(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)
PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:
(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)
PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:
In which I, once again, share a list of 15 things in various categories that have delivered me pleasure and joy in recent weeks. Here’s hoping some of them might do it for you, too. I hope you will share your own recommendations in the comment section if there are things that you think I might need to see, hear, watch, eat, read, or do!
(A Displeased Note on Films: I have also watched Oscar favorites Nomadland and Mank since my last report here. I generally quite like Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand and their various projects, but in this case, I am decidedly not pleased that their most-recent films are leading in the buzz for this year’s weird Academy Awards season. They both reek of “Hollywood Loves Films About Hollywood” and/or “Hollywood Loves Method Stunts” to me, and I am not a fan of either of those tropes and they ways that they manifest in modern film-making).
(A Displeased Note on Books: I do most of my reading on a Kindle, which I love and hate in equal measure for various essay-worthy reasons, and which means I don’t have much exposure to book cover art when I read things. As I searched for imagery for these three great new books, I was utterly appalled to discover that I could not get high resolution digital versions of their covers without having to share hard-printed “book club” bullshit with you, dear readers. Honestly: Had I been shopping for these books in a traditional brick and mortar shop, I never would have picked up Infinite Country due to its “Reese” logo, and I would have presumed that Klara and the Sun was dumb fluff because of its “GMA” logo, and probably would have skipped that one too. What a terrible trend in modern publishing, ugh!)
(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)
PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:
A year ago today, Marcia and I were fleeing the Iowa cold and staying in a rental tiny house in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida. The weather was nice, the tiny house was quaint and charming, and it all looked like this, had you been peeking in on us (click the image of our cottage for the photo album of the trip):
In pretty much any year other than 2020, my blog posts for March 14 would have noted this as a nice vacation, and maybe would have detailed some of our hikes, or explorations, or adventures. But March 14, 2020 was not a normal day on a normal trip in a normal year, so what I actually wrote about one year ago today was a bit different from my usual trip reports, and you can read (or re-read) it here if you’re interested: Florida Man (And Woman).
That was the first day that I wrote at any length on this blog about the COVID pandemic and the ways that it was impacting our lives. During a walk a couple of days ago, Marcia noted that she had recently read a New York Times article in which readers were asked when they realized that COVID was for real, and was going to change their lives, perhaps for a long, long time. If I had to answer that question, I’d certainly refer back to that Tampa Bay trip, and if there was one specific moment for me when my brain went “Whoaaaaaaa . . . . dude . . . . braj . . . . WTF, yo???” about the exploding pandemic, it would have been when the NCAA cancelled the “March Madness” Men’s Basketball Tournament, which happened while we were in Florida. Sports and money are kings in American culture, and the loss of one of the greatest annual events in our national sports economy truly hammered home that this was, no shit, for reals, massive, and scary, and bad. (Yeah, I know, that’s probably a shallow answer, but it’s honest).
Marcia’s answer to the question of “When did you know this was going to be bad?” was a bit different than mine, and took place a few days later. By the time we had to fly back from Tampa to Des Moines, things had clearly taken a turn for the worse, and maybe for the worst. When we boarded and were seating on our flight home, a woman sat down directly in front of us, wearing a mask (which most people were not doing), but just absolutely hacking and heaving and snorting and wheezing and oozing and spewing to beat the band, the whole way home. If she had the virus, then there was no doubt in our minds that we now did, too. So we got home, unpacked, and I masked up and headed off to the grocery store to get a couple of weeks worth of provisions, completely at odds with our normal “go to the store every day, get what you need right now” approach to shopping. I got home, we unpacked my (many bags), and we went into a two-week period of hard quarantine, which was difficult and sad, since Katelin and John lived in the next building over, and we knew we could not, should not, would not see them, until we had some sense that we and they were not actively contagious.
