cars! Mars base! Heh. Today, well, 2017 seems almost quaint.

Horizons are firsts and onlies. You do them once and they change you, and then, sooner or later another one comes around the corner at a gallop.

Be ready.

The Ionophore Experiment

A year and some months ago, when the whole COVID-19 thing was just getting out of second gear, one of the doctors I see recommended that Carol and I take zinc and the OTC supplement quercetin every day. The explanation was simple: Quercetin is a zinc ionophore. Ionophores are chemicals able to transport certain ions through cell membranes through which those ions would not ordinarily pass. Zinc is known to attack viruses of all sorts, especially cold and flu viruses. Quercetin attaches to zinc ions and escorts them through cell membranes, into the cells where viruses replicate. Zinc stops virus replication cold.

This sounded familiar, and it was. About that time I had begun hearing of the work of Dr. Zev Zelenko, a New York physician who had begun treating early COVID-19 patients with a drug cocktail consisting of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Zinc, and an antibiotic. Dr. Zelenko has a wonderful metaphor describing the cocktail’s operation: Zinc is the bullet. HCQ is the gun. Sure, it’s a little more complex than that, but despite metric megatonnes of anti-HCQ bullshit in the media, the cocktail works.

I’ve seen quercetin described as a zinc ionophore in many places. HCQ is also a known zinc ionophore. It’s a prescription drug that must be taken under medical supervision to avoid certain side effects. However, people I know personally are taking it every day and have for years for autoiummune disorders. I’m not sure how you measure the effectiveness of one zinc ionophore vs. another, so it’s unclear how “strong” an ionophore has to be. Everything I’ve read suggests that quercetin is strong enough to kill viruses wholesale by escorting zinc into cells.

Quercetin has, at best, mild side effects. It’s found in many foods, including kale. Alas, I won’t eat kale, so I take it as an extract in a gelcap. Carol and I followed the physician’s advice, and we’ve been taking 800 mg of quercetin once daily in a formula that includes bromelain. We also take 50 mg zinc daily in the form of zinc gluconate. I’ve talked about this before here on Contra, though it may have been a whole year ago or more. I bring it up again because Carol and I have noticed something unrelated to COVID-19: Neither of us has gotten a cold since we began taking quercetin plus zinc.

And that, my friends, is worth something. My long-time readers have heard me bitch about catching colds and feeling miserable down the years. I get one or sometimes two bad colds a year, and a scattering of sniffles that last for a few days and vanish. We get flu shots, but we still got the flu really bad back at the end of 2017. So the experiment is this: Even though we’re fully vaccinated, we’re going to keep taking quercetin plus zinc, and see how long it is before either of us catches a cold or flu. (We’ll still get our flu shots. I’m a strong believer in vaccination.)

Now, a lot of the country is still hiding out, though here in Arizona mask mandates are mostly a thing of the past. So it’s possible that we ducked colds for the past fourteen months by simply not rubbing shoulders with people much. Those days are past. We shop at big stores like Safeway and Target and Costco even when they’re crowded and nobody has masks. In other words, we’re more or less back to normal life. And my experience of “normal life” prior to COVID was (at least) one cold a year.

Carol and I aren’t worried about COVID anymore. Is it possible that we don’t have to worry about catching colds either? I’m turning 69 in a week. I’ll recap in another year. There’s still no cure for the common cold, but if two OTC supplements can stop colds before they start, man, I call that a revolution–and one helluva birthday present!

Music You’ve Heard But Can’t Name

Leroy Anderson came up in conversation recently, and I remarked that his orchestral compositions are a perfect example of music that everybody’s heard but (almost) nobody can name. When you hear an Anderson piece, you think, Sure, everybody’s heard that! But then you waste a minute or two trying to remember what it’s called. And you fail.

There are exceptions. Anderson wrote “Sleigh Ride,” and although you may not remember the name of the composer, you damned well know the name of the song.

I’m not sure what Leroy Anderson’s most-heard but least-named piece is, but I’d wager it’s “Fiddle Faddle.” (If you like ants, here’s a video of ants walking around to “Fiddle Faddle.” Don’t watch it if you don’t like bugs. Fits somehow, though, doesn’t it?) Second place may well go to “Blue Tango.” with “Forgotten Dreams” close behind. A lot of people know the name of “The Syncopated Clock,” but fewer, I think, could name Anderson as the composer.

My personal Anderson favorite may not be quite as well-known (It only made it to #180 of the Billboard annual tally–in 1953) but if you’re among the 50+ crowd, you’ve definitely heard it. And the sound effects pretty much give it away. My grandmother gifted me her huge cast-iron Underwood typewriter in 1962, when I could barely lift it myself. I pounded on it for six years, until my godmother bought me a Smith-Corona electric in 1968. The Underwood Standard #5 hammered out a lot of my juvenalia during its tenure, but I’m pretty sure that it could not smack the platen anywhere near fast enough to do justice to Anderson’s borderline-manic “The Typewriter.” This guy tries pretty hard, though with a much smaller typewriter.

Which leads me to wonder: How many people these days have ever actually heard a manual typeriter, much less used one?

As for un-nameable music, Leroy Anderson had no lock on the concept. I think a lot of people have heard at least portions of “The Light Cavalry Overture” without knowing what it was. You’ll have to listen for a couple of minutes to get to the familiar part. But when you do, you’ll know it. It’s become a metaphor for slogging doggedly along, and in truth I like the other parts better. Ditto Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld Overture.” You have to get about seven minutes into the work, but, then, yes, you’ve heard it a hundred times.

Any others come to mind?