Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

•  A brief advisory to wine connoisseurs.  I had a glass of red wine today for the first time in a long while — it was a 2017 Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon that was tucked away in our pantry, a bottle of which usually commands a lofty $6.49 at our supermarket.  If you are wondering whether this particular vintage improves with age, the answer is no.

•  It is only a matter of time before my state decides to ease its coronavirus-related social and business controls.  And when it does, I will have to answer myself, what will it take for me to feel comfortable going to restaurants or movies or museums, or walking a trail, or booking a flight on an airplane?  Given my pre-existings, I don’t have a clear answer, and until I come up with one, I am in stasis, regardless of what my governor says.  I know this much:  I’m not going to take one for the American Economy, nor should anyone else.

•  So I have an appointment for my bi-monthly eye injection.  I get a call the day before my  appointment from the health assistant, asking me whether I have had a fever, or have lost my sense of taste or smell, or have taken a trip in the last three weeks.  No, no, no and no.  She says, good.  To myself I say, how strange that I am weighing the value of my eyesight against the risk of getting the virus at my eye doctor.  To her I say, thank you, I’ll be there.

•  A priest, a rabbi and a horse walk into a bar.  The owner of the bar stops them and says, “Didn’t you see the sign?  We’re closed because of the virus.”  “Great… now how am I going to finish this joke?” sighs the horse.

•  OK, here’s another.  What has 1864 wings but can barely fly?  American Airlines.

•  In the eighth episode of The Twilight Zone in 1959, the nerdish Henry Bemis (played by Burgess Meredith) was the sole survivor in a nuclear wasteland created by World War III.  He wanders despondently through the rubble until he stumbles upon the ruins of a library and realizes he now has all the time in the world to pursue his favorite pastime, reading.  And then, because it is The Twilight Zone, his reading glasses fall and break into pieces.

When the stay-at-home orders were issued, I thought that I might become a Henry Bemis and use the time to focus on the painting, music, writing and reading that I enjoy.  Instead, I’ve found it hard to concentrate on such activities.  The news around the world, and from a number of friends, has not been uplifting.  Writing about everyday topics feels escapist; writing about myself seems self-absorbed and disrespectful; writing about politics may be cathartic but it is also tiring, stumbling through all the rubble of this disaster.

I have been taking guitar lessons since February via video chat but will be ending them next week.  Playing something badly over and over again until one slowly gets better at it (they call it practicing) is just too morale-draining for me right now.  I can’t imagine what it’s like for high-school and college students who don’t have this option.  Maybe they are more resilient at their age.  We will have to hope so.

Nonetheless, I am no Henry Bemis — there is no tragic twist to my story.  We have power, heat, food, internet and transportation.  I get to enjoy a hot cup of coffee every morning and listen to the birds outside.  We talk with our family more than we usually do.  And we have managed to avoid the virus.  It will be a relief when we can focus less intently on that.

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• The water reservoir on my WaterPik is leaking and I need to replace the rubber stopper. WaterPik’s online store wanted $2.99 plus $3.95 shipping for one stopper.  Various sellers on Amazon wanted $12.99 with free shipping for 6 stoppers.  Cheapskate Craig spent the next 15 minutes in an internal debate between paying $6.94 to fix the problem at hand vs. buying stoppers in quantity and getting a 69% discount per stopper.  What would you do?

• I was trying to play a Beatles CD on my computer and make a copy of “Blackbird” so that I could learn the guitar chords.  My PC was able to play the first track (“Back in the USSR”) and the second (“Dear Prudence”) but when I tried to skip to “Blackbird” the media player kept hanging up.  At first I thought that my Windows Media Player might be out of date, so I downloaded another CD player.  Same thing.  What in the world?  Did this CD have some weird kind of digital copy-protection?  Well, after a half-hour of various attempts to play it, I finally unloaded the CD and saw the crack in the disc.

• My answer to the WaterPik stopper dilemma was this:  I figured I would have to replace the stopper once more, at most, before it was time to discard the unit and buy a new one. Therefore, buying just one stopper, and taking the chance that I would need no more than one additional replacement, seemed to yield the lowest probable cost.  All that calculating just to save $6.05.  I hope the calories that my brain burned made the effort worthwhile.

• My spouse and I just saw a good theater movie, The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss.  Afterward, we stopped in at a local upscale hotel bar to have a drink and a burger.  The bar was busy, it being Saturday night, and various characters filed in and out, it being a hotel.  Halfway through our drinks, two men started trading barbs from opposite sides of the bar (it sounded like a continuation of an earlier exchange) and the bartender had to intervene. One of the men was sitting next to us.  We continued our conversation, ignoring him.

Later, when our dinners were served and my spouse’s ordered-rare burger was delivered well-done, I remarked to her how this was the second time in a row her food was overdone in this restaurant.  This prompted the jerk-next-door to crane his neck around and ask, “So this happened to you before?”  I’m not sure what corner of my brain this came from, but I met his bleary gaze and said, “We’re having a private conversation,” and I turned back to my spouse.  And that was that.  The jerk turned into The Invisible Man and eventually left the bar, unnoticed.  Straw Dogs II did not ensue.

