Control, or Not, Redux*

After first writing this reflection, I’ve realized that as often is the case, my thoughts were incomplete. Again, in tai chi class, additions flicked through my relaxed mind. I’ve tried to add them here to enhance my background to feelings of control or lack of it that I have entertained over the past long months. Perhaps you have had similar feelings as well.

In tai chi class the other day, I had the piece of mind to reflect and remember the so unusual past two years. Tai chi is, after all, known as “standing meditation;” often my emptied, restful mind wanders to other places and all variety of thoughts wash over me. This time is was the past two uncertainty-filled years during which much of the control we were used to commanding somehow evaporated. It was two years when differing, sometimes conflicting, information circulated about what to do, how to do it with, who not to do anything with. Through it all, in retrospect and while in the midst of it, collectively, we had little control of anything.

In tai chi class* that day, as I followed my teacher’s effortless movements, I was reminded of the first six months of semi-seclusion with no face-to-face classes. I dug into my saved tai chi You Tubes and followed at least two every other morning. I still hear one instructor’s accented voice guiding practitioners to “pushing,” “pulling,” “hold the moon,” and on and on. Once our in-person classes resumed, slowly the individual practice in my den slowed down, then stopped.

“Mangrove” in the distance

*In case you wonder, this summer the centers where the senior tai chi class is normally held are taken over by kids in summer camp. Our class met for the past three months on the 6th floor of a city parking garage. In the background you might make out the backward word “Mangrove” part of a public art installation on the garage. A view from the garage is our beach on Atlantic Ocean. Speaking of being out-of-control, my best intentions were to add a stop at the beach right after class. I did only twice.

View from the garage/classroom

As felt my arms gracefully cut through air in that recent class, my hands slowly moving this way and that, I was reminded of the efforts I made every other day to go back to the bedroom and follow a routine of six simple weight lifting exercises. The aim of this brief workout was to stave off the inevitable loss of strength resulting from aging (wishful thinking).

neglected weights

In between my sundry tasks at home and the weekly forays for food or whatever we might be in need of (Constant Companion and Daughter rarely ventured out), I was very glad with the wide variety of instructional and entertaining Zooms and other broadcasts that supplemented the growing number of reruns on tv. I’ve referred to some of these Zooms (how long will this noun remain in our vocabulary) in this blog, especially the cooking presentations. Daughter and I also watched movies thanks to the streaming services. But we were unable to establish a weekly or biweekly schedule. Again, evidence of the lack of control I felt.

The number of lectures on the Jews of Greece, one of my particular areas of expertise, grew during this period. They have now subsided; I guess everyone who had anything to say had said it all. Other topics that drew my attention included food history, wine tasting, event planning, and museum practice. They no longer do so. I continue to be drawn to this medium as new topics appear in my e-mails. Yet, after all these many months of adding to my intellectual growth in a number of topics, I just don’t seem to remember what I’ve signed up for. And I miss them.

That’s where the loss of control comes in. For two years where life spun away in the out-of- control swirling vortex of chaos (how I characterized our lives, before and during the pandemic), we now find ourselves stepping gingerly out, out of our personal Hotel Californias which we thought we “could never leave.” I, for one, find myself still out of control. If I don’t mark my tai chi class in my agenda, I tend to forget it. The zooms that continue after keeping me company during the months of seclusion also get written in said agenda, and yet forgotten. And my arm exercises … for now are a thing of the past.

And now, I try to expand on the above sketched-out thoughts after some time away from them, as they continue to swirl around in my head:

I’m slowly remembering all that I watched and did during the confinement, some alone in front of my computer, others with members of the family, as we slowly lost control of our lives. Early in the pandemic, I regularly continued my tai chi practice following several You Tubes I’d found earlier. One of the local hospitals also offered a class several days a week that combines tai chi with chi gong (

I’m slowly remembering all that I watched, some alone in front of my computer, others with members of the family, as we control slowly ebbed out of our lives. Early in the pandemic, I regularly continued my tai chi practice following several You Tubes I’d found earlier. One of the local hospitals also offered a class several days a week that combines tai chi with chi gong ( They also had a so-called barre class; but I found that unsatisfactory. Other exercise regimes came from other infrequent and enjoyable sources. Eventually, they all fell to the wayside, perhaps a response to our lack of control.

Following Daughter’s lead, we tried several Sunday karaoke nights, well, for just a few weeks. CC & I are not karaokers. Next, it was family games of Bananagrams, last year’s birthday gift from Daughter to me, a vain attempt to infuse fun in my life! For some unknown reason, this game only frustrated me though I’ve enjoyed playing scrabble with my mother. From time-to-time, D & CC still enjoy several rounds of word play after dinner.

Then it was movies. Wednesday nights offer little on tv, so we enjoyed catching up films taking advantage of commercial free viewing on D’s streaming services. For a number of weeks, we enjoyed the work of Wes Anderson. My favorites are Hotel Budapest and The Aquatic Life of Steve Zisou, among others. We all also enjoyed Season 1 of the Hulu show, Reservation Dogs. It is filmed in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where I spent more than a year directing the restoration of the Creek Council House and reestablishing the museum there. None of the scenes show the town square, though. Other films I got lost included  streaming shorts during year one of Hotel California from the Miami Jewish Film Festival, as well as Korean and Greek films from other generous free sources – who remembers what they were!

And then the zooms … this past week, I was preoccupied and after a slip of the finger realized I’d trashed my entire e-mail In-box! Oops. I’d saved a number of zooms that I’d missed this past year and had hoped, in vain, to return to watch. Two careful searches through the Trash file revealed the most important lost recent communiqués (I hope), but not those which were much older.

The zooms that filled the time so wonderfully and informatively included lots of cooking, some of which was tried and adopted (2 eggplants await being transformed into Susan Barocas’ eggplant salad), Jewish and other history, and museum discussions (another part of my professional self). Actually, the Jewish food zooms are back again with the Jewish holidays quickly approaching, time for food feasts! I’m signing up for them, which will I actually watch?

As a proud Greek-Jewish American (and that’s one area of my scholarship), I immersed myself in hearing more and more new revelations … as well as general Sephardic studies zooms. Seeing who else was watching was often informative. Some attempts to create on-line community persisted over the long months, only to fade away as our worlds started opening. I also watched a number of museum discussions, too, to help keep alive another part of my professional self. 

This reflection started being about control. Am I back in control of my life? Will I continue to watch those zooms that still cross my desktop? Perhaps. Several household chores are waiting for me. Why cannot I not just do them, as I would have in the past? If I don’t do them they won’t get done; I’ll stop at Target on Saturday to replace the dear, deceased Dust Buster. Join me in asking, when will control return to our disrupted lives?

As time goes by and I review neglected bookmarks on the computer, I find other outlets Daughter and I took advantage of to keep our attention during the early days of Hotel California. There were presentations under the title “The Show Must Go On” ( Full productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals streamed into our den weekly for a number weeks. Now, if you go to the site, you’ll get individual songs from his works.

Letters Live was another, more intellectual diversion that we went to to fill our time. Some Letters are found on the “Show Must Go On” site or directly on To use their own words, live events where remarkable letters are read by a diverse array of outstanding performers are shown.

Constant Companion and were recently at an informative presentation at a local museum by the Director of the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. As soon as I saw the image of this painting, I was reminded of a particular letter read by Olivia Colman as part of the series. If you are in need of a good laugh, and can handle particularly crude language skillfully delivered, please watch –

Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossack

I think with this, I’ll file my memories of home entertainment in the past two years of Hotel California. I still have to discipline myself to return to my small set of weights.

*Alternate title – Zoomed out on Zooms


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