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Editor’s Note: Forget the New Normal; Normal Is Now Relative

I’m getting on an airplane Saturday morning, a little less than 24 hours from now, for the first time since January, and to say that I’m filled with a wee bit of anxiety and trepidation would be a massive understatement. And yet … I love to travel! I want to go stay in a hotel for a couple of nights, have dinner in a restaurant with some friends from Chicago, go to Nashville to see John McBride and Pat McMakin, visit with family in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

But those dreams haven’t felt real for months. I’m a hardcore advocate of masks and limiting all unnecessary contact. Being smart. Staying at home. Haven’t had a haircut since early February. Wearing a mask to talk to my daughter from 12 feet away, on the six visits we’ve had over the past six months. She lives four exits away. I say, Let’s get this thing under control! I want to move around like I used to!

Now I’m actually getting on a plane, and it feels anything but normal. I’m guessing that it won’t for a while.

I’ll be flying a quick 50 minutes from Oakland to LAX, then jumping in a cab and heading to the Overland Gate at Sony Pictures Studios to visit with Tommy McCarthy and his team in post-production. There are people on the lot these days, certainly not as many, but work has started again. Protocols are in place. Eight different departments at this point know that I’m coming, and I’m glad that they do. I have my own QR code, temperature check, disinfectant wipes and cloth coverings at the ready. I’m even bringing a second shirt for a day trip. Sony is taking the pandemic seriously, and so am I. And we’re both still working as much as we can, in whatever ways we can. Where to find lunch might be a problem, even in the heart of Culver City, but I can worry about that later.

Technically, I don’t really need to go, and I realize that I might face criticism for doing so. But I feel that it’s important right now, following six months of Zoom sessions and Google Meets, to go say hello. Sony Pictures Studios has been Host Partner of the Mix Presents Sound for Film & Television event every September for the past six years. Of course, this seventh edition, taking place September 25-26, will be virtual, but to cement our commitment and partnership, I’m flying down to film an opening and closing video for the virtual event, alongside Tommy McCarthy, in the Cary Grant Theatre. We’ll be letting the audience know that we wish we were all together, and that we will be again one day soon. The simple image of being at Sony is important to me. When the going gets tough, relationships get us through.

And because I’ll already be on the lot, I’m also scheduled to meet with the entertainment division of Sony, which has been working on technologies related to immersive playback and headphones. For the Mix event, they will be showcasing their technology; on Saturday they’ll be taking measurements of my ears, on video, to demonstrate the process for their presentation. I’m damn excited! This is what work used to be like!

Yet I have to admit, I have small amounts of anxiety tied to every stop on my daylong itinerary. We will be smart, we will practice social distancing and do everything “right,” but the anxiety is still there. I’ve been thinking, “Is this the new normal that everyone is talking about? Is this what we have to look forward to in taking what used to be a simple flight to L.A. to do some work?” Then just before I started to get depressed about the whole idea, words of wisdom arrived from my daughter Molly.

I’ve mentioned before that I come from a large family, one of 12 brothers and sisters. When I left home for college, I began receiving the Family Letter, which my parents wrote every single Sunday to update the children away from home. For 40 years. Since then, some 35 grandchildren have been added to the list, along with friends and other family. Recently a thread started about the concerns of going back on the job in education, social work and health care, as more than a few in the family are teachers and health care providers.

Molly, a midwife in Toronto, chimed in with her sympathies for the decisions everyone was facing, and humbly offered some words of wisdom from the pandemic front. She spoke eloquently of the oddities in not being able to touch an expectant mother, of how she would sometimes pull down her mask from across the room, below her face shield, just so they could see that she had a smile. She fought to locate PPE in the early days. And she still fights for it today. She is being called into more and more home births. She has not stopped working; babies are still being born.

Her overriding message was of hope, of a “relative new normal.”

You’ll get used to the PPE protocols, she said, and you’ll get used to the anxiety of interaction—that goes away over time. The important point, she said, is to get through the early days and embrace the changes that are necessary. Then never stop learning and adapting.

That’s my daughter. I’m proud of her. And I’ll be carrying her words of support on the plane tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll all be seeing each other in the near future.


Tom Kenny

Editor, Mix