Sunday night.

My first full post-quarantine day was delightful. Outside, you couldn’t really tell there were more restrictions than when I entered my 16-day house arrest. Including today, I have only five days before the second trip, before the second period of isolation in my little studio…

A Tim Hortons takeout meal is what passes for high cuisine when you account for safety in this here pandemic. (I would’ve gotten it through the drivethrough, but there aren’t any of those anywhere near.) An overworked cashier forgot to include one of my doughnuts: I didn’t protest. Inside, an old woman was defiantly wearing her mask under her nose. An old man with a walker, hard of hearing, wasn’t wearing a mask at all. The masked employees said nothing to either of them. Were they too afraid to anger their customers? Did they give a damn? Did they used to give a damn but stopped because they were overwhelmed? So many mysteries. For what it’s worth, the meal and the black coffee tasted absolutely delicious once I got them back to my place. It’ll become my staple – unhealthy but yummy – until my second trip, because the 16 days to follow will be more of the same old instapot cooking. (Why yes, my life really is very exciting right now. Heh.)

I finally got a chance to stretch my legs and spent a couple of hours wandering through the University of Toronto campus. It’s beautiful… The old cannons that were sunk when the French lost their claim to what is now Quebec. The beautiful Soldiers’ Tower. The wilted memorial garden. Once the world reopens, I’d love to see the inside of all those little museums and galleries too. For now, though, I made do with cherry blossoms: there weren’t many cherry trees on campus, but even so, it was beautiful.

I’m finally done reading Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, David Remnick’s Pulitzer-winning opus about the last few years of the Soviet Union. At over 600 pages, the pacing was uneven: some parts were dry and slow as molasses, while others were literally LOL-funny and fast-paced. (I’m sure that wasn’t the book’s intent but I got some interesting – and perfectly legal! – entrepreneurial ideas from it…) Overall, it was an excellent and educational addition to my collection. Growing up in post-perestroika Russia, history was always in a state of flux. Even in my class of 30 gifted kids, we weren’t allowed to learn what happened in the 20th century – probably because there was no official compromise on what to teach the next generation. As a result, we ended up covering Russian history from the 10th through the 19th century, and never went beyond. I think we covered the same 900 years three times in a row over the course of several years. It was pretty funny, really… Needless to say, they didn’t teach us anything about western history, either. (There was some world art appreciation which covered ancient civilizations; that was neat.) In our final school year, one of the teachers took pity on us and tried giving us a 40-minute-long crash course on the 20th century, but how much can you really fit into a single short lesson?

Reading Remnick’s book, old childhood memories started bubbling back up: all the different newspapers we used to read, the sudden overnight changes in currency as our ruble lost more and more value, all the political chaos… Some parts were genuinely new to me: all the post-Stalin massacres, or the much lighter pieces, such as Yeltsin having lost his left thumb and index finger when he tried to break apart a stolen grenade using a hammer when he was 11 years old. (That was a very Russian sentence, I know.) My overall opinion remains unchanged: I left Russia when I was almost 17, back in 2003, I’ve never gone back, and I never will – or at least not as long as it remains a de facto dictatorship. Who knows, maybe it’ll eventually recover, the way Spain did after Franco stepped aside. Improbable but not impossible. If not… Oh well. The country that robbed my great-grandfather for the high crime of being a merchant and that threw my grandma into a Gulag work camp for almost a decade for the high crime of telling a few political jokes to her fellow university students – that country has an awful lot to make up for.

Aaaaanyway… I’m planning my Friday road trip to Ohio. It’s interesting how different towns and municipalities have switched into distinct little camps: some offer only Moderna, some only Pfizer, others can’t even tell what they’ll offer. The latter was why I switched my appointment from the town of Warren (their description was essentially a big shruggie emoji) to Toledo, which has a Pfizer-only vaccination center. If anyone asks, I am and always have been from Toledo. Love ya, Glass City! Goooo Rockets! Or Walleyes when it’s hockey season! Suck it, Bowling Green Falcons!! Go team go!!! There, that should help me pass any scrutiny, I think. Aside from my Canadian license plate and phone area code, I’m invincible: got my US passport, got a fake local address memorized, and overall treating it with the same sort of overkill seriousness that Annie from NBC’s Community did for her fake ID background. After all, how often does one get to roleplay as a vaccine spy in another country? Heh.

In covid news, the majority of US adults have now received at least one shot of their covid vaccine: as of today, 209,406,814 vaccines have been administered to 50.4% of all US adults. That is huge. Absolutely huge. Maybe now Biden’s lawyers will find some clever loopholes to kinda-sorta-not-really break the 2020 contract and export all the vaccines they’re not using to other countries. (Not even necessarily Canada – literally anyone, ideally Brazil.)

Meanwhile, in Canada… There’s a strange generational standoff: the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved only for people 55 and older. They had their pick of Pfizer, Moderna, and AZ but refused to take the latter, which resulted in a lot of half-empty vaccination clinics and, as some pharmacists claim, precious AZ vaccines expiring because no one under 55 was allowed to get them. (One pharmacist wrote about a 53-year-old plumber literally crying because he couldn’t get the AZ shot and nothing else was available.) This is a zero-sum game: by declining the AZ vaccine, they take away a Pfizer or Moderna shot from the younger crowd. The younger crowd, in turn, can’t get their hands on AZ even if they sign a liability waiver. The consensus right now is that the older folks are getting scared shitless through social media, word of mouth, and sensationalist TV reporting on AZ: they’re not deliberately malicious after the sacrifices other age groups have made over the past 14 months, but it sure seems like that from the outside looking in…

Good news on that front, then: Canada’s federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, has just announced that provinces are “free to use” the AZ vaccine on anyone 18 and older. The NACI committee (which, as far as I can tell, is not elected by anyone and wields remarkably disproportionate power for a bunch of mere advisors) is expected to officially concur in a few days. The practical outcome is that Ontario has said it’ll start administering AZ to folks 40 and older. (Great news, plumber-dude!) About time, eh.

And in all the insanity with Ford’s changes and counter-changes, I forgot to mention that even though Canada’s Moderna shipments are delayed, we’ll be getting a lot more Pfizer. We’ll be getting 8 million doses on top of what had already been ordered, and they’ll arrive between May-July. A total of 24 million Pfizer doses will get here between April-June if all goes well. That is excellent, excellent news – though I’m not sure if local provincial governments will be able to handle the logistics of vaccinating literally everyone. I hear good things from British Columbia, but Ontario has not been very organized, to put it mildly… We’ll see.

Good night, y’all.