Mistress of the Mix: The Return Of Armageddarevolutiopocalypticafluenza

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The unleashing of COVID-19 (and how to survive it) is what my dad has been sounding the alarm about for decades. Now that the day has finally arrived that his expert opinion is desperately needed, he’s unable to participate much in the discussion. That’s because he’s strapped to a reclining chair in the living room, sleeping most of the time, in home hospice care. It’s one of the saddest things I’m personally dealing with right now, because I know that what the world needs most right now are more experts like him.
You see, my dad – an actual rocket scientist, communication theorist and best-selling sci-fi and techno thriller novelist – has dedicated much of his life trying to warn people about all the different ways life as we know it might end, and writing earnestly about how those smart enough to listen to him could weather through such an event.

For example, dad has been promoting the ‘elbow bump’ in lieu of a hand shake for years. It’s how our family members typically greet one another. It would be impossible to grow up in Dr. Ing’s household without some of that doomsday fascination rubbing off on me, which is why a few years back I wrote about my obsession with The Walking Dead. It’s not the threat of zombies that fascinates me, it’s the idea of surviving in a world turned upside down. My dad has been drilling self-reliance and self-sustenance into me and my sister since as early as we can remember, and now we’re finally at that place when all those bedtime stories of little girls lost in the woods and survival camp outs we went on could actually come in useful.

About three years ago, Dad was really ramping up the Chicken Little rhetoric, steering every conversation to his favorite subject. And it was a little much. So partly to try to shut him up for a few weeks and partly because there really was no way to shut him up, we gave him the most spectacular present we’d ever come up with on Father’s Day. That Sunday in June – which was, coincidentally, also his birthday – we gave him a classroom filled with his close family. My sister and I, our husbands and all the kids gathered together with pen and notebook in hand, and sat through a three hour “Surviving The End-Of-Life-As-We-Know-It” lecture.

Dad is also a former university professor, so he was prepared with a syllabus and text books, which were copies of his own books “Pulling Through” and  “The Chernobyl Syndrome” as well as Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”

The most likely possibilities, as he laid them out, included a massive climate-change fueled fire (this was in 2017, by the way. A full year before the Carr Fire, Camp Fire, or any of those other huge fires that not only destroyed many of my friend’s homes, but also left my backyard garden impotent). Other events on the list included more potential natural disasters like the long-predicted Cascadia Earthquake (anyone feel that tremor off the coast last week?), tsunamis and typhoons. The list also included a favorite spotlight of his doomsday prepping sci-fi books in the early 80’s: a nuclear war or nuclear disaster. You think it couldn’t happen today, and then you look at what’s going on in North Korea and Iran, and it’s not that far fetched. Also on the list: EMP. An Electro-Magnetic Pulse that could wreak havoc on our most prized modern electronic inventions, and force every person under the age of 21 to learn how to dial a rotary telephone.

But the thing heading his list of the things he thought had the potential to bring the whole world to a screeching halt is written at the very top of my page of notes with stars on each side and two exclamation marks. And of course you know what the #1 item on his list was, dontcha? Yep. *FLU!!*

After lecturing us on all the ways he predicted things could go sideways for us, Dad talked about the best ways we could prepare ourselves for any of these possibilities actually occurring, which included sage advice that we’d already heard most of our lives, like move out of the cities, learn to xeriscape, and protect yourself from a global pandemic, starting with the elbow bump.

Now, here we are, in the thick of it. My daughter and her boyfriend have done their part better than most people of their generation. Instead of partying on the beaches and licking toilet seats for TikTok videos, they cancelled a planned road trip home, and are isolated in their apartment. Sophia had just landed a job with the University of Portland, which was supposed to start with Spring Term. Now she’s unemployed again. Patrick, who teaches coding for kids at one of Portland’s schools, is now teaching kids online. When they do go out for supplies, here’s how they roll:

I have learned that even though I’m generally the biggest extrovert in the room at any given moment, I seem to be seamlessly adapting to an introvert lifestyle. I have no problem sitting on the sofa and catching up on the entire latest season of This Is Us that I’d missed out on (plus Fleabag, Killing Eve, and re-watching previous episodes of The Walking Dead), and playing solitaire with my favorite, well-worn deck of nude male revue playing cards that were discovered in my mother-in-law’s house after she passed away a few years ago.

