THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (January 18, 2021)
To live in the Near North, in all its bucolic splendor, is truly a blessing. It is one that I take less and less for granted these days. This morning, I woke up and as I do almost every day, I sat and ate my raisin bran, contemplating the stark peace and beauty of our empty frozen lake. I took a series of deep breaths and reminded myself to take in the moment; to pay attention to what is surrounding me.
I was talking to one of my musician friends yesterday, who has been clean and sober now for over a year, and she spoke of the peaks and troughs. We compared notes on our respective roller coaster rides, and we agreed that it is a day-by-day challenge. Not long ago, when I had everything at my fingertips, and I wanted for nothing, I was restless. Now, alone with my thoughts with nowhere to go, I sometimes get a tiny glimpse of perspective. Anxiousness and stress have so corroded my quality of life, and it has been my focus on “information” that facilitated the decline. It’s a struggle for me to avoid looking at a screen, any screen. I’m so hard-wired to plug myself in to the tragedy of the day, the latest abysmal failure of mankind to let love reign. My first inclination every morning is to check my email, or my text messages, or to see who acknowledged my latest brain fart on Facebook. I, like so many others, jones for that narcissistic shot of self-affirmation. I have been trying to wean myself from all of that, but especially in lockdown, it’s hard. Shauna tells me she wants to be informed, to be apprised of the latest air pocket plunge in the human condition, but everywhere my screens forebode disaster. Chicken Littles are crying from every soapbox. If it isn’t Wolf Blitzer or Tucker Carlson spinning from their opposing political corners, it’s reports of another setback in the vaccine rollout, or further evidence that Mother Nature will soon have the last laugh. Today on TECH 5, one of my favorite segments on Hunters Bay Radio, octogenarian host Ben Harrison read a humorous poem about isolation. While it might be hard to believe that the subject could be humorous, the crazier it gets out there, the more inclined I am to search for humour in the commonality of our experience. This whole crazy mess we’re all in is a mind game, and in those rare moments when I get that glimmer of perspective, I pause long enough to wonder if this wasn’t some kind of cosmic payback for all the times I’ve taken normalcy for granted. Shame on me.
Last Saturday, I got a call from Bob Miller, one of my oldest and dearest friends from Buffalo, to inform me that his mom Eveyln had passed. While this was no great surprise, she was well into her 90's and had been declining for some time, I was saddened to hear the news. Evie was a dear friend, and the last surviving parent from my old neighbourhood in Buffalo. Her passing was also a subtle reminder to me of how fast 60+ years have passed. Her brother was the famous playwright, A.R. Gurney, author of “The Dining Room”, and Pulitzer Prize nominated “Love Letters”. Evie was a voracious reader, an intellectual, a lover of art, a good storyteller, and like all the Chapin Parkway moms I admired, she had a great sense of humour. Like my father’s, her humour was high brow and dry. I’ve had a good life so far, but it hasn’t all been bunnies and gumdrops. Nobody gets out of this dumpster fire alive, but I take great solace in the people who have shared my history, my experience. Whether your life has been hard or easy, the only thing that gives it meaning is the people with whom you share it.
Today, after writing this report, I’m going to kiss my wife, play with our crazy puppy, and read a little more of Sanjay Gupta’s new book about brain health. One thing I’m going to avoid at all costs is any more talking head nonsense about right wing, nutball, wannabe mercenaries, marinated in their skewed information about the status quo. I can’t sort out all of this chaos, and I certainly can’t fix everything that is broken. Still, I take solace in all the souls that know me and have ridden the roller coaster with me. Evie Miller, may you rest in peace. You, along with dozens of other positive role models, have in your own special way mentored me in love. You may be gone, but I will always remember you, and your lessons live on.
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED