HCAYMAN

Seriously Irreverent Musings

Category: OpEd (page 1 of 3)

Home Bound

We went to Shelby’s yesterday, the one place we go to other than the market on a regular basis in 2020. The highlight of the visit was watching Portia decorate the Christmas cookies she and Nana (Karen, Bryan’s mom, who is here from Kentucky) made earlier in the day. Portia did the decorating with the help of Nana, Glam (Pam, who wants to be called Grammy, but Portia can only say Glam), Mimi (Kimberly, who Portia calls Mimi), and, of course, Shelby (Portia’s mom). We will see them again on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, having celebrated Hanukah with them the week earlier.

When we go to Shelby’s we feel somewhat normal, going somewhere and not thinking about COVID, something that has happened all too infrequently this year. Clearly, we miss leading our normal life, seeing friends, going to restaurants, listening to live music, going to the movies, or just relaxing, but not as much as I would have expected.

We have been living the life of COVID for nine months. Long enough for memories of our past activities to dissolve into the recesses of our fading, geriatric minds. Long enough to gestate a human. More than long enough for me to adapt to it.

As I sit here writing this, I am riding a wave of La Nina spawned, drought enhancing sunshine in Los Angeles. I long for clouds and rain. Partly, because we need it, but also for any reason other than COVID not to venture outside. That is not going to happen anytime soon.

As 2020 draws to its inexorable close, I have been reflecting on it. I am essentially home, not homeward, bound, and I am embracing it all too readily. Apparently, I am letting my inner hermit flag fly, the part of me that eschews the rest of the world. Sometimes I wonder if my virus induced exile from the outside world will remain my normal state post COVID, as I actually enjoy my hermit lifestyle. Well most of it, anyway.

I freely admit that I am extremely lucky. Part of what has enabled me to adapt so readily to my new reality is that I have a great family.

Pam is smart enough, or tolerant enough, of my quirks to just ignore them. COVID has practically eliminated my Porsche related activities, and, hence, comments and stories, which has made that easier on her. Though to some extent they have been replaced by my incessant comments about my Tonal, the newest toy in my life.

Kim, who is stuck here until COVID ends, generally ignores my quirks until she feels she has to rip the crap out of me for being weird, her way of dealing with my irritating habits and reminding me she loves me. I am lucky she still readily accepts my advice when she needs it, playing the plaintive Ddddadddddddyyyy card when necessary, and gladly consuming my meals when I cook them for her.

I see Shelby, Portia and Bryan weekly, though Pam sees them more often than that. Getting the chance to spend time with Portia, watching her grow and learn and begin to embrace her terrible twos, has been the highlight of the year for me. I like it when she says, “Glump, do this.” Or, “Glump, do that.” My chosen monicker is Grumpy, but she calls me Glump. I admit it is fun being bossed around by a 20 month old.

I am able to work from home. My 20 year old threadbare, dust impregnated, bargain basement desk chair has become my COVID equivalent of a La-Z-Boy recliner, albeit less comfortably. My 27 inch 4K computer monitor is my fixed window to the world, though my TVs, iPhone and iPad also fill that role to some extent. Shockingly, that seems to be sufficient, as I sit in front of my computer, even when I have no work to do. Somehow it feels comforting and natural to just sit in my chair, despite my glutes falling asleep while doing so.

When COVID started I bemoaned the lack of new TV programming. As I have written about before, I have always been a die-hard consumer of Network TV pablum. I used to enjoy watching without being engaged or stressed or educated. NCIS has been my go to show for years, though SWAT had been giving it a run for its money late last year. Since COVID, I have spent hours watching programming with Pam on services I rarely had used before. Shows that I never would have seen without COVID. A lot of it was garbage. Right down there with the Real Housewives and the Bachelor, but some of it was good, really good actually, a fact that should scare the hell out of Network TV, as I actually had no idea there were new episodes of NCIS and SWAT until four weeks after their seasons started.

The other area that has helped me adapt to our new normal has been my ability to continue to exercise. I have been running outside for the past nine months, something I have not done in decades, and I truly love it. Additionally, I invested in a Tonal to enable me to lift weights in the comfort of my house. It was a life changing purchase, as I love the machine and have found a whole new community of supportive, non-political posters on Facebook. Another unintended, but thoroughly appreciated, by-product of the Tonal was that it has given me a chance to rekindle my somewhat stagnant, long-distance relationship with my sister, Arlene, who also bought one. We have been chatting like teenagers on a weekly basis about this coach’s program or the degree of difficulty of that exercise.

In the decades I worked out prior to COVID, I never spent much time in exercise classes, preferring to do my own thing on my own terms and avoiding all the class based drama at Equinox. I have to admit that I find it a tad disconcerting that I am becoming a groupie of several Tonal coaches, going as far as referring to them as my senseis.

I do not physically interact with anyone else other than my brief dialogs with my cronies who work at the market and bagel store and the occasional person delivering the new items we have purchased or those that come here to provide a quote for some home improvement we want to make. I think I actually amazed Kim and Shelby recently when I spoke about the conversation about parsnips I had with Ron, the produce guy I know at Pavilions.

So 2020 is winding down, and here I sit. At my desk. Something I do daily. My glutes falling asleep in my threadbare, dust impregnated, bargain basement chair, as I stare at my window to the world. Today was not much different from yesterday or the day before. This week was not much different from the week before. This month was not much different from the month before. It is just the same broken record. Month in month out.

My inner hermit loves being embraced. It loves that I have adapted to being homebound and that I am living the COVID life. Of course, it also fearfully wonders how long it will take me to banish it sometime next year. I wish I knew.

Happy Holidays

Flat Six Musings

As the percentage of Covid infected among us continues to drop, I have started to re-engage the outside world. A couple of weeks ago, I was worried that I was beginning to become an agoraphiac, as I had not driven my babies in quite some time. I wrote about it and received a nice rasher of shit from my Flat Six (AKA Porsche) cronies, telling me in no uncertain terms to get out and drive. And so I did.

Last weekend I met my friend Mark at the gas station, and then we went for a drive. It was pleasant. Nothing serious. Nothing twisty. Nothing fast. Just a nice drive up the coast. I was in my Cayman, and he was in his 911. Both of us were on our phones with each other, as being the yentas we are, we kibitzed as we drove. We did about 90 miles up and down the coast with a nice stop north of Malibu at Trancas for some coffee and muffins. It was great. It was just what the doctor, if not Eric Garcetti and Barbara Ferrer, ordered. It left me feeling less agoraphobic.

This weekend I decided to do it again. Only this time I went alone, and I drove my 89 Carrera, mainly because I wanted a more visceral experience. We are suffering through a fall Santa Ana wind condition, with daytime temperatures in the 90s and 100s. No matter, as I headed out early Saturday morning with the Targa top off and the hot, Santa Ana winds whipping through the cabin.

I was still not in the mood for a serious drive, so I did most of the same one Mark and I did last weekend, only this time I was not on the phone. Instead, I was focused on the drive, remembering what driver engagement is all about when driving a fully analog car without nannies like traction control, without power assisted anything, and without the dual-clutch automatic transmission that lurks in my Cayman. In short, my focus was on the tachometer, as I shifted my way up and down thru the gears, listening to the sound of the air-cooled flat six as it competed with the wind for my attention. There was not much else on my mind. At least initially.

At some point, driving became automatic. The wind and the engine sound became consistent background noise that soothed me but enabled me to start focusing on other things. Like the conversation I had had with my friend Nick earlier in the week.

Nick is a really smart guy. He is a young entrepreneur driven to be a success. He is also one of the most knowledgeable people I know with respect to world and economic events. We see eye to eye on almost every issue we face as Americans.

Given that we agree on so much, why do we continue to discuss the issues? The answer is simple: We are voting for different presidential candidates. So we discuss the issues to try to find the nuances that lead each of us to our distinctly different choice.

After much thought, I realized that it is not only the individual issues that drive our decisions. Instead, it is our prioritization of each of the issues and the implication of the solution to each issue that leads us to different conclusions, because ultimately it is what each of us fears the most that matters more than what we agree upon. That is why we keep discussing the issues.

The drive back was a blur, as I ruminated about Nick and life in America in 2020. Soon I was nearing the end of the drive on the coast, approaching the McClure Tunnel and the start of Interstate 10 eastbound.

It was time to shift my focus back to driving, but before I did, I though about Nick and our relationship. Nick and I respect each other. We value each other’s opinion and thoughts. We see value in our friendship despite differing political views. We will still have a relationship after all the votes are counted, whichever month that is.

I hope the same can be said for the majority of Americans.

Forgive Me Ferdinand

For the past six months, it's been a Covid life for me, just like it has for everyone else.  I have bemoaned the sameness of each day, thinking that everyday is a Monday, but it isn't.
Which brings me to the point of this post. With thanks to Robert Earl Keen, I am guilty of a Dreadful Selfish Crime, as I have let my Porches languish for months, just letting them sit in the driveway and the garage, patiently waiting to be driven. But I don't, and it saddens and frustrates me.
I realize that despite Covid I have it pretty damn good.  We are all employed and all healthy so far, but I spend so much time at home with no real interest in venturing outside, that I think I am losing my desire to do so.  I am concerned that I am turning into an agoraphobiac, at least when it comes to driving.
My main excursion each week, when I actually drive, is on early Sunday mornings when I go to the market at 6:15 AM and then to the bagel store at 6:45 AM. Pam, Kim and I also go to Shelby's to see our exalted granddaughter, Portia, each week, but it is a short distance away, and I let Pam drive to Shelby's house.
Since last November, I have put about 500 miles on my Cayman GTS and 500 miles on my 89 Carrera Targa.  I could drive them, but every time I have time on the weekend to get out and drive, which is less often than I would like, I opt not to, as I am concerned about finding an open public restroom and then frequenting it while on the drive.  Hence, my agoraphobia concerns.
Instead of driving my cars, I let them idle for about 15 to 18 minutes each week, which is not a good thing, but it is better than nothing.  Of course, with my Covid mental state, I rely on an alarm on my iPhone to remember to turn them off, instead of letting them go idling into the sunset.
I know I could, and should, drive them.  My Porsche cronies are driving theirs.  I see many of their posts on Facebook, chronicling their organized drives, days at the track, and socially distanced cars and coffee meetings.  It further saddens me that I cannot motivate myself to join them.
It's not like I am unmotivated to do other things.  I workout religiously, running outside three times a week and using my Tonal to lift weights three times a week.  Pam and I have completed several project around the house, and I have learned to make pizza and bread.  I take the trash out so often, that Pam and Kim have decided that I must have a girlfriend living in the dumpster in the alley.
But I just can't seem to leave my house to drive my cars, and I do not know how to change it.  Sooner or later, I will just have to force myself to get out and drive, but not just yet.

Tonality

Sometimes stuff just hits you right between the eyes. Sometimes it just resonates so totally you know it’s true, that its tonality is utterly undeniable. Then you recoil with the knowledge that you have seen your future.

For Jon Landau, such a moment occurred in 1974, as he watched Bruce Springsteen perform for the first time. He was transfixed by what he saw and heard, motivating him to write that he had seen rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.

For me, such a moment occurred when I saw my first Tonal advertisement. We were at Jeff’s, house watching football games and chatting. Besides the games, the big event of the day for me was the blind bourbon tasting Jeff had planned.

I had come into a windfall late in 2019, ending up with two bottles of 20 year aged Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbon, arguably the most overvalued bourbon in history. Over the years, Jeff has plied Pam and me with copious amounts of ridiculously expensive tequila, so I gave one of my bottles of Pappy to Jeff as payback. Rightly, Jeff felt that the Pappy should be the featured bourbon in the taste test.

As I was sampling bourbon, I suddenly knew I would be leaving Equinox sooner rather than later, and that my exercise future would be home based. This realization must have thrown my bourbon taste buds into a tizzy. I ended up ranking my go to bourbon, Woodford Reserve, a great, reasonably priced bourbon, slightly above the 20 year Pappy, which at the time was selling for over $2,000 a bottle. That was the first time Tonal impacted my life. It would not be the last.

