Black Friday Hiatus

My love for Black Friday shopping sprees is well-documented on this site.  While I dislike shopping in general, there’s a pageantry and tradition to Black Friday that I enjoy.  I’m not looking for big ticket items like televisions and laptops, but the underappreciated Black Friday sales—blankets, sheets, and cookware.

I once got the Dutch oven of my dreams for half off on Black Friday.

Covid kept me from Black Friday in 2020 but I was back at Macy’s at five in the morning in 2021.

But this year I skipped Black Friday.

Partially it’s because I have a lot of creative work to do—I’m finishing up the last few entries for the Movies I’m Thankful For series, wrapping up my writing on director Dorothy Arzner, and preparing for next week’s library talk on The Dueling De Havilland Sisters at the Penn Hills Library. (Interested in attending?  Register here!).

I could’ve squeezed some shopping in, of course, but hitting the books was more appealing.

But even more so, there’s nothing I want this year, not even a new blanket or skillet.

I feel especially grateful for this past year—a new day job, record views on my blog, the opportunity to speak at the Plum Library last April that’s spiraled into a genuine side gig.  My rowing club hired a wonderful new coach who’s going to do her best to get us in shape this winter.  Friends I hadn’t seen since the pre-Covid days drove down to watch me row and have a wonderful three hour bagel breakfast at Panera.

And how could I possibly want for more after scoring Taylor Swift tickets?

I’m lucky—the things I want most are the things I already have.

I can wait until next year to get another blanket.

Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift, and the Fight of My Life

Headlines about Taylor Swift Eras Tour Ticket Sales

Ticketmaster claims that no one could have predicted the immense demand for Taylor Swift concert tickets that crashed their website, disappointed fans, and had congress threatening to investigate them for antitrust violations.

Too bad they don’t read this blog, because last week I predicted this concert was going to be The Big One.

I’ve written here before that missing Taylor’s Red tour is the greatest regret of my life, one I vowed never to repeat.

My best friend Nina, her daughter Adrienne, and I have to see the Eras tour.

I knew luck would be the determining factor in obtaining tickets to the event of the decade. 

But I also knew there were things I could do to improve my chances.  I couldn’t sleep on the sidewalk to ensure I was first in line like in the old days.  This was a modern war that would take wit over brute force to win.

The way I saw it, there were two critical hurdles to overcome:

  1. Obtaining a Presale Code
  2. Avoiding the Ticketmaster website crash

The presale code was absolutely critical.  For two weeks before the tickets went on sale, fans could sign up with their Ticketmaster account to enter a random drawing for a code to participate in Tuesday’s presale.  The chances of any tickets being available for the Friday public sale were slim.  If we didn’t get selected for the presale, our fight was over before we ever stepped onto the battlefield.

Nina and I tapped everyone we knew who wasn’t interested in going to the concert to sign up for the presale drawing.  Parents, brothers, friends.  We got 20 email addresses signed up, and I knew that wasn’t enough.  I opened up 15 new Gmail accounts and signed them up for Ticketmaster accounts.

On the eve of the presale, we frantically refreshed our browsers, waiting for the e-mail that would detail our fate.

Out of 35 chances, we got 2 presale codes.

We were in the game.

I set six different alarm clocks for the next morning.  The tickets didn’t go on sale until 10 am and I haven’t slept past 7 in years, but I was taking no chances.

I had a Jack Reacher style breakfast and wrote out a pep talk for myself in my diary.

Page from my diary encouraging me to fight for the tickets

Now that we had our code, the second hurdle would be getting into the online queue before Ticketmaster’s inevitable crash.  I set up my personal and work laptops, and borrowed 3 more computers from friends and family.

At 9:15, a full 45 minutes before the tickets went on sale, I began logging into Ticketmaster. 

It was already crashing, but I didn’t panic.

Like an old lady at a row of Atlantic City slot machines, I logged into Ticketmaster on each computer one at a time, and by the time I got to the last laptop, the first one had errored out and I began again.

5 computer screens with error messages

I got in with 5 minutes to spare.

Six minutes later I was in the queue.

My heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, but at this point I was filled with optimism.  I’d cleared the two most difficult hurdles—surely we’d get tickets now.  We were hoping for good seats, but we’d be there, even if we had to settle for the nosebleed section.

Wouldn’t we?

One hour ticked by.  Then two.  I had Twitter open on one screen checking for updates from Ticketmaster, and the stadium seating chart up on another screen.

Taylor Swift ticket queue - 2000+

I was terrified of letting my screen go to sleep.  Every two seconds, I moved the cursor to make sure it stayed alive.

Nina and I kept in constant contact through text.  We hadn’t thought we’d need to use the second code, but the horror stories were coming through online—people getting kicked out of the queue for seemingly no reason after hours in line. People making it all the way through—picking out seats and then getting bumped out before they could pay.

I knew if we got in that I had to move like a Navy Seal on an extraction mission—in and out before the enemy bots knew I was even there.

Nina’s husband Tony had the second code, and I texted him at 12:30 pm and told him to try to get in line.  We’d have little chance with him logging on so late, but if I got bumped out of the queue at this point, we were dead.

At 12:54 I started hallucinating. 

I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.  I was afraid to take my eyes off the computer for even a moment.  I rescheduled work meetings.  I ignored critical emails.

My world shrunk to the size of the dot representing my place in line.

I was in the fight of my life.

In my favorite novel by Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, the character Mike says that he went bankrupt two ways.  “Gradually, then suddenly.”

That’s how it was for me and the Taylor Swift tickets.

At 1:57 pm, after 3 hours and 57 minutes of the screen saying that my place in line was “2000+,” it suddenly changed to 1,352.

Taylor Swift ticket queue - 1,352

I was on a mandatory work conference call.  With my heart pounding in my ears, I very calmly said, “I need to step away for a personal emergency” and hung up without waiting for permission.

Within seconds my place in line dropped to the 800s, then the 300s, then I was at 2….then 1.

Then I was in.

My hands shook but I pulled out my notebook with our preferred seating sections.  There were three tickets available in our 3rd choice—good seats at face value where we’d be able to see without watching the jumbotron all night.

This felt like a fever dream.  I wasn’t sure if it was really happening. 

Texts were coming in fast and furious from Nina demanding to know what was going on but I ignored everything.

It could still go sideways, I knew.

I couldn’t blow it with one false move.

I clicked the section, clicked 3 seats, and clicked “buy.”

I waited while the hourglass spun around and around.  I held my breath.  It was the longest moment of my life.

And then I saw the sweetest picture on my screen:

I’d done it.

I’d beaten the odds and the bots.

I’d survived a war of attrition that had taken out so many worthy adversaries.

I couldn’t believe it.

Neither could Nina.

ARE YOU SURE? she kept asking.

I wasn’t sure!

I couldn’t log into Ticketmaster to confirm, because it kept crashing.  But I had their confirmation email.

“Call the credit card company,” she told me.  “See if the charge is on there.”

I did, and it was.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep us from Acrisure Stadium on June 16, 2023.

The maximum number of tickets you could buy was six.  But I only needed three, and I only bought 3, even though I could’ve bought 3 more and sold them at 10 times their face value on Stub Hub.  But I left them behind.

Probably the bots got them.

But I’d like to think that someone else who wanted to see Taylor Swift just as much as I did picked up three tickets at face value for her and her young daughters.

I worked hard to get those tickets, but so did a lot of others who walked away empty handed.

Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am.

The Big One

Taylor Swift concert poster

This is it.  The Big One.

The tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour go on sale this Tuesday.

I don’t think non-Swifties understand just how big this is.

There’s a tried and true system in the music industry.  An artist releases an album of music, and they go on tour to promote it.  They return to the studio and make another album, then tour it.

One album.  One tour.  Rinse and repeat.

Even the migration from CDs to streaming didn’t disrupt this formula.

But covid did.

Taylor Swift’s tour for her Lover album was cancelled due to the pandemic.

While the rest of us were watching Tiger King and learning the Zoom Mullet (dress shirt on top, pajamas on the bottom), Taylor Swift was holed up writing songs.

She returned to her roots and released Folklore in 2020, which of course she couldn’t tour.

Without the distractions of a tour, she made more music and released an unprecedented second album in 2020, Evermore.

