Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. — Helen Keller
I sit down to write this and Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, the 1969 recording by Chicago occupies my playlist. And in answer to Robert Lamm’s incessant question, yes I do. One of the marvels of this era, as opposed to 1969, is that the instruments we type on have digital displays staring us right in the face. It is at this very moment, 5:47 PM on December 30, 2020. That will change soon enough when The Jefferson Airplane move up the queue to sing about a fantastic plastic lover and since there may still be children in whatever rooms these words find themselves in and, as this is not that far removed from Christmas, we will “stifle” talk on that particular song, as a former television resident of Hauser St. in Queens might have once said.
Tomorrow at 10:40 AM marks another much more significant time for me personally. For on or about that time your favorite squirrel employed writer is scheduled to be vaccinated against the treacherous Covid-19 which has been shadowing all of our lives for the past ten months. I have been told not to throw away my masks just yet by Dr. Fauci and since he has been doing this sort of thing for over 40 years I really have no reason to doubt him. I know many others do, many of them residing in or working at the petri dish known as The White House. It seems each day I am reading about many of them taking up residence at ICU’s all around the nation and I really do wish them the best. Abject stupidity and bodacious boot licking should not necessarily impact so harshly on one’s physical wellbeing. May I suggest a good ear cleansing in the future?
I do promise from this point on to leave the snarkiness at the door, well, at the tips of my fingers. I will resist pressing keys that may lead to anything overly critical in a political sense. After all, we all have experienced one of the worst years on modern record. Well, at least of the still fairly youthful 21st century. Any further griping about those responsible just seems like so much repetition. You are all very familiar with the ugliness already. Besides, vaccines are good things (well at least most of us think so) and that is what I want to concentrate on for this last Ledge of the otherwise awful year of somebody or other’s lord Two Thousand and Twenty when we seemed to have our vision ironically challenged. Here’s hoping 2021 vision is superior to 2020 vision.
We may have had difficulty noticing, glaucomic- ally challenged as we all were, but there were tidbits of genuine hope sashaying through the year, often when we weren’t looking, consumed as we have been with the contagion of it all, viral and otherwise.
I likely saw more movies this year than I normally would have. Virtual offerings were very appealing. I could snack on whatever was in my own refrigerator. Bathrooms breaks (at my age of utmost importance) came with the comfort of the wonderful pause button. Plus, most rentals had at least a three-day expiration, some a full week, so the ability to have a second look or a perusal of something I wasn’t clear about was welcome.
I also saw a lot more theater. Much of it through the National Theater of London which was offering a free weekly viewing this summer of one production or another during the peak of the first surge. They are now offering subscriptions for under $13 a month where there are as many as eight shows available. It made for a worthwhile Christmas gift for many.
I am much separated from my best girl (my only girl to be specific) by too, too many miles but we have made use of Skype and Facetime to have dinner with each other every week. Some degree of employment has also been possible through the wonders of Zoom. And I have a feeling that much of this will continue even after this passes. It was sort of nice rolling out of bed, having coffee and not rushing for the subway or for a 45-minute walk to work.
It came at too big a cost for too many people, but it was encouraging to see so many others finally begin to comprehend the systematic inequities and outright horrors that our darker skinned brothers and sisters have endured for so long. Just a few years ago the Black Lives Matter movement was considered a fringe group by too many. Today it has the support of a small majority of the country. Not quite enough and much too late, but it does seem that a corner is being turned. Even Major League Baseball finally got around to giving proper major league recognition to the old Negro Leagues which produced such talents as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Pop Lloyd, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, and Oscar Charleston. It also provided the proving ground for the talents that finally broke the game’s color line, first with Jackie Robinson in April of 1947 and then Larry Doby in June of the same year.
I have threatened for many years to buy a ukulele. I followed through on this threat and have set about learning to play it. I am not very good or dexterous, but I have learned that hardly matters. I also lost 22 pounds as of this writing thanks in part due to that ukulele which has occupied enough of my attention to keep my hands off the Haagen Daz. The other part of this equation has been the occasional dessert substitution of sugar free Jell-O and a banana. The Jell-O came as a suggestion from an old friend (ok longtime friend, I have become very careful about calling people I grew up with “old” because if I do, what does that say about me?) By the way, I am calling this the Ukulele Jell-O Diet and am seriously considering copyrighting that phrase and thinking of writing a book about it. I suppose I will have to come to an agreement with the good people at Kraft Heinz as Jell-O is their registered trademark. On second thought this will require lawyers so maybe this is an idea whose time has come to be shelved. I do have an occasional brownie but any of these options is a lot better than a pint of Bronx’s finest. That’s right, it is not a Danish product. The company was founded 60 years ago in the Bronx, NY and their main headquarters are in Minneapolis. I have also combined this with 5 days a week of nearly an hour on a bicycle at my gym. I don’t enjoy the scenery and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere but I am sweating some pounds away.
The kids are alright, and they took center stage this year in the all that’s good in the world follies. I know a special young’un in Austin, Texas making the world a better place just by showing up. I am honored to know her. She helps provide shelter and dignity to many in communities too often overlooked and forgotten by society at large. Thankfully there are many others like her. Like a young friend of mine doing the important work of reporting the news in a culture not always kind to those exercising the first amendment for the rest of our benefit.
In fact, Time Magazine took notice of our younger generations. This year for the first time they have chosen a Kid of the Year. Her name is Gitanjali Rao of Lone Tree, Colorado. She has used technology to identify bio contaminants in water supplies. She has developed apps to fight cyber bullying and opioid addiction and is developing a community of young innovators to tackle other important issues. She is 15 years old.
Belton Woodard and her mother founded a nonprofit called “More than Peach” named for a line of crayons she developed based on 12 skin colors. When one of her friends asked her for a crayon that matched her skin color she realized the standard crayon collection was not inclusive enough. So she created her own set. Her foundation has already raised $40,000 for multicultural causes. Her crayons now sit in the permanent collection at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. She is 10. She is a Time Honoree for the Kid of the Year.
Ian McKenna was in third grade when he noticed some of his young classmates were food deprived. He tried to join a local food distribution group but was told that he was too young, so he set about doing something on his own. He had a talent for gardening. He kept a garden at home with his mom. He got his school to allow him to start a garden there. He now has gardens at five schools at the age of 16. The 20,000 lbs. of organic produce he has grown has produced 25,000 meals. He is another Time Honoree.
2020 produced challenges to this democracy of ours and those challenges will continue. So much must change, but if there is not revolution in the air there is at least the very strong whiff of evolution. Our electoral system was challenged in ways that brought us to the edge of banana republicanism and while the system bent a little too much for my comfort, ultimately it didn’t break. The toddlers are being sent to their rooms and the adults in those rooms may be teenagers, but if we listen we can learn something. Happy New Year. C ya next year. Continue to stay safe.