Vaccination: Q7

Interesting discussion arose at lunch today. The lab ratvolunteer known in this series as the sustainable agriculturist asked the Kenyan neurology student a line of questions. I knew she wanted to ask an awkward question, because she started with, “Well, you aren’t really African, right?” He looked at her with the blank expression that black people give white people when white people are entering embarrassing territory. He responded, “Um, Yes, I am Afrikan.”

She says,”Oh, well, um, do Afrikans eatmushrooms?”

I couldn’t control the laughter. Everyone else at the table took turns mocking her question. She began to turn red from embarrassment. The funniest thing is that she kept trying to explain herself, which only caused her to dig further into that ditch. The Kenyan scientist simply stated,”Yes, we do. And you are only causing further awkardness.”

We have been using that dialogue all day and night.

Now, what I learned from that is people don’t know. You have to always allow for a certain ignorance, especially if the person is truly seeking to know. I have to respect her desire to know. It is definitely better that she went through this experience with us, than for her to write an article or even worse a book with such uninformed notions. I don’t know what they eat in Kenya, either. And ultimately, it was a lesson for all of us. You don’t have to be “politically correct” and tread lightly with every statement you make, but it helps to realize that you are in the position of student seeking to be taught. When I seek knowledge from those I don’t know, I come with a certain reverence. I mean, come on…I don’t know. Her mistake was making assumptions. Assumptions that unfortunately come from what seems to be her jingoistic US worldview. When I brought up her nationalistic prejudice, she conceded.

We are not going to learn all of our lessons in an academic fashion. Most of what I have learned hasn’t been blessed with the only consequence being a letter grade. Due to the reality of a dynamic existence, we have to consider the reactions, and potential reactions of everything we do. Not always an easy task. Eight people spending this much time together in closed quarters, sharing a virus, sharing our space, sharing ourselves is far from an academic environment. We are teaching and building a dialectic that will extend beyond the moment we are graded. In fact, the very theories we discuss are mainly from analysis of praxis, or experienced activities. I don’t fault her for her attempt to weave her way into what may have seemed an offensive topic, but unfortunately, it created a situation for her that prompts punishment. Luckily for her, it is just the wit of my tongue.

My vital statistics are excellent. Blood pressure has decreased and has leveled out well. Dropped five pounds, which is a testament to my metabolism because I’ve been acting the foodie lately. I’ve completed another obligation towards the book I’m inked as a co-author on, and that feels great to get out of my way. Been working on the logo for Owl’s Asylum, and planing on another design. Not sure when that will be completed, but it is in the works.

Vaccination: Q6

Missed breakfast this morning, woke up to my vital test and a needle. The nurse tells me that this will be the last day that I have to get stuck twice. Great. My inner elbow looks like an indented bruise. I don’t even think the nurse has to put pressure on the needle, it just slides in the vein. My blood pressure has gone down considerably, if nobody ever told you the ghetto can kill you, let me show you my charts.

Everybody is considering the fact that this will be over soon. As stated previously in this series, I never expected to actually like anybody. I never expected to really mesh with any one. Fortunately, I make a better statesman than prophecy maker. I may never be able to explain just exactly the degree this will change my life, but I feel it deeply. We talk a lot about poverty and white privilege, and in many ways, my thoughts on that haven’t altered completely, but I realize that there is another level of surviving poverty that many Blacks haven’t embraced. Namely, stop chasing the financial carrot. Of course, that might be too much to ask. A guy can dream.

I realize how movements begin. I realize how communities form. How the alienated can form bonds, and build a space for themselves. I notice the power of being an educated black man. I feel the power of being an intelligent black man. I also see the doom we face through myopic definitions that we have borrowed from the people we claim to have so much disdain for.

As I look out one of the only windows of the floor, my view glances across the highway and into the towers. It drifts slightly higher into the night sky. I always wonder how situations like this seem to end with such great lessons.

Try not to judge so harshly those who are surviving the world we subscribe too. Try to not put the standards you have been sold and branded with so high on the list of priorities. Try to to remember those that struggle with this world in deed, and not just in speech. Thank you.

Vaccination: Q5

So I woke up this morning, got my vital signs checked, laid down for another hour, and got stuck in both arms…again. In some ways, I’m being extremely nice about this because it is a sister that is doing it, but I’ve definitely got to make sure she only sticks me in my right arm. After being poked for blood, I washed up and went into the room designated as the eating room for the lab rats volunteers(that never gets old). Upon entering the room, a discussion was in process that allowed me to immediately handle the disturbance of the night prior.

I used the Quentin Tarantino history of using the “n-word” in his movies as my starting point. Immediately, it was understood where I was going. It is never cool for a non-black person to ever use that word. I feel that it could have been left alone, but I do understand the need for communication and dialogue among members of opposite ethnicity when the time presents itself. And ultimately, it is cathartic to express your angst.

A couple of hours after that discussion, a few of us met up in the area we are calling the ‘sun room”. Our sleeping quarters don’t provide us any sunlight, and during the day this seems to be our grove of sorts. The sun comes down into our pores through a window on the roof, and the room itself is spacious enough for us to kick around a soccer ball. The conversation traveled light speed through various topics such as revolt versus revolution, anarchy, music as a form of communication, what it means to be a radical, and the criminal as an agent for change. Our critiques of society seemed to converge well. I felt that to be socially uncanny, Which can cause me a slight paranioa. As a media analyst, it is difficult for me to seperate the thought from where it originated, and I’m always asking myself if we think alike because we have been programmed alike.

I’ve been extremely social lately, and actually I’ve been in pretty much every major discussion that has occurred here. I don’t necessarily feel I’m representing for the American Black any more than I feel those who are caucasian are representing for their ethnicity or race. I do recognize the class differences, and the attitudes inherent in that particular consciousness. Those that think they are better tend to stick to themselves more. I could be wrong, but there is a pattern that I’m sure I’m not overanalyzing, or hypothesizing incorrectly.

I’ve learned a great deal about communal behavior, and true radical thought. Which is strange, because I didn’t expect I would learn much through my experience here. From what has been admitted, none of us really thought we’d be as social as we have been. Which is ironic, because we all sort of made sure to break the ice rather early in the study.It is no strange thing the beginning of the word “community” is shared by the word “communicate”. In so many ways that is all we really have. We play cards together, we read together, we eat together, we watch movies together, and none of this was by force, and none of it would have occurred if we weren’t interested in the furthering of the extended conversations we share. Total strangers that seem to share a common appreciation for knowledge, and a need for money, obviously, but definitely a respect for learning and living from that place of new thinking.

My vital signs have been terrific. My blood pressure is down, and I’ve even managed to lose a couple pounds. Still not feeling any of the symptoms of either bacteria strand. My more suspicious side is still looking for a camera in the air ducts and vents. Just not willing to accept it as is. But who knows.

Vaccination:Q4

Today was slightly uneventful for the blogger known as Owl. With the exception of two occurrences that I feel the need to discuss. One is pretty rudimentary, and probably most reading this will not be able to relate. But I am really drawing nigh on the acceptance of walking around with two holes in my arms leaking blood. Now, I use to donate plasma twice a week, and I donated blood whenever I was allowed to. I am no stranger to needles leaving holes in my arms. However, this is the second day this one particular nurse has not been able to get a stream flowing from my left arm, and had to readjust the needle in my arm, only to say, “Oh, well, let me check the other arm…” Granted mistakes happen. But I expect mistakes like that from military nurses of the E-1, possibly E-2 pay grade. Not a practitioner who is one step below a doctor in her career currently.

 

My other concern occurred later in the night. The other lab rats volunteers wanted to do the communal thing. The suggestion was a video. Of course, movie night in the vaccination lab. I overheard the title “Reservoir Dogs”, and I immediately asked them through my room’s open sliding door were they going to watch that. The dietitian, who is actually a music teacher, responded that they could. Now, “Reservoir Dogs” is one of Quentin Tarantino’s earlier pieces of a diamond heist gone wrong. The piece is actually a classic. Unfortunately, Tarantino has a penchant for forgetting he doesn’t have a Black Pass with everyone.

 

So, as I went out to view portions of the film, I embarked on the three scene combo in the movie where Tarantino decides to write that “niggers always kill each other”, “Jungle Bunnies can kill anyone and get a terrific parole officer,” and “niggers talk about raping men.” Of course, those are just my interpretations as a Black man. I understand the going argument that if you don’t behave as such it shouldn’t be offensive, but the term is not in reference to just a behavior, it is in reference to a group of people who have been stereotyped as acting as such. Ultimately, I’ve already seen the movie, I just conveniently blocked out those parts from my memory, because I do like the movie. But when in a room with three Caucasians, and a brother from Kenya, you feel it.

 

I’ve really had a difficult inner war with the word “nigger” and all of its cool(quote-unquote) derivatives. I understand the word as a term of endearment. I’ve felt the camaraderie and what we call “the love” from American Black brothers and sisters who have used the term in reference to me. I also understand the implication that poses when white people who might be sympathetic, or really just culturally can’t identify with any other group but American Blacks. I understand that American Blacks are an interesting group of people, and that many are curious about our ways to the degree of trying to fit in among us. I understand that many whites want to discuss the cultural significance of such things, and even be candid about their feeling towards blacks. I get that. But I feel uncomfortable when white people use the term “nigger” in any manner.