She still couldn’t tour.

But now the pandemic is over (even if covid isn’t) and she’s blown the roof of the music world with Midnights.

She’s finally going back on the road.

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s four new albums since she last toured.  Four albums of new material the Swifties haven’t heard live (and that doesn’t even count her reissues.)

Think about it.  She’s now got 10 albums (excluding reissues and Christmas music), and 4 of those came out since her Reputation Tour.

She’s essentially doubled her catalog.

So if you’re wondering why it’s the event of the season, responsible for ruining weddings and turning grown women into squealing teenagers, now you know.

And the tickets go on sale Tuesday.

Taylor Swift Rolling Stone article - Taylor Swift's tour is Ruining Weddings Across the Country

Longtime readers know that my greatest regret is missing the Red tour.

I won’t let that happen again.

Yesterday my best friend, her daughter, and I had our strategy session.

First we reminisced about how you got tickets in the old days—camping out in the parking lot of our local grocery store to get tickets for Garth Brooks.  Adrienne (my friend’s daughter) could not believe this is how we used to do it—I’m still not sure she fully believes it.  But she cannot conceive of a world before the internet, so I get it.

But this is a modern war and we need modern tactics.  In addition to other Swifties, we’ve got to fight the bots.

We’ve agreed on the amount we’re going to spend and where we want to sit.

I’ve already rearranged my work schedule so that I don’t have to go into the office and blocked out the time on my calendar.

I’ve charged my phone and two laptops.

I’ve doubled checked the credit card information on my Ticketmaster account.

On Tuesday, we (internet) surf at dawn.

We come back with 3 tickets or we don’t come back at all.

Things I Spend Way Too Much Time Thinking About

If anyone was brave enough to take a stroll inside my head, here is what they would find on any given day:

Tostitos lime chips are divine.  And Tostitos Scoops are the perfect chip for salsa eating.  So why can’t they combine the two greatest products they ever developed and make Scoops Hint of Lime chips?  My purchases alone would boost the stock price several hundred dollars.


Is Taylor Swift really “never, ever, ever getting back together” with that guy?  Because if you ask me, it sounds like the lady doth protest too much.


Who would write the best Tweets if they were alive today—Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine, or Carole Lombard?


Are flat leather shoes really so uncomfortable that men must wear sneakers with their tuxedos?  Asking on behalf of females everywhere who had to wear high heels everywhere fancy until five minutes ago….


How long do we have to say, “it’s not covid” every time we sneeze in public?


Is it just me, or is the TV show Survivor not as good as it used to be?


Some people don’t want to download their music on their phone.  I get that.  But why are people buying records instead of CDs in 2022?  And not vintage records—I get wanting a vinyl Bob Dylan original.  But why buy the Adele or Frozen soundtrack on vinyl?


When I buy a head of lettuce, it starts turning brown almost immediately.  What in the world do they do to bagged lettuce to keep it fresh so long?


Am I the only one who doesn’t know how to use a modern washing machine?  Why does it not add enough water to cover the clothes?  Why does it walk halfway across my basement when I wash a blanket?


Will Tim McGraw and Faith Hill ever break up?  How will I survive if they do?  They’re the only ones who give me hope for dual-star relationship happiness.


How is it possible Barbara Stanwyck never won an Oscar?


What should I read next?


When and where is the next library used book sale?


Would I do better on Amazing Race, Survivor, or Big Brother?


Why is the book always, always, always better than the movie?


If you do something fun and you don’t post it on social media, did it really happen?

What do Aliens Think of Halloween?

I wonder what aliens think of Halloween.

Think about it:  you’re an alien sitting up there on Mars watching all those crazy little humans on earth.  For the most part, you think you’ve got them figured out. 

Perhaps because they’re all mostly the same, they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to distinguish themselves from one another—through athletic achievements, working, spending money on cars and clothes and houses, and voting for their leaders.

They fight, they cry, they laugh, they love, they live and die.

Then one night a year they do something completely incomprehensible.

After spending 364 days a year imploring the youngest among them to AVOID STRANGERS—if there’s anything aliens have noticed, it is the human fear of the other (which contradicts their desire to be unique, but the aliens have given up trying to figure that out)—they instead send the youngest of their species out to actively approach strangers and ask for candy.

