Here's wishing a speedy recovery to Paul Kantner, vocalist/ guoitarist with Jefferson Airplane (which later morphed into Jefferson Starship), who is recuperating from a heart attack he suffered on March 25.
I met him once back in 1972, when I was a patient at Mount Sinai Hospital in San Francisco for some minor surgery.
For the first week I was the only patient on the ward who was under 80, but that changed on Week 2 when Grace Slick, the Airplane's lead singer (and Kantner's girlfriend) checked in.
I struck up a friendship with them – Grace dubbed me "Morton Snort" – and I spent most of each day in her room playing endless games of chess with Paul while Grace was glued to the news on TV, looking for inspiration for the songs she was writing for her next album.
As it happens, Grace and I were both discharged on the same day. My parents came to take me home, and just as we were about to leave Grace and Paul appeared in the doorway.
"We wanted to say goodbye," they explained.
Being a moderately well-mannered person, I did the introductions: "Mom and Dad, this is Grace and Paul."
"What do you do, young man?" my father asked Paul.
"I play in a rock'n'roll band," he replied.
"Oh?" said my dad. "Give me your card. My nephew is having a Bar Mitzvah next month, and maybe we can use you!"
* * *
In other news, I celebrated my 70th birthday on Sunday.
It was a very different world I was born into, and it was about to change in a big way. Within a week Franklin D. Roosevelt was dead – the running joke in my family was that the shock of my birth was too much for him – and Hitler killed himself 12 days later. Three weeks after that, Churchill was kicked out of office in a huge election upset.
The top record on the hit parade was "Rum And Coca-Cola" by the Andrews Sisters, the top movie was a Sherlock Holmes flick called "The House of Fear," and the best selling book was "Forever Amber" by Kathleen Winsor. Bread was selling for nine cents a loaf, and gas – when you could get it – was 21 cents a gallon.
For my parents, my arrival was a blessed event in more ways than one. It meant that my family was now entitled to another ration book - including those all-important gas coupons – in my name.
And they lost no time in applying for it. I still have that ration book, filled out the day after my birth in my father's unmistakable handwriting. Under "Name" he wrote, "Martin M. Snapp Jr." And under "Occupation" he wrote, "Baby."
So what have I learned in the last 70 years? Not much. The little I have learned can be summed up by a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," when the hero is addressing a nursery ward full of babies:
"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies - 'God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'"