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Of Mice, Men and The Swine Flu

By Scott Buckner

Not too long ago, I happened to re-read Of Mice And Men. Even saw it on film. George. Lenny. Squiggy. Going off to farm rabbits as long as some hot babe didn't get in the way. It was one of those classic works of literature that everyone in my high school was forced to endure at some point, like The Bell Jar or To Kill Mockingbird or Lord Jim or Behind the Green Door.

I don't know why, but the preoccupation by this city's media with the Swine Flu - which has been made into a We Think It Could Be An Epidemic Even Though Nobody's Confirmed It in the same way the media heaps a quarter-inch of snow into a blizzard or anything said by Drew Peterson into a confession - made me think of ol' George and Lenny and Squiggy wanting to just go off into the desert or the country or wherever to just raise rabbits and be happy about it.

Except nobody's letting them. Everyone needs to know why George is so abusive. Why Lenny is so slow and gave up the Wolfman gig. And why Lenny and Squiggy never nailed Laverne and Shirley before Carmine showed up. In high school English Lit, you only had to live through The Grapes of Wrath once in your life. Yet the Joads have had had to re-live the same bullshit from bitchy students like us year after year. Truth is, the Joads got considerably sicker of us long before we got sick of them.

So goes it now, to the point where I've actually made it a point of turning off the media. Completely. TV. Radio. Everything. Off. If Swine Flu was stalking me outside my window, I wouldn't know it. Nor would I care. Because guess what? I've lived through it before just fine, thanks! But yet omifuckinggod - Swine Flu walks among us! Let's lock the whole city down, shall we? Screw the Olympics and whatever the hell Todd Stroger's doing because, hopefully, there will be A Postman in our future to save us from everything, including ourselves. The Swine Flu is nothing to be fucked with, we're told, because well, people just die from it. Which is fine as long as, y'know, they're not dying from it in our streets or in the schools or something. Y'know? Especially if in the middle of summer.

Coincidentally, there was an Avian Flu pandemic predicted a year or three ago. Yet the city didn't sweep in and kill all those big, crazy-ass parrots nesting beneath the Chicago Skyway and in Wolf Lake and Hyde Park. So apparently, it wasn't that big of a pandemic for anyone in the city to concern themselves with. So shoot, if this city ain't had a swine in it since Bob Luce Wrestling and roller derby was over at The Amphitheatre next to the Stockyards, why should anyone make any big deal over it now, right?

While the Swine Flu may seem like a new phenomenon in Chicago like Lake Michigan seiches, anarchist demonstrations, or potholes being filled before June, I remember the last time the Swine Flu epidemic came around. Yup, it did. This one's apparently a pandemic, which is even worse news for anyone planning to hide out from drug lords in Cabo within the next month or two. Back then, this country was as unprepared for Swine Flu as it was for herpes, Legionnaire's Disease, or AIDS. Swine Flu isn't any-less-heard-of to anyone my age than polio, the iron lung, or trick-or-treating for UNICEF for the starving children of Africa who, by the way, are still starving. Probably the same ones from 1966.

Suffice to say, Swine Flu was quite a sensation back then, as it is now. Yup, I lived through the first Swine Flu epidemic. Except back then, our nuclear power plants were imploding, the canals in peoples' back yards were full of toxic waste, and you could see dead alewives washed up in droves on Chicago's beaches every summer. The park disrtrict had to scoop 'em up with backloaders, they did. And back then, we were falling all over ourselves to get vaccinated from the Swine Flu so we all wouldn't all, you know, fucking die because, well, the president made it sound like everyone in the whole country would die if didn't get vaccinated.

And we'd have believed him, too, if it weren't for Richard M. Nixon. But that's another story for another day.

Still, if I recall right, not many of us got vaccinated. Sure, some of us did just like those of us who line up for flu shots every fall at Walgreens and our workplaces, but most of us didn't. If I remember right, there was something about problems with a white bunny that put an end to it - and the epidemic - and everybody went back to making steel on the Southeast Side until all the steel ran out. The end. Matter of fact, I think more old people in this country died when President Carter told everyone in the country they needed to set their thermostats to 68 degrees than everyone who died from the Swine Flu combined. But still.

But that was then and this is now. Is the Swine Flu something to be reckoned with? Absolutely. If I don't care enough about myself, I still have three wonderful kids of my own to worry about and care about if they came down with the sniffles. Would I blame anybody if they did? Hell, no. I'd blame nature. I wouldn't worry about where they got it. I'd just worry that they had it. And hopefully in the end, I'd pray they'd be OK because I listened closely enough to know Swine Flu is something you can recover from - not necessarily something you get from somewhere or something, like deer ticks and Lyme Disease, or mosquitos and malaria, or poison oak and really itchy skin.

Still, not a single national or Chicago media outlet yesterday - and not even President Obama, during his news conference last night - did any basic research beyond a stinkin' handout from the Centers for Disease Control to help us turn the tide and recognize Swine Flu. And even the CDC sucked, because worse to worse, I'm willing to bet a few hundred pesos that wearing a mask like everyone in Mexico won't prevent Swine Flu. So I'll intercede and give a few pointers that even Granny Clampett might pass on:

1. Never, ever sneeze in your hand. Do that and you'll just go spreading your ny-ass spreadable contagious germs - Swine Flu or anything else - on everygoddamnthing you touch all day long. You say you don't want someone else's mucus or Swine Flu on you? Well, guess what? We don't want your mucus or Swine Flu on us, neither. So sneeze in your sleeve or inside your shirt or jacket. Sure, your sleeve or the inside of your shirt might get all nasty with your nose-shot every now or then, but at least you won't be walking around all day leaving your germs on doorknobs or toilet-bowl knobs or handshakes or Lord-knows-what-else to bring home to us and our kin.

2. Cold and flu germs love everything about your eyes, so don't go touchin' or rubbin' your eyes with your fingers and then go touchin' everywhere else after that with your Swine Flu germs. Lord knows what your fingers have been touchin', especially in the bathroom stall and good-God-knows what else. So if you gotta go rubbin' you rub your eyes for whatever, rub 'em with your sleeve.

3. For chrissakes, don't pick your goddsamn nose - and Good Lord, if'n you do, don't touch anything else afterward unless you're using a Kleenex. Look, there's nothing wrong with mining nose-boogers on the ride in to work. It's fun. It's an adventure. We get it. We do it, too. Just wash your goddamn fingers with some sorta soap in the parking garage before you go walking in to work and infecting the rest of us.

Because that's how this shit starts. Ask Typhoid Mary.


Posted on May 1, 2009

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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