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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 3/1/21

Good morning, THE ELEVENTH HOUR OF THE ELEVENTH DAY OF THE ELEVENTH MONTH In the file of “things we were taught but the next generations will forget” is the above reference. Memorial Day was originally “Armistice Day,” recognized as the date that World War I ended—11:00 a.m. November 11, 1918. We’ve been involved in enough wars that during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency the date was redesignated to cover all memorials. I often have wondered about the circumstances of the armistice. After all, it was known that the war was winding down and that the terms of ceasing hostilities were being negotiated. It also was known hours before the official armistice at 11:00 that the fighting was ending. Yet there were some who died in that last hour. One can only imagine the futility of loss felt by families that learned of their son’s loss shortly before a predetermined date to end hostilities that no longer had a purpose (indeed probably never really had much purpose). I feel as if we are in a similar situation. The “war” against COVID-19 has been going on for so long and we are ready for it to end. Many of us have already received one or both doses of vaccination. Outdoor dining is now an option. It seems we not only can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we actually are emerging from that tunnel. With over 13% of the population vaccinated and many others already infected and presumably carrying antibodies, people are ready to rock! But let’s take a pause and remember that we are near the finish line but not yet over the finish line. We still need to be mindful of the necessary precautions (masks, distancing, avoiding indoors) as much as we can, to avoid getting sick before inoculation and/or contracting a variant while those hopefully are being tamped down. It would be a shame to be one of the last people killed in a war that is near its end. THE LIFE OF AN INSOMNIAC Last month I received my second Moderna vaccine. I got hit very hard and was up with chills most of the night. A minimal amount of sleep is not a particularly unusual experience for me; my typical night is five hours. That said, I understand that if there were an Olympic sport on sleep, I would only qualify for the Silver. I am assured that Jesse Sharf is a lock for the gold medal, with a typical four hours of sleep. What happens during the course of this unpleasant late night experience?

  • I tried to imagine how, exactly, one passes from being awake to being asleep.

  • I do the New York Times crossword puzzle; I read up on the news at around 2:00.

  • I couldn’t get the song “We are the Champions” out of my head as I tried to get back to sleep

  • That said, sometimes Queen was interrupted by “Chad Gadya.” (for the uninitiated, that song is a horrifically painful, repetitious, tune traditionally sung at the end of the Passover Seder).

  • I try to recall the complete list of dipthongs

  • I try to build new words in my head based on the “Spelling Bee” puzzle from the New York Times (a word game) for the day

  • I have a very nice conversation with my mother (who passed away back in 1999—this part I’m pretty sure happened while I was asleep…)

ASSASSINATION VACATION As you know by now, I love the study of history and I love road trips. That’s why I was excited with Kevin Marks’s suggestion of the book Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell. It combines presidential history with road trips connected to presidential history. The author travels to places associated with the Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley assassinations, providing historical context and stories along the way. WORDS THAT CAPTURE LOSS It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the loss of 500,000 people from COVID—people who were alive at this time last year but are now gone. The magnitude is realized not in the loss of so many, but the impact of the loss of each individual. I think it takes having experienced great loss to appreciate the magnitude of the loss experienced by others. Having experienced great loss, I have tried to transmute personal grief into empathy for others. When I can, I try to provide some words of comfort to those who have lost someone close to them. Sometimes the words are those of others. I find the words of President Biden—a man who has suffered his own share of losses—to be particularly moving, instructive and comforting as we contemplate the loss of so many of our fellow citizens: “I know what it's like to not be there when it happens. I know what it's like when you are there, holding their hands ... the survivor's remorse. The anger. The questions of faith in your soul. I know it's hard. I remember. The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most: that scent when you open the closet, that park that you go by that you used to stroll in. That movie theater where you met. That morning coffee that you shared together. I promise you, the day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. It will come, I promise you.” Beautiful words from a leader of whom we can be proud—even if we may disagree with him from time to time. Have a great day! Glenn

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