Apparently being a public radio classical music host is still an essential position, so I’m one of the lucky (or unlucky) few who are still working, but we’re running on a skeleton crew. I come in to the studio at noon with a bottle of disinfectant and start wiping down everything that might have been touched by the host before me, including the console, mic, headphones, cd players, keyboards and mice. I even wipe down the weather forecast. I soothe the masses with Mozart and Debussy, and then I go back home and choose something from the freezer to defrost, and decide which bottle of alcohol I’m going to sterilize my throat with. I’ve been staying away from my parents as much as possible, because I know that anyone of my co-workers or the checker at the grocery store could unknowingly pass the virus on to me, and then I could carry this virus around for weeks without realizing it and pass it along to my folks.

Pete Jr and Pete Sr.

Case in point: just in case you don’t know anyone who has tested positive for the virus yet and think this is all a great big overreaction, one of my close friends just lost his father to COVID-19. Pete Erickson Sr was the first Alaskan to die of the virus. Like my father, Pete Sr had congestive heart failure and kidney problems plus COPD, and was medivaced to Seattle recently for those issues. Because he had so many other issues competing with each other to do him in, nobody thought to test him until the very end for COVID-19. Not until he’d been on two separate floors of Virginia Mason hospital, discharged to a rehab facility, and then hospitalized again in Federal Way where he passed last week.

So yes. Someone I know has passed away, and now my friend Pete Jr has also tested positive. He’s quarantined with his wife and family, not really having the chance to mourn for his father because he’s so busy using his experience as a bullhorn to yell at everyone to just stay home. Pete has retained his in-your-face sense of humor though. In one of his many warnings to the public at large he said, “If you must go out in public for supplies, just pretend that you have dog shit on your hands and everything you touch will go in your mouth later.” I’m taking every bit of advice Pete is handing out, and I hope his symptoms don’t get any worse than what he’s already been experiencing so far: a sudden and profound loss of his sense of taste and smell. I hope his wife and kids continue to test negative. I have a lot of hopes.

Then the day before yesterday, my father’s caregiver called in sick. Said he was having respiratory problems. He might not be coming back. Ever. So I made a shepherd’s pie, put on my glamorous N95 face mask that I’ve owned since the Carr Fire, sterilized my hands, grabbed a deck of cards to play a few hands of rummy with my mom (yeah, those cards), and trudged next door to cater to the needs of the man who prepared me to weather the viral storm of the century.

My dad was so thankful for my presence that he said, “Come on in for a hug, kid.”

And of course I said, “How about an elbow bump instead?”

This playlist was easy to put together….I put it together four years ago for the original Armageddarevolutiopocalypticafluenza column (which you really should go back and read. It’s got all a great list of all my recommended reading and viewing material for the End Times one could ever hope for). But I bet you’ve got a few more songs to throw on the list, dontcha?

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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28 Responses

  1. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Great and very valuable article, Val. I hope all those who are not taking this seriously will read it and think, think, think again. And behave differently too. If not for themselves, then for the rest of us. I’ll be taking Pete’s good advice when I go out to the grocery store today. Thank you.

  2. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Dancing With Tears in My Eyes – Ultravox
    99 Luftballoons – Nena
    The Final Countdown – Europe

  3. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Nothing drives me crazier these days than hearing or reading (and I’m quoting our local Trump foot-washer here): “Nobody saw this coming.”

    Wrong. Many saw it coming, but many others wasted almost two months in denial, squandering the opportunity to take early action—most notably Der Pumpkinführer. There have been repeated pandemics, and long speculation about what would happen *when* an extremely contagious and/or an extremely deadly virus ever arose. As Val points out, we saw it coming to the extent that whole genres of fiction and film—from “The Andromeda Strain” and “Outbreak” to “World War Z” and “28 Days Later”—are based on the recurring mythos. And yes, as Val also points out, zombie movies count. They’re always caused by viruses. And the point is never the zombies—it’s how the rest of us react, survivor-to-survivor—to the chaos and collapse of civilization.

    When this is over, let’s never forget that Der Pumpkinführer had dissolved the pandemic response arm of the CDC, gutted much of the rest of that agency, and put his idiot son-in-law in charge during those crucial initial 6-8 weeks—Prince Jared, who thought the whole thing was a PR issue. As a result, we still don’t have enough test kits, front-line hospital workers still lack PPE and sufficient numbers of ventilators, and as we finally ramp up testing, we quickly lead the world in confirmed number of cases.

