Watchin’ the Sun Bake

Today turned into a fun day.

There’s a guy at work named Zach who is very much a hippie at heart. Even more so than me. He’s the dude who goes to Burning Man every year, spends his lunch hour in the park strumming a guitar, and walks around the office barefoot. Anyway, he decided on a whim to throw a “Jimmy Buffett Margarita Tailgate” this afternoon. I assumed he was kidding, until I saw him filling an inflatable kiddie pool with water and hauling in an ice chest filled with bottles of tequila, margarita mix, limes, and beer. He opened the sliding garage door on the side of the office, queued up some Jimmy Buffett, Beach Boys, and Ventures tunes, and the party got started.

When in Rome, right? So I mixed myself a couple of tequila sodas (adamantly low-carb ‘til the very end, folks) and kicked it with my coworkers.

I love this group. Truly.

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It was hot AF (that’s how the kids spell it out, right?), 100-degrees plus, but somehow it just didn’t matter. The party broke up after an hour, but proved to be the perfect midday break. I’m such a lightweight nowadays I felt sort-of buzzed the rest of the afternoo. I always joke that I do my best work half-inebriated, but really, I do. I knocked out work orders all afternoon. Who knew tequila could be such a boon to productivity? They should pay me to drink at work more often!

Because of the heat, I’ve been getting up super early this week and walking. It might sound like torture to willingly extract yourself from bed at 4:35 in the morning, but I’m telling you, it’s totally worth it. Now that the sun doesn’t rise until after 6 it’s still dark, and the weather is very pleasant. It was 67 this morning, with a cool, gentle breeze – I skipped the hoodie and was perfectly comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts. The just-past-full moon was hanging low on the horizon as I walked through the park, and adding to the ambience was an owl, hooting plaintively in the trees. [It’s funny I ascribe the hooting as being plaintive. For all I know the owl was overjoyed. Or hungry. Or horny. {shrugs} It just sounded mournful in the predawn stillness.] I’ll be nodding off by 10 PM, but I didn’t die walking in the midday heat, so that’s a win.

We were going to check out the Skamania County Fair tonight, but screw that. Instead we decided to hole up in our air-conditioned apartment with records and drinks and chicken nachos.

Tomorrow evening we have a concert at the Oregon Zoo. Tara’s mom bought us tickets to see Lord Huron and Trampled By Turtles for her birthday. We are not at all thrilled about the heat, but what can we do about it? Not a damn thing. I’m just glad it’s a weekend concert and we can sleep in the next day. The weather is supposed to cool off on Sunday, and then it’ll be decent until about Thursday, when it’s back in the 90s.

Thursday night, we are seeing Journey in concert.

Oy, vey.

The Forest is My Happy Place

This past weekend, Tara and I went hiking.

Which seems to be a recurring theme in my life these days. I have gone hiking every weekend for the past month. Maybe in a past life I was Paul Bunyan, but in this one I have traded in my axe for hiking poles. I don’t want to chop down trees; I just want to enjoy them.

I do wish I owned a blue ox, though. How cool would that be?!

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I owe my love of nature to my folks, I suppose. For as long as I can remember, we have always gone hiking. Growing up in Hawaii we’d trek through lush bamboo forests, retrieving passionfruit that had fallen from trees that my mom would subsequently turn into these amazing cookies. In Ohio, we bought a pop-up camper and explored some of the farthest corners of the Buckeye State. In South Dakota, the Black Hills were our playground. Hiking has long been an important part of my life.

When I married my ex, hiking took a backseat to other pursuits. Raising kids is hard work, and saps your energy. The last thing in the world you feel like doing is tackling five or six miles through rugged backcountry when you’ve just stepped on a Lego and gotten a whopping three hours of sleep.

After our divorce, I spent a couple of years trying to navigate the dating world (oh-so-fun!) (no, really!) and my newfound freedom before I remembered hiking. One morning in 2009 I woke up and suddenly recalled that getting outside and enjoying nature was something I used to do quite frequently. So I gave it a whirl again. And quickly became hooked.

One of the things I love most about Tara is her own love of getting outside and exploring. During my first trip to Ely, before we were even an official couple, we drove out to Great Basin State Park and ended up doing an alpine hike at Mount Wheeler. Elevation: 10,000′. That was brutal, and just about killed me. Then again, I was a good 60+ lbs. heavier and used to sea level. I’m surprised I didn’t keel over from a heart attack.

We’ve hiked together many times since, and now that I’m fit, it’s only gotten easier. I bet I could conquer Mount Wheeler without even breaking a sweat today. Elevation gain and altitude don’t even faze me. It’s tough to pick a favorite hike – we’ve done a lot of good ones over the years. The hike across the pumice plain to a hidden waterfall in the crater of Mount St. Helens was memorable. As was the Iron Goat Trail and haunted railroad in Steven’s Pass, the Naches Peak Loop at Mount Rainier, and the huckleberry fields in the Indian Heaven Wilderness. If there are trees, I’m in my element. The forest is my happy place.

Here are some pics of recent hikes. Enjoy!

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Bad News: I Lost the Election

I am sad to report that my last-minute campaign during Washington’s primary last week was unsuccessful. I lost my bid to become the Evergreen State’s newest Commissioner of Public Lands.

What’s that? You had no idea I was running for public office? Neither did I, right up until the day of the election. My coworker, Kimberly, was filling out her ballot and asked if she could add my name as a write-in candidate.

“For which position?” I asked.

“How about Commissioner of Public Lands?” she replied.

“Go for it,” I said, figuring my love of nature and the outdoors made me at least as qualified as the other candidates.

So she did. And just like that, a budding political career was launched. 13872835_10209964422416101_8881128645386021814_n

I’ll admit, “running for public office” wasn’t something I’d planned on doing when I awoke on Tuesday morning, but by the end of the day I was all in, especially after Googling “Commissioner of Public Lands” to find out just what the heck I’d be responsible for doing and saw the six-figure salary that accompanies the job. That afternoon I hit the campaign trail – which means I made a circuit of the office – asking my coworkers if I could count on their support. None of them even knew I was running.

“Are you kidding? This has been a lifelong dream of mine,” I replied. “Well, at least since 9 AM.”

“What’s your position on the issues?” one of them asked.

“I am ‘pro’ the good things and ‘anti’ the bad,” I said.

Whew! I really dodged a bullet with my quick thinking there. Gotta keep my constituents happy, you know?

“Yep. You’re a politician, all right,” came the cynical reply.

Politics does run in my family, as a matter of fact. My grandfather’s-sister’s-husband (got that?) was mayor of Ewing Township, New Jersey, back in the 60s. He’s even got a memorial park named after him. It’s practically my birthright, see?

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As the returns trickled in, it quickly became evident I would not be packing for Olympia. The race is going to come down to Steven McLaughlin and Hilary Franz instead. I blame it on my lack of campaign buttons.

I am nothing if not gracious in losing, and plan on officially endorsing Hilary, of course. I’ll schedule a news conference soon. At least I can honestly say my name was on the Washington state ballot this year, and I received vote.

Not votes, mind you. But you know what? I got one more than anybody else in the office did!

And come 2020, I plan to throw my hat in the ring a lot sooner.

After that, the sky’s the limit. I bet my lava lamp collection would look great in the Oval Office…

Ohanapecosh, By Gosh!

I have, in the past, lamented over the fact that technology is taking over the world. I’ve mentioned how I wish we could go back in time to those carefree days where a “smartphone” was considered one that had buttons to push rather than a rotary dial, and a “web domain” was simply the home of a spider.

I take that all back now. Technology is good.

Tara decided last week she’d like to go camping for her birthday. Great idea! I love camping, too! You know who else loves camping? Every single freakin’ person who lives in the Pacific Northwest. At least in months ending with “e”, “y”, and “t”. It’s impossible to get a last-minute reservation this time of year, at least over the weekend. You can reserve a spot six months in advance, and I have a sneaking suspicion most of the really good camping spots are taken five months and 30 days early. So, no camping, right?

