Pacific Northwest Heatwave

In the Pacific Northwest, when the mercury rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32C), everyone gets a little nutty, similar to how Southern California drivers lose their minds when it rains. Last night it was 90 degrees at 8pm, plus it was high tide, so the salt water beckoned me from my reading chair. The Sound is cold, but less so at high tide, since the rocks heat up during low tide.

As I stood in the waist deep water, I thought I was all alone, but two friends emerged from the wooded trail and joined me. Griffey and Eddie, two hyper friendly dogs, were even more excited to swim than me. Summertime fun.

Tangent. On the walk home, I may have spied my neighbors’ empty glass bottles which were set out on the street for once-a-month recycling. You may label this nosey eavesdropping, but it’s more sociological analysis. How much alcohol do people drink? Do they prefer wine, beer, or spirits? If beer, the cheap stuff or expensive craft labels? How are their family economics?

Another tangent. If your doc is like mine, she probably asks you how many drinks you have a week. I’m guessing people seriously underreport. I mean docs are scary in their lab coats and all and you know the answer they’re looking for. Same as when your scary dental hygienist asks if you floss. “Several times a day.”

Then I walk by your house and there’s a Giza Pyramid of empties on the curb. Pants on fire. Hey docs, here’s an idea, stop with the questions and walk your patients’ streets on recycling night.

In an effort to outsmart my similarly sociologically inclined neighbors, I’m masking my drinking habits this summer via aluminum cans which get tossed into a larger, enclosed receptacle that they’d have to lift the top off of to see inside. No one would go that far would they?

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A Life Built on Service and Saving

If my ticket gets punched sometime soon, I’ll have lived a life filled to the brim. Almost disorientingly so. I’ve crouched in the final passageway of a West African slave fort, been drenched by Victoria Fall’s mist, walked on the Great Wall of China, ran around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hiked in Chiapas, and cross country skied in Norway. I’ve lived in the Midwest, the West, the Southeast, and as one six year old here says, “the Specific Northwest”. I’ve interacted with thousands of young people, the vast majority who appreciated my efforts on their behalf. I’ve cycled up and down mountains in the Western United States. I’ve taught guest lessons in my daughters’ elementary classrooms. I’ve been blessed to know lots of people more selfless than me, some who will read this today. I’ve been loved by caring, generous parents, and been privileged to know my wife and daughters and their friends.

My life has been so full that I tend to think about whatever my future holds as extra credit. Everything from here on out is a bonus.

Maybe I don’t look forward to too much anymore because my cup has been overflowing for some time. Apart from a story well told and nature, not a lot moves me these days.

So getting choked up in church yesterday, during the announcements of all things, was totally unexpected. A guest was invited to the front to make a surprise announcement. A tall, dapper man in his late 30’s began describing his relationship with ChuckB, a member who had passed away a few months ago. He had been Chuck’s financial planner for eight years.

I didn’t know Chuck until I attended a celebration of his life that was planned nine months ago after the church community learned of his terminal illness. He worked as a forester for the Department of Ecology for a few decades and kept a low profile at church, driving the van, tutoring after school, doing whatever was needed behind the scenes. At his celebration I was struck by how everyone described him as one of the most humble, caring, and giving people they had ever known. He lived a simple life in a modest neighborhood that revolved around participating in church activities.

The financial planner announced that Chuck and his wife, who had passed away previously, were leaving the church $925,000, divided four ways, the largest portion for international aide, another for local charities, another for Lutheran World Relief specifically, and about $220,000 in the church’s unrestricted fund to use as the Council sees fit. A Council that has been seeking about $35,000 to fund a half-time position dedicated to strengthening our ties to local people in need.

There was an audible gasp. Two people stood and began applauding and soon everyone followed. My favorite part, and probably what moved me so much, was that Chuck wasn’t there for his standing ovation. Shortly before he died, he confided to one member that he was leaving “the bulk of his estate to the church,” but that person said she had “no idea it was anywhere near that much money.” No one did.

The most beautiful and moving part to me is that Chuck intentionally passed on his standing ovation. He didn’t need it. A life filled with service and saving was more than enough. Blessed be his memory.

