Hepped Up

I’m going to blame it on the coffee. That seems fair, and harmless. There’s enough blame.

For someone who’s spent most of his life in the Coffee Capitol, I was nearly 50 before I developed the habit. Just a taste thing; I grew up drinking gallons of iced tea (Phoenix may be the Iced Tea Capitol, now that I think of it), but it needed to be really sweet. I started using artificial sweetener when I was around 20, for that reason, and I still love sweet tea even if the sweet comes from Splenda.

But coffee seemed just too much. I’m not a big hot drink person anyway, but it turned out that I was spending a lot of evenings in chilly rooms for a couple of hours. A hot drink seemed prudent.

So I had my usual two cups yesterday, tired from a late night that always leaves me wired, and then an Americano (venti) at Starbuck’s when I met some friends for a conversation. I felt like a fully functional human being, then, for a couple of hours, riding the perfect caffeine level until I dropped.

Somewhere around then was when I bought Poser. Ergo the coffee shaming.

Poser is 3D animation software. I’d been seeing half-price ads for a while now, but just idly reading about the product on the website reminded me that I had a coupon code from long ago, somehow still good and applicable to the sale price. So I got a sophisticated piece of software for practically nothing.

The operative word being sophisticated. It’s a whole new level for me, and I’m not sure I’m up for it. I spent a couple of hours messing around, watching tutorials and just exploring. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not sure I can reach enough expertise to pull off what I’m looking for.

This all came from making these videos, which were essentially talking-head moments that I thought were a little visually uninteresting, given that these were personal stories and I had few photos I could slide in there for a break.

So I fooled around and came up with some minor animation that I could pull off using just video editing software, and that’s where the notion came from. I’m fairly comfortable with key frames and the such, essential concepts when computer animating, but let’s be serious: It’s hard to learn new things when you’re an aging dog. It just is. I’m not all that optimistic.

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What I am optimistic about is Texas, where I’m heading in less than three weeks. I see pictures of that boy and I don’t see the toddler anymore; it’s time.

And given the fact that we’ve yet to hit 60 degrees here in 2017, about to set a record for that sort of thing, I expect that I’m going at just about the right time.

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Coming Home

I usually get a flu shot in September or early October, and I’m always pretty pleased with myself. My bouts with influenza have, as far as I recall, always come in the winter, often around Christmas or early January. My immune system has a calendar, maybe.

I’m a little late this year with the flu shot. Soon, I think. I got home on Tuesday night, and this week has been sort of a blur.

And oh yeah. I definitely have the flu.

I really can’t complain, although I’m not beating myself up. A flu shot is an educated guess about prophylaxis, anticipating certain strains but not covering everything, and to be fair, I haven’t been officially diagnosed with influenza. But Julie and John (who did get flu shots) had bad upper respiratory infections, at least, while I was gone, and they sounded miserable.

They were on the mend when I got home, although both still have congestion and coughing, the tail end of whatever. I had two days of busyness, paying bills and going to choir practice and dropping my wife off at the bus and baking bread for a service at school she was presiding over, just busy, and I kept my eye on the lawn. October was the wettest on record up here, and it needed, I thought, one final mow before taking the winter off. Friday looked to be dry.

And Friday I had the flu. Having not been here when the others were sick, I can’t compare but I wasn’t surprised. Coughing, sneezing, congestion, a little achy: I had a cold. I forced myself outside to mow and called it a weekend then, tried to eat a little and then went to bed.

A feverish Friday night led to a feverish Saturday, which is why I’m calling it the flu. Along with the nausea and vomiting, always fun.

I have no complaints, really. Maybe the flu shot would have eased this a bit, maybe not, but I had glorious weather for my entire visit, sunny and low to mid-80s every day. Texans were probably ready for a change in weather but for me, it was a chance to renew my summer card, just a little. If somehow the universe needed to extract some price for my fun, it was worth it.

And sometimes you just get the flu.

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I followed the campaign noise from Texas, although it seemed pretty apparent in August that this was shaping up to be the most stable election for many cycles. Kind of dull, even, if we just look at numbers and ignore the ugliness. I sent in a electoral college guess to a site I like to visit, just for fun; for the record, it was Clinton 312, Trump 226.

