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Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021: Keeping Stuff Together

My glasses are a kind of avatar for 2021.

They are, for all intense and purposes, broken.  Yet with the help of some tape, a hot glue gun, and some patience, they manage to soldier on.  As do many of us I think.

Just as a side note, I do have another, newer pair of glasses, but I prefer not to wear them.  That's for both practical and stubborn reasons...

...practically speaking, I just prefer my old glasses.  They weigh next to nothing, and the reality is that I just don't see well.

...the stubborn part of me is still not happy that I was talked (yet again) into buying my new glasses in the first place.

To that second point, that's been something of an ongoing theme with my eye care provider.  That's on my list of things to work on in 2022.

Anyway, 2021 was a difficult year (thank you Captain Obvious), something that many of us can say with some surety.  I wrote that last sentence without having had anyone I know succumbing to COVID, and my heart goes out to those who did lose loved ones in 2021.  COVID has been particularly cruel in 2021, if for no other reason than the fact that it seemed like we collectively were starting to get past it.  COVID had different ideas though, and in the end, I think this linear flow of "beginning...middle...end" isn't going to apply here.  We may never end this, and as frustrating as that sounds, it's a reality we need to be prepared to face.  

For me, and for many others, there has been plenty of collateral damage coming from COVID in 2019.  Physically I just don't feel as well.  I've gained too much weight, and I am not nearly active enough.  If I were a car, I'd be running at about 110,000 miles, and that comes with all the required maintenance and things to repair that just happen when the years miles begin to pile up.  The good news is that I can make some changes in that department.  Of course, things would be easier if there was a bit more stability in one key part of my life.

That last sentence is my professional life, and the signs are hopeful.  I confess that I've been trying to unlearn a few things over this past year.  Things like...

...the need to be in charge

...defining success based on other people's measures

...blaming myself for not being successful enough (something that I can't actually define)

...comparing myself to others & engaging in countless "what if's"

This sounds so simple, but yet it is so very, very hard.  A lot of it boils down to the simple to say, but hard to actually define (and make happen) idea of "I just want to be happy".  At 57 years one would think that I would have a better handle on that, but I readily confess that I don't.  And I may never will.  But I'll keep trying.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

And We All Shine On...Christmas 2021

 "And we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun..."                                                               (John Lennon, Instant Karma)

It's Christmas, and as has been the case for a while now, I'm just not quite sure what to write.  That or the fact that I actually do have a lot to say, but it's just that I can't seem to get the words out.  Either explanation isn't all that great, and to some extent, I think I am all the worse for it.  Anyway, I'm going to try. 

This Christmas, most of us are busy contemplating how we can celebrate a holiday and at the same time not add our names to the global list of COVID-19 victims.  Not that I live in fear of such things but living in reality more or less dictates that this is a kind of commonality that spans all of us who have the capability of rational thought.  That last sentence sounds more philosophical than intended, here's a more down-to-Earth statement: It simply sucks that people are dying, others are sick, and some of us can't see family members because of this horrible pestilence.  The very public face of me tries really damn hard to be the strong, rational, and realistic one.  Deep inside though, I just wish I could see all of my daughters this Christmas.  

On a positive note, my oldest daughter made a more or less surprise trip home from New York City, which means that I was 2 for 3 in the Christmas family reunion department.

As I write this, the visitors have gone, and a day that seems like it spanned 48 hours is quickly coming to an end. While it was a long day, I didn't take the time to take many pictures this Christmas, although it was nice to see so many others posting holiday photos on Facebook.  I think so many are just trying to get back to some sense of normalcy while things this Christmas are no more normal than they were a year ago.  At some point this will just be the new normal.

(Oren helps open gifts)

The whole "new normal" thing can be disconcerting, but I think it's important to remember that things were always going to change.  All that's different is the timing.  This isn't to dismiss or otherwise minimize a global pandemic and putting aside the human toll of illness and death for a moment, what COVID has done is to create a kind of accelerated change.  This is all the more reason to create new rituals...that make sense in a world that is going to be permanently different.

On that note, my thoughts fall back to the year that has passed.  That's another post for another day though.  For now, I think it's time for all of us to get some rest.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

This is a hard, hard time for many, so I fully understand (not that my opinion here matters that much) how difficult Thanksgiving can be.  We are all surrounded by messaging that tells us to "count our blessings" and "give thanks for all that we have".  I've been there, in that place, where it was nearly impossible to see those things in the face of troubles surrounding me.  That last sentence comes with the enormous caveat that what I've experienced by way of "trouble" firmly falls into the category of first-world in I have not wanted for food or shelter.  Yet, I've also looked at a mental ledger with what seemed like more debits and credits.  "Happy Thanksgiving" was akin to rubbing salt in a wound.

With age comes wisdom though.  I think.  If not age, well then maybe with persistence.

Part of the problem here, as I see it, is that in the United States we have this knack for monetizing virtually everything.  In order to make money off of Thanksgiving, this nation creates a kind of white-bread, Hallmark Channel version of a holiday that in part serves to kick off a season of consumption.  Note that nothing screams "thanks" quite like buying things.  That last sentence was sarcasm, for the record.

Maybe the better thing to do here is to think less about visuals of golden turkeys and made-for-cable movies about troubled people magically finding reasons for thanks at the end of two hours.  We don't need the idealizing of a perfect Thanksgiving...or a perfect life for that matter.  This is because none of us have those things.  None of us.  As was pointed out to me online recently, the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence because it's actually astroturf. 

I think that Thanksgiving works best when it works simplest.  Part is this is manifest by acknowledging our challenges while also being thankful for the fact that every day we wake up we have a chance to get it right.  Getting it right can be hard, nasty business by the way, but we are all capable.  All of us. 

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the gift of persistence.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

This is what we face...

I have this posting about Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in my head, but then I saw this on an actual Facebook page.

Like roadkill or other unsightly things, I just had to stop and look at this for a few moments.  By the way, this is, I absolutely assure you, a real sentiment expressed on two different Facebook pages.  In other words, there are people who believe this to be true.  And it is horrifying.
I'm not going to refute this, mostly for the same reason that I don't feel the need to refute accusations that gravity is fake, the Earth is flat, and/or that we are all just living in the matrix.  No humor was attempted or intended in that last statement by the way because there is nothing funny about these kinds of anti-vaccine sentiments.  Whether it comes from a Russian social media troll farm or the imagination of some grossly ignorant conspiracy theorist, the net result is the same:  This kind of thing can get people killed.

