Today's thoughts

Author: mikeljohnston1 (Page 1 of 159)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Vero Beach #1577

In this Covid threatened world, the beach seems to be the one place where there’s a sense of normalcy. People can stay far enough away from each other that the spread is minimalized. I guess I’ll know in a few days if I’m right or wrong. Our hotel on South Beach was built in 1936, once known as the Edgewater but restored by Marriott. Art Deco surrounds us from the vibrant restaurant scene to the design of the lifeguard stations.  The beach, however, is much more crowded than our previous stops, but our room comes with a cart complete with chairs, towels, umbrella, and cooler to further keep us sanitized. 

Today  we head to Vero Beach and historic “Dodgertown.” The friend we’re visiting is the daughter of a former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher. With L.A. just winning the World Series it only seems appropriate to visit the site. We’ll return to South Beach at the end of the day after returning our rental car to the airport. It will be the end of too much driving and not enough sunning. There are a few faint suntan lines starting to define themselves on my too pale skin. Hopefully, I can build a permanent tan once we’re officially Florida residents, instead of waiting for occasional Portland sun breaks. 

We dined at Walgreen’s last night – a gourmet first- after a heavy breakfast at the Naples Cracker Barrell. We’ll have a nice lunch in Vero Beach today and maybe a frozen pizza or White Castle sliders, remnants from our drug store shopping, once we get back in our room. It won’t be long before we’re enjoying the pricy South Beach restaurants, but saving a little money is a wise retirement choice. Maybe, I’ll even have a hot dog snack at “Dodgertown” this afternoon. Vero Beach here we come! 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hell Yeah #1576

When I’m traveling, I always like to listen to a local radio station during my morning run. This morning I was in Naples, Florida on the sidewalks of U.S. 41. This habit comes from years in the business and years of running. I tuned to a country station, hoping to get a flavor for the area. When I was first in radio, saying “Hell” on the radio was frowned on by the FCC with threats of fines. I was surprised to find a radio station that branded itself “Hell Yeah 93.7. When I got back to my hotel room to cool off and write this blog, I discovered that they had just changed their name from “Trump Country.” Only in Florida!

Apparently, station programmer Rob Morris claimed that “Biden’s team contacted us, and we were afraid we’d lose our license, our license to broadcast, if we didn’t change it. So we went ahead and changed it.” After all, they are WHEL. I’m sure the change generated lots of publicity and whether good or bad, it’s all great in the media industry. It’s owned by Sun Broadcast Group.  I’m just glad to be retired and enjoying the Florida sunshine, although the humidity is much higher just two hours south of Venice. We head to Miami this afternoon for the final week of our travels and other local radio stations to critique. 

A sunset picnic was the highlight of yesterday’s activities that included a few Corona’s to help fight Corona. Our Indianapolis friends had a great beach set-up, while the weather was perfect. Sun, surf, and sunset is the ideal way to spend retirement, rather than the TV and more TV that we’ve been stuck with the past few months. It’s fabulous to escape from the dark gray skies of Portland for a few weeks. We’ve already done a lot of reconnecting with family and friends from afar in just our first few days. Will there be even more fun! Hell Yeah!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Snow Birds #1575

As part of today’s retirement journey, we move on to Vanderbilt Beach and more old friends to see. It was usually the ski slopes where we’d meet years ago, but now it’s the surf. It will certainly be another afternoon of laughs recounting the memories. More fellow Hoosier Snow Birds taking advantage of the sand and sunshine. My last two lunches were at beach bars with friends from Fort Wayne that I hadn’t seen for seven years, while today’s reunion over drinks will be three years for him and sixteen for her. We’ll spend the night in Naples and drive to Miami tomorrow.

My wife can’t bear to leave this morning without one last trip by the house, hoping that the front door is being installed and the roofing tile is completed. We’ve been by every day to check on its progress, still targeting mid-March completion. This will be our last opportunity before we move in. We also leave behind the grandkids until that moment when we become permanent residents. After the first night on South Beach we’ll then drive up to Vero Beach to visit with another Hoosier friend for the day, and back to Miami for the rest of our Florida stay. 