Exercise has been important to me since the summer of 1974. both in terms of health and enjoyment. I have enjoyed my years of running by myself and with a track club, swimming with a masters team, and pretending to lift weights at the gym, not to mention my couple of year stint in the Pilates studio.

For the past 17 years, I have been working out at Equinox, spending more time on treadmills than pushing weights. I am a weird guy. I do not exercise with music, and I generally avoid classes. I like listening to my body when I run, and I am not motivated by group grinds in spin classes. As I have aged, nearing and reaching the medicare threshold earlier this year, I have grudgingly admitted to myself that weight training may be more important for my health than cardio.

The thing was, though, that I just was not super motivated to lift. And when I did, I just went through the motions. I spent some money with a trainer which helped, but I could not justify the cost on an ongoing basis.

As Equinox prices continued to climb, I was thinking about quitting. What held me back were my gym cronies. I had been working out at 5 AM in the same place for 17 years. I was part of a great group. We were consistent. We were nice. We got to the gym at the same time. Heck, we even parked at the same meters in the same places year after year. The group was what kept me at Equinox. I would miss Doug, Gene, Josh, Shelley, Gavin, David, Three Bottles, and all the rest if I quit. So I hadn’t.

But I kept thinking about it. Then I saw the Tonal ad. I was mesmerized. I was intrigued. I was blown away with its functional, space saving design. I knew I should get one, but Doug, Gene, Josh, Shelley, Gavin, David, Three Bottles kept popping into my mind.

Then we went into Covid-19 lockdown. The gym was a four letter word to me. I did not care how clean the machines were kept. I just could not get over being that close to the exhalations of the other people. All of a sudden Doug, Gene, Josh, Shelley, Gavin, David, Three Bottles were not so important. I knew I was ready to make the change, but still not quite ready to pull the trigger.

One day I was speaking with my sister, Arlene, and I mentioned that I was thinking about getting a Tonal. She gasped and said, “I just ordered mine!”

At that point, I decided to act. I ordered my Tonal and began the tortuous wait for it to arrive. Well, it finally got here a couple of weeks ago. I am easing my way into it, as I have spent the past five months running and doing light calisthenics, including pushing around five pound weights, not a good platform for beginning a weight training regime.

I love the machine. I am using the coached workouts to get my body back into an overall toned state. More importantly, I am learning how to do the exercises correctly. The machine keeps tons of statistics. I ignore them. It has a killer AI that sets weights for me, I generally ignore that, too. I do not care about my strength score, about how much stronger I am or about how much I have lifted. I just like how I feel after doing the workouts. It is the best of both worlds for me. Coaches without judgement and without the competition of others. Equinox is in my rear view mirror and fading fast. I can see me using this machine for years.

Now I just need to find a few cronies.

Buckless

Just about 75 years ago to the day, Harry S. Truman made what is arguably the most difficult decision any President of the United States has ever had to make. In early August 1945 he decided to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, had unexpectedly come into office a few months prior, after the death of FDR. Until late April 1945, he did not know the bombs existed. My suspicion is that he wished he never learned they did. But he had to play the hand he was dealt.

33 never shied away from his decision. He never shirked his personal responsibility. No doubt he was the Commander in Chief and it was his responsibility, but with great power comes great responsibility.

We may debate the rightness or the wrongness of his decision, but we cannot debate that it was his call to make, as he was the only person in America, or the entire world, with the responsibility on his shoulders. He made it, and subsequently, he owned it in a manner fitting the placard he kept on his desk stating The Buck Stops Here.

75 years later, the bucks have stopped accumulating in the Oval Office. In fact, the office is bankrupt. No bucks have passed into it in three and a half years, or if they have, they have just kept on going without anybody thinking of stopping them.

The 45th President of the United States has inherited an issue that trumps the decision to drop the atomic bombs. He did not create the issue, but he is responsible for leading our response to it and for helping the world deal with it. Sadly, he does not understand what it means to be a leader, and he has no idea how to lead us in a concerted, unified response. The result is a sub-optimal chaotic response that is, quite literally, killing us.

In his view, all he has to do is talk about his acts, his decisions and the great job he is doing, while at the same time undermining all the attempts to manage the response in states that are on the other side of the fence politically. I guess he thinks that telling us enough times that either the problem will just go away or that he is handling it effectively will make it true. The shocking part to me is that there are Americans who still believe him.

I have lived for 65 of the 75 years since the bombs were dropped on Japan. My first recollection of politics and political leaders occurred when I was forced by my mother to watch the Nixon Kennedy debates prior to the 1960 election. In those days, we only had one TV in the house, not one in each room. So, I really did not have a choice. That was the first time I saw Richard Nixon. It was not love at first sight, even for a five year old.

From that point forward, until 45 came along, Nixon was firmly established in my mind as the oiliest, smarmiest, least trustworthy President ever to hold office. Sadly, I long for him to be back in office today. At least he was a statesman and enough of a leader to collect a few bucks.

Eight Mondays A Week

With all due respect to Carole King and Gerry Goffin, I woke up that morning feeling fine. There was somebody special on my mind…

Unlike most recent days, that particular Saturday was going to be different. Change, glorious change, was in the air.

Our granddaughter, Portia, was coming over, and she was staying for the weekend. My Porsches, the four wheeled kind, as opposed to the two legged kind, were going to be a tad jealous. Most likely, I would not even notice them that weekend, because Portia would garner all our attention.

Yup, I thought, it was going to be an interesting weekend, and that was before I knew Portia’s dog, Stasi, was coming, too. If I’d have known Stasi was coming, I would have gone back to sleep, hoping to hibernate the weekend away. It’s not that she is a bad dog, she isn’t. It’s just that she loves to look out the windows and bark at everything passing by. She and our dog, Jake, love each other and have a good time, but they really raise a ruckus. Stasi takes a lot of work without Portia being here. Having both at the same time always feels overwhelming. Of course, Pam and Kim knew on Friday that Stasi was coming, but they opted to keep me in the dark. Most likely that was a good idea.

Pam loves being a grammy. She is really good at it. She is referred to as Grammy Pammy. I love being grumpy. I am really good at it. That is why I am referred to as Grumpy, with no need to qualify it further, as adding Harry on the end of it would be redundant, not to mention the fact that Harry does not rhyme with Grumpy.

As I lay in bed, I felt more excited about a weekend than I had in quite some time, despite all the extra work Pam, and to a much lesser extent I, was going to have to do.

Since Covid-19 began, most days are pretty similar for us. The Beatles sang about love everyday in Eight Days a Week, using the impossible number eight to stress how they loved their partner everyday. If they wrote the same song today, they would title it Eight Mondays a Week. Not to express their love, but to lament the sameness of every day during the Covid-19 lockdown.

I led a pretty regimented, read consistent, life prior to Covid-19. Some might have said I was on the OCD spectrum. I would disagree, as I believe my actions were predicated on the fact that I did what I did in the way I did it to maximize my benefit while minimizing the cost I incurred in terms of hassle, time, money, pain etc. I felt my behaviors were outcome based and not driven by irrational fears.

I must admit that the benefit I derive from some of my actions is kinda insignificant. One of my habits, a holdover from my more intense running days, is that when I buy a new pair of running socks I number each one with the same number, enabling me to match them up after each wash, thereby ensuring that each sock in a pair is run in for the same number of minutes and washed the same number of times, resulting in consistent wear patterns and the avoidance of sock related blisters. As the number of minutes I run each week has dwindled as my age has increased, the likelihood of me getting a running related blister has decreased significantly, but I still dutifully number each sock. So maybe I have an irrational fear of blisters and am on that spectrum after all.

But I digress. Each week in the Covid-19 lockdown has a cadence. There has been very little variability. Even though I had limited variability prior to Covid-19, at least Pam and I did stuff. We ate out. We went to concerts. We saw shows. We saw movies. We saw friends. We went to our respective gyms. I did stuff on my own. I drove my cars for fun. I had cronies. Our lives were full. Of course, we really enjoyed the weekends we had no plans, as they were so relaxing.

That all changed with Covid-19. Now the only cronies I see are the checkers I know at the market and the lady behind the counter at the bagel store. I really enjoy chatting with them, as doing so makes me feel like life is almost normal, despite our masks muffling our conversations and hiding our facial expressions. We do see a handful of friends in an extremely socially distant way and that also helps us feel more normal.