• I bought a new guitar earlier this year, officially my Christmas gift from my spouse and the first I have owned since college days.  Feeling enlivened, I signed up for some lessons, as I have never been able to do anything with a guitar except strum.  The lessons are okay but aren’t exactly what I expected.  I thought they might be like golf lessons, where the first things you learn are the fundamentals like posture and grip.  But instead, we have gone directly to songs (“Blackbird” and “Wildwood Flower” thus far) which have mostly served to highlight how bad my fundamentals are.  Perhaps my instructor figures I’m too old a dog to learn new ways and she may be right.  Nevertheless, I persist.

• Needless to say, I don’t buy into claims that Democrats and the “liberal media” want the coronavirus disaster to worsen in order to bury Trump’s 2020 re-election chances.  But I do believe that Big Media has a vested interest in heightening their viewers’ anxiety about the pandemic.   The more we fear, the more we watch; the higher the ratings, the greater the network ad revenue.  Sandersian as this sounds, liberal media is not the problem — corporate media is.

• It’s astounding how many aspects of once-ordinary life now look radically different when viewed through the lens of our coronavirus stance.  Television commercials for Caribbean cruises.  Vacations to Italy offered on “The Price is Right.”  Any group of people shown in close proximity, whether celebrating a victory or supporting a political candidate.  I have never been a social butterfly but the recommended person-to-person distancing feels like a virtual coffin.

• Employing the same decision-making tools I used in the Great WaterPik Stopper Debate, I decided this is a good time for people like me to utilize our capacity to entertain, as there are plenty of dour commentators and despairing lamenters as it is.  So, for the next month or so, I will be posting various non-coronavirus-related features here, as if this surreality did not exist.  Call it a survival mechanism.

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• I recently noticed that the water pressure in our shower was low and that the flow rate dropped when another faucet opened or a toilet was flushed.  This never used to happen.  So I looked at the situation and figured that the pressure regulator on our water supply was either filled with sediment or some internal part was broken.

the do-it-yourself bible of my younger yearsIn the old days, armed with my well-worn Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual, I would have shut off the water and taken apart the regulator to see if I could clean it out myself and save us some bucks.  But here is where a few decades of life pays its rewards.  It is more likely I would have taken the thing apart only to have some piece crumble in my hands, and then the hardware store would have no replacement part because the manufacturer went out of business, and meanwhile we have no water and someone is now standing in front of me asking when I’m going to turn on the water because someone has to get a shower and leave for an appointment in an hour.  Intuiting that, present-day me decides to call a plumber.  Experience has a way of teaching things that do-it-yourself books and videos never cover.

• I make a mean tossed salad, I really do.  Invite me for dinner someday and I will raid your produce drawer, and probably a few other places in your pantry, and if given enough warning I will bring other fresh goodies with me (maybe even radishes) and then I will make excellent salads for all of us, custom-prepared so that Person A can have her broccoli and bleu cheese while Person B enjoys his black olives and ranch.  I may not cook worth a damn but I could have had a stellar career as a greens-tender, if such a position existed.

• I really thought there were still a few absolutes in life, some things that, even in these fractured times, every rational person can agree on.  For example, though I do not share their passion, I understand why nature-lovers object to bear traps.  And while I think the alt-educated people who refuse to vaccinate their children are supremely misguided and negligent, the damage caused by their selfishness is, for now, limited.  But I draw the line at mosquito activists.  Mosquito activists!

• What would it be like if we had no heritage?  By that I mean, what would we be like, what would our cultures be like, if we lived our lives based on what we personally experienced and not the dusty heritages that our parents and relatives drummed into us, defining and confining our actions and reactions?  It may be that most of us, the world over, adopt and cultivate our own heritage-brand that we then operate under, carving out our narratives from our kindred’s experiences while acting as if we experienced their events ourselves.

• Last fall, my friend Eric introduced me to the Spelling Bee game in the New York Times and I am now hooked.  It’s a game that doesn’t last more than a day, one can leave it and pick it up at will, and while it offers more challenge than an everyday word-search, one is spared all the weightiness of solving the crossword puzzle.  And for me, the Spelling Bee also offers a meta-level of amusement arising from my attempts to find longer, compound words hiding among the seven letters provided that day.

Here are a few examples I found (with my definitions) that I am sure amused only me:

  • BABYLIT  –  children’s books with washable pages?
  • NAGBOT  –  someone who reminds you of the obvious, over and over again
  • KNOBBOY –  the doorman’s understudy?
  • LAXABIT –  the pill you take when you only have to go a little
  • HAMDOWN  –  annual barbecue and fiddle festival in Ames, Iowa

Needless to say, none of these words were accepted.

• P.S.  A quick update on our water supply pressure regulator.  The plumber replaced it.  Pressure and performance is back to normal.  Cost: $300.  Makes me think I should have at least tried to clean or replace it myself — could have saved a few bucks.  I’ll never learn.

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