In this quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, here’s the buzz I’m hearing around me:
Holiday plans, business and everything else disrupted by the extremely contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus. I’ve never been aware of so many people in the circles rippling around me who have tested positive for the virus. My wish for the new year is that this raging but seemingly less virulent variant will infect enough people, without their getting sick and deathly ill, to get us much closer to herd immunity here and around the world so that this pandemic wildfire can finally burn itself out.
New restaurants opening, older restaurants closing. People still like to eat, and talk about what they’re eating, especially when other people are doing the cooking and cleaning up. ”What do you want for dinner tonight honey?” “A menu.”
Popular movies and series people are watching. The latest episodes of Yellowstone bring increasing doses of ecopolitics as nucleic John Dutton and his electric daughter Beth continue to provide atomic power for this ongoing soap opera novella; Steve Martin’s quirky The Big Year about birdwatchers; the bound-to-become a cult classic Don’t Look Up which amidst its zaniness and kaleidoscopic, parodying story lines about the times we’re living in nonetheless delivers a sobering message about the inevitable impact of climate change and its existential threat to humankind; the post-apocalyptic series called Station 11 set in a world whose population has been decimated by a fatal flu virus; and last but not least, the series that has raised more goose bumps on my neck and back than any other in years, the DisneyPlus documentary on the Beatles called Get Back. I’ll return to Station 11 and Get Back later in this column.
Pickleball. The nation’s fastest growing sport, being enjoyed by people of all skill levels and ages, continues to pick up speed despite a name that hardly conjures images of Olympian clashes and an important component called dinking. I lost a point while playing the other day when an image of Rodin’s famous sculpture titled The Thinker noodled itself into my brain and distracted me with thoughts of how that iconic piece could be transformed into The Dinker.
The lack of migrating ducks and geese on Delmarva this winter. Blame it on mild winter weather. Systems tracking across the US this week, especially those heading into the northeast, may cool things off enough to push more birds southward. Whether hunting or simply observing the endless and constantly changing story lines of nature, we can all tap into the vagaries of seasonal migrations including the human, snowbird variety.
Station 11 and Get Back
Sarah McCarron grew up in Lewes, Delaware and developed, at Cape Henlopen High School, her passion for acting and the world of theater. She drilled deeper in her years at University of Delaware before pursuing a career in theater, film and television as an actor and writer.
According to slashfilm.com, McCarron – now based in Los Angeles – is working as executive story editor for the Station 11 series based on a novel by Emily St. John Mandel. The story focuses on a rag-tag group of actors and musicians traveling throughout the Great Lakes region in a time following a devastating pandemic that has dissolved civilization as we know it.
The story lines include their performances of classical music and Shakespeare plays which, with all their timeless insight into human nature, can’t help but be interwoven into the dramas that unfold.
What I’ve seen of the provocative series so far puts me in mind of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road from several years back. That’s also a post-apocalyptic story, somewhat darker, but nonetheless sharing – with Station 11 – elements of the irrepressible optimism and nature’s resilience mentioned in Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and Ernest Laurence Thayer’s Casey at the Bat: “A straggling few got up to go in deep despair; the rest clung to that hope that springs eternal in the human breast.”
For avid Beatles fans – and there are hundreds of millions around the world – Disney’s Get Back is an amazing gift. The three episodes present a total of just about eight hours of edited documentary footage as the Fab Four set up in a stark, cavernous, make-shift warehouse studio to create and produce what will become their Let It Be album and their final live performance, on a rooftop in London.
It’s a crush of an effort. All of the humanity among the artists, and the family, friends, producers, assistants and others swirling around them, and all of their interpersonal relationships are on full display. Chaos, frustration, anger, joking, the individual personalities clashing and meshing.
Watching the creative and collaborative process unfold before our eyes is nothing short of transcendental. Hearing the genesis of now familiar songs like Get Back and Let It Be, starting out as simple guitar riffs, and the first few notes of melodies fingered out by Paul on a grand black piano pushed between amplifiers, speakers, Ringo’s drums, and then the unique singing and scribbling of original verses, the harmonies, the screaming textures amidst quieter passages – it’s like watching a miracle unfold. At one point in the first episode John, Paul , George and Ringo are working out the song that will become Two Of Us. Suddenly they’re all engaged – vocals, instrumentals, all of it.
In the middle of one of the verses, when John and Paul are harmonizing – “on our way back home” – the camera pans first to John’s face and then to Paul’s. Their eyes lock as their ears hear the music they’re making. Both smile broadly as they sing. An image of ecstacy, of the joy of creation, the glow of love surrounding them.
“On our way back home.” They’ve tapped the pure and simple magic once more.
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Dennis Forney grew up on the Chester River in Chestertown. After graduating Oberlin College, he returned to the Shore where he wrote for the Queen Anne’s Record Observer, the Bay Times, the Star Democrat, and the Watermen’s Gazette. He moved to Lewes, Delaware in 1975 with his wife Becky where they lived for 45 years, raising their family and enjoying the saltwater life. Forney and Trish Vernon founded the Cape Gazette, a community newspaper serving eastern Sussex County, in 1993, where he served as publisher until 2020. He continues to write for the Cape Gazette as publisher emeritus and expanded his Delmarva footprint in 2020 with a move to Bozman in Talbot County.