Not so fast. Turns out some campgrounds set aside a limited number of campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. One of those, Ohanapecosh (fun to say!!) Campground, was located smack dab in the middle of Mount Rainier National Park. A little research showed that 40 of their 188 spots were non-reservable. Perfect!, I thought, and devised a plan to make my wife’s birthday wish come true. I would take Friday off, leave the apartment super early, make the 2.5-hour trek north, and grab a spot for the weekend. Tara, who had an optometrist’s appointment at 2 PM, would leave afterwards and meet me there.

This was an excellent idea. In theory. But so were asbestos and sub-prime mortgages. I failed to take into account just how many people would show up early trying to find spots of their own, so when I arrived at Ohanapecosh (so fun – try it!!) shortly after 10 AM, I was shocked and dismayed to see the following sign.

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My first, optimistic naive thought was, they must be referring to the reserved sites, which have been full for the past five months and 30 days! But as I entered the campground and circled through the G and H loops, where the first-come, first-served sites are located, I found every last one taken.

Before I’d left, Tara had asked what our backup plan was. “We have no backup plan!” I told her, before adding optimistically naively, “And we won’t need one!”

I drove through a second time, but came up empty again. Just like that, it appeared our fun weekend getaway was getting away. And I realized the folly of my ways. Summer weekend, gorgeous weather…in retrospect, the possibility of finding a camping spot last-minute seemed like a fool’s quest. Still, I was so determined to make it happen, I tried to will a spot into existence.

Amazingly, this worked.

Unwilling to concede defeat just yet, I parked my car at the visitor’s center, grabbed a folding camp chair from the trunk, and set out on foot, hoping that a walk through the campground would somehow yield better results. When I reached the 38th out of 40 possible spots, I found an empty site. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, convinced I was hallucinating or the whole thing was a mirage, but there it was: a deserted campsite, free* for the taking.

*Actually $20 a night, if we’re being technical.

I set up the chair to stake claim to the spot (per campground instructions) then practically ran back to the visitor’s center to pay for two nights and clip my receipt into place, breathing a huge sigh of relief and thanking my lucky stars. I can only assume that the people who’d had H5 had just left, because the site was not available the first couple of times I drove past.

Once the campsite was reserved, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the day. It was 11:00 and Tara wouldn’t arrive until after 5:00, so I headed up to the Sunrise Visitor’s Center and hiked the Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail, a 3.4-mile roundtrip jaunt that crosses a ridge line to an abandoned fire lookout tower with stunning views of Mt. Rainier. The sky was brilliantly blue and cloudless and the snowcapped volcano, one of the tallest peaks in the U.S., stunning. The only drawback was the crowds (not really a surprise, given how full the campground was).

Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail.
Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail.
Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier

After my hike, I drove back to the campground, arriving around 3:30. Aside from the camp chair, the only other thing I had was a paperback novel, so I settled in and started reading Ian McEwan’s Atonement while the tall fir trees danced and swayed in the breeze. It was damn near perfect for a little while…but then my fellow campers began trickling in and starting fires, and the smell of cooking food reminded me how hungry I was. By 5:00 I could no longer concentrate on my book, and anxiously started looking for Tara’s truck.

This is where the lack of technology bedeviled me. There is no cell service in that part of the park, and I had not been in touch with Tara since walking out the front door at 7 AM. She didn’t even know for sure whether I’d been able to find a spot, but we’d agreed in advance that I would drive into Packwood and call her if that happened. I started wondering what would happen if she’d been delayed or never showed up for some reason, which led to a feeling of downright helplessness. I have never missed cell phone service so badly. I’d expected her around 5:30, and when she hadn’t arrived yet by 6:30, I really started to worry. Fortunately, she showed up a little before 7:00, right before full-blown panic could set in.

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Once she got there we set up camp and got down to the important business at hand: booze. OK, that and enjoying the weekend, which turned out to be wonderful. We hiked, we cooked good food, we enjoyed amazing scenery, and we relaxed.

Ohanapecosh Campground.
Ohanapecosh Campground.
Silver Falls
Silver Falls
The wildflowers at Mount Rainier were on point!
The wildflowers at Mount Rainier were on point!
Mountains. Trees.
Mountains. Trees.

