I do not know what is happening.

Sep 23

Some things were accomplished

This is how the day went —

You shouldn’t begin a daily post generally grounded in the day-to-day events and notes of interest to the author; it is implied.

You’re right. Should I try again?

I think you should. No one has started a post like that since the days of the burrrrrr-krrrrrr-beeeeep—whiiiiii modems.

You’re probably right.

I think that I am, yes.

This is how the day went. I got a later start than I wanted, but that was fine. I did a little prep work for this week’s classes. Then I took a trip to the convenience center to drop off a good 10 days worth of garbage and recycling. Eventually, the novelty of that little chore will wear off and we’re going to want some actual curbside service, like most people from the later part of the 20th century.

The garbage haul was two bags from the house. I also moved four bags of weeds and one tub full of recycling. This took, I dunno, three minutes to load up, probably less time to unload and 25 minutes of driving, round trip.

Which meant it was lunch time, and so I had a nice bowl of chicken noodle soup on a day when the heat index will hit 100 degrees. After that, I did a a bit more work, and then set out for a haircut. The place I visited offered me a 145 minute wait. Not two hours and 25 minutes, but 145 minutes. There was a small circus worth of children in there, so I shared my thanks and departed. There was another place not too far away, I went there. Equally crowded. Did not go in. I’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll make an appointment, which carries the hefty cost of, for some reason, having to share my cell phone number with a company.

With my still shaggy and unkempt hair, I went to the grocery store. Potatoes for dinner, check. Soups for lunch, check. Cheez It because we eat it, check. Grapes as an impulse purchase’s sake, no dice.

Back in the home office, another few hours of prep work and it’s possible that I’m over-prepared. The spontaneity, I fear, is going from my best speeches and jokes. Or, I could be kidding myself about my level of preparation. The good news: I have all day tomorrow. So I’ll re-read this stuff for the 15th or 16th time in the last week.

So I called it and went for a swim.

And, this evening, I set a personal best. Longest swim of all time, 3,520 yards. I do not know what is happening. My lovely bride went for a run and caught the last of my swim, or the part near the end, the part where I was tired. I could feel it, of course. From about 2,700 to 3,000 felt different. Not desperate, but not good. Not haunting, but a distracted. My good shoulder was a bit achy, but I figured it would pass and it didn’t seem like something to stop over, so I kept on.

Then it all got better for most of the last 500 yards. And for the last 100 or so I sprinted it out, because that always seems like a good thing to do.

After I got my breath, she gave me a few pointers about what was going on with my form during that struggling portion. It seems my usual poor form deteriorated for a while, and that’s bad and can lead to injury. I’m not injured, but I am sore. I also swam two miles, so that stands to reason.

She said I should break up my swim into smaller segments if I was getting tired. And I was getting tired. This weekend I swam 3,080 yards and so I know about the point where I’d get tired. She said, with the wisdom of a real swimmer, that she’d rather see me swim 35 100s, with some rest breaks in there, so that I don’t get so tired that me and my sloppy form don’t swim myself into an injury.

I said that sounds like a good idea, and really good advice. But I had to find out if I could swim two miles.

You know, for shipwreck purposes.

And then I went to upload my swim into Strava, and found that the highest data point they allow for a swim is …

So I have a new goal. I just have to prove I can swim 100,000 yards. (I’ll take breaks.)

That’s 56.8 miles, almost three trips across the English Channel. (I’m never doing this, of course.)

Let’s wrap this up with a bit of the Re-Listening project. Though it hasn’t appeared here in a few weeks now, you’re accustomed to the concept: I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, and in the order in which I acquired them. These aren’t music reviews, just good music, occasionally a fun memory and, mostly, a bit of whimsy, which is always important in music.

And we’re up to late 2003 here, when Robinella and the CCstringband released the self-titled major label debut with this single.

They’d been a huge regional bluegrass sensation, which eventually brought them to the attention of the Columbia label. They’d released two smaller CDs, but this one, which included a bit of that earlier work, also got them some mainstream airplay.

You could best call the group progressive bluegrass and jazz blues. Which is great, because before I saw someone shoehorn the band into those genres, I thought, while listening to this record again, “This is one of the things bluegrass could have become.” You can hear some of that here, I think.

