Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Sweet Boy Turned 14 on Thursday

Donald Trump* is an idiot. A racist idiot. If his words of this past week didn't convince you of that then I'm not sure there's anything he can do to dissuade you from your misplaced belief in him. If, when faced with questions about Trump's* stability and his fitness to serve as president you turn to the propagandists of right-wing media to quell your fears, what good have you done toward really understanding the danger he presents to us all. If you find yourself accepting of the idea that it's okay for Trump's* campaign to have been in collusion with Russia to subvert our election process or if you find yourself equating the Nazis who marched in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia with those who rose up to stop them, your mind has been corrupted and it's more important than ever that you take a step back and come to terms with that.

The assertion that anything other than Fox News or other far right media outlets friendly to Trump* are "fake news" is disturbing to hear, especially coming from Trump's* mouth. There's a willful ignorance that comes with tuning into Fox and other similar voices to shape one's opinion. People have to know that, and yet many continue to. I worry for the direction of our country.

My sweet boy turned 14 on Thursday. Toby doesn't see or hear so well anymore but his happy feet dance the floor when I'm preparing his food in the morning, and he still loves to go out walking. He's such a love and such an important part of my life. 

We're still waiting on a newly paved Jalisco Terrace but they continue to tear out large sections of road and replace them with a different consistency of dirt due to a softness in the soil as one of the workers explained to me. It didn't help that we've received 5" (13cm) of rain this past week. It was a muddy, rutted mess out there for a few days but the end of the project is in sight. To give you a better idea of what we're still dealing with you can more easily see it in my most recent ride video I put together -- especially the last 30 seconds or so.

Our main-floor remodel is nearing completion. Tim was here this week to install the glass tile backsplash. It looks very nice. Keith will be here early next week to put the finishing touches on his work which will allow for others to come in and wrap up their parts of the project.

I spent much of yesterday cleaning the leaded windows that go in the front room. I made them back in 1995 and I've never taken them down for cleaning in all that time. I had them in a safe place in the basement for the past two months but now it's time to get them back in place. And they are. I do like the way the colors pop even more now with the white woodwork to set them off.

We'll be leaving tomorrow morning for Lincoln, Nebraska where we'll be positioned to observe the solar eclipse on Monday. Lincoln puts us in the area of totality and should give us a good shot at driving to wherever it appears we'll need to be to minimize the chances for clouds obscuring our view. I'm getting excited about this especially after watching the video below and the description of totality the speaker gives. I plan to have my video camera rolling for the half hour before and after the eclipse to capture a time-lapse from wherever we are. I don't plan to be trying to capture many photos of the event -- others will do that. I think it's more important to just stand back in awe and wonder while taking it all in.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Unwelcome Appearance

I went to Mall of America last week to do some laps on a rainy afternoon. There's a new yarn art display on the north end that's quite cool to see. Walking laps gave me a chance to try out the Garmin foot pod Tammy got me that more accurately keeps track of my indoor distance when I can't get a GPS signal. It worked well.

My Cluster Headaches made a return 3 weeks ago after having left me alone for the past 30 months. That's the longest reprieve I've had from them since they first began to afflict me when I was a senior in high school. I wrote several entries for my blog during my last phase of the headaches but I've been reluctant to publish those writings. They're a little too personal (even for me) in places. I do intend to publish them all at some point. Here's the first of those entries written in January, 2015. I was at a very dark place then, trying to remain hopeful that the headaches would cease any day but faced with the reality that that wasn't happening.

I went from months of daily and nightly beatings from cluster headaches to the near loss of my left leg due to blood clots and then Sudden Sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. All the while my mother was living out her last months and the difficulties that presented. That period of my life was easily my most trying ever as I did my best to put one foot in front of the other and press on.

The storms would eventually clear and I was able to resume my normal life again. When the headaches are gone I don't typically think about them, or want to think about them but they're never far from my thinking when I get to the point where they're due to make an appearance again. And now they have. I'm not much for social interaction when I'm dealing with them but I do plan to be at the Redeye Open -- a golf tournament next week for retired controllers. It promises to be a fun time!

