By Naomi Serviss
Last week, Lew and I boarded an
Indiana-bound Delta flight.
Sanitized wipes in impossible-to-open packets
were handed out to each passenger.
I squelched my inner guffaw.
It was wishful thinking that
wiping down our tray tables and arm rests would save us from the virus.
I wiped everything down, anyway.
It couldn’t hurt.
I even flew on Delta Air Lines
and didn’t think that was a bad omen.
I still mask sensibly and carry a spare.
Because, why not?
It couldn’t hurt!
“It couldn’t hoit.”
That perfect riposte, a punchline for many a Borscht Belt comic,
has long been woven into the Serviss nomenclature.
It’s a great tagline,
suitable for any occasion.
Here’s something I’ve learned recently:
Don’t argue with people
Even if one is my walking partner
and the other is my sister.
Kurt Vonnegut’s omniscient brilliance
illuminated my sepia life when I was 15.
His words echoed bits of my world in tone, subject and biting sarcastic wit.
Vonnegut’s artful prose sparked
wild curiosity and unhinged imagination.
Player Piano, his earliest novel, was published 69 years ago.
In it, Vonnegut savagely constructs a dehumanized world.
The computers won after all!
It holds up well today.
Next year will be its
70th publication anniversary!
It will be celebrated
In Indianapolis, his hometown, and throughout the literary world.
In Player Piano, computers have overpowered humanity.
Not a surprise, considering.
Picture Orwell’s Animal Farm time warping with Alice in Wonderland.
I still have my original 95-cent copy,
yellowed around the edges.
The cover is taped to the paperback.
This ancient novel survived more than
a dozen moves crisscrossing the country.
Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five and
Sirens of Titan devastated and enlightened.
Vonnegut wrote more than 120 stories, dozens of essays and penned ink drawings for fun and profit.
He survived WWII as a 22-year-old POW during the
horrifying firebombing of Dresden.
Slaughterhouse-Five still ranks among the top antiwar books.
In the late ‘60s, viewers watched
the Vietnam War news on television during dinner time.
We rode buses to Washington to protest.
Slaughterhouse-Five was, in 1969 parlance, “heavy.”
It was being read on college campuses
and shared the pre-social media way, with an actual book!
Vonnegut was a free-speech champion
and tirelessly used language to debunk censors and hypocrites.
He’s an icon to aficionados.
And very quotable.
My kids know how much I value Vonnegut’s art
and social commentary.
Last Friday, my son Ben steered the family to the quirkily astonishing Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Museum, in Indianapolis!
Vonnegut was born into wealth
in a land of cornfields and dreams.
His family helped put the city on the map.
The museum operated a lending library of
worldwide censored books.
Then the pandemic happened.
The lending stopped.
Now the operators are eager for visitors.
Virus-wise, I’m feeling a little looser these days.
Delta and other mutations have me concerned,
but not worried.
Coming back to LaGuardia Airport after our flight last week
was just as torturous
Construction equipment and
confusing signage everywhere.
A surprisingly high percentage of
travelers were masked.
That was comforting.
But the screaming toddlers and strollered
babies were a familiar downer.
Decades ago, Lew and I flew to California
with two-year-old Emily and months-old Benjamin.
We had wisely reserved the bulkhead,
where kids could play games on the floor
and fill coloring books.
Flying was a positive experience then.
That six-hour trip ended as begun:
I credit the dozen toddler and baby books
brought to ensure
a pleasantly tolerable excursion.
Spalding Gray, another favorite writer,
reflected on life’s unpredictable perfect moments.
Indescribable, but you know it when you’re having one.
Our family shared a perfect four days
in the Midwest,
meeting new relatives, blowing bubbles and watching
rainbow confetti waft through a summer’s breeze.
So it goes.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com