    I found two N95 masks in my garage yesterday. I offered them to my nurse-practitioner daughter, a hospital employee in the Sacramento area. Turns out they’re not allowed to provide their own PPE for the reason that it would leave the impression with others—staff and patients outside of critical care units—that everyone should have them. But of course, everyone in a hospital *should* have them. There just aren’t anywhere enough to go around.

    Now that it’s increasingly obvious that this shit is real and it’s only going to get worse, there’s a new trope circulating among conservatives: Sacrifice the Boomers—have them go back to work in order to keep the economy afloat, while protecting our younger cohorts. I try not to deny facts and logic, so I admit that there’s a perversely sound internal logic to that proposal. That morbid proposal is actually more logical than my own: Let rabid Trump supporters of all age cohorts go back to work to support the economy, while the rest of us wait out the consequences of Trump’s parade of idiocies. Let the idiots who go to his rallies bear the brunt. Why wouldn’t that far-more-just alternative work? The brain-drain would likely kill more people than the virus.

    (For you über-literal-minded Trumpsters: I jest in a sarcastic manner. I don’t want anyone sacrificed to the pandemic.)

    Normally I drop a few suggested adds to Val’s lists, mostly in the “Americana” realm. As it happens, I’d already made my own Spotify playlist for the occasion: “Apocalyst.” So I’ll just drop the link to that here.

    https://open.spotify.com/playlist/44ggwYZa08KSofMmD1DbnH?si=zgFlojDtSuSqN45FBpeGww

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      P.S.: If you’re in the mood for a really upbeat song in the genre, skip most of my list and just listen to “Ever Since the World Ended” by Mose Allison.

    • Avatar Richard DuPertuis says:

      Steve, I too found a couple of N95s left over from the Carr Fire. I called Shasta Community Health Center and asked how I could get them to people who needed them. The emergency nurse told me to keep them and wear one every time I go out. He assured me Shasta County was on top of things, “We are holding our own.”

      Best news I heard all last week.

  4. Mistress of the Mix Mistress of the Mix says:

    Well done, Steve! Speaking of PR… I was reading up on the 1918 global pandemic outbreak this morning. And because we were in the thick of WW1 the US, UK, France and Germany were trying to keep up morale by censoring the press and downplaying infection rates in these countries. Spain was neutral, So infection rates were reported accurately and widely for that country… giving people the false impression that Spain was harder hit than other countries… which led to the nickname Spanish Flu. You probably already knew that, but I didn’t!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I had read that, as well as further evidence that the “Spanish flu” originated in Kansas. I’ve also read that some Italian epidemiologists speculate that COVID-19 originated in Italy. They say that there was a significant increase of elderly Italians dying of pneumonia prior to the Chinese epidemic. There are tens of thousands of Chinese working on infrastructure projects in Northern Italy, so the epidemiologists suggested that it may have been carried back to China by workers returning home. Maybe that gets sorted out later, but it goes to the silliness of calling pandemic diseases by national/regional/ethnic names, especially in these times of global connectedness.

  5. Mistress of the Mix Mistress of the Mix says:

    A note to readers, especially those in Alaska, regarding the death of Pete Sr: it is believed that Pete Senior contracted the coronavirus while hospitalized in Seattle, not while he was still in Alaska. But the virus is spreading in the last frontier, so y’all stay home and keep your communities as protected as possible!

  6. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    I’ll add Monster Mash to the playlist because years ago I went to a Halloween party dressed as a mummy. My costume was wrapping myself in toilet paper, how I wish I had that costume now.

  7. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    “You Stay Here,” is a Richard Shindell song about refugees fleeing Sarajevo, but when I first heard it, I thought it was about survivors of the end times.

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      My friend Patty pointed out that “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers fits this What’s Gonna Happen time.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        One of the things I like about Tarantino films is his use of retro music—”Flowers on the Wall” made it into “Pulp Fiction” at some point (I don’t remember the context). That song really gets to the downside of social isolation. The Statler Brother who wrote it suffered from Crohn’s disease his whole life and had to leave the group early. I imagine the song is autobiographical.

  8. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    “If This Is Goodbye”, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, written by Mark in tribute to victims of 9/11.
    (watch the video if you really need to cry…………..)

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      Eleanor, after having good intentions to check out Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris in “All the Roadrunning” for oh, thirteen years or so, I finally started listening to it this month. I love the album.

      Until now, I thought that Knopfler wrote “If This is Goodbye” from the perspective of someone talking to a spouse from a hospital bed, but to learn from you that it was written from the perspective of someone making a last phone call from the World Trade Center gives it an entirely different resonance. Thanks.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK_9ppta_M0

    • Avatar Richard Christoph says:

      Last song on their album “All The Roadrunning,” which has become one of my favorites.

