Eighty Is a Long Time


I was going to write about animal welfare—driven by a terrible story out of China about something called ‘Mystery Boxes’. Like other things Chinese, this has turned into a craze, where you pay a small amount to receive a package of unknown content—usually a small toy, but occasionally you get something worth much more than you paid for.

The insane part is that some Chinese companies have taken to sending live pets through the post, and the story doesn’t end well—apart from video of kittens and puppies kept in appalling conditions, a number of the poor pets have arrived at their destination dead—pretty horrific stuff, so much so that I won’t even link it.

That out of the way, and I hope it gets permanently scuppered, I prefer to talk with you about music, with some travel anecdotes thrown in.

After all, it’s Robert Zimmerman’s birthday, the man with a voice like sand and glue.

Uncle Bob turned eighty today. Congratulations, may you stay forever young.

I chose one of my (very many) favorite songs to celebrate the day. It’s a great version, but for some reason it peters out—maybe Dylan got fed up half-way through—it happens. The beauty of this live performance is The Band—they originally recorded the album Planet Waves, one of Dylan’s least known, and one of his best.

Close your eyes when Robbie Robertson belts out the first solo and fly away.

I spent all day traveling, my first time on a plane since February 2020—on the flight from Africa to Europe the stewardess asked me why I was wearing a mask, looking suspiciously at me as if I was contaminated. I smiled and told her a hard rain’s gonna fall.

Today, en route to Denmark, masks were everywhere—there was even a dude with mask and visor three rows down from me. The Danes deplaned us from the back, which must have really pleased the guys in business, but at least we weren’t redirected to Minsk.

Because I was a pandemic flight virgin, I was bemused most of the time, and amused a little of the time.

When I landed in Copenhagen, they asked me to pull down my mask so they could see my face—”Just like Saudi Arabia, huh?” I remarked to the immigration lady—she looked amused in a Danish kind of way.

I made sure to get a COVID PCR forty-eight hours before flying—getting cotton buds stuck up my schnozzle first thing on a Sunday morning is not my idea of brunch, but needs must.

I chose to ignore the signs at Copenhagen airport requiring me to have a COVID test on arrival—after all, Sunday was yesterday—but a cop soon set me straight. While I waited in a queue as long as a Dylan song, I remonstrated with a staff member; she explained yesterday’s test was so I could fly, today’s was to get into the country.

I countered with a double barrage: first, I was only flying in order to get into the bloody country, which is why I had the test in the first place, and second a test is a test is a fucking test.

The current procedure in Denmark is to put a shitload of hapless travelers into a large hall and have some prepubescent twit come in with a sheaf of certificates and shout out names. After he’d called ‘Peter’ for the second time, I began to wish my parents had called me Engelbert or Xenophon. Every time he shouted Peter I shouted surname, to the amusement of my fellow travelers.

I eventually got my passport—that’s the local term—and escaped into the city.

Denmark is besotted with bicycles—you don’t get Ubers here, and you don’t get Limes—I was looking forward to a good scoot. But you do get Lime electric bikes, which I duly secured in order to find myself a nice bit of fisk.

When I discussed breakfast arrangements at my hotel, the receptionist asked for a time window and then he said, “just bring your test”.

“Excuse me, did you say ‘test’?”

“Yes, it must be shown.”

Well! Good job I didn’t chuck it into the nearest trash can in my fury at all the palaver at the airport. The fisk restaurant welcomed the weary cyclist. “Do you have your passport?” I knew just what he meant—out popped the COVID certificate.

So, the sun has set—late at this latitude and this time of year—my day is done, and I want to ride on, if you’ll excuse the pun. I hereby forgive all the hurdy gurdy misdemeanors, and bid you adieu with a few choice words from the Minnesota bard.

Bob’s poetry is wonderful—I’ve always loved poetry, as long as it’s set to music.

May you build a ladder to the stars

And step on every rung

And may you stay

Forever young

Eighty years is a long time, and I’m privileged to have shared some of that with you.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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