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Thursday, September 24, 2020

It's as easy as A, eBay, C....

 Can't believe almost three months have gone by since I posted. Time means little during a pandemic. But in that time I worked my way through all the bins in the garage and sold or purged most of it. I opened my own store on eBay as well as listed stuff on Facebook Marketplace and Craig's List. It has been an exercise in marketing and psychology.

I have learned a great deal about selling. First, I was right, Elvis memorabilia does not sell. You practically have to pay people to buy it. It took almost three months to sell all but two of the Velvet Elvis paintings (though the last one sold for $200).  I also learned that it is a pain to pack and ship large items.

I also learned that cleverly written item descriptions are hit and miss when it comes to selling. So there goes my long held theory about that humor (especially my humor) sells. Sometimes people just want you to cut to the chase.

I also learned that people will buy just about anything. I sold an old laminated Blockbuster Video Card for $14. And I sold a Warthog skull, a baboon skull, a badger skull, a beaver skull, a snapping turtle skull, a deer skull, a buffalo skull, a cow skull and my beloved horse skull from the Nevada desert outside of Reno. I even finally sold a goose skull despite the fact it was banned from eBay and Facebook due to some obscure policy about migratory skulls. And I sold one of four coyote skulls. The remaining three don't seem too popular because of missing teeth.

Why did I have all of those skulls? There was a time before I was married (18 years to be exact) that I spent way too much time browsing eBay and thrift stores snapping up curiosities. I thought of the skulls as more sculptures than dead animals. But once I got married, the curiosities no longer seemed so curious. So I packed them away in bins that sat for fifteen years untouched until I began my saga to empty out my past.

Monday, July 06, 2020

The long and winding road



It is hard to believe how long this thing has lasted and is still lasting. And the same swirl of debate floats around about what to do or not to do. Masks have become the lightning rod of controversy. Most of us have donned them. But the fringe of non-believers still resist.

I still walk every day. I walk miles a week. I walk in straight lines. I walk in circles. I walk with my children and my wife. I walk with the dog. I walk alone. I walk the long and winding roads.

I just don't ever seem to get anywhere. 

That is the bugaboo about this pandemic. Everything and everyone goes in circles. Nothing is real and everything is real. Everytime I see something on line about a celebrity dying or someone on Facebook noting a classmate or relative has died, everyone flashes to COVID-19. Even if it is of old age, or a brain aneurysm everyone still thinks it is the virus.

The fourth came and went with a whimper and a bang. No 5k race. No parade. No sponsored fireworks. We had a fire in the fire pit and set off a few tame noise makers (and a few that weren't). I didn't miss any of the patriotic BS. I am not feeling very patriotic these days.  We did watch a broadcast of Hamilton on Disney Plus. It was entertaining.

I attacked the wild hill side behind my house with a weed whacker. It was a temporary assault on the weeds. But they always come back. If only things I actually planted would be so healthy.

If there wasn't enough chaos, we are thinking about selling our house and buying a new one. This will require prepping our house to make it attractive to sell. So much clutter. I still have stuff in plastic bins that were tucked away two moves ago and haven't seen the light of day for 15 years. You would think that if I haven't looked at them for 15 years I should just let it all go, but it is still hard for me.

Part of the issue is that the stuff in bins is stuff I had with me for years before I got married and had children. I used to collect eclectic stuff like warthog skulls and velvet Elvis paintings. There is no space for it in my home or life anymore, but I hate to just trash it. So I may turn to eBay to at least feel my former life had some value.

I just wish Elvis memorabilia would have appreciated in value more than I had expected.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Happily hair after



After three months with a stay at home order and getting haircuts out of the question (unless you find a rebel hairdresser), my hair was starting to remind me of the 1980s without the style. If I was a character from Scooby Doo, I would be Shaggy. It wasn't a good look for me.

The week before last our county went into Phase II of the recovery and things have started to open up including places that cut hair. I had hopes of losing the less than manageable mop for a more groomed look. But the place I usually get my hair cut (I hate to admit it, but it is one of those nasty chain hair cutting franchises that give assembly line cuts cheaply) was only accepting walk ins with an estimated wait of three hours.

At first I thought I'd just wait it out, but the thought of resorting to a man bun was weighing heavily on me. So I found a local salon that actually had online booking and an appointment available yesterday. I snagged it.

The place was within walking distance. It was a salon I'd tried to use a couple of years ago but I ended up boycotting them after arriving for an appointment and being told the stylist was running behind and I would need to reschedule. But swallowed my pride and decided now was the time to live and let live. 

I arrived a few minutes before my appointment and followed the salon instructions to call when I arrived and they would let me know if I could come in. I called and they seemed surprised that I was actually following directions and told me I could wait inside or outside until my stylist was ready. 

I entered and was told to was my hands and then have a seat. Everyone, including myself, was wearing masks. My stylist came and got me and showed me where to sit. We chatted a bit about my hair and then she started cutting.

Masks aside, I can't tell you how wonderfully normal the experience was. She cut a bit and then took me to a hair washing station and washed my hair. This was a pleasure I'd forgotten since I started having cheap haircuts that didn't include shampooing. Then she took me back to the chair and I watch hair falling everywhere like a sheep being shorn. I almost cried, it felt so good and normal.

Finally, it was done and I was a bit sad, but I marvelled at my closely cropped hair.

 
If nothing else comes out of this nightmare of a year, I have grown to greatly appreciate the little things.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Mask wars


“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.”
--Darth Vader
I am amazed at the amount of  energy (an money) spent on finding a face covering that isn't a pain in the butt to wear. The pandemic has spawned a whole industry of face coverings from the practical to novel. And none of them are cheap or comfortable. To further complicate things, except for the hand made ones, most come from China and take a long time to get. 

Part of the problem for me is that I have a big head, big ears, a big nose and a double chin. So most face coverings simply don't fit right. Plus I wear glasses and most masks fog them up. So I need to choose between walking around in a fog with glasses or walking around in a fog without glasses.

Face coverings also create socially awkward situations. If you go on a walk and don't wear one, you feel guilty when you pass someone wearing one. And if you wear one, you feel silly when you walk by someone not wearing one. Or annoyed that they aren't wearing one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Does anyone really know what time it is?