There is, of course, a larger story here.  A story about how, as a nation, we've made it okay to be stupid.  We've created an environment where 5 sentences of completely made-up nonsense is somehow the equal of the hard work put in by scientists and medical professionals around the world.  In our desire to make everyone feel good, I fear, we've somehow managed to convince a subset of the population that they are as smart as the entire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  When you think about it though, all of us...even the people that believe the nonsense spewed in the above 5 sentences...have to rely on other experts.  Do these same people decry the supposed "experts" who change their brake pads?  

Yes, we all need to exercise critical thinking skills, so I'm not suggesting that we believe everything we see, hear and read.  But a part of critical thinking is the acknowledgment that a "fact" is only as valid as evidence provided in support.  Critical thinking also requires work, which I suspect is the real problem here...for some, it's simply easier to believe nonsense.  It must also make some folks feel special that they now know about the "vaccine conspiracy".  In essence, this becomes a kind of mental cotton candy:  Nominally food, but having no real substance or value.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

October in the Rear-View (and other non-related thoughts)

Here's to a month that has passed.  There was a funeral to attend, but it comes on the heels of the deceased, a truly good person, having truly earned an eternal rest.  It seems that October will always exact its toll on life, one way or another.

As for me, well, this is a long weekend in Hagerstown, Maryland.  It was supposed to be a long weekend in St. Augustine, Florida, but circumstances changed those plans.  Based on flooding in that part of Florida, and an airline system that can best be described as being "in distress", I'd say that those plans were changed for the better.  Whether it was Florida or Maryland, both Ms. Rivers and I have earned some time away.  

Why Hagerstown, Maryland?  I guess the better question is probably "why not?".  After deciding to 86 our Florida plans about a week or so ago, we bandied about a few other options for travel, and figured that Hagerstown was close enough, we hadn't been there, and we probably wouldn't encounter any snow.  Not that the snow part was likely to be anywhere we could have gone, but there's (s)no(w) sense taking any chances.  For the record, there isn't all that much to actually do in Hagerstown, which is mostly okay with us, as the destination is actually less important than just the notion of just getting away.  

How are you doing?

I've never asked that question before in a blog posting,  For the record, as of October 27th, this blog is now 13 years old.  I'd like to add "...and going strong" to that date, but that wouldn't be very honest of me.  It's been difficult to write consistently for a while now.  I think that's mostly been because of the career turmoil I've experienced for years now, virtually all of which was not my making.  Whether any of us like to admit it or not, the fact is that what we do with our time in order to earn a living is important.  In this western, American culture of ours, the notion of career has an outsized level of importance for certain.  Part of that is what has driven the United States for over two hundred years.  Sadly though, I could rightfully argue that the cost for many has been far, far too high.

It's the oversized importance of a career that I've been thinking a lot about over the past few months.  The fact is this:  It is the struggle (at home or at work) that helps us grow.  It's in facing adversity that we gain the ability to be resilient.  There just aren't too many shortcuts around that avenue in life.  Playing it too safe results in a certain degree of comfort that ultimately, I think, leaves us empty.  Granted, there can be too much struggle in our lives, especially when it comes to what we do for a living.  In my case, while I am grateful for all of the adversity that I have had to face in my professional life, in some instances I think the lessons could have been learned with just a bit less pain.  I suppose that's the case for many of us...or at least those who have taken a few chances.

The above mental wandering comes courtesy of the fact that I think I am in a good place now career-wise.  I couldn't have arrived here though without some roto-stripping of ego and my own preconceived notions of what constitutes success.  Nowadays my definition of success is decidedly simple:  I don't hate going to work & the people I work with seem to appreciate what I bring to the table.  Helping matters is the fact that I have settled in my head the fact that I have no ladder left to climb.  Simply put, I'm just going to do my thing for the next few years to the best of my ability, and whatever happens, be it good, bad, or indifferent, well, it will be okay.  I have a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, in form of eventual retirement. 

It's difficult to write the above.  Why?  Well my mind, "when it's good it's bad".  That's a kind of short-hand way of noting that, as a pretty intense and observant child, I grew to become suspicious of any good times, as it probably meant something bad would be happening soon.  On one hand, that's a hell of a way to keep oneself on his/her toes.  On the other hand, well, it creates a kind of negative feedback loop where every bit of adversity comes with an "I told you so" mental tag line attached to it.  Nowhere was that more on display than my "retirement" in 2016.  It's taken me this long since then to really unpack some of these feelings and experiences and to arrive at this place where, to be blunt, I simply now choose to (mostly) not really care about negative people and experiences.  In fact, I have the following statement stuck to the bottom of my laptop screen:

"Give no f#$ks about those who give no f#$ks about you."

Crude?  For sure it is, but it has the benefit of being true.  In the simplest possible terms, it seems that, in life, we have a limited supply of things to care about ("f#$ks"), so it's best to use these things where they can matter the most.  Or so I am trying to learn. 

As is the case for many of the important things in life, some of this weighty career-in-perspective stuff is much less about reaching a kind enlightenment goal and more about just engaging in a deliberate practice where I work on keeping things in perspective.  In essence, there is no goal to achieve...that very notion is just more competitive business culture nonsense...and instead there is just a dedication to just trying my best to be a decent person to myself and to others.

As Jackson Browne once wrote:  "And when the morning light comes streaming in, we'll get up and do it again."


On that note, I think I've said enough.  

Tomorrow will likely be a trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  If believed in such things I would say that I'd like to encounter the spirit of John Brown.  Since I don't (believe in such things), I'm going to instead settle for a nice drive, some wonderful Fall photographs, and maybe learning a thing or three.

Sunday, October 10, 2021


By my reckoning, October is life's great equalizer.  Rich or poor, powerful or powerless, October doesn't care.  October is going to change the world, whether any of us like it or not, ultimately reminding us that we are not, in fact, in charge.  I will readily confess to having a checkered past when it comes to the month of October.  This is something that I can back-up with over a hundred blog postings on the subject of this month.

Anyway, in spite of past experiences...or maybe because of them...I admire what October stands for in the cycle of life.  

(Our large pink rosebush needs a rest)

Life just gets tired, in part because nothing gets to last forever.  All that happened in the Spring and Summer, all of that growth, comes at a cost.  In order to eventually grow again, life needs to take a pause.  October is that pause.

There are a bunch of other non-mock-philosophical reasons why I really want to love October.

First, I love the weather.  The temperature is just right.  There is nothing better than a cool October breeze, especially after a summer where winds were more like convection oven currents than cooling events.

Second, I confess to liking Halloween.  Not necessarily the trick-or-treating part, but just this notion that for one day out of the year, the things that I found scary as a kid were somehow rendered temporarily powerless.

Third, there is just something wonderful about falling leaves.  They have this kind of special smell, especially as you walk through them, shuffling your feet along the way.

Finally, I'm not the biggest fan of really cold winters, so October provides this kind of window that allows us to get ready for what's to come.  For me that means getting the yard ready, trimming trees, and cleaning/putting things away.

