Monday, February 1, 2021

Escape from Captivity

 Waning Gibbous Moon

I'm free! 


Palomino is out of the barn as of this morning at 9:20. Wahoo!

Doctor O examined the hole where two faulty objects once called home (Tooth Number Three and Implant Number One). He said it was still a little swollen but it was healing nicely. Chalk that up to all that early childhood training at following directions, thanks Mom and Dad (spare the rod, spoil retirement). The sutures will come out next Monday, then I will wait 4-6 months for the bone to heal itself and hopefully seal off my sinuses. A scan of some sort (ICAT?) will tell the tale. I can wait.

Meanwhile, I can start to eat regular food if I'm careful and if I chew only on the good side. This is good news. I was getting a little bit tired of soup, oatmeal, applesauce, and scrambled eggs. And, thank the Holy Cosmic Muffin, I can return to my walking/biking/calisthenics habit as long as I take it easy for another week or two. This puts my 2021/1202 Challenge in jeopardy but who really cares about that anyway?

Watch out, world, I'm making a comeback. 

Peace, Love, and Temporary Insanity,

Jim

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Cabin Fever

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Today marks my seventh consecutive day of indoor living with no exercise. It has been no fun whatsoever.


Backstory: A couple of years ago I had Tooth Number 3 removed by a periodontist in Monterey whom I like and respect very much. It was painless and the hole healed quickly. I was content to have a gap back there, but Doctor K talked me into getting an implant, the better to keep my choppers from shifting around in my old age or something like that. The titanium implanted post was supposed to sit there for six months or so while the surrounding bone welcomed it to my ecosystem, then serve as an anchor for a fake crown to be installed by my regular dentist Doctor H. Well, the process of the bone/titanium getting solid enough to take the crown turned out to take two years or so, but I finally got my crown and I thought that was that. 

Okay, about seven months ago, during the first shelter in place, I noticed the implant was beginning to loosen, like the early stage of losing a baby tooth. It took a while to get an appointment with Doctor H, but he said to wait and see until December when I was scheduled for my next cleaning. As December rolled around, I noticed my hearing in my right ear, right next to Tooth Number 3/Now Wobbly Implant, was starting to fade. I am already deaf in my left ear, so this is more than a small inconvenience. I worried that my right ear might be getting infected if there was some communication through the loose implant into my sinuses. 

So last Monday I went to see Doctor K's associate, Doctor O (Doctor K has since retired) and he said, "that's got to come out." He shot me full of numbing agent and carved out the contraption, sewed me up and sent me on my way with antibiotics, mouth rinse, and pain medication. My instructions were to apply ice for swelling, take the meds as directed, and NO EXERCISE UNTIL I GO BACK TO SEE HIM MONDAY FEB 1. 

I understand the value of letting the wound heal, I really do. And for two days, I took the pain pills which made me sleep most of that time. But on the third day, I said no more of these pills, geez, I feel like a junkie, so I switched to Ibuprofen and regained most of my cognitive functions, thank heaven. All that is probably par for the course for anyone in my situation. However, I haven't taken a week off from working out since I don't know when. That part has been ridiculously foreign and difficult to process. I have complied but am not myself and I absolutely hate it. 


Tomorrow I will drive to Salinas in the morning to see what Doctor O has to say about how this is going. I will ask him what my options are moving forward. I really don't want to replace the old implant with a new and bigger one, nor do I really want him to install a bridge. Can I just let the wound heal and leave it be? Will I risk a future full of sinus infections? 

My right ear, by the way, is still a little wonky, but it's better than it was. Ever hear of something called Pulsatile Tinnitus? It's like regular tinnitus, but instead of a ringing sound in your ear, it's a loud, slow, rhythmic, whooshing, like a washing machine, timed with your heart beat - whoosh, whoosh, whoosh - over and over and over again. I was experiencing constant Pulsatile Tinnitus for the last forty-eight hours prior to going to see Doctor O. Very, very strange, ladies and gentlemen, very, very strange. 