Living in quarantine involves the loss of time and days.  Living and working in the same place turns holidays and weekends into just another day waiting. Waiting for the next phase. Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting for a return to what?

I can't say it was better before we were shuffled off to our homes to work.  The days were pretty much blurred as well. And I was still waiting. Waiting for the day to be over. Waiting for retirement.

Now I'm worried I'm getting a taste of what retirement would be like. I just wouldn't be tied to electronics all day and blurry eyed from back to back video meetings. But I'm afraid I still wouldn't know what day or time it is.

So the pessimist in me thinks this whole thing is just a wash. Different paths, just the same destination. Only difference is that I need to wear a mask.

I am going to the dentist tomorrow morning to hopefully begin restoring a crown that broke off several weeks ago when I was eating popcorn. And oddly enough I am looking forward to it despite my dentist being in downtown Seattle and the potential risks of leaving my hidey hole here at home.

But at least I will be doing something different if not fun. At least I'll be out of my cage and doing something different, but ordinary.  Then again, I'm not looking forward to the idle chit chat about how bad things are and how the economy has tanked.  At least my dentist will get some insurance payments. I just hope it won't be a prolonged thing that requires several visits to resolve.

I'm also going to swing by my office for the first time in two months and bring home one of my big monitores so I don't have to do all my work on this postage stamp of a laptop anymore. That will be weird seeing my office again. 

I had planned on taking the train in and light rail to the dentist. But my wife thought it would be safer to drive and avoid the risks. And since I work for a public transit agency, I feel guilty buying into the perception that the train isn't safe.  Then again, I didn't like the idea of being downtown all day and spending an hour commuting.

But what is time anymore anyway?




Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Predictions



I am getting a bit tired of dire predictions, especially those bearing the phrase "new normal" (and the word "dire" for that matter). Even the New York Times has written semi-parody pieces about the conflicting information coming out every day. I wish just one expert would come out and say, "We really don't know shit about any of this. You'd be better off consulting a psychic."

And while I'm on a rant, I am pretty tired of statements about "trusting science." Science is pretty much about trial and error. So they are winging it as well, just in a more orderly way. In a perverse sort of way, Trump is trusting science when he announced that he is scarfing down malaria medication to ward off the COVID-19 spirits. Perhaps the medication's risk of increasing heart failure combined with his morbid obesity will up his belief in science and my belief in a god.

Bottom line, I don't want to hear about COVID-19, pandemics, financial crisis, social distancing, phased recovery or why we should or shouldn't wear face coverings.  I want to walk down the street and not feel my stress level rise if I see someone approaching me on the same side of the street.  I want to go on a vacation to a tropical environment and have the toughest decision I make be where to have dinner and what to drink.

Instead, I get my joy out of buying stuff on Amazon (mainly face coverings) and waiting excitedly for it to arrive only to find out it is yet another face covering that doesn't really fit or prevent my glasses from fogging up. I've ordered five masks and filters from China through eBay. From the ad they look kind of like something Darth Vader would wear. But since they are from China I probably won't get them until the pandemic is over.

But who can predict when that will be.




Thursday, May 14, 2020

I wonder if even Tom Robbins gets the blues?




I ordered a copy of Tom Robbins memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie and even started reading it (I stopped reading most books that didn't rhyme when I had kids).  It is reminding me why he is my favorite author and why reading his books in the first place inspired me to want to be a writer.

For the record, I still want to be a writer.

I imagine Tom Robbins is locked away in his home in LaConner, Washington staring at the Puget Sound and thanking his lucky stars he doesn't live in Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle anymore. It is hard to know what Tom Robbins would be doing.

I actually have seen Tom Robbins in person twice in my lackluster life. The first time was at a lecture at the University of Washington where he was asked to speak about love. Someone asked him how to make love last and his response was, "Make love first." I thought that was genius.

The second time I saw him was at the Blue Moon Tavern in the University District. He was one of the judges of the Darrell Bob Houston Literary Award in honor of one of his friends he'd worked with during his years working for newspapers. I didn't interact with him. I was just another barfly on the wall so to speak observing from afar. It took him awhile to show up. 

While I waited I recognized one of his friends, Walk Crowley, a Seattle writer. I had met Crowley through my job. He was always pitching local agencies to pay for vanity press books that he would author. Crowley always wore a bow tie and I found him pompous and condescending. I watched him approach the bar and order a beer, "Bar keep, tre ordinare please."

I told you he was pompous and condescending.

Eventually Tom Robbins showed up with a young woman on his arm. I didn't get close enough to meet him or even hear what he said. It was getting late and I had to get home.

So that is as close as I ever got to greatness. But as I read his memoir, I feel like I know him. But then again as I read each of his books, I felt like I knew him. That's what makes him a great writer.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Bubble man


Walking now is like a strange, sinister ballet. You never know what the other person is going to do when they approach. It's like a social distancing game of chicken. Who is going to veer off before you reach the six-foot buffer zone. 

I've noted joggers are the worst.  They inevitably come too close and are usually huffing and puffing and splattering spittle without a mask. People with little kids and strollers are pretty bad, too. But I can't blame them. Toddlers are like cats and difficult to herd.

Picking up take out is stressful, too. Some restaurants are very organized and everyone knows where to stand or hover waiting for the sanitized pen to sign or the iPad with plastic wrap to insert your debit card. But last night this woman came in behind us and just stood in the doorway so you couldn't possibly keep six-feet between us and her when we exited. I find myself feeling very nasty towards my fellow humans in all of this.

Warm weather makes it worse. People want out of their houses and they flock to the waterfront to marvel in its expanse. We see them standing like zombies staring at the sun while it sets and then shuffling off into the dark when it has melted into the Puget Sound.

While walking, I have noticed how wildlife has become emboldened by all of this. There are rabbits everywhere. And I swear we saw a couple of feral love birds in the trees a few days ago. A owl has been frequenting the wild hillside behind our house and pairs of crows are strutting around on every corner. It's as if they are all waiting for us to leave and give them back the planet. Though the sea gulls will miss the french fries. But they'll adapt.

