Today's thoughts

Author: mikeljohnston1 (Page 1 of 147)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Raindrops #1458

I just completed one of the slowest 5k runs in my life, dodging raindrops and puddles, while trying not to slip and fall on the leaves. Byways, Barista, Bricks, Bridge, Bump, Bradshaw, Butch, Bagels, Bites, and Beyonces are the landmarks of the final mile. It’s part of the head-games I play to keep my mind off the task at hand. I was soaked to the bone once I finally reached the finish line, ready for a Break. This is not a good word to use for any “athletic” endeavor, but it follows the “B” theme of my path home. This completes day #4,289 of “The Streak,” as I settle into my writing desk. 

I can’t remember the last time I was this wet in clothing. Everything went immediately into the washer, while my new shoes got their first dose of nature. I’ll put them in the dryer as soon as my wife wakes up, as the tumbling noise sounds like someone beating a drum. A hot shower will feel good as I prepare for the “Leadership Luncheon.” It will be just two of us today for wings and beer, but a welcome relief from home isolation. Next weekend I will help him harvest my friend’s grape crop, the first step in producing this year’s vintage. In a couple years, we’ll be drinking 2020, commiserating about how such a bad year could produce such a fine wine. Maybe we can even laugh about the memories?

Yesterday, I watched the modern version of War of The Worlds, starring Tom Cruise. I thought it might ease some of my viral trauma. Apparently, I saw it back in 2004, but didn’t recall a single scene. If it weren’t for my diary notes, I would have thought this was the first viewing. I’ve always had trouble remembering movies, and this is why I keep a record. Soon, I won’t even remember about watching some of my favorites. The next few days will be good for movies, as “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.” 

Old Sport Shorts Playoff Time #1457

The baseball season is now down to a long weekend, with the Sox and Cubs both in miserable slumps. As a pessimist, I should have anticipated this, but this season is unprecedented. It all started back in March when we were supposed to attend a Spring Training game between the two Chicago foes. It was cancelled, along with many of our plans this year. When the season finally officially began on the 24th of July, I did not have great expectations for the league to make it to the postseason. The Cubs jumped to the top of their division but stumbled against the slower-starting Sox in their first series. The Pale Hose finally claimed the top spot in the AL Central over the Twins and Indians, only to falter down the stretch.  I’ve watched them go 3-7 against the Twins, Indians, and Reds in the past week or so.  

The last two nights have been particularly painful for the White Sox, losing in walk-off fashion to Cleveland on both occasions. On the other side of town, the Cubs lost another one this morning, their third straight, to the last-place Pirates. They could have helped the Sox in the series before that against the Twins, but Minnesota took two of the three. They did top the Indians in two of three, after a 12-0 drubbing of the Brewers and a no-hitter by Alec Mills. However, the poor-hitting Cubbies are now in danger of being caught by the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers. The Covid-plagued regular season ironically all comes down to a three-game series against the Sox at Comiskey (excuse me – Guaranteed Rate). For a historical first, they each play in role in the other’s playoff fate this late in the season. Sadly, I just watched the Sox blow another early lead by the Indians – at least it’s not the last inning last the previous two, although there’s still three innings to go. It’s looking like a repeat of last night’s disappointment, with the White Sox up by one again after a Yoan Moncada triple in the 7th. If the Indians make it a four-game sweep, the Sox could fall to a full-game behind the division leading Twins, who are idle today, and could potentially face the perennial powerhouse Yankees in their first post-season appearance in twelve-years.

On the other hand, if the Cubs lose all three to the Sox, they could be passed by the Reds and/or Cards. It will be a tough weekend about who to cheer for in each critical game? Allegiance could easily change depending on the circumstances. In a normal season, both Chicago teams would be facing division rivals rather than cross-town foes. It’s just another Covid quirk, that also includes a expanded 16-team Playoff field, empty ballparks, limited homefield advantages, and designated hitters for both leagues. The World Series will take place in Arlington, Texas, another deviation from normalcy.  It’s been a tough year for baseball purists. 

The Covid-Cardinals are of particular concern to me, with respect to the Cubs. The Red Birds have seven games remaining, while standing  only one game behind the Cubs in the loss column. They would have to win all seven to pass the Cubbies, but also postseason seeds are at stake. Three losses to the Sox would give them 27 for the year, while San Francisco, Cincy, Milwaukee and Miami could also disrupt their current #4 NL placement, down from #2 just a few days ago.  This weekend, and possibly Monday, determines who plays where, who, and when. I’ll have to wear a Sox sock on one foot and a Cubs on the other. 

In other sports important to me, the Celtics are in trouble, while the Lakers dropped their first to the dangerous Nuggets, who have miraculously come from behind in their last two series. The Timbers won their second straight match, outdueling the regional rival Seattle Sounders 1-0 last night. Against all odds, each sport has somehow  persevered over threats of the virus. Thankfully, there are live sports to watch every day, including both NFL and NCAA football. The Pac-12 announced today that they will join the other power conferences in pursuit of a 2020-21 National Championship. However, teams won’t start play until November 6th, with a 7-game schedule. They reversed their initial decision and joined the BIG-10 in delayed reconsideration. It sets the stage for college basketball to start, missing only a few non-conference games this year.  But first, I’ll focus on a expanded baseball Playoff that involves a very rare joint appearance by both of my teams – Cubs and Sox. 

P.S. The White Sox brought in a reliever named Bummer following a 4-run collapse in the bottom of the 7th to the never-give-up Indians. It seemed like an appropriate name to describe the bullpen in this series. The red-hot Tribe took a 5-4 lead in response to falling behind once again in the series. Hand then shut-down the Sox, with two strike-outs and a easy grounder to finish up the 4-game sweep.  Cleveland is now just one-game behind the Sox and two short of the Twins, after 5 straight Pale Hose losses. I couldn’t be more frustrated after cross-town losses today at a time when teams need to be playing their best ball. Who wants it more this weekend – the Sox or the Cubs?

Retirement is not without Hassles: Did It Myself #1456

As it turned out the Apple I-Phone hassle of yesterday was no big deal. This often happens with a negative thinker like me. I all too frequently overreact to a simple problem, escalating it from a mole hill to a mountain. I would be the guy in the movie saying, “Oh God, we’re gonna die,” but wouldn’t express it out loud. Other people think that I’m calm under pressure, but this is because I’ve already resigned myself to the worst possible scenario. Whatever ultimately happens is always less hassle than expected. This is the life of a pessimist. 

The downtown Apple store is closed until further notice because of the riots and virus. It was not simply a matter of having them clean my phone, so I decided to do it myself. I used the end of a straightened paperclip and removed some lint from the input jack, wondering why I hadn’t thought of this sooner. It was embarrassing easy after months of charging frustration. It now works fine, saving me hours of hassle going to the store and dealing with a technician. I guess I’ve screwed-up too my projects in life to even think about DIY anymore! In this case, I earned a star!

I roasted a chicken last night for dinner, fulfilling my weekly cooking pledge.  Yes, I did it myself for the second time in one day. It’s already Thursday, and I have the place to myself. My wife is taking her daughter to the doctor and Tally went with her. Once retirement happened for both of us, it’s now rare to be separated. No more individual business trips or family visits. In fact, with apartment living, only a wall often keeps us apart. I have the whole exciting day to do laundry, vacuuming, empty the dishwasher, and dusting. More do-it-yourself projects for a not so DIY kind-of-guy. 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Apple-less #1455

My I-Phone won’t recharge and the battery is dead. I’ve had trouble with it for the past few months and it finally died. It means a trip to the Apple store today, and what hopefully will just be a cleaning. I’ve had this problem before, and it makes you wonder what you’re missing in life? I couldn’t look up scores last night without borrowing someone else’s phone and worried about calls/texts that just might have vanish. It’s always an unsettling feeling for me being out of touch with the world, while others may relish the idea. Just before my phone went dead, it went on a butt-dialing spree, so now others are probably concerned why I’m not responding to their call backs. Yes, I’m Apple-less. 