The musical version of that argument is sprinkled all over the record. It was one of those things that bluegrass could have become, but it wasn’t too be, for whatever reason. The next album had some pop and funk. Maybe that’s why.

I didn’t listen to this much in 2003 when it came out, for whatever reason. I liked the single, which was enough of a reason to pick this up, but it took me a while for the rest to grow on me, which is more about my musical shortcomings than anything to do with this band, which could put 12 good tracks on you and make you listen to all of them — if you’re ready for it.

Robinella and the CCstringband was Robin Ella Bailey and her then-husband, Cruz Contreras. They met in college, and shorted the band name to simply Robinella after this record. Somewhere after that the couple divorced and the band was dissolved.

While that song plays us out, let’s see if we can find out where everyone wound up. Robin Bailey is still playing locally, in Tennessee, as Robinella, having put out records in 2010, 2013 and 2018. She also makes art. Her Instagram suggests she plays a lot of unconventional, interesting places, which looks fun. Contreras is touring as well. I listened to the sample song on his site. I liked it. Cruz’s brother Billy Contreras played the fiddle on that record. When he was 12 years old he won the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and has played with everyone and everywhere since then. Everyone: Lionel Hampton, George Jones, Doc Severinsen, Crystal Gayle, Charlie Louvin, Ray Price, Ricky Skaggs and more. He also taught at Belmont for a time. Steve Kovalcheck has also played with many of the greats, he’s the guitarist on this record and he’s an associate professor of jazz guitar at the University of Northern Colorado. Taylor Coker plays the upright, and he toured with Cruz for what looks like most of the teens. He’s still plucking strings, now with the biggest jazz band in eastern Tennessee.

Twenty years later, everybody is still playing. Doing what you love all that time, it’s a great thing.

The liner notes on this CD had some extra content on it. The instructions:

With this CD and a connection to the internet, you will have access to special “Behind The Scenes” footage and more:

1. Inset this disc into a computer connected to the internet
2. Log onto http://www.robinella.com/
3. Click Sign In

— ConnecteD May Not Work With All Computers —

Two decades ago, things really did seem limitless. You just had to remember to connect your dial up modem.

Sep 23

Happy September

As is so often the case with big tasks, I find that if I can break them up I can finally make real and good progress. It takes a few days of wheel spinning to remember that each time. You could say it is a shortcoming. An oversight. A stubbornness. I think of it as part of the process.

So it was that I laid out a plan to have the syllabi and material for two classes all squared away by Monday. The other, I’ll wrap up on Tuesday. And then, finally, I can think about what to do with an actual class. (Step one, haircut.)

Circumstances beyond anyone’s control gave me a late start with some of the prep. My new colleagues have been incredibly helpful with mitigated a lot of that, but, still, there’s a lot to do. Taking it on in smaller chunks gets it done, though, every time.

I have three notebooks, two piles of paper, three separate browsers, multiple tabs in each and, now, gobs of Google Drive links. There’s a lot to work through.

And so I did, until almost 6 p.m. on the Friday of a three-day weekend. Then I went for a swim.

Two days after a 2,650 yards night swim, I was at it again.

It takes about 400 yards for my shoulders to warm up. After they stop complaining and until I stop, I go through stretches where my form is bad and then my form feels extraordinarily good. There are moments where I’m breathing on each stroke, hard and strong, a puffing locomotive. And then there are these wild moments where I swim a few short laps with the most relaxed breathing possible. It never lasts, that calmness, that efficiency, but the way it all changes amuses me, and probably says a lot about my inconsistency as a swimmer.

At precisely the moment where I reached Wednesday’s 2,650-yard distance, my arms started complaining again, this time from fatigue. That’s a mile-and-a-half, so being tired was understandable, but I kept on swimming for a while longer, until I reached this swim’s little goal. Taking on the bigger thing in smaller chunks: a good approach for September.

I swam 3,080 yards this evening.

I do not know what is happening.

Aug 23

A good workout makes it all better

I spent all day frustrating myself with pagination and bullet points. No matter how old I may get, no matter how much wisdom I earn, I will never have the patience for this, or understand why simple text editors and CMS tools simply refuse to do the obvious thing.

Or, failing that, why my ideas and habits are always so fundamentally at odds with the people who designed these things. Designed these things, one imagines, with a notion of serving the broader audience. If so it begs an important question: am I out of step with popular ideas about indentation?

Other things, you grow fine with. Music, fashion, well, that’s just a byproduct of not caring as you get older. Certain elements of political ideologies, what are you gonna do? How the cookie crumbles, could have used a different emulsifier, but I’m sure that was a bottom-line decision. Stuff happens, yes, in fact, stuff does happen.

But, my goodness, people should all want to use bullets and other basic formatting traits in a sane, sensible, not-at-all-programmed-by-a-sociopath way.

After I’d spent hours doing this — that’ll teach me, until the next time — which included making up brand new utterances to utter, my lovely bride came in and suggested a way around this problem. It made sense. It was easy. But, by then, I had invested six hours on the thing and who wants to blow up that sort of progress?

I was flibbertygibberted.

A little while later I had a cause to be even more frustrated because I finally went outside and it was a stunningly beautiful evening. (Literally, all afternoon was spent on this ridiculous task I’d made for myself, rather than being outdoors.) So I went for a swim.

Jumped in, goggles on and started the freestyle technique. This was my view on the starting end of the pool.

Swam for an hour. Got in 2,650 yards. I do not know what is happening.

This is not fast, but it is a respectable distance. Also, I didn’t stop the first time during the whole thing, which is absolutely a record. This was my longest swim since October 17, 2015. That was my last lap swim until last month. A lot happened in between. A lot of nothing happened in between, too. But that’s the case for everyone. Anyway, 10th swim in after an almost eight year layoff, and I’m doing some real distance again.

My heart rate, immediately after my swim, was 101. I might not be working hard enough.

Swimming at dusk, though, was a lot of fun, and just what I needed after flabdabbering my computer all day. I’m going to feel it in my shoulders tomorrow, but I might also go for another swim Friday evening.

This is the fifth installment of my tracking down the local historical markers by bike. There’s an online database with 115 markers in the county. Counting today, we’re 11 down and making decent progress. What will we learn a bit about today? We have a few more war memorials.

I’ve read that 78 local men served during the Great War, by the time it was over, 124 people had enlisted. Some 3,300 people lived in the two communities represented on that marker. In a small town any enlistment is keenly felt. I haven’t, yet, found anything online that tells me about which locals shipped out, to where or with whom. I don’t know anything yet about casualties, but supreme sacrifice leaves you with more than a suggestion. All of it was keenly felt, I’m sure.

Some of those initial 78 would have likely been in the Guard. When the war began in Europe, the local national guard was under strength, under supplied and under prepared, but still somehow better equipped, trained and prepared than it had ever been. New Jersey was one of only four states that funded 75% of the expenses of its National Guard. Some of the Guard here went to the Mexican border. Some went to Fort Dix, and then Anniston, Alabama, before heading out to France. But where the men honored here, I don’t know.

Right next to that marker is this one.

Russell Garrison also has a memorial park in his name, just a few miles away. Garrison was killed at a place called Pleiku, a strategic crossroads town, in 1967. He wasn’t yet 22.

Marvin Watson was a PFC in the Marine Corps. He died in 1969 in Quang Nam, a town in central Vietnam by the East Sea. His high school yearbook says he was known for his sense of humor. He had just turned 20.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund says 28 people from this county died in Vietnam.

Two generations later, here we are.

Specialist Richard Emmons III probably got razzed for his baby face. He looked young even in his fatigues, even in his beret. And when you see the photos of him smiling, you can really see it. He was 22 years old, in a province in eastern Afghanistan he probably couldn’t have found without a detailed map before he deployed. A rocket-propelled grenade attack on his convoy. He’d been in the army for less than three years, and in-country for almost a year. It looks like the whole town came out when he was returned home.

Corporal Derek Kerns was killed in a training accident in Morocco. Helicopter crash. The Marines concluded it was pilot error. The two Osprey pilots survived, but Kerns and another, a Marine from Los Angeles, were killed. Kerns joined the Corps right after high school, and his family said he really took to the life. He’d just gotten married, and they had just had a baby. He was only 21.

And somehow, despite that, it’s the blank space beneath those two names, the air below those stories, that is really striking.

All three of those markers are next to one another, overlooking Memorial Lake, which is right beside Main Street. A pair of bald eagles live around the lake, and there’s a nice little neighborhood just across the street. The locals fish for bass and crappie there.