Here's to hoping that all of us learn to appreciate October.  Especially me.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

May 14, 2027

There are 2057 days between now (September 26, 2027) and May 14, 2027.  By another measure, that's 5 years, 7 months, and 19 days.  All well and good, but why is that date even worth mentioning?  Well, that's mostly because, all things being held equal, I will be retiring on (or about) that date.  Kind of strange, huh?  Well from my perspective it is, as...

  • I don't see myself as being "old" (although my body reminds me of that reality, even as I type this)
  • Amount of time prior to above I have actually spent thinking retirement?  That would be... 
  • I have kind of had this baseline assumption from childhood that I would be working forever
The alchemy used to come up with the date of May 14, 2027, is pretty straightforward and includes when our current mortgage will be paid off (not bad for having bought the place in December 2013) and my estimate of when it makes sense to begin tapping into my retiree medical saving account.  

Underlying all of this is irony associated with the fact that I am a retiree already, technically speaking, from a former employer.

May 14, 2027, seems like a long time off, but in reality, it's not.  In fact, it's about a year longer than the distance from when I was "retired" (see above) until now.  That's practically a blink of the existential eye.

I guess I could continue with the one or two-sentence quips, but that's boring.  Well, a lot of this stuff is technically boring, but I have never offered any warranties for being interesting, engaging, or even relevant when it comes to this blog.  Since 2008 mind you.

Anyway, I think that the distance between now and then is needed, as I need time to prepare.  That would be prepare from a practical perspective (i.e. being mortgage-free) as well as from the perspective of "just what the heck will I do with myself?".  I'm sure that many who are already retired could testify to the fact that the latter point will take care of itself.  However, I'm the guy who has to think about everything, all too often.

I also know that so very, very much of my life has centered around what I do for a living.  Actually, I've been told that too much of my life has centered around my professional identity, a notion that I learned the hard way, as what can be given by an employer can be taken by an employer.  That's easy to write, but pretty darn difficult to experience.  It's also very cruel in a way:  Employers want employees to commit to their organization, but yet they also want to be able to sever that commitment on their own terms, at any time, for any reason.  Maybe it's that kind of realization that ultimately signals the ending plays of a professional career.  

Looking forward, literally, I think I have 2057 days to further figure out my life and identify outside of the day job.  I still have a lot to learn, for the record.

Monday, September 20, 2021

An AC Post Script

Early Morning

As I was laying in bed this morning at about 5:50am, the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song "Wasted on the Way" was playing in my head.  I don't actually like the song, but I do appreciate the lyrics and underlying sentiment.

Look around me
I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way
It used to be
I am older now
I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started
Long before I did

I'm not sure what that actually means in the context of the last few days or even this morning.  More "spiritually in-tuned" folks probably have an answer for that sort of thing, but since I've claimed no such power(s) myself, I'll just have to be left wondering.  Note that it's entirely possible that we all have what seem like "deep" experiences for absolutely no real reason.  Some things just are.

Back to the world of the firmly grounded in reality, I do think it's important to spend a little bit of time thinking about the lessons that life continually tries to teach us, even from a trip to a beach town in despair.  That's not "spiritual" or "new age", but in my mind infinitely practical.  Since I also love lists, here we go:

  1. I don't take enough time off.  Granted that part of this is beyond my control.  A dirty little fact about corporate layoffs:  Each time you start a new job you end up starting at the bottom of the vacation time ladder.  When you are 30 that's okay.  When you are in your 50's?  It's terrible.
  2. It feels as if I waste too much time.  Wait, was that why "Wasted on the Way" was pinging around in my head this morning?  When I take a step back, well the "step back" afforded by typing at 7am in a hotel, I wonder if I don't spend enough time actually doing and creating things that bring me some enjoyment.  Like this, for example.
  3. It's kind of amazing the amount of stress I put myself under, and how that impacts me physically.  My physical body was actually acting differently (in a better way) over the past few days.
  4. Societal dispair.  I saw far too many instances of folks...both young and old...literally passed out in the broad daylight over the past few days.  I know that comes across as rather naive, but for the most part, as we go about our busy lives, it's easy to forget that some folks are barely hanging on with the smallest of threads.  Our system in this country for helping those with mental health and substance abuse needs is horrible.

I don't know what I can change...what I can do differently about these things...but despite what we see in the movies, these kinds of things are seldom about grand changes in life anyway.  More realistically, I do think that life gives us things we can use to make small, but ultimately meaningful, changes in our lives.  In the time of this pandemic, the analogy is pretty clear:  Our advanced civilization can be dramatically changed by the smallest (of living) things.  Maybe that works for experiences as well.



The trip home was swift, including a Rivers family visit along the way, laundry has been washed, and a few chores have been completed.  I even posted some pictures to the Facebooks.  Left yet to do is write a few reviews and possibly let the State of New Jersey know what I think about their marijuana legalization law.  It is now time for the inevitable crawl back to reality, all be it may be a tad bit wiser and entertained.  For the record, I'm going to avoid 7-11's for the foreseeable future.

Next up?  That would be Florida (or, as they say in Long Island, "Florider") in November.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Late Summer in Town Decay, Part 3

Early Morning

The good news?  The addition of another pillow + general exhaustion meant that I actually slept reasonably well last night.  The getting up at 6am part isn't all that unusual for me, as all it takes is the slightest mental spark in my head and immediately my thoughts turn into blazing fires of ideas.  That's more of a curse than a blessing, but it is who I am.

In the "something I forgot to mention yesterday" department:  The Weed Fan.  We discovered that the smell of weed coming from other places in the hotel is made worse when the bathroom fan is off.  This was a discovery backed by an actual experiment, mind you, which is a lot more than most anti-vaxers can say.  Apparently, the smoking floor of this hotel (yes, such a thing still exists, at least here) is right above us, and I suspect that the bathroom exhaust fans of said rooms carry the stench into the ventilation system.  With the fan off in our room, the smell enters.  With the fan on, the negative air pressure in our bathroom helps prevents the smell from entering.  To quote Thomas Dolby, "Science!".

For the record, our observations about Atlantic City were predicted earlier in the year:

The punchline, of sorts?  New Jersey apparently has the worst marijuana legalization law in the country.

On a more serious note, as if the above isn't serious enough, I think that this is my/our last trip to Atlantic City.  While both Ms. Rivers and I have enjoyed the nostalgia of coming back to a place that represented a few happy moments in my childhood (the Atlantic City of pre-gambling days) and in hers (coming back from the Dominican Republic and staying in Ventnor as a child), the reality is no amount of memories can mask the general despair we have seen in just a short period of time.  This is not a good place.  To be brutally honest, this was never a good place, but it was an interesting place.  However, there comes a time when "interesting" is easily overwhelmed by despair and that threshold has been crossed in AC circa 2021.

There is a much, much larger tragedy in this place over and above the rambling of some 57-year-old man hungry for the nostalgia of his childhood.  The bigger story here is of a place where, in 1977, hope was dangled in front of a community in the form of State-sanctioned gambling.  The money would be flowing in and would trickle down into every corner of society.  That failed.  Miserably, I will add.  While failing to tacitly admit that mistake, the government continues to poke at the concept like some kid prodding a dead raccoon with a stick, waiting for some magical life to return.  Those pokes have recently included sports betting and legalized marijuana use.  The former doesn't seem like it has helped, and the latter has just made it worse.  It makes one think that this was never actually about creating a better community for an old Jersey Shore town.

The above reminds me of one very basic fact when it comes to legalized gambling:  The only winner is the house.  Not the gambler.  And certainly not the residents of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

On a less contemplative note, today's activities include some time on a boat, some photography, and perhaps dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.  I'm planning on avoiding 7-11's this time around.



It's all fun and games until the dolphins show up.

The highlight of this afternoon was some dolphin-watching.  For the record, taking photographs of fast-moving dolphins from a moving boat isn't the easiest thing in the world.  Nevertheless, it was fun.

(heading out to troll for quahogs)

It was also relaxing to tool about the back-bay of Atlantic City.

The other highlight was dinner at the Hard Rock Casino, which strikes one as being this kind of self-contained city, not all that dissimilar from a really big cruise ship.  We also spent some time after dinner with our typical "let's waste $20 each on the slot machines".

We suck at gambling...especially me.  It literally took about 5 minutes to blow through $40.  Wonder how a company can basically afford to build a self-contained city?  That would be from folks like us.  All well and good, as gambling in a casino is as much a study in sociology as it is anything else.

With dinner, 5 minutes of slot play, and a stroll completed, it's time for the AC2021 trek to come to an end.  I can say, looking back on just our little bit of time here, that it has been interesting.  As I noted this morning, I doubt we will come back.  AC doesn't need us, by the way, and at some point, the novelty of re-treading childhood steps grows old, especially among the clouds of ever-present second-hand marijuana smoke.  

One of the things we were wondering about was how COVID impacted the situation in Atlantic City, especially given it struggling pre-pandemic.  My best analogy?  "Atlantic City now is a bit like a Diabetic AIDS patient who then catches COVID".  

Tomorrow we head back to the real world.  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Late Summer in Town Decay, Part 2

Early Morning

I told Ms. Rivers that, with 1000% honesty, I can count on one hand the number of times I have woken up in the morning and felt completely refreshed from a wonderful night's sleep.  That number hasn't increased after last night.  In fact, saying that I didn't sleep well last night is a bit like saying "the Yugo may have had some quality problems" in a bit of an understatement.  Cultural reference noted directly below.

(I actually love this guy's car reviews, and that's not just because he said nice things about the Toyota C-HR.  Check out his channel if you are into cars.)

Anyway, today promises to be an interesting day, if for no other reason than the fact that I don't think I got more than an hour at a time of uninterrupted sleep.  Maybe that's AC's partial karmic repayment for yesterday's blog posting.  Maybe that's because the hotel bed feels like it was stuffed with recycled plastic soda bottles.  Actually, it's probably because of the quantity and quality of pillows available at the hotel we are staying at this time around.  To that latter point, well, I'll have to work on it.

Speaking of hotels, the last few times I have been in AC, the accommodations have been at one of the casinos or casino-affiliated properties.  This time around we decided to try something different.  This wasn't, by the way, a question of price, but more of just general interest and trying to find somewhere that had decent reviews.  I'm not going to mention any names, but so far it seems like the reviews for this current location may have been written by the hotel management.  

One of the things Ms. Rivers and I wanted to do over the weekend was catch up on some leisure reading.  For her, that entails "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens.  Me?  I have a book about the history of the Ginko tree that I want to finish.  These two choices can tell you a lot about our personalities, namely that Ms. Rivers seeks to escape into a highly-rated literary masterpiece.  Me?  I just want to learn why a tree that existed with the dinosaurs roamed the Earth can be found growing on Mulberry Street in Scranton.

I am going to acquire and plant a Ginko tree.  Mark my words.

On that note, it's time to begin a day of sorts.  



By the time we had gotten back to the hotel this evening, there had been about 16,000 steps logged and my right big toe joint was significantly larger than its left foot compatriot (I have arthritis in my right big toe).  The space in between was interesting.

Point of Interest:  Breakfast.  Ms. Rivers told me after eating breakfast that, as I was consuming my morning feast, a man outside the restaurant (I was sitting with my back to the front window) put out a "joint" on the window sill, placed it in his bag, and headed into our mutual establishment.  

Point of Interest:  Shopping.  After breakfast, we headed over to the Tanger outlets in AC.  It was refreshingly scarce when it came to the shopping population.  Maybe that was because it was 10am.  Maybe that was because there is a pandemic.  Maybe we were just lucky.  Anyway, Ms. Rivers found sunglasses and we found a Bass Pro Shop Store.  That's not so interesting except for the following point...while AC itself is a very diverse community, the inside of the Bass Pro Shop, which had more shoppers than the other stores we visited, looked like a greenhouse full of lilies (as in it was very in Lilly White).  As to why that was the case, well, that may be a bit above my pay grade.  

Point of Interest:  Brigantine.  In the afternoon we headed over to Brigantine, ostensibly to find a gift shop, but ended up instead going to the public beach.  The gift shop was closed you see.  Anyway, we were actually really impressed.  So impressed that, maybe one day, we will go back there for a real vacation.  This trek included Nathan's hotdogs and ice cream for a mid-afternoon meal.

(On the beach, Brigantine NJ)

Point of Interest:  The Boardwalk.  Late afternoon and evening were spent on the Boardwalk, where we marched a few miles, grabbed a bite to eat, and just generally enjoyed the sights and sounds.  Well, "enjoyed" isn't a great descriptive term, as there is some Grade A sad stuff going on in this town.  Between the already many-times-mentioned rampant consumption of marijuana in public, visibly intoxicated folks drinking out of open containers of liquor, and the truly mentally troubled/substance abuse inflicted individuals, I wasn't necessarily well-served by my habit of noticing almost everything.  In many respects, this is truly a sad place.  

