Every now and then I make a list of 9 things I like. Here’s one for the season.
1. 1/4 u2033Borgen"
This Danish drama makes for some first-rate binge-watching. It focuses on the fictional female prime minister of Denmark whose high-minded intentions are constantly challenged by the realities of politics. Meanwhile, her job intrudes on her marriage and family. The other characters, mostly journalists and politicians, are well-drawn and well-acted. A friend described it as “House of Cards” meets “West Wing,” meaning it offers political intrigue but with a moral core. It’s on Netflix and iTunes.
2. 1/4 u2033The End of October" by Lawrence Wright
Wright won a Pulitzer Prize for “The Looming Tower,” his nonfiction account of events that led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now he’s written a novel about a pandemic. Published this spring, just as the real pandemic began, it’s been hailed as eerily prescient.
A clear, graceful writer with a journalist’s taste for facts, he stitches science and politics, past and present, into a compelling yarn of a doctor named Henry, who early in the tale leaves his family in Atlanta to help contain the new flu abroad. As the pandemic ravages the world, Henry spends much of the novel trying to get home, while wrestling with the recognition of the ways humans brought this calamity on themselves.
The audiobook is excellent.
3. The real end of October.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love October? Variety is part of its charm. An unexpectedly warm evening. Then a chilly, wet morning. Thunder in the middle of the night. Sandals one day. Sweaters the next. The sun shifts, the light changes, the leaves drop, but the colors are still bright. The flowers are bedraggled, but still in bloom. Beauty.
4. A flu shot
You know what’s worse than a flu shot? The flu. Never more than during a pandemic. Just do it.
5. Keith Jarrett
Jarrett, who’s 75, may be the most famous pianist alive, so it was big news a few days ago when The New York Times reported that, after two strokes that have left him partially paralyzed, he may never perform again.
Jarrett plays jazz and classical piano, solo and with others. I saw him at Chicago’s Symphony Center in 2010, and the experience of watching and hearing him, a man alone with a grand piano, was mystical.
The news of his health inspired me to pull out his contemplative 1999 solo album, “The Melody at Night, with You” and listen for the first time in a while. His tender, spare renditions of songs that include “Shenandoah” and “Blame it on My Youth” break your heart while they soothe your soul. Perfect consolation for anxious times.
6. Ordering on the app
Why would anyone order coffee or anything else on an app? I felt that way before the pandemic. Now I have a couple of coffee apps on my phone and can’t imagine why you wouldn’t order that cappuccino before you get to the coffee place so that it’s ready for your quick, masked pickup.
7. Virtual Songs of Good Cheer
Lots of Tribune readers have reached out to me and my colleague Eric Zorn asking about Songs of Good Cheer in this pandemic year. This would be the 21st year of the holiday singalong we put on at the Old Town School of Folk Music with a band of great musicians. In recent years, we’ve done six sold-out shows, and it’s become a tradition for many people, including us.
Unfortunately, group singing is taboo during the pandemic. But! We’re working on a virtual show. Once we have the details pinned down, we’ll let you know how you’ll be able to sing along in December.
8. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his coronavirus team
I wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of Pritzker as governor. But through the pandemic madness, he has been clear, calm, tough, compassionate and useful. Unlike many politicians and pontificators, he has relied on science and experts in seeking the right level of social restriction needed to contain the virus.
One of those experts is Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, who made an emotional plea Friday, as the coronavirus surges again.
“If you’re talking about COVID fatigue from having to keep wearing a mask,” she said at the daily briefing, “think about the COVID fatigue for health care workers, respiratory therapists, who are going to have to go through this whole episode again, of trying to fight for people’s lives, because we couldn’t figure out how to control this virus, by doing some of the simple measures that have been prescribed.”
9. 1/4 u2033Let America Be America Again"
When I walked my ballot to a voting drop-off box the other day, I remembered this poem, which the African American poet Langston Hughes wrote while on a train in October 1935. It’s a long poem about the mythology of the American Dream. Here’s a verse:
O, let America be America again —
The land that never has been yet —
And yet must be — the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine — the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME —
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
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