Friday, September 11, 2020

Slowing Down, Looking Back and Moving Forward



Slowing Down, Looking Back and Moving Forward

  Benefits of Going Slow:

      We are in the 6th month of our COVID induced shutdown and lockdown, and it has undeniably been hard in so many ways for so many of us. Some of us have either had the virus or have had relatives, friends, neighbors and more who have been affected by it. Some of us have experienced deaths of people close to us from the virus, and there is no way of getting around the pain of that, especially when ZOOM and SKYPE funerals these days vastly outnumber live and in person ones.  If we have a relative in a nursing home, hospital or care facility we are probably not able to physically be with them. If we have friends, family, lovers, partners, or close colleagues who live away from us, we may not be able to see them except on screens. And if we have family living with us in the same dwelling, many of us have had to slowly and sometimes painfully learn a new definition of what “family”means.

   Yes, these changes are here and real, and they have affected every aspect of our lives. It has been hard to deal with in so many ways, and I hope we are all finding ways to cope. But it has also brought some unexpected benefits and rewards. For may of us life has slowed down a lot, so we are looking at things differently and paying attention to things we used to either ignore or only notice in a half-hearted, cursory way. Health, cleaning and safety items such as masks, sanitizer and first aid kits have jumped in consumer spending, of course during this time and that makes sense. But so have hand held toys and board games. Kids are jumping rope, playing jacks, doing hopscotch, and playing catch. Families and neighbors are actually sitting around a table and taking the time to play Clue and Monopoly and Battleship, and maybe even talk to one another and joke and have conversations with one another. Binocular and bird food sales have sky-rocketed as more people take note of the birds in the yard and around the neighborhood. And in online schools, science classes have been focusing on nature in ways few of them had before. A lot of people have taken up online meditation or yoga, or visiting museums online, or learning an instrument, or biking, Many people are also trying new recipes, hiking, re-decorating and even reading actual hand-held books. For many of us this slowing down has given us the opportunity to take in some new things and to look at parts of our lives in a new, deeper way. For me, my life has slowing down has taken me back to some important and revelatory things about myself.

  A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a newsletter the re-discovery of my old playlists from my teaching days and the joy of delving back into those recordings. I am still doing that and totally enjoying it. Yesterday I listened to 2 of my favorite Geoff Muldaur cuts on one playlist from his wonderful CD, The Secret Handshake. The songs, Chevrolet/Big Alice and Alberta feature horn sections arranged by the great tuba, sax  player and bandleader Howard Johnson, Listening to those 2 songs suddenly reminded me of the great Taj Mahal live double CD with Howard Johnson’s band and arrangements, The Real Thing. Wow! I listened to the whole CD, singing along and dancing, and then I was reminded of his work on the Band’s CD and concert movie The Last Waltz.  So  I listened to that CD as well. It was an afternoon of tuba heaven, all because. I had the time to slow down, feel and make those connections, and follow them up. I had an afternoon with Howard Johnson.

   Another thing I have been able to do these days is read the newspaper. Not glance at a story or go through the headlines, but actually sit in the backyard and read the paper. As a kid that was so important to me-reading the paper was something I could not wait to do. I would see something that fascinated me or confused me, and it would send me to the library or to the encyclopedia, or to ask someone about it. I was making connections and following and seeing where things led me. That has been qn important part of my presence in the world, and I am doing that again. I read a reprint of a wonderful interview of the late Black artist Jacob Lawrence in The Philadelphia Tribune in which he took the interviewer on a tour of some of his favorite works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. I knew Lawrence had been influenced by Mexican muralists, so I was not surprised to read him talking about Diego Rivera. But he also mentioned a muralist I hadn’t heard of, Jose Oroszco. A little web searching took me to pages of his work and to a wonderful website, SmartHistory, which is an online resource on art history from around the world. Again, I spent several hours searching, exploring and being surprised. I found both a new artist to love and a new site in which I can wander about and get wonderfully lost. (

   In the Inquirer I have been reading the food section in detail, and I now have a list of 12 restaurants to try when the shutdown is over and I feel comfortable going to restaurants again. And I have gained a few new ideas to try in my own cooking that I probably would not have tried had I not read them in the paper. Making connections is still an important way of approaching the world for me, and it still motivates me, moves me and brings me joy.

  So slowing down has its benefits. We have to look at and do things differently these days, and if we can learn to let that be an opportunity and allow our curiosity to lead, who knows where we will be taken? It will probably be a great ride. Buckle up.

(Here are YouTube links to the Geoff Muldaur, Taj Mahal and The Band recordings mentioned above



CENSUS 2020: The census will be ending September 30, a month earlier than previously scheduled. This is important; if you have not done your census yet, please do it now! The census is hugely important. The information it contains helps the Federal government decide on things such as voting districts, grants for Federal aid, transportation and highway funds, and a hell of a lot more. It is one of the ways our tax dollars get to come back to us in our own areas, and as COVID makes abundantly clear, we need our tax dollars put to work for us. It is essential that as accurate a count as possible is taken, particularly when the the door to door census is on hold. Our online completions are even more important now than ever before. Please go to the website: And check to make sure friends, family members, and co-workers have completed the process.


November 3rd is the date of one of the most important national and state elections in our lifetimes. It is not too extreme to say that the history of at least the next 20 years of the United States is at stake here, so everyone should be sure they are registered, they have a plan to vote, and that they are ready to go. If you are voting by mail, order your ballot now and get it turned in as soon as possible to avoid any delays and craziness. There are also needs in states for poll workers, so if you can do that please help out. Here is a link to info about voting in your state:             


  The recent upticks in local COVID infections means that the Dukes are going to lay low until December at the earliest. Hopefully treatments and/or a COVID vaccine can be developed, tested and distributed by then, but we are not doing any live gigs for now. It is simply too risky. We want to thank all of our fans and friends-playing for you is an absolute joy and the reason we do what we do. We are looking forward to a time when we can safely do it live again. Stay safe, be careful and be well.

Missing Dukes Sounds?

Dukes Live Dukes of Destiny - Chain of Fool's

Change of Address: Hideaway Records, owned by my high school buddy Brian Reisman and one of my favorite record, CD and DVD stores, has moved down the Hill to 8232 Germantown Ave. Look for the top hat on the sign

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