This probably won’t be the case, although I doubt it’ll be closer. Turn-out is the key, and usually is.

But something struck me in my fever dreams, something I remember first occurring to me in 1976, when I was 18 and voting for the first time, and now it’s a little more front and center because of the conflicting ideologies and rhetoric. A lot of people out there seem to fear an existential threat to our system of government, mostly coming from the anti-Trump people (on both sides) but a lot from the anti-Hillary side, too.

I see the threat, but, again, I don’t believe the election will go that way (the Trump way; I don’t see an existential threat from Hillary Clinton, obviously).

But what I noticed was the ease in which pretty savvy political watchers, including some journalists I respect tremendously, extrapolate from polling data and rally sizes and other numbers a sense of where the American people are at, and this is very wrong. I knew it at 18 and I know it today.

There are roughly 325 million people living in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of them are eligible to vote. As we know from our past elections, slightly more than half of those eligible will actually cast a vote.

To make it quick and easy, this means that in any given general election, about 65% of Americans don’t vote. This has been the case for the last 60-70 years (as far back as I was interested in looking), more or less. If we call this percentage of the population (PoP), then a solid win for a candidate would be getting over 20% as a PoP. Usually it’s in the teens, and unless turn-out is drastically increased this year, it’ll be the same.

So don’t listen to anyone who says they’re surprised, for example, that 40% of the American public favors Donald Trump. Or that 45% favors Clinton. Nope. The only thing we can say with some confidence is that most Americans don’t care enough to cast a vote.

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Anyway. That’s what floats around my brain when I’m under attack from some virus that I will call the flu. My lawn has been mown, ibuprofen has been consumed, I’m feeling a little better this morning (although stayed home from church, since I still feel as though I’m a walking Petri dish, and not walking all that much), and my ballot sits here, ready to be filled out. We’re totally vote-by-mail in Washington and have been for years, and there are ballot boxes for me to drop it in.

My vote isn’t going to matter in the presidential race, but there are some interesting initiatives and other candidates down ballot. It’s the grownup thing to do, exercising my franchise, at least as far as I’m concerned, and when I sign and seal that ballot it’ll be done for this round. And I can get back to worrying about the Seahawks offensive line, which has its own existential threat to deal with. Game on, I guess.

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Pictures!

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Loved this, Mom with her Scotch in hand while trick-or-treating (she wasn’t alone).
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He was an angler fish, in case you’re wondering.

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If It’s Wednesday…

I have no idea how many debates have occurred over this cycle. Twenty? Twenty-five? More? I could probably look it up.

I watched one primary one, the last between Bernie and Hillary, just to see if my low expectations could be beaten. All I got was a grumpy old guy and a grandma who seemed good with numbers.

I didn’t watch the first two general election ones as much as listen (I had them on but rarely looked at the screen) while I read Twitter reactions, mostly from journalists.

Tonight I have choir practice, which means the debate will start about the time I hit the freeway, and the postmortems will be well into effect by the time I get around to looking at my phone. It’s like getting out of jury duty. I’m mostly relieved.

What I have been watching is football, although it wouldn’t have taken much for me to skip that particular ride this season. Just a so-so home team would have taken the pressure off, and we had plenty of reasons to suspect that would be the case. The offensive line, a weak spot the season before, had been decimated and rebuilt from the bottom up, and we no longer had Beast Mode and so on.

But they’re hanging in there, my Hawks, now 4-1 with a couple of squeakers, a couple of nice wins, and a loss to the Rams, who always seem to be eager to break our hearts. So I’ll watch a little longer, I guess, although it’ll have to be on my phone for the next couple of weeks, if at all.

Saturday morning I fly down to Austin, the beginning of a 10-day stay involving, I can only hope, lots of Bix and Beth time, including my first Halloween in 28 years that I haven’t spent here at this house. It’s an interesting holiday for a diabetic kid (he gets to exchange his candy for prizes), and I’m glad I won’t miss it. Three years old? Halloween can be fun.

And so can football, of course, and even politics, although I’ve mostly taken this one off and in retrospect that looks like a fine idea. A year ago this appeared to be a race that would look exactly as it has, something that’s going to be analyzed to death. And maybe they’ll all be this way from now on, as America looks slightly different and some people are uncomfortable with inevitability.

Me, not so much, and not so much with the politics. More with the singing, and more with the boy, and I’m pretty sure I made the right call all the way around.

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Where We Stand

captureI’m irrationally proud of this graph I made in Excel. I fed the last few months’ worth of poll aggregation from the Princeton Election Consortium, which has been my go-to site for election forecasting since, I think, 2004. Maybe 2008. It’s run by Dr. Sam Wang, professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton; that is, this isn’t his gig. He doesn’t need or particularly care that much about page views, although I’m sure he enjoys the attention. Mostly he’s just a statistics geek, and along with his serious interest in neuroscience and cognition and how people react, etc., it’s always an interesting read.

Anyway. Turns out my graph looks like everybody else’s graph (the green line refers to something Dr. Wang calls the Meta-Margin, which is hard to explain since it’s hard to really understand, but it essentially shows the percentage points that the data would have to swing to make it a tied race. I’ve multiplied the numbers by 10 just so I could get a visible line on the graph, so “50” is actually 5%, and the closer we get the closer this number will reflect the popular vote margin. In theory).

I’m also irrationally proud of the fact that I’ve essentially stayed away from politics this cycle, as much as I’m interested in the subject. Maybe a comment or two on a friend’s Facebook post when I couldn’t help myself, but even those were mild. I see no evidence that my opinion would make any difference, and people seem a bit testy. I’ll stick with my graphs, vote the way I want, and stay out of the fray.

I’ve now spent the better part of a month drilling myself on Spanish, trying to dredge up forgotten tenses and vocabulary. I’m not sure exactly where this leaves me, what with a lot of years of study a very long time ago. It’s possible the whole thing snaps into place fairly easily, and I can at least converse and understand Univision shows. Or speak with Tim Kaine about dad stuff when we don’t want anyone to know what we’re saying. That could happen.

Our first major windstorm of the season is upon us, or has been upon us and is coming back tonight for round whatever. Models are starting to look more westward and so less heavy winds, but we might see some gusts in the 50s (as opposed to the 70s, which they were saying yesterday). We’re preparing as much as we can, mostly by making sure we get showers this afternoon just in case the power goes out tonight and we don’t look a little bedraggled at church tomorrow.

And those snacks I was supposed to bring? Buying, not baking, is the rational choice today, I think.

As for the rest? I head for Austin in a week, a 10-day visit with a now-3-year-old boy who hurts my face, I smile so much at just the thought of him. And I’ve been aiming for this trip a long time ago. I always knew, from when he was two weeks old and I wandered around the house with him in my arms, singing suddenly remembered songs from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, that this was an exercise in bonding, not memory. We’re just getting started with the memories now, but I set some things in motion that I’m hoping pay off. But what else could I do?

This is what I do, then. I fly to Central Texas, play with my grandson, eat some fine tacos, and come back to Washington once more encouraged to do what I try to do anyway: Stay alive. There are a lot of things I want to see the outcomes of, and a few people, and one little boy. Yo soy su abuelo, I say. I am.

 

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A Second Childhood, In A Good Way

(Note: This week’s column)

I’ve been given books on three different occasions in the past couple of weeks. not unheard of but a little unusual. Not new books, which would be accepted only if on a special occasion or at knifepoint. There’s no more room for new books. We have the book thing covered.
But a book that’s been read, that’s been handled, that contains bits and maybe quarks of DNA of former owners, a book that causes you to pause for a moment and suddenly, mysteriously feel as though a previous reader had paused at that exact spot — that’s a book. I accept these with thanks and joy, knowing I’ll either read them or pretend I have and then give them back.

This is not a screed against electronic books, by the way. I’ve always got a few stored on my tablet for an attack of spontaneous insomnia or a long plane trip, and dozens more are in my library. I’m fine with e-books and usually prefer them, if you want to know the truth, although that’s mostly a vision thing and, again, a fight against the book population explosion in this house.

