The Bluebird of Happiness

I wasn’t going to let it happen, end 2020, that is – a year universally acknowledged as the worst in recent memory – on a downer. Not if I could help it. The only thing we had planned for New Years Eve was Barbara attending a Zoom funeral. (You see where I’m coming from.) Arnold, one of her second cousins, a man in his mid eighties, had died of, what else, COVID. Once the funeral is over, I suggested, let’s watch something a little more upbeat together and I’ll make us some White Russians (maybe with a little more vodka than usual).

Would it surprise anyone if I reported that the Zoom feed was over-subscribed, and Barbara couldn’t watch the live version? (She settled for watching a replay several days later.) Remember, we were still in the waning hours of 2020, a year when the only direction was downhill. Definitely go heavy on the vodka, while we watch The Maltese Falcon. Barbara had no recollection of ever having seen it, meaning I had fallen down on the job. I am, after all, supposed to be the family film curator.

When Tina and David called us from Hoboken on WhatsApp, I mentioned my movie choice to David. He asked me what version I planned to watch. The thing is, he didn’t realize that there was more than one version. I had to tell him about the original 1931 movie, which starred Ricardo Cortez (né Jacob Kranz, from Brooklyn), and why the version with Bogart is considered more note-worthy.

The conversation with the two of them inevitably turned to a discussion of our health. Our favorite Jersey couple was delighted to hear we would be soon be getting our first vaccination. The two of them are healthy, in the prime of life, and their two sons are much too young to get the vaccine. Still, they were mightily impressed that it would be available so soon here in The Land.

As was Frank, my fraternal twin, the one with the greatly compromised immune system. If anyone should be at the front of the line, it’s him. But there are no lines forming, either in the Berkshires, where they’re hunkered down for the duration, NYC, where they would normally be spending most of the year, or anywhere else in The States – at least not for public health. Now that the elections are over, maybe to storm the Capitol and smash some furniture…

These conversations took place right about the end of the aforementioned nightmare, 2020, when word had not yet reached the Old Homestead about Israel’s astounding success in vaccinating its citizenry. Everyone here, however, was in a self-congratulatory mood; we were doing what no other country has/had been able to. No surprise, our Main Honcho is taking the credit for its success, when he had little to do with getting it – except authorizing paying more than the going rate for its procurement.

Actually, the roll out at first was somewhat less than robust – as in one place to go for all Jerusalem, and that one place was the basketball arena next to the soccer arena near the Malcha mall. Great if you have a car or are willing to take the infrequent bus going down there. We decided to wait until the vaccines arrived in Ma’ale Adumim, a week or two at most. This being The Land, everybody and every place had different rules. Our friends The Levines had simply walked into their Clalit clinic in Karmiel without an appointment. The staff there, noticing their obviously limited mobility, got them in and out in less than half an hour.

For better or worse, we’re more ‘structured’ here at Maccabi in Ma’ale Adumim. Barbara and I were put on a first-to-be-served list, with a promise that someone would call us as soon as they were up and running. Sure enough, a nice lady called us, and we were given appointment for the following Tuesday in the late afternoon, which would leave us enough time to for us to get to our chiropractic appointments in Jerusalem, for me to walk over to Power CoffeeWorks to stock up on the house blend before the threatened lockdown, and get back in time for our appointments. Then on Monday, we got another call. We need you to come in today! Whatever you say; we’ll be there. Turns out that their supply of vaccines had an absolute ‘end date’ of 4PM Tuesday, so they were doubling up on appointments. Fortunately, our clinic had a woman ‘directing traffic,’ and everyone got taken care of without the mayhem that sometimes ensues. This is Israel, after all.

With all that, how did our country somehow work its way to the front of the line? How did we get to be numero uno in COVID vaccinations? The short and sweet answer is that we were able to convince Pfizer and Moderna that, because we are small in population and a tiny country to boot, because we have a well-functioning health system that would be able to handle the logistics of getting people ‘jabbed’ (as the Brits describe it), and that we would be more than willing to collect and share data that the companies could use, and because, as I intimated before, cost would not be a factor, we are getting quantities of the vaccine that would be the envy of most countries. For a more detailed discussion of the topic, click here.

The Old Homestead? I can’t imagine that that there will be a dramatic improvement in the U.S. in COVID prevention until after Jan. 21. COVID getting? That’s another story, and not a pretty one at that. Which brings me to the next conundrum.  How is it that, on the one hand, Israel can be doing so well in vaccinating the target population (health care workers and alte cockers), while we, like the U.S., are an abject failure in preventing people from getting infected, with hospitals bursting at the seams with COVID patients. One night recently, nineteen yeshiva bochers arrived at the emergency room at Shaarei Tzedek hospital (in Jerusalem), all with the virus. Some of them could be sent home, where hopefully they would have the sense to stay in isolation. Others needed hospitalization. One of these budding scholars could not be located when it was his turn to be examined. Turns out he was outside, having a smoke. Turns out also that he was the sickest of the bunch, his respiratory system seriously compromised. Yeah.

If all goes as planned – and it might well happen – enough of our citizenry will be vaccinated by the end of March that we can put an end to the wearisome cycle of lockdowns and openings, lockdowns and openings, lockdowns and openings, that is driving us all mad. The only thing we have more of than COVID lockdown cycles is elections. Number four coming up, also at the end of March, with the number of slates multiplying at an alarming rate. (That’s one good thing about The States, come what may, no matter what, there won’t be another presidential election until 2024. Lucky you!) Everyone wants Bibi out, but no one can agree on who should replace him. (I would settle for Howdy-Doody. Maybe even Clarabelle.)

But continuing to dwell on the inadequacies of certain politicians here and there plus the absurdities of their sycophants is like ending the year with a Zoom funeral, an oversubscribed one at that. Better to go with The Maltese Falcon. Here, Humphrey Bogart (a/k/a Sam Spade) proves himself to be less corrupt, cynical, and underhanded than he pretends to be. Here, the thieves, Gutman and Cairo (Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre), charming and screen-worthy as they are, wind up chasing an illusion and will get their comeuppance at the end. Good will triumph; cynicism will be defeated. And we can watch it over and over again – with or without a White Russian in hand – as a harbinger of better times to come, the counterfeit bird of prey turning into a real live bluebird of happiness. What say you to that?

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