This despite “never take candy from strangers” being a universal and unbreakable rule for the young humans.  Every language, every culture, every race, every creed agrees on this (and perhaps only on this.)

And yet it all goes out the window on Halloween.

Perhaps because they are so embarrassed at gleefully breaking their unbreakable rule, the youngest humans wear complicated disguises on their journey to acquire bags of candy from strangers.

In the early days of the humans, they only dressed up as things that scared them—zombies, vampires, and witches.  These days they dress up mostly like their cartoon heroes—Spider Man, Bat Man, Iron Man, Ilsa, and Wonder Woman.

There’s also always a surprising number of young girls dressed up in ruby red shoes and blue gingham dresses, emulating Dorothy from Kansas, a girl who first came to life in 1939.

The human Halloween lifespan seems to progress through three stages—after the trick-or-treat stage, the human moves into the Halloween party stage.  In this stage, they continue to dress up, but instead of trick-or-treating, they go to parties and bars and drink alcohol.

Aliens view alcohol as adult candy—and just like candy, you’re never supposed to accept open containers of alcohol from strangers, especially if you’re a woman.

Unlike candy, this rule holds even on Halloween.

Eventually, the human grows older and moves into the third and final stage—the one who stays at home and gives out the candy to the young.

Even though all kids want candy, some of these adults persist in handing out boxed drinks, popcorn balls, McDonald’s gift certificates, and worst of all—apples and toothbrushes.

These people are the ones most likely to wake up with toilet paper strewn about their yard or eggs smashed on the side of their house.

Humans.

How can aliens understand us when we barely understand ourselves?

An Unexpected Encounter With Maureen O’Hara

You don’t go to Arlington National Cemetery looking for the graves of classic Hollywood stars.

And yet I found one.

Arlington National Cemetery is a place that inspires awe and humility, the final resting place for over 400,000 American veterans and their spouses.  There are veterans from every branch of the military and from every American war, going all the back to the Revolutionary War.

On my last visit in the summer of 2018, I nearly twisted my ankle looking for the spot where Ruth Bader Ginsburg would eventually be buried.  (Which I wrote about here.)  Her husband was already buried there, and I paid my respects to the man behind the woman I so admired.

It took a long time to find Martin Ginsburg in 2018, but now that RGB is laid to rest, there’s a path to the stone, a chain around it, and a tour stop.

I paid my respects.

I also found the grave of Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and Army General who served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf and passed away in 2021.

I found the headstone of Michael Strank, one of the young men who raised the flag in Iwo Jima during World War II that is captured in an immortal photograph.

He didn’t make it off the island alive, killed in action at 25.

He’s been dead for 77 years.

Section 60 is where you find the fresh flowers.

I saw headstones with birth dates later than mine from the men and women who’ve died in Afghanistan.  Then I saw all the blank spaces on the headstones, awaiting the widows and widowers who will live on for decades without the spouse cut down in the prime of life by war.

When you stand on Eisenhower Drive and see curved white headstones that seemingly go on forever in every direction, partisan divisions disappear.

These are my fellow Americans, every one.

And yet there was room for a moment of levity.

I was browsing through the cemetery’s gift shop, which had a shelf of books on JFK, RBG, and war heroes.  Suddenly I caught sight of a book I recognized—a copy was currently on my nightstand back home.

There was a single copy of ‘Tis Herself, the autobiography of Maureen O’Hara, known for her role in Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and several films with John Wayne, including The Quiet Man (1952) and Rio Grande (1950.)

And crucially for me—and the reason the book is on my nightstand—O’Hara starred in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) the most well-known film directed by Dorothy Arzner, about whom I’m currently writing in my Wednesday Golden Age of Hollywood posts.

Seeing O’Hara’s autobiography there sent a frisson of excitement through me, because it could only mean one thing—as unlikely as it would seem, the Irish-born actress once dubbed the Queen of Technicolor must be buried in America’s greatest cemetery for veterans.

And I wasn’t leaving until I found her.

Which turned out to be no easy task, as she’s buried under her real maiden and married name—Maureen Fitzsimmons Blair, wife of Charles F. Blair, Brigadier General of the U.S. Air Force.