There’s just something about a used book, though, an old book, and especially one that arrived at a particular time of life. This is where I get into trouble every time I make a feeble attempt to organize our library. These are more than dusty pages we’re talking about. There’s history here, and maybe even some well-worn wisdom.
And as much fun as it would be to use old books as a lame metaphor for human utility and relevance, I’ll skip the dance and just make the point. I’m older than most of the books in my house. I question my utility and relevance all the time, but I’ve managed to remember a few things.

And judging from a lot of my recent mail, I’m slightly older than many people who read this column. I’ve been hearing from a lot of recent empty-nesters, for example, and while I’m not exactly in that position myself, I have special circumstances. My kids are adults and have been for a while now.

And since these nice people who take the time to share their stories with me are at a certain stage of life, and I’m at a slightly different stage, I realized there’s one area in which I might be able to help.

Three years ago this week, I became a grandfather. He has Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed at 17 months, but otherwise he’s a happy, very verbal 3-year-old, living in Austin and turning me into a rabid collector of airline miles. I see him as much as I can, including in about a week, and while I miss out on a lot of things, my daughter keeps me up to date and video chats help keep me on his radar.

So, if you’re in your 40s or early 50s, and the kids have slipped the surly arms of the homestead and you’re wondering what comes next, I can help.

First, becoming a grandparent can be a shock to the system, as many of us remember our own grandparents as old people and we are most certainly not that.

More than this, though, will be the realization that everything you’ve ever heard about becoming a grandparent, all of these wonderful, cliché, almost cinematic stories of nothing but fun, are absolutely true.

Then there’s this, a limited truth, constrained by the subject and object and within those bounds, but still true: There is only one rule for being a grandparent, which is that there are no rules.

“Dad, you bought him a bouncy house?”
“It was on sale! Plus, I’m old and can’t live that much longer, and I wanted to.”

I’m speaking of a generic family, of course. There are all kinds. I was fortunate enough to raise a child who did the (mostly) conventional things and went to college, graduated, fell in love, got married, and three years ago gave the world both a healthy baby and a father who spends way too much time looking at stuffed animals on Amazon.

I’ve thought of it as being a parent once removed, but even though in my situation I was lucky enough to be able to provide around 50% of the parenting (and yet made 78% of the errors; this seems odd), grandparenting is completely different. Different in the way being a young parent with limited sleep and enormous stress is not the same as being a grandfather with a finger just waiting to be pulled by an unsuspecting toddler.

So, my slightly younger readers, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, to you and all potential grandparents: It’s exactly what’s you think it will be.

That’s been my experience, anyway, and I’ve had a few of those in my life. I’ve made a lot of decisions, some of them good and some not so much, and a few that were just dicey, but there are just some moments in life when it all suddenly makes sense. This has happened to me a few times.

Including three years ago this week, when I realized that life, often unfair and treacherous, sometimes comes through in a big way. I knew it was coming, I waited impatiently, not knowing what to expect, and then my heart blew open and all this new light and joy and a little boy flew in, and stayed.

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Looking Back

I noted to John on Monday that it was the last day of summer. My rules.

It’s hard to argue with me, I think. We skimmed into the mid-70s, clear and sunny, and I waved goodbye. Thank you, summer of 2016. You were pretty good.

Three years ago, I was in Austin, waiting for a baby. This whole grandparent thing has given me a couple of extraordinary experiences (outside of the actual fact of, you know, a grandchild). I got to spend a couple of weeks with the expectant couple, watching and remembering. And then a couple of weeks later I returned, this time to play surrogate partner to my daughter when Cameron had to go out of town. It wasn’t the same as having Dad around, but at least I shared in the sleep deprivation and the baby soothing, a real-life throwback to being a father for the first time. I suspect not a lot of men get a chance to do this, new moms probably wanting another woman who has actually had a baby before in these situations. But I was there, I saw and I did, and I’m forever grateful.

Also grateful that I’m heading to Austin in about three weeks. Nothing but gratitude here, for this, for our nice summer, for the crispiness in the air now, for the past and most definitely for the future.

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Lake Austin, September 2013
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Here Comes The Sun

You know we had a wet winter, right? Up here, I mean. Wetter than it normally is. I picked a good season to give up on outside.

We technically had drought conditions last year, although it was pretty technical. We just had much lower than normal snow accumulation, which of course runs off into rivers and is a major source of water.

BUT WE LIVE IN WASHINGTON.

Anyway, very wet winter, with records approached and then lapped. Not that big of a deal, at least for me, and now, as it turns out, we don’t have winter anymore.

Also, the groundhog was right.

But winter is gone, and I assume will stay gone, with maybe the occasional dip day just for nostalgia’s sake. Last week, a gigantic high pressure ridge and all sorts of factors combined to give us some summer warmth in April, pushing 80 degrees instead of 57. And there’s been plenty of sun. Take that, vitamin D deficiency.

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I pick up my antidepressant today. Nobody tell Tom Cruise.

And you know why? Even though I’m dubious, and from what I read the research is a little dubious, there are people who have obviously been helped. I’ll keep a close eye on potential side effects, monitor my mood, etc. If it works – or I think it works – I’ll be a willing pill taker. No problems with that.

But the sun helps, and more food helps, and lots of support helps. People were worried, a situation that in the past would drive me to despair. Seriously. I hate that. I hate the idea of whispered concern, smiles of sympathy but also some worry in their eyes, which of course I didn’t catch. I was waiting for someone to say it, not trusting my reflection in the mirror, but people are polite.

That 24-hour urine collection came back essentially normal (there were a couple of numbers that were slightly high, but barely. We’ll recheck in a few weeks) for protein. I could maybe tell a funny story about that process, but urination is a difficult comedy subject. It takes tact and care. Some other time.

But I’m feeling much better. We’ll leave it there for now.

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I had to buy a new lawnmower and also replace the brakes on the Pontiac (seriously, replace: Six months ago we were told they were OK; suddenly they went from that to metal on metal. You don’t want to know either the sound they made or the sound I made when I got the bill), which is the kind of amusement the universe seems attracted to.

My experiment with staying off of Facebook for the most part has been fascinating, and kind of a relief. I can always check on people if I get curious, but given my mood for the past few months it keeps me from all sorts of bad behavior. I get a few pictures of kids and grandkids.

And I suppose my Year Of Not Eating might make a story, someday; it’s hard to say. It can’t be that unusual, although maybe in my particular situation I can find something to spin. It’s on the back burner.

So, since I mentioned pictures of kids and grandkids…if you’re two years old, I’m not sure there’s anything better than a warm beach and parents (and one grandmother, who is making the other grandmother envious) to play with you. That there is a picture.

Cam and Bix on beach

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Random Thoughts on returning

I won’t reiterate what I’ve written elsewhere, although you can always iterate it if you’re so inclined. Short story: My road trip with Mom to Austin from Phoenix had a 24-hour delay, not a big deal, and I got a chance to improvise in a city I lived in for only a fraction of my life (considering I spent a few years in the northern part of Arizona, it amounts to 10 years, pretty much. But they were important years, including all of high school). I never got lost, but I misjudged where I was a few times, just in terms of distance from another place.

But it was a great day, perfect weather, and as it turns out I got a bonus, a nice visit with people I might not have had time to check in with had it gone another way. Seven friends in all, one I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Bonus, once again.

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Top: My high school friend Marilynn, whom I hadn’t seen since we graduated in 1976. Bottom: My teacher and friend since 1973, when I was 15 and he was 38. Still friends, still the same.

I took the light rail from the airport to downtown, where a friend met me and gave me a nice tour of the new city, completely unrecognizable to me, along with a view of Chase Field (where the Diamondbacks play) from the restaurant overlooking the field. Not the best vantage point for baseball, but a nice view of the field. Which they were resodding, apparently.

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The next day was all ad lib, and the next morning we headed out. That story another time in more detail, because there was detail.

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My daughter had been suffering all week from what she suspected might just be allergies, but I suspect was just a cold. She was doing worse than Bixie, although he had a stuffy nose and a bit of a cough. This is worrisome in a toddler with Type 1 diabetes, but Beth was always on top of it, always checking the blood sugar and ketones, and all were acceptable. He ate and drank. He was fine.

