Happy 50th, Mom and Dad

I am here on this cruise because my parents thought this would be a great way to celebrate their fifty years of wedded bliss. Last night we had the big celebration at dinner, with all of us as dressed up as we could reasonably get. We got a group portrait taken and we were served a special cake at dinner (after the regular dessert). Good times.

Fifty years they’ve been married. That takes some doing. Earlier in the day I had to smile as we walked down a market street in Kobe; my parents were holding hands.

Congratulations, guys. Here’s to many more years of hand-holding in exotic locations.

Keeping up with Jim

A few days back my sweetie and I were at Target on a quest for the propane cartridges that fit our grill. Those are hidden away in the sporting goods section, and while we wandered up and down the aisles looking for them, my better half discovered the exercise gizmo department right next door. Uh, oh. We already work out three days a week, but we wanted to get something to help us on the off days. After some deliberation we decided on the TriCord Total Body Workout Kit. It was inexpensive, and since the TriCord TBWK includes three cords of different resistances, it was a TBWK that the two of us could use at the same time. “I’ll use the low-resistance cord, and you can use the medium,” my sweetie said. Perfect! Home came the TriCord.

The box contained four things: three colored rubber tubes with handles on the ends, and a DVD. The DVD is where the real value is for things like this, providing a routine that fits in a known time and provides a more-or-less complete workout.

Monday day we got into workout clothes, broke out the rubber bands, and popped the DVD into the player for the first time. The intro told us how great the product we already owned was, then introduced us to the workout. There were three people to lead us, arrayed on mats at the edge of a pond in a beautiful Japanese garden. Charles was a big muscly man, the guy whose name appears on the box, and who narrated the DVD. Advanced users, he said, people of strength and virtue, should follow him and use the high-resistance band. To his left, Eve and her large breasts were going to pursue a more aerobic workout with the medium-resistance band.

Then there’s Jim. To the instructor’s right was a graying gentleman, not tall, obviously not a “fitness professional”, just a regular guy. “For you losers out there,” Charles explained, “you fat and worthless wastes of oxygen, here’s Jim. Jim will use the lowest-resistance band and cheat on every exercise to make them easier. He will shrink from exerting himself while he ponders what TV shows he’s missing. We paid him in donuts.” (I don’t think that’s quite exactly what Charles said, but you get the idea.)

The introduction ended; the time had come to work out. I took in hand the green medium-resistance band, emulating Eve and her large breasts. I stretched the band a few times, experimentally. Feeling good. After a few limbering-up exercises it was time to start pulling rubber. Clumsily I assumed the first position and stretched along with Chuck, Eve’s breasts, and Jim. So far, they were all doing pretty much the same thing. We moved on to the next exercise. Most exercises involved combining a body motion, like a lunge, with the pulling action, so that the routine had aerobic and resistance training at the same time. Most of the real work in this routine seems to concentrate on arms and shoulders, so I’m not sure about the “Total” in Total Body Workout Kit. Still, I was starting to break a sweat, and there was a long way to go yet.

Soon I abandoned following Eve and turned my gaze to Jim, the gray-haired beer-drinking slacking cheater. The guy like me. The thing is, after a while Jim was kicking my ass, too. “Four more,” Chuck said gently while soothing music played. I made one more attempt to pull both arms up and gave up. One thing I’ll say for the TriCord TBWK, it keeps you honest. I discovered just how much weaker my left arm is. It’s easy to cheat on exercise machines. Yet there was Jim, swinging his arms up, elbows straight, a bored expression on his face.

In the end, Jim kicked my ass and didn’t break a sweat doing it. To be fair I was using a higher-resistance band, and I didn’t have some big muscly guy standing between me and the beautiful woman exercising with me, so I did score a couple of points toward a moral victory. Still, Jim kicked my ass.

But not for long, folks! I’m gunning for Jim and his wooden expression, his deceptively-toned muscles, and his stomach flatter than mine. Someday, when he least expects it, I will triumph over him, and with the green rubber band, to boot!

Sunday on the Boardwalk

It was hot in San Jose last Sunday, that uncomfortable sticky sort of hot that saps the will of strong men. My sweetie, fuego and I were feeling lethargic as we made our plans for the day. Two options presented themselves: go to a movie or go over the hill to Santa Cruz. After some muddling around we chose the latter. We loaded up the fnord and made our way south.

Along with half the city who had the same idea. Traffic was heavy; we came to a full stop on the freeway before we even reached highway 17. Once past the summit things loosened up until we reached the outskirts of Santa Cruz itself. Then is was all stop-and-go, inching our way toward the boardwalk. As we crawled along, however, we noted that it was quite a bit cooler on this side, and there was a fresh breeze to keep things reasonable. Finally, finally we paid the fee and parked in one of the big lots. When we parked we were given a bunch of coupons that pretty much offset the cost of parking.

I felt the stress of the traffic lift from my shoulders as I stood in the parking-lot breeze and wondered if I should have brought more clothing. No matter. It was time to have fun. We sauntered onto the boardwalk and took the lay of the land. The first thing one does at those places is pay, and naturally there were enough options for payment that three indecisive people can spend a long time figuring things out. Finally we elected to go with the unlimited ride wristbands, so we could pay once and stop thinking. The deal included tickets that could be redeemed for arcade tokens. It was without a doubt the right choice.

Wristbands on, we decided it was time to do some rollercoasting. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk (“Voted the best seaside amusement park in the world!”) boasts the venerable Giand Dipper, the sixth-oldest roller coaster in the world (according to them; when I checked on the web it came in 12th). It’s been through a major earthquake that flattened much of downtown Santa Cruz and it’s still going strong.

Despite the fierce traffic to reach the park the lines for the rides were not long. Perhaps we had dithered away so much of the day that many people were wrapping up their visits by the time we got there. In any case it wasn’t long before we were seated in one of the cars.

One of the challenges of roller coaster design is keeping the entire ride interesting. The cars are dragged way up, then go through plunges and gyrations, gradually losing energy. This makes the most intense part of the ride near the beginning. The Giant Dipper does a good job of using the last few feet of drop by using them immediately after you get on the ride, before you go way up. We rolled away from the loading area into a pitch-black tunnel as we twisted and turned. Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that!

Then it was up to the top and over, under, and around. Good fun. Not heart-stopping by modern standards, but a whole lot of fun. We got off the ride and fuego sprang for the photo. Good call, fuego!

fuego, my sweetie and me on the Giant Dipper

fuego, my sweetie and me on the Giant Dipper

Then it was bumper cars, a really lame haunted house, and some arcade fun. The love of my life, it seems, spent some time as an arcade rat. “I hope we can find Addams Family Pinball,” she said. We did. We played. Also we played a lot of head-to-head skeeball and rode some other rides. And more bumper cars. Then there was the Fright Walk, a different haunted house that was way better.

Meanwhile fuego was in touch with our cousin and her husband, who live nearby, about meeting up for drinks and a snack after we were done. “A couple more hours,” he told them once, then three hours later, “it looks like we’re finishing up.” It turned out we weren’t.

Naturally we had to have some of the “food” available. My sweetie had long ago learned that I had never had a deep-fried twinkie, and she was not going to let the opportunity pass. We watched as the guy impaled a twinkie, dipped it in heavy batter, and dropped it in the fryer. Wow. We split a single calorie bomb three ways, and I sampled with strawberry syrup and the traditional chocolate. It was everything I imagined it would be, and then some.

We had finished up with Family Guy pinball and fuego and I were in an air hockey showdown when the announcement came that the park was closing. We had defeated Santa Cruz boardwalk. Hooray us! Tired and happy we made the long trek back to the car, now alone in the vast parking lot, and drove to the brew pub where we were to meet the others. It was closed, but there was a crepe place called “The Crepe Place” that was still open. We sat and had a great time chatting and catching up, then it was time to drive through deserted streets back over the mountains and home.

It was a very good day.

Habits

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been living with my sweetie, an arrangement that takes some getting used to for all concerned. It’s also an opportunity. What I do for the next few weeks will likely form patterns that shape the rest of my life. No pressure or anything.

Generally I’m a pretty agreeable guy, not a bad roommate overall, but I can be lazy. I like having someone take care of me, and the love of my life enjoys doing it. Over fifty years, however, that could get old, so I’ve tried to find a couple of things I can do to make life go more smoothly, like drying and putting away the dishes. That one is fun because we’re in the kitchen together, and it’s something that doesn’t have a lot of “you’re doing it wrong!” potential (at least once I figure out where everything goes).

That and I carry stuff. Hm… maybe I need to find a couple more.

Other new habits I’ve inherited. I now work out three times a week. It still seems a little odd to me to stay indoors walking on a treadmill when it’s a nice day for a walk outside, but the exercise excursion is a group thing, which means I actually do it, rather than idly think about what a nice day it would be to take a walk.

Diet has also changed dramatically. Where I would prepare myself a dish, my best friend makes meals, complete with the healthy parts. Friuts consumption is way up, and also leafy greens. Even… broccoli. A while back my girlfriend said, “if I could change one thing about you, it would be to have you like broccoli.” Considering all my other warts, it was pretty generous of her to put that at the top of the list, so I figured I’d give the nasty things another shot. And you know what? Add broccoli to the list of things that should never be cooked. Whoever first cooked the stuff and then did it again knowing the result is a sick individual. I won’t say that the broc is my favorite veggie or that I go out of my way to get the biggest chunks in the salad bowl, but I’ll eat the stuff and know that it’s making me healthier and my sweetheart happier.

