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Category: CREATURE FEATURES (Page 2 of 29)

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! (Plus dogs and cats)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Deadline #1389

I’m limited on time this morning, with a trip to the dentist. It was just another item on my calendar that got delayed four months because of the Coronavirus. Too bad it wasn’t totally cancelled like most of our activities. No Bali. No Canada. No Egypt. Just the dentist! So much time has passed since I made this appointment that I can’t even remember what they’re doing to my teeth in the three-hour time frame. I’ll soon find out. 

The countdown to Florida living continues. Only 8 months of preparation ahead, starting with a cross-country drive in about 30 days. Meetings with the builders and bankers will start the process. In the meantime, there will be design decisions, conference calls, moving arrangements to make, and lots of driving to do. I’ll have my son take pictures on a regular basis so we can monitor construction. This is the first and last home we will ever build. It will be an exciting process, especially when there’s little else to look forward to these days of isolation. 

I missed my self-imposed daily deadline yesterday on getting this blog posted. Between the dentist, two visits to friends’ homes, and codes to break in my latest Hunt A Killer mystery game, the day got away from me. My wife and I did sit down and watch episode five of Perry Mason on HBO and another hour of Titanic: Blood and Steel on Amazon Prime. Without much to write about, these posts accurately reflect my sense of boredom. 

I continue to marvel at Portland’s persistence to protest. I keep hearing from friends concerned about our safety here. The city is getting a lot of bad publicity nationally, when there’s little going on in our downtown neighborhood. However, it was eye-opening to drive downtown yesterday and see firsthand the destruction to businesses, buildings, parks, and statues. It’s a war-zone, while every protester continues to insist that their intentions are peaceful. There’s something wrong with this picture. “Moms” in yellow shirts were out two nights ago to fight federal intervention. Apparently, it was “Dad’s” turn to get out last night. These groups should be acting like responsible parents. There has to be a better way. The bigger the mobs, the more likely violence will break out, as it eventually did later last night. 

Crowds are dangerous – they look threatening, even in colorful t-shirts with positive messages. Unfortunately, not-so-mindful intruders also have access to yellow.  You’re forcing law enforcement to make snap decisions that do none of us any good. Stay home like the rest of us if you love America, and find another outlet for your anger. It’s nothing but a party in the streets – and you know it. Protesters, especially in masks, are nothing but a health and safety risk to our future. I promise to stay home myself today and meet my writing deadline. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Looking Forward #1388

Now that the morning run is behind me, I can begin to look forward to the upcoming week. Today, it’s some live TV baseball between the White Sox and Cubs. Tomorrow, I have a baseball card meeting, once I get out of the dentist’s office. The fourth box of the Hunt A Killer mystery also arrives this week. Friday, the adventure to Montana begins. I’m not sure if I’ve ever run in “Big Sky Country” since skiing has always been the primary reason for going there. This time it will be some hiking in Glacier National Park. It will be the 40th state my wife and I together have visited, and my 26th state for a run. I have only 2 states left to visit on my lifetime bucket list – Alaska and Maine. 

Friday’s trip east will cover about 800 miles round-trip with overnight stops in Walla-Walla and Spokane. Four nights will be spent in and around the park. Our schnauzer Tally is staying with my wife’s daughter and her doggy buddy Falco. They get together quite frequently. I will get out of my dog outing responsibilities for a full week. We’re meeting friends for two days of wine tasting in Walla-Walla on the way to Glacier. While in the area, we have joint reservations at seven different vineyards and three restaurants. 

My car will get a good work-out. It has just over 135,000 miles on it. If it survives this journey, we’ll take it down the Oregon Coast into San Francisco. It’s one of our few travel options following the cancellation of our Egypt excursion. My wife’s car is being prepped for it’s cross-country venture to Florida in late August. This includes some extensive body and strut work. Once we get it to the Sunshine State, it will patiently wait in my son’s garage until our permanent move next March. At that point, we’ll pack my car for the same long drive in conjunction with the moving truck. So much to look forward to this year!