Point of Interest:  The 7-11.  No busy day in AC is complete without at least one solicitation.  More specifically, later this evening, Ms. Rivers was looking for a snack, so I dutifully volunteered to march to the local 7-11 to pick up a few supplies.  Was I frightened to go out and walk a few blocks at night?  No.  Being my size, I'm not exactly what someone would call an "easy target".  Anyway, as I was getting ready to leave the store, I noticed what I thought to be a young(er) lady smiling and waving at me from outside.  I did my best to not react.  As I was actually leaving the aforementioned 7-11, she held the door open for me and said in a somewhat sweet voice "Sir, can I kiss you?".  I declined the offer and headed back to the hotel.

It has been a busy day.

More to come tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Late Summer in Town Decay, Part 1

So long ago, wasn't it a dream?  Was it just a dream?

As I have noted here on a few separate occasions in the past, I have a special connection to Atlantic City (New Jersey), as does Ms. Rivers.  See HERE.  We've come here a few times over the years, and this year just happened to be the right time to make the trek back.  In fact, so far this year, this is as close as I have gotten to a vacation.  See switching jobs (but so I digress).  Anyway, we are spending a long weekend here in this place that has seen probably one too many deaths, resurrections, and deaths over the years.

Some might call that last sentence offensive to Atlantic City (AC), a point which I understand.  There is, however, a certain charm to this place, no doubt imbued by memories of a childhood past, at least for me.  I view it now as a kind of anti-matter Disney, but for the gambling sect.  That last analogy might be another reason why I just find AC so fascinating.

Anyway, a few observations over the next few days of the sight, sounds, and smells of AC are in order.

I'll tackle that last point first.  Smell.  Specifically, the smell of marijuana, which seems to attack the nostrils here on frequent occasions...a point made all the more relevant by the fact that, as I write this, I've also actually been here for a bit over 3 hours.   Now personally I don't really care for or about marijuana, which is something I have noted a few times over the years.  While the argument can be (successfully) made that it (weed) isn't worse than booze, a simple fact remains:  I don't have to smell someone's booze as I walk by them.  By way of back-story, see THIS article.  As other States march towards inevitable decriminalization, I think this is something of a forgotten issue.  Granted that my sense of smell is probably my best functioning of the normal 5 (it sure as heck isn't sight...), but someone with half a functioning nose could detect the not-so-fragrant order of burning weed.  

Am I over-reacting?  Maybe.  But just as it's someone's choice to indulge in this particular drug, it should be my choice not to be exposed to it in public.  Old man rant concluded.

As for the rest of the long weekend, we have no fixed plans, other than walking, eating, and, in my case, photography.  AC is a fascinating place to take pictures.  Its old beach town bones are still showing in places, complimented and often replaced by the gaudy nature of the modern-day casino business.  Oh, and it has an ocean.  As I said, fascinating.

On that note, more to come.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month in the United States, and while I don't typically promote causes in this corner of the Internet, I'll make an exception in this case.

It's very, very hard to describe what it's like when someone close to you either attempts or succeeds in taking their own life.  In fact, I would say "hard" isn't a good enough word, but I'm at a loss to come up with anything more potent at the moment.  It is something that bites you to your very core, something that stays with you for the rest of your life.  It's also something that forces you to ponder questions that simply can't be answered, including "...could I have prevented this?".

There's also what happens afterward, in the days, weeks, months, and years that pass.  This is the notion that the burden of those feelings we carry as survivors, while ever so terrible, pales in comparison to how our loved one was feeling when they made their decision to end a life.  I can not imagine that level of pain.  All I am personally left with is this hole in my life that simply can not be filled, and the possible idea that there is some kind of after-life where all of this will be reconciled.

That last phrase ("...some kind of after-life..."), above, is a tough one for me to write and even tougher for me to put any faith into, as "the next world" is a bit above my philosophical paygrade.  Faith, it seems, is an easy concept to define, but a very difficult one to practice sometimes.  Especially when one is left with many "why did this have to happen in the first place" kinds of questions.

I can't really write much more on this topic without talking about some details that are best left off of the Internet.  That's a sign that it's time to stop.  Stopping a posting though is a heck of a lot easier than stopping grief (which can not be stopped...only...maybe...reconciled in some fashion; see above).  So, what I'll leave in terms of commentary is this:  Please take your own mental health, and that of your family and loved ones, seriously.

Additional information on suicide prevention can be found at:

Sunday, September 5, 2021

We Were Just Never Well Trained

(Brace's Orchard, Dallas, PA)

Towards the end of my second year of college, as I was trying to figure out just what I wanted to do with my life, one of my engineering instructors attempted to provide his students with some helpful life guidance.  This was in the form of a short, written piece that talked about how the educational system "taught people how to pick apples".  That's about 80% of what I remember.  The other 20% was something along the lines of how education fails to teach us what is actually important, i.e., why we should pick apples and why apples are good for us.  

I wish I would have read that piece, but at the time, it just didn't leave that much of an impression on me.  I think that proved the point the article was trying to make, by the way.  Ironically though, as I grew older, I began to appreciate Professor Joe Burinsky's attempt at enlightening his students.

I was thinking about that point this past week as I was talking and listening to stories about how many of us were programmed with this directive in mind.  It was important to pick more apples than anyone else.  If you weren't the chief apple-picker then you were doing something wrong.  Those last two points make a lot of sense if you are the person that owns the apple trees to be picked.  For the apple pickers themselves?  Not so much.  Now at first blush, this is a bit of a stretch of the original idea behind what I thought was the whole apple-picking narrative, as that had to do with education.  After I thought about it some more though, it really is the same thing.

Our education system, it seems, is basically just designed to create good apple pickers.

Now we do need apple-pickers, both figuratively and in reality.  But we are painfully poor when it comes to equipping individuals to deal with the truly weighty aspects of life.  I'm not suggesting that formal education is the solution to teaching young people how to deal with real-life questions of substance, but I am suggesting that it at least needs to make an effort.

Yes, by the way, some teachers, such as my oldest daughter Katrina (proud father moment), do teach more than just the formal curriculum (i.e., apple-picking).  But that comes from her desire to expose her students to things they aren't going to experience otherwise.  Shakespeare isn't normally resident in Brooklyn, except of course if you are in her English class.

Where is the effort though systemically to teach young adults how to make good personal relationship decisions?  Where is the effort to teach real financial literacy?  Where is the effort to teach them about what working in the real world is all about, specifically the importance of cultivating and having working relationships?

Again, at the risk of repeating myself, I know that these things are not owned by the formal educational system.  Much of this belongs to parents, other family members, and friends.  But the older I get, the more convinced I become that what we learn in school is to compete...for grades, for attention, for lots of things.  Good for the tree owners who need apples picked.  Bad for the people picking apples who are ultimately just executing some pre-loaded mental code.

I'll also note that some of us (myself included) were not really taught any of these non-apple picking skills as kids.  It was just expected that I would work hard and get good grades (i.e., learn how to pick apples well).  What I do know outside of apple-picking has been acquired in adulthood through a lot of trials and errors.  At age 57 that continues.

