I realize that I’m in a rut, but have discovered that just little things can make a difference. I woke up earlier this morning, started a new book, used the other bathroom, and ran a slightly different route. It was like putting a slip cover over your favorite couch – the same old thing with a slightly different look. I didn’t feel like I was going through the motions. There was a lesson to be learned in the process, as the day starts on a more positive note. We’ll also spend this evening with my wife’s daughter and husband to add a little variety to what was becoming a tedious routine. Tomorrow, I’ll spend the morning helping a friend rack wine, starting the slow fermentation process.
I have a new wireless, bedside docking station for my I-phone, I-watch, and earbuds. I also installed a hands-free phone mount in my car and added some new jeans to my wardrobe. As you can see, I made good use of the Amazon Prime days to add a little variety to my life. IU sports finally kick-off this weekend after what seems like decades of down time. It will probably be a loss to Penn State, but strange things happen in these pandemic times. The basketball team has started to practice in anticipation of the Maui Classic in of all places, tropical Asheville, North Carolina. These are a couple more reasons to get together at Buffalo Wild Wings for a beer with friends.
I feel today like I’ve gotten a second wind after yesterday’s sense of discouragement. I’m prepared to spend another twelve weeks of living behind a mask and staying home as needed. It’s a small sacrifice to stay healthy. There’s still hope for trips to Hawaii, Florida, and even Europe, but we need to be realistic in expecting more cancellations. In another month, at least the election will be over – or will it? I don’t want to spoil my mood. The stock market feels the same way I do with expectations of a another stimulus package. The skies are even showing patches of blue.
I have dreams of Florida: a new home close to family and the beach. Sunshine and resort-style living await us. It would be much easier to be isolated in that environment than in a cramped apartment. We’re at least five months away from the move that will change our lives. In the meantime, we’ll make the best of our circumstances, and try our best to not get stuck in a rut.
Apparently, the Coronavirus saw it’s shadow and there’s six to twelve more weeks of isolation ahead. That will take us nearly to Groundhog Day. I’m getting used to wearing a mask now and staying away from others. It’s difficult to be friendly through muffled conversation and hidden smiles. I’ve also adapted to carryout dining, staying home, and living with day-to-day boredom. I would have thought that scientists would have this bug under control by now, but there appears no end in sight. I’m fortunate that my life isn’t further complicated by work and child care.
Today’s activities will include a call to my sister, a new episode of Fargo, NFL football, and more tedious genealogy work on my family tree. Hopefully, construction will begin on our new house but we’ve yet to be assigned a project manager. I might do some laundry to add to the excitement. I’ll definitely put another case of water bottles in the refrigerator. It’s hard to tell that it’s another Monday, as one day bleeds into another without much change in the routine.
The Bears won again, the Colts rallied from behind, the Timbers allowed a tying goal in extended play, and the Dodgers made it back to the World Series. The games go on while the fans stay home. It was Brady vs. Favre, as if nothing has changed. I sat at my desk all day with an eye on the games, adding hundreds of dead relatives to the Jerry Banister Family Tree on Ancestry.com. I walked our schnauzer Tally three times and carried in some groceries. The next thing I knew, another week was starting.
Forty-one years ago I completed my first marathon. I was 28-years old and traveled to Detroit for the event know then as the Detroit Free Press International Marathon. The race started in Canada and finished at Belle Island. Shuttle busses took us across a border that now is heavily guarded. In fact, our recent trip to Glacier Park was rearranged because we couldn’t even get into Canada. (See Post #1396). It’s disturbing to think about how times have changed when it comes to U.S. and Canadian border relations.
The first marathon took less than 3 1/2 hours to complete after months and months of rigorous training. It required nearly a half-hour simply to get to the starting line and the official timer, so my actual running time was just over 3 hours. I doubt that I could do it today in under 7 hours – if at all, even if I trained. My current pace is 14-minutes per mile – not much faster than a quick walk for some people. Just a few months ago, my times were nearly a minute less, as age deterioration continues to affect the length of my stride. I’m still out there every day, but it’s getting embarrassing when I can’t even catch someone in a hurried walk, late for work. My legs feel heavy and arms out of sync, as I awkwardly go through the motions. Today’s first mile was at 13’25” while mile-three registered a much slower 14’11. A year ago, my average mile pace for a 5k run was 12’50”, two years ago 12’25, three years ago 12’14”, and four years past 11’55”. It’s incredible how much useless data my I-Phone carries. These times are a far cry from my initial marathon average of 8-minute miles.
This morning was #4,311 of “The Streak.” By my upcoming 70th birthday, I may need to bring my lunch along, even if I reduce the daily mileage. At least I’m persistent if not pretty, and the days slowly add up. What was once a challenge to increase my speed or distance traveled is now just about getting out there every day and finishing. I rumble, bumble, and stumble along in all conditions, determined to make it through another day. It seems like only yesterday when that same determination led me to accomplish the goal of running that first marathon. Time now flies faster than I do!
Another cool morning here in Portlandia. Smoke bellows from the sausage factory chimney next door as I look out over blue skies mixed with transparent white clouds. Leaves are turning color and the homes on the hill in the distance are no longer shrouded in a forest fire haze. I’ve made it to another Friday with little to report. If times were different, we might have been riding a camel in Egypt today, but instead we’re grounded in our downtown apartment. Our only hope is that we’re able to get out of here in December for a family trip to Kauai, otherwise all plans are on hold. Two Viking cruises are booked for next year, but the likeliness of them actually happening is minimal. My wife is watching episodes of The Amazing Race to quench her thirst for travel. Playoff Baseball continues to keep me mildly entertained.
What’s for dinner tonight is the big question? Last Friday, we drove out of the neighborhood for carry out. Since that time, I’ve had major repairs done to the car following a flat tire incident. When I think of all the inconvenient to dangerous moments when that could have happened, we were so lucky. The blowout thankfully occurred on an exit ramp at reduced speeds within a half-hour of our home. In the past few months, we’ve driven it to Glacier National Park and to the Oregon Coast several times, so the circumstances could have been much worse. It’s now ready to go someplace, but we aren’t, strapped with family and dog responsibilities while struggling with cash flow. A short drive for food this evening would be a welcome relief from another long, boring week.
We started on the early episodes of Fargo last night; a repeat performance for me, but featuring the always entertaining Billy Bob Thornton. I’m already in Season Four, as they release each episode weekly, while she needs to catch up. We go to our separate rooms during the day, but enjoy joint viewing after dinner each night. I’m watching baseball and The Sinner, often at the same time, in my office, while she and Tally control the living room TV. Every day is pretty much the same routine, with the exception of trips to her daughter’s home, grocery shopping, my cooking night, separate dog walks, and an occasional lunch with friends.
There will be no “Leadership Meeting” today, as once was a standing Friday tradition before the pandemic. We did get together this week for a couple of beers before crushing this year’s disappointing grape crop. We only got about 23 gallons of juice out of our efforts that will eventually be bottled. It’s about a third of a traditional good harvest, but certainly better than last year’s mold disaster that yielded nothing. This year’s lack of output also meant a change in procedure. (See Post #1478). We did not use the big stainless tank for storage and will have to blend the 2020 with the 2017 vintage to effectively utilize the wooden cask. Sadly, with all the work and costs relative to overall production, it will be the last year of growing grapes. The wrath of nature has taken another victim. No whining or wining!
One of the stipulations about adoption back in the early 1950’s was that the child had to have his or her own room. As a result, I started out in life with my own special room, rarely having to share. Only at basketball camp, college, and in marriage was there a need to adapt. In these cases, I always found a way for escape to a second room where there was some sense of privacy. I’ve always enjoyed time to myself, so the words “go to your room” never seemed like punishment.
In the world of business, I’ve always had a desk, but starting out it was long before cubicles were the norm, so there was little chance for escape when you were constantly surrounded by prying ears and eyes. The office cubical was apparently invented by Robert Propst, a Herman Miller designer, in the 1960’s, but unaffordable to most small companies. In the decades to follow, it became the despised symbol of a bad job, as dented, scratched units were recycled from company to company. The thin walls provided a false sense of seclusion, while the bullpen was typically surrounded by the real offices of those “more important” who had the option of closing their doors. It was always a welcome relief to leave the toxic atmosphere of the office every day, and have the freedom to work out of my car. There was not the option of working from home that is quickly becoming the norm in the pandemic influenced business world.
This was also in a time prior to the use of cellular phones, so there was not even the option of going out in the hallway for a private conversation. At home, we had a party line, so you never knew when someone else was listening. As time when on, phone booths became comfortable retreats before I finally got an office with a door and a cell phone. Small offices evolved into bigger suites and eventually a home office, as well. Then there was the fall from grace, and my corner offices with big desks, private bath, and comfortable couches resorted back to tiny cubicles. In retirement, my home office retreat keeps me sane, especially in the cramped quarters of an apartment. Go ahead, send me to my room!
Winemaking is the only thing on my agenda today, as I do my part to assist in the process. We picked the grapes about 10-days ago, so it’s now time to extract the juices. We’ll use a wine press, not bare feet, to continue the fermentation activity in a giant stainless steel storage tank. Later, it will be transferred to a wooden barrel. This year’s crop did not yield enough quantity to require the use of supplemental carboys to retain the output. Our friend’s backyard vineyard operation has become much more sophisticated over the years, with quality at the forefront. They’ve consulted with experts and taken classes to improve their growing and bottling skills. I’m just a part time farmhand lending some muscle to their labor of love. I work for free wine.
My wife’s daughter continues to rehabilitate from a broken leg. We lend a hand at least one evening each week doing housework, dog walking, yard chores, and cooking. Last night, we ate steak and pasta, continuing to rid our freezer of meat in anticipation of a meatless diet. (See Post #1472). In other words, I have to eat more meat now to consume less in the future. As my wife focuses more on cooking fish and vegetables, I’ll be spending more time at Buffalo Wild Wings getting my meat fix. They’ll be redefined as Leadership Meatings! Tonight, however, it’s Korean Beef short ribs to keep me meatified. I might even have a cheeseburger lunch for good measure. There’s just something about the prospect of giving up meat that makes me crave it more.
We watched the movie Parasite yesterday afternoon, reminiscent of our movie matinees before the pandemic shut down the theaters. It’s, of course, a film that you need to read rather than listen to, unless you’re fluent in Korean. The subtitles originally discouraged us from going to see it, but the awards it earned made us reconsider. I also purchased a Hulu subscription that made it available in addition to the early Fargo episodes we wanted to watch. We may make a new tradition out of home matinees, if my stomach doesn’t growl from the lack of future meat. There will, however, be plenty of wine to drink.
I’m soaked to the bone, again. Another morning of heavy Portland rain that interrupted my daily run. Lots of deep puddles and runoff waterfalls to avoid. Heavy clothing, wet shoes, windy conditions, and fogged-up glasses added to the challenge. It was a good day for the treadmill that is no longer an option for me. I’ll have access to one in our new Florida resort complex, but there’s still at least five more months of the outdoor elements to endure. It’s good to at last be sitting at my writing desk in dry clothes watching the rain fall on the neighboring rooftops.
My car is back from the tire shop, but I’m $1,400 light in the wallet. Two new tires, struts, balancing, shocks, brakes, and who knows what else they ending up doing. After a needed tune-up, I think I can safely get this car to Florida, but may need to hold on to it longer to get my money’s worth out of this investment. It’s like me – looks good on the outside but rusted out on the inside, and it’s not even a teenager yet. Trading it in on a senior buggy does not seem like a practical choice for a few years, especially since I’ll end up spending more fixing it up than what it’s worth.
When we finally get to Florida, I’ll put the top down and pretend that it’s a golf cart. We don’t have car payments any more, but we’ve sunk a lot of money into both cars this year – body work, tires, batteries, and engine repairs. I was excited about the prospect of one fewer car and halving the related hassles. I can get anywhere I want in our Florida community via electric cart – grocery or hardware store, beach, stadium, pool, treadmill, and bank. The streets and sidewalks in that area are specially designed to accommodate bikers, walkers, runners, and cart drivers. Seniors rule in Florida.
Happy Indigenous People Day – it just rolls off your tongue. Or captured in this famous rhyme: In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two Indigenous People sailed the ocean blue. We celebrated the occasion here in Portland by breaking windows at the Oregon Historical Society and other related destruction, including the statutory rape of Abraham Lincoln and other monumental treasures. It was just another night of “peaceful” demonstrations that have become the painful norm in our city. It’s not the reason we’re moving to Florida, but certainly a deterrent in living here.
I have a flat tire to get fixed today and baseball to watch. Last night, it was a sportsman’s dream with the Lakers winning the NBA title, Rays over Astros in game one of the MLB playoffs, the Portland Timbers earning their fifth straight match, and the Seahawks’ thrilling last minute victory over the Vikings. Four major sporting events competing against each other on the same night for television viewership. Unprecedented scheduling! I also managed to get in another episode of Fargo Season Four.
Television, with the exception of newscasts, takes my mind off the riots, ugly politics, rainy weather, and thoughts of mortality. My dad died six years ago, just weeks after my mother passed away. I think of them often, almost like they are just living miles apart, as was the case most of my adult life. Yesterday, I also saw a Facebook post listing 163 names of my high school classmates that have left the face of the earth. None were really surprising, it was just disturbing to see them all grouped together. The total is more than my wife had in her entire graduating class, but only about 16% of mine. There’s also the genealogy research work that I do and commonly seeing the hyphen between birth and death dates. As they say, it’s what you do with the dash that defines your legacy. It still makes me wonder why I’m still around, or why they had to go? Death is the greatest mystery of life. May they all rest in peace.
