Sunday, August 02, 2020

Pandevidence

Looking through my photos from the pandemic months, you would think, absent the absent globetrotting, that life was marching along normally. True, I haven't taken any masked selfies yet (why not just hold up the mask in your hand to show it photographically? Are we really somehow enhancing our appearance with the mask? I'd say no.) so there are no telltale signs of a horrible disease roiling all of humanity's routines. I've continued to take pictures of what I always have. Plant life. Food. Selfies with hubby. And travel, yes, just more on a local scale. Plus ca change...

There are a few busts hidden in the pandemic photostream however. Here's one:



This is my four-screen setup I have now for work. Before, I spent very little time at my desk at home, but with Zoom classes with 38 students, my slow desktop computer with little monitor was not going to cut it. So the screens are 1) the class 2) the screen I'm sharing with the class 3) the next screen I will share with the class, (or different bits of the Zoom app), and 4) finally a screen where I can see the Zoom room the way that THEY see the Zoom room which is a bit different from what the host sometimes sees. It's exhausting I think more so than the classroom. And I seriously need an A/V tech but since that is out of the question, I muddle through as best I can.


Here is another bit of evidence. I haven't been photographed shirtless in a few years now (willingly) but I am down 20 pounds since March. It's funny, when you don't leave the house, there is never a gamut of lunchroom brownies, reception counter candy bowls and various edible student gifts to navigate. So I've just kept my calorie count low enough while stuck at home to lose steadily. Almost done now. And yes, I've been hungry for 4 months.


Oh look here we are travelling to our great nation's capital. The oddness of visiting Ottawa as phase 3 of reopening was occurring was spooky. Essentially a ghost town as Canada's borders continue to be shut and though we are being encouraged to spend travel money locally, it was clear not a merchant in town was making any money. Au contraire, I would say everyone who had opened was losing money by doing so. It was sad so we spent as much as we could. Grin.



But maybe it is such a ghost town because Canada is taking the pandemic so much more seriously than the US. This photo said it all as the two competing tourist lines for Niagara Falls shows. Which tourboat hosts the Canadians? We too took a boat on a river in a tourist locale. It looked like the boat in the foreground.


We were supposed to wear masks aboard but it was so dang empty, it wasn't really necessary. On the tour of the Ottawa River we took, there were 11 passengers and 5 staff members. See? Money bleeding. On the upside, I HATE crowds, so visiting our beautiful capital was probably more enjoyable for me than it would have been otherwise.


Another big change has been that I'm actually MORE social now than before. I've been playing werewolves with my camp friends twice a week and these evenings have become something to look forward to. Although the socializing is mostly virtual, it still satisfies the connection craving.


Like everyone else on the continent, I've been cooking up a storm. I draw the line at bread though. You can buy REALLY good bread cheaply. Everytime I've made bread, I've thought, oh great, I saved zero dollars and used up how much time to make this loaf? Not worth it. Deviled eggs though? Always worth it. And difficult to buy already made. (This is the token blogpost food photo, trust me there were a hundred others the last months to choose from.)


My friend posted this on FB so I must put it here for my memories. I've got to be 19 here, so pleased with our purchase of plastic yard flamingoes. Fun fact, I'm the only homo in the photo lol.


Finally, I'll leave you with this. This is basically how my brain sees the atmosphere. I know it is totally exaggerated but I will continue to do everything to avoid catching/spreading the virus. Fauci says he thinks we will have the vaccine for everyone the first or second quarter of 2021. That made me optimistic. Just another 9 months or so of this? Easy peasy. Let's hope science hits a home run on this one. Peace ya'll and thanks for stopping by. Mwah.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Overpiled maladically

Serge said to me last night, "Today is the first day of spring, isn't it?" Wut? Wait just one minute now, I am the announcer of seasons in this household. It was just another in a long line of examples of how much life has changed in the last couple of weeks. The first day of spring, by the way, turned out sunny and cold, much like today. We did not leave the house.

