Still Arriving

As I say to good friend, Richard, frequently–“Give me leave..I am aweary.” And I am, too–right down to my toes. I sat here on the couch after supper (Laurie and I made homemade pizzas) wholly intending to get up and put a leash on Scoop and hit the sidewalk for a bit. Instead, I fell fast asleep–snoring away. I’m about to do it again, too.

I’ve been working and enjoying the assignments very much. I feel good about that part of it. I just haven’t really found rest yet from the school year and I’m hoping that starts soon. I’d like to decompress a bit more than I have and perhaps this 4th of July will be cause for that. It’s a tough thing not to be able to relax. Oh, I know-falling asleep on the couch is sort of relaxing, but it’s not exactly the same thing. I don’t have that sense of calm and relaxation I’m looking for.

It’s an odd place just now–contentment on a professional level, the likes of which I haven’t had in years. Part of this was brought on, by the way, by some research I did via an interview for a job at a private school. I have to leave various of this anonymous–no names of schools or people–but I secured an interview wondering if maybe private schools were better for my Libertarian nature. Turns out–no. In fact, in this instance, the private school did things in a way I thought was profoundly wrong both pedagogically and materially. That’s OK-I don’t think I was their cup of tea, either. In fact, I’m certain I wasn’t. But it was a great lesson in humility. The grass is not always greener. In fact, as my pal Riley says–the grass is not greener. It’s weirder. And he’s right about that. It was indeed weirder.

Anyway, so I’m content professionally–as a teacher, as a writer. I’m content with family life. The adoption proceeds apace and I’m a little nervous about it. But we all are–it’s a real change in our lives. But it’s also exciting and wonderful. But there’s this space that just isn’t allowing me to calm down, rest, take a load off. Maybe the adoption is part of it. Maybe turning 45 is part of it–and the flare up in the neck and shoulder are definitely part of it. But together, whatever “it” is or “they” are, I’m just a bit….well…..flummoxed.

Turned 45 yesterday. A great day, by the way–a fine day. Joined Riley at the Pub and watched Spain v. Portugal in the World Cup. Watched the whole game and that may be the first time ever for me. I enjoyed it. I see what the buzz is–for one thing, soccer–futbol, football–what have you–is far more fast paced than any American sport. I’m no Europhile or anything else, really but an Ameri-ophile (with a dab of Anglophile thrown in), but soccer moves fast–there are few commercial breaks. The game doesn’t stop every two minutes and it’s fun to watch. So there was that.

Last night, a good babysitter and Sue and I and even Aunt Laurie–were off with our friends the Perez’s and our pal Jayme and we went to The Cave for dinner. Utterly remarkable. A great time. Chef Gary makes an incredible tapas meal and the wine was spectacular as was the company and conversation. So, there was that.

Now, though. 45 is here and with it, new horizons. An adoption, a ramped-up writing career, an acceptance of my teaching career and somewhere, a small bright light. Something’s going on. Maybe it’s an idea or a spark or something. But I know that until I can unwind, decompress and let go a little, I won’t know what it is….

Here’s to summer.

45

I shall turn 45 tomorrow and I await it with a bit of trepidation. It’s been a rough few weeks, nay, months (2 or so) with my neck and it’s bugging me now. A flare up of some sort, I guess.

And I’m working hard for the paper, which I enjoy. And I’m taking care of my family, which I enjoy. But that sense of rudderless-ness is back and I’m not sure why.

Sue and I had a great time for our Anniversary get away. While there, we went to Baileyana, Tangent and Cadre winery. All three labels are in one spot–under the Niven Family of wines in San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley. I swear I could get lost up there and never return. I love it so much. It vastly outpaces the Sonoma and Napa regions for beauty and its unique setting, in an east-west valley just about 10 minutes from the coast of Pismo Beach, make its weather brilliantly cool and be-devillingly hot all in one swoop. Fog rolls in during the evening and early morning hours, burns off to blue skies and bright sun in the afternoons. The grapes rise on the evening and morning dew and await the drying cycle of afternoon sun. As they grow they concentrate their juices and make incredible wines.

The Nivens took advantage of this and were one of the pioneering families of the Edna Valley. Paragon and Firepeak Vineyards, just south and east of San Luis Obispo are sustainably grown. Tangent is white wines only, mostly Rhone varietals with some others like Pinot Gris thrown in. If you’re one of those, “I don’t like white wines” people, please-don’t bother. More for the rest of us sophisticates.

Baileyana’s beauts are just that. They really are–some lovely blends and a few varietals that stand out for their subtle and earthy flavors. The place just rocks and it’s well worth your time.

Now, full-disclosure here: I partnered with Niven Family Wines when my brother and I opened biorganicwines.com (again, don’t look for it). But I did it for a reason–these are some of the best wines on the Central Coast and I didn’t find one in two tastings (I did the conventional, Sue did the reserves) that I said “nah” to. All were delicate, balanced, delicious and wonderful. Hie thee to it, then.

OK-enough. I’m going to go stare at Diners, Drive-ins and Dives for a while. Good-night.

Happy Anniversary

Cool breezes blew in carrying wisps and finally thick bands of fog with them over San Luis Obispo last night. The day was sunny and bright and the temperature was near 80 degrees–but by dinner-time last night, the temperature was down well into the 60’s and the sky was gray enough to even look like possible rain.

Sue and I were there together celebrating our 16th anniversary which was June 25th. It was a quick overnight trip to the Apple Farm and just a chance to get away for a day and a night, enjoy each others company and have nothing asked of us. Aunt Laurie and Peanut spent the evening together and off we went.

Perfect getaway. We had the spa to ourselves last night as it was cooler than usual last night and people weren’t in the mood to be in bathing suits. I didn’t care–off we went and the spa felt fantastic on these weary neck and back muscles.

I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked, attributable to a rich meal for dinner among other things. But, a good breakfast of coffee and fresh baked muffins with fruit and yogurt helped take the edge off a bit and we spent the morning lounging about.

When we left the hotel, oh so unwillingly, we drove over to the Edna Valley and made only one stop–the old schoolhouse, headquarters for Baileyana, Tangent and Cadre wines. This is the Niven family of wines and they were one of my first clients when my brother and I opened Biorganicwines.com. Don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore. The business failed, as is documented in these pages. But the wines of the Niven Family are awesome, have never been better.

So, a short trip, a great time and a chance to reconnect with my closest and best friend, my wife–on our anniversary. Pretty cool.

A Banner Day

Just about finished with my first official book of the summer–though admittedly, I started this one earlier this month. I’m a slow reader. David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing. It’s a real history book, a fine story that dispels some long held myths. Which ones? Well, I’m glad you asked. Turns out, Washington probably did stand in the boat all the way across. To sit in those large wooden dories was to sit in a puddle of ice water. If you could avoid it, you did. And no, the Hessians weren’t all drunk and hung over from Christmas reveling. In fact, there had been skirmishes with the Hessians up and down the Delaware in the days before Washington’s bold gamble. It was a bold gamble, too. Almost every aspect of it failed–except the last couple of items on Washington’s list and it was a combination of those things and fast thinking on the part of our nation’s first Commander in Chief as well as fast acting on the part of his men-that won the battle.

So, there’s that. Good book, but not the kind of racy storytelling that people like David McCullough or Steven Ambrose produce. My friend Ron, a newly retired history teacher, and one of the best I’ve ever known, said, “It’s a real history book.” By that, I take it he meant meticulously well researched and with little speculation. He’s right. But what Hackett-Fischer lacks is the prosaic style of a Mcullough, Ambrose or even a James McPherson. Joseph Ellis writes elegantly, too and Richard Norton-Smith does as well. Fischer is no slouch, he is an excellent writer–but I find him a little too staccato, a little lacking in the emotional strains. That’s probably good in a lot of ways, but I’m a writer. I like emotions.

Covered three deadlines today for the paper and it was….exhilarating. Really, it was. A couple up already, though I don’t know if you want to read them. Community feature stuff–the kind of writing I like doing a lot, actually. Everyone has a story and it’s an important one. It needs to be told. I figure that’s true enough to keep the world going.

Tomorrow marks 16 years since I married my wonderful wife. I’m honored to say so and even more honored that I get to be with her still. On that happy note, I take my leave gentles. Good night.

Summer Hasn't Started

One needn’t worry that summer is eating up time I don’t have. It’s eating up time I do have. Mostly. I’m keeping rather busy, actually, at writing for the paper and a few other gigs. It’s a nice change of pace, but it’s rudderless just now.