Oh, and we didn’t get eaten by a bear, which was another plus.

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So in the end, Tara’s birthday weekend was a success. We are already planning a return trip to Ohanapecosh (it never gets old!!) next summer.

But you can bet your ass we’ll have reservations next time. Five months and 30 days in advance.

I’m Dying to Be Left Alone. Literally.

I may have finally learned how to beat telemarketers at their own game. Just tell ’em you’re dead.

One day last week, I got a call from a Nigerian prince telling me I’d just won the lottery, and would I like to buy some Viagra with my earnings while switching cell phone carriers? Or something along those lines. We never got very deep into the conversation, because when he asked for Mark, I got all serious and said, “I’m sorry. He passed away recently.” The caller on the other end of the line mumbled his condolences and could not get off the phone quickly enough. It’s been a week since I faked my own death, and they have not called back since.

Hmm. Could death be the secret to a stress-free life? I’ve tried every trick in the book to get telemarketers to leave me alone. None of them has worked, with the exception of my untimely demise. Turns out that dying was the best thing to ever happen to me!rip

Now I’m trying to come up with other ways to take advantage of this apparently foolproof excuse. Forgot to pay the electric bill? Sorry, utility company. I died. Missed that dinner with my annoying friend who won’t stop going on about her poodle? Didn’t mean to stand you up. I was dead. Didn’t show up to work on Monday? Sorry, boss. R.I.P. Me.

Turns out you have far fewer commitments when you’re dead. I should have kicked the bucket years ago!


Speaking of work, my team had a very interesting IM conversation today.

Kimberly was talking about how excited she was over the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. I don’t know much about WW other than the fact that she flies an invisible airplane. This became the source of an afternoon-long debate, mostly between me and Deb.

“How does she know where the throttle is?” I wondered. “Or the brake? How can she tell how much gas she has left? Or her altitude? I don’t think an invisible plane is very safe.”

Deb said, “Now, does she become invisible when she is in the plane? Or do you see her just popping around in the sky?”

I replied that WW isn’t invisible, but the plane – and, oddly enough, everything else inside it – is. Which, once you start to think about it, is mind-blowing.

Image courtesy of notey.com.
Image courtesy of notey.com.

“Won’t people be able to kill her easily?” Deb asked.

“Well, the bullets would bounce off the exterior of the plane, invisible or not,” I explained. “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

From there, the conversation devolved further.

D: So the invisible plane is also bullet proof?
M: One bullet won’t take down a plane. It’ll just develop a hole…which you will never see. So if a bullet pierces the fuselage and gas starts leaking out…DO YOU SEE THE GAS?? No, right? Because it’s not like you see it when the plane is fully loaded.
D: What about window washing fluid? And brake fluid? And oil?
M: What if there is an in-flight beverage service???
D: Do you need a special license to pilot an invisible plane?
M: An invisible license!
K: [trying to steer the conversation elsewhere] You guys need some cats right now. [Links to hilarious cat slideshow. This one, actually.]
M: What if Wonder Woman brought a cat aboard her invisible plane? Would the cat be invisible?
D: I DON’T KNOW. This is really messing with me right now. What’s real. What’s not.
M: This is a blog post. Thank you for the inspiration, Kimberly!

Believe it or not, it was actually a very productive afternoon. Productive in that, we learned all kinds of interesting facts about Wonder Woman’s invisible airplane. Did you know that it’s actually an allegory? Per Wikipedia,

The invisible plane represented the “invisible” feminine compliance that allowed women of the Depression Era to enter and survive in the hostile male dominated work place with less resistance from that hostility. To demonstrate this, it was allegorized that the Invisible Plane would be undetected while moving quietly at super sonic speeds so that it would not be shot down by the guns of Man’s World. The idea was avoidance of conflict rather than meeting hostility head on.

All along, I thought it was just an invisible plane.

I certainly never imagined some deeper hidden metaphor action was happening behind the scenes. But I have an even bigger question: Wonder Woman flies, right?

…so why does she need an invisible plane…?