This morning's cases and body count

I have only left the house 3 times in 13 days. I have walked a block to the market or across the street to the drugstore for a total of maybe one hour outside the house.  The first time I did this on March 12th, there was a line to enter the market and panicky shoppers with overpiled shopping carts. Everyone had toilet paper. I wondered if coronavirus caused diarrhea as I paid for my onions at the express checkout.

My job vanished that day along with millions of others. Falling squarely in the double whammy category was the complete cancellation of all our short term lodging reservations for the next few months. If we can add to the whammies, my side gigs of travel agenting and dog sitting are also devoid of customers. In every scenario of the future that has played out in my head (a constant element of my mental real estate, maladically) none of them even remotely looked like what we are living through. It's wartime without the guns.

I don't want to touch anything anyone has ever touched, ever.

When this started, I had a positive attitude about it, yay, free time at home, but over the last two weeks, dread and anxiety have crept in, disrupting my sleep. Keeping the news on surely doesn't help so I am trying to cut down on that and do more creative things such as updating the blog. We need to go out every few days for perishables, otherwise, we are doing much as you are: cooking, cleaning, hobbying, social networking, and trying to stay upbeat in the face of the grim facts unfolding.

This morning I went to the market and hit the jackpot. Clorox wipes! Bleach! Lysol! When I got home, I saw on Ebay Canada that Clorox wipes were going for over $15 and I had just paid $4.60! When I told Serge, he immediately forbade me from selling the wipes on line.

Jackpot at the Maxi Supermarket this morning

A lot of people are talking about hope. What hope? There is no way out of this mess that does not involve serious carnage to humans and economies. Unless we get a vaccine. That is where the hope lies, but since that's over a year away, we may have to endure such changes to life until then, which is clearly unacceptable. Glad I am not a policymaker at the moment.

So. I've got taxes to prepare and homework reading to do (my class where I am a student has just switched to on-line format with Adobe Connect) and work to do on Serge's scarf. Peace out peeps!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2020 Dudes

Greetings one and all. We made it! 2020 is here, the year I will be 55 AARP! I started this blog 15 years ago and though it has been largely untended these past years, I hope to appear a bit more often as there is no other venue like this to keep like my scrapbook. I can see myself perusing (and harshly criticizing) my writing when I'm good and old. Since I haven't been here a while, let's treat this like one of those long letters you might find in your Christmas card. (Serge hates them but I love them.)

Last March I started a year long contract for a course that I designed and delivered in 2017. (It has also been renewed for this March so staying put for a bit.) I already had a fair amount of travel planned in 2019 so it was tricky fitting everything in, but as you will see, all worked out fine. This was my YEAR OF NOT DRINKING!!! Well October to October so most of last year was dry for me. I did everything I would normally do in a year but with zero alcohol. I slept so well! It was a bit rocky when I again imbibed on the Europe trip with my family in October (my tolerance had changed drastically) but we have a no-alcohol in the house policy now so just the occasional drink or on vacations now. Our first big trip was the beginning of May, we went on a cruise to Greece out of Rome and frankly, I think it would have been more fun with drinking lol. But it was fun nonetheless.


Upon arrival in Rome, I wanted to see the Coliseum, something we had wanted to do last time we were in Rome in 2008 but didn't get to. There were hawkers offering guided cut-the-line tours of the Coliseum and the Forum for 35 Euros. Perfect! Serge was suspicious but it was great with knowledgable guides. I started playing around with facial hair on this trip....


Serge and I were up to our usual antics aboard cruises. We tried not to mock too openly. Frankly we hardly saw each other and ended up leaving notes for each other each time we went to the cabin. I enjoyed all the trivia games aboard and Serge enjoyed the bars with his late night cruise friends. If I was with him during the day, complete strangers (to me) would pass by and greet and hug Serge. Always the superstar that one.

Anyway, we had a great time visiting Malta, Mykonos, Athens, Naples and Messina. Sadly, we couldn't tender to the shore for our visit to Santorini because of wind. I don't have to rehash the whole trip here (fairly run of the mill cruise experience, made some new FB friends natch).


