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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 5/1/20

Dear Friends,

Happy nearly weekend!



Seeing as it’s May Day, perhaps we should dust off a few books that speak of the struggles of labor in the early to mid-20th century (by title and author, without much description):

  • Triangle, the Fire that Changed America, the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, by David Von Drehle. This devastating fire occurred in an urban factory with locked exits, trapping seamstresses inside. It led to reforms that changed working conditions.

  • The Jungle, an expose of the meat packing industry and the substandard working conditions of immigrant labor, by Upton Sinclair

  • Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance (upon which the movie Norma Rae is based)

  • Joe Hill, the Man Who Never Died, by William M. Adler. I have not read it but was intrigued by the story of his execution for a murder he probably didn’t commit and his memorialization in a song by Joan Baez. Hill was a labor organizer who also wrote music for the Wobblies (the Industrial Workers of the World).



Over the past few weeks I’ve heard from a number of people that they had to cancel vacations or who are wondering about what the world would be like once we start moving again.

Traveling from abroad during the early stages of the COVID crisis wasn’t exactly like the US was on “high alert.” To the contrary, people reported smooth travel through U.S. airports, with no discernible safety measures. This is after the restriction on Chinese nationals visiting the U.S. No thermometers, no inquiries, no forms, nothing. But don’t you dare try to sneak in that 3.8 ounce bottle of shampoo…

I suspect that we will begin seeing increased levels of security to restrict the movement of COVID-19—once we start traveling again. But even with increased security, how prevalent will travel be when we loosen up restrictions?



Raise your hand if you’re anxious to get on a TSA line at LAX, inches away from coughing fellow travelers, any time soon! Seriously, even as we slowly ease into a “updated new normal,” many of us will be wary about walking through a crowded airport, getting on a plane with tight seating, and jumping in a cab or Uber upon arrival. Regardless of when we all decide to move about more, my hunch is that a few things notably will change:

  • Use of taxicabs, rather than Uber, will be on the rise. Cab companies can enforce sanitation rules. Ride sharing apps will need to figure out how to vet drivers for cleanliness and anti-viral measures

  • Planes will need to eliminate middle seats and reduce the number of seats

  • There will be little, if any, refreshment or meal service on planes

  • Retail and food outlets at airports will be carefully monitored for anti-viral measures and capacity constraints

  • Airports will screen people with non-touch thermometers and review itineraries upon return

  • At the slightest evidence of a traveler visiting a foreign destination with a recent outbreak, quarantine measures will be imposed

  • Cruise ships…seriously?

To me, the biggest risk is being one is trapped in 14 days of quarantine, either in foreign country or upon arrival in the U.S. This may argue in favor of “big city” vacations to foreign capitals and putting off the travel to more exotic locations, where public health infrastructure may be a challenge and risk of infection might be greater.



So with all the increased inconveniences, why even bother with airports? There are great travel options right here near at home. There are plenty of outdoor opportunities, historic destinations, beaches, and wine country, all within a day or two drive.

Let’s not forget that driving used to be the primary vacation mode of transportation. Air travel was reserved for special occasions. I remember fondly not only the “Sonnenberg Driving Vacations” we took when our kids were young, but also the driving vacations when I was a child. I remember like it was yesterday traveling through “Indian Country” (that’s the actual name of the AAA map of Arizona, New Mexico and the Four Corners), exploring the Gold Rush country off of California Route 49 (named for the “49ers”), and national park visits.

Any trip was preceded by a visit to the local AAA. Baby boomers will recall all the AAA maps and Tour Books that were de rigueur. How about the TripTik, a series of maps, laid out page by page? Check out a few loving pictures and remembrances: and this BBC piece on paper maps, focusing on the TripTik:

My father was one of those road warriors who would never ask for directions and would never EVER back-track. Some of you may recall the signs along the road advertising the next “Stuckey’s” restaurant/trading post (as I recall, famous for their peanut brittle). Signs would herald the approach to this oasis from a seemingly endless road and games of “I Spy” and “find the State license plates.” We would zoom by signs announcing “289 miles to Stuckey’s,” then “142 miles to Stuckey’s,” and eventually ‘Stuckey’s—next exit.” If we missed the exit, my father wouldn’t turn around and would announce we’d just go to the next one. Imagine the despondency in the back seat when the next sign was “184 miles to Stuckey’s.”



So where are the connections among these three people and Joe Hill (noted above)? As we now know, Joe Biden is a stutterer. When I was a kid, I also was a stutterer. It was tough to be in second grade, raising my hand, knowing the answer to the teacher’s question, and then being unable to get the words out. After some work with a speech therapist, I learned to organize my thoughts and slow down enough so I could articulate what I was thinking. So when people tease Joe for his speaking challenges, I take it personally.

My grandfather, Eddie Abrahams, was a terrible stutterer as a child and struggled with it his whole life. That said, he was a master storyteller who didn’t let stuttering slow him down. He could go on for hours describing his childhood in Calcutta, his work on sailing ships, being in the Jewish Legion during World War I, and on and on. When he was young. Eddie ran away from home and joined a sailing ship. As is the case with many stutterers, he found that he could overcame his stuttering by singing. He loved to sing and apparently, when he got nervous as a young man, he would sing in response to a question. Anyway, Eddie collected songs and sheet music all his life and would love singing to himself and to others. When he sang, there was no speech impediment at all.

One day, while at sea, an IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) songbook was found in his locker. My grandfather knew nothing about the IWW, other than he liked their songs. But because it was assumed that anyone possessing such an item must be a Communist, and such leftist ideas and their followers were so vilified at the time, Eddie was kicked off the ship at the next port. He was no Communist and, ironically, spent the rest of his life voting Republican…



Check out this masterpiece of engineering—a xylophone of epic proportions installed in a forest in Japan. Enjoy Jesu, Joy of Men’s Desire. Thanks to Ed Nahmias for sending:

Warm regards,


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