It changed my whole routine this morning, but at least I have to computer to check-up on e-mails and stock market prices. Cash flow is a bit of a problem right now as my wife waits for her Social Security payment. I will need to sell some stock soon to cover some upcoming travel and home building costs. As a result, I’ve been keeping too close of an eye on the Dow Index. It becomes an obsession, just like checking baseball scores and bank balances. You have to find something to worry about when you’re retired. What if my pension deposit doesn’t arrive on time, or the government shuts down so payments are not made in a timely manner? These are some of the many hassles of retirement. 

I did some yard work yesterday at my wife’s daughter’s home, as she continues to recover from a broken leg. They were in the middle of many projects when the accident happened and need our help. My wife cooked them dinner last night and weeded their gardens. I moved mulch, changed some light bulbs, and prepared a bunch of empty cardboard boxes for recycling. Our dogs played happily together. All this happened while my phone went dead. I then became anxious to get home and try my charger, but that also failed to restore life. It used to be “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but now it’s Apple ALL day. I won’t rest easy until I get it fixed. What if I need to call the doctor?

There was a steady rain when I ran this morning. I felt naked without the weight of the phone in my pocket. Fortunately, I have my I-Watch to keep track of the miles and time. It’s the only “Apple” I have left. At least, the old-fashioned radio gave me a sense of connection with reality. The protests and violence in the city continues after a few days off, ten fires in the state continue to burn, and the virus won’t go away. Without my phone, I have the perfect opportunity to withdraw from this mess. Instead, I apparently just can’t stand to be Apple-less. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Homebody Habits #1454

The run is done, as the day has begun. It’s time to sit down and write, with little to report. The most dominant news story is the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and who could possibly replace her. It adds more weight to an already stressful year, as another political battle ensues. Stall tactics will try to push the nomination into 2021, with hopes of a different decision maker. As happens every election year, our country is on hold. The stock market is beginning to react in anticipation of the election. The upcoming debates will add to the ugliness. 

My wife’s daughter and husband are trying to balance work/home projects around caring for a broken leg. We’re headed over there today to work in the yard and prepare dinner in an effort to help. Tally can also spend some time with their pup Falco. Yesterday, we tried to introduce Tally to our new neighbor’s big, black lab, Oscar, but they  were cautious of each other. (See Post #1450). There was some growling going on this morning behind closed doors as we walked by their apartment. Apparently Oscar has had some schnauzer friends in the past, so we’ll give them some time to be more friendly. There’s a lot of turnover in our building, so  we’ve experienced some good and bad confrontations with other dogs that have come and gone. 

I’ll spend some more time today on genealogy, as I continue to chart Ban(n)ister World. (See Post #422). I’m adding some clues to my Jerry Banister Family Tree based on a recent y-DNA test. With nearly 30,000 relative connections, the branches are getting very heavy. It’s as close as I can get to actually comparing DNA samples of my bio-parents. I have many links to both of them, proving beyond a doubt that they gave me life. Adoption turned out to be the best course of action for my upbringing. I remain intrigued, building the family I never had, yet grateful for those I ended up knowing. My continuing story in captured in Diary of an Adoptee, a category of this blog. 

My cooking night has been pushed to tomorrow, as the days of the week have again been rearranged. My wife and I are both often confused as to what day it is. I did make arrangements for a “Leadership Meeting” on Friday, returning to that tradition after more than a month off. My wife and I have a lunch and birthday party to attend this weekend to add some more variety to our typically routine homebody habits. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Buckeyes #1453

It’s “Meatless Monday,” our dog Tally’s least favorite day of the week, as we lighten our food intake. She’ll come to the table, as always, but leave disappointed. It’s our way of starting the week with a healthier, lower intake of food. I just completed my morning run #4,285, enjoying the fresh, smoke-free air. There are still many fires burning in the area, as many Oregonians have lost lives and property. We’re lucky to have avoided such tragedy. 

