September 6, 2021

It’s a double holiday today. Happy Labor Day and thank the union members of earlier generations who fought and died for weekends and the forty hour work week. Union membership as a counterweight to capital built the middle class in this country and it’s no accident that the decline of unions following the Reagan administration’s union busting tactics and successful campaign of rebranding unions as parasites in the eyes of voters parallels the decline of the working class into impoverishment. In addition, La Shana Tova to all of the members of the tribe out there. As a proud Unitarian Universalist, I’m happy to celebrate any religious tradition’s holiday that comes along. As we enter the year 5782, I have lots of things to look back on and lots of things to look forward to as well.

The most immediate one is I think I’ve made it through all the hoops and should be able to leave on vacation tomorrow. Fully vaccinated? Check. Negative Covid test yesterday? Check. Passport still in date? Check. Compression socks to keep the legs from swelling? Check. Forms filed with the Portugese Government so that they can track me down if the wrong person coughs on me on the trip? Check. I still fully expect something to go wrong and be turned back at one of the four airports I need to pass through in the next thirty six hours. But no one can say I won’t have tried. There’s a piece of me feeling very guilty about not having voluntarily cancelled this trip, booked in the heady optimism of last May when everything was improving on all fronts. Am I flaunting my privilege? Is it irresponsible of me to be traveling, especially by air, while Delta is running rampant? I’m not especially worried about being exposed during the trip. The tour company is mandating full vaccination for all guests and staff and, given the way things have been going around here, I’m likely less likely to be exposed in the museums and cathedrals of Iberia than I am in the local Wal-Mart. Travel journaling plus a look at American society and politics with an outside perspective should commence soon. If I don’t make it successfully, I’ll take some pictures off my back deck with the cats and we can all pretend they’re exotic.

I had dinner with Tommy’s parents tonight. We stay in touch and see each other every few months. They’re good people and we’ve worked out an appropriate friendly relationship now that Tommy is gone. Actually, I’ve always gotten along better with his parents than he did in our time together. I think deep down he wished that they had been a different kind of people, maybe more like my parents where I have always been perfectly happy to accept them and meet them where they are. I gave them a copy of the book. I wonder what they’ll think of it? They aren’t on line so they haven’t read any of the material before. I warned them that they might know far more about me than they want to know by the time they finish it.

The Original MTV VJs

On the way to and from their house, I had the XM radio on the 80s station and they were rebroadcasting a special they did last month celebrating the fortieth anniversary of MTV which began broadcasting August 1, 1981 with, as every trivia afficianado knows, the video to the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star. All of the surviving original VJs were participating along with artists whose videos were played that first day. I didn’t see MTV at its debut. On August 1, 1981 I was floating somewhere in the Bering Sea on the University of Washington’s research vessel running water sampling equipment. I arrived back in Seattle a week or two later and did some odd jobs before heading to California and my sophomore year at Stanford. My parents didn’t have cable, so the early cable channels were something I enjoyed when visiting the family home of my college roommate Craig Mollerstuen, whose father was an executive in the Silicon Valley tech industry and who had all the latest gadgets. I do remember catching MTV with him, his younger brother David Mollerstuen, and a few others in their family room lat that summer and early fall. The songs they featured: Rick Springfield, Huey Lewis and the News, Men at Work, and all the rest immediately take me back to my undergraduate days, a period of time I enjoyed immensely. I also remember having quite the crush on the young, cute blond VJ Alan Hunter, never dreaming that our paths would actually cross about a quarter century later.

We all lay down the soundtrack of our lives from about the age of 11 to 25. I read somewhere that the pivotal year is the year we are 14. Whatever we are listening to at that time is what we carry in our brain as good music for the rest of our days. When working with my dementia families, one of the things I encourage them to do is figure out what the patient’s musical life was like at that stage and then get recordings of that music and keep them handy. When they’re getting restless or agitated, put that on and encourage them to sing along. It usually works and it’s a lot safer than antipsychotics. For my patients that grew up country without a lot of recorded music exposure, it’s the old hymns in traditional arrangements that work best. For those who had radios, Big Band, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Patti Page, Dinah Shore and others of that ilk. When I become demented, which I sometimes feel could happen as early as next week, people better start putting together a mixtape of 70s-80s pop, classic Broadway, the great American songbook, and symphonic music of the Romantic era, especially Tschaikovsky.

I’m going to try and get some decent sleep tonight as tomorrow night is a redeye flight and I doubt I’ll get a lot. Got my masks, got my hand sanitizer, got my shots, and I’ll try not to get too close to anyone.

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