 

I have for the last year been considering dropping the term from my own vernacular. The night’s events definitely give me a reason to do as such. I am not to the point of many of my Moorish friends who will hit anybody, black or pink, for using the term. I’m not offended when blacks use it, but there are certain situations when it becomes embarrassing to hear it said. I know that reading those words might seem contradictory, and I’d simply write, welcome to the world of the “nigger”. All jokes aside, I don’t necessarily need to have a moratorium for the word, but I feel for my type of sensibilities, it would be better if I didn’t use it, and if I asked other blacks not to use it in my presence.

 

Other than that, my vitals are fine. Seems that my blood pressure is fluctuating, but at it is coming down. I am still not showing any symptoms from either of the bacteria strands, and I am not feeling any way ill. I’m still drinking plenty of water, and exercising more. So far so good…

Vaccination: Q3

Day four of my being sequesterd away from the world. Starting to adjust and adapt to the patterns around here, taking advantage of the time away from my own world. I enjoyed a great conversation yesterday with the agriculturist’s associates about movies, made me really want to increase my overall media analysis. The experience really only worked to reinforce my belief that most great minds are probably trying to hitch a ride, or trying to get change for a bus ride somewhere. I suppose the average person would say that that isn’t having a mind if they have to beg or borrow, but I guess we all have assholes opinions about standards. There is a certain number of us who think beyond a note of debt that has worked to put people in debt, and out of homes. Unfortunately, the greatest tasks ahead of us is makeing these dreams somehow work, so that we can be accepted by the more practical crowd.

But I guess if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make the primetime line-up…

Was in another great conversation last night about black people and movies. My contention was that black people have a difficult time identifying with not so aggressive characters. If the character isn’t sauve, or witty, or cool, or full of “soul”…then many of us have a difficult time identifying with that character, even if we ourselves aren’t many of those things. I mentioned that there would never be the black parallel to Woody Harrelson’s character in “Indecent Proposal”, or an acceptable black parallel of Julia Roberts’ character in “Pretty Woman”. I deem those messages to a group of women is pretty strong. It also says a lot about black masculine representation. The idea is that it wouldn’t be palatable to most audiences to see a black man seduce a black prostitute. And come on, I mean, Julia Roberts’ portrayal wasn’t seamy in the least bit. She played a wholesome hooker, mainly because the US population can believe that, can American Blacks see a black woman as wholesome, who is also a prostitute? Oxymoronic, huh? Why?

Eh…returning back to my lab rat lifestyle…

My vital signs, which are check three times a day, indicate that I’m remaining healthy. I need to cut back on salt and liquor, however. I drink a lot of water–possibly one gallon a day. You would be surprised how quickly your body gets dehydrated here. I’ve known for a long time the healing properties of water, and good breathing exercises. I’ve been told that the legendary healer Imhotep used lights and music, I might want to look into downloading some jazz, or find Blu on twitter and persuade him to hurry up on the new mixtape!!

Other that today has been fine. I’m doing well, at least surviving. Using the time to continue my philosophy building and the like. No matter where we find ourselves, we have found ourselves.

Vaccination: Q1

The second day of the vaccination processes is called “Q1”. I’ve yet to feel any of the effects of the Streptococcus pneumoniae, or any secondary effects of typhiod. None of the others have complained of anything other than boredom. I’m still being slightly antisocial, primarily just involving myself in the discussions when I’m in the break room, but not exactly extending myself socially beyond that. Mainly I’m staying busy on the new portfolio(Please take a look at it here), even to the point of discussing complications I was having with my ftp with my web site’s hosting company while having blood removed from one arm, and using the other to follow necessary instructions being told me on the laptop. Of course, a guy getting stuck in arm twice a day for a pint of blood is going to eventually want to eat, even if it means with strangers.

But, I’m a pretty amiable guy, and honestly I have connected with the rest of the lab ratsvolunteers when we do get together. Early this morning, after egg and french buttered croissants, I struck up a conversation with the dietitian and the sustainable agriculturist about squatting(living in vacant homes), the economy, and farming. The sustainable agriculturist was apart of a farm in the city, and we also spoke about recycling and the wastefulness of the west. There is an interesting similarity in all of our beliefs and our philosophies, branching at certain extremes, but never really colliding. Even when the discussion turns from the socio-political to the religious.

During the lunch break, the neurologist, the choir director, the welder & his sister, and the sustainable agriculturist were all discussing polyamory when I walked in. Like most things, I support polyamory, but probably wouldn’t ever involve myself seriously in anything like that. The choir director, just entering the room for lunch, asked what polyamory was. We explained that it was multipartnered, nonmonogamous relationships. The neurologist joked and said it was like swinging. The sustainable agriculturist gasped and asked if people still did that. I laughed, recalled a few swinger’s parties, and just said with a grimace,”You’d be surprised at what types of cultures persists through time.” She spoke about her sheltered life and how she worked the maintenance room of a convenant, and how she could understand.