  9. Oh, Val, this was a tear-jerker on so many levels. Please thank your father for being so ahead of the curve, and for raising such an awesome daughter.

    Thank YOU for doing the work you are doing as a JPR radio host, and for continuing to bring us columns that this to delight, entertain and inform us … and move us to tears.

    I don’t have to tell you, but be safe, dear Val. Elbow bumps to you and your loved ones.

    xod

    • Steve DuBois Steve DuBois says:

      Also, Valerie, I hope everything works out for your dad. He’s quite the man! This could be a rough time to get help. You‘ve got it under control. Stay safe. Be patient. Have courage.

  10. Steve DuBois Steve DuBois says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s dad, Valerie. I hope Pete Jr. and his family will be okay.

  11. Avatar Candace says:

    You, your life and your family are a fascinating, funny, gut-wrenching, heart-warming, adventures -gone-wrong, adventures-gone-right, joyful portrait of a roller coaster life being lived to its fullest capacity. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. The dad thing is beyond hard and yours sounds extra great. My heart goes out to you. I’ve told you this before but I’ll say it again – I love your writing. Can’t wait to read your book when it’s finished. Oh, and I have a favorite potholder which was given to me by a niece (doc in Seattle). It’s a graphic showing a shirtless, belt undone, ginger, male fire-fighter, lol. One of the gay members in my family tried to barter for it – no way. Take care.

  12. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    My 2009 Subaru Forester has the factory CD player, so I still listen to CDs. Since Jan. 1, I’ve only been listening to one CD: Ramones Mania. Some key tracks out of the 30 songs on the compilation have helped get me through the dying months of the Trump regime and the coronavirus pandemic.

    1. I Wanna Live
    2. I Wanna Be Sedated
    3. Bonzo Goes To Bittburg
    4. Blitzkrieg Bop
    5. Howling at the Moon

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do” fits the general boredom theme that seems to be plaguing a lot of people.

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        Man, I got too much shit to do and I’m not doing any of it! Guess I’m gonna have to tellum that I got no cere bellum. Crazy times require crazy music.

        “Looks like I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue,” says Lloyd Bridges in the film Airplane. There’s a mash-up of his progression from smoking to drinking to amphetamines to sniffing glue on YouTube that’s pretty damn funny.

  13. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    Also, going out to NYC, the Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street “Ventilator Blues.”

  14. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Valerie your father is a very smart Man! And Yes Steve, there were plenty that saw this coming. It’s a choice what you do After you hear the Facts as Presented by our Intelligence Community. They call them the “Intelligence” Community for a reason.

    With the Current Projections and Dr. led Opinions it looks like it won’t “peak” until Mid to late July……and the between now and then doesn’t look pretty at all.

    Before it’s all over…..most everyone will personally know someone….or will know some one that knows some one that had it or died from it. We could be looking at the end of the year to be somewhat out of the woods on this one.

    Distance and wash and sanitize……

  15. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I just learned that a good friend of mine here in Redding, who has been in intensive care at Davis tested positive for Covid-19. Tested finally after a week in the hospital……
    Val, I love your dad’s books. “Pulling Through” described the real possiblity of nuclear war, but was full of specific ideas about preparation for such a disaster. I’m a catastrophic thinker which is the reason I try to live within walking distance of water. When I would visited my mom in Southern California I always bought and stored water around her home.
    Steve is right when he writes that this pandemic was a predictable and expected event. Someone was thinking about this when they designed airport bathrooms you can walk into and use without touching door or sink handles. Love you you and your family. Listening to your voice, and the music you play on the air is a comfort to me.

  16. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your superb writing, Val, while on our 3rd day of strict isolation after returning from 3+ weeks in New Zealand on Wednesday evening. What a contrast between a national government that takes science and the recommendations of medical experts seriously, and one that does not. Kudos to PM Jacinda Ardern and Dr. Ashley Bloomfield for full disclosure, transparency, and polite answers to legitimate questions from the press. What a concept…

    Though we offered repeatedly to trade leadership with NZ, not a single Kiwi agreed.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I wish the Kiwis would take my entire family. I’d pay for all the airline tickets and buy the family compound. Speaking of which, prior to the pandemic it was already fashionable for Silicon Valley zillionaires to be purchasing WTSHTF bug-out estates in New Zealand.