So that's life in the bizarre time of COVID right here right now. I am on the waiting list for old-folks vaccinations whenever that rolls around. If the shots make me whoosh, though, I will get naked and run into the woods, never to be seen again. There is a limit to how much nonsense I will put up with. It might be time to forage for nuts and berries, find a warm, dry cave, and hide from this crazy, whooshing thing we call civilization. 

Peace, Love, and the Call of the Whooshing Wild,

Jim

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

High Peaks Trail Thriller

 New Moon

I must be doing something right. Today I was completely flabbergasted by what happened with a little less than two miles left on my hike up and over the High Peaks Trail (HPT) at Pinnacles National Park. 

I won't lie. I was already pretty tired from my one-hour climb up from the Bear Gulch Visitor Center. A peanut butter and apple slice sammie revived me at the bench overlook just before the start of the HPT. Then I was good to go, passing a familiar landmark I recalled from a trip long ago. A friend's son climbed this enormous pinnacle that day to the dismay and nervous concern of his Dad. My only thought was "how is he ever going to get down?" Of course, he did get down, mostly because he was fourteen, cocky, and made of elastic.


That feat was about twenty-five years ago or so. It seems more impossible now than ever.

The actual HPT is lots of legwork on steps hacked out of stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps back when men were much shorter and more easily persuaded to wield heavy hand tools. They also managed to install sturdy handrails, almost like second thoughts for making it so easy to fall and split open your skull. You can tell those dudes were little, though, because the handrails they constructed, sturdy as can be to this day, are about knee-high on modern adults. At least they make you cautious, and if you bend down to grab them, you feel reassured. This section is only a mile or so long, but it takes a while, unless you are fourteen and super bendy.





The views of the park are outstanding when you gain enough elevation and secure footing to look around. I love it up there.



After you cross the exciting part, all that is left is to abuse your feet and knees going steeply downhill for a while. There are plenty of great places to stop and look at the rocks. You can see your trail leading back to the truck way way down there.



With a couple of miles to go, the HPT splits into two trails, the Blue Oak Trail, I think it is, and the Condor Gulch Trail. Condor Gulch was the long, bouldery gully that would lead me back to my beginning at the Visitor Center. By this time I needed a snack and more agua, so I stretched out and leaned back to look at the clouds, one of my favorite daily pastimes. This is when I started getting flabbergasted.

I was taking a bite of an energy bar, pre-occupied with reading the ingredients on the wrapper when a rather large shadow passed directly over me, moving fast. I jerked my head up to see what it was and holy Moses, I couldn't believe it. Way up in the sky over my picnic spot were twelve soaring condors, making great big circles in the air, soaring soaring soaring, then one big double wing flap, then soaring soaring soaring, over and over again. Twelve of them, very loosely organized, just coordinated enough to stay safely apart, but sort of engaged in a dance in a casual, wing-dip way. I pulled out my Smartyphone and took a few dozen pictures, hoping to get at least one good one. 




Of course it soon became obvious that I wasn't going to succeed, so I just laid back on the rocks and feasted my eyes. The air show went on for ten minutes before most of the group (flock? murder?) whooshed away, leaving three behind to fly in a big, slow circle directly over my head. 



I couldn't believe it. I was enchanted. I kept saying out loud, "what did I do to deserve this much joy?" I was laughing out loud, smiling and thanking them. It was so cool! Okay, okay, I know there were other people in the park. I saw at least seven other hikers in the course of a few hours. So probably, if they were paying attention, each of them saw something, too. But what it felt like, staring up at these prehistoric airborne giants, was absolute, personalized, Mother Nature magic. There are only a hundred (or fewer) California Condors remaining on the west coast and twelve of them came to see me. Flabbergasting.

And then, the time to be flabbergasted was over and it was time to walk on. Every so often, as I rounded a curve on the trail, I would catch a glimpse of a few of them, looming far away over a ridge. I stopped to see them each time, looking much smaller then, but still and evermore Pinnacles' gliding, powerful lords of the sky.

I smiled all the way home.

Peace and Love on a Special Day,
Jim

Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 Hike and Bike

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Today, January 1, 2021, the Sun came up in the east. At the same time, over to the west, the Moon was getting ready to set. Based upon my observations, this is normal Sun and Moon behavior.



I had no reference point, standing outside in my pj's with my Smartyphone in my hand, that would indicate this is a new year though. It really just seemed like another regular, winter morning.

When I went back inside, the first thing I noticed was my wall calendar, which was completely filled with ink showing my daily walking tallies for 2020, among other little reminders and notes. It was time to put up a new wall calendar, this one labeled 2021. 

But what was I going to keep track of this go 'round? 

Here is what I decided on.  

2021 Every Day Workout

Every morning, the first thing I will do is a series of stretches, movements, and breathing routines that takes about 15-20 minutes, mostly done as floor exercises. Deep breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is part of every movement, as is engagement of the core muscles.  I've been doing this routine every day for years and I love it.

This year, I am going to shoot for these two following workouts. They add up to 2,021 miles of bicycling and 1,202 miles of walking. 

2,021 miles of bicycling over 365 days averages out to around 5.5 miles per day. At a moderate (easy) (old man) pace of 12 miles per hour, that will  take about 30 minutes. 

A one-hour walk at an old man pace for 365 days equals 1,202 miles. 1,202 miles in 2021. You can see what I did there, haha. Don't worry, that does not mean I will walk backwards. That would be weird. And unsafe.

Combining Cal with these two daily workouts will be an investment of less than two hours per day into my health and well-being. I will still have plenty of energy left to work on my fascinating memoirs, watch hoops, and/or putter around on Facebook. 

Peace, Love, and Re-creation,
Jim

P.S. This moderate daily regimen thing all goes out the window if the vaccine works and travel is safe July 1. Then the sky's the limit. I'm gonna blast on outta here.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Kwanzaa

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

I realized today, the first day of Kwanzaa, that I didn't know the first thing about Kwanzaa so I decided to learn at least the fundamentals. Consulting the good Dr. Googlie, here is part of what I found.

https://cbs12.com/news/nation-world/the-seven-principles-of-kwanzaa

The seven-day holiday is a non-religious one observed in the U.S. meant to honor African Americans' ancestral roots, according to CNN. The holiday celebrations last [from December 26] until the start of the new year on January 1.

Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase "matunday ya kwanza," which means "first fruits," according to CNN.

The holiday was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga and became popular in the 1980s and 1990s in tandem with the black power movement, CNN reports. The holiday is defined by the seven principals and each day of the festival is dedicated to a specific one, marked by lighting a candle on the kinara, a seven-branched candelabra.

These are the seven principles of Kwanzaa:

          Umoja

Umoja means unity in Swahili.

Karenga defines this on his Kwanzaa website as: "To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race."

Kujichagulia

Or self-determination. This principle refers to defining, naming, creating and speaking for oneself.

Ujima

Translated as "collective work and responsibility," Ujima refers to uplifting your community.

"To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together," Karenga writes.

Ujamaa

Cooperative economics. Similar to ujima, this principle refers to uplifting your community economically. "To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together," he writes.

Nia

Nia means purpose.

Karenga expands on this principle with, "To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness."

Kuumba

Meaning "creativity," Karenga defines this principle as "To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."

Imani

The final principle translates to "faith."

Karenga defines this as faith in community, writing, "To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."

So there you have the basics - according to this article, anyway. I am going to try to learn a little more about each principle each day until New Year's Day. It looks pretty straightforward, but maybe there is more to it. By the beginning of 2021, I expect to be just a little bit less of a cultural dumb ass.
But wait a minute, although 2020 is not over yet, my 2020 in 2020 Challenge is finito. Yesterday I completed my goal of walking 2,020 miles in the year 2020, a pretty modest task, really. I averaged a little over 5.6 miles per day, enough to keep your heart healthy, but far from strenuous. The challenging part was simply keeping it up day after day on mostly the same old local routes. THAT GOT PRETTY BORING. The farthest away from home I have been since the pandemic started is Point Lobos, about 45 miles from here. In the end, I only missed one day, when it was too unhealthy to go outside due to the skyrocketing air quality index during the fire season. So ta-da, it is done.
Who knows what 2021 will bring. I hope things will settle down and the vaccine will work. Maybe by July I will be able to hike in the mountains again. I think I will think up some kind of bicycle regimen or maybe a hike-and-bike thing starting in January just for variety's sake.
Peace, Love, and Self Improvement,
Jim

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thank Goodness for Cartoonists

Waxing Gibbous Moon

This year especially, it's important to remember to laugh. It's okay to be irreverent in the process, but you know, don't be a bully.