It was another boring weekend, with little to do but grocery shop and watch television. Many people were outside yesterday, soaking in the sunshine and admiring the bright blue skies. Traffic was hectic in our neighborhood, after weeks of little activity. Time to also take-in some of nature’s beauty. I’m surprised at the number of buckeye trees in our area. If it weren’t for Ohio State, I would appreciate them more. The nut is a beautiful mahogany brown with a round tan spot, and this must be the time of the year that they fall to the ground. It brings back memories of my childhood and walks home from Rice Elementary School. There was a huge buckeye tree nearby, and I would fill my pockets with these beautiful droppings. Now, they are just reminders that it’s football season and time for another loss to the Buckeyes. “Sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.”

While my wife picked up some groceries at Zupan’s Market, I walked Tally over to Washington Park. There were buckeyes everywhere she stopped to sniff, and I was careful to keep her away from the potential poisons. They can be eaten if properly prepared, but why take a chance. Beware of the Buckeye!  Beautiful yet dangerous, like the shiny apple that attracts Snow White. It’s probably why I’ve grown to associate Ohio State with witchcraft. The football Buckeyes have a 24-game winning streak over my I.U. Hoosiers. It used to be that I always looked to basketball season for revenge, but that’s no longer the case. 

Summer is coming to an end in a few days, but its enjoyment has been disrupted by the virus, protests, and fires. Buckeyes dropping from the sky  are a sure sign of Fall. Hopefully, the stock market does not follow suit, although this morning’s activity has not been positive. It’s all a matter of timing. We have to put more money down on the house we’re building in Florida, where there will be a palm tree rather than a buckeye. 

Old Sport Shorts: Sox Socks #1452

Sports have probably never been a more important part of my life. It’s my sole entertainment in these pandemic times of isolation. I’ve gone through most of the movies and documentaries I’ve wanted to watch, waiting for live sports to finally return. Now, there’s almost too much to keep track of every day. My love of sports dates back to childhood and following my local high school team – The Elkhart Blue Blazers. A once dominant team in most every sport was eventually split into two high schools. Throughout the years, there was never a greater nemesis than the Penn Kingsmen in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana. Once I moved away from town, it seemed like every time I checked the scores it was another loss to Penn, particularly in football.

“Once A Blazer – Always a Blazer” is the motto of my generation, disturbed by the recent consolidation of the two Elkhart high schools into one again. They should have never been separated in the first place, but it did start another rivalry between the Memorial Chargers and the Elkhart Blue Blazers. Unfortunately, neither team was very competitive on the state level like Penn. The main problem with unifying the two programs became selecting a name. As a result, the Blazers or Chargers no longer exist, but the new Lions have become a football force. For the first time in 35 years, the final score of Friday night’s football match-up was Elkhart 20 Penn 19, and the team that I will always know as the Blazers are undefeated.

As I write this morning, I’m watching the final day of the Tour de France, reminiscent of our trips to Paris. It too was delayed several months as organizers made adjustments to deal with  Coronavirus concerns. Slovenian Tadej Pogacar won it in his rookie debut. Cycling, golf, auto racing, football, and baseball are all now competing with each other for television viewership, with little in the way of live fan support. Plus, last night the Portland Timbers pounded the San Jose Earthquake 6-1 for a MLS victory, after a draw the other night in the same stadium. 

So far, 2020 has been a good year for my teams. The Chicago White Sox just claimed their first playoff berth in twelve years. The Cubs will also soon clinch, putting both Chicago teams in the same post-season battle for only the third time since 1906. The White Sox, known that year as the “hitless wonders” upset the powerhouse Cubs in the World Series. Could it happen again in this year of strange surprises? Last Sunday, for example, the Bears, Cubs, and White Sox were all victorious. I bought a new pair of Sox Socks to celebrate their success. My Bears and Cubs socks don’t have holes in them yet. 

The Cubs had a five-game winning streak going into last night’s game against the Twins. Sadly, the streak ended badly and the Cubbies allowed the Twins to clinch the fifth spot in this year’s post-season. The Cubs magic number is now four with three games remaining against the White Sox. They could each knock the other out of the top spot in their respective Division races. A week from now the seeds will all be finalized. Could the Sox and Cubs collide for all the marbles again after 114 years?