Bringing the conversation back to finish this post, I was talking to a former co-worker earlier this week.  We shared our two stories of life in the corporate apple-picking world, of working hard and trying to do our best, but ultimately being the victims of apple tree owners.  Sometimes picking apples well just isn't good enough.  That's a good lesson to learn by the way. although it would help to learn a bit earlier.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Cat Chases Tail (& related career thoughts)

I've been spending a lot of time over the past few months just trying to re-orient my professional life.  That's not a bad thing, by the's just a reality.  That reality is I spent nearly 28 years working for one organization, and then 4.5 years working for 5 organizations.  Needless to say, when change happens to me, well, it really happens.  Granted that, as noted over the past few years, 4 of those changes happened to me; only one was initiated by me.  It has been, in a word, chaotic.  

For those keeping score over the last 4.5 years:

  • Organization 1 was bought by organization 2.
  • Organization 2 laid off almost everyone on my team, including myself (and my Director, who had worked for that same company for more than 20 years).
  • Organization 3 laid me off as a result of COVID.  In all fairness, it was a business necessity, and while getting laid off always stinks, there is some consolation found in the fact that this was an event outside of anyone's control.
  • Organization 4 just wasn't a good fit for me.  I wish them well.
  • Organization 5 is where I find myself now.

With that in mind, here I am now, almost 4 months into my current gig.  Now every morning before I start my workday, I spend a few minutes pouring my thoughts out into a personal blog of sorts.  Maybe one day that stuff will see the light of day.  

Anyway, one of the things I've had to mentally settle on and musing over is the fact that I really do want this to be my last stop.  As in the end.  As in my primary goal is to simply get paid a reasonable amount of money for the work I do (and I am) and not work for a bunch of jerks (which I am not).  No promotions, no self-promotion, no rat-racing, no ego.  To that last point, it's a bit trickier than it sounds.  Like most blue-blooded American folks, I have been conditioned to believe that, in our working lives, we are either climbing up or we are pathetic losers.  With my current situation, as already explained, I have to come to terms with the whole "pathetic losers" thing.  Or, as I have explained to my boss, I have resigned myself to "shutting off my ambition gene".

Yet there is more to this whole mental mess.

Why is ambition even an issue here?  Ambition for what?  To find some sort of validation that I am smart or hardworking or talented?  This brings me to my cat Oren.

(Oren and Rambo)

Oren loves to chase his tail.  He REALLY LOVES chasing his tail.  He must think it is some other thing that he needs to capture.  To acquire.  In reality, he doesn't need to acquire it...he already has it.  He just doesn't realize that fact.

And here I am now.  Maybe I've been chasing something that, at this point, I already have.  Maybe I don't need the validation that I am smart or hardworking or talented.  Maybe chasing a "career tail" makes about as much sense as what Oren does.  In all fairness to Oren though, at least he has fun with his chase.

Finally, adding another dimension to all of this is the fact that Ms. Rivers and I think we'll be ready to retire in 6 to 7 years.  That will put both of us 2-3 years away from the magic age of 65, but we have a plan.  We're good at that sort of thing.

The above noted, Oren needs some attention.  

Monday, July 5, 2021

Of Cats and Cars

It’s pretty much an established fact at this point that I’m only writing this stuff once a month.  Not that I want to make this a posting about postings, which bores even me to tears.

Anyway, summer is in full swing, as is life in general.  As I write this, we have a new addition to the family, the former Gaston (now re-named Oren).

I hadn’t planned on getting a new cat after JeanLuc passed away, but Ms. Rivers and Robby wanted to, and questions about “getting a cat” are, for me, about as easy as “hey, want to go for ice cream?” to answer.  A few things about Oren:

  • It literally took weeks to come up with his name.  Weeks.
  • Speaking of names, his full name is, in theory, “Oren Bruce Albert Carroll Rivers”.
  • He has enough energy to power a Tesla for a round trip to/from Philadelphia.
  • Among his cute traits, he sometimes growls like a dog, in addition to making an assortment of chortles.

He also absolutely adores Ms. Rivers. 

While I still do miss JeanLuc, it is nice to have a new cat in the house.  His housemate, Rambo, has been very patient with him, for the record.

Another addition will be arriving tomorrow, in the form of another car.  With my younger stepson getting ready for the quasi-adulting world after high school, I have gifted him my 2008 Nissan Altima.  As I told Ms. Rivers, I think having a car post-high school is important.  It speaks to the freedom to go places and the need to act responsibly when getting there.  It also teaches an important lesson about how things in the real world (such as the freedom to drive places) always come with some costs (be it gasoline, insurance, etc.).  I’ve had the Altima since 2017, and outside of assorted occasional leaks and wear/tear items, such as tires, it has served us well.  Given its age, the mileage isn’t too bad (less than 100k), and it is very well equipped.  I hope Robby continues to enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

By way of additional background, I bought a brand-new Chevy Silverado back in 2016, which I thoroughly enjoy driving.  It’s not very good on gas though, hence the need for the Altima back in2017.  There’s also the fact that I pretty much want to keep the Silverado forever, so driving it less than more is a goal.  Anyway, since I will be working in an office with some regularity for the foreseeable future, it makes sense (in other words, I’ve created a justification that probably only exists in my head) for me to look for another vehicle.  That process has been ongoing but concluding tomorrow when I become the owner of a 2018 Toyota C-HR.  As they say in the television news business (or used to say…) “film at 11”.

Now me being me, I literally analyzed the crap out of the car selection process, including the creation of a car analysis spreadsheet in Excel.  I had criteria and data, but as is the case with buying a vehicle for me, there is also a kind of “X factor/gut instinct” thing going on.  In this case, while the C-HR was on my potential list (good gas mileage, a hatchback, not AWD…which I don’t need because of the Silverado…etc.), what sold me was the fact that it just doesn’t look ordinary.  Not that I am all that interested in calling attention to myself, driving or otherwise, but all of us spend a fair amount of time in our vehicles, so why not at least have that reflective of something that looks good?

This is, for the record, probably the worst environment ever for buying a car (or a house for that matter).  Never being one for good timing, it is more important to get this purchase over with now than put it off any further.  The alternative is my continuing to ruminate over this even more.  Given the choice between probably overpaying or needlessly renting out space in my head, well, I chose the former.

On that note, the yard beckons and grass must be cut.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021


It’s been a while, but the time between my last posting and this one has been fruitful.  I’ll grant the fact that “fruitful” isn’t a great word in this context, but I’m going to go with it at least for the time being.  Anyway, the fruitful part comes as a result of a kind of personal and professional reset (hence the post title).  There has been a lot to reset by the way. 

