By all means
There’s a classic scene in the Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night in which a TV producer asks George Harrison his opinion of the network’s most coveted teen star. George scoffs at the idea he would favor such dreck. “She’s a drag,” he says, much to the executives’ dismay. “A well-known drag.” Then he goes on to describe how the boys turn the sound down on her “and say rude things” whenever she comes on screen.
If year two of the COVID-19 pandemic were a TV series, I am with George all the way. I just wish I could skip the next season and jump right to the recaps. (The other day, I heard someone on the radio marveling at the fact that “The Simpsons” debuted in 1989. Please, we can’t use that as our metaphor in this scenario.)
Sadly, the new year does promise to reboot the same old reruns we’ve already watched as a modern-day society. “We can state unequivocally that the planet has warmed and will continue to warm,” writes Profesor Ricky Rood in this month’s Climate Blue. “Households that already kept firearms unlocked and loaded were also those that were more likely to purchase firearms during the pandemic,” reports ER physician and researcher Patrick Carter, M.D. We’re facing a water affordability crisis and the U-M hospital is surging with unvaccinated COVID patients.
Talk about a drag. A well-known drag.
‘I’d be quite prepared for that eventuality’
But just when you’re ready to cut the cable cord, along comes some delightful alternative programming. There’s a heartwarming scene with Egypt Otis, BA ’20, a dazzling entrepreneur who defied the odds to open a cultural hub in her hometown of Flint. You “meet” the 99-year-old character who survived Pearl Harbor, but whose greatest accomplishment was raising five kids. And damn that wily producer who keeps you invested with a beautiful and serendipitous love story festooned in maize and blue.
It’s kind of like watching the new Peter Jackson doc, Get Back (yes, that one about George and his friends, Ringo, John, and Paul). Early on, it’s clear the Fab Four have lost their spark. The mood is gray and lifeless. Something’s gotta give.
That’s initially how I reacted to the pitch for the lead story this month about the felling of the Tappan Oak. I mean, we had to document it, but really? I’m ending the year with a sad piece about the death of a majestic 300-year-old tree?
Much like life, the trajectory of Jackson’s documentary turns on a single scene when musician Billy Preston pops into the Beatles’ faux studio. They invite him to lay down some keyboards and just like that, he proves how easy it is to transform even the most hideous circumstances. The project shifts in real-time, right before your eyes. As a result, the world’s saddest breakup movie ends with an extraordinary piece of life-affirming art that will live forever.
I had a similar sensation on Thursday (two days before we published, mind you), when Jim Tobin called to tell me he’d stumbled upon an anecdote that might recast our melancholy Tappan Oak story in a whole new light.
I regret to report it appears COVID-19 will indeed be renewed for a third season. And as it plays out, I will continue to turn down the sound and say rude things. But now that a sapling from the Tappan line of bur oaks has joined the cast, I’ll keep watching.