I was excited that the I.U. Hoosier basketball team was able to redeem themselves last night with a victory over #4 Iowa. I was at a low point with the team after the Purdue embarrassment last week, and glad that I wouldn’t be able to watch last night for fear of more shame. In fact, I fell asleep at halftime and was shocked by the 81-69 final score. Somehow, the Cream & Crimson were able to overcome a twelve point deficit and win by thirteen. Iowa did not score for eleven minutes, so great defense and some much needed good fortune prevailed. The victory also gives them some tourney credibility that was certainly in doubt last week. Rutgers is the next match-up that I will also miss by being a Florida Snow Bird. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Millionaires #1574

If we have children then we can consider ourselves to be millionaires, a standard that’s becoming more and more easily achievable. Modern estimates for raising a child through age 18 are often in the $300,000 range; much higher depending on level of education or even the age they leave the nest. Girls probably cost more these days because of wedding investments, although those costs are now often being equally shared by the families involved. The fact of the matter is don’t have children if you want to sleep peacefully at night, regardless of how old they are. 

The cruelest thing that can happen to any parent is to outlive their child. On the other hand, my son is now 46 and I still lose sleep worrying about his well-being and financial security. I’ve found that this stress is alleviated when we’re miles apart. This is why I’ve lived most of my life thousands of miles away from him. In making our retirement decision to move to his state, I joked of wanting to be close…but not too close. The more I’m around him the more I worry, but when we’re apart there’s always something else to distract me from these concerns. However, this is about to change as we move close together in Florida.

We’ve spent the last five days around his family of five. It’s been enjoyable yet costly to take them out to dinner and keep them entertained. There have always been Christmas and birthday gifts, holiday cards, college savings, dance lessons, golf/computer camps, vacations together, and occasional help with household expenses. My wife has two girls ages 39 & 38, with similar involvement but no kids. However, now we’re on a fixed income so it will be more difficult to make all their lives easier. Granted, they should all be old enough to take car of themselves, but unfortunately my son recently lost his job. Both my wife and I tossed and turned last night, trying to figure out ways to help him, while arranging to buy our own home. 

Retirement is supposed to be a stress-free, leisurely time of life, but in reality it’s still filled with hassles, especially with kids. It’s all about making do with less, but wanting our children to eventually enjoy the same opportunities. I’m sure that in time this will all work out, but I’m worried for my son and his family. His wife has aspirations of becoming an eye doctor but faced with heavy educational expenses. The kids range from soon to be fourteen to two-years old, so he will probably never see retirement and his health isn’t that great. I’m exhausted thinking about what he yet has to get through in life and where he’s going to come up with the rest of the million bucks to raise them?

Retirement is not without Hassles: Life’s A Beach #1573

We did an informal tour with the builder of our new Florida home yesterday, and reality is starting to set in. Our new life will be all about pool, pickleball, picnics, and paradise – “Life’s A Beach.” The question is what took us so long to get here? We can’t wait for closing and moving in March, so we can finally enjoy a life of leisure. The builder is waiting on of all things installation of the front door to be able to move ahead with interior work. The backordered tub and roofing tiles have arrived, plus the pool is being dug, but a manufacturer of the metal strip across the bottom of the door has failed to deliver. They apparently can’t start with the dry wall until all windows and doors are installed and inspected. 

We left our homesite and went directly to Subway for sandwiches to take to the beach. It was about a five-minute drive to put our toes in the sand, and will be even closer, and accessible by bicycle or golf cart, once construction is complete of the new road. It’s a direct route to the beach connecting our resort community and Manasota Beach. We enjoyed our sandwiches in the picnic area and walked the shoreline in search of shells. What has always been a vacation thing will soon become a daily routine! This is the reality that’s beginning to materialize from a dream. 