Peace, Love, and Keep On Truckin',
Jim


Happy Happy Merry Merry

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

No offense to anyone in my family, but I am NOT coming to visit you this Christmas. Not because I don't like you. I DO like you and I like myself as well. I am also confident that each of you is intelligent enough and informed enough to understand and agree with me that this is the right course of action. I would also go so far as to say that if every other family was like my family we would have beat this whole virus thing months ago. 

Fifty years ago this coming Monday I was a freshman at the University of Texas. I had no idea what I was doing there. I sure wasn't studying. I spent much of the daylight hours that year inside Gregory Gym playing pickup basketball against a wide array of amateurs like me. There were guys from New York, guys from Nashville, guys from Austin, guys from Africa, guys from all over. It didn't matter where I was from - pick and roll is the same everywhere and I am good at it. The truth is that I played basketball a lot more than I ever went to class. It made me happy even if in "reality" I was just spinning my wheels.

As Christmas time approached, most of the players disappeared - poof - gone home for the holidays to all corners of the country. I snapped out of my hoops revelry long enough to realize that very soon I had some adulting to do. My dear sister Diane, aka Dinesey, was to be married on December 28 up in Dallas and I had the honor of giving her away at the church altar to my future brother in law Patt, aka King Safari. 

I had been shirking most of my responsibilities for a few months, so I had to scramble - to rise to the occasion as best I could. Number one on my list of stuff to do was to get a haircut. In 1970, most guys I knew had let their freak flags fly down to their shoulders and I was no different. I looked like a scrawny hippie hoop junkie, ragged around the edges and dressed exclusively in cutoff jeans, a less-than-fragrant sleeveless t-shirt, white crew socks, and white Converse All Stars. I was ready to hoop at a minute's notice, but not exactly presentable for a wedding ceremony.

So off came the hair, on went a cheap but acceptable sport coat and slacks and even a belt, shirt, tie, black socks, and dress shoes, and up the aisle I walked with my beautiful sister on my arm. There was a whole level of acceptability and gravitas in the church air that I failed to acknowledge back then. At the very least I should have rented a tuxedo and wiped the smirk off my face. But I was way too relaxed in attitude and way too immature in social graces to fully engage. At least I didn't make any obvious guffaws (that anyone ever mentioned) and the wedding went off as planned. 

I didn't really come to grips with any sort of feelings about that day until I was much much older and began to come out of the haze of my extended childhood - the extended childhood that served to protect me from some of the trauma of my actual childhood - the extended childhood that was a form of self-medication like alcoholics practice I would suppose. Refusing to accept academic responsibility and being nonchalant about social norms was not uncommon and not really all that radical back then, but it was a little out of character for me and for my mostly very conservative family. 

When I finally became aware of my true self, in my thirties, all kinds of things clicked and fell into place. And ever since, with a few wrinkles here and there, I have been comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, I just wish I had been a little less self-absorbed on that day fifty years ago. It really was an honor to be asked to be a significant part of the ceremony, but at eighteen, I just wasn't ready.

There was supposed to be a big 50th Anniversary party in Fort Worth this weekend, a giant family reunion and celebration. It was cancelled due to COVID concerns. I had been saving my pennies to go, to pay my respects for what to me is an amazing accomplishment - fifty years together with two great kids and a train of bright grand-kids - I can hardly imagine being THAT responsible. Would I have been any different at that party than I had been at the wedding? More present? More engaged? More loving? Less smirky? I think so, but I will never know for sure. 


The dadgum corona virus keeps screwing things up for everybody. I am staying home and masking and scrubba-dub-dubbing like a good, smart adult. That won't change. But on this Christmas and especially on December 28, I will pump the breaks and take some time to be quiet - to think my best thoughts for my faraway brothers and sisters whom I respect and love. 

Peace, Love, and Reflection,
Jim