Monday, May 04, 2020

No news is good news


Literally. I am convinced that all of the reporters working remotely rehash even the slightest utterance about COVID-19 into upteen stories that usually contains the pronouncement, "No one knows why..." Which confirms that no one knows anything about COVID-19. 

And I am also convinced that the term "medical expert" is an oxymoron. I've never been to a doctor who was sure about anything. All of the information you receive is conjecture based on conjecture. First they say not to wear masks. Then they insist you wear masks. They say if you get the virus than you are immune. Then they say that having the virus doesn't make you immune. 

The truth could set you free, if, there was any truth. But the constant bombardment of "facts" simply feeds the fear. And NPR, the self-proclaimed bastion of unbiased Journalism, is just as bad as the rest of them. It parades expert after expert through interviews asking if this safe or is that safe. And the experts hem and haw about unknowns and other factors beyond their control or knowledge. So why bother asking?

It's like everything else that I hear since Trump, the true disease, was thrust upon on us. I have been constantly filled with false hope that he will be forced out of office, but he is like a cockroach constantly surviving scandals that would have toppled any other political figure in the past. It is the same with COVID-19. I hate listening to the news because I don't want to get sucked up with some false hope that they have developed a vaccine or that the danger is past. 

So I continue to live in uncertainty acknowledging that life has always been uncertain. We never know what the next second will bring let alone the next day, week, month or year. So nothing I hear is news to me.




Thursday, April 23, 2020

Still invisible



I spend almost eight hours some days on video meetings. And I still feel as if no one sees me. Still, it is sometimes nice to turn off my camera and be invisible because no one notices. I was in a meeting yesterday afternoon with a bunch of Web developers and none had their cameras on. Apparently it is an IT thing. But as they jabbered on about techno stuff that didn't mean anything, I didn't say a word and I was invisible.

Even when I take one of my many walks, some people approach you as if you are not there and I inevitably am the one to step off into the road to let them pass. I don't wear a mask much when I walk because it seems to be unnecessary. I never come within six feet of anyone but my wife or children. But I think I actually think I would prefer wearing a mask. Because then, although not truly invisible, I become faceless. And then it doesn't matter whether I smile at the passing people or not.

We made fun of the people who wore masks in the beginning. Now it is becoming more common to glare at the ones who don't. Because, locked up in our homes with NPR and constant digital news about the latest on COVID-19 is creating a paranoid nation. Hell there was news of two cats testing positive for the virus yesterday (but on the positive side the news said both are recovering nicely). But I wonder how many people are now avoiding their pets.

The sadly ironic thing is that we are all afraid of something that is also invisible. It is everywhere and no where. You can even have it and not know it. It is the ultimate bogeyman. 

I walked through a park with my daughter the other day and a mother was sitting in front of a sign saying the playground equipment was closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The woman was watching her two children as they climbed all over the equipment.  

Maybe the woman has never heard of the bogeyman.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Walking the walk


I walk a lot these days. There isn't much else to do in the way of exercise. I see a great deal of people jogging. I hate to run. There are no gyms open to go to. I'm not standing in front of the television and doing yoga or aerobics. So I walk.

I have an app that tracks my walks and tells me how far I've gone and how many calories I've burned. You have to walk a long time to burn many calories. So I walk about four times a day.

You see a lot when you walk versus when you drive. You notice more. Like I live in a community that has a great deal of wealth and not lots of diversity. And some people weed more than others.

I generally walk with my wife. It is a time for her to talk about her work. We take our first walk at noon. I then walk with my son at 5 p.m. We walk the the dog. My son doesn't talk much. When he does, it is about YouTube influencers and gamers. The dog doesn't talk at all. She just sniffs at spots I assume other dogs have peed on and poops a great deal. I carry a bag of dog poop on most of those walks.

When I return from walking my dog and my son, I then go on a walk with my daughter. We often go to a nearby large park that is more of a forest preserve with lots of trails. She has been in day camps there during the summer and knows it well. She talks much more than my son. She points out skunk cabbage and other plants she has learned about. 

After walking with my daughter, we usually have dinner. After dinner my wife and I walk again. 

It is a surreal world we walk in. All of the businesses are closed except for several restaurants who have figured out ways to sell take out food and cocktails. Apparently liquor laws have been relaxed in the era of COVID-19. We have kept to our routine of going out to eat every Friday night. Except now we take out and eat in. It's not the same. The food is usually cold by the time we get it home and it loses much appeal once it has been thrown together in a box. But still it is a break from the quarantine we have been forced into.

Other than not having to get up at 6 a.m. and commute to downtown, nothing much has changed for me other than walking all the time. I spend all day in meetings. I end my nights binge watching programs on Amazon or Netflix. And each day it starts all over again. 

A pandemic is a bit like I imagine purgatory would be.




Monday, April 13, 2020

Week five



I was going to call this post, "Week five and still alive," but I thought it might be too morbid and it would force me into a challenge of finding something to rhyme each week. Week six, I pick up sticks sounds stupid. Though I did spend lots of time Sunday cutting out a dead Rhodie on my wild hillside and picking up sticks. 

It was Easter weekend and other than having to work for five hours Saturday morning, it was a fairly normal Easter (given the circumstances). We ordered take out from a greasy bar food type of place on Friday night and learned a lesson as to why you don't order take out bar food during a pandemic (or any time for that matter). By the time we got it home, it was pretty cold and fried food loses its appeal once it reaches room temperature.

I am still walking about three times a day. And I still struggle to find a good mask that doesn't cut off oxygen or pull my ears off. Since I don't go in many stores anyway, a mask seems pointless most of the time. 

I made the mistake of reading a New York Times article about the top ten symptoms of you having the COVID-19 virus other than fever and dry cough. Pretty much it read like the side effects list from most prescriptions and I am sure fueled the paranoia most people feel already about anything out of the ordinary about your body. I question the wisdom of publishing such an article. It just seems to panic more than inform. But there seems to be a lot of this going on.

My wife and I were out walking and stopped at a Gelato shop that is apparently an essential business because they are still open. We purchased a pint of gelato for my son and I noted the girl scooping out gelato didn't have gloves or a mask. She exchanged pleasantries with us as I paid and we walked home. Later that afternoon I took my daughter for a walk and we returned to the same gelato shop. The same girl was working. She didn't recall selling me a pint of gelato about an hour earlier and she exchanged the exact same pleasantries. She still wasn't wearing gloves or a mask.

