Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler.
I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, a white middle class kid in a mostly white school district. And I loved the emerging 1980s East Coast rap scene. Run DMC? Yes please. Beastie Boys? Uh, yes!
In this, I was not unlike my white-suburban-middle-class friends, guys who really knew nothing of the real life these rappers were poetically laying down but who could (poorly) rap every word to most of their songs — even the “bad” words that, had our white–suburban-middle-class parents heard us say them, would have inspired a grounding.
Longhaul COVID messes with your mind. And it’s random. This morning, I was getting ready for work. As I was filling my water bottle in the kitchen (hydrate! hydrate! hydrate!), my body said, “Um, hello there. Good morning. Good to see you. Yeah, we’re going to need to pee. And soon.”
I know I finished filling my water bottle. I know I then ended up in our upstairs bathroom dulling my stunning visage to merely “average” so as not to attract too much HR-incident attention from my colleagues. Suddenly, I realized: I don’t have to pee anymore. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember if I’d actually peed. I mean, I know it was pretty urgent while I was filling the water bottle. And then it wasn’t. But did I actually pee? This is now a Great Life Mystery.
I finished getting ready. This included what I’m quite sure is two applications of underarm deodorant because, well, I couldn’t remember for sure if I did it, so, again thinking of my co-workers, I decided a double dose is better than no dose.
Got in my car. Began the drive to work. Snow on the roads. Slow go. I needed some music, so I put on my “John’s Rrap” playlist on Amazon Music. Run DMC. N.W.A. Eminem. Even “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground … and if you need to know why that’s on there you didn’t live through the 1980s.
And, of course, the Beastie Boys.
The song “Paul Revere” came on. Now, if you’re easily offended by satirical music lyrics and the braggadocio of rappers, please don’t listen to this song. Please. Just… don’t.
But there I was, rolling down a snow-covered I-64 in my super-awesome midnight blue Nissan Versa (yeah, not a good snow car), and I was nailing it. Ever. Single. Word. All three Beastie’s parts. In their individual voices! (Or at least my best approximations.) I absolutely crushed that song.
Now, I “get” neuroscience as much as any guy with an intense interest in the brain but no scientific talent to actually pursue a career in the field. I understand there are different parts of the brain for short-term and long-term memory. Of course, we can debate why a song from sixth grade found its way into my long-term memory with such clarity while things that would have helped me scholastically, such as, say, math, didn’t quite stick. But that’s a topic for another blog. (Preview: How the Beasties got away with beer and gold is much more important than the Pythagorean Theorem.)
The point is, COVID brain fog sucks. It’s confusing. It takes away things that are important and leaves us the things that, while making us boss rappers in our cars, are really of no consequence. Somewhere inside me is the really smart guy who kicks butt on Jeopardy! and teaches my younger son history and debates philosophy and religion and politics with my older son. But now? I don’t know that I’m that guy anymore. I would love to remember if I’d peed, if I’d put on my deodorant. I’d love to have not asked my wife how she was doing literally 15 seconds after I apparently asked her the first time.
This is hard, folks. Really hard. There are daily challenges that are extremely humbling. I want this to go away. Now. It’s hard to be patient, even harder to think that this just might be a “forever” thing.
But at least I have the Beastie Boys. At least I know this with certainty: