The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

I never thought the day would come when I would look forward to a shot. Hold on – let me clarify that. I never thought the day would come when I would look forward to an injection. Shots? Many were the times during the working years when a string of time sucking, worthless meetings would have me looking forward to a healthy shot of Maker’s Mark at day’s end – and I didn’t wait four weeks for a second shot.      Continue reading

Today, for only the second time that I can remember I watched a Presidential Inauguration. That wasn’t necessarily by design. This is the first inauguration held since I went into retirement. The other inauguration that I watched was in 2008, the inauguration of Barack Obama, America’s first Black president. I was working that day but the historical moment compelled us all to pause. The office was silent as the staff gazed up at the television and that seminal moment.

There’s a recipe for a Presidential Inauguration. It’s a few parts hope; a few parts pride; a large measure of tradition and there’s always a dash of doubt. When it’s all done it’s topped with an icing of celebration; balls, parades, fireworks, speeches and patriotic pomp and ceremony. A lot of that icing was left out of today’s inauguration. A once in a century pandemic had already forced a change in the formula before the violence and insecurity of recent days forced the nation to leave off a lot of the icing. But just as we jerryrig the cake that turns out lopsided or dry and cracked, we work around the difficulty and continue with the business and the tradition of our Democracy.

Over the past two days I’ve experienced something that I haven’t known in four years – optimism. It started yesterday with a ceremony to honor those lost due to the pandemic. Even before taking office, on the day before their swearing in, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris delivered to the nation something it has not seen in four years. In a short, touching and heartfelt ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool the President and Vice President elect honored the 400,000 lives that have been lost in one short and paradoxically interminable year.

We’ve been gutting out four years of a president for the few. Yesterday Joe Biden took the first step in becoming a president for all Americans. Sadly his presidency for all, started with being the man for the departed; those who the outgoing president hardly bothered to acknowledge or mourn.

This nation has passed through four years of a presidency that’s lacked the grace, humanity, compassion and depth of feeling that Americans and people around the world rightfully expect from the President of the United States.

The words of Vice President Elect Kamala Harris echoed in the chill evening air, the cold reality of the past year in which the citizens have almost literally had to go it alone, abandoned by a leader who cared more about his reelection bid and subsequent loss than for the nation in his charge.
“We gather tonight, a nation in mourning, to pay tribute to the lives we lost,” said Ms. Harris. “For many months, we have grieved by ourselves.” She ended with a statement of unity, “Tonight we grieve together.”

President Elect Biden, a man who has known loss and who’s character of compassion has been formed by personal grief, followed with a few brief words, most poignantly, “It’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here.”
At the conclusion of his remarks 400 lights, each representing 1000 departed Americans, were illuminated along the length of the pool.

I didn’t see the ceremony as it happened. I was on the way to a doctor’s appointment and I listened on the radio. When I heard the words of Kamala Harris, I was overcome by a wave of emotion; sadness and yes, anger. “What a waste,” I said to myself. My anger quickly gave way to cautious hope. On that cold evening I could feel a whisper of warmth in the nation’s capitol.

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For starters, let’s not jump to the conclusion that the title implies I’m giving stuff away. As Milton Friedman liked to say, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a price.

The “free” in the title of this piece refers to “free-flowing;” you know, random thoughts, aimless, catch as catch can, spitballing. Remnants that never made it into posts.

And just as the old “free lunch” saying goes this post, like all posts by all bloggers, carries with it a price; your time. I hope it’s well spent. This post is an experiment of sorts.  If Fabulous Friday Free Stuff falls flat (say that 3 times) then this will be a collectors item as the first and last edition.

Getting a poke
A week from today I’ll be getting my first COVID vaccination. California just expanded the eligibility for that coveted nectar to those 65 and over. You see, there is some advantage to getting older, though I’d gladly trade age for a lower spot on the injection hierarchy.
I managed to get my appointment in relatively easy fashion. A friend of mine texted me that he was at the dog park with his dog Jessi. The dog park is our semi-regular meeting place, where we get a chance to chat, tell tall tales and discuss the issues of the day.  And while I have a dog I go to the DP without Lexi, who’s been put on a lifetime ban, by me, from going to the park.
Lexi was a regular at the DP until she got into the habit of sniffing out a spot where she would stop, drop and roll; turning herself into a glob of hair, mud, brambles and brush (and on one occasion – poop). It takes a good hour or more to brush all that crap out of a long haired dog. The only exception to her DP ban is on days when she’s going to get a bath. Below: Portrait of a dog park criminal.