I’m a routine oriented kind of guy and there isn’t one just now. It’ rather….anxiety producing. Add to that Peanut’s camping with us last week and Saturday night slumber soiree have left her with a bad sore throat and a cold. Sue was off working today, will be tomorrow, too–so dad is home with sick child. Bleh….to be fair, Peanut is handling it well and is in good spirits. She’s better now than she was last night this time.

A few deadlines offered today, too. I feel good about that. Kept me busy. Had to write a piece, do some preliminary interviews and then focus a bit on the kid. We went to Wendy’s and that is a good thing. A fine burger, Wendy’s–underrated and underappreciated, no way around it. It’s fresh, it’s juicy and the condiments are the same. It’s an excellent burger, I’d say. Well, OK-not excellent. But really good. I’m not much of a fry guy, though I’ll eat them. I reserve judgment on fries because they are tools of the devil. Tasty little potato sticks with the killing power of mass fat grams–like a cigarette in sheep’s clothing, I tell ya.

I have precious little else to report tonight. Normally, when I have so little to say, I don’t say it. I allow the previous post to stand for a few days. But the fingers were itchy and I wanted to try them out. I have a few things I need to commit to the keyboard and I was waiting to see if I was ready to do it. I find I’m not quite there, though another half hour might push me. We shall have to wait and see.

I am off, gentles….

Summer Drawers

My wife’s unique qualities draw me to her constantly. Truly, I’m humbled when I cogitate on knowing her for some 26 years now–married for 16 of those–and she still surprises me, still does things that make me drop my jaw.

To wit: The father’s day gift this year was so needed, so utilitarian and yet so funny, I’m still laughing aloud.

I needed jammies. Yes, I’m a jammy wearer. Mind, I don’t wear the tops-even when it’s cold and so, I don’t purchase those. Plenty of places where you can buy pajama (heretofore known again as jammy) bottoms sans top. So, I do. And I like it that way.

I was running low. My jammies were in poor and sordid shape. Frayed ends, ripped portions, shrinkage, stretch-age, and rather all manner of destructiveness. I had a couple of fallbacks–some Disney Tigger shorts my wife purchased for me and a pair of rather plain, plaid Target brand shorts-and they work fine this time of year. When winter comes, shorts don’t cut it and my longs were getting long in the tooth, too.

So, for Father’s day, Sue bought me jammies-several pair, and they’re awesome. She bought me, for example, some longs that feature South Park as their theme. She hates South Park, finds it crude and adolescent, simple and tasteless and she also knows that I love it and yet somehow, doesn’t sigh sadly each time she’s reminded of it. She even bought me a pair of their jammies. That’s love, folks.

There’s also the Peanuts themed pair of longs and even a Family Guy pair of shorts with Stuey in various poses saying “Obey Me!” on them. I’m not a fan of Family Guy at all, actually, but Stuey is funny—and the fact that she bought them is funnier.

The Piece De Resistance, however, is the pair I’m wearing now. They’re shorts also, though sort of long-ish shorts, featuring our pal Scooby-Do all over them. Funny enough–but it’s what they say that makes it work:

“The Ladies Love a Bad Dog…”

And if you’re not laughing by now, then you simply aren’t paying attention. It’s hilariously funny stuff and from my wife, no less. Can you imagine a reverse gift? Could I even buy my wife a pair of jammies that featured something like, “Men love a Bad Girl…” which no doubt, they do–but announce that on my wife’s jammies? I’d never…and I’m supposed to be the funny one in the family.

She never ceases to amaze.

I get weepy just thinking about it.

The New Look

Alright, then–have at it. What do you think of the new look of the blog? Needed some updating, wanted to change things around a bit, new photo of me, new blog spaces, changed the content of the introduction, updated who I’m writing for, etc. Jason always helps me do this; inspires me really. He came over yesterday and we spent some time looking at how to update the school paper’s website (yes, if you clicked there, I know-it needs some work–thus, we met). While we were at it, did a little revamp here at the home office.

Shannon had her first slumber party last night and I am off to pick her up, now. Spoke to her by phone this morning and a good time was had by all. We didn’t know if she’d want to spend the night, but spend she did–so, a nice quiet evening at home. What did we do? Well, after the dinner party, we watched Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will be Blood. But it wasn’t over by 1:00 AM, so we went to sleep, all the time talking about how weird it was not to have Ms. P. here with us.

Sigh. Parenthood.

