It’s been a while since I did one of these personal updates — I decided to make a cool day in late August even cooler by doing so.
These are the kind of thoughts and tidbits that I once shared on Facebook, when I was a participant on Facebook. There are parts of the FB experience that I do miss, mostly the casual interactions and keeping-in-touch with folks who are good people if not necessarily my closest friends. I also miss the support and reinforcement of my social-political values by the like-minded people who were on my friends list.
But I can’t go back there, for reasons I have outlined before. In short, the many downsides of the FB experience outweigh — maybe a better word is ruin — the upsides I listed.
What has been a bit disappointing is that, with some exceptions, the people I connected with on Facebook have not maintained contact since I left. I suppose this says something about the nature of those connections. It was fine when I was part of the news feed.
But enough preface and more than enough pity-me. Instead, may I mention some books I’ve read since my last update. The latest is Mortality by the late Christopher Hitchens, probably my favorite writer. Though the book was published in 2012, I purposely held off reading these final chapters of his life, I suppose to avoid the finality of it myself. It is not his best work, in that it is weighed down by his remorse, and ours, for his lost capabilities. While there is neither self-pity or false bravado in these essays, the linguistic swagger that made Hitchens a pleasure to read is also absent. For clear cause.
Earlier this summer, I read What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Pittsburgh native Damon Young. It was an eye-opener for me, not just as a glimpse of black life in America but also as a commentary/documentary on the socialization of young men. I appreciated Young’s self-reflection, along with his references to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, where racism carries on.
I have been engaged in a succession of big projects this year. I spent x hours (I lost track) trying to find and fix the leak in the rock-lined “water feature” next to our deck. It consists of a tiny pond with two cascades and it was losing about 4 gallons of water a day. I rebuilt half of it and reduced the daily loss to about 1-1/2 gallons. In the process, I became all too familiar with the playlist of the local oldies station: “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher, “Wonderland by Night” by Bert Kaempfert, “April Love” by Pat Boone, “Something Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra… all the songs you only need to hear once a decade, if that.
I spent almost as many hours researching and writing the article “Don’t Fence Me In” for reasons known only to my brain’s impulse center. The best thing about doing such pieces is what I learn along the way. But efforts of that scale will remain rare for me.
I did a fair amount of landscape work this spring and summer, but that is behind me now. It was discouraging, all the rain we had this year and the prevalence of powdery mildew on so many different plants. It seems there are very few “just right” growing seasons here; climate change will only worsen that score. That said, our shade trees are healthy enough. I have some transplanting to do this fall — ferns, day lilies, some shrubs — as we lose more and more sunlit area to the ever-spreading canopy.
Then there were my web projects. Making this site mobile-friendly was a substantial task; I did a top-to-bottom redesign of logos and navigation, with plenty of reverse-engineering and code-editing thrown in. Programming has always been a satisfying hobby for me, so this was not a totally dreary chore.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for my ongoing mobile rework of my art and photography site ART @ CHC. There is simply not enough screen area on a phone web browser (see below) to display images of various sizes, plus titles and controls, without all sorts of twists and contortions. I’m especially annoyed with the inability to make that space-eating address bar disappear. I haven’t given up yet but I’m this close to throwing in the towel and asking viewers to use a tablet or larger.
Just a few more items. Last Sunday, I entered — and finished — a 5K run/walk to support the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. (I walked.) The event was promoted on our local news one evening, and I decided on the spot that I needed to do it. Siller was a 34-year-old New York City firefighter. His story, as related on the foundation’s website:
Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift … when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen … returned to Squad 1 to get his gear. Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.
I didn’t do the walk for the foundation’s sake, as I had never heard of them. I mainly did it for myself, to pay tribute. But had I known in advance that the route had a 250-foot climb, I might have bowed out. Nonetheless, I made the climb (slowly) and finished last among the 50 or so participants.
(Note of Self-Consolation: The average human walking speed at crosswalks is 5 km/hour. My time was 0:59:40 so I was as fast as an average human, if not the other walkers.)
Of course, the most noteworthy news is that I am now a grandfather for the third time, and I didn’t have to walk a block. All are doing great. Granddaughter is only ten days old and already speaks three languages: Hungrian, Sleepese and Cutish. I am sure that when she is old enough to comprehend this blog, she will read it as avidly as my children do.
Lastly, I’ve been planning our four-state trip “out west” to visit family and college friends. I had traveled to Colorado a couple of times on business but never had much chance to explore the terrain. It will be exciting to see Arches National Park in person, and I look forward to visiting the markets and museums (Georgia O’Keeffe!) in the Santa Fe area.
I will definitely post a series of “out west” photos at ART @ CHC upon our return, for your viewing pleasure, on your suitably-sized screen. Until next time, thanks for your time.