 

 

Operation Pacific Northwest

The wife, dog, and I went on a nice hike east of Seattle Saturday morn. Afterwards, fired off pictures to the daughters, both of whom are ensconced in the upper Midwest. The images created a firestorm of ohhhs and ahhhs. When they admitted to being jealous, I replied, “Move to Seattle.”

Then I thought what about a media campaign designed to accentuate the PNW’s natural beauty. Here is next weekend’s salvo.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier, iPhone 6+, RSB Photography

US Open Postscript

Sunday’s 6-11a shift was my favorite. Left the house at 4:52a and walked onto the grounds at 5:51a. The sunrise was spectacular and it was nice watching the course slowly come to life under overcast skies and cool temps in the mid 50’s.

A lot of disabled spectators had either tired and turned to their televisions or simply slept in so I ate my annual donut, shot the breeze with fellow volunteers, walked a bit of the course, and made occasional runs around the course.

The Cowboy will be pleased to know there was a brief Holly Saunders sighting. She sped by in the passenger seat of another cart. On a related note, her post round interviews were goofy. Sane people know Fox isn’t fair or balanced, but we have to acknowledge that they are consistent when it comes to their television “talent”. Their coverage more generally was flawed relative to the much more experienced network teams. Norman’s bromance for Day was over the top, the lack of yardage, Pavin awkwardly overreacting to a Faxon dig, “What do we want to go here, best career?”, etc. However, the microphone in the hole was genius and almost compensated for all the other shortcomings.

The highlight of the day was my penultimate trip, from Central Meadows to the top of the 18th hole grandstand. A man flagged me down and said, “I had a hip replacement, and it hurts, and I need to get up to the 18th grandstand for a picture, can you take me?” I looked at his tournament pass everyone wears around their neck and it said, “Robert Trent Jones, Jr.” The course architect and his wife hopped on and we we’re off.

“I heard you interviewed on the radio a few days ago. It was a nice interview.” Phone call with someone involved with the picture and then, “The pros are really savaging the greens aren’t they?” What do you say to that? “Yeah, but everyone has to putt the same greens.” Weak I know, but I was working with 5 hours sleep. Then I said, “You should be proud of the fact that this is a spectacular event.” He shook my hand appreciatively. And told me he had an article in the Sunday Seattle Times about his dad for whom “I wouldn’t be here personally or professionally.”

The locals are too damn defensive about all the criticism of the greens, Jones’s design, noisy trains, and the spectators’ many challenges. I don’t understand why people take it so personally. Given the leaderboard and dramatic ending*, the early word from Tim Rosaforte is that all the greens will be completely redone (much less undulation, much more consistent grass) and the “footprint” will be altered to be more fan-friendly and the USGA will return in 10+ years.

How many majors will Spieth have by then?

After finishing work at 11a, I picked up a Thai Chicken Wrap, banana, and water**, and headed to the practice range. It was strange that more people weren’t there because it was the best place to see the most players up close putting, chipping, hitting balls. I watched Rose, Kopeka, Poults, HMarayauma, Mcllroy, Na, Senden, the Duf who wins the “best shoes” and “most weight lost since divorcing” competitions. At 11:45a, Spieth walked onto the practice range a few feet in front of me and headed to the putting green, exactly three hours before teeing off.

Having gotten too much sun, I headed home at noon, tired from a long week. I’m lucky my vagabond daughters are both home. The Girls Club was wanting to hike Mount Rainier sometime this week before the Eldest returns to the shadows of Wrigley Field. I suggested we take advantage of the Summer Solstice and head to Rainier and the fam proved spontaneous enough.

A glorious hike on the Deadhorse Creek trail was cappped with a picnic dinner a mile above the Paradise Visitor’s Center. After returning home, I watched the tournament which I had recorded.

A full and fun day. I’m appreciative of my health and my daughters who gave me cards with touching messages. I’m also grateful for nature, in particular the Sound that frames Chambers Bay and Mount Rainier which frames large swaths of Western Washington.

Postscript: To the golf averse, I have one more golf post in me and then it will be on to new subjects.

* One take-away from tournament week. America is seriously overweight. One culprit has to be beer. Everyone began drinking beer at around 10a and didn’t stop.