Of all the places in which Marcia and I have shared our home in our 35-ish years together, I would honestly say that our apartment in Des Moines, Iowa, in March 2020 was, without question, the worst possible place we could have lived when things were going to hell in a hand-basket with regard to a global pandemic. The city’s response and the state’s response were beyond terrible (and, for the most part, have remained so for the past year), and we were surrounded with mostly younger folks who on some plane seemed to embrace the “Boomer Remover” view of COVID, and refused to wear masks, and refused to give people space, and refused to stop congregating in our apartment complex’s common spaces. We older folk just had to skulk about and try to avoid and ignore them and their selfish and entitled behavior patterns.
Given that background, simple tasks like taking the trash down to the dumpster each night began to feel like exercises in risk management. It was always hard to make it from our safe haven to the trash bins or the mail boxes or the rental office, and then quickly back home, without encountering some blithering idiot(s) prancing down our hallways, unmasked, oblivious to any responsibility for protecting themselves, or us, in such a communal living situation. No surprise that we had multiple outbreaks in our apartment building, and in Katelin and John’s next-door apartment building in the weeks and months ahead, as Iowa’s leaders did their very damnedest to top the national charts in terms of per capita infections and deaths. I guess the State government should be thankful on some plane that the Dakotas were even more obscene in their disregard for the lives and health of their citizens, so Iowa never managed to get higher than third place on any of the “We Are The Most Irresponsible State in the Nation” metrics and rubrics. But even that bronze award status felt awful when we were living in the middle of it, and that sense of governance irresponsibility played a direct role in our decisions to leave Iowa, and our emotional responses (Very Happy!) when we drove out of it for the last time. Ugh.
And, then, here we are, one year on. More than half-a-million of our fellow citizens are dead, and 30 million country-folks have been confirmed to have been sickened by the virus, with outcomes ranging from the moderate and mild to the catastrophic and life-altering. Tens of millions of other have certainly been sickened, in many cases with likely long-term ramifications, even if they never managed to make it to a doctor’s office or pharmacy to get an actual test result.
Some large portion of those infections and deaths must objectively be attributed to inept and science-denying policy and practice by the prior Presidential administration and State governments which aligned themselves with said idiocy, that lunatic cabal somehow managing to make basic protective steps (e.g. mask-wearing) into Culture War battlegrounds where libs could be pwned, which is what really matters in the end game, right? (A: No. And if you thought “Yes” when presented with that question, then you might need to find another website to read. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out).
It’s been nice(r) over the past couple of months to have a Federal administration that acknowledges fact-based analysis, and values human life and dignity above grift and profiteering and idiot media sensationalism. Marcia and I are hopeful that we will be able to get our vaccines in the next month or so, and that with that step completed, we can finally, gently, slowly, hopefully begin to look toward the “After Times,” when we can shop, and travel, and live without constant fear of infection when we’re in public places. We certainly count ourselves as fortunate in how the past year has impacted us and our families, primarily because we’ve not lost anybody close, even though we’ve had several family members sickened by the virus. That’s getting off easy, and we know it. We grieve for those who were not so lucky. And we truly thank those who have put themselves in harm’s way over the past year to keep so many of us alive, if not exactly safe or healthy.
I’m not quite sure when Post Anno Virum will begin, but I look forward to it, both selfishly and selflessly. It’s been a long year. And a strange and sad one. I don’t think that the “new normal” will ever quite look and feel like the “old normal” did, but I’m ready to experience it, however it manifests, sooner rather than later.
We’re back home after a lovely 30-60 Day trip to visit Katelin and John in Las Vegas. We had wonderful meals and companionship with them, and also did several truly incredible hikes, all of them in parts of the country that are magnificent in their raw and unforgiving austerity. I snapped away, as I do, and have put my favorite images from the trip into another of my online photo albums. You can click on the photo of John, Katelin and Marcia near the Fire Wave formation in Valley of Fire to see the complete album. Snaps are from the Bill Williams Trail (Williams, Arizona, which featured unexpected snow), the Arizona Hot Springs area (near Hoover Dam), various trails in the Red Rocks Park near Las Vegas, Valley of Fire, and Death Valley (including the legendary/infamous Zabriskie Point). Lots of walking, lots of incredible views, lots of weird and extreme geology, often radically different over the course of a quarter-mile’s progress up a given trail. A great trip, at bottom line. Glad to have done it, and then glad to be home, as always.
