The man hears that his grand-daughter is doing well on the saxophone in grade school.
I’ve got a record in my room, he says.
To his surprise, in the stacks of albums, he finds John Coltrane.
He shows her how to — ooh, carefully — place the forefinger under the tiny bar, drop the stylus on the outside border. Coltrane starts honking.
I used to listen to jazz my first decade on the road, he says, thinking about Horace Silver in one joint, Marian McPartland somewhere else, the night Richard Pryor and Jack Jones held a scat-singing duel during a Johnny Hartman gig in L.A.
Coltrane motors away from the melody, doing riffs with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Roy Haynes — "My Favorite Things," from Newport, 1963. First time he heard this album was over at Sam and Faith’s.
The girl is listening and talking at the same time. She is a quick study. The best part of vinyl, he says — well, two: even with the scratches, the sound is better than an iPod — is the liner notes.
The quartet veers back into the melody and the girl catches it. They’re playing the first song over, she says. No, it’s jazz, he says. It’s all the same song.
He shows her the credits for the other side, where Coltrane is joined by another tenor sax, Pharoah Sanders. I like that name, she says, repeating it a few times.
When the first side is over, she turns the vinyl over — two tenor saxes prodding each other on the title song, Selflessness.
I’m going to tell my teacher about Pharoah Sanders, she says.
After she heads home, the grandfather locates his Billie Holiday anthology. Next time she is over, I’m going to play "Georgia on My Mind." (They used to live in Atlanta, and she will know this song.) It’s got young Eddie Heywood on piano and Lester Young on tenor sax. Gorgeous liner notes. He thinks, I’m glad I kept my albums.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.