The Kindness of Strangers

I met Richard one morning early in 2016 at the Bath Y. He was a regular and I’d see him per my routine early swims, usually Tuesdays and Fridays (or sometimes Thursday, if I couldn’t swim on Friday).

The Y is similar to other places where I’ve worked out in the past (like Auburn’s Planet Fitness)—the early AM workout crowd tend to be creatures of habit and generally, a little older. We’re there to get our reps/laps/miles done and then, it’s off to whatever the day throws at us. Across the context of two strangers’ paths crossing, a bond sometimes develops. You see the same person week after week. Unless you’re a misanthrope, you’ll have a conversation or two. Before long, seeing that person becomes part of the routine.

Richard’s 14 years older than me. That means he fought in Vietnam, is nearing retirement, and has accumulated a bit more life experience translating into wisdom. He’s solidly middle-class, probably a tad more conservative than I am, but I know he didn’t vote for Trump, either based the accumulation of our AM conversations.

There was something inherently likable about him. He was a no BS type of guy, and I have always had an affinity for males of that stripe. As the months passed, I found out he was working part-time at The Home Depot in Topsham. He’s “retired,” but like many seniors, retirement now means holding a job to supplement retirement savings—Americans are living longer and longer and staying topside costs slightly more than chump-change. Continue reading

Weather as Social Commentary

In the Northeast, the sky has forgotten how to cry (aka, rain). This year, our rainfall totals are 9 inches below normal. We’re in the midst of a significant drought in the region.

People like it to be sunny each and every day. However, farmers need rain to water their crops. Municipal water supplies that rely on rain and groundwater (basically, all of them) need rain to recharge aquifers. I’m no geologist, but being as historically dry as it is can’t be good for longterm water needs.

The weather puppets—those Tee Vee people who only want to tell you that it’s going to be sunny, each and every day—have started to hint at some “soaking” rain coming next weekend….maybe.

I shouldn’t blame the weatherman (or weatherwoman) for only wanting to say “sunny,” rather than “rain.” I’m sure they’re perfectly nice people. They’re simply one more subset of America that believes in the myth of unending progress. Why tell people something unpleasant and end up being unpopular. Just like in politics—where each side thinks their pathologically-flawed candidate is the “hope” for our future—it’s better to sugarcoat it and tell people what they want to hear. Or make it about an issue that’s not really what ails us in the moment. Continue reading

A Lack of Words

I’m up to my elbows in outdoor projects right now. Having a house requires seasons when all your spare moments are devoted to home improvement activities.

Apparently, America is under some siege from Creepy Clowns. That’s an apt descriptor of Maine’s gubernatorial situation, as we have a clown in the Blaine House, and when he’s bullying some group or person he disagrees with, he acts like a creep, so that would make him creepy.

Obviously, I have little to write of any substance today. Actually, it’s less a case of content and more a situation of time.

Because I’ve had little time and energy to devote to fitness endeavors, I’ve been trying to swim twice weekly and today was my swim morning.

I hope to deliver something next week about a wonderful book I’ve been reading about Jeff Buckley this week. “Grace” has been in heavy rotation, too.

Happy Friday! Watch out for clowns that appear creepy.

Maine's creepy governor.

Maine’s creepy governor.

Holding My Place

When you’ve been blogging since 2003, like I have, there are ebbs and flows to content creation. A new job, a topsy-turvy month of May (and now into early June) often bring challenges to my own self-imposed schedule of Tuesdays and Fridays.

As much as I’d like to sit home this morning and crank out 500+ words, my aching knees and back (from umpiring) tell me that I’ll feel better if I put in 30-40 minutes in the pool before heading to work. I try to listen to my body now and then.

Think of today as a placeholder. I’ll have something more substantial next Tuesday, even if it’s simply pictures from Sunday’s Bicycles Battling Cancer ride.

See you then.

I'm sort of like this in the pool.

I’m sort of like this in the pool.

