Friday, May 4, 2018

Good Morning Vietnam!

If you live long enough, you notice things change from good to bad, from bad to good, move in cycles, spin around like the Wheel of Fortune (Carl Orff’s favorite image, the Medieval one, not the game show). “Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, the Wheel of Fortune spins you round and round” the beginning of my Wheel of Fortune Blues that I composed when I visited Orff’s home is Diesen, Germany and even got to play it on his piano. I looked up at his widow and said, “Was that okay to play that?” and she beamed and exclaimed, “Carl would have loved it!!”

Our 8th graders used to go to Mexico every year for a week of Spanish immersion and then suddenly, it became a dangerous place to go. So the trip changed to Nicaragua, which still resonated with most of us as a war-torn place. Not so. Peaceful and pleasant. Mexico City used to be perceived as rife with poverty and filled with crime, but I never would have guessed that in my recent visit. Always felt safe, the general vibe was happy people on relatively clean streets.
San Francisco used to be a place with a modest skyline and affordable housing and a smattering of homeless people. Not so now.

And so the Wheel of Fortune continues to spin. Many places say, “If you don’t like the weather, stick around for five minutes.” I believe the same is true of life in general. From Obama to Trump is about the largest avalanche one could imagine, but stick around, a new Obama and perhaps better is on the rise. I don’t know how we’re going to downsize those highrises that continue to blight the San Francisco skyline, but perhaps we’ll figure out a way short of earthquakes and terrorist attacks.

All of this on my mind because suddenly, apparently, 230 people a day in Vietnam are reading these blogs. Really? And Vietnam a pretty good example of a place in my youth that, thanks partly to the good ole U.S. of A., was hell on earth. Now it’s a favored tourist spot and I thoroughly enjoyed it myself when I taught in Hanoi many years back.

The Orff world is another case in point, pockets with intense activity and then it seems to fade out—Greece, Japan, Argentina, come to mind. Then places where the time is ripe and lots of exciting activity—Brazil, Colombia, Turkey, Iran, Finland, Italy, off the top of my head and sorry if I left someplace out. Spain continues to be strong, with a shift from Madrid to Barcelona and our course in San Francisco has been steadily growing for the past 25 years with no decline in sight (though I know that day will come).

So spin on, O Wheel of Fortune and may we celebrate and endure the fortune that comes our way.

(Anyone in Vietnam care to comment?) 

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