So we’ve learned a fair amount this week, but there’s a lot more to go. If you’ve missed some of the early markers, look under the blog category We Learn Wednesdays. And be sure you come back next week for what is a historical pre-footnote and something else, which isn’t even in place anymore.

It doesn’t sound like much, but that installment is going to be great.

Aug 23

‘Just like children sleepin’, we could dream this night away’

I swam 2,000 yards this evening. It was that or go stumble through a run, and my knees said: swim, why don’t ya? So I dove in, donned the ol’ goggles and started the freestyle stroke, with the occasional kick when I could remember to, counting laps along the way. Somewhere around 360 or 400 yards, my arms stopped complaining and just carried on with the effort. That’s my longest swim since 2015, where one fine September day I put 2,900 yards in the books. It is my 10th swim of the summer, and I did it all uninterrupted. I’m pleased with what seems like an impressive progression, and wondering what I’m doing poorly if I’m not a.) super winded or b.) exhausted or c.) both, after the fact, and if I have enough time to get to two miles this season.

Three, four, more swims, right? Surely that’s outrageous and feasible, all at the same time.

I do not know what is happening.

This has been a nice exercise. Something about the rhythm, even for an inconsistent water splasher as I am, becomes meditative enough. If you’re concentrating on keeping the lap count right or, occasionally, focusing on your technique, all of the other things can go out of your mind.

This lets the other things come back into your mind, because when you splash the water away at the wall, more water moves back through.

I don’t know what that means, either. Not really. I didn’t spend my time in the pool writing this. Clearly, that’s the oversight here.

Anyway, laps, time spent not writing this in my mind, because time was spent thinking about class preparation, instead. Not every day is a day full of deliverables, and this was one of those days. But! Two thousand yards!

Phoebe was not impressed. But, then, she’s a classic sidestroker, swimming on the carpet as she does throughout the day.

On Friday, she was very cuddly.

Some days, kitty needs dictate events. And part of Friday morning was one of those days.

Poseidon continues to maintain a watchful eye over his kingdom. He’s lately improved his approach to climbing up the narrow scratching post. What was once a chaotic effort to get up there for “Now what?” has become a confident, measured attack for “Where else should I be?”

I expect he’ll be leaping directly on top of it before long. When, that is, he’s not on the top of the refrigerator.

“No peektures, please.”

So the cats are doing just fine. So are their talons, as you can see a bit there.

We had an interesting bike ride on Saturday. We started too late. My fault. It was already quite warm. But we started with a tailwind. (Which is counterintuitive.) And so we had some impressive splits in the first half of the ride.

It was all I could do to hang on, so there’s no video, no shadow selfies or other cool camera tricks this time. Even still, we had the wonderful opportunity to see a few cool barns. This one was between here and there.

And this one we rode past just after our turnaround about halfway into the ride. (But more about our halfway destination at a later time.)

Soon after, we got back to a place that was more familiar, which meant my lovely bride could drop me. I was dead, but knew my way back, at least. I went a longer way, just for the spite of extra mileage. And, right at the end of that, I blew another inner tube.

They come in bunches for me, and that’s not frustrating at all, getting to break out a tire lever on your rear wheel twice in two weeks.

I suggested a lovely and romantic night out. There’s a winery nearby and they serve upscale pizzas on the weekend and it’s supposed to be lovely. Reservations were made, and 3.6 miles down the road we went. We timed it such that we caught last bit of the sunset creating a bokeh effect of the cars making the drive down the last dirt road. By the time we parked and got onto the property the sun was gone. A three-piece band was playing, mellow strains floating over the rows of grapes on the still August air being our introduction. This was the view.

We were sat right away. And the group played “Harvest Moon” as if on cue.

The only Neil Young song you need, really.

Some time passed and the hostess came by to see where our waiter was. You could tell there was some back-of-the-house drama going on. Someone else came to take our order. She did not know the special pizza of the day. A third person, then, stopped by to tell us about that creation, which was when our actual waiter turned up.

This was the special pizza of the day. They called it a Cubano, something or other. And though I have little need for dill pickles in general and no need for them on my pizza, you had me at Cubano.

Being the special, I reasoned, must mean that it was good. And it was good. Somehow those pickles worked.