But the reality is that we have very little we can do outside the house, which results in a daily sameness that permeates us to our cores. So instead of cherishing weekends without plans, now we cherish ones with plans. That is human nature, I suppose.

None of that mattered on that Saturday morning. What mattered was that I woke up feeling fine and there was someone special on my mind…

Divided We Fall

People have been espousing this sentiment for millennia, ever since Aesop uttered it in his fables in ancient Greece.

Americans have been espousing it for over 200 years. In 1792, Patrick Henry, in his last public speech, said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln referenced it in his House Divided Speech, opening with, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

Apparently, we need to reiterate this sentiment, because we currently live in a house more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Thanks to 24 hour news channels, we are bombarded with biased stories all day, every day. For many of us, the result has been the utter disbelief of anything the other side says is true. Generally, this is dysfunctional, but not deadly.

It is deadly now, as we live in the era of Covd-19, a novel disease without a cure as of yet, a disease that scientists have proven is primarily transmitted via particles in the air, a disease that can infect a carrier without manifesting symptoms, a disease that takes several days for symptoms to appear, a disease that is running rampant across the globe, with its current epicenter in the United States.

Scientists around the world have determined that wearing a mask is crucial to slowing the spread of the disease. Logic tells us that slower spread is better than faster spread until a cure is found or a vaccine is developed. The logic is irrefutable. It is not debatable. More spread means more illness, more hospital stays, more economic impact, and, eventually, more death.

So why is there any debate? Why do we not have a national mandate to wear masks? What irreparable harm comes from mandating their use? No one is espousing that they be worn forever. In my opinion, if wearing a mask prevents the spread of one case of Covid-19, it is worth the sacrifice of each of us putting a mask on each of our faces. But we will not be preventing the spread of just one case. If we wear masks we will be preventing the spread of thousands or, more likely, millions, of cases.

Maybe I am just too much of a bleeding heart to understand what the true cost is of wearing a mask. Maybe I do not sufficiently cherish my right to be free. Maybe I put too much faith in the scientists. I mean, they were wrong about wearing masks several month ago. How do I know they are not wrong now? Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Or maybe not. None of the maybes matter. The absolute fact is that we are facing a common enemy. An enemy that can strike at each of us at any time. We need to fight it with a cohesive, unified strategy. We need to put our bias, our divisions, our beliefs aside and act in a manner that is best for all of us, not in a manner that is best for each of us. To not do so, results in a divided house, which, quite possibly, will fall in on itself.

Pause

I didn’t intend my statement to be taken in a self-centered, woe is me, my life sucks, the world is ending sort of way, though Pam, and then Kim, took it that way. Ever since, I have been the butt of their jokes, even more so than usual. My statement was so funny to them that they even told our friends what a stupid comment I made. I guess it’s good that I have thick, old man, skin.

I had been sitting at my desk, where I have been spending the vast majority of my waking hours this year, when, for some reason, I started thinking about Uber, and how I may never take one again for quite some time. This led me to reminisce about last year.

2019 was a crazy year for me. For the first time in my life, work turned me into a road warrior. I flew over 60,000 domestic miles, traveling every two or three weeks, either to Northern California or to the East or South East. I was at the airport so often, I began to recognize the baggage handlers and the ticket agents, not to mention the flight attendants. It got so bad, I started drinking alcohol, usually bourbon, on the homeward flights. I had never done that before.

I spent over 50 nights in hotels, generally ones that were functional, but not luxurious. I got used to working out in postage stamp sized hotel gyms, usually going to them at between 4 AM and 5 AM to ensure no one else was using them. I ate many, many meals alone, either in hotels or restaurants. Rarely did I use room service, as I found it too claustrophobic.

And, of course, I took lots of Uber rides. More than I could count, and more than I care to remember, though none were bad. The good news was that I took full advantage of my Amex Platinum card Uber and airline benefits, thereby essentially paying for the card’s annual fee.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was working from home or visiting clients. My days started early, as I was always at Equinox in Beverly Hills by 5 AM during the week.

