If you live in Bakersfield, you know that’s it’s windy today. Really windy. Really, really windy. I can hear the wind swirling the leaves and swaying the trees outside the house right now. And if you live in Bakersfield, you know that your first thought this morning upon exiting your home to take your kids to school or go to work or whatever was: “Crap. How am I gonna go about my business while doing the least possible amount of breathing today?”
Yes, we have legendarily bad air quality. Yes, if you move here, you will probably develop asthma or allergies. And yes, people in the lower half of California are known for not dealing with weather well. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about two words.
Never heard of it, you say. That’s doesn’t sound too bad, you say. And what does a fever have to do with wind?
Aren’t you glad you asked? Formally known as coccidioidomycosis, Valley Fever is a fungal infection. While it’s found in other places like Brazil and Arizona, there’s a reason it’s named Valley Fever (as in the San Joaquin Valley, at the southern tip of which Bakersfield sits). It lives in dirt, and when it gets windy, the spores fly aloft with the dust, and straight into your lungs. And it’s not a nice disease. (And it’s so weird and exotic outside of the area that it was used as a plot device in an episode of Bones.)
[“WTF are you talking about!” I can hear you exclaiming. Yes. Spores. Valley Fever is spores. That you breathe in.]
And so, when I drove The Pumpkin to her school this morning through swirling clouds of dust coming off of empty lots and dirt-covered parkways, like the one directly across the street from her school (which, by the way, is the sidewalk-less buffer between the curb and the cemetary, yeah, no worries about loose or freshly dug earth there), all I could think was that I wished I’d had a surgical mask to give her, like the one a Filipino doctor had given to my wife on her first windy day at her rural clinic job here eight years ago (to get through the parking lot!). [Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Filipinos, like my wife and daughters, are especially susceptible, so much so that there’s a Tagalog brochure alongside the English and Spanish ones on the county health department website?]
And to top it off, the wind then took The Button’s headband off her head, which she’d put on, in her usual fashion, like Lobot or a Minbari, and sent it end over end, perfectly on its side, rolling down the sidewalk and out of sight.
Anyway, bottom line: Don’t. Breathe. Thank you. That is all.