memories


13
Jan 22

Read along as I talk myself into something in less than 100 words

Today I start feeling the impression that I’m beginning to wrap my arms around a new project at work. I’ve been working at it for a few days now, so that’s good timing. We’re also bringing two new studios online. And everything is up in the air with Covid.

And we haven’t even got the IUSTV folks back into their productions yet. They’ll start next week, 50-plus days in various studios and 80-or-more shows and a handful of podcasts and all of the live sports and … I probably shouldn’t be this tired in mid-January. I should definitely be this excited.

I also left the office mostly on time today, which was great, because I got to the house and hopped on the bicycle.

Here is my avatar riding underwater.

And look! I’ve never noticed this mountain in the background before. That’s not where we were headed today, but I have been thinking about going uphill, so that was a nice view.

Since I mentioned riding through the volcano in Watopia earlier this week, I figured I should do that again, and actually get a photo.

I set a new PR on the volcano climb, despite getting distracted, losing my rhythm and falling apart in the last 100 meters before the top of the climb.

At the end of each ride you get a little wattage report. They compare your best output over five seconds, one minute, five minutes and 20 minutes to your all time bests. In the five and 20 minute segments this was one of my better rides.

And now I want to start doing laps up the volcano. And returning to the bigger ascents on Zwift.

But first I need to upgrade my bike shoes. My dear sweet old, cheap, Bonties — pictured here when they were still almost new — are starting to hurt my feet.

More than six years and many thousands of miles. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about that.

My feet do, though.

OK, this weekend: shoe shopping!


6
Jan 22

From the home office

Worked from home today — also worked from home yesterday afternoon — because of a heating problem in our building. People that know what they were doing had to work in the ancient steam tunnels and that meant there was no heat on what have been the two coldest days so far this winter.

Late in the fall they went down into the tunnels to do a two day job and it turned into something like a three-week proposition. When the experts got down there they found the problem was much more extensive than they thought. We had no hot water or heat during that stretch, but at least the weather was mild.

Now, it’s bitter cold. You can almost feel it in this photo, which was essentially the look of the day.

This is not my first cold workplace environment, of course, but I sure wouldn’t mind if it was my last. I once had a studio so cold I couldn’t type. As we were taught, you faked your way into pleasantness. Never let anyone know what’s wrong on the air. This had the added benefit of making sure the boss never got repair bills from the HVAC people, too. In my last stop the newsroom and office could get just as painful. The facilities people said too few of us worked up on that third floor, so it was not a … What is the word they used? … Was it priority? They never solved that in eight winters, so, no, I don’t think priority was the word. Oh, yeah! Problem. It wasn’t a problem! And nothing was ever done, no larger complaints ever lodged, no important people ever involved, because it wasn’t a problem, because it was just a few people, you see.

Looking back, that should have been a clue.

Yesterday I had four layers on, and only four because, I figured, sitting in my office while also wearing my long coat would have been silly.

Put it this way, when we received word yesterday we could retreat to warmer conditions, and I got to the house — where my lovely bride, who was raised a frugal Connecticut yankee, manages the thermostat — it felt positively toasty in comparison.

Anyway, the people working in the mysterious steam tunnels said their work would carry over into today, so we were given the option to work from home again. This was a rare treat, indeed.

So I sat in my home office, where it was pleasant, and worked. And at the end of the work day I decided it wasn’t pleasant because I really need a new chair. I was pretty sure, but now I’m convinced. And so I found one which will arrive next week. Or sometime in 2027. It’s difficult to tell, based on this website.

It might seem counterintuitive, but do you know what you do when your backside is hurting from a worn out cheap chair that you bought 10-plus years ago? You get in the saddle.

I set an entirely pedestrian 20 mile-per-hour pace around London.

The good news, the people working in the steam tunnels got their work done today. So we’ll be back in the office tomorrow and I’ll give a silent thanks to the hardworking people that I don’t know, who kept us warm, or safe, or both. And tomorrow is good, because classes begin again on Monday. Tomorrow will be the last deep breath until the sprint to mid-March.

Deeeeep breath.


5
Jan 22

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes …

We got a text in the pre-dawn hours this weekend, the sort that comes with a sting and a great ache created by a newly formed hollow place.

Our friend Brian’s father passed away. He’d been fighting some heart-related problems and things were starting to improve until, suddenly, the doctors and nurses had to say they’d done all they can do. It’s just terrible.

Tom was a husband, a grandpa and a father. He is the father of one of the most steadfast men I know. Brian and I worked together for four-and-a-half years. Everyone called us office spouses. We shared a cubicle, mostly because I didn’t drive him crazy. I only didn’t drive him crazy because I admired him so much.

And that was the guy at work. Away from keyboards and glowing screens, Brian is the person that knows my wife and me as a couple longer than anyone. He delivered the toast at our wedding. He helped us move. Multiple times. For many years, when we lived in the same town, we dined with Brian and his wife, Elizabeth, weekly. We have celebrated countless little successes with them. We have boasted unceasingly about the achievements of their brilliant daughter. We have all held each other and cried in the most unimaginable grief.

Tom and his wife, Janet, who (I’m trying to find a not-clichéd way to say it, but she) is just about a perfect gem of a human being, took us in for no other reason than we were their boy’s friends. It is part of their shared generous spirit to the world beyond their door. A lot of people do that, sure. The McAlisters made it feel like it was just for you, like you were the only lucky people that got added, which was far from the case. Felt like it, though. They met because they were spelunkers, and it worked. They had two sons and their family, official and otherwise, just grew and grew and grew.

Here’s Brian and his dad, Tom, after Brian’s daughter’s birthday party. She was a wee thing then and is a certifiably genius college student today. I don’t have a great frame of reference for father-son moments, but this felt like one, almost 14 years ago, to the day.

It looked important and cool. I didn’t want to intrude.

What’s more, their welcoming spirit was familiar. Felt like part of my family. My grandmother was that same way. Never met a stranger. She ministered with food and laughter. There for most anyone for most anything at most any time. Tom and Janet, always gave off a known sort of kindness. Their easy, unspoken, cherished bosom buddy sort of personality was normal.

One terribly sad year, Brian and Elizabeth decided to not have Thanksgiving. Their son passed away a week before and they needed some time to themselves. Rather than think of them being alone, I invited Tom and Janet, the grieving grandparents, to my grandparents’ for Thanksgiving dinner. They didn’t live that far away and it was the obvious gesture. I don’t recall if I asked my grandmother’s permission to bring people into her home. Probably I did, but I knew she wouldn’t care. These were good people because they were my people and that would have been enough. Besides, that’s what she did. There was never a “Why?” but “How many plates do we need to set out?”

And so Tom and Janet drove over and 10 of us sat around the kitchen table. In the blessing, I prayed for the family that was with us and I prayed for those who were elsewhere. I asked for strength and health for those who needed it and peace and patience and understanding for those seeking it.

Eight days earlier they lost a grandbaby and had to watch their son and daughter-in-law crumble before them. And Tom and Janet were rocks, smoothed and weathered by time and sharpened by experience. They were the great, steady, oaks of the forest. They were the comforting lights in the night. Only they were better than all of that. We don’t have imagery for such an inconceivable thing, really. After one of the services, I wrote about our friends, Tom and Janet, “You don’t know of pain until you see a parent who knows they can’t comfort their child. You don’t know strength – a true strength borne of love – until you see them do it anyway.”

That Thanksgiving, I realized that you don’t know vulnerability, real human rawness, until you’ve seen people unabashedly share their grief in a stranger’s kitchen. I also learned that you don’t know the best stuff of the human spirit until you’ve seen strangers grieve for new friends.

We laughed, too. Everyone told tall tales and we all tried to talk about other things. Tom and Janet, so grateful for a brief evening of normal, stayed a long time. I was proud we could all do that and not at all surprised that they were sent home with food.