I’ll pack both my running shoes and hiking boots for this Glacial journey through nature, not necessarily my favorite thing. At least, I should be well pickled by the time we get to Mother Nature’s door. Many of our planned activities have been disrupted by the Coronavirus. Also, traffic is reportedly a problem with travel limited to primarily US locations this summer. National Parks are now a preferred family destination by car. The Going-to-the-Sun Road has recently been choked with congestion and the boat trips have been cancelled, so our entertainment options may be limited. We’ll make the best of it, as we look forward to simply getting out of the neighborhood. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Get Out of Town #1384

I heard on the radio this morning that because of the current coin shortage there might be an announcement soon to eliminate the penny from production. This already makes it an endangered species. As a coin collector, I’ve always been a fan of the penny, always intrigued with its shiny copper-like surface, distinguishing it from every other coin. I spotted two this morning on my run, but sadly someday we’ll carry nothing but silver in our pockets. In the meantime, they’ll be hoarded by collectors and unwelcome at stores. Will 2020 be the last date stamped near Abraham Lincoln’s face? Will other faces like Jefferson and Washington start to change on coins in lieu of current politics? 

The University of Texas is changing their tune about stadium names and statues to honor Black Lives Matter. Also, the Oregon State vs. Oregon rivalry may not longer be called the “Civil War.” There will no Redskin team in Washington D.C., although the city’s whole identity may eventually get a non-offensive makeover. It’s hard enough to keep track of names, but get out your scorecards because we’ve only just begun. 

Protesters were back on the Portland streets last night after a week’s vacation. Downtown looks like a war zone even thou these are supposedly “peaceful” demonstrations. Only a few fires last night where statues once stood. The Governor seems to think everything is under control and that freedom of speech includes damaging graffiti and senseless gatherings. Looks like the Feds will be back soon – someone has to protect these downtown businesses. Police Matter but they sure aren’t getting much support from the state. It’s sad when people take advantage of our liberal nature – like spoiled kids left unsupervised. Kate Brown or Mayor Wheeler won’t soon be getting their own coins or statues.

My wife and I got tired of being cooped up and went for an impromptu drive yesterday. We ended up at Haystack Rock. I was surprised it wasn’t covered with graffiti or surrounded by a fence. The area restaurants were very busy and had responsibly spread out into the parking lots to keep people properly socially distanced. However, there were too many people on the streets without masks and in groups. The beach was not crowded but we wore our masks strictly to keep our noses warm. There was a strong, cold breeze that made us both yearn for Florida. I have a new tan line today just over my nose and a red forehead. Getting out of the city for a few hours was a refreshing change. Tally enjoyed chasing the seagulls. There were no boarded-up windows, trash in the streets, or homeless camps on the sidewalks. Maybe we need to get out of town more often?

Retirement is not without Hassles: Shut-Ins #1374

This is probably one of the most uneventful Fourth of July weekends I could remember. In fact, I checked my diary dating back for 20 years to find that we always had something going on this weekend. For the first 10-years of our marriage, while still living in the Midwest, we were usually with my wife’s mother watching their home town fireworks. That all changed when we moved to Austin, Texas and I started temporarily working in the retail business. One Fourth of July weekend was all work and no play. We did at least see the fireworks at Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores.

The following year, 2011, we went to a wedding in my home town, the last time my family was all together for an event. Three years later both my parents died just after we moved to Portland. In that time span, there was one very memorable Fourth on the beach in Port Aransas, Texas. Tinker was scared to death of the fireworks in the sky above us. The last Fourth with my wife’s mother was four years ago in Indianapolis. Portland was just too far away to run back to Indiana, so we explored Oregon, including a hike and picnic at Punch Bowl Falls and a fabulous weekend at Crater Lake. 

My wife’s mom passed 14 months ago. This ended all trips back to Indiana and allowed for last year’s Fourth at Canada’s Butchart Gardens. Both Tinker and Tally were relieved that there were few outbursts of fireworks once we crossed the border. It was Tinker’s best and last Fourth of July, including an All-American hot dog in the peaceful garden setting. She was a princess in her special stroller and got lots of attention from passers-by. Tally got to smell the flowers in the dog-friendly grounds. Unfortunately, it was their last together. 