The conversation shifted from the sexual to the financial, and we all spoke on how we were worried about following our dreams. Like most people, our concerns moved from thoughts of retirement benefits and insurance, to the mundane life that is indentured servitude in even in these modern times. We all also spoke of how we would hate to spend the next twenty years working for someone, and have to live with the regrets of not giving our life to our dreams and beliefs. The neurologist stated, “you can’t pray for a house, though.”

I was the first to laugh and say,”It depends on who you are praying to.” The choir director instantly agreed. I was asked about who I prayed to. I gave a small synopsis of my philosophy and my beliefs regarding vibratory thoughts and the natural patterns of life. I also stated I don’t believe in a personal god, and that I was half atheist. That drew laughter from the neurologist from Kenya who bellowed,”You are smart man, playing both side just in case!”

The conversation continued with us all explaining our varied manner of worship and belief. And even with a query from the welder and I regarding the historical proof Jesus, the bilingual, and well-traveled choir director simply smiled, leaned his into his Dell laptop and remarked,”Give me until dinner, guys…”

Vaccination: Day Zero

So, I’m a part of a vaccination study for a university in town. The overall objective of the study is to see which method of three delivery methods beings studied will assist in making the vaccinations of streptococcus pneumonia(S. pneumo) more wide spread. S. pneumo is one of the most common causes of bacterial infections in the lung (pneumonia) and brain and spinal cord (meningitis). It also causes infection in the blood, ears (otitis media), sinuses and other body sites. These infections can be difficult to fight and lead to many deaths worldwide. The method of vaccination delivery I am helping to study(read: being a guinea pig for) is the oral digestion of a trace of the S. pneumo bacteria being carried into my system by another trace of Salmonella Typhi (S. Typhi) bacteria. Vaccines work by presenting the immune system with a small amount of an antigen so that the immune system can produce antibodies that will destroy the less potent antigen while teaching the immune system how to recognize the antigens if they were a stronger pathogen, eg. a full blown virus.

Since the type of vaccine is a live-attenuated vaccine at a high dose, I am not allowed to leave the facility. Since I am shedding the bacteria from my body, I might infect a person with a compromised immune system. Also, I have to avoid contact with babies under the age of 2 years young. Due to the possibility of my carrying the bacteria longer than my stay here, I could middle ear infection, and other complications. The need for me to stay confined is serious.

I am speaking in first person singular but there are actually around eight other people here with me. Upon arriving here this morning, I was offered my choice of room. Now, this is just a converted hospital, so it is a nine by ten foot room with the bed surrounded by lights. There is also a regular television with basic cable channels and the phone with the strange extension as a direct line for the phone .

As the day progressed, I met the rest of the lab rats volunteers while being prepared to receive the vaccine. When it came time, we all stood around a rotunda facing a bottle of Ensure that had been poured into two cups, while our numbers were called for our dosages.

This is about the time my history lessons started flying through my head and all sorts of thoughts of impoverished American Black men and women being injected with syphilis and denied penicillin treatments in Tuskegee, Alabama conducted between 1932 and 1972. For a second, my mind went back to the very term “vaccination” with its roots in the cow pox disease that protected many of the early European settlers from the viral small pox disease that would become a form of the western world’s bio-chemical warfare. During the Native American attack around 1752 on the British terrorist encampment Fort Pitt (which would become Pittsburg, Pennsylvania), Jeffery Amherst, Henry Bouquet, and Simeon Ecuyer, in order to “use every strategem in our power to reduce them”, conjured up the idea to send infected blankets and a handkerchief to the Native Americans in an effort to an “extirpate this execrable race”.

All this passed through my mind as we, upon instruction, quickly gulped two-thirds of the Ensure bottle and then drank the bitter vaccination like a shot of Tequila (actually the phrase “Shot, shot, shot..” was chanted by a nurse and a few of the lab rat volunteers). We then poured the rest of the Ensure into the same container with the remaining droplets of Salmonella Typhi laced with Streptococcus pneumoniae.

So, far I haven’t felt any of the effects, but my immune system has always been pretty strong, and there are only trace incidents, or so I’ve been told.

Of course, what would this post be without me describing the others. It is a motley crew at best: A young brother working on his neurology degree, an agriculturist working on projects in the impoverished areas of the city, a welder, a dietitian, a choir director, and the other alternate that came on with me. I know the descriptions are bland at best, but as the project goes on, I’ll fill you in on the specifics. Thus far the conversations — all starting with a name-statement-name staccato in effort to memorize each others names — have been about societal designators, class designations, the degree-job ratio and sushi. Oh, and the other alternate wants to smuggle in liquor. That ought to be interesting!!