So I am still invisible, pandemic or no pandemic. Some things never change.



Friday, April 10, 2020

Social distancing down the bunny trail



I was tempted to post an image of Jesus on the cross wearing a face mask, but I figured that might be too much for any nut job that wandered in here by mistake. It has been quite awhile since I had any trolls flame me, but I'm just not in the mood. 

I have stated unequivocally stated on many occasions that I am not a religious person and do not believe in a god. The current pandemic has confirmed my disbelief in one. I have considered the current state a wake up call from nature that we haven't heeded any other signs including global warming, hurricanes, tornadoes or Donald Trump so maybe we'll pay attention to a killer virus.

Though I can't help believe that once this has more or less passed, people will talk big about how they've changed, then shrug and get back to mass consumption and ignoring their neighbors. Even pandemics don't seem to be able to change most people's inherent natures.

We plan to dye Easter eggs on Saturday and try to keep some semblance of normalcy for the kids. They are past the age where they want to attend mass Easter egg hunts and get their photos taken with the Easter Bunny anyway. And not being church going people, not being able to go to a Sunday service has absolutely no impact on us. 

I remember the congregation at church when I was a kid singing, "Every day will be an Easter" (a Christian Scientist hymn) and thinking if every day was an Easter we'd get sick of all the candy. I'm not sure that's what the author intended, but it was basically what Easter meant to me, dyeing Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. These days I don't even eat chocolate so dyeing eggs will be the highlight.

Other than walks, I don't really go out anymore. I went with my wife to the grocery store last weekend and got stressed out by all the people going the wrong way in one way aisles that I agreed to stop going.  My wife reminds me that I am over 60 and take medication for high blood pressure so I shouldn't be taking any chances. I even broke my tooth on an unpopped popcorn kernel the other night and chose to forgo a dentist visit until late in May just to avoid the risk of going to downtown Seattle. Fortunately the tooth was a crown and doesn't hurt.

How does that relate to Easter? Well I broke a crown and Jesus wore a crown of thorns. 

Thought you had me there, didn't you? 

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Masked man



There has been a lot of debate lately about whether or not a face mask can help protect you from the COVID-19 virus and that the whoop de do filtered masks should be reserved for medical staff. Most of it is a moot point because, like toilet paper, most of the masks were swooped up early in the frenzy. You can order disposable masks on Amazon, but they all seem to come from China and won't arrive for a month and a half. Plus they are the ones that only filter out dust and pollen anyway.

So the do it yourself versions have become popular. Most are fashioned from bandanas and people basically look like they are going to rob a train or bank. fortunately very few trains are running and no banks are open so there haven't been any misunderstandings that I know of. 

The first mask I wore in public was a prop from a surgeon costume I'd worn in a skit at work many years ago (don't ask). It seemed like a legitimate enough mask, but I think it is actually made of paper that looks like cloth, so I don't think it will make it through many washings. Next I just tied an old Seahawks bandana around my face cowboy style. Works in a pinch, but it kept sliding off my nose, so not sure how much good it does.

I tried another mask using a method from the web where you fold the bandana around hair ties that slip over your ears and keep the mask over your face. The hair ties unfortunately folded my ears down and made me look like something out of Lord of the Rings. And they kept popping off. So I finally just found some cotton fabric with a pirate print and hand sewed cloth ties onto. The result is a crude but effective face mask. By effective, I mean it covers my nose and mouth and, if nothing else, keeps me from sneezing and coughing on people. 

Not that I have been within six feet from anyone but my wife and kids for weeks. I have ventured to the store with my wife a few times and it is almost comical to see people try and stay distant from each other while trying to find canned goods. Our store even created one-way aisles (that most people ignore) to keep people from trying pass each other in the tight space.  But Americans can't seem to self regulate. Just as people ignore speed limits and don't use blinkers, we encounter people who just push up the wrong way in the grocery aisles and seem oblivious to the six-foot rule. I want to get a t-shirt made that reads, "Better six feet away than six feet under." But someone would probably take it the wrong way.

I think having a sense of humor during these times puts me in the higher risk category.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

If it is Tuesday this must be my blog

My daughter thought Monday was Sunday. Because you start to lose track of time when you sleep, work and live in the same place for 24/7. Even going for a walk starts to look the same. Though we have started thinking about writing to the local online newspaper and suggesting some common rules for walking in the time of social distancing. For example, if everyone walked on the right, you wouldn't have to step into the road so much. And a single person should yield to two or more people. Simple things.

I have found that working at home has a psychological impact on you as well. Because even on weekends, you are in the place that you work and it is hard to leave it behind. I try and spend most of my time during a work day, down in my home office. And I avoid going there on weekends, but it still has an effect on me.

The longer this stretches on the more I see the effects of stress on my family and the people I work with. Part of it is not knowing when it will end. Part of it is not knowing what will happen when it ends. It is hard at this point to imagine things returning to normal. You start to appreciate all of the things you took for granted, like going to a movie, eating out and not having to swerve around people when you are walking.

It is interesting how quickly marketing people have switched gears to capitalize on this mess. I get e-mails from online merchants selling home office furniture. I get fed online videos about buying toilet paper online. It is almost shameless the way we take advantage of even the worst circumstances.

I don't really worry about getting sick. Though I am hyper aware of even the slightest symptom. The actual virus still feels remote and vague like the bogeyman. I am more worried about my family, my job and the economy. I actually would like to retire sometime. What are the odds when I had retirement in sight, we'd experience the worst disaster in my lifetime.

You can't as an individual prepare for something like this. The only ones who do are nut job dooms day preppers. They must be loving this. 

In the beginning of this forced isolation, I saw lots of positive things in people. Although we needed to stay six feet apart, I noticed people seemed friendlier than they used to be when you walked past them. They said hello or waved. Now people just seem stressed and confused. 

And stressed and confused people start doing weird things. Today, they had to pull one of our light rail trains out of service because a guy was observed coughing in paper towels and wiping them on seats. It didn't surprise me. And I've noticed more vandalism and litter lately. While walking today we saw someone had tossed a pizza box from a restaurant up the street into some persons yard. We have also noticed people picking up after their dog and then tossing the bag down the slope behind our house.