We had a nice summer weather-wise, not too hot and not too much rain. Here we are with our Granby friends in the village for the last year of the colored balls. As you can see, the toying around with facial hair became a mustache.


In July, I got to go to London where I got to cross off Stonehenge from my bucket list. While I was in Oxford, I went to a big museum and in the ceramics section, I found this plate. I had to go find someone to explain. The latin writing is backward and reads "Every man looks at me as though I have a head of dicks". The purpose of the plate is unclear according to the docent. It could be a joke or it could be porn, but there are very few of these plates remaining that were made in the 1500's.


By the time my birthday rolled around, I had rid myself of the stache. Serge and I went on a little road trip for the day driving around Lake Champlain. There I am with my no-alcohol Heineken on my birthday.


In August, we went to our 6th year of Campcamp. I took on a larger role coordinating transportation for the arrivals and departures of campers. It was a very good camp, mellow, without drama and full of love as usual. (Also - no drinking!)  Looking forward to this year!


Around this time my mom caught her biggest tuna ever! She had been hungering to land a "cow" of over 300 pounds for many years. I watched over the years as she hid disappointment as others reeled in their cows. Finally, she got one and boy did she overachieve - 346 pounds! What a feat.


In the fall, I went to France and Spain with family. I had finished my year of sobriety and frankly, I had difficulty sleeping the whole time. Part of that was getting used to alcohol again, another part jetlag. It was rather cold and rainy much of the time as well. My stepdad got sick on the trip so that was a drag for him for 5 days.


I fell in love with Neufchatel cheese and marveled how cheap the cheese and wine were in both France and Spain. Here in Segovia, you see the ancient roman aqueduct dominating the skyline in the town square.


We really enjoyed Madrid at the end eating and drinking our way around the city and meeting up with friends there. Here I am with my brother and you can really see my age! He is 9 years younger than I am but I think I look much older than him. Oh well, it's all downhill from here. Normale.


Then for two weeks at Christmastime, we did something we have never done before. Beach vacation! We went to Oaxaca state to Huatulco airport and rented a house on the beach and then explored the dozen beautiful beaches dotting the coastline. This beach was our favorite, perfect combination of deserted paradise with good food, drink, snorkeling and music. We came back here four times we liked it so much. Playa St Augustin.


Here is another beach we visited in Puerto Angel. Each one had its charms. But the vacation was not without its foibles. There were the four days of no hot water, four days without internet and (sigh) four days of me shitting water. But overall, it was great, we made most suppers at the house and we ate and drank on beaches every day while playing a variety of games and doing crosswords. Also the snorkeling was great with the best coral reefs on the west coast of Mexico.


After Mexico, we came home for three days and then went for our annual visit to California where we did the usual, visiting friends and family. We had a nice 3 kings celebration with my mom and went on a nice hike with my dad. When I saw grandma it was the first time she didn't know my name. She did say, "You're the kid of one of my kids." So at least there is that. She kept turning to me and repeating, "The answer is, don't get old!" I found it charming and yet it broke my heart a little. It was probably the last time she will recognize me. Damn Alzheimer's, though she is gonna be 96 so normale.

I probably should have made all these events of the last 10 months separate blog posts, and hopefully that will happen this year. Let's make it special. Happy 2020 peeps! Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Snippets 2019

- Greetings all. Over a year since I checked into this blog space. A year! I know eventually, google will remove the blog due to inactivity so I've got to pop in at least once a year to keep this record alive. How else will I remember anything before Facebook? If I can't remember when something happened, I can at least refer back here. So here I am.

                                 With our wax pal Marilyn, New Year's 2019

- Many many things occur during the course of a year. How many can you remember? I will use google photos to help me remember though I have gotten out of the habit of being kid Kodak.

- Last post was February 2018! What was happening then? Let's see, I was driving an hour each way for a contract out in the sticks and treating myself to breakfast for my commute. That's when I started on the Avocado toast. (By the way, I invented that decades ago before it was a thing, I used to go to my local diner and order a bagel with cream cheese and a side of avocado which I mashed up for the bagel.)