Fellow history buffs will know the thrill of finding two completely different strands of history intersecting in surprising ways.

The search was on—one that turned out to be much more difficult than the one for Martin Ginsburg 4 years ago, though my ankles went unscathed.

So next time you’re in Arlington, get off at the stop for John F. Kennedy and make your way to Section 2, Grave 4966.

Say hello and leave a penny for the Queen of Technicolor.

Gone but not forgotten.

Lucille Ball, Maureen O’Hara in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Killer Bees

Six feet measured from the front door to the site of the nest….

This summer I’ve been locked in a battle to the death with a colony of yellow jacket wasps.  Sometime in July, they took up underground residence in a hollowed out tunnel beneath the stump of a tree I had removed years ago.

When it comes to nature, I have a live and let live policy.  (With the exception of snakes, of which I’ve detailed my efforts of removal here many times.  I will admit that it is perhaps a character flaw that I cannot share my basement with snakes, but we all have our faults.)

But I let rabbits and deer roam through my back yard and eat the plants and grass.  Earlier this year, a pregnant raccoon took up residence under my deck.  I gave her wide berth and let her have her babies in peace, after which she moved on.  A groundhog promptly took her place, and we nod good morning to one other when I have my coffee on the back deck.

So my natural inclination was to leave the yellow jackets alone and hope they’d do the same.  The problem was that this nest was approximately six feet from my front door.  Every time I walked out of the house, I was met with a cloud of buzzing wasps.  They followed me to my car, and I had to close both the front door to my house and the driver’s side door to my car to keep them from getting in.

As yellow jackets tend to sting you about 500 times instead of just once to make their point, this was an untenable situation.

A friend unhelpfully told me that the only way to get rid of wasps was to pour gasoline down the hole and light the nest on fire.  As the nest is, as previously mentioned, six feet from my front door and three feet from the gas meter, this would ensure that I burned both the nest and my house to the ground.

As I live in a townhouse with neighbors connecting to me on either side, I would likely burn the entire neighborhood to the ground.  Or blow it up when the gas meter caught fire.

I wasn’t that desperate.  Though I heard again and again throughout my struggle that burning the nest was the only option that would work.

I started with natural remedies.  One night I waited until they were all cozy in bed for the evening and poured boiling water down the hole. 

Nothing.

My friend Ginger and I then filled the hole with baking soda and dumped a gallon of vinegar on it to create a volcanic explosion.

As they swarmed with ever-increasing ferocity, I still managed not to get stung.  I moved onto chemicals—powders, foams, and traps to lure them away that all did nothing.

After a morning where they swarmed me and nearly got into the house, I called in the big guns.

It was time to use Terminex, a big chemical company that destroys pests.

They came out at the appointed time and charged me an exorbitant price to treat the hole.  They dropped some kind of chemical in there that drove the bees crazy.  They told me the bees would swarm around in anger for 24-48 hours before dying off.

Reader, these bees did not die off after 48 hours.

They were still there a week later.

And they were pissed that I had tried to literally exterminate them.

These were bionic bees, incapable of death, and I still think I might have turned into a superhero à la Spider man if one had stung me.

Terminex promised to finish the job but gave me a bit of the run around when scheduling their return date.

Meanwhile, it was open warfare with the bees.  I was afraid to open my garage door.  I parked the car on the street, away from the nest.  When I had to leave the house, I opened the door and made a run for it while they chased after me in a cartoon cloud.

By the time Terminex returned, an even greater foe had finally destroyed the bees.

Frost.

I haven’t seen them for six days and counting.

I think they’re gone for the winter.  And while I won this battle, I have no illusions that I’ve won the war.

This spring, I will await their vengeful return on me and everyone I love….  

Know-Nothing Know It All

Movie theater seats

This summer, I went to see Where the Crawdads Sing.  (For those of you who don’t come here for the film reviews, don’t worry—this isn’t one.)

I was sitting alone in one of those big, cushy recliners that I just can’t quite get used to in movie theaters—they’re great when they’re brand new, but I shudder to think of these recliners in 5-10 years after mountains of soda, popcorn and candy have been spilled on them.  Sure, they clean them, but how well?  Are they getting into every crack and crevice?

