Feb 22, 2011

Island Time

In September of 2004, Dar and I were on Grand Cayman Island for a day... one of the ports-of-call for a Caribbean cruise we were on. That same day Hurricane Ivan had grown to a huge Category 4 storm, had little Grand Cayman in it's cross-hairs, and was only three days out.

We cabbed a couple miles up Seven Mile Beach and wiled away the day soaking up sun, sand, and beer, the latter from this little beach bar I'll never forget... a small open air shack... about a dozen stools around the three sided bar... a mixture of locals and tourists trying to enjoy the day but aware of the inevitable devastation just a few days away. Curious as to why I didn't see much storm-preparation activity... boarding up windows, etc... a local guy, a cab driver, explained "island time" to me. To paraphrase: if a thing doesn't get done today, it might get done tomorrow... or the day after. There's no urgency... no panic... no worries. Things might get done... but then again, they might not. It's "island time".

Yesterday, Monday, we were on "island time"... didn't accomplish a dang thing. We started the day by bidding bon voyage to some friends who were heading back to Northern Minnesota for the arrival of a grand-child... and ended the day around a birthday celebration campfire. Some good discussions... a slow lunch on the bay front with friends... a little of this and a little of that. The day just evaporated... but it felt great.

Maybe Tuesday will be different. Maybe I'll knock something off my to-do list. But maybe not.


Feb 12, 2011

Rockport Ruminations

We're closing in on the halfway point of our stint here along the Coastal Bend of Texas. The second historic cold wave in as many weeks is now waning and I, for one, am ready for a little warmth and sun. Since Dar has been deep in the bowels of the local hospital for 50 or 60 hours each week recently, she's escaped the creeping onset of camper fever that's effected this half of the Sabbatical Project duo. But the days continue to march by and I find plenty to keep me busy or interested or involved. And, in any case, Spring is just a few weeks away.

Disclaimer: Occasionally this blog strays from the subject of our RV fulltime life... and this is one of those times. If you're here mostly for that reason, you may want to move along to the next blog on your reading list... and save yourself some time and, perhaps, the ravages of elevated blood pressure.

I've been very interested in world and national goings-on the past few weeks. The Middle East looks like it's entering a phase of historic change and upheaval fueled by a big "bubble" of young people. These "kids"  have seen "Paris" (... "how you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paris?")... thanks to the internet... and aren't going to settle for the staying on the "farm" the way their parents and ancestors did. No sir... they too want to have what young people in the USA and Western Europe have... smart-phones, dumbed down TV, a narcissistic and celebrity-crazed culture, and not having to work too hard to have it all. I don't see how any change there can bode well for the USA in the long term since the hand-crafted regional quasi-stability that was in place for decades was there for one reason only -- getting all the energy we needed, from their reserves and into our gas tanks, for the least amount of money. With so much of our energy coming from Arab oil, any disruption or wrinkle in the supply lines will hit our barely-recovering economy with even higher prices for oil, and thus, nearly everything else. Despite the recent euphoric spirit of the computerized traders on Wall Street, I have a queasy feeling about the future.

And speaking of dumbed down TV... if the cost-cutters in Washington have their way in the next few weeks, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will be history... taking with it most if not all of the one shrinking island of refuge for people craving intelligent television broadcasting. Republicans, mostly, see public TV, PBS in particular, as competition in the marketplace of ideas. They won't be satisfied until they have that scalp on the wall and we're all forced to get our daily dose of indoctrination from Fox News and have only advertising-laced reality TV as our entertainment option. As a vibrant democratic society shouldn't we have a range of ideas available... to listen to and understand, to think about, to consider? Those pushing for this move, I believe, don't think the rest of us are capable of sifting through competing ideas and thinking for ourselves. They are very strident, believe they have it all figured out, and are going do their level best to make as many of the rest of us start thinking the same way.

Sure, we've got to get the federal budget closer to being in balance... the current path is not sustainable. But when we have to close down public TV because our leaders are not willing to ask billionaires (some of whom caused the banking crisis and the resulting huge deficit spending needed to keep the financial system from totally collapsing) and corporations to contribute a little more in taxes -- well, it's just a sad state of affairs. And while I'm particularly sensitive about the public TV issue, there will be many more issues that affect all of us even more deeply. The closure of State Parks all over the USA is happening right now. National Parks are being turned over to private concessionaires. It's only a matter of time before Forest Service and COE campgrounds are closed.  How long will it be before selling National Parks is on the table? I mean... the Grand Canyon would make a great exclusive retirement community for the wealthiest 1%, wouldn't it?

And if these issues don't concern you... don't worry. There'll be plenty more that will in the weeks ahead.


Feb 4, 2011

Slip Sliding to Work

The weather has been the number one story for the past few days here on the Coastal Bend of Texas. It's been cold, below freezing much of the time... the coldest spell for longer than most can remember... at least 25 years. Cold is one thing, freezing rain quite another.

Starting yesterday afternoon, liquid precipitation, rain and drizzle, fell all night. We woke to 26f degrees, more drizzle, and a thick layer of ice on everything -- 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Of course, the way these things always seem to work out, Dar was scheduled to work today. NOT going to work because of a little ice was out of the question, of course... she has a deep sense of duty and knows that especially on a day like today the hospital will need as much staff as they can get.

So as she got ready for work, I slipped outside to check what she'd be faced with. While there was a layer of ice on everything above ground -- wires, plants, trees, campers, cars -- ground surfaces like sidewalks and roads were only slightly icy, apparently warmed enough by the earth below to keep the precipitation from freezing completely.