Last night, Tally did have company for the noisy night. My wife’s grand-dog Falco stayed with us because the neighborhood where she lives is much louder than ours. In fact, she’d been medicated for days and reluctant to even go outside. On their final outing last night both dogs were freaked out. Falco refused to pee, after not touching her food or water for days. It was quiet once we got back inside, so both dogs slept undisturbed. However, it took a longer walk this morning to get either of them to do their business. We did have our traditional chicken legs and potato salad dinner, while I drank a bit too much wine. Sadly, in these pandemic times, there was little else to do but watch Yellowstone, for me a repeat. For the first time in our marriage, we were stay-at-home Fourth of July shut-ins. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: No Plan is Perfect #1370

I’m getting excited about the prospect of moving, even though it will be a major hassle. It will be expensive, stressful, and exhausting. The same will be true about the design and building process that will start in two months. We’ve picked out the floor plan and lot and will make our way to Florida by car for my 69th birthday, two months from now. We’ve decided to bypass New Orleans on the drive, hoping to meet up with my half-sister in Alabama. In the meantime, my son will turn 47, another indication that life is moving quickly. We’ll soon live about 15 minutes apart as opposed to the current 43-hour, 2500-mile drive.

Our plans call for a two-bedroom with den and lanai. This will give us room for guests, a dedicated office space, and a pool/outdoor kitchen. The lot sits on a pond and across from a nature reserve, so there will be some privacy. There are three community/recreation facilities on the grounds that is adjacent to the Atlanta Braves Spring Training Facility. Venice Beach is nearby where I first saw the Gulf as a child. Life is going full circle with retirement in the same area as my grandparents. They’ve been gone now for 41 years. My son still has fond memories of playing board games and making shell figures with my grandmother. In fact, he named his youngest after her. 

My cousins would come down to visit with my grandparents in Englewood, Florida. They also got together at Corey Lake in Michigan during the summer months. My closest cousin now lives in Thailand, where we got together last year.  We also share a birthday, although he’s 10-years younger. The rest of his family lives in Indiana, where my wife and I were both born. Her sister still resides in Indianapolis, while my sister is in Elkhart. We’ll be more likely to see them when we move to Florida. 

Today is the first day of the second half of the year.  If everything goes as planned, next year at this time we’ll be settled in our new home and getting together with family for the Fourth of July. We’ll leave behind my wife’s two daughters but will provide them with a warm place to vacation. The oldest is here in Portland, while her sister lives in San Francisco. Both were married last year, and the daughter here adopted a dog, Falco.  Our schnauzer, Tally, has become a close companion. In fact, Falco stayed with us this past week while the sisters got together in Coos Bay. The only sad news of our plan to move is that the two pups will probably never see each other again. No plan is perfect!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Halfway #1366

We’re now halfway to  Christmas for those keeping track of remaining shopping days. My wife was always envious of those born on June 25th for this reason – the midpoint of gift getting. This says something about her, while I never made the connection. It was also “Custer’s Last Stand” at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Too bad he missed out on Christmas and his 37th Birthday. Sitting Bull got all the gifts. 

I escaped from the apartment yesterday afternoon, and put down the convertible top for a drive to Tualatin. It was a welcome break from the quarantine routine. A couple of beers and some burgers on a friend’s grill were the added reward. I should do getaways more often. Next Friday, the Buffalo Wild Wings “Leadership Meetings” resume after a 3-month furlough. I’d like to say that things are returning to normal, but that would be premature. Instead, I’ll just have to take advantage of opportunities to socialize as they present themselves. The pessimist in me is warning of a relapse. 

I should get my own grill back when we move to Florida next spring. In this apartment, all we have in a tiny balcony that does not allow for grilling. I call it the “Tally-o,” because it’s really a patio barely big enough for our schnauzer, Tally. However, we can open the doors and smell the aroma of neighborhood restaurants. I have mixed feelings about living downtown, so having a home again will be more than welcome. Thankfully, we’re now at the halfway point of our lease with lots of travel plans to break-up any monotony. 

I did just discover that there is a Halfway, Oregon near the Idaho state line. The community was named for the fact it is roughly halfway between Pine and the ghost town of Cornucopia. It has about 300 residents. Wikipedia reports that Halfway earned a place in the history of the dot-com era in December 1999, when it received and accepted an offer to rename itself as Half.com, Oregon. This promotional publicity stunt was in conjunction with the e-commerce start-up that eventually sold to Ebay. The unusual one-year partnership was in exchange for $110,000; 20 computers for the school; and other financial subsidies.

It became the first city in the world to rename itself as a dot.com.  It’s also interesting to note that Halfway is within four miles of the 45th parallel which makes it halfway between the equator and the North Pole. For us in Portland, it’s halfway to Manhattan….Montana, that is!