I took this photo at Bethesda Naval Hospital on March 8, 1991:
That would be our daughter, Katelin, very soon after her birth. And that also would be my wife, Marcia, who was celebrating her own 30th birthday on the day that our family duo became a family trio. As a husband and a dad, that certainly made birthday planning easy for me in the years to come after that photo was taken. Even if it took a little extra effort to make sure that both of them were made to feel personally and particularly special on their shared magical day.
Marcia and Katelin’s dual birthday has always made it an extended holiday of sorts around our house, worthy of celebrations that have often gone well beyond the natal day itself. And, any personal biases set aside, I’m all in favor of their birthday being declared a National Holiday, as it is in many countries around the world. Marcia wrote about the legitimate reasons for that on her own website, here. (Short summary: They were born on International Women’s Day). It’s more than fitting that two of the most formidable women in my life celebrate their entries into this our mortal coil on the very same day that much of the globe acknowledges the achievements, accomplishments and arduous ongoing efforts of women to advance their own causes, the causes of their global sistren, and the well-being of the communities in which they live, play, love and work. Just perfect, on so many fronts!
Tomorrow, March 8, 2021, is their birthday again, of course, but it’s a special one that we’ve been tracking for some time, calling it “30-60 Day.” Katelin will be 30, the exact same age as Marcia when she brought Katelin into the world, while Marcia will be 60. As of that day, the total time that Marcia’s life has included Katelin will be greater than the total time that Marcia’s life did not include Katelin. A benchmark and landmark day, for everyone involved. Even me!
Many years, Marcia and Katelin have done a “Girl Power” trip together in March, just the two of them. As it turns out, that’s pretty much how we ended up living in the Sedona area, as the two of them did a yoga and spa vacation there several years ago, and loved it, and then Marcia and I went, and it was just as good for the two of us. The two birthday ladies had originally been thinking about going to Hawaii for 30-60 Day, but our Anno Virum put the kibbosh on that. So Marcia and I are visiting Katelin and her wonderful partner, John, in Las Vegas this weekend, and tomorrow morning, we will be driving over for a day’s adventure to Death Valley, California. Yeah, that’s sort of a strange and ironic destination as we celebrate a day of birth, but it’s also sort of counter-intuitive and wild, and that works in our family. Embracing our inner weirdos comes naturally for us, together or on our own.
I snapped this photo of Marcia and Katelin yesterday, at Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas:
Both of them are really, really good at smiling. I notice that, because I’m not good at that basic decent human response to external stimulus, being more prone to cheesy half grins than anything visually representing true joy and happiness in any given moment. Which isn’t to say that I don’t experience that joy and happiness, as I certainly do. I’m just not built to communicate it as well as the two of them do. Marcia and Katelin seize their days with gusto and grins, on their own, or as a team, and they enjoy doing so, and it makes the lives of everyone around them better, me most especially. Few things make me as happy as seeing those smiles together. Even if all that I can muster is a shy and crooked smile in awed appreciation of them.
I’m sure I’ll get a nice photo or three of Marcia and Katelin tomorrow on the actual 30-60 Day Trip to one of our continent’s most inhospitable destinations, and those will show up here at some point in the days ahead as part of my usual travelogue report. But I’ll be in the moment and not online when those snaps happen, so I wanted to get a quick post up today to explain how I will be spending my Monday this week, truly happy, truly blessed, truly awe-struck at the ways in which fortune has smiled upon me to have Marcia and Katelin in my life. I love them dearly. They mean the world to me. I’m proud of all they are, and all they have achieved. They make a difference.
So here’s looking forward to what the next 30 years will bring our way. I don’t know if this website (or any website) will exist in 2051, but if it does, I guarantee you I will be sharing a 60-90 Day Celebration Post on March 8 of that year, if I’m able to do so!