Once again, there was no idle TV watching yesterday and we probably got more exercise than we’ve had in months. I continue my daily runs but muscle mass is still slowly deteriorating. Hopefully, some swimming, pickleball, sunshine, and beach strolls will help fight the flab. Today, we’re headed up to Sarasota to get together with some Indiana friends that we haven’t seen in years. Tonight is another dinner with family. Monday was pizza, Tuesday was tacos, so we’ll see what Wednesday brings to the table. Regardless of the day here in Venice, “Life’s a Beach – and I’m here, dude!”

Retirement is not without Hassles: Pickle-mania #1572

We met some of the neighbors yesterday during our first steps inside the shell of our new Florida home. Both were Pickleball enthusiasts, the current rage of resort style living communities. It looks like a game I’ll need to learn if I want to properly fit-in. I would initially describe it as a cross between racquet ball and ping pong, but this is how Wikipedia describes the game: “Pickleball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, much like a whiffle ball, with 26-40 round holes, over a net.” Pickle-mania!

The five rules of pickleball are that the ball must stay inbounds, there should be one bounce per side, serving must be done at the baseline, the serve can’t land in the no-volley zone, and the game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points. The game started during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, at the home of Joel Pritchard, who later served in Congress and as lieutenant governor. He and two of his friends, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, returned from golf and found their families bored one Saturday afternoon. They attempted to set up badminton, but no one could find the shuttlecock. They improvised with a perforated plastic ball, lowered the badminton net, and fabricated paddles of plywood from a nearby shed.”

I thought I would impress the neighbors by learning some of the language of the game:

Around-the-post, ATP is a shot that travels outside the net posts, allowing its trajectory to stay below the height of the net.

Baseline is the line at the back of the pickleball court (22 feet from the net).

Bash is a hard shot that hits the top of the net (i.e. the tape) and then lands in play on the opponent’s side of the court. A bash is typically unintentional and very difficult to return as the ball changes speed and/or direction due to contact with the net.

Carry  Hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle but tends to be carried along on the face of the paddle. This is a fault.

Centerline The line bisecting the service courts that extends from the non-volley line to the baseline.

Crosscourt The opponent’s court diagonally opposite a player’s.

Dink A dink is a soft shot, made with the paddle face open, and hit so that it just clears the net and drops into the non-volley zone.

Erne A volley hit near the net by a player positioned outside the court or in the process of leaping outside the court. A legally executed erne shot allows a player to hit the ball closer to the net without stepping in the non-volley zone.

Fault An infringement of the rules that ends the rally.

Foot fault Stepping on or into the non-volley zone while volleying a ball, or, while serving, failure to keep both feet behind the baseline with at least one foot in contact with the ground or floor when the paddle contacts the ball.

Half-volley A type of hit where the player hits the ball immediately after it has bounced in an almost scoop-like fashion.

Kitchen The non-volley zone which is seven feet from the net on both sides is commonly referred to as “the kitchen”. Players may not enter the kitchen to return a ball unless the ball first bounces.

Lob Hitting the ball in a high arc to the back of the opponent’s court. Ideally designed to clear an opponent who has advanced toward the net.

Net serve A serve that touches the top of the net and lands in the proper service court (it is replayed without penalty).

Non-volley zone A seven-foot area adjacent to the net within which one may not volley the ball. The non-volley zone includes all lines around it. Also called the “kitchen”.

Poach In doubles, to cross over into one’s partner’s area to make a play on the ball.

Rally Hitting the ball back and forth between opposite teams.

Serve, service An underarm lob or drive stroke used to put a ball into play at the beginning of a point.

Server number When playing doubles, either “1” or “2”, depending on whether one is the first or second server for one’s side. This number is appended to the score when it is called, as in “the score is now 4–2, second server”.

Sideline The line at the side of the court denoting in- and out-of-bounds.

Side-out When the serve moves to the opponent’s side.