I hope this is some of the worst of it. God knows what people will do if this drags on for months.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Remote control

Just wrapping up the first full week of working at home. On the plus side I get to roll out of bed 15 minutes before 8 a.m. and head down to my home office. I used to have to get up at 6 a.m., get ready and then take a train into work.

On the negative side I'm not taking as many showers.

I think I'm actually able to be as, if not more, productive working at home. Meeting with people via computer video and audio actually makes me feel more connected to them than I would be in a conference room. It is oddly comforting to meet with other people trapped in their homes without outside contact.

Since I don't have access to a gym (and they are all closed anyway), I've been taking several walks a day with my wife and sometimes my son and dog. Lots more people are out walking. Some acknowledge us as we walk past. Some cross the street. All of us have gotten used to staying six feet away.

I was walking alone yesterday at lunch. I passed a guy checking his mail box and he hollered out, "Good job of keeping six feet away." I nodded. Then he laughed and said, "We need to make light of it." I mumbled, a "Yeah." He seemed uncomfortable at that point and told me to have a nice day.

I was tempted to say, "Better six feet away then six feet under." But humor is definitely not going over big these days. People don't want jokes. They want reassurance that it will all be okay. No one seems to be able to offer that.

I did watch several online video ads this morning for buying toilet paper online. Not sure with all of the essentials you could hoard, toilet paper became the one many obsessed on. And as far as I know, the virus doesn't make you go to the bathroom more.

Not sure why Washington was so hard hit by this. Not even sure what hard hit means in the context of the virus. You don't really see anything but closed stores and restaurants. All we hear is how bad it could get if we don't "shelter in place." But shelter in place really means you can still go out walking, go to grocery store and run other errands.  So I'm not sure how it is any different than what we were doing anyway.

I am sick of the phrase, "This is the new normal."

No, no it is not. Not for me anyway.

Monday, March 16, 2020

I miss normal

So the governor of Washington issued a mandatory social distancing order. And my work is requiring us to work at home. They also closed most of the schools in the area. Today they closed restaurants and bars.

Our cats and the dog are confused as to what I am doing home. They generally just associate me with someone who comes home and feeds them.

Honestly, I don't have a problem avoiding large groups of people. I have tried doing that my entire life. I don't like the potential of not being able to go out to a restaurant. I am also worried about the long term impacts on the economy and my retirement, not to mention my kid's education if this drags on for months.

Oddly enough, I am less concerned about the actual virus. There is so much misinformation about how you get it and how badly you can get sick that it seems secondary to the impacts of group panic and fear. I was disappointed in the decision to close restaurants because I was in the camp that of all the industries, they were the ones that were supposed to be following sanitary rules already when they prep food. But I can understand the concerns of large groups of people squeezed into small spaces spreading germs.

We had our last restaurant meal on Friday night and it did cross my mind that there could be more risks as the servers and assistants kept grabbing our water glasses and refilling them. And after I used the oil and balsamic vinegar cruets I sanitized my hands.

I feel for all of those workers suddenly without paychecks potentially for weeks. Not sure when or how all of the emergency funds to help the people and the economy can kick in. Especially since most of the government workers are working remotely, too.

My wife and I drove to Olympia on Sunday to set up a computer for my mother in law so she could work at home. We ended up going to several stores looking for computer cables. There still seemed to be plenty of people going about their business as if nothing was up.

I sanitized my hands frequently and I used a rubber glove when I put gas in the car.

I miss normal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

In a fog...no, really


There's a fog upon L.A.
And my friends have lost their way
We'll be over soon they said
Now they've lost themselves instead
--Blue Jay Way by George Harrison 
Actually there is a fog upon downtown Seattle. And I'm not referring to the Corona Virus. It is a real fog and fairly thick for Seattle. It kind of adds to the surreal mood in the city. The streets are pretty much empty. The train I rode in on this morning was fairly empty, too. People are staying home in droves clutching hand sanitizer and peering out the blinds.

It is pretty cold today, too. Not very spring like. And daylight savings time springing us forward over the weekend didn't help lighten things up. The only thing bright about the morning was the full moon peaking through the fog.

The fog has now burned off and it is sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. It is hard to believe that behind all of this tranquility the world is doing its best Chicken Little impression and squawking about mandatory social distancing.

As I worked out, I watched the image of a cruise ship pulling into Oakland with a boat load of passengers who had been exposed to the Corona Virus. All that I could think was who in their right mind would be taking a cruise right now. But I quickly remembered that you book sometimes a year or two in advance and pay vast quantities of money to go on a cruise. What an unlucky bastard to have booked one in the middle of a pandemic and didn't buy cancellation insurance.

"Marge, pack your bags for the cruise."
"But what about the Corona Virus?"
"I can't get a refund so we are going. Just have some extra shrimp in the buffet. We'll probably get food poisoning before we get the Corona Virus. Or we'll just get sick from drinking too many Corona's."

At least that is how I imagine the conversations went before jumping on a cruise ship.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Blog in the time of cholera


“wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” 
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
My apologies to Gabriel García Márquez for re-purposing her great book title.  But the title has been going through my head in these troubled times of panic and misinformation in the face of a virus that doesn't seem to move as quickly as the panic it inspires.

They tell us that the people who are most at risk are:

  • Over 60 years of age 
  • Have underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes 
  • Have weakened immune systems 
  • Pregnant
So, being over 60, I am technically at risk. So my company tells me I may work from my home if I choose. But I am torn. I don't feel compelled to cower at home in a self-imposed exile from an invisible bug that could or could not make me sick and in extreme cases kill me. Most of the prescriptions I take come with a list of potential side effects that make the Corona Virus look like a pansy in comparison.

Again it is the panic that frustrates me more than anything. Because the only difference between today and two weeks ago is that several people died in a senior care center not even in Seattle. All of a sudden, we became ground zero for the virus in the United States. But nothing really changed other than people began making runs on stores and hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper. It once again confirms for me the power of people's perceptions versus the reality.

I walked on the beach with my daughter last Sunday and noted that it was an ordinary activity untouched by the madness swirling around the virus outbreak. It occurred to me that nature doesn't panic or over react. It evolves and adapts...slowly, but surely.