Nothing like a comfortable shoe

When I arrived at the DP yesterday, my friend was on hold with Kaiser (our HMO). He’d been on hold for an hour and a half, listening to a loop of elevator music, Kaiser PSAs and a repeated warning, accentuating the obvious, of “longer than usual hold time.”
He finally got through to a real person. After setting up his own appointment he passed his phone over to me. Got my appointment with zero hold time.
I don’t know whether I’m getting the Moderna shot or the Pfizer. Does anyone out there know which shot has the Bill Gates microchip and which one has the George Soros microchip? And as a follow-up is 5G required for the chips to be activated? Asking for a friend.

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Now what indeed. The January 6th uprising was quelled but America has forever still before it. Where to? How do we get there?

In my previous posts about that dark day (one written as events were unfolding) I declared that I was never afraid for American democracy, as fragile as that democracy now seems after four years of taking a bruising. I’ve no real fear about the future of American democracy. The bruises will heal, maybe not today, not tomorrow and maybe not for months or years to come. The healing depends on a lot of salve; salve applied by the better part of America; Joe Biden, Congress, lawmakers from both parties, state, local and federal governments, law enforcement, the media and that part of the America that isn’t irretrievably lost in a rabbit hole.

But I am afraid. My immediate fear is over the final days of the Trump Administration and the inauguration. An FBI bulletin has been issued warning of armed protests, possible uprisings and threats to lawmakers, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Continue reading

I’d originally planned to post this after a final edit on January 6th. The events of that day compelled me to focus on a more pressing topic (see posts January 6th 2021. Insurrection in America  and Cut by the Knife of Corruption. )

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
― Edith Lovejoy Pierce

New Year’s Day 2021. In “normal” times I’d start the year off with a morning glimpse of the Rose Parade in Pasadena. After getting my fill of bands, floats and hackneyed commentary delivered by “B” list celebs, desperate for a gig, any gig, I’d move to football where I would stay through the day and into the evening.

In this house I’m the first one to see the light of the new year. In this house I’m the first one to see the light every day of every year. I’m the early riser; the morning coffee brewer, furnace starter and dog feeder. I like being the first one up; being able to get a quiet, solitary jump on the day. I recognize sleep as necessary but it’s almost an evil one.  Sleep is a subject of debate in this house.
“I love to sleep,” says Cora.
“It’s nice,” I respond, “but it’s a waste of time.”

Years ago, when we hosted New Years Eve parties, being the early riser lost some of its appeal when the New Years Day groggies descended at about halftime of the Rose Bowl Game.  Those New Year’s Eve parties ran into the early morning hours with a few of those affairs greeting the early flickering of dawn. What seems like a good idea in the wee hours loses some of its shine with the onset of a woozy daze.

With the coming of older age, wisdom and, well, turning into dull people, Cora and I rarely stay up until midnight. That doesn’t mean that we don’t greet the new year. At the stroke of midnight we’re usually awakened by the booming of the illegal fireworks.
“Ugh. Dumbasses better not set the dry grass on the hill on fire.”
“Happy New Year dear”
“Yeah, happy New Year dear. Go back to sleep.”