Volley To hit the ball before it touches the ground and bounces.

My interpretation of Pickle-mania: Keep out of the kitchen, watch your step, stay in the lines, don’t ever poach or fault, act like dinks or net serves are intentional, and make sure it’s your turn to serve.


Retirement is not without Hassles: Venice, Florida #1571

It’s a beautiful day of Florida sunshine and blue skies, as I have been dreaming of these past few months. We also did normal family things while practicing social distancing, like eat dinner in a restaurant and attend my granddaughter’s dance recital. Today,  we may get a chance to see our new home at the half-way point of construction, go to the beach, and suffer through a round of golf with my grandson. He needs some fresh air and exercise after too many hours on the computer with school and games. I was glad to run this morning in just shorts and a t-shirt instead of major bundling-up to stay warm or dry. 

For once, there was very little TV watching yesterday, just an occasional glimpse of the NFL playoff games on the restaurant’s bar screens. It was a three-hour drive from Miami to my son’s house, plus a brief intermission for lunch at the Naples Cracker Barrell. Dinner was at the Bonefish Grill after the two-hour dance extravaganza. Once I get this blog up to date, we’ll finalize today’s dining plan that will probably include McDonald’s and pizza to off-set yesterday’s expense. At least all our lodging on this trip is “free” thanks to Marriott Rewards and their vacation club. Sadly, we haven’t been able to take more advantage of this perk during these Covid stay-at-home times. After five nights in this Fairfield Inn suite, we’ll spend one night at the Naples Courtyard and seven nights at The Pulse Miami on famed South Beach before heading back to the grey skies of Portlandia. 

My wife has been reunited with her car, now stored in my son’s garage after its August cross-country venture. and awaiting a permanent slot in our new garage. We did drive by the Islandwalk addition last night on our way home from dinner and will take some photos this morning. Tomorrow, we have a formal appointment with the builder. However, today the grandkids will take priority especially since there is no school due to the MLK holiday. I’m just content that there is no major driving necessary for a few days. Venice, Florida is officially our home-sweet-home for now and in the retirement future. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: B.O.A.C. #1570

British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the British state-owned airline created in 1939 by the merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd. It was time to look that up on Wikipedia after landing in Miami and recalling the lyrics of Back in the U.S.S.R by The Beatles, “flew into Miami Beach BOAC.” Why I never before had that curiosity before, I simply can’t explain? We spent our first night in the city under the protection of Mother Marriott at the airport after renting a Buick Encore SUV. It took me back to years of owning Buicks thanks to my advertising client Lochmandy Motors in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana. I hadn’t thought of Brian Lochmandy in years or the Skylark and Regals he sold me.  I remember that I always wanted a Riviera, but the job led me to another city and another client relationship. Eventually, I got company cars, a perk of being in management. 

When we moved to Austin ten years ago I didn’t even have a car, using my wife’s Lexus sedan on occasion. We soon settled on a used Solara Convertible as a second vehicle once I found a suitable job, and my wife upgraded to a Lexus convertible. We’ve already transported that car to Florida, housed in my son’s garage, and will make a similar cross-country drive in the Solara in a few months. Once we arrive in Florida with that car and schnauzer Tally, it will mean that we are permanent residents. Tally had to stay home with her pet sitter on this particular trip that will take us to our Venice construction site and back to Miami for a restful week on South Beach. 

It was actually American Airlines not B.O.A.C. that took us from Portland, through Dallas, into Miami. I can’t seem to get that song out of my mind. 

“Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn’t get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had an awful flight”

“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.”

“Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey, disconnect the phone”

“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.S.R.”

We’re still planning to tour of what’s left of the U.S.S.R. in six months via river cruise. That is if Corona doesn’t once again get in the way, as it has with Bali, Egypt, Hawaii, and St. Kitt’s. At least thankfully Florida is still open to tourism.  