Exit Summer

Summer is fading. In some ways, it seems as though summer, at least the ones I remember as a kid—never arrived. You know the ones—full of friends, adventures—seemingly endless in duration.

I can always tell when summer begins getting antsy, commencing packing up the cottage,readying to return to wherever she goes until the following year in late May and early June. That’s when she’ll return for a few short visits, tidying up the seasonal digs, before arriving in glory in July. Then, if lucky, summer has a solid 6-8 week run, offering endless options and bliss.

With the release of another Farmers’ Almanac, local news directors all trotted out stock images and file video reminding us of last year’s snowy winter. If local TV news is anything, it is predictable. That was the big story for Monday. Continue reading

The Process of Aging

I try to swim two times each week. Usually, my swim days are Monday (or Tuesday, if I miss Monday) and Friday. If I leave my house just after 5:00 I can be in the Bath Area Family YMCA pool around 5:30-ish.

For a guy who never thought he could learn to swim, let alone swim well enough to complete triathlons, this has been a revelation. It’s taught me to never underestimate your ability to learn new tricks, even when you feel like an old(er) dog.

Actually, age is relative, or that’s what the salesman is now selling. What, with all the talk about 60 being the new 40, Botox treatments, and Google—shoot, they’ll probably eradicate death one of these days. Or, maybe not. Continue reading

Your Bumper Stickers Won’t Save You

As much as I’d like to sit home and blog, life sometimes intervenes. This morning, it was getting out of the house at 5:30 for my twice-weekly swim. I have a spring triathlon on the horizon. I woke up an hour earlier intending to bang out something for the sake of making my Tuesday blogging deadline, but as soon as I opened my laptop and tried logging on, I realized that I had no Internet connection–I’m not sure why.

I was also unclear about what to write about.

Lately, the things that I find important are either things I’ve written about before (reinvention, writing, fitness), or things I no longer find appealing (politics). Granted, there’s no shortage of things to write about relative to the latter, but more and more, I don’t find politics bringing forth any new solutions to some of the pressing issues of our time. In fact, the politician that many people imbued with so much hope has become very much like the leaders that came before him. Of course that never stops Americans from wearing their binary ideology on their sleeves, or the back bumpers of their cars.

Your bumper stickers won't save you.

Your bumper stickers won’t save you.

So here I sit, drinking corporate coffee and accessing an available Wi-Fi connection, blogging a few thoughts and ideas that crossed my mind while making my way up and down my pool lane this morning. Continue reading

Beyond Barriers

Learning to swim like a fish.

Learning to swim like a fish.

In February, I decided to become a swimmer. My goal was a simple one, really—to swim well enough to complete the swim portion of a sprint triathlon in June.  While the goal was simple in the setting of it, the mechanics in reaching it were more complex.

If you’ve been following my quest, you know that I was successful. I completed the Pirate Tri on June 9, at Point Sebego. The swim portion was actually easier than I imagined that it would be. Continue reading

The Best Kind of Partner

Heading out for the Pirate Tri, 2013.

Heading out for the Pirate Tri, 2013.

On Sunday, I completed my first sprint triathlon. I’ve waited five decades to literally “take the plunge” and make this happen.

My wife, Mary, competed in her very first tri in 2010. Her coming out event was also the Pirate Tri, at Point Sebego Resort. I was a spectator at that one.

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to join her, but I considered the swim portion more than I could handle. I didn’t believe that something that I have never been very good at, could be brought up to a level where I could complete a 1/3rd mile swim, followed by a vigorous 15-mile bike ride, and ending with a 5k run. Continue reading

Empower Yourself

I believe that many are lacking something that makes them feel alive, or gives their life meaning. Merely working 40-50 hours each week for a paycheck isn’t meaningful; it’s survival.

I’ve written about my quest to learn to swim. I decided that I wanted to complete a sprint triathlon in June. Mary’s been competing in these for the past three years and I wanted to join her. I only had one problem; I haven’t been in a public pool since I was 12 and I could barely make it down the pool and back. I certainly had no technique. Continue reading