Tammy and I have been working overtime trying to get our home put back together. We're making good progress. Tim comes tomorrow to do our tile work for us in our kitchen. That should make quite a change in the look as well. Chairs for the kitchen island are on order from Peter's Billards and a small table and chairs are on order from Schneiderman's. Neither will be here for more than another month but in a summer that's flashed by as this one has, another month is nothing.

Time to hit the driving range and see if my swing is still where I left it two weeks ago. I've got a tournament to get ready for.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I'm Going to Finally Learn How to Cook!

We're once again able to park both of our cars together in our garage for the first time in nearly 2 months. Our main-floor remodel is wrapping up and we're pleased with how it's turned out. There's still more to be done but our home is livable once again and for that we're grateful. A guy can only hang out in his garage for so long.

And I'm going to finally learn how to cook!

I promised Tammy that when we got our kitchen put back together I'd make an effort to learn something more about preparing a meal than how to make a sandwich or using a microwave as my main source of heat. She wants us both to take a cooking class. I think that's a great idea.

Keith and Jason came by yesterday morning to install a final section of cabinets in what used to be our front room. Maybe it's still our front room; I'm just not sure anymore. It's such a different look than what we're used to and we're both liking the change -- a lot. It was the open floor-plan concept that first attracted me to our home's design when I had it built in 1992. Our new layout opens it up even more.

We couldn't be happier with the cabinets Keith and his crew have assembled for us. There's so much thought that goes into something such as this and I can't begin to pretend that I can appreciate it all, from the design to the construction and all of the unforeseen things that pop up along the way. We're so impressed!

Steve was here most of the morning and afternoon yesterday installing our pendant lamps over the island in the kitchen and over our dining table. He's been such a godsend to us. Karen was here to lend her eyes and expertise in getting the pendants hung correctly. They're quite cool!

Road construction in the neighborhood continues to move along at a steady pace. They had a huge milling machine on wheels chewing up the old asphalt while both grinding and recycling it into a soft loam that they spent the better part of two days grooming for the first layer of asphalt, which I think they may be doing tomorrow. The cost of $3000 per homeowner seems like a very fair deal to me considering how large of a project this is.

I'll be back in the glassblowing studio at Foci tomorrow for the first time in way too many months. I'll be working with Steve. He's such a talented glassblower and I feel blessed to be able to share some bench time with him. Hopefully, I'll not disappoint him with my limited abilities and we can team up regularly in the weeks and months ahead. I'd like that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Airbnb to the Rescue!

We decided to get out of town while Jeff paints the main level of our home. He's using an oil based paint on the trim and it's not healthful to stay there -- plus, paint fumes do a number on my head and are a trigger for my Cluster Headaches.

The Airbnb we're staying in is just a few blocks from Lake Nokomis, under the approach path to runway 12L at MSP. We've been lucky that the air traffic since we've been here has been departing to the south and southeast which leaves us with only arrivals overhead. They're much lighter on the throttles than departures and not at all an issue -- we hear them but they don't get in the way of our conversation. I'm kinda curious to hear how loud departure traffic would sound from inside our well insulated abode but unless things change soon I'll never know because we're checking out in the morning and heading for home.

It's been nice having different scenery for my walks. I could get used to this area. We've been enjoying trying some different restaurants and getting a more intimate feel for the area. We'll have a much better appreciation for the neighborhood and its surroundings the next time we pass through.

Things are a mess back at home. Our home's main level is steadily coming together but outside on our streets it's a whole other story. The curbing that was in need of replacing has been torn out leaving large sections missing, just in time for some heavy rains this afternoon. The plan had been for the new concrete to be poured yesterday but storms have left it too wet for that. Hopefully it'll be done tomorrow so we can begin the 6 day countdown to being able to use our driveway once again after the concrete cures.

Speaking of storms -- I got soaked on my walk today! I was hoping I'd make it back before the heaviest rain caught up with me but I was too slow. I plopped my butt down in an adarondak chair outside of Patina, a store on the corner of 50th and Bryant Ave So. I waited out the worst of the storm while watching arrivals for runway 12L at MSP fly directly overhead before I ventured back out into the raindrops to complete the last 2 miles of my walk. I must've looked like a drowned rat when I finished but I had a smile on my face and was feeling good. Here's an animation of my walk.

And some photos from the past few days plus a riding video.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Construction Everywhere, Almost!

Road repair on the 30 year old streets in our neighborhood is in full swing. It looked like a military construction battalion had descended on Jalisco Terrace one week ago Monday as huge rigs with big scoops and lots of beeping blocked off sections of the street while workers in hardhats took over our once quiet neighborhood. They wasted no time in breaking through the asphalt to access water main connections 12 feet beneath the surface to replace them as part of the preventative maintenance aspect of their work. Each home will be assessed around $3000 for the work which seems like a fair amount to me.

We received a notice on our front door this afternoon advising us that they'll be replacing the curb at the threshold of our driveway on Monday and that we won't be able to pull our cars in or out across it for 6 days afterwards while the cement cures. It actually seems a fitting time considering the inside of our home has been torn up for the past 6 weeks -- why not the outside as well?

Our main floor remodel has progressed quite a lot since I last spoke of it here. The drywall work is done as is the refinishing of our floors and the replacing of trim and doors. And the cabinets are mostly in! It's a lot to keep up with and gives me a new appreciation for the job of a general contractor. Keith, Karen, Jeff, Steve and Joe have all been extremely helpful in making sure that details both large and small are addressed. I messed up in not seeing to it that obsolete wall receptacles were eliminated during the drywall phase. I wish I could go back and revisit that portion of the project but it's a little late. They're mostly hidden by furniture anyway. Perhaps we'll take it on in another year. Or not.

We're really happy with the cabinets that Keith and his crew have assembled for us. The new layout gives our home such an entirely new look and feel. I'll add several photos to the end of this blog entry to show the progress.

I put an Asian Beetle trap out in our backyard on a shepherd's hook a few nights ago to try and get a handle on the destructive little munchers and minimize the damage they're doing to our River Birch trees in back. The traps seem to work real well. I gave an extra trap to Karen and Bob next door as they've had much more of a problem with them than we have. That probably speaks to the wider variety of vegetation they have. The beetles were swarming me as I placed the trap which emits a pheromones of sorts and attracts the beetles. (See the video below.)

Our friend Job has season tickets to the Minnesota United FC soccer games and gave us two tickets he couldn't use. Neither Tammy nor I had ever been to a soccer game so we thought it'd be fun to check it out. And it was! We were total newbies though, not even knowing which team on the field was the home team but that didn't take long to figure out. The game ended in a 0 - 0 tie but we still enjoyed ourselves -- plus, Tammy had just returned home with the pups from a month in Babbitt living with Cindy while construction continued at home so it was a nice date-night for us.

Tomorrow promises to be another busy day around here with Jeff arriving early to continue doing prep work before painting the baseboards, trim and doors. We've decided to book a room at an Airbnb near lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis for 2 to 3 days to allow for our home to air out from Jeff's work. We look forward to doing lots of walks around the lake with the pups in addition to trying out some different restaurants. It will be nice to have a finished space to call home and a place to sit that's not also my bed for a change.

Some recent photos and a video from my world...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Retracing Steps and Reminiscing

This is a continuation from my previous post.

I left the gravel road and drove north along Lincoln Ave toward the west side of downtown Huron. I was reminiscing about the time I went for a run early in my running days and rather than the typical 5.25 mile loop I was accustomed to I kept running up Lincoln Ave into downtown then east beyond the James River and past the beef processing plant. I didn't stop until 9.6 miles later when I returned home. My quads were so sore. My cardiovascular system was up to the task but my legs weren't quite there yet. I soaked in a warm tub to try and ease the pain.

The demographics of Huron have changed considerably since the mid '80s when the population was overwhelmingly white. There's now a noticeable presence of Hispanic and Karen people (an ethnic minority from Myanmar) who came for jobs in the turkey processing plant -- by far the largest employer in town. The beef processing plant is long since gone.

I doubt there's any hope for The Huron Mall but how nice it is to see the city doing as well as it is.

Following the route of my first long run (mentioned above) I drove toward the James River and the Memorial Park Golf Course -- a small 9 hole municipal course that I'd occasionally play when I was new in town before I made the switch to the longer course near the airport. I parked my car in the gravel lot and went inside the metal shack of a clubhouse. I believe it's the same clubhouse from the days when I used to play there. I spoke with the woman inside and she gave me some history of what's been happening in the area, focusing mostly on a flood in the late '90s that left all of Memorial Park and even the clubhouse under water. The course layout has changed some to accommodate an expansion of the minor league ball field adjacent to it. I asked her if it was okay if I walked the course for old times' sake. She was happy to give me the go-ahead. I pocketed a scorecard with the course map and made my way to the 1st tee.

The greens were in very good condition with the exception of two of them where ants posed somewhat of an obstacle. There was only one other golfer out there. I eventually caught up with him and tagged along for a couple holes making small-talk before going on ahead to complete my lap. I made it back to my car and took my clubs and cart out to have a go at it. For old times' sake.

By the time I took the 1st tee I was the only other golfer out there. I finished my nine holes in record time (for me) at around an hour. I got back in my car and continued to retrace the steps of my run, all the while feeling like it was only recently that I lived here. How can 32 years get away so quickly? I kept asking myself. It was a sobering thought that kept coming back to me.

My plan had been for me to walk this old running route of mine but I was heading back home the next day and there wouldn't be enough time. I got back in my car and slowly drove the rest of the route, taking it all in as my brain accessed memories that had been dormant for so long. I eventually ended up back up at my old apartment and parked in front. I got out and walked around a little, grabbing a few photos before driving back to the hotel and the restaurant there for dinner. I tried to find the old local FM station, KURO, on my car's radio but it's no longer there.

While seated in the restaurant I was able to get a possible number for a friend I used to work with. I texted him. "Is this Willy Kutter's phone? This is Kevin Gilmore and I'm trying to reach him. Thanks!" I didn't know Willy well enough to stay in touch with him over the years but how nice it would be to reconnect and catch up on each other's lives.

Before long my phone lit up with a call from Willy. He invited me over. It was getting late so I quickly paid for my meal and navigated the 6 minute drive to his home. He met me at his front door. This must be the Twilight Zone I thought because none of us ever changes in the eyes of the other. A few more wrinkles, yes, but I'd have recognized Willy and his wife Joan anywhere. He expressed the same sentiment toward me. We chatted for 3 hours about so many things. I enjoyed our time together a lot. We could've easily kept chatting but it was after 11:00 and I was feeling tired. It was a nice end to a very full day and I'm so glad I reached out to him.

I woke up early the next morning with a pounding headache that wouldn't allow me to sleep due to what I figured was dehydration from my ride the day before. I had one last thing on my list before refueling and heading for home, and that was to play a round of golf at the course near the airport that I'd spent so much time on when I used to live here. Except it wasn't the same course at all anymore. I'd looked online at the layout days earlier and saw that it bared little resemblance to the course that once occupied this plot of land. Where there used to be only 9 holes of what could fairly be described as "prairie pool", there were now 18 challenging and beautifully maintained holes of golf that I was so impressed by. If only my pounding head would allow me to fully enjoy them.

I walked the grounds and tried to imagine where the previous tees and greens used to be while a flood of memories came back to me -- good memories. Small and mostly meaningless memories I suppose but they are mine from a lifetime ago and they add to the pages of my life so they're not insignificant to me.

And all too quickly I was back at my car, loading my clubs in the back for the ride home and feeling grateful for my time spent in Huron -- for the blessing it was to me then and now.