Oh, Sheila

I was out walking on my lunch hour yesterday, phone in hand, which I was checking periodically. There is nothing unusual about this; I often look at my phone while walking, either to track my workout progress on MyFitnessPal or queue up my camera for potential photo opportunities. There were lots of people out and about, and many seemed to be smirking at me as I passed.

“Petruska,” I chided myself, “You are being paranoid.”

But the weird looks continued. And then it dawned on me why: they obviously thought I was swept up in the latest mega-craze, trying to catch Pokémon on my phone. I mean, that’s how it is these days. I can’t even go for a walk around the block without running into roaming packs of teenagers glued to their phones in pursuit of these virtual reality creatures.

Once I realized this, I got immediately defensive. I started overcompensating by laughing out loud and making random comments directed at my phone. Ha-ha, I chuckled. “Oh, Sheila!” The weird part is, I do not know anybody named Sheila (unless you count Prince’s former protege from the late 80s, Sheila E. And I can’t say I know her per se, but I have heard “The Glamorous Life” on the radio approximately three million times. That must count for something.) “Oh, Sheila” was simply the first thing that came to mind. Guess I had that old Ready for the World song lodged in my brain.

It didn’t help anyway. Now, instead of a guy chasing after Pokémon, I was a guy laughing to himself and talking out loud. I shoved my phone in my pocket and clammed up for the rest of my walk, but by that point the damage was done, the ridicule self-inflicted.

Gotta catch 'em all!
Gotta catch ’em all!

As far as crazes go, this Pokémon one came out of left field. About a week ago Audrey asked if I’d heard about it.

“Pokémon?” I asked in disbelief. “Wasn’t that popular about 15 years ago?”

It was, because Rusty used to collect and trade the cards. Seems quaint now in this mobile age. I think he had a Nintendo 64 game, too. I simply did not believe my daughter when she said that Pokémon was popular again. Now that I can’t walk around the block without running into packs of teenagers glued to their phones talking about Pikachu, I have to concede that she was right, after all.

I never would have imagined this happening.

And, okay. Confession time. I wasn’t just looking at MyFitnessPal. I was also – ahem – playing around with Snapchat.

Never would have imagined that happening, either.

But I work with a bunch of Millennials. Deb, in particular, was touting the virtues of Snapchat to me and Kimberly (who is a fellow Gen X-er). She convinced us to download the app and see if we liked it. In typical fashion I resisted for weeks.

And then got hooked.

badgalrihanna.w190.h190.2xWell, kinda. But not really. I think Snapchat is a fun diversion, but impossible to take seriously. The impermanence of it bothers me. I have a hard time getting over the fact that everything you send (or post) disappears in 24 hours. I know you have the option to download Snaps to your gallery now, but that’s an extra step and really, what’s the point? So I’ve been playing around with it, usually via videos and goofy-as-hell daily stories that chronicle my day, but I feel the novelty is already wearing off. Maybe that’s because few people my age use it? Other than my SIL Esther, who has fully embraced it. Tara joined too, but she’s even less enthused than I am. It’s tough to justify creating Snaps when you have at best two or three people viewing them before they self-destruct forever. I suppose if I had more friends using it things would be different, but we old folks just aren’t that into it.

Instagram is more my speed – I’m on there every day. (adios.ghost, if you’re so inclined to stalk me look me up). I don’t even post that much to Facebook anymore. It just seems to have lost its appeal over the past year. I like to follow my friends there, and enjoy looking back at my memories, but actual updates are rare. I can’t even really pinpoint why…I guess maybe it’s just mostly run its course for me? I seem to be experiencing a lot of “what’s the point?” feelings lately. I like the simplicity of Instagram. I’m a visual guy. I dig pretty pictures.

Especially ones that don’t disappear in 24 hours.

Un-July

Living in the Pacific Northwest, there isn’t a lot of variation in the weather. A typical January day looks like this:

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Peek outside in March, and you’re liable to see this:

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Curious about November? Here’s what you’re going to find:

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Yes, it’s very often a broken record around these parts. But there is a brief window in which you are pretty much guaranteed a break in the rain. It’s known as July. With this in mind, Tara and I planned a camping trip last week. We figured the weather would be decent right after the 4th of July, so we took Thursday and Friday off and were eagerly anticipating a couple of nights around a campfire. We’d do some hiking and maybe a little fishing, too. It sounded like a perfectly relaxing getaway.