They also had a lot of pizzas they put honey on. The Yankee’s had honey, and it was delicious, and maybe honey is one of those things, like bacon, that’s good on everything.

What if you put honey on bacon?

After an hour our pizza showed up, which is great, because I was about to launch into my whole “… and this is why I don’t pick restaurants” bit, which is absolutely why I don’t pick restaurants. We didn’t have a waiter. The place that is serving only pizza was struggling to get pizzas out. But it was tasty. The music was fine. The singer had a terrific Jeff Tweedy vibe, but judged his audience not-yet-ready for the Uncle Tupelo or Wilco catalogs. He mumbled when he talked. Couldn’t make out a single word. Sang wonderfully.

Our waiter, our real one, brought our pizza and … that’s about it. It brought up questions about who gets the tip, which is really just a question about why we use a tipping system, anyway.

After pizza we got a little ice cream, a nice end to a lovely day.

Yesterday afternoon we sat outside, as has been our recent custom, and read. I breezed through the second section of Eudora Welty’s memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings (1984). As I don’t read a lot of fiction, I’ve never read her work, but she’s a marvelous writer, and she delivers it with the most deft touch, when she’s talking about her bygone days. This second section — all of this book adapted from a series of lectures she delivered late in life — is about traveling as a young girl with her parents to see the extended family. Traveling from Jackson, Mississippi to West Virginia and Ohio was a week, one-way, in the car. At times they were ferried over creeks and rivers. Sometimes the ferry was powered by a man pulling on a rope. It was the 19-teens, and the same world, but harder.

The whole section dives into her grandparents, and deeper parts of the family roots as she understood them. And the people here are developed with the depth and care you would expect of a keen observer and a more-than-able writer. The very last part, after they’ve gotten home from the long summer journey …

“The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily — perhaps not possibly — chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”

I bet even that paragraph means different things to people at different points in their lives. Looking back and marinating in it all, re-playing and re-rationalizing things, putting a narrative to it all. It would be different to a woman of 74, as she was when she delivered that lecture at Harvard, than it would have been to the students in the audience. And the professors and middle-aged people in the room that nodded along sagely, they’d have another understanding, too.

It’ll probably mean something different to me, next Sunday, when I finish the book.

Jan 19

So much was accomplished!

Woke up this morning for a run. The windchill was 22. There were snow flurries. I ran through something the National Weather Service called freezing fog. I don’t know what that is, meteorologically speaking, but let’s say what I ran through fit the bill.

It fit the bill.

Here’s one of my views, from just under halfway through my run:

This little field runs down into a man-made pond. I bet it is frozen right now.

I do not know what is happening.

All of the pavement was dry. But I did run on a path next to the local middle that was iced over. It seemed a bit inexplicable. Either the soccer field above the school had been storing up a lot of moisture and released it in sub-freezing weather or some middle schoolers had a little fun in the hopes of shutting things down.

They did not shut things down; the local educators are a hardy bunch. The pranksters, or the weeping field, only succeeded in slowing down my run.

My run didn’t need the help in slowing down.

Hit a grocery store for a few essentials, and wondered once again how it is that people can’t be bothered to put away their shopping carts. It is a small store, and is most decidedly used more by regulars than one-offs. Especially thoughtful is the person who routinely parks their cart in the handicapped parking spot. You know who was really appreciative of that soul? The elderly lady who climbed out of her SUV while I was moving that cart. She had to shuffle around the frozen snow piles on her cane, because she couldn’t park in the handicapped spot.

That’s at least the third time I’ve seen that happen there. I’m counting now. Last time I saw a guy actual leaving his cart there. It was a nice move, seeing as how he was in his work truck, covered in company livery, at the time. We had a pleasant conversation about it. For my part I complimented him on his ability to at least push the cart away from his own quarter panel.

Anyway, in the studio tonight:

Meredith, Caroline and Andrew have the latest stories and weather covering campus and town. That episode should be out in the morning.

Tonight I visited a tailor because there are alterations to be made to pants and, really, I needed the new adventure. Two pairs of slacks are getting taken in, and they’ll be ready for me next Tuesday. Whereupon I might take a few more pairs of slacks, as well. It was, as you might surmise, a great big ol’ party.

The nightcap was spaghetti and zinc and vitamin C chewables. And if I stop this here, I’ll have established a trend of finding my way to bed earlier and earlier.