** Would have been even more dramatic if the tournament had been decided by a made putt.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

This is why they're better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

This is why they’re better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

Eschew the South

According to conservative pundits, liberals like President Obama and myself don’t really like the United States. “Love it or leave it!” they ignorantly insist. They want everyone to believe they’re the true Americans because they mindlessly subscribe to American Exceptionalism. Nevermind that our independence resulted from intense dissent born of the freedom of speech the Constitution enshrines.

One of the things I like most about the U.S. is distinct regional differences compliments of its great expanse.

As viewed from the upper atmosphere, I live in the very uppermost left hand corner of the country. And sadly, moms lives in the very bottommost right hand corner. I’m writing this at 36,000′, halfway home on my most recent cross-country voyage. I’ve made this trans-continental trip probably 30+ times since my parents’ long ago move to the Peninsula (known to some as Florida). As a result, I’m declaring myself a Southeastern U.S. expert. Meaning I’m qualified to make extreme generalizations about it even if Southerners take offense.

For example, the conventional wisdom that Southerners are more hospitable is something they like to tell themselves probably to feel better about how inhospitable life can be “down South”. Take the Southerner in the Enterprise car rental office today on Kennedy Boulevard right next to the University of Tampa. “You KNOW you guys need some fuckin’ better help in here don’t you?!”

That warm Southern hospitality is also extended whenever you dare cross a busy street. As I stood at intersection after intersection this past week, speeding drivers shot me angry looks, upset that eventually I’d step foot onto their road. Sunday afternoon, at one intersection, loose wires peered out of the street light so there was no way to trigger the cross walk. After five minutes I moved to the middle of the block to eliminate turning cars from the total amount of sheet metal I had to dodge. Then I did my Usain Bolt impersonation, and now, the humble blog readers rejoice that I (barely) lived to write another day.

Have you heard the joke about the Southeastern city planner? That’s the joke. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Most egregious, there are more Cuba-loving liberal Democrats in Florida than there are bike lane miles. My advice, if you sometimes enjoy walking outdoors or riding a bike, eschew the South. In fact, I hereby announce an Eschew the South movement until pedestrians and cyclists are acknowledged to be fully human. Bumper stickers and t-shirts are now available.

Then there’s the stuff I can’t pin on Neolithic Age city planning–hellish heat and humidity. One of the best things about the upper lefthand corner is our built in air conditioning. Our politics are liberal, but our temps wonderfully moderate. Even on the rare warm summer day, temps plummet at dusk. We also get to run and cycle up and down hilly, even mountainous trails and roads.

I’m going to skip the planned paragraph about the preponderance of fatty and fried Southern food at the risk of being mistaken for a self-absorbed foodie.

This began innocently enough as an appreciation of regional differences, but somehow morphed into an unprovoked regional rant. Fair enough if Southerners hold it against the PNW.

Long story short, I could easily live without the SE, but not Mother Dear. So the diagonal pilgrimages will continue despite their deleterious effect on my life expectancy.

Lighting Candles

Sometimes, when the early morning running conversation turns too negative too long, one member of the posse reminds everyone else it’s “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

People tilt towards pessimism, which spreads upon contact. Pessimism is a special challenge in the Pacific Northwest in late October because daylight, and Vitamin D, dwindles.

Ancient Stoics knew gratitude didn’t come naturally, so they practiced negative visualization and voluntary deprivation. Negative visualization is taking time to imagine worse case scenarios—no longer having enough healthy food, having one’s bicycle or car stolen, losing one’s home to a natural disaster, losing one’s job or savings, or the unexpected death of a loved one—to better appreciate the impermanence of everything and everyone.

Voluntary deprivation is practicing living without those things we tend to take for granted for the purpose of appreciating them more. Examples include fasting, bike commuting for a month, or traveling solo. Absence always makes the Good Wife and me even fonder of one another.

Since others’ attitudes influence our own, another strategy is to purposely seek out hopeful, creative, funny, positive people, while simultaneously steering clear of permanent pessimists.

Staying active throughout the winter helps keep the candle light burning bright. Invest in the necessary clothing and lighting to stay comfortable and safe. Spend more time outdoors than in the gym. Saturday morning’s run was incredible. It didn’t matter that everything was soaking wet because of dense overnight and early morning fog. The streets, sidewalks, and trails were lined with colorful leaves. God’s carpeting.

The photographer I’m currently shacking up with captured one especially beautiful thread of that carpeting.

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