And then, a week ago, the forecast started showing rain.

“That’s gotta be a mistake,” I told my wife confidently. “It never rains here in July. The forecast will change later in the week – I’m sure of it.”

Sure enough, the forecast did change. But not in the way I anticipated. The 20% chance of scattered showers turned into an 80% chance of rain.

It’s been a very weird year for us weather-wise. Last 4th of July it was 95. This year, it reached 68. I’d spent part of the afternoon sitting out on the deck reading a book, but had to come inside because it was too chilly.

In the middle of the afternoon.
In summer.

And it’s been this way for weeks – unusually cool. Some nights it’s dipping down into the 40s. Quite a dramatic change from the past couple of summers, which have been unbearably hot. I’m calling it Un-July.

We debated taking a chance and going camping anyway, but memories of our washout at this same site four years ago were still all too fresh in our minds. Instead of eating S’mores, we were digging s’more trenches so our campsite didn’t flood. At one point our air mattress practically floated away. Not willing to put ourselves through that again, but also unwilling to cancel our vacation and actually work instead (perish the thought!), we came up with a Plan B: an overnight trip to the Oregon coast.

Our first stop was Drift Creek Falls, a fairly easy three-mile hike in the Coast Range east of Lincoln City. The highlight is a 240′-long suspension bridge traversing a canyon that overlooks a waterfall and a creek far below. Quite dramatic scenery, as long as you’re not afraid of heights like certain people I’m married to. I think Tara actually walked across the bridge with her eyes closed. In any case it was a gorgeous hike, despite the rain and mist that plagued us during much of the return trip.

Drift Creek Falls.
Drift Creek Falls.

After the hike we drove into Lincoln City, making a quick stop for essentials (and by “essentials” I mean alcohol) before checking into our room. Our motel, Sailor Jack’s, was pretty decent. Every room has an oceanfront view, and the bed was soft. Can’t really ask for more than that! We listened to music, poured ourselves a few drinks, and played cards while watching the waves roll in.

We drove to Depoe Bay for dinner. There’s a little dive bar called Gracie’s Sea Hag that we’d driven past for years without ever checking out. Well, I stumbled across an article recently that examined the 25 best places for clam chowder on the Oregon coast, and the Sea Hag was ranked #1. That gave us the incentive to stop, and I’m glad we did; the food was delicious (and yes, I’d have to say their chowder is my new favorite). I ordered a barbecued steelhead filet with veggies, and Tara got the seafood au gratin. Just as I was digging into my dinner, things got weird.

There was a blind piano player in the bar, and he started playing a very obscure Hawaiian song called “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u.” I have never heard it anywhere else but on my dad’s record player growing up, so to hear that song in that setting blew my mind.

I left our table and sat down in front of him while he played what I’ve long considered my favorite Hawaiian song. Afterwards I walked over to him and struck up a conversation. Told him how much I loved the song and how surprised I was to hear it in a tiny coastal town in Oregon. To my surprise, he told me his cousin was Jerry Santos, the singer in Olomana.

Man, it really is a small world, huh?

I went back to the table to finish dinner. A few minutes later another patron came over to tell me the piano player was dedicating a song “to the guy who was born on Oahu.” That’d be me! Because of his visionless-ness, he probably thought I was sitting there the whole time listening to him play. Oops. Anyway, I went back over there for the rest of his performance. Afterwards, somebody else came over to our table and thanked me for my dad’s service to the country. That’s something that has never happened before.

Suffice it to say, we had a great time at Gracie’s Sea Hag. When we left, we almost felt like local celebrities. It was very weird, but in a good way.

We drove back to Lincoln City and ended up going to a video arcade, where we killed an hour playing old school video games like Frogger, Centipede, and Galaga. Back in the room, the rest of the night is a bit hazy. I recall drinking raspberry flavored vodka in the shower, so that pretty much sums it up.

Stormy July morning.
Stormy July morning.