I just had to put this picture in. Went to Trader Joe’s yesterday here in town–the dog seen here was next to me in the parking lot. The photo, I think, speaks for itself.

Beach Camp

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that it is my wife who is a camper, not I. I’m more of a Camp Sheraton kind of guy. But these past couple of years, I have sought to indulge my wife’s joy of sitting in the dirt, sleeping on the ground and cooking chocolaty gooey treats by firelight while consuming various levels of alcohol.

So, yesterday off we trundled to Carpinteria State Beach, just north of where we live by about 40 minutes, but a world away. It’s called “The World’s Safest Beach” but I don’t know how it earned that moniker. Indeed, Peanut’s hysteria came yesterday after something in the water gave her a lash. We’ve convinced her that it was probably a piece of seaweed (which was in radiant abundance at the beach) that wrapped around her leg and scraped off. But it looks more like she got lashed by the tentacle of a jellyfish. Can’t tell for sure, but all the symptoms she had seem to suggest that. She freaked out about it, crying and whining she wanted to go home. Took a while to get her rational. She does that. Comes by it honestly. ‘Nuff said.

We thought we had a good campsite and it wasn’t the worst. Back in November, when Scott and his son Tyler, our pal Shawn and Peanut and I went there, we got a postage-stamp campsite that barely fit our two modest tents. Last night was better in terms of size. It was also adjacent to the restrooms–which has an up and a downside. The upside is we didn’t have to walk far. I’ll leave you to figure out the rest.

I fell asleep hard at about 10:30 or so. I woke up abruptly, not knowing where I was assuming it was the wee hours. It was only midnight. But since I already thought wee hours, I got up to…well….wee. Again, a task made all the easier by the proximity of the restrooms. And all the more unsettling.

I started not feeling well in the gastrointestinal region shortly after climbing back in the tent. But, I psyched myself out of it, did a little praying and asked God to consider that now was not such a good time for gastrointestinal distress and He seemed to agree. I was–and am–grateful. God is an awesome God and this is nowhere more abundantly evident than in the little things.

I was awake when the noise on the picnic table began. I didn’t know what it was at first, but slowly it dawned on me that we’d left a bag of cherries out there. Beach camping is relatively safe, you know? Snakes aren’t a concern–it’s too cold at night, even in the summer and too well traveled. Bears? Hardly. But the raccoon population continues unabated and we were visited by a hefty fellow who left his marks for us in the morning. Not neat eaters, either. They didn’t eat everything and take it with them. Indeed–it appears as though the cherries, and the small bit of chocolate left behind by my daughter were OK, but he would have preferred something else.

I was awake, too when sometime later, the big Union Pacific freighter rolled through, sounded his horn extensively and dragged about a mile’s worth of rolling stock along the tracks some 20 yards from our campsite. It’s romantic, actually. I kind of like it, though Sue can do without it. Peanut swears she didn’t hear it which I find hard to believe, but she has indeed slept through many things up to and including having Scoop the wonderdog jump up on her bed, sleep for an hour and then, dissatisfied, jump down, thumping his disconcert out her door. Never moved a muscle, that one.

And then I was awake for a most miraculous thing. The top of our tent is screen and we chose to leave the flap open and I stared at the innumerable stars. But rather than fade away one by one, they sort of suddenly faded, like a transition on a movie screen or a light being slowly brought down by dimmer switch. And then dawn broke and the only other time I remember seeing that happen was atop a hill in Thousand Oaks on the Cal Lutheran campus in 1988. It was extraordinary. An awesome God indeed.

I fell asleep shortly after, but awoke at 6, which means I slept little more than an hour and so the whole day has been rather sluggish. I had to cover a high school graduation for the paper and even that seemed slow motion. I’ll link to the story here -so you can see how I write for publication on two hours of sleep.

One day, maybe I’ll buy an R.V. That might be fun. Until then–I’m in a tent, but only for a night at a time. It’s a lot of fun, mainly because Sue and Peanut love it and I like to make them happy. But I’m glad to be home by the glow of a Mac laptop and a welcoming Select Comfort bed calling me in very shortly.

Independence

The first full day of summer vacation, as it were, for 2010. What conspicuous act did I participate in? Nothing. Nothing much at all. I got up early, as it happened, though largely unwillingly. Sue had to rush off to work this morning and that put me in charge. I’m actually happy about this if you’ll allow me to explain.

I don’t do “in-charge” well when it comes to my family. Classroom with a mess of teenagers? I’m your man. I’ll calm them down, get them focused and on task and keep them that way for an hour. But provide transportation, meals, entertainment and fun for my family? Well–let’s just say I’m not nearly as good at it as I would like to be.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to be the one in charge most of the time. Sue handles that beautifully and is masterful in her deft handling of food choices, play dates, transportation schedules, girl-drama, and assorted other things. She’s creative and flexible and knows the boundaries. Me? I’m rather like a chimpanzee on a driving range–lots of interest, but not a lot of talent. C’est la vie.

But summer comes and suddenly, one or two days of the week-when Sue is out of the house doing her work, she leaves me in charge. Better, then, to have the first day of summer be such a day. I got used to it early–no time to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. This is one of those summers where the second day of summer will be better, even than the first. That’s rare enough, so I’m kind of honored by it.

A productive day, actually. I got Ms. P. to her VBS class on time at 9:00 this morning and got myself a TB test by 9:30 with good old Doc Phelps. Interesting guy, Doc Phelps. His son was a student of mine way back when. But the good doctor found himself with a powerful life-changing event on his hands. It involved pain and surgery-he had to have a finger removed after it got caught via his wedding ring on a fence. He tells the story willingly. But, the short version is, it changed the way he thought about medicine and he opened a clinic that does not take insurance. He charges his patients cash up front and while he provides them with the ability to bill for insurance, the patients pay the good doctor up front. The result, of course, is that his costs are lower–the average visit costs less than 50 bucks plus meds if needs be.

Off from Doc Phelps to the store, grab some food, do some errands and then–the big hike. Scoop and I did three miles today. A grand walk with cool morning breezes shuffling off the Pacific and layering foggy clouds through shafts of sunlight. Good day–good walking. Except my walking shoes are wretched and need to be replaced. I’ve set those wheels in motion, but I’m still using the old shoes for now.

Sigh. It hurts my heels and ankles. Ah well. Could be worse.

Good night gentles.

Friedman Isn't Even a Useful Idiot…

I want to be clear, as President Obama might say. Thomas L. Friedman seems a likable guy. I read his book “The World is Flat” and thought it quite good and certainly poignant. He is affable and smart, he is a fine writer.

And he’s wrong almost all the time.

In fact, sometimes, he seems a plain idiot, like in this piece in the New York Times today. Friedman actually gives voice to the weird, left-wing, knee-jerk, liberal reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf. His friend shares with him a letter he wrote to the editor of his hometown paper in South Carolina. In the letter, he says he’s at fault–it’s his fault, and by extension mine, yours and everyone else’s fault. We are responsible for the oil spill and the ensuing catastrophe in the Gulf.

And it sounds mea culpa-ish enough for all you left-wing nuts out there to buy. After all, in the past few years and certainly with the crowning achievement of electing the apology-maker in chief, liberals have seemed to want to apologize for everything from George Bush to SUV’s to hurricanes to earthquakes. “It’s our fault,” the say. “It’s our no good, rotten, obscene life-style and our dependence on oil.”

Doesn’t that sound all good and touchy-feely, kum by ah-ee to everyone?

Idiocy. Supreme, abject idiocy.

The thing that makes me laugh most is that this friend of Friedman’s seems to actually believe it. I guess if you follow the logic, some do-gooder in the 1800’s should have put up his hand when it became apparent that coal would heat homes and provide energy. There should have been someone on hand to realize that steam locomotives were actually tools of the devil (Well, to be fair, the Native-Americans of the time did indeed say that) and stop them in their tracks, not to put too fine a point on it.

And finally, when the automobile was invented-someone, preferably a high profile liberal who has the best intentions of all in mind should have said, “no! Don’t do it! It will result in an ever increasing dependence on petroleum products and swallow us all whole until Muslim terrorists attack and a big plume of oil engulfs the gulf!”

Friedman is an idiot. So his is friend.

Yes, petroleum has been our downfall, eh? All the plastics that help save lives in hospitals, the safety equipment and car seats for kids, the literally millions of achievements man has achieved with the help of petroleum–all should be wiped away. We should repent and go back to living as tribal and nomadic herds living in the dirt, dying from tuberculosis and malaria.

This is absurdity masquerading as New York chic. And Friedman, an apparently smart, sophisticated man of the 21st Century, is proving that the so-called “elite” of his ilk still don’t get it.