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Yes, You’re Sixty-Four #1358

Thanks to Lennon and McCartney for making everyone’s sixty-fourth birthday less painful. “When I’m 64” has finally arrived for my wife. For me, it’s a distant memory nearly five years ago. “They say it’s your birthday, well it’s my birthday too, yeah!”

No one looks more forward to their birthday than my wife and I try to make every one special. It’s a little tough this year with stores closed, travel restricted, and restaurants shut down. I was not responsible for her 40th celebration. On her 50th, we went to San Diego, but I ruined that with a kidney stone attack. I did manage to make it up for her 60th with a ocean hut in Bora-Bora. Birthday breakfast was served by canoe. Tonight, dinner will be to-go. Her daughter and husband will join us, along with their dog, our Tally’s playmate. My gift was delayed in shipment and hasn’t arrived yet. The poem that goes with it will be read anyway. 

“We’re gonna have a good time.”

Yes, You’re 64

For a memorable Birthday,
In this time of Isolation
You just might need,
Some Imagination

The jewelry stores,
Are still shut down.
And we won’t be wearing,
A suit and gown.

There probably won’t.
Be fireworks.
Or a hotel,
With special perks.

With theaters closed,
There’s not a show.
And we’ll have,
Our dinner to-go.

We won’t be going,
To the beach.
With warmer ones,
Soon within reach.

No Bora-Bora,
Or Kidney stone.
But you won’t,
Celebrate alone

There’s a Limoges,
And lots of flowers.
But your sunny day,
Might bring showers.

Wish for a rainbow,
And peace on earth.
On this anniversary,
Of your birth.

At least each dog,
Has hat in place.
With dreams of cake,
On tongue and face.

Sing the birthday song,
While washing your hands.
And hope that fans,
Soon fill the stands.

Next year,
We’ll be in a house.
Not too far,
From Mickey Mouse.

The greatest gift,
You didn’t get.
There’s still no need,
For a testing kit.

Despite we’re on,
A weight loss diet.
This year’s birthday,
Might be a riot.

Will you still need me?
I love you, more.
And still feed me?
Yes, you’re Sixty-four.

Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com

Retirement is not without Hassles: Signs of the Times #1355

The running streak now stands at 4,188 consecutive days, with little other activity throughout the week. I’m now finding that masks are now the most common litter found on the street. There are also more and more boarded up business fronts. These are signs of the times. We’re currently in self-quarantine after a week of travel and once our dog Tally spends time at the groomer this afternoon, I’ll be the only shaggy dog left in the family. Long hair with touches of gray – another sign of the times. 

We continue to watch House of Cards, having now surpassed the episodes we saw years ago. The two of us really miss our movie matinees and dining out. Trips to the grocery stores are my wife’s main source of entertainment. She has a birthday coming up in a few days, but it will not be the scope of past celebrations. Flowers are on order and a gift is in the mail. She wants to go to Nonna Emelia for Italian comfort food, a very conservative choice for her. A lot of money has been saved these past few months after cancelling trips, using points, and being limited to carry-out food options – all signs of the times. 

Through the end of this month we’ll try to stay at home as much as possible, with respect to limiting any exposure to others. I can still easily keep my distance while running and airing Tally.  The next travel plan is 39 days away – the next flight about 80 days off. It could all change quickly with the times, but it’s good to have something more than Netflix to look forward to in the future. Uncertainty continues to be the biggest sign of the times.

Old Sport Shorts: Sosa v. McGuire #1354

ESPN stirred some memories last night with the airing of “Long Gone Summer,” the 1998 home run battle between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. It was the quest to top Roger Maris’ 61 home-run season in 1961. The record had stood for 28 years, once Maris had “outdone” The Babe. I was part of a Cubs season ticket group of nine owners that conducted a draft at the beginning of the season to determine who would get which tickets for what games. I happened to pick 9/13/1998 and set-aside four of what turned out to be the most precious tickets I’ve ever purchased. 