- We have done our usual traveling all over the place. See Facebook lol.

- I feel like this is the year I have hit the big DECLINE. Always something new that hurts or doesn't work right. Sound escapes my lips every time I rise from a seated position now. Sigh.

- Serge and I did our 25th anniversary trip in September after our usual week at Campcamp.com in August. We went to Portugal and Spain, doing a roadtrip across Northern Spain from Bayona to Barcelona. Serge and I agreed it is in the top three trips we've done. Now we want to go back and visit Portugal more in depth.


- I think this was the best picture from the trip. I'd like to blow it up and hang it. Of course we ate like kings and drank like fish. Little did I know that was coming to an end.

- Oh speaking of drinking. Serge made a boo boo and drank too much on the plane on the way to London. Long story short. They canceled our whole itinerary and we had to pay $2500 on our first day to repurchase airline tickets to Portugal and then back home.

- At the same time, I started working at another college where all the students are from India on work study visas. The problem is, none of the students want to study, they just want to work. But they must be in class in order to keep their work visa. Ugly dynamic for the classroom.

- Then as busy ness descended as always in October, we went to Key West where I fell into a drinking spiral that proved impossible for me to dig out of. I felt like I was dying.

- So I got on the phone and called all over town asking for help. The shorter the wait, the higher the price. To get in that day at a private place was $27,000. Yikes. Finally, I did the detox on my own at home with drugs (which didn't seem to do anything, but it was valium so of course the pharmacist was all twitchy about it.) and then spent 10 days in a psycho/social detox. Haven't had a drink in five months now. I decided to take a year off, but I am seeing so many benefits that I'm sure I'll ever drink like I did before. Best of all, it cost nothing and once again I was quite impressed with our health care system. (I avoided the month long wait for a supervised detox by successfully doing that step at home.)

- I was offered a 3 month rehab stay but I declined. I really just needed to get off the sauce and learn to go to sleep again without booze. (It's so easy, what was I so afraid of?)

- Sometimes I think about my old Vegas buddy Becky. She's not dead as far as I know but I'm not sure I would know if she died. Luckily I found a new Vegas buddy who I can go with every year now.

- We went to Universal Studios for New Year's Eve with some good friends. It was $375 per person! But it was fun and silly and now we don't need to do it again, lol.

- Finally this last month, Serge and I visited Cuenca, Ecuador. Why? Because we met those expats on the cruise in 2016 who live there for less than a thousand per person per month. I didn't believe them but I am now a believer. (Three course lunch for four people 11 dollars total for example)

- If all goes well, we will retire there in 2021. We need to tidy up our building and sell it. Since banks in Ecuador are paying 8% interest on deposits and the currency is US dollars, we could easily live off the interest from the equity in our building and maintain all our capital. Hopefully I will post a bit more frequently to document our moving to Ecuador. It's still a little bit in the dreamy stage. But every expat we met in Cuenca (dozens) said the same thing when I asked if they had any regrets. "Our only regret is not having made the move sooner." I will go back again this summer.

- 20 years in the Canadian ice box seems like a reasonable stint. Cuenca is 70 degrees year round. Ahhhhh.

- George is doing well but he is almost 12 now so he is getting slower just like his masters.


Thanks for stopping by! I'll try to update more than annually! XO




Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Already 2018

Wow and sigh! I think this is now the longest I've neglected the blog, hopefully not a trend. I've got six months to catch up on on this here little blog thingy. Last post detailed our trip to Ohio last July. Now it's February! Where or where does the time go. Aside from working all summer, we made another trip to Campcamp where we enjoyed another best time ever.



In addition to my work schedule and my travel agent biz on the side, we have continued doing our 2 airbnb units and also, I am watching dogs. I love all the dogs but some more than others. This is Oscar who stole my heart last August. I'd say we make an extra $500 a month doing this and it is mostly pure pleasure. We do get the odd bad egg, like 'Lady' who pooped in my bed 5 times, once while I was in it and then I subsequently rolled around in it. In the morning with my coffee, I noticed a brown stain on my undershirt. What's this? Acckkk!