This year we watched Wonder Woman 84, a film that our son tried to warn us away from. Our daughter chimed in,
“Everyone says it’s no good.” Even though she hasn’t seen it.
Cora does that same “Everyone says…,” thing.
Donald Trump also does it, (“Everyone tells me I’m the best president since Lincoln, maybe better.”) which is as good a reason as any to avoid “Everyone says…”

WW84 isn’t a bad movie. It’s action packed, angst free entertainment. I don’t watch a superhero movie with the same expectations as I would American History X or Fences or Selma.  Sometimes you just go into a movie with the intention of being entertained without being left despondent over world affairs or depressed by the state of the human condition. Wonder Woman took us to 11, an hour before the end of an ironically forgettable and yet unforgettable year. Cora went straight to bed and I read for a short while before going to bed. At midnight the illegal fireworks went off.
“Ugh. Dumbasses better not set the dry grass on the hill on fire.”
“Happy New Year dear.”
“Yeah, happy New Year dear. Go back to sleep.”    Continue reading

Mumblypeg ~ A playground game where boys stand with their feet shoulder width apart whilst throwing a pocket knife point down between their own feet. The boy who gets closest wins. Getting the knife in your foot is an automatic win.

It’s over, but it’s not. It won’t take days or weeks or months for the final speck of dust from the insurrection attempt of January 6th, 2021 to settle. Years at the very least.

I posted a piece that day; a post overflowing with the anger that consumed me as I watched events unfold. There were moments of sadness. There were moments when tears welled up. There was concern for those who were inside and under siege. What I never felt was fear that the insurrection would succeed. I was certain that in the end the mob would fail.

That January 6th post was filled with so much rage that I considered just trashing it and writing a post at a later time when I could present something in more measured tones. In the end I published my fury, albeit somewhat toned down. This site is my own story, a journal of sorts and it only seemed appropriate to publish a post that honestly reflected my feelings on one of America’s darkest days.

Today, January 9th, the fear that I didn’t feel three days ago is starting to percolate. I’m finding myself in a dark cold shadow of foreboding as details of what happened on that day of infamy become clearer with reports of five dead and many others injured. Apparently the mayhem that characterized January 6th may not be over as threats of what might come on inauguration day are being revealed.

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I was ready to publish a light post to start the New Year. An attempted coup in America has compelled a more serious post.

Today started out as a civics lesson; both houses of Congress convene and officially count the Electoral College ballots, a ceremonial final act in America’s drawn out electoral play. In normal times a simple governmental ritual. But we all know how that normalcy thing has played out lately.

Just as the civics lesson on ceremony was beginning, the votes of only Alabama and Alaska having been counted and those of Arizona challenged, the lesson on ceremony turned to one on insurrection.

The Capital of the United States of America was stormed by Trump supporters, protesting the outcome of an election that was held over two months ago, upheld by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice and sixty times in various courts.

By the time this post is read, the events of the day will be well known so there’s no point in a review here.

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“A year like no other.” That term became overdone sometime around April and now we find ourselves at the 2020 finish line. What a slog.  They say that you hit the wall in a marathon at around mile 21 of the 26. If 2020 was a marathon, and it certainly seems that it was, we started hitting the wall somewhere around mile 5. We’re finally about finished.

My last piece was an overly long review of the COVID year.  It wasn’t exactly a positive piece.  This post is a look back on the year through my camera lens. Seemed like an easy thing when I first hatched the idea but I’ve been puzzling over how to approach it. I was going to start with month by month but a review of images revealed that some months were less than inspiring. Okay then – by subject? By season? Favorites? Monochrome v. color? I guess I’ll settle on haphazard.

Some of the photos have already been published, while others are making their debut.

San Francisco, just a short drive away, is one of my favorite places.  As I started browsing month by month a simple image of a cable car touched my heart. There’s nothing really special about this image except that it reminds me of The City in good times.

A cable car blurs up Powell St.

“For the birds” idiom. Worthless, not to be taken seriously, no good.

To say that 2020 was “for the birds,” is an understatement. In honor of a “for the birds” 2020 we present three images.

Here in Hercules we have a small pond that’s home to ducks and egrets.  Is this duck looking at something in the water, contemplating it’s feet or just nodding off?   

Why is it that egrets always look angry?  Maybe this one was just upset with 2020.   

While visiting Morro Bay in October, Cora and I visited a wetland. As soon as we hit the trail we came upon a tree that was filled with vultures.  This vulture looks both stodgy and foreboding.  But isn’t that what vultures are supposed to look like?   

