When I’m (considerably more than) 64…

On the way to my car after dinner tonight, I saw an older couple, both of whom were using walkers. I hesitated for a minute before offering to help the gentleman load them into the back seat after he got his wife settled in (my dad always hated it when people offered him help.) This gentleman just pleasantly and politely declined, and I went on my way.

As I drove off, though, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy that even with their advanced age and mobility issues, they both found the motivation to head out into the cold for a Friday night dinner date. It reminded me of watching my dad dance with my mom one night shortly after he had his hip replacement, holding his cane in one hand and her hand in the other.

I hope I’m that fucking hardcore when I’m their age.

California dreaming. Or something…

The funny thing is that after almost thirteen years away, I still feel a very strong connection to California and the Bay Area, though Los Angeles (where I never lived) is the place I miss most. But after all those years, my affection and nostalgia for San Francisco (where I actually did live) has never really returned. The connection I feel to California — and in some ways, it still feels like home — does not extend to the place that actually was home. I don’t fully understand this, and sometimes it makes me a little sad.

When I lived in San Francisco. It was very common for my fellow residents not to think of themselves as Californians. They identified almost exclusively as San Franciscans, whether they’d lived there more than six weeks or not. While the earlier version of me was pretty obsessive about the place is well, I always saw myself as a resident of California first and of San Francisco second. I didn’t fall into the trap of believing that all civilization ended when you left the sacred 49 square miles, and I grew to love the state as a whole.

And I still love it. I’m generally ready to visit on a moment’s notice. If economics were not a factor, there are places I would still consider living in California. It’s still very much a part of me, and I think in a lot of ways I became so fluent in the culture that I still often think in “Californian.”

I know I have this annoying tendency to think of cities in much the same way most people think of lovers, and I’m self-aware enough to realize that part of the problem I have with San Francisco is the same problem one has with just about any ex. It’s hard to think about San Francisco without remembering how much I really despised it by the time I left. I dwell on the bad ending without thinking so much about the good times that preceded it. But I still regularly consume material about the history of the city, and I still have memories of good times there, but they don’t leave me with a particularly warm and squishy feeling.

The last time I was in SF, for a conference in Oakland in 2015, I found my visit to the city to be so off-putting that I’m still not sure I’ll ever return for even a quick visit. That was sort of hard for me to cope with; when I wrote about the rest of the trip, I never got around to finishing that last section where I would have talked about being in San Francisco. I couldn’t quite express my feelings, and I still can’t. I don’t believe, though, that all my antipathy toward the city was based on past experience . I really do think it is a very different place now, and it’s not a place that I particularly like. In fact, I don’t think I’d particularly like it now even if I had no history or background and were visiting for the first time.

Part of this is probably also related to the fact that I’m much more inclined to live in the present and the future these days, which is a good and healthy thing. I’m glad that I’m not “pining away” for my old life in San Francisco, but it would be nice to be able to muster up at least a little nostalgia for something other than an imagined historical past I never really experienced in person anyway.

I guess the tl;dr here is that I have a complicated relationship with San Francisco, but I still feel very connected to California, and that I don’t really know how to write about all of this…and probably should no longer even try. But a Twitter conversation this evening about this article reminded me that I’ve been meaning to do it anyway, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I don’t think I succeeded, but it killed a few minutes before bedtime.

The long hot…

Record high temperatures, flowering trees, chirping birds who really need to shut up…

The long hell of spring and summer is coming. Sigh.

I always get a little depressed this time of year (usually in March, but sometimes in February when we have a warm spell like this) because I know the summer season will arrive soon, with all its sunshine and pollen, its stinky cut grass and humidity, and its general unpleasantness. I think it goes back to when I was a kid and started dreading the time of year when I would be expected to play outside on occasion. I don’t like playing outside, especially in the summer when it’s miserably uncomfortable.

Interestingly enough, I do like walking around extensively amid the built environment (i.e. in big cities) in the fall and winter. That’s pretty much the only time I like to be outside. Otherwise, that whole winter hibernation mode thing works just fine for me.

Oh well. Set the AC on sub-arctic. The bad weather months have arrived.

Valentine musings

Random thoughts on that most annoying of all holidays:

  • Other than the years when I was long-term coupled, I can only remember one time in my life when I was actively dating someone on Valentine’s Day. I was 20 years old at the time, and didn’t much care for it. I don’t even remember how he and I celebrated the big day.
  • I have a friend with whom I spend a lot of time. We’re often told we seem like an old married couple. When I think about it, I realize that (1) we frequently eat at the cafeteria, (2) she criticizes my driving all the time, and (3) we never have sex. So yeah, we pretty much are just like an old married couple.
  • As Valentine’s Day civil disobedience options go, this one was a pretty cool (if soggy) one to be part of.
  • The suckiest thing about middle age is that no one gets crushes on you anymore. I don’t care about the romance particularly, but the ego boost was always nice. Not that it happened all that often even before I hit middle age…
  • At least I’m not having a Valentine’s Day colonoscopy this year.
  • Screw the candy. Give me pie. And apple fritters.

