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Sunday, July 30, 2023

Reach the Beach

“Don’t waste the time. Time is the final currency, man. Not money, not power - it’s time.”
- David Crosby

I say, with no disrespect to the memory of the late David Crosby, that the whole money/power thing is an interesting sentiment when you have had money and power to begin with.  This noted, he was right, and  the older I get, the more I understand the point.  This is a good way to being today's travel post.

So it's thinking about time that I'm here outside of Ocean City, NJ for an extended weekend mini-vacation.  We spent yesterday on the Ocean City boardwalk in the morning, and then later in the day at Longport and Margate City for the late afternoon/evening.  About 12,500 steps into the day, and it seems like it was a long day.  But yet, in the true spirit of David Crosby, it also seemed to pass by quickly.  And I have been thinking a lot about time lately.  

One of the traits that Ms. Rivers and I share is a tendency towards being planful.  We try to think things through and do what's right for the longer term, the bigger picture if you will.  I think that a point of commonality between our very different upbringings is the fact that neither of us grew up in households where there was a lot of money, which probably play a role in the whole security/planful thing.  Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to retirement planning.  

As I've likely (I am not 100% sure, and I'm too lazy to check...) said before, this is the part of our life when we can see retirement on the horizon.  Not imminent, but not far away either.  The good news is that the whole planful stuff means that we will be financially ready.  So says our financial advisor.  For most folks that would be a relief...and for me it mostly is.  However...and you knew a "however" was coming...I often wonder if I'm ready in other ways.

I will note that physically, I am something of a wreck.  A "hot mess" and the younger folks would say.  While I have a good job that makes use of my skills, it's pretty demanding on my time, and while in years past I could make time for exercise, that hasn't been happening for years now.  Between the extra weight and a very actively lived 58 years behind me, the parts are starting to show some wear.  The point of discernment for me is trying to understand just how much of this just comes with the territory (i.e., something like my arthritic right big toe), and how much of it is actually self-inflicted.  The former I can't do all that much about, but the latter?  I'm feeling some guilt about that part.  The trick, if you want to call it that, is turning a fairly useless feeling like guilt into some concrete actions.  So far, I'm not doing so well.  But I have time...or do I?

One of the reasons why I enjoy the beach, in addition to the childhood memories associate with Atlantic City vacations, is the fact that the ocean is this hunkering big-a$$ed reminder of how large the world truly is, and how small the machinations in my head probably are.  Someone with the gift of brevity would says that it provides perspective.  I personally think it's actually more than that, although I can't come with reasons to exactly say why.  The saltwater smell hitting my nostrils is a kind of gentle reminder to me of a world that surpasses my dismay at physically aging and fears of forgetting, at some point, how to tie my shoes.  

I try to think about things like this from a 95/5 perspective.  This means that if I can take away some deeper sense from this (or other) experiences, even if it's just a small thing, then it's a good thing.  On the other side of the coin, as a wise person I know would say "why can't you just have a good time Steve?".  Maybe that's the 5% this time around.  Suffice to say, the jury is still out in the enlightenment department.

As for Ocean City NJ, well I was here once a long time ago.  In addition to being a typical Jersey beach town, it's simply and impeccably clean.  I also appreciate the whole "no smoking anything" policy that keeps the boardwalk not smelling like much of Atlantic City these days (see THIS posting) i.e., what I image to be the odor of Snoop Dog's limo. 

Today brings a trek to the beach in Brigantine, a spot we enjoyed when we were last in Atlantic City.  There's also this hotdog/ice cream joint we found that calls our names.  Loudly, and robustly, I will add.  I'm hoping to also finish one of the books I brought with me.  Yes, this is what passes for fun.  And this is okay, by the way.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Wet Your Fanny (in the Susquehanny)

Each summer, Ms. Rivers and I do some kind of water trip, either a canoe or kayak(s) down the Susquehanna River.  I readily confess that this is something Ms. Rivers really enjoys, as it evokes memories of prior times.  Me?  I like being on the river and seeing the beauty that it offers.  I don't like getting into or out of a canoe or kayak.  That latter part is mainly due to two factors:

  1. I am admittedly uncoordinated.
  2. Canoes and kayaks are, by design, tippy.  And I am not talking gratuities here.
The above noted, I glad to go, and each year of going presents its own version of an adventure.

(note the ankles)

This year we were on a group trip from Mehoopany to Tunkhannock (PA), which is about an 11 mile water trek.  Our vehicle of choice was a double kayak, with me in the back and Ms. Rivers, as usual, in the front.  This, by the way, seems to be the logical arrangement of these sorts of things.

Before I go any further, a big shout out to Susquehanna Kayak and Canoe Rentals, who we have used for our paddle trips for several years.  They are wonderful folks and highly recommended.

Normally we just take a solo paddle on the river, but this time around we opted for a group trip, where "group" was something like 50-ish people.  What was wonderful about the trip was the age range of participants:  Some were older than us (a nice thought...), some were our age, some were younger.  There was even a very young man (more to come on that...).  We did chat with some of the other participants, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  

This is the inevitable part of the posting where I add some weird element to the trip. To that point, we had three special paddle participants.

First, there was "Old Man Playing Loud Music".  One of the attractive parts of paddling in the Susquehanna are the sounds.  These include paddles in the water.  Birds overhead.  The sound of the water flowing.  The wind through the trees.  Things like that, all of which have a certain calming charm about them.  This year?  We had an old dude playing loud, crappy music from a speaker bungie cord tied to his kayak.  Yes, you got that right.  So we are paddling down the river and see four bald eagles flying over head.  It was a spectacular vison.  What did we hear?  That would be "Old Man Playing Loud Music" insisting that the entire group listen to Foghat (instead of the eagles overhead).  Other notable artists included Charlie Daniels, Journey, Boston and a few others I have tried to blot out of my head.  Had he been a bit younger, I'm sure there would have been some Nickelback thrown into the mix.  We did our best to paddle ahead of "Old Man Playing Loud Music", but every once in a while he would catch up and we would be forced to confront, for example, Separate Ways by Journey.

Second, we had "Standing Man".  This was the guy who had his own special kind of kayak that he could stand in every once in a while.  It was actually kind of interesting watching him.  Think a cross between an older Tom Sawyer and a skinny biker dude.  I want to state for the record that there is no version of Steve Albert in any version of any multi-verse that could ever muster the coordination to do such a thing.  While "Old Man Playing Loud Music" was annoying, "Standing Man" was weirdly kind of inspiring. 

Third we had "Little Man", who apparently was the son of "Standing Man".  "Little Man" was probably 8 or 9 years old and even had his own little version of his father's specialty kayak.  I didn't see "Little Man" actually do the standing thing though.  What did see was "Little Man" getting towed by his father towards the end of the trip, which was cool.  "Little Man" very much reminded me of my late brother Chris when he was that age...both in how he looked and his seemingly boundless energy.  This was nice.

Other than the characters on the river (see above), the two other notable parts of the trip involved how wet we got, courtesy of one too many speeding-boats-n-resulting-wakes and the fact that I badly burned by ankles.  Yes, to that latter point, I took reasonable precautions to prevent sunburn.  Except for my ankles.  One lives and one learns.

There may yet be another paddle this year.  We shall see.