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Not long ago, Woodlands had its official 25th anniversary celebration with hoopla and local notables. But a month previously there had been an in-house produced anniversary variety show with fine old songs, and to me, this was the more real — that is, soulful — event. The between-song narration was themed on survival (those of us in the show and our friends had survived) and looked back over changes that America has seen since the turn of the last century.

On Sept. 15, I was diagnosed COVID positive and, so far, I have survived. I attribute my survival mostly to having had the two Pfizer shots which, I believe, blunted the disease’s force. Eventually getting a monoclonal antibody infusion probably also helped. So thank you, Pfizer, thank you, West Virginia medical system, and thank you, Woodlands!

Anti-vaxxers do not value survival the way I and my fellow Woodlanders do. Nor do cigarette smokers. Nor do overweight and under-exercised diabetes and hard-artery sufferers. Nor do folks who indulge in over 100-mph joy rides.

The basic problem these restless and unhappy folks suffer is that they apparently cannot appreciate the pleasures of ordinary life. They cannot, I gather, sit down to an ordinary meal and, bite by bite, enjoy it. They cannot, it seems obvious, relish a quiet walk in Ritter Park in good weather. They cannot take up a good (fiction or nonfiction) book and become immersed.

They can keep handguns, though these weapons will more likely be used for suicide than self-defense or organized sport shooting. They can drink or take drugs to excess. They can shout at the TV.

The secondary costs of anti- vaxxerism have become too much, and the recently implemented vaccination requirements and mandates are now reasonable public health moves. So, too, are some gun control and speeding laws. But, for the most part, those of us who deplore self-destructive behavior will just have to Let it Be (thanks, Beatles). The police will have to take care of gun crime and the discovery of fentanyl- laced cadavers. It’s the highway patrol for the joy riders. Nurses, doctors and funeral directors will be called upon in the anti-vaxxer situation.

Needle exchange, masks and smoker’s benches may mitigate, but not really control, other anti-social behavior.

I used to teach college economics, which most students disliked. Eventually I found ways to arouse some interest in microeconomics (“this is your life — you really do think this way”) but not macroeconomics (this is why banks are important). That some student interest can be generated in economics classes is and was a tiny victory. To make even a small beginning in ordinary-life-is-good instruction would be a much bigger one.

I know this remark may be greeted with guffaws, but ordinary-life appreciation really has little to do with wealth. Park walks (and state park hikes) are free. I sometimes find consolation in tootling my harmonica, an inexpensive instrument. Secondhand books are almost free. Good, if not gourmet, food is not all that scarce.

So I will continue to eat, read, walk and pontificate. Last word (reprise): ”Thanks again, Pfizer, West Virginia medicos, and Woodlands!”

John Palmer is a Huntington resident.

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