What a difference 4624 days make

According to the Date Duration Calculator, today marks the point where I’ve lived back in North Carolina for as long as I lived in California. That works out to twelve years, eight months, and change.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I thought this was it going to be deeper and more wordy. Maybe later…

Holiday travels

I’ve never been much for holiday travels. I rarely came home for the holidays when I lived in California, preferring to visit in January when things were calmer. That said, I’ve really come to love my annual post-Christmas trek to Virginia Beach over the past six visits.

I started this “new tradition” in 2012. The university is closed that week, so I always have the time off. That year, i decided that Virginia beach would be a good option. I’d been threatening to do a week there in the winter ever since a mildly drama-laden trip to the area with the ex a few years earlier. I figured I could get a nice room pretty inexpensively and just hang out reading, relaxing, and looking at the ocean. I like the beach in winter–and really hate it during the summer. My regular vacations tend to be anything but relaxing; I’m pretty actively exploring most of the time with very little downtime. Plus, Virginia Beach offered a nearby urban setting were I to get bored with all that relaxation.

It seemed perfect. And it was.

I still look forward to that my holiday beach trip every year. I strike a good balance of inertia and activity, and I’ve found a few restaurants I really love (notably this one). I usually polish off a book or two and often end up seeing a movie at the Naro. And I watch Perry Mason reruns on MeTV. It’s great and gets me in the right frame of mind to start the new year at work.

It’s strange how that whole area has almost come to seem like another home base to me. It joins Toronto and Los Angeles in that elite group, though its two big brothers are sexier and more exciting.

This year, I popped back via Richmond so I could do some research there. I always enjoy being in Richmond too, and have always thought it might be an interesting place to live should the opportunity ever arise. Ironically (since it was the capital of the Confederacy and all) Richmond feels to me like the specific point where the South stops being the South and starts being the urban Northeast, with rowhouses, walkable neighborhoods, and a different cultural feel. Of course, many might disagree with me on that and suggest that its a very vanilla sort of place. Sorry…

But yeah, I like it. And evidently, I like holiday travel a lot more when it’s not cross-country and doesn’t involve airplanes.

 

When it’s not really a war

My boss at the first job I had in high school was a member of a Christian sect that does not celebrate holidays. He would very loudly and rudely point out this fact to anyone who innocently wished him a “Merry Christmas.” Suffice to say he was not a very effective ambassador for his faith. It may also be largely because of him that I have such a hard time understanding why anyone would be upset by someone wishing them “Happy Holidays” or something similar. Really, why would you be upset by ANY such greeting if it’s shared in a friendly way?

I have friends who celebrate any number of different holidays at this time of year and I’m happy to accept any greeting they offer, because I try not a jerk like my first boss and because I recognize that whichever holiday I may celebrate is not the only available option.

I do not have a problem with businesses that want to express an inclusive greeting that can be appreciated by all their customers. I do, however, have a problem with anyone who snaps back “Merry Christmas” (or any other greeting) as more of a weapon than as a sincere wish. I think they’re sort of missing the point.

That said, enjoy whichever holiday you celebrate. Or none at all. I’ll do the same.

There. That was easy.

About nice, friendly white supremacists…

I’m of several minds about the controversial New York Times piece on the friendly neighborhood white nationalist racist prick. I recognize that the article did go a long way toward “normalizing” his behavior, though I think it stopped short of being an apologia. That said, I also believe that there is some validity in demonstrating that racist nutjobs can be your neighbors and can seem like “nice people” until you learn what they really stand for. And I think there is a significant part of the population that doesn’t realize this.

I’ve written about Oleene before. She lived right across the street from me and seemed to many people to be a very nice lady, a good Christian, and the kind of person you’d want watching your kids during the day. But as one of the kids she watched, I realized that she was not a nice lady at all. She was horrible. She said things about people of color that make my skin crawl to this day; these were awful, hateful, and — in retrospect — violent things. She was a despicable human being and, despite having known her since childhood, I couldn’t make myself attend her funeral when she died. I used to try to excuse her, but by the time she died, I didn’t feel any sense of loss at all.

But yeah, she seemed like a sweet little Christian lady until she started talking about anyone who was different from her. And ultimately, it wasn’t just people of different races or ethnicities. Not surprisingly, I never quite fit the mold of what she thought a boy should be interested in. I wanted to read and draw and use my imagination and learn things. She constantly pushed me to go outside, pick up a ball, and act like the other boys and stop being so “silly.” She minimized and ridiculed everything that mattered to me. She made me think there was something wrong with me, and I grew to hate her for it. As I’ve also said before, Oleene and the “moral” evangelical hypocrites at Vandalia Christian School are two of the main factors in my transformation from Bible-toting child to atheist adult. Suffice to say, none of these folks provided me with a model that was in any way “Christlike” nor something I could imagine dedicating my life to.

The point here, though, is that she just seemed to blend in with the neighborhood, and I don’t think anyone ever really exposed her or called her on her bullshit (except maybe me, when I hit my rebellious years). She was an evil, hateful person who wrapped her nastiness in a cute wrapper of Christian belief and Southern sweetness. And she’s not alone. In fact, there are a lot of her around. And they, like Tony Hovater, need to be exposed. The Times may not have done so in the best way possible. Someone should.