October 2, 2014

Plague Doctor on the Green River


"Dress for success!" 1656

Plague doctors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries :

Some doctors wore a beak-like mask which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection. Thus: The nose half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and to carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the drugs enclosed further along in the beak. Under the coat we wear boots made in Moroccan leather (goat leather) from the front of the breeches in smooth skin that are attached to said boots and a short-sleeved blouse in smooth skin, the bottom of which is tucked into the breeches. The hat and gloves are also made of the same skin… with spectacles over the eyes.

He wore spectacles over his eyes and a floppy sun hat during our days drifting down the river. No gloves though. That was for his lab and we were a long way from his lab.

We were camped somewhere on the Green River in Utah. In a shallow canyon down near the Green's Confluence with the Colorado. We were seven days into a nine day canoe drift down the river. It was night. We'd eaten, smoked, had some cups of grog and were lying back on our sleeping bags with the stars as close as a tent's roof. The night was warm and we were talking about the things we did when we were back in the world.

He was a scientist. A biochemist. When he wasn't drifting down a river in the vast American outback he was working behind several levels of barriers against biohazards at some megacompany whose name has now been washed down the Green River with so many other moments. Everything except his short monologue about his line of work. He was working with the live AIDS virus. And to him it wasn't just another chunk of strange almost alive almost dead tiny bit of matter. No. Not at all. To him the AIDS virus was very much alive. It had a purpose and a personality.

"What I worry about sometimes," he said, "is that it's so lively for a virus. It's mutating all the time."

"Well, that's what makes it interesting," I said. "Isn't that what a virus does? And besides, don't you have to have long and direct contact to contract AIDS?"

"Yes, now you do. But don't always count on that. It could always figure out how to get airborne. Then you've got a real problem."

"Okay, but isn't that very difficult and very unlikely?"

"Maybe," he said sounding sleepy. "Maybe, but from what I see in the lab I have to say that this virus is a very clever virus. Very clever and getting smarter all the time."

But that was just some fading campfire conversation soon subsumed by sleep. It was a long, long time ago, in another life, down on the Green River.

Don't you do no trav'lin',
Fly in no machines.
Tombstone shadow, stretchin' across my path.

Every time I get some good news, ooh,
There's a shadow on my back.

The man gave me a luck charm, cost five dollars more,
Said, "put some on your pillow, and put some on your door."
He said, "take a long vacation, ooh,
For thirteen months or more."

Oh, lord! -- Creedence Clearwater Revival


"Dress for success!" 2014

Up at Cody's camp I spent my days, oh,
With flat car riders and cross-tie walkers.
Old Cody, Junior took me over,
Said, you're gonna find the world is smouldrin'
An' if you get lost come on home to Green River.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at October 2, 2014 7:53 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Packing up orders this morning, my mind drifting during the menial task thinking about the story on Drudge about Louis Farrakan going off, as he’s prone to, about Ebola being the work of the CIA. And I thought isn’t strange how he, and others in that demented, conspiracy mindset, had once leveled the same charge regarding another deadly virus - AIDS. And also how strange it is that these viruses originate from the Dark Continent, which makes the Farrakan charge even more bizarre and insulting.

And I also thought…yup, need more boxes, better call Uline. Now I might have to add an item…

True story.

Posted by: tim at October 2, 2014 9:21 AM

Farrakhan claims (and his minions mindlessly moan in agreement at the notion) that the Southern States seceded because of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Sad to say, it's not just Farrakhan's automatons who have been convinced of this 'fact'.

Anyone willfully ignorant enough to swallow that, will believe anything.

Posted by: goy at October 3, 2014 7:36 AM

See, now, anyone who's played the Assassin's Creed series on X-box would know all about
1. Otherwise "unreported" history.
2. Plague Doctors, in those funny get-ups.

Posted by: CaptDMO at October 3, 2014 10:30 AM

The first place I would look for apocryphal visions would be Hieronymus Bosch:


By the way, when I was stricken with renal failure and Multiple Myeloma last winter they had me on "death watch" for two weeks.
During that time I was in and out of consciousness and I had visions worse than anything I've seen from Bosch.
Anyone who has been there, on the edge, will know what I mean, visions. The forces of God and the Devil played for my soul. God won.

As Gerard has said: I've done a dance or two with Death over the years. I've found that he's not very graceful and he always wants to lead.

Posted by: chasmatic at October 3, 2014 5:45 PM

No, I don't really want to wear full anti-C's, a wet suit, and an air-fed hood when I leave the house....

Posted by: pfsm at October 4, 2014 6:47 PM