I had no intention dressing up in drag at Campcamp this year but Todd wrangled me into it since I had wrangled him into it the year before. The girls kept coming up to me telling me it wasn't fair that I was so pretty. Meh. I never really need to do that again. I've never really been a dress up kind of guy.



This was my best year at Camp yet. I was so relaxed and every day was filled with laughs. I loved the early morning swims across the lake (I kayaked) and also the LGBT history classes. It was great to trace our history from Ancient times to the present.


I kept trying to get a shot of the Charcoal rainbow group AKA the smokers. This is probably half the group. All the fun gossip gets shared around these tables. Although I am no longer a smoker, I plan to buy a vaporizer with no-nicotine juice so I have an excuse to visit the table this year. Yes! We have signed up for our 5th year, can't wait. Join us!


Ollie came home with us from Camp. He stayed in a B and B in the village but we hung out every day. Very fun to hang with Ollie. Hope he comes back to camp this year from London.


We finally made it out to Parc Safari, an animal park where you drive through the park and see all sorts of things. Then we visited the zoo side with the lions, monkeys and such as well as this petting zoo. Once was enough.


In September, after a three year hiatus, I got back to Vegas with my new Vegas buddy John. It was great fun and I hardly lost any money. Can't wait to make it back every year again. I have missed it.


In October we sold the car as Serge's mom gave us her Corolla. Our Cabrio was a '99 and the Corolla is 7 years newer, lol. Toyotas are great cars though and I was happy to learn that the 2006 model has a timing chain as opposed to a timing belt which means I never have to replace it.


Then it was time for our big trip to Spain with my family. Serge bowed out and stayed home to tend to the airbnbs. First stop was Madrid. We spent a few days in Madrid and met up with my cousin who was in for the weekend from Jordan and also Curt and Scott (from the South America cruise) who had just finished the Camino and happened to be in Madrid at the same time. Cool! As usual, great food, lots of drinks and oh the olives, the olives.


We took a day trip outside Madrid and saw the Valle de los Caidos or Valley of the Fallen, which is a monument to all who died during the Spanish civil war. Franco's tomb is here and the place is rather controversial as it seems political prisoners were used as labor to build it. It is the largest cross in the world.


On the last night in Madrid we went to dinner with the De la Puerta family. Jose (the dad) was an exchange student when I was a teenager. He stayed in my room for a month. Now he has 7 beautiful, well-behaved children. Very sound of music. Very.


Then it was road trip time. We drove 2-3 hours each day and stayed at a different Parador each night. These are government run hotels that use heritage sites such as old castles and monasteries. At the hotel, beer was 2.5 euros and wine was 3 euros. Such a deal for a hotel.


We saw lots of roman ruins along the way. This was the old aqueduct in Alarcon. Each day we arrived, went for a walk in the surroundings, had a snack and a beer. Came back, napped and went out to dinner. It was a perfect way to do a road trip.


We got to this town at the top of a hill. A medieval town, a very protected village with sheer cliffs on three sides and a wall on the other. I had to drive the car through this space. I think we had a quarter inch clearance, it was so ridiculous.


We had lots of Spanish snacks, serrano ham, manchego cheese, olives galore and wine city. It was such a great trip, I have planned another for this September. Wanna come? We are flying into Lisbon and staying 3 nights, going up to Porto on the train for 1 night then heading to Viga Spain and renting a car. Gonna go across Galicia over to Barcelona. Same formula 2-3 hours drive then stay at a Parador. Message me if you are interested in joining us. Sept 11th-24th.


So the last week of work before the holidays, something truly wretched occurred. I announced it on FB, "I've shit myself at work." While some expressed a TMI sentiment, most who commented seemed to have a shared experience. Have a nice look at those cakes and candies above as I detail what happened.