I’ve always thought of that as a story about my grandmother. It’s one of my most precious and fondest moments with her, the materfamilias, always teaching the best of her traits by example, always demonstrating that the simple things are the important things. But I’ve come to realize it’s a story about the family I was lucky enough to get, and the family I was wise enough to choose.

I’ve been writing this with teary-eyed emotions, but now comes the hard part.

Four years later, when my grandmother died, Tom and Janet made the drive over again. For just a moment, in a way I couldn’t have anticipated, dear sweet friends covered the unfillable hole.

Since we got that early morning message I’ve thought of little more than how difficult it is to fill such a hole, even temporarily, for the people you love. How I want to do that for my friend Brian, and his mother, Janet, and that lovely family.


22
Dec 21

The memories park

This is the park where my lovely bride played as a child. She’d dangle in the trees off to the left of the frame. And she would swing on the ropes and the monkey bars that used to stand through those woods in the background. These days we walk on the paths and run on the track.

It’s also where, 13 years ago yesterday, we took our engagement photos. We just happened to find ourselves there again yesterday, but without the snow. Because, you see, we took our photos in 19.7 degree weather.

We tried to recreate a few of the photos. Only our faithful photographer — who shot our engagement in a Nor’easter and our wedding in the hottest heat wave of the summer — wasn’t there.

Here we are today.

And 13 years ago.

Once more, today.

And, again, in 2008.

For the record, that bench was still cold, this week.

Here’s a low stone wall and the woods of Connecticut. It couldn’t be any more authentic if you put a Joe Lieberman sign out there.

And last night we picked up a pizza and had dinner with The Yankee’s college diving coach. Dan is a lovely guy. Wonderful conversation, and the best tomato pie around, from Pepe’s Pizzeria.

And, perhaps the best part, we had plenty for leftovers.


15
Dec 21

1,400 words for a Tuesday

The Yankee’s car is in the shop. It’s a radiator issue. Easily fixed, after a time. Which means she has my car. Meaning I have no car. Her car needs repairs and I need a ride. Weird how that works.

So she’s taking me back and forth to work, which is what I do, while she goes to physical therapy or athletic massage or to a dive meet or to buy a present or get the groceries. I’m not sure how I can get any present shopping done this way. But at least I didn’t have to get the groceries.

Tomorrow, on the way into the office, I’ll go to the grocery store for the third time this week anyway, just to stare at the empty shelves. It’s a hobby, I guess.

I was going to take part in some binge watching of television this evening, just to clean some things off the DVR. There’s a little meter on the side of the screen that shows the percentage of the DVR’s space still available, and I pay far too much attention to things like that. We were down to 28 percent, which is pretty low since the memory is large enough to store all of the images we’ve ever captured of space and every movie that’s ever been set in space and every television show that’s used the word “space” in any context.

But I was able to delete some accidental recordings instead. A few buttons on the remote control and 36 hours of content no one wanted disappeared, never to be seen again, or for the first time. Thirty-six hours. After that, the DVR’s little meter told me 46 percent of its memory was now available. That oughta hold through the holidays!

Speaking of things to watch, I just discovered some early 1990s television programs are on NBC’s streaming app, Peacock. It’s made for good doing-other-stuff listening, because a lot of the early episodes are of the “Why did I watch this again?” genre.

It’s Highlander. I’m talking about Highlander. The universe that’s so poorly conceived that there are two different universes. The universe so poorly conceived that in the third movie (of the first universe) they retconned the second movie and called it a dream. And the bad guy in that third movie, to bring a little gravitas to the franchise, was Mario Van Peebles. And, for the fourth movie, they started making movies in the second universe, where the first universe intervened, sort of. Which brings us to the fifth movie. It was supposed to be the first installment in a trilogy, but the movie was so bad they released it not in theaters, but on the SciFi channel.

On iMDB, which frequently has a very forgiving scoring system, that last movie earned 3.1 out of 10.