Chicago baseball has witnessed two no-hitters this year, the only ones in the majors. I bought Topps cards to commemorate these two remarkable achievements from Luis Giolito of the White Sox and Alec Mills of the Cubs. At no other time in history have both Windy City teams had this happen in the same season. It’s just the beginning of what could happen in Sweet Home Chicago this year. Unfortunately, a Cubs-Sox World Series would be held in Arlington, Texas,

The other important development this past week in sports was the BIG 10 conference rethinking the earlier decision to delay Fall football. After much controversy, schedules starting October 24th were finally announced. I.U. will open at Penn State and conclude with Purdue eight weeks later. The ninth game for the Cream & Crimson will either be the BIG Championship or a bonus conference match-up with potential Bowl implications. Let’s hope it’s not the Toilet Bowl – they could easily go 0-9. Basketball will begin November 25th when the Hoosiers were originally planning to play in Maui. It will be a week later in Asheville, as a further indication of the strange twists in sports this year. Will 2020 also be good to both Hoosier teams, despite the delays?

The Lakers are in the driver’s seat for this year’s NBA Championship, with an opening round final four victory over Denver. The Tampa Bay Lightening lost their Stanley Cup Finals opener against the Dallas Stars. I’ll need to follow them as a future Florida resident. The Rays are comfortably in the MLB play-off field, while the Bucs and Tom Brady did not get off to a great start last Sunday. I’ve now lived in enough states to always have a team in contention, but Chicago will forever remain my favorite. 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Can’t Wait #1451

I’m definitely back in the homebody routine, writing about my uneventful and mundane existence in these times of isolation. At least, the smoke has now cleared and the air is no longer dangerous to breath. I can begin to once again focus on dodging the virus that seems to persist. It’s now been six months since our Phoenix trip was interrupted by this pandemic, as sports venues, retailers, and restaurants began to shut their doors. Sports are now played without fans and restaurants have taken to the streets. Travel is still restricted primarily to the continental United States. More and more people lose their jobs, yet Wall Street remains optimistic. 

It’s the weekend but you wouldn’t know it. There’s little change in traffic or people on the street. Homes are now both business offices and classrooms. At night, living rooms become movie theaters and bars. Today, sports will keep me entertained between cycling, basketball, baseball, football, and golf. It’s no longer necessary to watch replays, classic match-ups, or cornhole. Real, live events are back! The Tour de France has completed twenty stages, the NBA has its Final Four, four teams have claimed baseball playoff berths, the college football season has started, the BIG 10 has decided to play along, the NFL is into week 2, and Tiger Woods has lost his touch. On the surface, everything seems normal but sound effects and cut-outs don’t fill the fan-less void. 

We may have finally gotten to the bottom-line with our Florida building plans. My wife is disappointed that she won’t be getting a gas range, as surprises and options continue to add-up. Despite all this, paperwork will be Docu-signed today so they can finally get started. We have less than a six-month window to finish construction, pack, and move. It’s when our Portland apartment lease expires, having just celebrated the one-year anniversary of selling our home. With all the rioting, smoke, closures, and social distancing, downtown living has not been what we imagined. It’s been six-months since we last walked to the movie theater and all our neighborhood restaurant favorites are relying mostly on take-out. Homeless camps and trash litter the streets, while garbage removal has been difficult in the smoky conditions. Without travel, were confined to less than 1,000 sq. ft. of living space. An extra security gate has been installed in our building after a break-in. It’s hardly the romantic, downtown, upscale lifestyle that we anticipated. We can’t wait to get to the warmth of Florida and in our new home. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Black Dog #1450

It’s another blog milestone with this 1,450th post and consecutive daily run #4282. Somehow, I was able to avoid the rain this morning. The showers are a welcome sight, hopefully cleansing the smokey air that’s lingered in the city all week. I can finally see the top of Forest Hills out my home office window. More is expected today and tomorrow as firefighters continue to fight the 30-plus blazes still threatening lives and property. The Convention Center is filled with evacuees and homeless waiting out this local tragedy. As a family, we’ve been fortunate. 