Pity that humans can't take the same approach. But we seem to be hard wired for fight or flight. And so many of the things that we react to now are imagined or potential versus real and concrete.  

Monday, March 02, 2020

Don't pandemic!

I would say that the world has officially gone crazy. And it is the "nothing to fear but fear itself" that Franklin Delano Roosevelt counseled us about that is driving people crazy. The Corona virus that is spooking people to make runs on the grocery store and stock up on toilet paper is the boogeyman. It also caused the stock market to tank big time.

Once again I marvel at what sheep people are. Or lemmings. It is their panic that is more harmful than the spread of a flu like disease that can kill already sick people. I'm not poo-poohing the fact that it is concerning. But the misinformation about it is mindnumbing. People are told that wearing face masks is useless yet they have cleared the stores of face masks.

And now we are letting our lives grind to a halt as we wring our hands and wait. But wait for what? I don't want hunker down too afraid to peek outside my windows for fear I'll see someone cough. They have us all washing our hands constantly like Lady Macbeth.

It's an OCD person's dream come true.

I hate things that take me out of my nice, comfortable routines. I just want to worry about paying for my kid's college and retirement. I don't want to be sucked into the nightmare of global panic because of a cold on steroids.

The thing is, a year from now most of this will be forgotten and people will go right back to not washing their hands and touching their faces. Let's just hope that worse virus that infected the Whitehouse four years ago is gone.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Worth the weight


Eight years ago I wrote about my efforts to lose weight. Back in 2009 I lost 52 pounds. Four years later I'd regained 20 pounds so I upped my game and lost those 20 pounds. But by last November I realized I'd pretty much regained 40 pounds. So I went into diet and exercise mode. So far I have lost 26 pounds.

The difference in my efforts this time is that I use a couple of free apps (that beg me to pay for premium and lots of features that I don't care about). One app, myfitnesspal, allows me to log everything I eat and drink and my exercise. It tracks calories I take in and calories I burn. And it tracks my weight.

The other app, mapmywalk, helps me track how far I walk and how many calories I burn on weekends. Both apps, combined with weekly weigh ins, keep me from deluding myself about progress.

The pounds aren't magically burning off, but they are slowly dropping. All the experts say that is the way to shed pounds and not quickly gain them back. Although I have dropped 26 pounds and notice the difference, no one else has. But then again, no one noticed when I fell and broke my nose and had a black eye, either.

Regardless, there is a certain satisfaction I get by losing weight. I feel more in control and better about myself. There is a rush you get when you step on a scale and see a smaller number than the week before. And it is nice to have clothing feel loose on my body. I can even fit in the jeans I've held onto for several years.

Although losing weight is beneficial to my body, I do it more for the impact on my mind. During the years when I grow lax and start gaining weight and being less than mindful of what I eat, I feel bad about myself. I feel weak and guilty.

The weird thing about this time is that I don't really feel deprived of anything. I don't miss the snacks that my co-workers seem to constantly consume. Logging what I eat makes me aware of what I am eating. Upping my workouts during the week have increased my endurance. Walking more on weekends also helps my mental state and given me more time with my wife and son who sometimes walk with me.

I'm kind of unclear on my actual target weight. I'm shoot for at least losing another 20 pounds. And then instead of telling myself I can ease off, I'm going to keep monitoring what I eat and how much I exercise. My goal is to keep the weight off. And what I've discovered about myself, it is mainly a state of mind that helps me lose weight. So I just need to keep that state of mind focused on keeping the weigh off.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Restart


One of the challenges of being a geriatric parent of school aged children is dealing with their homework. Since my wife is a teacher by profession, she handles most of the math questions. I tend to be relegated to just trying to motivate my children to do their homework. My daughter isn't really a problem. She takes it upon herself to start and finish her homework. And she rarely asks me for help except the definition of a new word or two.

My son is another story.

My son isn't a big fan of school. He takes the position that, if the work they give him to do is pointless, it is pointless to do it. I've tried explaining the need to develop skills that help you learn the things you care about, but he isn't really buying it. And part of me kind of admires his willingness to call bull shit on some of the assignments they give.

The latest one was to read a book and instead of just doing a book report write papers and develop materials as if you were turning the book into a movie. Now to me, it actually sounds kind of fun although it is a bit too much like the work I do with ad agencies producing video spots. But my son doesn't think it is fun. After much prodding and poking we got him to do some of the written assignments. But he refused to follow the examples the teacher provided for writing a letter of inquiry to an actor to play the lead role in the movie or other letters to production companies to produce the movie.

For whatever reason, my son is a free range writer. He doesn't use capital letters, punctuation or paragraphs. He just writes stream of consciousness much the way James Joyce is famous for. Having a degree in journalism and spending many years as a copy writer and editor, this drives me crazy. It also drives the teachers crazy. After arguing with him for an unreasonable amount of time he allowed me to edit one of the documents. Then he was outraged that I tweaked some of his sentences in some places to eek out what I thought he was trying to say.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Do you still write?


I had lunch early this week with a couple of old friends. I hadn't seen them in quite awhile. And I'm afraid I monopolized the conversation about what was going on in my life. At one point one of them asked, "Do you still write?"

My response was that I have been writing a blog for 16 years. The response was kind of a blank stare and some comments about not being able to keep up with blogs.

I suppose a better question would be, "Do you still write anything anyone reads?" And I could have honestly responded, "Of course not."

Truth is, no one "keeps up with blogs" these days. It is a challenging medium. It does require a commitment from readers to check in every now and then because a blog isn't typically spoon fed to everyone. It also takes a commitment from the blogger to produce interesting content on a regular basis that appeals to your readers.

I've failed miserably on that front. The problem with not pandering to a regular audience is that you pander to yourself. And let's face it, people really don't want to read about me. They want something they can relate to.

I was better at it when I had regular readers and I knew their personalities...or at least their online personalities. I found myself crafting stuff I knew they would respond to. And they did.

Until they didn't.

I admit that most of what I write now is therapeutic. I try to keep the more personal, self pity stuff offline. But I come here now mainly to keep from getting rusty. I don't want to end up being the tin man frozen mid ax stroke next to an abandoned cabin somewhere over the rainbow.