By the time Mom and I left, though, we were not so much. Mom seemed to get the least of it and me the worst; infectious disease and contagious periods are mysteries to me, particularly with a mystery of a virus that wasn’t particularly virulent, just annoying. A bad cold. Sore throat, coughing, runny nose, sneezing. Exhaustion, but then it was a long trip.

I spent our first stop on the way home in a hotel room with Mom in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where I crawled under the covers around 6:30pm and stayed there. The next day I felt better, then worse, then better, then worse, and so on. I took an early-morning flight to Seattle, window seat, coughing directly into the bulkhead (or whatever it’s called) or my sleeve, conscious that I was in a flying incubator and I was the monkey, so to speak. It wasn’t Ebola, just the common cold, but I felt like Patient Zero on that flight, although surely I wasn’t.

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Flying into Seattle, banking west over Lake Washington to head south toward the airport.

And then my plane landed early, around 9:35am, and I couldn’t get a ride until 12:30, so instead of waiting for three hours in SeaTac I just grabbed the light rail to downtown Seattle (which took an hour, amazing, so many stops), rushed a few blocks to pick up a bus to SPU, where my wife was finishing her last class. We then drove to church, where she spends most of Wednesday afternoons and evenings, then I took the car home, arriving four hours after my plane landed, and had a three-hour nap, then back to church for choir rehearsal.

Riding the bus was also a virus-based experience, but mostly because I was hacking and feeling miserable, on a bus with the usual downtown types, hacking and sniffling, immediately visualizing Ratso Rizzo at the end of Midnight Cowboy, which is…I dunno. Don’t know the shelf life of that film. But that’s what I was thinking.

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And today I’m about the same, although just the duration is starting to feel like I’m worse. But this is the season and I’m not alone. Trying to avoid marathon naps, is all, considering I’ve got a huge amount of work coming up. Although a nap seems the best option, to be honest.

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Next week I’ll write another column about what it was like to travel with my mom for 30 hours (hint: Tremendous fun, lots of good conversation and laughter, and really an easier trip than we’d imagined).

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All of this was totally worth it, of course. It was a peaceful and pretty much stress-free trip, enjoying the sun and warmth, both nature’s doing and just being around family, and especially this little boy. I spent a couple of hours every day (at least) doing what seems to be his favorite thing these days, being outside. He has a nice fenced backyard with plenty of room to chase grandpapa, and I mentioned to Beth that I knew there had to be a good reason I started to exercise all those years ago and stop smoking the few cigs I indulged a day. I can’t jump much to save my life, my vertical leap having been cut down to a few inches I suspect (it was actually a pretty decent stat in my younger days; I could always jump. Strong legs), but I could race a 2-year-old back and forth across the lawn, and for this I’m grateful. He might remember this, and I certainly have documentary evidence.

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I’m a finicky eater when I travel, although I did fairly well this trip aside from the travel days, given the nice choices in Austin. The driving and then the cold ended up costing me a pound or so, which of course is a strange situation for a guy who hasn’t tried to gain weight since he was 14 and trying to play football. But that pound makes a difference when I’m at a steady (same since November) but low weight, right around 162-164 pounds in that period, only during weird times dropping below 160 for a few days before I start scooping in the gelato and pizza.

So, maybe this helps and maybe it doesn’t. I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to get motivated to develop the willingness to lose some pounds, or many pounds, but I’m way past that, and I also know that after the age of 50 or so we start to run into a psychological block. If it’s not a health issue, then it’s just comfort and vanity. Good motivators, but c’mon. Life is too short.

I just stopping eating so much sugar. So did Beth. So did my wife. Diabetes will do that to you. This is the way I look now.

And it won’t change your life, except…you might be able to run around with your grandchildren a little more. More importantly, if what happened to me is any indication, if you step on that scale regularly (and sheesh, write it down; look for patterns, not any given day) once the weight is off, it might be easier than you think to keep it there. I really don’t know. I wish I could help more, but there are so many other factors, including endocrinologic issues and some psychological ones. We do need our comfort food. We do need comfort.

Anyway, I have bills to pay and work to do. Or a nap to take. Or pizza to eat. Or all.

And definitely a trip back to the boy and the daughter. Soon.

