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Seems going to Vegas last week was a blessing in disguise.

While away, “the flu” landed at that place where I work and a plethora of associates are down with it.

Yes, the staff is short, folks there look like death warmed over.

But, many of us who partied in Sin City were spared…so far.

For a moment today I identified with the Dowager Countess of Grantham as I reminded my coworkers of her comment while dining when those around her were dropping from the Spanish Flu.  Lady Grantham alluded to the ball in Paris where cholera broke out and half the guests were dead by morning.

She was referring to the German poet Heinrich Heine’s description of an outbreak in Paris in a letter to a friend: “A masked ball in progress … suddenly the gayest of the harlequins collapsed, cold in the limbs, and underneath his mask, violet blue in the face. Laughter died out, dancing ceased and in a short while carriage-loads of people hurried from the Hotel Dieu to die, and to prevent a panic among the patients were thrust into rude graves in their dominoes [long, hooded capes worn with a half-mask). Soon the public halls were filled with dead bodies, sewed in sacks for want of coffins … long lines of hearses stood in queue…”

Well, maybe it isn’t that bad, but this strain of the flu is pretty nasty.  Most people are down for the count for at least three or four days.

In 1842. Edgar Allan Poe gave us Prince Prospero.  In “The Masque of The Red Death” he tried to avoid a plague by hiding out in his abbey.  He throws a masquerade ball held in seven of the rooms of his abbey.  Each room is decorated in a different color.   Each a symbol from blue to black, representing birth to death and all in between.

The revelers party till they drop, literally, when a guest disguised in the Masque of the Red Death arrives.  Prospero confronts the guest only to find not a guest, but an empty costume.

Though Prospero’s castle is meant to keep death out, it is ultimately an oppressive structure which keeps the sickness in and continues to spread it to those who enter.  Poe’s Red Death is fictitious, but is probably based on tuberculosis, with which his wife suffered,  or quite possibly cholera, rampant in his day.

Ten years prior to Prince Prospero’s story, and most possibly an inspiration,  7,000 Parisians died in a two week period from cholera…some serious stuff.

This leads me to my point, the moral of the story:  If you’re sick, stay home!

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