Besides, there's no place like Dizgraceland.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Dreams of travelling


I tend to dream or be aware of my dreams an hour or so before Alexa starts blasting out chimes to wake me up. This morning I was dreaming about being stressed out trying to catch a flight that would simply have me fly to a destination and turn around and fly back.

I have quite a few dreams about having to pack quickly to make a travel connection. I few them as stress dreams. I rarely dream about laying on a beach sipping a tropical drink. And as with many of my dreams, I am in the house I grew up in. Or I am in this house that I've never been to but appears in my dreams a lot. It is a a series of connected rooms or houses. It kind of reminds me of New Orleans.

In another life, I would happily live in New Orleans and be an artist. I would not be a corporate suck up and ever have to hear about SMART goals or cascading goals. I would not receive "feedback" in performance reviews. I would not care about strategic priorities. I would not be judged by how well I conformed to corporate values.

But I digress.

The thing is that I am at the end of my career. I have maybe five years left in the work force (if they don't try and "ok boomer" me out earlier). I'd like to be having nice, peaceful dreams of unhurried environments, not rushing around trying to find my wallet or passport and catching a flight at the last minute. Those are stress dreams and I think I've worked long enough to get a break from stress dreams.

I know it is pointless at this juncture of my life to question my career choice, but I am having serious doubts about my job. I must have been subconsciously giving off some burn out vibe because I got blasted for body language and not paying attention at meetings. I don't think the "feedback" was particularly fair or accurate, but who does believe such things?

But it did shake my foundation of who I am and what I'm doing. I've always considered myself a "creative." And only about five percent of what I do in my job could be described as creative. I'll admit I don't like managing people. And from some of my "feedback," people aren't to keen on my managing.

Thing is, I've been working since I was 16 if you don't count mowing lawns and paper routes. I've spent the last 38 years pretty much doing different versions of the same thing in pretty much the same place. Every time I think I deserve some credit for time served I run into the reality that no one is irreplaceable.

If only I could dream myself away from it all.


Saturday, February 01, 2020

Just gathering data


My first real job years ago (other than mowing lawns and delivering a weekly newspaper) was working at the public library, first shelving books and later working in circulation. I started working there when I was 16 years old. I think I worked there maybe five years. It wasn’t a great job. It didn’t pay much, but I reasoned that it was better than working in fast food or at a restaurant. In retrospect, I would have probably made more money working at a restaurant.

Shelving books was mindnumbingly boring. And I had to endure lectures from reference librarians (the elite of in the library hierarchy) about how books needed to breath so don’t just shove them in an already full shelf. I would nod and smile. Then I’d keep shoving the books in place once the librarian was out of sight.

When I graduated from high school and entered college, I started working as a circulation clerk. It was less boring, but it made me interact with the public. And although you’d imagine that people in a library would be a bit higher on the IQ food chain then elsewhere you would be wrong. I often dealt with people floating in the shallow end of the gene pool. And there were transients who came to the library to sleep and get out of the elements. And there were the perverts who roamed the stacks trying to look up women’s dresses.

You didn’t have to have any special qualifications to work in circulation. It didn’t require a library science degree. You just had to know how to type. Much of the time I either checked books out or checked books in. The best time was working in the circulation office and you could at least carry on a conversation with other circulation clerks.

Most people who worked in circulation did so because they just needed a job. Many were like Starbuck’s barista’s are today: wannabe artists, writers and actors. One of those was a Chicago transplant with a full ZZ-Top beard named Kelly McFadden. Kelly was a playwright trapped in a circulation clerks body. He was a new father and needed to support his family. And he was super cool.

Kelly and I quickly became friends even though he was in his 30s and I was probably 19 or 20 at the time. He shared his philosophy on life and having to deal with looney people with me. He’d come off the front desk after checking out long lines of people and say, “Tim, I’m just gathering data...just gathering data.”

I loved that phrase. Because Kelly was taking in all of the madness we experienced and storing it in his brain to be used in his writing. At the time, I fancied myself as a great novelist in the making, so I adopted Kelly’s attitude that no matter how mind boggling our experience was, it was stuff we could use in our writing.

The other thing Kelly did for me was introduce me to the music of Tom Waits. And to this day, I think Waits is an inspirational genius.

When I moved away from Boise to finish college in Seattle, I lost contact with Kelly. But I think about what he taught me to this day. And although I never ended up writing a novel, I’ve gathered and continue to gather a great deal of data. Much of it has been used in my blog.

So thanks Kelly. I hope you wrote a highly successful play and are profiting from all the data you gathered.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The father, the son and the holy ghost


I was always confused by the phrase, "holy ghost" as a kid. I couldn't get the image of Casper the friendly ghost out of my head. Coincidentally, Caspar was the name of one of the wise men or kings who stalked Jesus when he was born.

But I digress.

The disturbing image above is from a filter on Snapchat. There was another one that showed you what you would look like as an elderly person. But I didn't look much different, so I passed. I found this one creepy enough. Again, I can't get over how much I look like my great, great grandfather with a full beard. The spooky little kid me is just wrong. My eyes didn't look that hard when I was a boy. That came with age.

I don't really understand Snapchat or the whole filter thing. They are fun to mess with, but I don't get how people use the app as a social media tool. Why would you send a friend the above image?

But then again, I am a boomer and the mysteries of the younger generations are shrouded in a fog that will never lift in my aged brain.

Though I wonder what barriers were put up between generations before someone came up with Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, Millennials and Gen Z-ers. I suppose it was just a battle of wills between old coots and young whippersnappers.

The thing that strikes me about the above photo is how much it looks like a portrait done in a photo studio back in the 1960s. Now that is an art that has died...fortunately.

And I do look like a holy ghost. Or at least a ghost.

The image haunts me anyway.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Let it go


There are certain topics I have struggled with letting go of over the years: the loss of followers of my blog, being invisible, not being funny and repeating myself. I've tried rationalizing. I've tried bargaining with myself. And I've tried going into denial. But the damned things keep rising up like the undead in an episode of the Walking Dead.

And speaking of the Walking Dead, don't you think after all of these years the zombies would have rotted away? They have been decomposing for years and there shouldn't be much left of them.