Tonight is steak, with other stuff, and a big bowl of salad that we share after the main meal. The salad part is a new tradition that I really like. It’s healthy and fun! Now we just have to break the bad habit of watching tv late and sleeping too late in the mornings. It’s just so nice hanging out together in the evenings, eating salad or other snacks, and enjoying the company.

So here I am, a dish-towel-totin’, broccoli-eatin’ dude, in charge of opening the wine. Don’t worry, though. I still say ‘hefti’ after I belch.

The Beginning of a Great Adventure

Here I am, in one of the nicer corners of San Jose, California. San Jose would not be my first choice for city of residence, being not so much a city as a large chunk of the continuous sprawl of alternating housing developments, strip malls, and office parks that is Silicon Valley. The city does have one thing going for it, however: That Girl lives here, and now I do too.

This marks a pretty major turning point in my life and therefore this blog as well. Up until now That Girl has been on the periphery of the blog, someone mentioned occasionally in passing but not a major figure. That’s not because she hasn’t been a big part of my life the last year and a half, it’s because I haven’t really figured out how to write about it. Plus, when one is a third of the world apart and communication is intermittent, a poorly-chosen blog word could lead to undue strife that would be resolved in seconds face-to-face.

I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to approach this, but perhaps now it will be easier. We’ll see. Inevitably there will be times when That Girl reads something in my blog that really she should have heard straight from me. There will be times I’ll have to choose between telling a good story and watching out for my sweetie’s feelings (and, well, some of it’s none of your damn business), and often the story will come out on the losing end. That’s just how it’s going to have to be. The other thoughts can go into my fiction.

Having a relationship is not scaling Everest, but in it’s own way the risks and rewards are even greater. It would be foolish for me to attempt Everest in my current condition, and I’m afraid that my good-boyfriend skills are also alarmingly atrophied. Still, I’m really damn excited about this journey, really happy that That Girl found me and spent years pounding against my cluelessness until I got the idea that she might be interested. All credit goes to her for that.

It’s an adventure almost all of us experience at one time or another, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I’m not sure how I’m going to approach writing about it yet, but I’m still the same guy that can be fascinated by the tiny things, and I hope that there will be enough of those to shine a little light on this thing we call love.

So, welcome to the Great Adventure!

A Random Memory

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was sitting on a floating dock on a particularly cold lake in Arkansas, early in the morning, with Dad. We were fishing. Funny the details I remember. I had a white fishing rod with a black Zebco reel, and I was using a lure called Rebel something-or-other, which was made to go fairly deep, with an enticing wiggly action. The trout were rising at that time of the morning, looking for the morning bugs, which made the choice of lure suspect. Thirty-plus years of retrospect and that’s the only real lesson learned here.

A Boy and his Trout

A Boy and his Trout

I was getting better at casting, which isn’t to say good. I’d send the something-or-other out there, and patiently haul it back in, knowing that if I pulled it in too fast it would dive too deep and snag. Still, it was a good morning, me and dad out there. We had some good times, Dad and me, but not so many simple hanging-out times like that. The good ol’ boys were out in their bass boats, and more than once Dad cautioned me that my voice would carry a long way over the water.

I’d fallen into (my memory says was) silence (ha) and just thrown out a good cast when the fish struck — before my lure had time to dive below the dining line. Splish-splash, tension on the line. I spazzed. I lost the fish.

Here’s where memory gets a bit vague. As I remember, Dad cast to the point of the hubbub, hit it bang-on, and reeled in the fish. Only vaguely do I recall that the fish hadn’t even bit his hook, but he’d hit the fish on the head. I could be confusing memories there. I was young. It wasn’t a spectacular fish, eleven inches as I recall, measured on the ruler embossed on the lid of my plastic tackle box.

In any case, Dad brought home the breakfast. We agreed, there on the dock, that I would take credit. And I did. With gusto, to the point that I really believed that I’d done most of the work catching the fish — Dad had merely scooped up the opportunity I’d created.

I don’t expect many people remember that fish, but I do. It’s time to set the record straight. Dad caught that fish, plain and simple. That notwithstanding, it was a great morning sitting with Dad on that quiet lake. I’d remember it even without the fish.

Talking ’bout the Weather

It’s spring, and so when I left my little sanctuary this morning (for the first time in a few days) I did not check very carefully what the weather might be like outside. I put on my beloved (crumbling) leather jacket, slapped a baseball cap on my head, and ventured forth.

I was greeted outside the door by a wind that seemed to be especially talented at reaching icy fingers through my clothing and even my skin, chilling my very bones. I had gone perhaps fifty strides when the first popcorn snow started to fall. By the time I got to the corner I was in a blizzard, swirling swarms of little snow nuggets dancing in the wind and finding ways to get down my neck. At least I wasn’t pony-tailed today. It makes a big difference.

Standing at the tram stop was pretty much miserable. There is a small shelter there, but it was already full. I stood in the wind wondering why the hell it was taking so long for the tram to get there. Yeah, buddy, welcome to spring.