A certain pop star claims that a COVID vaccination caused her cousin’s testicles to swell. Either someone is lying, or my vaccine is is not working.

Family in a moment

It had been a long day. The drive into the city had drained all of us, and even the bear was tired.

The kid spent the afternoon squeezing the last juice out of his summer, thumbs flying across the iPhone as he lay jacked into his virtual life. The spouse stared at the ceiling, comfortably drowsing and wondering whether to trust me with dinner or just do it herself. And I meditated on the balcony in the fading sunlight, awash in the echoing rhythm of the traffic on the boulevard whooshing like blood through the city’s carotid artery, whispering Teslas, whining buses, roaring trucks, and growling Ferraris.

And yet I could not rest. Because as I looked across the vale below to the hillside a mile opposite, the great dignified temples of higher learning at the university set against the brown hills that reflected the setting sun, I thought of Rome. And then I thought of a parched land, in the shadow of the Hindu Kush, whence came legions of men who knew me not yet resented me, hated me for what I was and how I lived.

I felt the wind shift a few degrees from the East. I thought of tyrants, of Taliban, of climate change, of terror, of pestilence, of Anti-semites. I thought of a culture of waste and decadence and Kim Kardashian and Real Housewives and three-truck households and of a tide of anger and hatred that was rising ten thousand times faster an higher than glacier-melt sea levels.

I wasn’t sure if I was having a premonition, or if it was just the fatigue. I looked back at my family and told myself to quiet, to enjoy the moment. The storm is coming, I thought. Cherish the sunlight.

Finished: “The Midnight Library”

I finished Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library over the weekend, just in time for the book club this week. Non-genre fiction is not normally my thing, but this was recommended by a friend, and it turned out to be a bit more piquant for me than, say, a Jonathan Franzen novel might have. Reading it at a turning point in my life a few weeks after retirement landed the story closer to home, as did some personal history.

Without diving into the dreary details, suffice sot say that I once had cause to speak to someone very dear to me about regrets. They wanted no regrets in life. I opined that there was no such thing as a life without regrets, that we make so many choices each day, and that the hardest choices we have to make are not between good and bad options, but between good and good ones. If we cannot avoid regrets, at least we have the power to choose them. What separates those of us who are crippled by what-ifs from those who are not is the possession of a North Star, a guiding light that allows us to discern which choices bring to us the fulfillment we need (which is too often different from what we think we need in the moment.)

Setting The Midnight Library down with that end-of-book exhale, I realized Haig had taken me, via the life of Nora Seed, to the next step: those of us who have come by our regrets honestly, following our souls rather than our lusts or avarice, may find that our regrets are so much bunkum, either artifacts of of self-doubt, shortsightedness, or a bit of both. Whatever their provenance, regrets are little more than deadweight save for their ability to serve as guardrails for the choices we make going forward. If they can guide us on a better path, great. If not, they serve no useful purpose and should be ejected.

I say this as a man in possession of a suitcase of regrets, so I am overdue to take the medicine Haig seems to prescribe. I’ll take a hard pass on Nora’s path, though. I have decided instead to exorcise my demons via poetry, writing a verse paean to each regret, cherishing it, and tattooing its lesson into my soul before casting it to the winds.

Early Morning, BSA Golf Classic

I swore my retirement would not be about golf, but here I am, not four weeks in, on a golf course at 8am Monday morning.

In my defense, I am here for a fundraiser for our local council of the Boy Scouts of America, and I am not playing, just carrying drinks and snacks to the foursomes as they work their way around the course.

I am more of a hiker than a differ, but on a day like this, with the temperature a modest 73F and a light breeze blowing off the Pacific onto the Spanish Hills, I see the appeal of the game.

Nothing like a cup of 14-hour-old tepid coffee to keep you going at night.

A Sweet Day

Phase V does not officially begin until midnight on the 31st, but today marks the start of my terminal PTO, so yesterday was the last day in the office in my career. Slammed right up to the last minute, I hadn’t had much of a chance to reflect on or savor the moment.

Then my son came home after a day at Universal Studios with a box full of pure Portland goodness: a half dozen of Voodoo Doughnuts’ most over-the-top creations.

Pacing myself through a vegan apple fritter, I thought quietly about an amazing if somewhat unconventional career. It was a road sparsely traveled, and that did make the difference. As I stepped off that path and onto another, I paused to pray that this new road would be just as scenic.

B”H

Homey aphorisms and country-fried metaphors seem to roll off my tongue with depressing ease.

Clearly, I’m getting old: I’m channelling my pioneer ancestors.

The Air Over There

IMG_0173

As I sit under a pop-up panting in the summer heat of at the arid but alpine Lockwood Valley, I console myself with the thought that all too many of my summers past have been spent in pressurized aluminum tubes with a view something like the above, hurtling around Asia for work, weathering turbulence, thunderstorms, and tourists.

I will always be grateful to have had those times in my life, but I am just as grateful to have given up planes, taxis, hotels, and and endless parade of conference rooms for this modest view of pine trees, tents, squirrelly Scouts, and gruff Scouters. 

A breeze picks up, blowing tent flaps, kicking up dust, and offering a brief respite from the heat. A jet passes far overhead. I breathe deep, and smile. 

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