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Some holiday traditions are forever. Take for instance, the big blue recycle bin; it’s overflowing with cardboard and there’s a pile of cardboard that won’t be binned until the trashman comes and empties the bin. There’s one prime rib bone left in the fridge, the tree is molting and is no longer being watered and nobody has bothered to light the Christmas village for the past few nights. All traditional signals that Christmas is behind us.

The waning holidays are taking me back a year. It’s a pleasant journey. The families gathered for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; hugs, kisses, handshakes, shared potluck, children huddled over new toys. It’s an unpleasant journey; the sad realization that one bad year feels like decades. It’s almost hard to recall what those pre-COVID days were like. We talk about those days with nostalgia, almost like the characters in those movies that take place in a post war dystopia, “Remember how pleasant the holidays were before the nuclear war?”

It’s happening again this year just like every year about this time; that scornful look back at the outgoing year. It’s time to blame the calendar or a Gregorian number for what we perceived as twelve months of woe, comforting ourselves with the idea that a new calendar, a new number will bring on better days to come. Are we never satisfied? Are we always looking for the great panacea that we believe resides in twelve new sheets of paper?
“Let’s not get that classic car calendar this year, it brought us bad luck. Let’s try puppies or national parks.”
If we’d known a year ago what we were in for we’d have settled for a replay of 2019. Most of us, about 99%, are justified in throwing 2020 on the scrap heap of shattered years. The other 1%? They seem to always get by don’t they? And maddeningly enough they’re getting by better than usual.

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In our house we recycle and that includes Christmas bags and Christmas wrap and in that spirit (and laziness) some of the anecdotes in this piece are recycled from previous years.

It’s upon us once again. The season of gifts, of Santa, of menorahs, stockings, twinkling lights and a blogosphere decorated with memoirs of holidays past and present. The thought briefly crossed my mind to do a piece about all of the things that we can’t or aren’t supposed to do because of this year’s “C” word. But to what end? Accentuate the obvious? Never mind. For this piece I’ve said all I’m going to say about Christmas in 2020.

I was in the local Ace Hardware store yesterday looking for some holiday essentials; firewood, plenty of Scotch tape, gift tags and a pair of pliers. The pliers have nothing to do with holidays. I just wanted a small, cheap pair to remove pin bones from fish fillets.

I prefer the Ace store to Home Depot. You can get lost in both but not in the same way. At Home Depot you literally get lost just looking for a box of nails, wandering aimlessly, vanished within the canyons of towering racks. At Ace you get lost in the browsing, absorbed in the plethora of gadgets, gizmos and gimmicks.

I have a particular fondness for those old timey hardware stores because they’re fun to walk through and because I used to work in one. And I wore one of the familiar hardware store red vests; the standard uniform of the old school hardware employee (the currently popular term for employee is “associate,” a term that I resist using. “He was an ‘associate’ of the John Gotti crime family.” See?).

Retail work at Fox Hardware was one of my first jobs after graduating college. That’s what you do isn’t it? Go to college for four or more years and then set your skills aside to be a barista or to work retail. While that job paid a pittance, my years at that little hardware store in San Francisco were probably the most enjoyable of my working life and the Christmas memories some of the warmest. And so the gadgets, gizmos and gimmicks and the red vests at Ace, took me back to those Fox Hardware days and the days leading to Christmas.

Arthur was the store manager at Fox. He was a busy little man who flitted around the 2 ½ levels of the store (main floor, basement and mezzanine), making certain that everything was just so. Arthur also took charge of the window dressing, and whatever he might have lacked in management skills, and he was a decent, fair man, he more than made up for with his mastery at setting up a window display (Arthur could sometimes be very blunt. When Cora and I were dating he saw us walking to work together one morning. “Are you two sleeping together?” he asked. It’s always been my contention by the way that sleeping, per se, is never the issue as its something of a benign activity.). Arthur’s Christmas displays were warm and enchanting, complete with a small electric train. You knew Christmas was coming when Arthur climbed into the window with his boxes of lights, decorations and holiday magic. Like children excited over dad getting the Christmas lights out from storage, the thrill of the coming holidays spread throughout the store when Arthur did up the holiday window. Continue reading

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