Friday morning we were up early for a walk on the beach. It started raining when we were at our farthest point from the room (because Un-July, remember?) so we got pretty wet. Naturally, our solution was to go back to the room and drink Bloody Marys. We checked out a couple of hours later, grabbed breakfast at a Hawaiian-themed restaurant (might as well after the previous night, right?) called Macadangdang’s in Lincoln City before driving home.

Funny, after such a fun mini-getaway, we weren’t the least bit upset about missing out on our camping trip.

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Last night I was getting a haircut, and there were banners on the salon walls promoting Shark Week. [Weirdest marketing tie-in ever, by the way. Makes about as much sense as seeing an advertisement for patio furniture in  Red Robin.] Sitting there, staring at a poster of Jaws, I wondered who the genius was that decided Shark Week should take place in June.

The first movie I ever saw in an actual theater was Jaws, back in the 1970s. Fortunately we lived in Ohio at the time, so there were no oceans within 1,000+ miles. Good thing, because for the next two years I shied away from every large body of water I came across. Which is exactly my point: watching sharks kill people sort of makes people want to avoid going swimming. It’s June. Summertime is synonymous with the beach. If it were up to me, Shark Week would air in the middle of December, when any self-respecting large body of salt water is about the same temperature as the inside of a refrigerator.

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The original intent of Shark Week, when it premiered in 1988, was to promote conservation efforts and help correct misconceptions about sharks. Nowadays it’s a bunch of sensationalized dramatic fiction like Lair of the Mega Shark. Even the actual documentaries are pretty lurid, though. I don’t think Blood in the Water or Wrath of a Great White Serial Killer are going to have people clamoring to take a dip anytime soon, you know?

Hence my midwinter plan. Too bad nobody ever pays attention to me.


Last Saturday, we drove up to Alder Lake, north of Mount Rainier, to meet up with Anne and Anthony for the day. On the way there, I convinced Tara we should listen to Hamilton. This was my third time through, and it just keeps getting better and better with each repeat listen. Tara liked it, but I wasn’t sure at first because she said it was “interesting,” which is often a polite way of saying you’re not really into something. It’s like when you are setting a friend up on a blind date and you tell him the girl “has a nice personality.” 9 times out of 10, that phrase means she’s ugly. Fortunately in this case my wife meant “interesting” in the literal sense, in that, she found it “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity.” She said the songs were catchy and clever, and she’d like to listen to it again and see an actual stage production someday. Whew! Anyway, the weather was perfect that day – low 70s, sunshine, fluffy white clouds, a breeze blowing off the lake. We did a little fishing (but didn’t catch anything), might have broken a few open container laws in the park, and grilled hot dogs. Oh, and at one point Anthony said he didn’t want to go in the water because he was afraid of sharks.

See?!

Gone Fishin'

Sunday was a much more laid back day. One of my coworkers was raving about the movie Prometheus and loaned me her BluRay copy a few weeks ago. I was like yeah, sure, I’ll watch it. Someday. Maybe. Well, every time Monday rolled around she’d ask me if I’d seen it yet and what I thought about it, so after briefly considering fake-watching it – surely Google would help me come up with a few coherent talking points should we engage in a lengthy conversation over the merits of the film afterwards – I figured I might as well actually just watch it. This turned out to be a surprisingly good idea, as both Tara and I ended up liking it. A lot. It’s an unofficial prequel to Alien, so if you’re into that sort of thing (coughDadcough), check it out.

I guess I should start taking people’s recommendations more seriously. I usually do end up liking whatever it is they suggest. And worst case, if I’d found Prometheus awful, I’d have simply told Kimberly it was “interesting” and nobody would be any wiser.

Talk Less. Smile More.

If you had told me a week ago that I would be walking through the forest on my lunch hour listening to show tunes, I’d have said you were nuts.

But Friday afternoon I found myself doing exactly that.

Who is this guy?! I wondered. Because I know me pretty well, and I am not the type to do this sort of thing. Or I wasn’t the type to do this sort of thing, until Hamilton came into my life.

I blame my coworkers. Deb and Kristen kept going on and on about some guy named Hamilton.

“Who’s Hamilton?” I asked.