I’m fortunate to be alive, healthy, and intact. I watched Alex Smith triumphantly return to the NFL yesterday after a life-threating broken leg two years ago, and then saw Dak Prescott carted off the field with a gruesome season-ending ankle injury. Life is full of twists and turns – comedy and tragedy. I’d like to see nothing but rainbows, but my pessimistic mind doesn’t work that way. I’m surrounded by a pandemic threat or worse. It’s best to keep my mind on silly sporting events, mindless television viewing, collecting baseball cards or relatives, writing this blog, and running every day.
I was all alone at home watching a football game and sorting through some old baseball cards when my wife called. She had gone to the grocery store and picked up lunch for her daughter. On her way home with the dogs, she heard a pop from the right front tire just before it went flat. Fortunately, she had just gotten off the interstate and was able to find a parking spot about eight blocks from our apartment. She and the dogs were thankfully safe. However, a perfectly relaxing afternoon had just turned into a hassle for me, as I walked over to change the tire.
It had been too long since I’ve changed a flat and was certain that one of the lug nuts required a special tool for removal. I couldn’t remember where that wrench was stored, and seemed to remember that they couldn’t find it at a Jiffy Lube location the last time I wanted the tires rotated. This was in the back of my mind as I unloaded three cases of water, a case of wine, grocery bags, cases, and luggage from the trunk. Living in an apartment with limited storage means that our car is always packed to the max with crap. My wife’s trip to the store added to that cluster. It took a lot of time to get everything out, so I could finally get to the spare and search for the special lug nut wrench. I was ready to call AAA when a good Samaritan happened by and offered to help.
He was walking home wearing a backpack and must have noticed the perplexed look on an old man’s face, as I was surrounded by a pile of groceries, a skinny spare tire, and the scattered parts to operate the jack. To add to my frustration, I explained to him that I couldn’t find the special socket necessary to remove the flat. Upon inspection, he reported that it wasn’t necessary – it had been removed on that tire – probably at Jiffy Lube. The next challenge was to find the notch on the frame to secure the jack, so I dug through the glove compartment to find the instruction manual. The car was also parked too close to the curb and required some innovation to raise the frame enough to remove and replace the tire. The spare, of course, was low on air but he had a pump in his backpack that allowed me to get to the nearest gas station. The guy was a lifesaver, but I only had $8 in my wallet to give him.
I scheduled an appointment at Les Schwab Tire, conveniently located in our neighborhood. The tricky part is how much to put into a car that we’ll probably only drive 5,000 miles more before selling? We just have to safely drive it to Florida in the spring. Sadly, it’s probably not worth much more than it will cost for new tires, an alignment, and a tune-up. If there are other issues, we might have to sell it here and rent a vehicle to get to Florida, another costly consideration. It’s all part of the challenge of getting our schnauzer pup Tally cross-country to our new home. I was hoping to put off this decision until after the first of the year, but a flat tire has suddenly changed all of that thinking!
My motto continues to be, “a 5k a day keeps the doctor away.” Yesterday’s flu shot should also help. Fortunately, I remain healthy when others are not as lucky. My sister, for example, has tested positive for Covid, although she’s two-thousand miles away. Thankfully, her symptoms are mild. I’m not really sure what keeps one person healthy over another. Running only exposes me to those airborne germs around the homeless camps, but somehow many seem to remain unaffected despite the filth around them. It’s impossible to avoid the virus regardless of the precautions taken. My sister is very religious, so even that doesn’t help. It’s like playing Russian Roulette and not knowing when the gun is going to go off.
I certainly don’t want to live in fear, but the pandemic has now taken my son’s job and my sister’s good health. It’s hitting close to home, yet I’ve certainly not been one to follow the rules. I’ve flown twice, eaten in restaurants, stayed in hotels, traveled to heavily affected areas like Florida, and been with friends and family. The gun has not fired! What is keeping me safe? I’m not an optimist, having awakened many times with fear of symptoms. I remain convinced that I cannot avoid the dreaded bug regardless of how many times I scrub my hands, utilize a mask, or avoid contact with others. I live in a downtown Portland apartment building that only increases my chances of exposure. Maybe Covid wants nothing to do with a runner, regardless of how slow they move? Maybe it hates exercise as much as I do?
We insist on making more travel plans, convinced that restrictions will eventually be lifted. We’ve worked our entire lives for a chance at retirement travel together, so we remain stubborn about giving up and staying home. I think I’d rather be on a cruise ship where temperatures are at least monitored than in an apartment building. You certainly can’t hide from this health threat or flee from fate. Even with a 5k a day routine, I can feel the wear and tear of time on my body. Realistically, there’s only so much time left to be able to do the things we want in life. Coronavirus is just another obstacle, and it threatens us like a gun to the head.