This year I commute to my den where my desk is, though I have made lots of trips via Zoom, Skype, Microsft Meetings, Google Hangouts, etc. I cannot image going to the airport, staying at a hotel, or getting into an Uber. I struggle to even want to drive, having put about 500 miles on my Cayman, my daily driver, since November, though I have put about 200 miles on my 89 Carrera, driving it to Shelby’s sporadically and once in a really blue moon going somewhere else. I would need to review my credit card statements to determine the last time I bought gas.

I have not eaten in a restaurant since early March, and I have no idea when I will go back to one. We do take out on a regular basis, so we are keeping some restaurants in business. Generally, I have been cooking more, though I have to admit my diet is not as clean as it was last year, as I have given in to the desire for Covid-19 comfort foods, especially homemade pizza, beef stew and that all-time artery clogger, tuna lasagna, on a regular basis.

Lastly, I have not been to Equinox since early March, and after 17 or so years, I terminated my membership. I have no desire to be near anyone else while they are working out. Instead, I have been sleeping in, sort of, running outside, and doing a homemade calisthenics routine, complete with jumping jacks, on a regular basis. I have purchased a Tonal and can’t wait for it to arrive some time next month. Ironically, I seem to be healthier since not frequenting the gym at the butt crack of dawn. My blood pressure is down, despite being irritated by DT everytime I listen to the TV.

As I sat at my desk and had that random thought about Uber, all of the changes I was experiencing this year flashed through my brain, and, as is usually the case, without a pause and without any context, I blurted out to Pam, “My life is so different this year!”

Clearly, I was well aware that I was not alone. Everyone’s life is different this year. I was also not complaining, as my life, despite Covid-19, is still really good. I was just stating a fact. None of that mattered. Pam heard what she heard, not what I was thinking or intending, and I have been the butt ever since.

American Spring

I am hopeful that Spring 2020 will be looked back upon as a watershed time for America. Winter ended with the outbreak of Covid-19. We were introduced to social distancing and a concept called flattening the curve.

Spring began, and it was a weird time for us. We were acting like a tale of two countries, those that believed in the need to socially distance and those who didn’t. It did not help that our president continuously played politics while our countrymen died, despite selfless, life sacrificing efforts by our health care and other essential workers.

As Spring wore on, we learned just how critical our governors and local leaders were to the running of America, something many of us, including me, took for granted or, frankly, seriously underestimated. This was hammered home when our president, in a cowardly display of political posturing, correctly informed us that our governors had the power to implement our Covid-19 response and that the federal government was not a shipping clerk.

When it became clear that our economy could not survive the carnage imposed upon it by the lock-down and social distancing, the brunt of the leadership again fell to our governors and local leaders, with our president continuing to show an utter absence of leadership and, even worse, using social media to undermine governors with whom he disagreed.

Then Minneapolis happened.

At first the response was predictable and justified. Shock and rage were rightfully expressed. As the days wore on, the heinous nature of the crime did not diminish. Nor did the heinousness of the local lack of response.

At first the outrage was localized, but that did not last long. It soon began to spread to major cities. In Los Angeles last weekend, I went to sleep to the sound of sirens. I woke up to the same sounds. Walking around my neighborhood, I saw the negative aspects of protests, the shattered windows, the boarded windows, the graffiti, and the stores stripped of goods. On TV I watched the organized looters make a mockery of the Santa Monica and the Los Angeles police, using diversion to attract attention in one area while looting in another.

Then our president spoke and acted. He threatened to send our military against us. He dangerously disrupted a peaceful demonstration for a corny photo op. He proved yet again how useless and misguided he was as a leader.

Frankly, I was mad. And I was scared. Having said that, I was also hopeful. I was hopeful because across America, and to my utter amazement, many other parts of the world, began to protest the actions of the few, to call attention to the systematic, structural issues plaguing the less fortunate in America.

This week, the protests changed. The protesters came from all walks of life. All races. All sexes. All orientations. All ages. The looting stopped. Knees were bent. Hands were clasped. The message was heard. For now.