It’s another Leadershipless Friday as the group fails once again to get together. Buffalo Wild Wings is certainly suffering from our absence. Mid-week whale watching at least got two of us together for a beer. In a few short weeks, we’ll all be picking grapes and celebrating this year’s crop. Last year, mold ruined the harvest so there was no picking, crushing, racking or bottling. Brix levels are pointing to an early October harvest. I finished up the last few bottles of the 2015 Walleye this week in anticipation of adding more 2017 to the “cellar” that is really a stack of cases in my closet. I Will Work For Wine!

I did watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest yesterday afternoon with little recollection of viewing it years ago – probably in a theater. We motored under that same DePoe Bay Bridge as Jack Nicholson, except our boat wasn’t stolen or filled with lunatics. I finished the movie just before seeing the Chicago White Sox claim their first playoff birth in twelve years. It once again proves that Twenty-Twenty is a year of surprises. 

Our schnauzer Tally’s playmate Falco was returned to my wife’s daughter’s home last evening, so dog duty is now back to normal. Tally was surprised this morning to meet her new neighbor nose-to-nose. It’s a big black Labrador with a ferocious deep growl that we had previously heard behind their apartment door. It would have probably liked to eat Tally for breakfast, but there was not a violent confrontation. Tally’s previous nemesis, Moose the Saint Bernard, just moved out a few weeks ago. I did not get to properly meet the owner, with us both hidden behind masks and keeping our distance in the hallway.  Big and little black dogs will surely collide again! 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Ghost of Halloween Past #1449

It’s that time of year when my wife’s Limoges Box display changes from a summer to a Halloween theme. It’s an annual tradition to bring out all the porcelain trinkets that celebrate the season. I hauled the special container out of our apartment storage cage that sadly led to a lot of sneezing on her part after once they were all unwrapped and organized. It was also a reminder that I need to buy a new one for this year. Last year, I purchased a haunted house that was already part of her growing collection. In fact, after twenty years of collecting, it’s hard to keep track of the inventory. I do have a list of over 325 pieces, but obviously I missed the boat last year and ordered a duplicate. 

By the time I sent the original piece back and replaced it with a ghost, Halloween had come to an end. The ghost did not get much shelf time before Thanksgiving and Christmas were upon us. I also failed to write the customary poem that goes inside each hinged box. As a result, the cute little ghost with a Trick-or-Treat bag, was back in storage without a poem in its belly. I put this together quickly to remedy the situation:

 

Ghost of Halloween Past

This poor ghost,
Hasn’t been fed.
It’s gone a full year,
Without a poem read.

This porcelain spook,
From Halloween Past.
Wants words that rhyme,
And needs them fast.

It’s hungry and lonely,
Been trapped in a cage.
It’s probably haunted,
At least filled with rage.

All the other Limoges,
Have a poem inside.
But this one sadly,
Has been denied.

It arrived late October,
Too tardy to display.
Packed up for a year,
And hidden away.

To make matters worse,
It was an afterthought.
The first one I gifted,
Had already been bought.

It now gets its chance,
To shine on the shelf.
Until it’s replaced,
With a turkey or elf.

Twenty-twenty has been,
A very strange year.
Halloween’s cancelled,
Due to pandemic fear.

We wear a mask every day,
And smoke fills the air.
We venture outside,
Only if we dare.

Trick or Treat Time,
Has come at a cost.
There’s been some bad breaks,
And jobs have been lost.

But many good things,
Have also transpired.
Both of us now,
Are officially retired.

And this ghost moves next,
To our new Florida home.
And maybe by then,
We can travel to Nome.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

The poem references a broken leg, virus concerns, travel restrictions, job changes, wild fire smoke, and cancelled Trick-or-Treating. We were not able to get into Canada or Alaska as planned this year and our Hawaii trip is questionable. Egypt and Bali were not to be, despite the fact that my wife and I are now both retired and we’re building a new home in Florida. Regardless, Happy Halloween to all!

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