Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tripped Up: Oh, the Places I Won't Yet Go

As recently as three months ago--having finished making my reservations on Feb. 21--today was supposed to be one of "those days."

If everything proceeded as planned--which obviously they haven't--I was to board an American Airlines 8:55pm flight at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, which would have me in London on Sunday morning.

Although I've gone on many fascinating overseas trips, there really is no getting used to the palpable thrill of doing so. 

And after getting through British customs and taking the Tube to my hotel, I would've spent the remainder of Sunday and a good part of Monday rummaging around my favorite tourist city in the world.

The chances of making a 3pm curtain for a West End musical would've been iffy, and I didn't notice much playing I haven't seen, so perhaps a walk along the Thames or a visit to the National Gallery would've filled my afternoon.

I've been to London several times and was planning to spend a few days there later in the trip prior to flying home from Heathrow, so in addition to checking out the British Museum for the first time since 1993, I was considering spending Monday taking the Tube (London's erstwhile subway system) to some random stop and just seeing what I might find.

Then, though I had delightfully visited Italy in 2002--going to Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Naples and Pompeii--this Monday I was to fly from London to Pisa and check into a hotel across the street from the Square of Miracles, home to the Leaning Tower, Cathedral and other splendors.

Tuesday morning, my close friend from Chicago, Paolo--who since September has been off adventuring and, from February on, living in Florence as part of a planned semester of study--would meet me at my Pisa hotel.

We'd revel in the Pisa landmarks, hang out for a few days in Florence--home to some of the best art anywhere--including a likely side trip to Rome (if we'd want to;), then go our separate ways for awhile.

I was booked to fly to Athens, long having dreamed of seeing and photographing the Parthenon. From there, I'd spend a couple days among the blue domed roofs on the island of Santorini.

Assuming no hiccups, I was then slated to view the wonders of Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

On Paolo's longstanding recommendation, I would also for the first time visit Berlin, home to moving memorials, grand museums and a presumably buzzing modern culture.

I'd then fly to Glasgow, where Paolo was to be hanging out with his effervescent Scottish girlfriend, Sharon. After a day or two checking out Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture/design and perhaps some of the renowned Highlands, the three of us would trek down to London, where Paolo & I had tickets to see our beloved Chicago Cubs play an official game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Having never seen Stonehenge in person, I was planning to take a day tour before flying home--through Boston, with enough time for the Freedom Trail and some chowda--on Monday, June 15.

Pretty damn exciting.

Seeing a dear friend with free digs a stone's throw from the incredible Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, Palazzo Vecchio, Michelangelo's David, Duomo, Ponte Vecchio bridge and lots of gelato.

Re-checking out other places I've loved: London, Pisa, Rome.

Undoubtedly having my mind blown by the history and beauty of Athens, Santorini, Istanbul, Berlin and Glasgow.

Spending some quality time not only with Paolo but Sharon as well, who I tremendously enjoyed meeting last summer when she visited Chicago.

Having the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Chicago Cubs play in London.

Reliving my Spinal Tap memories at Stonehenge.

Heck, it seems a rather small blip in the overall scheme, but I was truly enchanted by the thought of seeing the historic Ishtar Gate and sublime bust of Nefertiti, both held within Berlin museums.

And oh, the food, all the glorious food.

But alas, it's not to be, at least not today, or any yet rescheduled time in the future.

Yet how can I complain?

During a time when at least 5,000,000+ people worldwide have been contaminated by COVID-19, with many becoming desperately ill--including, sadly and scarily, Sharon, who now appears to be out of danger but still far from recovered--and over 342,396 individuals have lost their lives, I've been fine.

Knock on wood, but my mom's been fine. My sisters and extended family have been fine.

A 97-year-old dear family friend tested positive but, more than two weeks on, has not shown any symptoms.

As far as I know, my friends and their families have escaped the harshest possibilities.

Paolo certainly was worried sick about Sharon--and instead of studying Italian art and taking a deep dive into Florence has been on lockdown for nearly 3 months--but there too the story is thankfully better than it could've been.

So boo-hoo, I'm not flying to London tonight. I won't be seeing Pisa, Florence and all the rest, including many first-time sights.

Sure I'm disappointed, and honestly somewhat bored in my day-to-day existence.

But though I'm not a religious person, my recent prayers have all been answered to date.

And one day, when as many lives as possible have been saved, in part by true heroes, in part by those willing to patiently stay home and wear a damn mask at Walgreens, God-willing I'll take a trip along the above lines.

And even if not, oh well.

I've been fortunate, to travel to various European locales, some multiple times. Plus Australia, Israel, Egypt, India, South America, Japan, Mexico, much of the U.S. and elsewhere.

I've attended hundreds of shows across various idioms, and even saw my Cubs win a World Series (with a few games in person).

More importantly, I've been blessed with beloved family and many fantastic friends.

As my hero Bruce Springsteen--who for the record, I've seen 50 times in concert and met once--used to say as he led into "Born to Run":
"Nobody wins unless everybody wins."
So this isn't a time for celebration.

Many around the world--or just Chicagoland--are still in a fight for their lives, one they weren't expecting at this point in time.

And several will sadly lose.

But I'm quite glad, and so grateful, that those I know and love are well.

Let's hope it stays that way, for all who you know & love...

...and far beyond.

The rest of it--including Europe--can wait.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

And Still the Madness Goes On

I know these don't make for the most exciting blog posts, but the "tournaments" have been going over well on Facebook. So it seems apt to share them here, if only for posterity's sake.

Here's how Jukebox Madness played out. (See this post for the opening version.)



Then came Broadway Madness, as it began and then ended.




And today I introduced a rather compact Comedian Madness:

Monday, May 18, 2020

How Many Classic Albums Did You Find?

See two previous posts for point of reference.


Sunday, May 17, 2020

List of Albums in the Previous Post

The Album Search grid contains the titles of 30 notable albums, plus So. In a couple days I'll show the solution but for now, this is the list of albums included.


Friday, May 15, 2020

Find a Bunch of Great Albums


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Eternal Wisdom of Yogi Berra, born this day in 1925 (d. 1915)

Click image to enlarge