The protests have achieved their initial goal, opening eyes and calling attention to real issues. Questions remain about how real change will be made, and if it is, how sustainable it will be. Will it be like a rip tide which starts strong and generally peters out after a few hundred yards? Or will it be like a tidal wave that wreaks some destruction in a local area but subsides after a few months or a year? Or will it be a sea change, which generates long-term results? I hope we can achieve a sea change.

The one-two punch of Covid-19 and George Floyd have hammered our faults as a nation home. Too many of us are a week away from economic ruin, and too many of us are an institutionalized act away from losing our lives. The only way to create and sustain change is by voting, voting in every election and in every race. Countless Americans have died to protect our right to vote. Sadly, many of us do not deserve to have that right, as we consistently eschew the voting booths.

It is a sad fact that less than 60% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections and around 50% of eligible voters vote in mid-term elections. On the surface that is bad enough, but a deeper dive into the statistics shows that the majority of those who vote are those trying to hold on to what they have as opposed to those who vote to engender change.

As Americans, we have the ability to mold our world, to create the structure under which we live. To some degree those rights are being attacked, either by preventing voting by mail or making it more difficult to vote due to a reduction in the number of polling places or the economic cost of taking time off to vote.

As Spring winds down and Summer begins, we need to change the dialog with our leaders. We have a window of time in which to act. We need to speak to them, loudly, about how serious we are about voting in the Fall.

It’s A Virtual Life

It’s Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally, on this day I watch The Grand Prix of Monaco followed by the Indianapolis 500, and ….. if I have not totally OD’d on motor sports …. I might watch Nascar’s Coca Cola 600 from Charlotte.

I am so starved for live motor sports, that I would gladly watch all three this year, including all the commercials, but only the Nascar race is being run today. Given my general disinterest in the normal “money sports,” like baseball, basketball, and to a lesser extent, football, I have not really cared that the seasons for those sports have been truncated or cancelled, though at this point in my retirement in place, even baseball might start to be slightly interesting.

Speaking of baseball, I had a really good laugh over the rules that MLB was planning to put into place for re-opening the baseball season. The one that made me chuckle the most was the no spitting rule. I just cannot imagine baseball sans chewing tobacco. What has the world come to? Oh yeah, it’s become a Covid-19, Socially Distant, Virtual World.

Most of the live entertainment I have been watching since the lock-down has centered around home based musical performances, which have been surprisingly good, especially The Rolling Stones predominately acoustic version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Bruce’s acoustic version of Land of Hope and Dreams and his version of Tom Wait’s magnificent ballad, Jersey Girl.

The other form of live entertainment I have paid attention to are the morning new shows. In the real, pre-Covid-19, world I never watched those shows. Now I have become a Today Show junkie, something I never would have thought possible, though my ability to continue watching it is in jeopardy. Interestingly, and despite my utter lack of understanding it or expecting it, I do find that I like Hoda.

Some entertainment has actually gotten better this year. Pam and I enjoyed watching the socially distant versions of The Voice and American Idol. Something about the against all odds nature of producing those shows in this environment added to their allure for us.

But what really blew me away was Eric Church’s abridged acoustic set he played in lieu of his cancelled Stagecoach performance. For many reasons, Pam and I never go to music festivals. We had no plans to start this year, even though my favorite country artist, Eric Church, was scheduled to be a headline act at Stagecoach. We have seen him perform live a couple of times, and we love his shows. So as far as I was concerned, his 20 odd minute mini-set that I watched on YouTube, which he never would have produced but for Covid-19, was a real win for me.

So what did I do this morning in the new virtual world? Did I get my motor sport fix? Shockingly, I did. And, duh, it was virtual. I enjoyed watching the F1 Virtual Grand Prix of Monaco. It wasn’t real, but it was fun. I had to laugh, though, at how seriously the announcers took the race. They really brought it to life.

Now it is the middle of the day, and there is no substitute for Indy this year. I am sort of flipping between reruns of the 2006 and 2019 races, but none really hold my interest. At the same time, I am listening to more Covid-19 inspired acoustic performances. Currently, Luke Combs is blasting out of my speakers as I wait for the live Coca Cola 600 Nascar race to start later this afternoon.

While I have enough to keep me occupied this year, I am pretty sure the novelty will wear off real soon, and I hope next year’s Memorial Day will be less virtual and more live.

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