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Fourth of July celebrations were muted this year — a lose-lose proposition. Those who did venture out for personal fireworks and beach parties risked acquiring the plague (even with masking and antiseptic dowsing). Those who remained indoors, as I did, risked boredom and disappointment. Appropriately my holiday weekend was largely spent wrapping up a binge-watch of the episodic thriller “The Killing” which I missed when it originally aired on AMC years back. The constant rain in the series city Seattle, which but for cover shots was Vancouver, B.C., was fitting. Figuratively speaking, it rained on every parade this Independence Day.

How much fun was it to watch NBC’s telecast of Macy’s New York City fireworks with no crowds to speak of in the big city? Not much.

The Empire State Building, ablaze in red, white and blue, was as a movie scene, maybe as one computer-generated, rather than an actuality with people-packed plazas and waterfronts. Though planned a year in advance, the event was altered, broken up and piecemealed across multiple boroughs with short notice given to discourage, if not downright forbid, mass gatherings in the pandemic.

I suppose I had about as much fun watching the show as anyone in New York. But where was that music coming from? Was there a stage with musicians and vocalists? Or was it all pre-recorded? It seemed the latter.

Even seeing my New York favorite, the gleaming aluminum geometry of the Chrysler Building, failed to cheer me. I switched from New York to Washington, D.C., for the annual PBS celebration broadcast. Perhaps it would be cheerier in a brighter city as most politicians had social-distanced themselves far from town.

But dear me. I only paused for a moment on the network of such quality as “Great Performances,” “Nature” and Judy Woodruff’s news-reading. Unbelievably, John Fogerty was straining through a tired rendition of “Proud Mary” while perched in a set barely worthy of community access cable. I turned away as Lot’s wife should have while departing Sodom and returned to the drear of the Seattle stand-in on Hulu.

As most have, I’ve written off the rest of 2020. I hope for better national holidays next year if we colonists can follow the advice of our former British oppressors: Keep Calm and Carry On. And wash your hands while singing “Happy Birthday.” And pray that a vaccine or mob immunity arrives before mob mentality — you have the God-given right to shop for pool noodles at Dollar General without a mask — kills us all. I’m confident that someday we can even freely fly without fearing the passenger in 19-C is killing us with each nudge on the armrest.

It is difficult for me to grasp that about this time last year I returned to the good ol’ USA from a lovely holiday in Italy and London, my first across the Atlantic. I flew over in coach on United via Newark, but opted to return on a memorable eleven-hour polar cap flight: British Airways flight 283, a 747 from London’s Heathrow to Los Angeles International. I connected eastward to Austin where my little Daisy was being dog-sat.

Why such a long bypass beyond Texas with shorter, straightforward connections available on the East Coast? British Airways had offered a deeply discounted fare (in miles) for business class and my American Airlines mileage currency was accepted. My pod with three windows, slippers and eye mask was upstairs in the flying behemoth. To paraphrase comedian Louis C.K.’s air travel quip, “I was flying in a BED! In the sky!”

More sooner than later the world’s airlines will permanently park their aging 747s. U.S. carriers already have. “Ergo carpe diem.” Or rather “carpe sella.” I seized a spot upstairs. When would I pass this way again?

Between movies, appetizers, wine, two gourmet meals, a nap and other indulgences I checked the flight status screen. We crossed Greenland, Hudson Bay, a couple of Canadian provinces and eventually big sky above Montana.

My only disappointment with the aircraft was the lack of British Airways TV commercial boarding music. I expected the lilting, soothing operatic “Flower Duet,” a favorite.

I yearn to fly again, if only on a skinny little jet from Houston to Northwest Arkansas National, but it’s a flight of fancy, considering shelter-in-place imprisonment and social distancing. It is true that planes are taking off again. But just because I could fly doesn’t mean I should.

Flying these days without good reason is just “plane” stupid. Like shopping at Dollar General without a mask.


Ted Talley is a resident of Bentonville who has lived in the Ozarks more than 25 years. His email is [email protected] .

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