On that day my 77-year old father, my 24-year old son, and my best friend all joined me at Wrigley Field. They were special seats in a row by themselves near the Cubs’ dugout, guarded at each end by two elderly female ushers. One I remember for sure was named Louise. Their job was to keep people from walking in front of us, thinking that our wide space was an aisle. The 9 special seats were actually added in the middle of what was once an aisle way when the Ryne Sandburg record contract in the early 1992 spurred the team to add revenue by expanding seating capacity. This was allegedly how they paid a portion of his 4-year $27.4 million deal. Nonetheless, we always called them the “Ryne Sandburg” seats and oddly met him down in that area when he accidentally kicked-over my friend’s beer earlier that year on Opening Day.  (See Post #283). Louise would occasionally allow celebrities coming off the field to pass in front of us. This is why the beer incident occurred. 

Fast forward to September 13th, as the baseball season was coming to an end.  Before the game started we had lunch at the Stadium Club, a perk for VIP Season Ticket Holders. They actually served the same hot dogs as the concession stands but on Cubs china at three times the cost. I remember thinking, “wouldn’t it be something if Sammy hit numbers 61 and 62 today.” McGuire had already topped the Maris record at Busch Stadium 5 days before. Sosa had hit his 60th the day before, setting up the historical drama we were about to witness. Wrigley Field was abuzz as we took our seats, spotting Ryne Sandburg and his family a couple of rows in front of us. The 61st came in the 5th inning, lifting us out of our seats. The Cubs were up 8-3 on the Brewers. Sam-mee, Sam-mee! The fans littered the field and caused a long delay. 

Sosa struck out in the 7th and came to bat for the final time in the bottom of the ninth down by 2. 480-feet later, he had tied McGuire at 62. There were hugs all around, as we watched the commotion. To make the day even better, Mark Grace homered in the bottom of the 10th for the “W.” Three generations of family and a best friend make the game even more memorable. “Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Holy Cow!”

Nine years later, my wife bought a commemorative brick following a 12-3 victory over the Cardinals. She was at that game with me along with my son and 9-month old grandson. It’s too bad my dad couldn’t be with us to make it four generations. Instead, the brick reads “3 Generations – Mike, Adam, Gavyn.” Dad died in 2014 at 93, just missing the 2016 World Series run. My wife and I were there, thinking of him. So many great memories of Wrigley Field, but none can top Sosa vs. McGuire. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Pot of Gold: #1350

I’ve reached another blogging milestone- Post #1150 on day #4183 of the running streak. All these numbers are my way of keeping track of the quickly passing days of my life. This past week has gone particularly fast with all our hard work in finding a permanent retirement resting spot. The location represents the final leg of our lives that in some ways have gone full-circle. We will live within ten minutes from my son. This hasn’t hasn’t happened in about 45 years when he was still living in my house. He tried to originally escape from me during college but here were are in Florida just miles apart, starting in March of next year. Coincidentally, I will be living just miles from where my grandparents retired in Englewood, and going to the same beaches I did as a child. 

To celebrate, I played golf this afternoon with my son and grandson on what was essentially a Par-3 cow pasture but certainly good enough for my skills. There were no cow pies to dodge. My wife gladly went to the beach just a few miles from where we settled on soon building our retirement home. My two granddaughters and their mother joined us for fun in the hotel pool yesterday afternoon. Before this we had only enough time for a couple of evening meals with them as we combed resort-style  properties from north of Tampa to Venice. We’re flying in and out of Orlando so we’ve gotten a good cross-section of the Sunshine State with barely time enough for fast-food breakfast or lunch. In all, we visited twelve different communities. Each night we discussed the pros and cons without that “this is it” feeling. In the back of our minds, we were holding out for the last stop, believing on paper that it might be the best fit. It could have also turned out to be a big disappointment, forcing us return in a few months with a new plan. 

After debating proximity to airport, closeness to family, home styles, builders, near-by food options, lot locations, availability, construction timetables, and beach access, we think we’ve found our pot of gold. It’s a beautiful property with landscaped paths over Venetian-style bridges. Our lot would back up to a small pond with no other homes in the sight path. No one will be able to build in the preserve across the street and our private road ends in a cul-de-sac. Three blocks away they are building a direct access road to the nearby beaches. However, what really sold me is the Atlanta Braves Spring Training facility just outside our gates. We’ll be able to operate with one car and a golf cart, with easy access to the supermarket, restaurants, clubhouse, pools, recreation centers, dog park, and ball park. There’s something for each of us to the point that we never needed to discuss it before saying “yes.” Hopefully, we can get through the financing and building processes without too many hassles. It will truly be a year-round vacation home – the pot of gold we’re sure we’ve found!

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