Gosh Numbers

I believe the term “gosh numbers” was made up by Frederik Pohl in his novel “Beyond The Blue Horizon,” although I could be wrong. It was a reference to numerical symmetry, I guess, like -40 degrees being the same on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. Numbers that made you say, “gosh,” if that’s the sort of thing you say.

It doesn’t matter. I took the phrase, kept it, stripped it of any mathematical usefulness and use it now for funny coincidences that involve numbers.

Like: This year, my daughter is the same age that I was when she was born. In fact, in the first week of May she will be exactly the same age.

I just now realized that it was in May of the year she was born that we realized she was coming, too, and even though with some minor research I could pinpoint the exact day (it was Mother’s Day 1984, easy) I think that’s too goshy for me, too much stretching of an arbitrary calendar. It would feel like astrology.

Mostly I think we should have fun terms for little number reunions like this. I would think the energy released from the birth of a baby must be immense in some psychic way, and maybe I’ll think of it as bouncing around until it returns like a boomerang with range. This is an Echo Year for a parent, something. See? Just messing around.

And we realized yesterday, all three of us here in this household (John only tolerated this), that we have another coinky-dink.

Statistics are full of gosh numbers, if you don’t mind closing one eye. We’ve all heard the statistic, for example, that half of all marriages end in divorce, which sounds like a convenient path to risk assessment and falls apart when you take a moment. I also have a certain statistical risk of being struck by lightning today; that risk is actually zero, though. There will be no lightning anywhere I am, I guaran-freaking-tee it.

But before I get over my head here in talking about things I know nothing about, I’ll add that people who got married in the early to mid-1980s have, for some reason, a much, much lower divorce rate than the statistical average. Again, this is irrelevant in the real world of actual human beings, but anecdotally? I believe it. I know lots of people who got married then and are still married now. Go figure.

My wife and I met in the late spring of 1982, when we were both old enough to know better, to have some sense of risk and odds, and still we did what people do, which is fall in love and stay that way. It took us six months to get there, although for half of that time we only wandered on the periphery of each other’s life. That will happen to people, too.

I was almost 24 and she was a couple of months into being 27, which I only note because it feels like a tweak I can get away with; if you look at us standing next to each other, you would probably assume the reverse and then some. She remains youthful and I remain in awe of this.

By the time February 27 rolled around, we were solidly into couplehood. On her 28th birthday, I gave her a pair of cowboy boots, and then we drove through snowy mountains to spend the afternoon with my parents. My mom baked her a cake. This is all in the history books; you can look it up. A familiar story.

It snowed most of the day here yesterday, light snow that caused nobody problems, just nice to watch, but it reminded us of that February in northern Arizona. We reminisced a little and that’s when we said gosh. More or less.

It’s been 28 years since my wife’s 28th birthday. A birthday we remember well, apparently, since we bored our son with the details until he left the room. Details are what we have left, wrong or not, fuzzy or clear. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, I remember.

Another echo, then, returning from long ago and, as it turns out, sort of far away. I’m pretty sure we weren’t imagining the Pacific Northwest back then, but it was early.

And I could be wrong, but I wonder now if that was the last birthday she could just celebrate in leisure. It seems every February 27th since 1983 she’s been busy, in rehearsals or in class or teaching or working, something. Today she gives a sermon, a couple of private lessons, and a performance. I mean. I just goof off on my birthdays, but we are different people.

We are, too. And if you think 28 years are full of bliss and babies, well. Maybe you haven’t been married, or married that long, or married to just one person.

The snow is lingering but not falling. Tomorrow we head south for a quick trip to see my daughter and her husband sing. Who knows what we’ll do the day after that. I have no clue about life, just lightning, and that just sometimes.

But I’m all about echoes today. We both hear it, we both smile at it, we both remember, we should.

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It’s 21 degrees F., which is cold, not brisk. Colder than where you are, but not you. And why should you care about the weather where I live? My feelings exactly.

This was a bitter cold spell, by which I mean there was a lot of bitterness on the part of people who wanted a big snowfall and didn’t get it (some did, and I assume they’re bitter free). We got less than an inch, although the potential apparently still remains. Snow is rare enough around here that it never loses its wonder for some people, which includes me, and is a magnet for local TV and other media, who obnoxiously hype any possibility with nightmare scenarios, old videos of runs on Costco, advice to build fallout shelters, etc. Really silly stuff, another reason not to watch TV.

It is a good reason to make soup, though, which I did last night, creamy garlic potato soup, which was devoured, and now we’re all roly-poly this Saturday and not bitter in the least.

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In The Tall Grass

I was once told, by a woman who knew what she was talking about, that probably the worst situation for an addict was to be self employed. For obvious reasons, I’d think.

Also obvious, maybe giving them a TV show and lots of money is also not such a good situation.

I have absolutely zero interest in Charlie Sheen or his career, although I can’t help reading about it (Ken Levine, a former TV writer and current baseball announcer — soon to resume with the Mariners — takes on Sheen in this post, comparing him with O.J. Simpson somehow. I’ll leave that sort of thing to the TV people).

I’d just contrast this with Robert Downey, Jr., someone who’s also had his issues with substances, although his situation always struck me as sad more than anything else. He didn’t seem particularly threatening or abusive, but then I have a lot of affection and admiration for Downey, so maybe don’t pay attention to me. I’ve gladly watched really dumb movies just to get an RDJ fix.

And of course he seems to have gotten some control of his life, although who knows? I wish him well, anyway. I wish Sheen well too, I guess. Again, can’t say that I spend any time thinking about it, except to note that fame and wealth surely have a downside, which I guess we all know anyway.

I also know nothing about his TV show, which seems to have been a success and apparently has some sort of fraction in the title. I don’t really know much about TV, probably less than you do. In fact, I can list my expertise quickly:

The Office
Parks & Recreation
30 Rock
Men Of A Certain Age
Breaking Bad
Mad Men

I think that’s it. I know those shows, because I watch them, mostly online these days, and in the case of the last three for brief spurts during the year, given the nature of cable programming. Which I like, actually. Give me a little immersion, then let me move on.

And then there’s this.

I’ve expressed my admiration for “Weeds” enough, including in this column from last fall. It’s even more of a truncated watching experience than those cable shows up there, since it’s on Showtime. Once a year, then, I get all antsy for the latest season to be released on disc or VOD, then I marathon my way through, sometimes in a day (very short seasons, about 12 or so 30-minute episodes; it’s like watching two LOTR movies in the same day. Which I’ve also done).

I just completed season #6 this week. I was not disappointed. It remains the best thing I’ve ever seen on television, which is just what it is. Again, I don’t see a lot.

And I recommend it sometimes and sometimes I don’t. It’s gotten progressively darker (given that it’s a comedy) and borderline violent as the Botwins never escape chaos and sometimes don’t try. What started out as a series about a suburban widow, trying to make ends meet by selling bags of marijuana to other surburbanites in their boring cookie-cutter neighborhood, became an example of consequences: Make some questionable choices, keep making them, and they add up to stuff.

Which may be why the show appeals to me so much, ultimately. It has great writing, amazing actors, lots of funny moments, and characters who mostly are likable if incredibly flawed. But I’ve lived long enough and in such a way to understand that even innocent-appearing decisions can develop their own arcs. Somebody’s going to emergency, somebody’s going to jail.

My mom would dislike this show; my wife probably would, too. I know a couple of people who lost their taste for it in season #4. Others feel the same way I do, although maybe for different reasons.

My choices never go away. I don’t obsess over them, regret them, ignore them or think about them all that much, but they never go away, and sometimes it’s just good to be reminded of that. Eventually they all come home. Eventually it’s show time.

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Weather Or Not

The list of things I will never be interested in is much longer than the other one, although I guess we should never say never. Still.

I won’t ever be a Comic-Con person, even though my interests sometimes overlap with those people. I have no interest in going hunting, although I definitely see the attraction and I’m more than happy to consume meat. Once in a blue moon (although it’s been years) I might buy one lottery ticket, but gambling has no attraction and raises a lot of red flags for me anyway. Let’s stay away from behaviors that other people discover compulsions in, OK? OK.

I’ve pretty much lost interest in all sports as a spectator except for baseball and the occasional track and field event I might wander across, and even those I’m much less passionate about than I was. Golf? Uh, no. Bowling looks like a good excuse for an injury.

And even though I like my bright and shiny stuff, and I’m always attracted to electronics, the field is much too wide to describe a particular interest (for over 30 years I’ve been sort of irritated at clumping in this; one of my first jobs was doing clerical work on a primitive network, and still people said I “worked with computers.” Well yes. I also worked with electricity; made about as much sense).

Some things are easier to understand than others, even if I know I’ll never go there. I can appreciate that some people love to mess around with cars. I totally get woodworking, although I’d probably be terrible at it. Home improvement sounds like a good idea, but then so does broccoli.

And there seems to be a fascination on the part of some people with weather. I get this too. Weather affects us all, and I understand the passion with the science and the tinkering. Someone who builds or buys a home weather station is just another hobbyist, and with a practical hobby, it seems to me.

I’m never going to be that guy, but the potential is there. It involves measurements and machinery and components that sparkle and probably make sounds; I could see it.

Lately I’ve seen more of it, thanks to this site, which I found out about by reading Mark Evanier’s blog, where I find out lots of stuff.

I’ve gone to the Weather Underground site before, but I didn’t know about the Wundermap, where you can drill down into your neighborhood and get real-time radar info. This appeals to a guy who likes to go outside to walk around the neighborhood and has flexible hours; I don’t particularly mind weather, but given a choice I’ll opt to not walk in the rain, so maybe I could use this, I thought.

(the wundermapping of my neighborhood, roughly; the purple stuff is snow)

Since finding out about this, I haven’t been able to put it to much use. I’ve been sick, for one thing, just now starting to feel normal. Also? We haven’t had much weather to worry about.

That’s changed in the past few days, as the threat of some sort of snow event got closer and firmed up. We’ve had a couple of these lately and they’ve never panned out (it’s difficult to get snow up here, even though it’s not exactly rare; things have to be just so and often just are not).

So it’s been fun to watch the radar and wonder what it means, and what it will. Today is the day, apparently, although we had some flakes yesterday. This will not be anything like what other parts of the country have experienced this winter; on the extreme end, we could end up with 8 inches, but right now I’m suspecting less. And that will disappear by next week, and we will move back to normal, and this is fine. I like snow, but I like what we have in general up here.

And if some benefactor were to send me a fancy weather station kit, sure. I’d hook it up and link it with my home network and geek out, probably, but then I have my own weather station, powered by my legs and offset by my hat, and that’s what I’m going to check out today. We need dog food, duty calls, and I’ve had quite enough of the sedentary life, thanks.

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In Search Of Winter

We have here in the Pacific Northwest the most unique weather in the country, not arguably, statistically. We have world-record snowfalls (check out the stats on Crater Lake, OR sometime). We have hurricane-force winds. We have a bizarre topography that creates wind tunnels and a convergence zone north of Seattle that does remarkable things and is centered directly over my house.

We also almost never have thunderstorms.

But all you hear is gray gray rain rain. It’s gray, for sure. It rains more in Atlanta and New York city. But I digress.

In this part of this particular area of the PNW, though, we’ve been relatively unscathed this year while the rest of the country has taken the brunt of bad weather. For a while it was just fascinating, then I just felt sorry for the people I knew and didn’t know back east and in other places, and then I moved into just being grateful that we were spared, as boring as it’s been. Just same same, wet, dry, sunny, cloudy, cold but not too cold and sometimes just like it’s supposed to be here, low of 42 and high of 43.

Our winters are also abbreviated here, with most big storms stopping right about now, late February. Things can happen anytime and sometimes do, but statistically we’re at the tail end of the bad stuff, if bad stuff were to happen, which really it hasn’t. Not really even much flooding this year, weird.

But we’re getting snow this week, something I look forward to now, probably not much but it sounds definite, one more taste of winter before spring, when the grass will start growing like crazy and the pitchers and catchers will be joined by the rest of the team in Arizona and the winds will blow and it will rain until mid-July. I will take a little snow, be grateful about the mildness of it, and at least for me I welcome our new white and fluffy overlords, snow all you want.

(Crater Lake during one of its good weeks, summer 2004)

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What I Did On My Winter Vacation

I played with dough, mostly, and tried not to cough on it. I went looking to just herbify some pizza dough to liven the thing up and by accident happened on a spectacular combination of *redacted*, *redacted*, and minced garlic. So I made a lot of pizza until I got tired of eating it, but everyone oohed.

And that’s about it. I tried to stay busy but mostly stayed still, which didn’t help at all; I still have a hacking cough and a headache, and I think I could have been jogging and it wouldn’t have hurt. My feeling is that I don’t have that many weeks left ahead of me to waste one like this, but here we are. I wrote some soulless copy, watched some movies, played with dough, tried to keep the kitchen fairly clean, and slept.

So now I feel motived to get outside, to hell with the cough, enjoy the sunshine and bundle up. I may actually do that.

And I will send you pizza if you want, just ask.

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Five Months

I posted this elsewhere, but for the record: The surgery was on Sept. 15. This was taken on Wednesday, February 16, at church. So I’m going to say that the tumor lost and the lady won.

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It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (Brief Movie Review)

Part of the reason I say I romanticized the flu was that I could imagine all the possibilities of forced sloth. As compared to three years ago, the last time I was seriously sick, my options were wide and came in high definition.

As it turned out, being sick is annoying and sloth doesn’t seem to be a good fit anymore. Still, I had stuff.

I watched episodes of old TV shows. I read further into Ron Chernow’s latest, George Washington: A Life (at nearly 1000 pages and mostly reading before bed, this one is going to take me a while). And I watched some movies.

Here’s the cliche: If you’re worried that you might be crazy, you’re not. Because crazy people don’t worry about that; they have other things to think about.

This might be useful in certain delusional situations, but my feeling is that it sells crazy people short. Sometimes you know.

And of course I’m using the word “crazy” in a general mental illness way because it’s short and because it’s fun.

In It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, Keir Gilchrist plays Craig, a high-achieving teenager who worries about his state of mind, since he’s starting to think a lot about suicide. He does the smart thing, calls a hotline and pedals his bike to an ER just before dawn, has a bizarre conversation with a guy dressed in scrubs, then gets seen by a physician.

I’m not spoiling anything. This is all in the trailer.

The guy in scrubs is played by Zach Galifianakis, which is why I put this film on my list; I like Zach. He’s funny and smart and interesting to watch. He plays Bobby, another depressive with some serious suicidal ideation.

But Gilchrist is why I liked this movie, mostly, as good as Zach was. He looks like an ordinary teenager, first of all, sort of short and awkward, and feels authentic in his portrayal of a very intelligent kid who’s become overwhelmed with stress and expectations.

There are two things here you have to forgive: One, you apparently can’t have a movie set in a psychiatric ward without the stock colorful characters (you might not actually avoid them in a real psychiatric ward, either). So there are those.

And Craig is put in with adults because the youth ward is being remodeled. Without his interaction with the grown-ups, you have a different film. Without this plot device, you don’t have the interaction. It comes up, gets explained in a sentence, and then you move on if you can. I had no trouble with that. Fair warning, is all.

The reviews I read last fall tended to call this a “sweet” film. And so it is. It’s funny, too. It’s not earth-shattering or great, smallish and it’s over when it’s over, which is pretty quick.

But here’s the thing: In the real world, even a teenager, even a suicidal one, if he’s smart and perceptive enough, can run circles around regular adults in terms of wisdom. I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it. So I got involved in watching Craig make mistakes and take advice, but also hand some out to the other patients, serve as a facilitator and generally brighten the place up while he worked things out.

There are worse things than sweet films. Or maybe it was the flu. Still.

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Nearly Normal

So we have this room. It was my daughter’s bedroom most of her life, then a guest room, and then my son took it over when he decided he wanted to once again have a room of his own (a big change, long story; he tended to sleep everywhere). I remodeled an unused space in the basement into another guest room last fall, and then my son decided he liked that space. Which was fine. Being the busy beaver, I repurposed the former bedroom/guest room/bedroom into a TV room, a place where we could watch a movie together, which is rare enough but hey, possible.

But it still had a bed in it, taking up too much room, so a few days ago I disassembled that for storage, since no guests are on the horizon (I need fair warning here, people). It stayed upstairs, frame, box springs and mattress leaning against walls, looking like a dorm room or a place for the Corleone capos to hole up, until I finally hauled it down to the basement myself.

I don’t actually remember doing this, or barely, since this coincided with the onset of my flu. In fact, when my wife mentioned it yesterday it took me a while to figure out what she was talking about. I guess maybe that being up close and personal with a mattress might have sloughed off some virus into my hardy system, but I’m thinking this was a coincidence.

All of this to point out that timing, sometimes, is everything. It would have been nice to have a separate bed so I didn’t have to toss and turn and cough all night long in the general direction of my lovely wife, who is way too busy to be sick, but there ya go.

There are some indications that timing has been a life-long issue for me, actually, but I’m not going to go there at this moment. I’m just glad this episode was as mild as it was, that so far no one else seems to be sick, that I seem to be mending today, and that if I’m somehow suffering from post-mattress stress disorder affecting my memory, maybe I’m better off. The basement can be a scary place.

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Sick Day

It happened the way it’s supposed to happen. I went out for a walk on Sunday, afterwards felt strangely tired, took a 2-hour nap and woke up with the flu.

Or something that looks suspiciously like the flu, with fever, headache, sore throat and serious respiratory stuff, including a remarkable amount of sneezing and coughing. But maybe a mild flu, not the kind where I can’t move. The kind where I don’t want to.

It’s been three years, too, since this happened last. Maybe you can attribute this to fresh air and exercise, although I think it’s probably just lack of intimate contact with other humans. I rarely have an opportunity to shake hands or lean in, although John can be physical with me and maybe that was it.

I don’t hate the flu, but I do tend to romanticize it the longer I go without suffering. I think of it as an excuse to do nothing, to relax and watch movies and drink hot liquids and wait for nature to take its course.

The truth is that it’s no fun, but then I’m sure you know this. Everything hurts, the cough is painful and relentless, I can’t breathe or sleep or taste or think, and the constant chills have worn out their welcome. This happens, it happened to me, I will survive and move on. As I say, so far it seems to be fairly mild, not those serious fevers and such.

I just wanted to make the note to self here, where maybe I’ll read it next fall, and remember, and maybe get a flu shot. Or maybe I’ll just persuade my son to stop hugging me so much during cold and flu season, but good luck with that.

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