But I digress.  This post is not a review nor a diatribe against the cleanliness of the recliners.

It’s about a snippet of conversation I overhead.

Ahead of me, a man and a woman sat together, talking before the movie began.  It became immediately clear that the woman wanted to see the film, and she’d dragged her husband along with her.

It was opening weekend for the film, and people were streaming into the theater.

The man expressed surprise at the size of the crowd.

“This movie is based on a very popular book,” the woman told him.

Daisy Edgar-Jones in Where the Crawdads Sing
Daisy Edgar-Jones in “Where the Crawdads Sing

Understanding book sales is tricky, but Where the Crawdads Sing topped the weekly New York Times bestseller fiction list in 2019 and 2020.  And it’s still selling in 2022, currently spending over two and a half years on the bestseller’s list. 

If this Wikipedia article is to be believed, it’s sold more copies than The Grapes of Wrath, A Wrinkle in Time, and Catch-22.

It’s part of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, the best thing to happen to fiction sales since Oprah.  My local Barnes and Noble and Target are both selling Crawdads-themed journals.

And among a sea of Tom Cruise and Marvel Superheroes, they made a big screen adaptation.

Not direct to streaming.

So whatever you think of Where the Crawdads Sing, calling it a “very popular book” is a vast understatement.

You know what this guy said when his wife told him the film was based on a very popular book?

“How popular can it be?  I’ve never heard of it.”

I’m sure he hasn’t.  And some people don’t know who won last year’s Super Bowl.

Doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal.

A few minutes later, he said with obvious scorn, “Mostly women here.”

“Men could’ve read the book too,  you know,” she told him, annoyance finally creeping into her voice.

“Unlikely,” he said.

He was so smart, he knew everything about everything.

Even the things of which he knew nothing.

A Know-Nothing Know-It-All

Must be nice.

A Good Row

Wednesday night I had a good row.

This isn’t always the case.

A good row isn’t always possible because of things outside your control—the weather, first and foremost.  You can steel yourself against heat and cold, but if the river is choppy and there’s white caps on the wakes, you’re going to spend the whole time just trying to stay upright.

Same if there’s heavy wind.

Then there’s your crew.  If you’re rowing with someone who’s significantly better than you, you might have a hard time keeping up.  With someone less experienced, you’ll have to hold back.

Sometimes it’s the boat—the oars are rigged too high, or you’ve positioned your footplate too far away.  

Then there are things within your control that can disrupt a row—maybe you had a bad day at work and you’re not able to leave it on the shoreline.  Or you’re tired, or you’re hungry, or you’re just not in the mood.

Sometimes, all the external and internal conditions are perfect, and it’s still hard.  You feel like you’re dragging the boat every damn meter, and all your adjustments make everything worse.

And then sometimes—like Wednesday night—it’s effortless.

Wednesday started off precariously—the high school rowing practice went long, forcing us to start late.  There’s always chaos when one group is coming in as another is going out. 

I’d been irritated by the normal grind of my workday, and as it had been forecasted to rain, I worried that we’d end the row soaking wet and further annoyed.  In the fray of the boat change, I’d forgotten to adjust my equipment to my height.

I’d also forgotten my water bottle.

My doubles partner Beth is at the tail end of a long recovery from shoulder surgery, so she wanted to take it easy.

That worked for me.

Then we got out on the water and everything changed.

The late summer was heavy and humid, but I didn’t feel it.  We were in near perfect sync, and we were working hard, but it didn’t feel like it.  The needed equipment adjustments didn’t matter. 

I was relaxed.  My mind was floating.  The petty cares and worries evaporated.

And yet somehow we were having one of the best rows of my life.  We kept up with bigger boats and stronger rowers.

When I realized it, I got back into my head—I started to try.

“Relax,” Beth said.  “Don’t pull.”

Don’t ruin the flow, she meant, and she was right.  We were dancing with grace, and I was about to push and ruin it.

I backed off.

I’d been about to make the simple hard.

Instead we glided into a postcard-perfect sunset.

Afterwards, I felt spent and satisfied and fulfilled.

I slept like a rock that night.