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Older White Male Seeks Delilah For Snipping

Yesterday was on my son’s 26th birthday, which tends to glum him out. Not because he’s not loved and cared for; he’s inpatient with getting on with his life, and has professional help. It’s just a different economy and he needs to find his own skills, which are actually pretty impressive so far.

So I fought the glum battle, and took him on our hour-long drive down south to spend the evening at a sports bar with church people, the regular Theology on Tap monthly social group. Just great people, who embarrassed him tremendously by singing “Happy Birthday” the moment he walked in the place.

And way too much food, and a long drive, but we both agreed that the alternatives lacked people. We need people. We are those kind of people. The luckiest people in the world, they say.

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Last week was a blur with family in town. We rented a car (we only have one) to help with the constant trips downtown to the condo they were staying at, with lots of Bix time and a fabulous concert in Portland and a different kind of one with the Seattle Symphony, but exhilarating. Another post.

Bixie was fun, happy, and absolutely in love with Disney’s “Robin Hood” from the early 1970s. Which holds up. Not quite on “The Jungle Book” level but close, great voices (Andy Devine, Pat Buttram, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov, the late Brian Bedford). It was fun to see again, and he truly loves it. “Hippos and rhinos!” he says, which comes out as a single word but we figured it out (there’s a parade of hippos and rhinos, along with elephants. He loves his animal world).

Happy is good. Today is the anniversary of the rush to the hospital and the ketoacidosis, almost always the first sign in a 16-month-old Type I diabetes patient. He retains the trauma and stress, holding him down constantly to insert a line and then a port, and of course the rest.

And now he’s doing great, and a cure or at least technology will make this disease so much livable. Scary a year ago, still exhausting for his parents, but routine by now.

He says “Grandpapa” very clearly, too.

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I feel like mentioning this, although I’ve done it before ad nauseum. Last June I made some adjustments, with Bix at the forefront of my thinking, just trying to cut down on sugar. I figured it’d be a struggle and not absolute; just trying to minimize the damage. I was running about 10 pounds over a good weight for me, and hadn’t worked up the energy to get rid of those, so I hoped I could knock off a few of those a well as clean up my act.

And then it worked a little too well, and I went through a bad period of not being hungry and really unable to eat much, a scary couple of weeks, and I dropped 10 pounds very quickly (less than a month). Suddenly I was only a couple of pounds away from 175, which I always thought of as a perfect weight for a guy my size and age. I was there a few years ago and it seemed ideal; all my clothes fit, etc. Lighter on my feet. More energy. All good.

As anyone who has had weight issues (and that would be all of us, right? I need some support here) know the feeling of stepping on the scale and seeing a new, lower number. It can mess with you. Got down to 170, figured that was rock bottom.

Currently 157. Trying to get it back up over 160 and stay there, maybe up a little more, which is a situation that I never dreamed of and seems sort of a lottery win: I know can eat whatever I want, because putting on a few pounds would be good. I mean, good Lord. Who does that?

Anyway. Slender, not gaunt, not skinny. Slender, lean. Just different, and given that the lady who always cuts my hair is away from work on maternity leave, my hair has gotten shaggy because I just procrastinate about sitting in a chair in temporary intimacy, trying not to overshare and also to point out that I have a giant hole toward the back of my head where there is now very little hair, although the front part and sides are fine and now long and scraggly.

The wild hair and lean frame, as we went over to sit with Bix while Beth and some high school friends went to hear Cameron sing with the symphony, and apparently several of these friends, whom I’ve known since they were in high school, later texted her to see if I was OK. Just different looking, really, but she said I looked fragile and I take that seriously. Body image is a scary thing, even for a dude. You can lose perspective.

But I think it’s mostly the hair. Needs to get very short and neat, I’m told, and I can do that. At least 20% of my hair is missing, so I guess it’ll be an easy cut. Maybe this afternoon, before the Ash Wednesday service.

(And I have some things to say about Lent, but maybe later.)

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As I’ve said to others, I know what happened. I kept track. I eliminated some foods and didn’t think I would keep it up, but I did. A pound or so a week. For many weeks. I can explain it, then. Simple metabolic process, conservation of energy, thermodynamics, etc.

But, as I admitted to my daughter, the big picture needs to be noted. The book came out. I lost a big client, boring work but steady and good money. Just disappeared, and I had a hard time replacing it, and even though I made the bulk of my income this year from just writing the kind of thing I write better than other things (i.e., no technical writing or press releases or ad copy). Just. Not. Very. Much. Income.

So lots of time on my hands, lots of musing about reaching this age without much to show for it, needing to be busier and more social and not quite getting there. And over the course of the past year I’ve lost 50 pounds.

You could suspect some depression. I know I do.

But better today. Lent is always better, people are always better, having things to inspire me are always better.

And I have the Golden Ticket, a surprising turn of events in which I can eat a lot of questionable foods that are loaded with calories, because calories I need.

Hopefully a haircut today. And hopefully my daughter’s friends, sensing mortality now in their early 30s, and having known me 100 pounds heavier when they were younger, will be reassured. I don’t think I’m dying anytime soon. A haircut will make a big difference.

Photo Feb 06, 10 27 34 PM
Rich and Sharon Parker, some of our oldest friends, at the Symphony Saturday night. That’s the way to do it.
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Wallow Week

A new column is up, pivoting off some thoughts I posted earlier on this blog, maybe a little more confessional:

And I don’t like to sing in choirs all that much anyway. It’s not a skill set I feel comfortable with, trying to follow a bass line that is counterpoint to the tenor part while the sopranos sing the melody and the altos have something with like 13 flats (the key of P, I think). I’m lost a lot, and embarrassed and sometimes humiliated, always humbled. I’m just not very good.

I so very much wanted to add something about David Bowie.

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I’ve had a lot of reviews over the years following performances. I can’t remember a bad one, although lots of disappointing ones, meaning that I was mentioned in passing despite having a major role. Which is sort of bad, but stage reviews have never been that serious. It’s one person’s opinion (and believe it or not, opinions can vary), while an actor spends a couple of hours in front of a few hundred people. They will give you a review in real time.

But feedback matters, or it should. If I wasn’t interested in how someone who sees or hears or reads something I’ve created feels about it, then it’s all about self expression and personal catharsis and it’s bad. Probably. At least I’d rather avoid that. Although I can’t and don’t expect to hear back from thousands of readers, not me, not in my situation. They read it, but few feel compelled to comment, and I don’t blame them. It’s not a big deal; as I said, at worst a mild disappointment. You try your best and move on.

This piece here, though, from a Minneapolis paper/site/mag/something, is really a remarkable analysis of Winning Dad. How does one best deal with a family member or friend who is homophobic? Or, for that matter, holds opinions you feel are despicable and vile, even if you love and generally admire this person? It’s at the heart of the film, in case you were unaware.

But it also holds a nice personal review for me. Very nice. By far the nicest thing anyone has ever said about something I’ve done, and probably by far the nicest anyone ever will. How do you link to something like that without it being a giant brag?

Like this, I guess. The point is, as nice as it was to read, it doesn’t change my mind on myself or the film. I don’t see what someone else sees; I catch mostly the bad things, the mistakes, the choices that were off. I accept that I can’t be objective, but I have no illusion that anyone else is either. So it was just nice. I’m not framing it or anything.

Because that sort of thing needs to be done by professionals. Framing is sort of an art form. I’ll just hire someone.

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This is Wallow Week, I guess, as we spend as much time with Bix as possible. We picked them up at the airport, way past his bedtime by their Texas clocks, and he was happy and hasn’t really stopped that. Beth spoke at Seattle Pacific University yesterday to a class of music students, lecturing from an arts management perspective, so we kept an eye on the little guy until I snuck out and caught a bit of Beth’s talk. It was excellent, no surprise, even though public speaking is not something she necessarily does on a regular basis. She knows of what she spoke. I just felt weirdly out of time, catching glimpses of the 7-year-old for a few seconds before she reverted to a 31-year-old woman who easily belongs where she is.

And tonight we watch Bix again, while Beth and some local friends all attend the opening of Roomful of Teeth’s performance with the Seattle Symphony (we go on Saturday night). I imagine we’ll see The Jungle Book a couple of times, and I’ll take lots of pictures.

Did I say pictures?

JK reading to Bix

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