After A Reunion (Of Sorts)

Best travel buddy Marcia and I are home this afternoon after a five-day trip to visit with family en masse for the first time in nearly two years. We drove up to Las Vegas to see Katelin and John, with a stop to hike down to Hoover Dam on the way. We got to celebrate John’s birthday with a lovely dinner, the first one the four of us have eaten out together in a long, long time, it seemed. (All of us have been fully vaccinated, though we’re still doing our part with masks and distancing and such, it should go without saying). Then we flew on to Boise, Idaho, where my niece, Emmeline, was graduating from Boise State University, having finished her B.S. in Health Sciences there. Great jorb, Emme!

My sister (Paige), her husband (Dana), their son (Charlie), his girlfriend (Kristen), and my mother (The Notorious G.R.Z.) were also in town for the festivities. Dana’s brother (Ward), and his wife (Nova), and daughter (Lucy) live in Boise, as does Emmeline’s boyfriend (Asher), adding to the extended family fun. Ward, Nova and Lucy hosted us for a couple of nights of backyard delights, and we’re most grateful for their wonderful hospitality. Also most grateful for Lucy’s OMG BEST COOKIES EVAR!!!111!!1!!1, which she baked and generously shared with us. I’d have kept them to myself had I made them. She’s a peach. Likewise Nova, who had a rough surgery on Friday but still hostessed us the mostest in their lovely Boise home. Sending healing hugs and thanks her way.

We had the chance to visit Ward at Duft Watterson, his exceptional design and advertising agency, which was simply awash with various “Best in Show” awards for their truly unique and exciting work. As those who read me regularly know, I am a design and typeface and marketing snob, but what I saw of what they did and where/how they did it was just brilliant, an assessment borne out by the portfolio shared on their website. You need design, you call Ward and his team. Chop chop. The Duft Watterson office is in the heart of The Basque Block, so we got to have some awesome grub while we were hanging out in their ‘hood. We also paid a visit to The Basque Museum, which was very well curated and interpreted for such a small cultural/educational attraction. I recommend that site as well, heartily.

This trip was the first time we got to meet Asher and Kristen and they were great company. Emmeline and Charlie done good on the partners front. It worked out wonderfully to get to see my Mom for the first time since August 2019 and share Mother’s Day with her, and then to fly back via Vegas again, so Katelin and Marcia could have their special brunch together this morning. (I got to tag along). We drove back home via a slightly different route and did a hike from Laughlin, Nevada up to the Davis Dam. Lots of hydro infrastructure this trip. Marcia and I also got to do some fine couples hikes in Boise, where the wildflowers were in full force, making the lovely countryside even more beautiful. Good company, good times.

A fine trip, all things considered. And now it feels fine to be back home. I’ve posted an album of the adventure over at Flickr, as I normally do. You can click on either the photo of me at the 3-D exhibition at the Basque Museum (Paige took that one), or The Notorious G.R.Z. in full festive flight (not sure who snapped that one!) to see the rest of the collection.

The Night Has 10,000 Words (Sedona #7)

(Note: We’re headed up to Idaho this week to visit with my extended family for the first time in two years, and to see my niece graduate from Boise State University. I might have some snaps from that trip when I return, but until then, here’s some more local color from our Northern Arizona homeland, including a day-trip up to the Flagstaff area).

(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

10,000 Words From The Exit Wound (Sedona #6)

What Are 10,000 Words For? (Sedona #5)

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

10,000 Words From The Exit Wound (Sedona #6)

(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

What Are 10,000 Words For? (Sedona #5)

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

A Quick Trip: Northeastern Arizona

Marcia and I decided to do a little road trip this weekend, to tease ourselves a bit about the prospects of some semblance of post-COVID normality returning at some point in the year ahead. We drove up to the Northeastern part of Arizona, making stops at Meteor Crater, Homolovi State Park, and Petrified Forest National Park.

We spent a night in Winslow, Arizona (just a couple of blocks from that famous corner upon which one stands, hoping for a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford) at the lovely and historic La Posada, and had dinner in their Turquoise Room, which was wonderful. They’re taking health precautions seriously there, still, for which we are grateful. It was the first meal we have eaten indoors in a restaurant in 13 months, as best we can recall. Well-spaced tables, staff in masks, temperature checks before admission reduced the anxiety reactions to acceptable levels, and we enjoyed being reminded about why dining out can be a nice thing. Well, except for when the asshole at the table behind us decided he needed to have a shouted business conversation into his cell phone while awaiting his entree. Hell is other people, still, I guess. But not all of them, thankfully.

We came back over the mountains and enjoyed the cool pine forests at high elevations. From the summit near Payson to the point where we got back on the highway in Camp Verde, there was a 23 degree temperature differential, which we experienced in less than a 30 minute drive. We also experienced radically different geologies and biomes over the course of fairly limited drive, all things relative and considered. Arizona continues to blow my mind at the breadth of natural experiences one can have here. And we’ve still not made it to the southwestern part of the state, so we have lots more to see, and expect it to look different from anything we’ve seen to date, which has been par for the course on any trip we’ve taken here.

We’re sketching out other travel plans for later in the summer, and will report on them here, as always. I snapped away this weekend, per usual, so if you’d like to see some views, click on the image of the Blue Mesa Badlands below, deep in the heart of the Petrified Forest Park. It’s an incredible place!

What Are 10,000 Words For? (Sedona #5)

(Note: Click on any image for full-size view)

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

Anno Virum: One Year On

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.

By September 2020, this seemed like a perfectly normal and reasonable look for an out-and-about experience. We adapt, we surely do.