Perfectly normal morning. Did my #2 in the morning before leaving for work. Go to work and as soon as I get into the classroom and sit down at my desk and turn on the computer, "Gurgle gurgle gurgle," goes my stomach. Must be the coffee. Suddenly cramping. Okay then, need a toilet. I'll go to the secret toilet where I like to poo in peace at work. As I am walking down the hall, more cramps and no, no we will not be going to the secret toilet. We will be going to the very first toilet we come to. There it is just up ahead. As I approach, things get more insistent. I make it into the first stall, full on pushing now. I turn around and GASP the lock thingie is broken. Okay, now my anus is angry, like I psyched it out or something. I get myself into the next stall, lock it, start on my belt when GLERP, oh no oh no oh no no no NOOOO, I get my belt undone and a second GLERP. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck and as I start taking my pants down, all hell breaks loose. Lets call it a megasplatter. EVERY FUCKING WHERE. My work shirt is languishing in a pool of liquid shit on the back of the toilet. So. This is the first time where my will to keep my anus shut has failed. I now have a spare set of clothes at work. It took me 20 minutes to clean myself up as much as possible and then I had to teach ALL DAY, shit remnants caked to my body. My students said I didn't stink though. So there's that. UGH.


For the holidays, we went to California. We visited with my brother, my dad and my mom. We also got to see Elaine in Oakland and Donna in Eagle Rock. Other folks got the flu or fell off a ladder so we had a fairly tame visit socially. We did get to meet my brother's girlfriend. She was all sorts of fun.


It was a great 3 Kings party this year. I hadn't seen Caya or Noah for a couple years so it was really nice catching up with them. Their mom had the flu so maybe can catch up with her next year.


As we continue to watch dogs, we are constantly reminded what a great dog Georgie is. He is so low maintenance compared to almost all the other dogs. Right now we have Katrina, a little beagle. They are really cute together.

Okay, so all caught up now. Hopefully I won't wait so long to post again. Thanks for stopping by. Mwah!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer update

Hey kids, long time no blog. Maybe that is because we haven't gone anywhere since Cuba in February. Until last week that is. I am just gonna go through the few photos I have taken since then and see if we can't craft a post out of this.


As it turns out, I have no pictures from March. This is probably because I got terribly ill after I stopped taking Champix and was down for the count for 9 days. Moaning on the sofa and Serge trying to get me to eat. I have no idea what caused it but I wouldn't wish that on anyone. We did have our annual game night though right as I was starting to feel better. I posted a pic of that on FB.


We had a very rainy April but the first chance we got in May, we tripped around town. It was chilly in May, probably ten degrees below normal all month. This is the new installation at the old port where they do light projection shows in the evenings this summer.


The giant marionettes came to town and we saw a couple of them. Quite impressive to see. The crowds were stunningly large and I got a little anxious trying to stay on the perimeter of the crowd which seemed to change constantly.


In June, Serge noticed water bubbling out of the street and alerted the city. Cue 2 weeks of digging and digging and then filling and paving. It was a nice distraction from all the rain and chilly temps. Some of the worst flooding in years plagued the city but what are you thinking building your house on the bank of a river?


At the beginning of July, we had our annual summer potluck at Jacynthe's house. We always have so much laughter together consuming wine.


Our good friend Dave from Long Beach, CA came to visit for a week. We tripped around town playing tourist and managed to get into our fave breakfast spot. Regine Cafe. The only place I have ever been where I consider breakfast to be gourmet.


Then last week we went to visit our friends in Columbus, Ohio. Our first time there and what a lovely city. Thom gave us a little tour of the brewery where he works - Land Grant. We were all worried we admitted at the end, that it might be too long together but we all got along swimmingly.


We did a culture day and saw museums and then we did a nature day in Hocking Hills state park. What a beautiful place. First time I have seen Amish in person. Some of them had digital cameras. What? I thought there were no electronics for them. Maybe they are progressive Amish. Hard to tell but there is also a waterfall in this picture.


All along, we have been watching dogs for others. George looks like he is over it here. Also, I worked all the way until last week and I go back next week already. Hard to get used to after having had 3 months off every summer but it's good for the bank account.

I think I will blog again soon as we are headed to Camp Camp for our 4th year. Really looking forward to my annual cut off from the world week in the woods. Until next time peeps, Mwah!