“Hamilton’s not a who,” Deb replied. “It’s a what.”

Well, technically Hamilton is a who. Alexander, to be precise. Constitutionalist, Founding Father, guy whose face appears on the $10 bill. He was (spoiler alert!) famously killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. You probably remember him from history class (or the “Got Milk?” commercial). But the Hamilton my coworkers raved on and on about is the mega-popular Broadway musical that won 486 Tony Awards last week.

I have to admit I was skeptical. I don’t hate musicals, but I certainly don’t seek them out. When Deb urged me to listen to the soundtrack for Hamilton, my first inclination was to come up with an excuse not to. Especially when she described it as a history lesson set to hip-hop music.

“That sounds ridiculous!” I said.

And then she sent me a YouTube link to a song called “Aaron Burr, Sir” and I got it. Instantly.

The concept is nothing short of genius. The rhymes are dope, as the kids say (wait – do they still say that?), and the whole production really is one giant history lesson that happens to be entertaining as hell. I’ve learned so much. Who knew Alexander Hamilton was such a larger-than-life character?

Hamilton silhouette

In retrospect, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I caught the Hamilton fever. I’m a History minor, after all. And while I’m not a huge fan of rap music, I do appreciate its lyrical complexities and the skill involved in crafting a good rhyme. It was pretty much preordained that I would fall for this musical.

And now a group of us at work has our own insider jargon. We’ll walk around quoting Hamilton lyrics and people are none the wiser. Like, I’ll go up to somebody and say, “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?” and they’ll think I’m just making conversation or insulting them when, in reality, I’m making a subtle reference to “Non-Stop.” It’s pretty cool. I always wanted to learn another language.

I’m hoping that Hamilton hits the road, Jack. Or whatever your name is who happens to be reading this. I’d love to see the actual musical sometime.

What do you think? Are you a fan of musicals in general and/or Hamilton in particular? Does it live up to the hype?

And do you kind of think of Thomas Jefferson as a bit of an asshole now?

Punctuation Menopause

I have recently been informed that the period is dead.

RIP, period. We hardly knew ye.

Actually, we knew ye for a good long time, but you are as obsolete as rotary telephones and dial-up modems now. Even The Washington Post says so. The younger generation shuns you. You have been demoted to a mere option now, an accessory that adds emphasis but isn’t necessary to the ensemble as a whole. Adding insult to injury, you have been dumped for the line break, which isn’t even punctuation at all, but rather a void. It’s empty space. That has to sting. We’ve gone from debating whether to leave two spaces after you or just one to omitting all spaces because we’re not even using you any more. Today’s youth have fully stopped using the full stop, as you are known in Great Britain. Coolest nickname ever, by the way! I’ll write the rest of this post as the younger generation would, even though it makes me cringe and breaks every grammar rule I have ever been taught.

Dearest period
We have had a long relationship, you and I, but now it is time to part ways
You are no longer relevant, as the simple line break is enough to convey a pause in the conversation
By not bothering with periods, productivity increases 0.00000000000000007%
This certainly provides a boost to the American economy
And look at the extra four seconds a person gains over their lifetime by eliminating your use
Time well spent, I have no doubt
When you do appear, you are feared or misunderstood
Periods are used for emphasis now
They denote anger
Should somebody send a text with a period in it, kids gasp and shudder
Oh no, they think
I’m in trouble now
What did I do, mom?
Or
U mad, bro?
Question marks, in case you are wondering, are alive and well, according to my Millennial colleague, as are exclamation points! and hyphens-it’s only the lowly period we must mourn
And thus, society devolves into anarchy a little bit further every day
As a show of support and to emphasize the importance of proper grammar, I have vowed to start writing out acronyms
LOL is now Laughing Out Loud
ROFLMAO is now Rolling On the Floor Laughing My Ass Off
And I shall spell out your name to end a sentence
In fact, I’ll just start spelling out all punctuation marks because I believe in equality
I’m going to the store period
Do you need anything besides milk question mark
Fear not, my friend
Your legacy is assured with me
Period

Courtesy of blogs.dixcdn.com
Courtesy of blogs.dixcdn.com