The movies are a mess, is what I’m saying. They always will be. The series, though, was better. Well, it gets better. Skimming through a few of the first season’s episodes … woof.

What’s better? Dopesick.

Recently finished this show, which I tried after a few random suggestions. Michael Keaton stars as a country doctor in the middle of the OxyContin epidemic. You know where this is going, even if you only vaguely know and you’re guessing. And then this show, based on Beth Macy’s best-selling book of the same name, comes along. It’s an eight-part series, filled with great character actors and a slow, tense build.

It’s something of a composite of recent history, and so you have the gift of hindsight. You know what’s happening, so you find yourself saying “Use your brain!” But scruples and good sense are sometimes thwarted by trust. And you want to have a word with the intransigent people at Purdue Pharma. But sometimes deserve doesn’t have anything to do with it.

That’s what the show is ultimately about, trust, searching for a way out of a hopeless situation and, now, how the people at the top of the food chain at Purdue Pharma are squirming out of this in perhaps the most frustrating way possible. It isn’t a happy show, but it is an important one. And while the show ends just before all of these please and settlements and immunities, if you watch this those recent stories will play a bit differently.

Also today, I updated some of the images on the blog. There are now 113 new images for the top and bottom of the page. Click refresh a bunch and you’ll see them all. Buried on the back of the site is a page with all of those banners, now loading 226 images. Each has a little cutline, just so I can keep all of the memories and locations straight. So I had to update that page. Then I went through that whole page updating changes to the style. Because, every so often, the Associated Press makes updates and, yes, I have to make corrections on a page no one will ever see.

Ed Williams would be proud.

Williams was our Journalism 101 professor. He called the class Newspaper Style and that class was the weed out course in our curriculum. Four exams. Score below an 86 on any of them and you failed the class. A lot of people failed the class. He drilled us for an entire quarter on the “AP Stylebook” and Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” …

… which, as you can tell, is still an influential text. I paid $5.95 for that book. It was the least expensive, and most important, textbook in the entirety of my college career.

People that survived Williams’s class could still complete this Strunk and White quote: Vigorous writing is concise.

He was also the adviser of the campus newspaper. We were all required to spend a semester there as a part of the formal curriculum. That one credit hour requirement worked it’s magic, as it was intended, and I stayed at the paper for a few years. We won two Pacemakers — essentially the collegiate Pulitzer — while I was there. And somewhere along the way Williams told us his first name, King. He disliked that and we were sworn to secrecy, or to never use it, or both, under pain of newsprint paper cuts.

I had his class almost halfway through his 30-year teaching career, and I saw him in the newsroom thereafter, of course. He always wore a tight, closed-up smile, and an air of knowing things we weren’t allowed to understand yet. Eight years or so into my career I started thinking a lot about all of that, and my student media experience and the impact all of it had on my own career. It’d be gratifying to be a small part of doing that for others one day, I thought. Soon after I had the opportunity to do that same sort of work, and now I’ve been doing that for going on 14 years.

The last time I saw him he still had that same expression. It was heartening. I was a decade or so into my career and there was still much to learn. There always is.

And a quarter of a century (good grief) or so after his class, I’m still thinking about Associated Press style.

Thanks for that, Ed.

When I was advising a campus newspaper I told students that, at the very very least, we were going to change the way they read everything, but it was likely they were going to get much more out of it. And today, at the TV station, I say the same thing. We’re going to reshape the way you consume video as you learn how to produce works of your own. We’re making critical observers. That’s the lesson and the gift.

Ed retired a few years back, and established a scholarship to honor his former students. It fits him.

Which is what I was thinking about while updating the style on a page that even the search engine spiders don’t crawl. Which is what I was doing while waiting for my lovely bride to pick me up. In my own car. While her’s is in the shop.

Maybe we’ll get it back tomorrow.

We better. I’ll soon run out of basic things to clean or update on the website while I wait to be taken from the house to the office and back, over and over.