At work, well, now I am doing something that I think I do well, and I’m working with good people.  In many ways, it feels as if a kind of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  So much of what we are taught by society at large is that we need to always be moving ahead…getting a better job (where “better” means more money and more responsibility) …earning that high title…having more stuff.  Yet that’s not where I find myself now.  In fact, by some accounts, I have moved behind.  I actually had that high title I had once dreamed about, and lots of responsibility, with people constantly coming to me for answers.  Now?  Not so much.  And I am better off.

I know, I can probably quote some learned sage about ego and stuff like that, but to what end?  For me, well, this is much more personal and practical.  Personal in the sense that, having gotten the position I had wanted, I realized that it made me miserable.  I could do the work, but I wasn’t happy doing the work.  And quite frankly, many of the people I was working with weren’t happy doing their work either.  I reported to someone I like and respect, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the inordinate amount of space the job took in my head.  In a very real sense, that job was becoming who I was; even when I was not physically there I was almost always mentally there.  This was not good.  On the practical end of things, the pandemic amplified just about the worst of everything.

We all can take for granted that, as the Good Book says*, there is a time and season for everything.  For me, well at least in hindsight, there have been times when it was important to be hyper-focused on work and “getting ahead”.  Yet, even during those times, there was this little voice in the back of my head saying, “Hey you, no matter what happens, you’ve already come a long way for a kid from a housing project”.  Most of the time though I just got very good at ignoring that little voice.

Fast forward to now and I’m hoping this has all been, as Hunter S. Thompson noted…

"No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”

The idea of “forced consciousness expansion” is pretty darn brilliant.  We all have that in our lives, well at least if we take the time to reflect that is.  Anyway, my life over the past year has absolutely been an exercise in this forced consciousness expansion.  I can see now that I have needed events to unfold the way they have, as some things in our lives simply don’t just work on a purely academic level…they must be experienced to be learned.  Chief among those lessons for me:  What we do for a living can’t be so over-sized that it actually begins to take over the whole “living” part.  It all sounds so very simple in retrospect, but yet almost bruising in real-time.

From here, well, where?  For the moment, I’m just trying to step back and learn what I can about what’s been happening with me over the past year.  I’m also taking the time to do something I think I am pretty good at, namely thinking about my longer-term future.  That’s one of the drawbacks for me, by the way, when current events end up renting out too much space in my head…I just go into this survival mode, and I basically stop thinking about five years from now or even tomorrow for that matter.  It’s a kind of Eckart Tolle thing gone to the extreme, where the frenetic nature of the present moment becomes over-powering.  While I have no illusions about living a stress-free life (professional or otherwise) now and going forward, I at least feel as if I now have some breathing space.

Speaking of the future, the way I see things, I’m going to work for at least another 5 years.  Maybe a bit longer if I am enjoying what I am doing at the time.  From there, well, it will be time to be part-time at something or other.  Maybe I can just pet cats at a shelter.  Regardless, I can now see that happening, and the older I get, the faster times seems to flow, so five years could very well be the blink of an eye.

All of the above is cautioned on the fact that I am utterly horrible at predicting things.  In actuality who the heck knows where I will be tomorrow, let alone in my 60’s.  This, by the way, is all the more reason why it’s a good thing that my life feels like it has a bit more balanced now.  None of us gets do-overs in life, and none of us gets out of life alive.  What we need to do is to make the best of what we are given, and maybe get smarter as we get older.  If every once in a while that requires some forced consciousness expansion, well, so be it…we just need to hang on until the ride is over.

(*) This...

Sunday, May 9, 2021


I can't think of a better way to title this posting, so I am going with the above-mentioned "Adjustments".  It has the benefit of at least being factually correct, which makes up for it being on the boring side.  Anyway, there are a lot of adjustments to talk about these days.

I miss my cat.  I know, that may sound odd coming from a 57-year-old male, but it's simply true.  I think about him often.  In a lot of ways, he is one of the reasons why I am here today typing this posting.  Had he not come into my life when he did, I know my life from November 2010 until now would have been different.  Granted, I am not talking about currently living in a utopia, but compared to what my life could be like, well, I am in a relatively good place.  Jean-Luc gets some of that credit.  He was unfailingly loyal to me and always attentive.  As I mentioned in my last posting, he knew me and knew when I needed him.  With him gone, well, the world seems just a tiny bit less friendly.

I've also made a job and ultimately career change.  The names will be changed to protect the innocent, but I've taken stock of a few things and made the conscious decision that at this stage in my life, it's time to prioritize my physical and mental health.  This means a bit less work stress, although I absolutely recognize that most of that stuff comes more from inside me than anywhere else.  If anything, my hope is that I'll be able to work on that internal stuff more in the months and years to come.  My professional life has admittedly been on something of a rollercoaster since 2016, and it feels like I should be consciously trying to do more of what I truly enjoy along with paying less attention to my inner dialogue that insists on measuring success against others, etc.  I know, that sounds very new-age, but it's the best I can do under the circumstances.  Who knows, I may decide in a bit that I want more of that kind of pressure in my life, but for now, and for as far as I can see, the right thing to do is more of what I enjoy and less of what I don't.  

Finally, I am adjusting to working from home now.  I've never been the biggest fan of that, but the reality of working life in 2021 is that for many of us, it's here to stay.  To make that more palatable for me, I'm almost done re-configuring my office so that I have a dedicated desk just for work.  This now means that my small home office has two dual monitor set-ups and probably draws as much power as Shamokin (Pennsylvania), but so be it.  My hope is that I can view the work desk as just workplace and my work time.  

In the end, it's all about the adjustments.

Looking forward, there is some work for me to do.  For starters, work just needs to be an emotionally smaller part of my life.  Put another way, I desperately need to separate "me the person" from "me the working professional".  If I can do that, and I am hopeful, maybe there will be room for other things that bring me some amount of happiness.  I also have to think about the fact that I honestly don't have a decade more of full-time professional work in me.  At some point, maybe in my early 60's, I am going to make the decision that it's time to have a full-time job of simply being me (also known as retiring).  The next few years need to be a part of that transition.  

Lastly, on the work front, I could absolutely be making a horrible mistake now.  There is a part of me that is always in competition.  The problem with that though is the fact that the very nature of competition implies that there are "winners" and "losers".  When it comes to a constant competition against a notion of what I should be doing and where I should be in my career, well, I don't think there can ever be a winner.  As so well noted in that classic piece of cinematic vision (War Games)...