I started the car and got it warming while she finished getting ready and eating a quick breakfast. By the time she was ready to go the car was warm enough so the ice sheet could be separated from the windows with a little effort. We'd plotted the safest route I could think of for her 15 mile drive... avoiding all bridges and overpasses, which were, for the most part, proactively closed by the police anyway. It turns out all Interstate Highways and major roads (anything with bridges or overpasses) are closed throughout the Coastal Bend, including Corpus Christi and the surrounding area.

This is a rare event down here, so highway crews have very little equipment or materials to deal with it. Most people just stay put and wait for it all to melt... and that's a good thing as it made for an easy, albeit slow, trek to work for Dar. We were in communication during most of her drive and were both relieved when she was parked and safely inside the hospital.

Looking for my ice skates...

Feb 3, 2011

Inescapably Sexagenarian

This week I turn 60.  I haven't thought about it much... actually not at all until the last few days. It certainly isn't "bothering" me... well, at least it wasn't until the recent spate of emails, cards, and comments with various geriatric themes... all meant, I think, in good humor.  But I now feel a need to say something about this milestone... I mean, it's just the kind of thing that belongs in a journal, isn't it?.. a report on the "state of the sexagenarian self" that belongs in the permanent record? Perhaps it will give some future descendant a little insight into old crazy Thom from back in the early 21st century. Or maybe someone will stumble across this post and it might be the reason they decide to pause for a few moments, put down their latest electronic distraction device, and ponder their own existence for a while. That would make me smile.

For what it's worth, I don't feel 60. Many years ago I came across a thought... a question really... that I've carried with me ever since: If you didn't know your age, and you didn't know how you physically appear to others, how old would you say you are? In other words, how old do you feel? Don't answer too quick... think about it a while. My current response to this question is 42 (which, coincidentally, we all know is also the answer to the ultimate question of life). I genuinely feel like I'm 20 years younger than I actually am.

This 60 year old body is doing quite well, thank you, with no chronic aches or pains (knock on wood... fingers crossed). I do have some hypertension and a higher than ideal cholesterol level that need to be chemically managed, but while these issues can be life-threatening they don't typically effect the way you feel. And I honestly feel great.  If I have weaker muscles, less flexibility, or less endurance than an earlier time, I believe it has more to do with my lack of physical activity and exercise than it has to do with age. For most of my life, I've kept my weight under control too. And finally, my genes are pretty darn good -- both my Mom and Dad are still around and going strong. Just imagine how they feel... to have a kid that's 60!

So having that particular mix of good genes, good fortune, and a measure of good self-control, I think I'm in pretty good shape physically. Of course, another way to look at this... maybe the realistic way... is that it's all downhill from here. The ravages of time will inevitably take hold and this is as good as it gets. In that case, damn the torpedoes... full speed ahead.

And how about the other part of my human duality... the mind? Here again, I don't think my mind feels or acts like it's 60 years old. I enjoy intellectual pursuits and make an ongoing study of various topics in social, scientific, and political realms. I'd like to think I still have an open mind... one that seeks to understand all sides of an issue before forming an opinion.... willing to listen. In my humble opinion, old codgers sometimes suffer from brain calcification (hardening of the mind), and I actively work to keep that from happening to me.

I've had the good fortune to inherit my Dad's (and a long line of his ancestor's) sense of humor. I love looking for and finding humor anywhere I can find it... to twist words for humorous effect... to make others smile or laugh with puns or ridiculous stories... to stay as much as possible on the light side of life. And my memory is still quite good despite some noticable "extra effort" needed at times to recall some facts or events.

One thing I am loosing is some of that "filter" that kept me "in check" during certain social situations. In the past, a lot of effort went into "fitting in" with the group... the way they think, what they say, how they dress. But the older I get the less I care what others think. Increasingly I say whats on my mind and let the cards fall where they may. I have less fear of putting the real me out there and having "them" deal with it.. take it or leave it. As far as I'm concerned, this as one of the positive effects of aging. It's nice to just be me.

In the past few days I've pondered some about all those years I've been a part of.  I wondered if I've done my best in my relationships with others?..  in my marriage to Dar?.. in raising my kids?.. in my career?.. in living life to the fullest? Certainly there are things I might strive to do better... if there was another chance. But there isn't another chance. And I think that's the lesson. Whether it's your first year or last or any in between... you've only one opportunity to make it what it will be. There are no do-overs.

Trying to touch my toes, but still about 6 inches away...

Feb 2, 2011

Frigid Groundhog

Willow Alaska is about 40 miles north of Anchorage, out along the Susitna River and Highway A3 that runs up to Fairbanks. Every morning I check the weather in Willow. We know a couple intrepid explorers who are building a cabin out in the wilderness near there, and I like to see what they're dealing with... at least as far as weather is concerned.

This morning it was 29f degrees in Willow... and 24 here in Rockport. How's that for a little topsy-turvy with your morning Wheaties?

Yes, it's cold here along the Coastal Bend of Texas... the longest and coldest blast of arctic air in the past 22 years according to the weather guy on a local Corpus Christi TV station. We'll have lows in the 20's and highs in the 30's until Saturday, along with a good chance of sleet and snow on Friday. This lobe of chilly air is being drawn southward by that big winter storm, the largest in years, menacing the Midwest and Northeastern USA.

This morning the attention-starved folks of Punxsutawney, PA. will don tuxedos and do their best to yank a groundhog from it's burrow for a throng of cameras and anxious parka-clad folks hoping for an early Spring. If the rodent had any brains at all he'd just hit the snooze-bar, roll over, and go back to sleep.

I think I'll do the same.

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...