The "space race" used to be about countries competing … now, it's billionaires.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We grew up in the 1960s when space exploration was in its infancy and space travel was left to the imagination of television show and movie writers; but since one of us was a theater major and the other studied business, it's not surprising we had very different reactions to the recent flights.
Black expected Red's reaction would be filled with television and movie references (she could only think of Star Trek and the opening phrase "Space, the final frontier," and The Jetsons) so was surprised when Red explained that it wasn't so much what was happening, as who was doing it.
Red remembers when she first heard of Richard Branson (well before being knighted, earning the title "Sir"). It was in 1979 (wow, that's over 40 years ago) on her first trip to England (to visit Black, who was at London Business School) when she went to the original Virgin Megastore down by Marble Arch shortly after it opened. Over the years, Red's connection to England continued (including a college semester, marrying a Brit, and living there for, on and off, for several years), so she couldn't help but read about Richard Branson as he was such a flamboyant personality and often in the news. Especially for his travel-focused "adventures" – such as founding Virgin Atlantic airline, being a daredevil in a hot air balloon, and breaking the speed record for crossing the Atlantic.
So, when Red heard that Sir Richard Branson (and then Jeff Bezos) was going up into space, she wasn't surprised but was certainly very interested in watching,
Let's face it. When an astronaut goes up into space, there's a certain level of excitement, even if you're not a "space geek". For me, watching the billionaires go up includes a certain element of "OMG, they're well-known people who have a lot to lose if something goes wrong." Of course, you don't want anything to go wrong, but for some reason, the element of danger and what's actually happening becomes more real when there's a very public face attached to it.
Black, on the other hand, was more interested in the business side of space, not only tourism but how these flights renewed interest in space (and you can't ignore NASA and government contracts). Of course, Bezos shared his belief that space could be the answer to how to save the earth, something he touted as far back as his 1982 high school valedictorian speech. And, Black was intrigued that his aircraft, a more traditional rocket and space capsule, was so different from Branson's "space airplane".
Also, having watched the two flights on their respective websites, Black couldn't help but be entertained by all the "marketing" each company mixed in with the science and excitement. And later, was amused when Bezos thanked Amazon customers and employees for helping to make the flight possible, although she had to wonder if he genuinely meant it or if it was written by a clever marketing executive to offset some of Amazon's "people problems".
Red couldn't help but remember that comment when she got an Amazon delivery later that day, although she knew her new cereal bowls didn't contribute much. But that wasn't what she shared with Black, but rather how she'd never compared Jeff Bezos and her sister until,
During the press conference after the flight, when a reporter asked Bezos if he'll be flying again soon, his response was something that I'd absolutely expect you to say … "Hell, yes. How fast can you refuel that thing?"
Coffee MAY reduce the risk of getting COVID-19, but masks, social distancing, and taking the vaccine WILL!
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Both of us are habitual coffee drinkers, so were curious about the potential benefits of our favorite beverage to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19, although our initial reactions to the study were (of course) very different.
It started when Black sent Red a New York Post article with the warning to ignore that it came from the Post (we grew up on Long Island, where it's always been known as more of a tabloid than a newspaper), emphasizing how the study linking coffee to reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 came from a credible source. Given it was scientific research, Black didn't expect anything more than a simple "Thanks" in response, so was surprised by Red's reaction,
I found it ironic that I read about how only one cup of coffee a day could potentially reduce the chance of getting COVID-19 by about 10% as I was drinking my morning cup of Zabar's Vanilla Nut Coffee. So, does that mean, if I factor in my afternoon Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, I could double my level of protection? Yes, I'm being a bit ridiculous, but I think so is taking the time – and money – to study the effects of coffee drinking on COVID-19 when they should focus on what's been proven to be effective, like the obvious – getting vaccinated!
Black started to explain, but knew that Red's eyes would glaze over, that the researchers took results from a biomedical database and analyzed the correlation of participant's eating and drinking habits back in 2006 – 2010 with COVID-19 testing done in 2020. Instead, she mentioned that the study was an attempt to identify areas that warrant further investigation, which is very different from saying that coffee actually protects people against COVID-19. Although coffee does have general health benefits, whether or not it's determined to have COVID-19 benefits.
Black really shouldn't have been surprised by Red's response, as from the very beginning of the pandemic, Red's done everything that she possibly could to protect herself and her family. And, when the vaccine was available, Red knew that some people were (and continue to be) hesitant, but not her. She was willing to take whatever vaccine was available.
Black, of course, was more pragmatic. And based on the research and findings from the CDC and highly respected, independent sources, decided the potential risks associated with getting the vaccine was more than outweighed by the reward of not getting a severe case of COVID-19. But now, she's concerned about all the people who haven't been vaccinated,
I wish it could be as easy as drinking coffee to fight the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases, and the associated rise in hospitalizations and deaths due to the Delta variant. You would think, since it is happening almost exclusively to people who have not been vaccinated, that people would get vaccinated. Coffee optional.
When you look at someone with a tattoo, what's your first thought?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Although tattoos have been around for thousands of years, how they're perceived has changed dramatically over the last few decades; just ask Red, who when she was growing up would've made a face and responded, "Yuck," while Black would've said she found them cool and (just to annoy our mom) that she could see getting one.
Red will admit that until four years ago, she may not have felt as strongly about tattoos as she did growing up when she just assumed that only "bad people" had them. But she still wasn't a fan of them and couldn't understand how anyone would want to permanently "decorate" their bodies.
As a mom, it was bad enough when her daughters would take Sharpies and proudly display their artwork on their arms and legs. And while her oldest daughter, Natasha, was the non-conformist (wonder where she inherited that trait) and would talk about getting tattoos one day, Red reacted like most moms; she heard the words but didn't think she'd actually do it.
I honestly thought that Natasha, having an extremely low tolerance for pain (as in non-existent), would never go ahead and endure the pain of getting a tattoo. But her love of bats (ever since she was a young girl and first saw thousands of them come out from under Congress Street Bridge in Austin) was stronger than her hatred of needles. Which is why she decided that her first tattoo was going to be a bat. And from the drawing she showed me, the perfect bat, as it was a simple outline that was not too big and not too small, and would be positioned on her shoulder blade, so not prominent yet not hidden.
So, what made Red not only give her blessing to the tattoo but make it her high school graduation gift?! (Talk about a change of heart.) As with many things, Black gave her a different perspective. She helped Red realize that tattoos had gone mainstream, probably because so many celebrities and athletes proudly display them. And being a history buff, Red was surprised to learn that famous people in history had them.
More importantly, though, Black made her sister realize that the stigmas of the past didn't apply anymore. Not to mention some of the falsehoods, such as you couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you had a tattoo. But in many ways, what Red found even more shocking than her newfound knowledge about tattoos, was Black's decision to get a matching bat tattoo. (Which recently led to her getting two more tattoos to match Red's younger daughter, Sawyer, when she got her perfect tattoos.)
Growing up, I told Mom I wanted one for the pure shock value of the statement. However, I have always been fascinated by tats and the fact they can be addictive. When Natasha decided to get her bat tat, it seemed the perfect opportunity to do something meaningful with her that we would both have to remind ourselves of the bond between us. And, I was thrilled to be able to do the same with Sawyer. So, when are we going to get matching tats?
Well, anyone who knows Red knows the answer to that question!
P.S. – Celebrate National Tattoo Day by checking out lots of fun facts and interesting things about tattoos!