Saturday, April 17, 2021

"My Work Here Is Done"

In late October 2010, I was in the process of separating and ultimately getting a divorce.  Part of that involved moving into an apartment living on my own for the first time in 23 years.  Saying that was a difficult time is an understatement par excellence.  Fortunately, I have smart and compassionate children, one of whom (my oldest) told me that I needed to get a cat to keep me company.  After some thinking about it, I basically decided "why not", so around Thanksgiving 2010 a trek was made to an area shopping mall where we met a friend of my daughter who just happened to have two available kittens.  Once we were there, the two kittens in a cat carrier were presented to me.  They were identical, except for the fact that one was a bit more active than the other.  I picked the less active one.  

From that point forward I would never have to be alone again.  

Fast forward to April 13, 2021, and that kitten became a constant companion for me.  He would say hello to me in the morning, enjoy getting his morning meal, and greet me at the door when I arrived home from work. He was equal parts stubborn and playful.  He had a knack for knowing when I needed company and when I just wanted to be alone.  For whatever reason, he just seemed to like me.

It was on this past Tuesday (April 13th) that Jean-Luc passed away.  The official reason, as given by the veterinarian, was multiple blood clots that impacted his back legs, and lungs.  I'd describe in better detail just what happened, but honestly, it's just too painful.  Over the past 20 years, I lost my father, my mother, and my brother Chris.  All of those were difficult in their own way, and in particular, there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about Chris.  However, at no time did I shed a single tear at any of their passings.  Was I sad?  Yes, and in the case of Chris, well, the circumstances of his passing were such that there were other emotions at play as well.  In the case of Jean-Luc though I unabashedly balled my eyes out when the time came to say goodbye.  Granted that I am normally too tightly wrapped for such demonstrations of a lack of control, but at that moment I simply couldn't hold back anymore.  

As I sit here over the course of a few days writing this posting, I've come to the conclusion that there is a certain sense of a cycle being completed in Jean-Luc's passing.  When he became my companion back in 2010 my life was anything but settled.  However, the moment he became my roommate is the moment that things started to get better for me.  Fast forward to April of 2021 and my life is anything but unsettled; in fact, his passing happens to coincide with what I think will be my final job change before I end up retiring.  While I miss Jean-Luc tremendously, it is as if his work here on Earth was finally done and it was time for him to move on.  Perhaps he will be reincarnated into another kitten that will come into someone else's life at just the right time.

There have been a few interesting things about Jean-Luc that are worthy of sharing, so in the spirit of celebrating this life, here goes.

The (Official) Name
As my oldest daughter and I were driving over to pick him up, we talked about names for my soon-to-be companion.  My suggestions included "Bill" (it would be cool to have "Bill the Cat") and Fek'lhr (pronounced "Fek-Lar"; read more HERE).  Fortunately, she was a bit more level-headed about things, and the final two choices came down to "Spock" or "Jean-Luc".  The latter prevailed.

The (Unofficial) Names
These included Spud*, Spudster, Buddy, JLA (Jean-Luc Albert), Friend, Special Friend, Good Boy, Handsome Boy, and Potatoe.  That last name was christened by my stepsons as a kind of derivative of Spud.  
(*) When he was little he was just a little Spud.

The (Good) Behavior
In his younger days, Jean-Luc enjoyed playing fetch.  Seriously, I would throw some small object and he would chase after it, find it, and bring it back to me.  We could do this for about a half-hour before he (or was that me?) became bored with it.

Jean-Luc loved my mother.  In fact, there were really only two people whose lap he would willingly sit on, mine and my mother's.  To this very day, I am not exactly sure why.

Jean-Luc knew instinctively when I wasn't feeling well.  All I had to do is lay down and he would appear, take station less than a foot away from my head, and keep me company.

The (Maybe Not So Good) Behavior
A few years ago in the morning, Ms. Rivers and I were doing something upstairs and needed Jean-Luc to get off of our bed, where he was napping.  We coaxed and asked, to no avail.  Just as we started to take more direct measures, he got up, stared right at us, squatted, took a crap on our bed (again, looking right at us), and then just leisurely left.  Point made I guess.

There was also an incident involving a bowl of lettuce around Christmas time, the story of which is legendary with my stepson Robby.

There were times when he just wanted my attention, mostly when I was head's down doing something that, at the time, I thought was important.  His solution?  He would come up to me and take a small nip at me.  As in nowhere near what he could have done, just enough to say "Hey Bozo, I'm down here!".  He would also just randomly swat my leg if I was walking by, looking at me as if saying "Yeah, I did what!".

The Indifferent
Jean-Luc was a water cat.  He loved getting "drippies" from the bathtub spigot.  He would lap up drips and wipe the water over his head as if he were taking a shower.

I could go on, and to be honest, in my head over the past few days I already have, time and time again.

In the end, thoughts about the after-life and things like that are a bit above my paygrade.  Ms. Rivers tells me that I'll see Jean-Luc again in the next life.  That's a nice thought.  Right now, well, I just miss the hell out of the little guy.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

That Changes in the Yard

I love yard work.  This means I also love Spring.

Part of this springs (pun intended) from having grown up in a housing project where I learned to associate planting flowers, etc., as being a sign of affluence.  A bigger part though is more deeply ingrained in the machinery running inside my head.  More specifically, most of the time my mind is like Times Square in New York City, pre-pandemic:  Things going in all different directions, lots of flashing lights vying for attention, and so very much noise.  It is, in a word, tiring.  While I can physically relax (and probably do so too much these days), actually mentally relaxing is far more difficult.

That changes in the yard.

The grass needs to be my mind focuses on getting out the mower, making sure it has gas, cleaning it off a bit, and actually cutting the grass.  The grass was too high before I cut it, and now it is just right.  I've spent effort and gotten a result.

Time to trim the trees...the dwarf plum in the front needs a bit of shaping, so I break out the tools and get to work.  It looks really nice afterward.  Making sure that the old maple in the back is free from dead branches that might fall onto the garage.  Time to get out the pole saw.

I could go on with about four more examples, but they all revolve around the same story, namely that for whatever combination of reasons, being outside and working in the yard gives me the ability to (figuratively & temporarily) move from Times Square to a quiet meadow.  There's a certain clarity to the yard that I don't get at, for example, work...the goals are easy to understand, there are no ulterior motives and the results are easy to see.  There's also certain predictability to the yard; for example, the lilac's bloom in late April/early May.

This is not just about immediate gratification by the way.  In the yard this year I am hoping for two fully blooming honeysuckle plants (which I spent countless hours on last year planting, trimming, and fertilizing).  I also have plans to remove a rather ratty-looking ground cover plant in the front, but the replacement is still under consideration.   Maybe put in a light pole and clematis?

I'm sure this kind of thing is not unique to me, and perhaps we all need times and places where we can be free from the noise.  Mine just happens to be the yard.  For others, maybe it's sailing.