But I digress.

The thing that has been bugging me most lately is the lack of comments and the lack of readers period. I know I try and just write for myself, but occasionally having feedback used to motivate me if not inspire me.

The hardest part for me is that the people who used to read my blog and comment just seemed to stop without any indication of why. The Gen Z word for it is "ghosting." It's when you completely cut someone out of your life without warning or explanation. Normally it is used when you ghost someone you were dating. But it applies here.

The thing is, it leaves you without closure. Was it something I said or didn't say? Were they bored? Busy? Dealing with there own stuff? You see how easy it is to internalize stuff when people just disappear?

I realize that much of what I blog about lacks relevance to many of the people online. My demographic is Boomers and there doesn't seem to be many of them represented online anymore. The Millennials and Gen Z-ers just can't relate to a past middle aged white man with an odd sense of humor and a tendency to repeat himself about the past.

But it is the ten or so people who used to read my blog and leave these funny comments that I don't understand.

Oh, I know some people just got burned out on blogging and reading blogs. And social media came along and made it easier to engage without too much effort. Plus attention spans have shrunk substantially. And it's not like I read any blogs myself. But that's mainly because the people I used to read stopped blogging.

I'd like to say I can just let it go, but I know it will always bug me until I post my last post and slip off into whatever there is after you ghost yourself.  But hey, since I've been invisible for years, being a ghost should be an easy transition.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

And I oop


VSCO girl is a term, generally used as an insult, for a young, usually white woman who posts trendy pictures of herself edited on the app VSCO. Stereotypes of the VSCO girl include wearing scrunchies and Birkenstock sandals, drinking out of Hydro Flask reusable water canisters, saying sksksk and I oop, and generally seeking attention online.
--dictionary.com

Although I don't think there are many redeeming qualities found in TikTok, it has introduced me to some Gen Z terms that probably would have otherwise flown way under my radar.

Not that that would have been a bad thing.

However, when my teenage daughter started "sksksk..ing" the other day I joined her and freaked her out that I knew what a VSCO girl was. It's like I cracked her code.

Granted I have picked up other Gen Z terms while listening to my son while we play Fortnite. These include, "yeet," "salty," "triggered," "bruh," "chill," and "iconic." Oh yeah, and "ok boomer." Not that they originated all of these terms, they just co-opted them.

I've been trying to think of terms we had when I was a teenager. We said, "cool" a lot. Before something was "cool" it was "tough." "Far out" was popular, but mainly with John Denver. I don't think I ever said, "feeling groovy." In junior high, I remember a not so flattering term was to call someone a "fish." I'm not even sure what that meant. I still say, "dude" more than I should.

The thing I need to remember is that just because you know the terms the Gen Z-ers use doesn't mean you should use them. I tried "and I oop" on my daughter and she just rolled her eyes. But there is power in at least understanding what they are talking about without using the words yourself.

I'm cool with that.

Monday, January 13, 2020

And miles to snow before I sleep...


In the land of rain, snow is an anomaly.  It confuses people who are used to a liquid sky and not a frozen one. Ironically, Seattle is the gateway to Alaska, a place where snow just is.

Pretty as it may be, I don't really like snow. It stresses me out because it creates uncertainty and a feeling of being trapped. Schools close. Cars slide. And here, store shelves are emptied at the mention of snow. People in the Pacific Northwest are snow flakes.

Sure, when I was a kid, I loved snow. I loved building snow men and sledding and snowball fights. But our schools never closed because we all lived within walking distance of school. So there were no school buses to slide around on icy streets. And growing up, there weren't a lot of hills to make driving a challenge anyway.

I find it ironic that, even with all of our technology, we still can't control or predict the weather with a lot of certainty. So the weather is like death. You know it is coming, you just don't really know when.

Meanwhile, I stare out my office window at the flakes drifting down and melting as they hit the dark pavement. I am glad it is melting.I have yet to be stuck at work because of snow. My wife and children are home enjoying an extra day off. My dog is there too, probably disconcerted that she has nowhere in the snow covered back yard to pee or poop without getting her butt cold and wet.

And there are miles to snow before I sleep.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

They say it's Elvis' birthday...

If Elvis hadn't died in 1977, he would have been 85 today. And it is hard to imagine what the King of Rock and Roll would have looked like at 85. But in honor of his birthday I'm posting some photos of my Elvis holiday ornament collection as they looked after I took down the Elvis tree on New Year's Day.







Lady's and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Happy birthday Elvis!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Measuring time


And so it is the year 2020. It doesn't feel much different than 2019...or 2018 for that matter. It's all arbitrary anyway. The calendar is an artificial construct we can blame on the Catholic church to try and give Christianity some credibility by artificially pinpointing when Jesus lived.If the calendar was real, the countdown would have begun when the earth was spit out of whatever star it came from.

Or the countdown would have begun when man's ancestors crawled out of the primeval ooze and started thinking.

But no, we are stuck with a couple of a thousand years plus two decades. And there is still bickering about this being the start of the second decade because there was no year "0." Give me a fucking break. Is that all people have to worry about?

I wonder, if the calendar had never been invented, would we age?

I imagine, though, that people would have just come up with other ways to parse out time. They would probably refer to events rather than years, like, "Yeah, Johnnie was born in the time cousin Ed got kicked in the head by a mule."

Regardless, now we are stuck with the calendar and clocks and aging. I am still startled every time I look in the mirror. My inside self isn't aging as fast as my outside self. My daughter was going through old photographs yesterday. There were the few photos taken during my childhood. I was struck by the black and white moments captured by my mother, primarily on holidays and when were camping. There were also the school pictures that highlighted the gradual transition from childhood to young adulthood.

Since it was more complex to take photos back then, the moments captured were further apart. Today, it seems like every moment is captured. So it is harder to see the impact of the calendar.

Facebook fucks with your brain by periodically dredging up memories of things you posted two, three or five years before. Since I mainly post photos of my kids, it tugs at my heart to see how quickly we lost the years when they were excited when Daddy was home. Now I am lucky to get a grunt of acknowledgement when I walk in the door.

But I suppose that is what measuring time is all about, acknowledging what is past and can never be again. Or acknowledging how much of time we repeat.

Over and over again.