Retirement is not without Hassles: Miami Bound #1569

We’re Miami bound tomorrow morning, with a bright and early start. There will be no time for a blog post, just an early one-mile minimum run and a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s. Finally, we’ll be escaping this prison of an apartment and see the sun – or at least the sunset when we arrive. The flight will likely be miserable with a stop in Dallas. The original intent was for my wife to continue on to St. Kitts for a girlfriend week, but Covid screwed up those plans. Instead, we’ll head to Venice, Florida and our new homesite, spend some time with the grandkids & friends, and enjoy a week on South Beach in Miami.

The Hitchcock viewings continued last night with North by Northwest. Miami will offer a temporarily diversion from our incessant TV watching, but one last movie tonight before we go. Packing and cleaning will occupy some of our attention this afternoon, along with a virtual Zoom “Leadership Meeting.”  The excitement is building for tomorrow morning’s flight. Our schnauzer, Tally, however, will not feel the same way when she sees our suitcases. She’ll stay home with the pet sitter after an early outing. I can only hope that the rain holds off until after we leave.

I’ve already lost interest in college basketball, so I will not spend much time in Florida watching sports. We will get to dine out, including a bucket list dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami. We’ve been to all the other locations, but this is the original. It’s about a mile from our South Beach condo in the Marriott Vacation Club’s Pulse. I may also try to hook-up with “The Raven,” a fellow streaker that does a sunset run on the beach every day . He’s the 7th ranked runner on the USRSA list, while I’m at #203. He’s two years younger than me but has a 34- year longer streak (16,817 days – 46 years compared to my 4,401 – 12 years). I should probably get a signed copy of his book, since I’m Miami Bound!

Old Sport Shorts: Buckets of Baskets #1568

I’ve now completed 4,400 consecutive days of running, another milestone in The Streak that started over twelve years ago. This daily routine has consumed 17% of my life, but it’s hard to remember those times when I wasn’t doing it every day. It’s a meaningful accomplishment, especially when it’s crossed off the daily checklist, and I can sit and write about it. My feet have felt heavy this past week, while my muscles remain stiff from the cold, damp weather. I can’t seem to warm up, so I’m looking forward to two weeks of hot Florida sunshine. I’ll see my son, grandkids, and a few Midwest friends in the process. We’ll also get to see firsthand the progress on our home. 

Today is what I like to call the basketball bucket game, although there is no trophy like football, just bragging rights. It’s the first of two IU-PU annual matchups that always stack-up to be the most important games on the schedule every year. There have been 211 meetings in total with the Boilermakers leading the overall series 122-89. Purdue has also won the last seven, so Hoosier pride is on the line. Both teams are currently 3-3 in the BIG, hoping to escape from mediocrity in the conference. Even though tonight’s game is in Bloomington, there’s not much of a home field advantage with limited crowds due to Covid. The Hoosier teams have not been good from the free throw line or any other spot on the court in recent years, so they need to find a way to score. They can win by scoring 70 points or more, with their only loss at that level to Wisconsin in double overtime. A low scoring game with lots of fouls will spell  disaster for the Cream & Crimson. Purdue, on the other hand, has just proven they can win in a low scoring battle, beating favored Michigan State 55-54 on the road. They will jam IU efforts to score inside and force us to take the 3, especially with our best outside shooter on the sidelines with an injury. It will probably be ugly!

Fortunately, I have a Flaviar whiskey shipment due to be delivered today. I will need it to calm my nerves, as I text with friends that will be rooting both for and against me. This is the beauty of the rivalry that can only be appreciated with a victory. IU is favored by 3.5 with an over/under of 130. This supports my “Magic of 70” theory. We have a much better chance of winning if we can score 70 points or more in regulation. The teams appear to be evenly matched but according to oddsmakers IU has a 65.2% chance of winning. Purdue won last year 57-49 and 74-62. The year before it was PU 48-46 and 70-55. These pathetic scoring efforts by the Hoosiers will have to end tonight to stop the bleeding. We need buckets of baskets!


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