A good row is like a good day at work, or a good piece of writing, or a good conversation—undemanding instead of grinding, smooth instead of awkward, unexpectedly deeper than our normal superficial days and interactions.

I wish I could tell you exactly how we did it, but I can only say that sometimes the muse finds you.

If only you could bottle it and sell it—or make an app to call it up at will on your phone.

But until someone does, we’ve just got to recognize these moments and appreciate them when they come.

Forget the Marvel Multiverse. I Want A World Where Diana is Now Queen

I’m not an expert on the multiverse.  I do know it’s different from the metaverse, which as far as I can tell is just people running around with huge virtual reality goggles on pretending they’re at the beach when they’re actually walking down the street in a snowstorm.

Or it might be living in the internet.

I’m not sure.

But it doesn’t matter, because we’re here to talk about the multiverse, which, as best I understand, is a scientific theory that postulates that there are multiple universes.  All the various parallel universes that you could exist in live within the multiverse.

It also has something to do with the Marvel superhero movies, but we’ll leave that alone for now.

All this talk of the multiverse got me thinking as I spent the week watching the coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s death and the national mourning in Britain. 

So let’s explore some alternative universes, shall we?

Many of this week’s tributes refer to Elizabeth II as The Accidental Queen

When her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 so he could marry the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, the crown passed to his brother Bertie, who became King George VI (as depicted by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech).  When he died in 1952, the crown passed to his twenty-five year old daughter Elizabeth.

And thus began the longest reign in history.

If Edward VIII had not abdicated, the crown would’ve passed to his children.

But here’s the thing—he never had any.

So the ultimate result would’ve been the same—upon his death, his niece Elizabeth would’ve taken the throne.

Elizabeth II was not an Accidental Queen.  Her father was an Accidental King.  As Edward VIII outlived his brother, Bertie is the one who never would have reigned if Edward VIII had done his duty.

Edward VIII’s abdication stole two decades of freedom from Elizabeth II and Philip.  Two decades when Philip could’ve completed his military career, two decades out of the spotlight, and two decades where she could’ve given her children more attention.

In this multiverse,  Elizbeth II becomes Queen in 1972 at the age of 46 and still manages to reign for half a century. 

In the long arc of history, this is barely a blip. 

But it would’ve made quite a difference, I’d say, to Elizabeth Windsor and Philip Mountbatten.

Imagining these alterative universes in the multiverse is fun, isn’t it?

Let’s explore another.

If you were one of the 750 million people watching Charles and Diana’s wedding on July 29, 1981, surely you thought of the day we witnessed last Thursday, when Elizbeth II’s crown would pass to the next generation.  (As a lifelong royal watcher, of course I watched Charles and Diana’s wedding.  I was 35 days old, but I watched it from the crook of my mother’s arm.)

So let’s go digging around in the multiverse and pull out the universe where Charles put aside his feelings for Camilla.  Instead of forcing Diana to live in a marriage that was “a bit crowded,” he committed himself to making what was essentially an arranged marriage work.

The universe where the Queen and the rest of the family supported the young and naïve Diana, and found a way to coexist.

A universe where Charles learned to love his wife, and to be proud instead of jealous of her beauty and the world’s adoration.  A universe where things didn’t get so out of hand, where they never divorced.

A world where Diana didn’t die at 36 in a horrific car wreck at the hands of the paparazzi.

In my multiverse, the fairy tale promised that day in July 1981 comes true.

Imagine last Saturday with Charles taking the oath to become King with a still radiant sixty-one year old Diana beside her husband.

Imagine the People’s Princess becoming the People’s Queen.

No one would be calling for Charles to abdicate in a rush to get to the reign of William and Kate.

The Fab Four of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan would’ve never ruptured—Diana simply wouldn’t have allowed it.

You may tell me there couldn’t possibly be a universe like this.

You may tell me I have no understanding of what the multiverse actually is.

You’re probably right on the first, and definitely right on the second.

But scientists say that the number of universes in the multiverse is literally “humungous.”

So why can’t Diana still be alive and married to Charles in one of them?

In that multiverse, tomorrow they will mourn Queen Elizabeth II.

Then they will turn to the future and say, “Long Live Queen Diana.”