Like many people these past few days, I’ve been listening to a lot of John Prine songs after hearing that he was a victim of COVID-19 earlier in the week. So it goes.
I actually got to see perform him live once (which was also when I learned who he was). I went to the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island wanting to see Brandi Carlile (and Scott and Freddie came along wanting to see Andrew Bird). The headliner that day was Prine… and none of us had ever heard of him. But Brandi said he was good, and I trust her musical taste, so I gave him a try and found that I liked his wistful, yet sometimes funny lyrics. (And it turns out I already knew at least one of his songs: “Angel From Montgomery,” which I knew as a Bonnie Raitt song.) And so, as she introduced me to him, it’s somewhat appropriate that as I’ve been listening to Prine’s stuff this past week, I’ve gravitated towards songs he sangwith Brandi, one of which, “Summer’s End,” Brandi did solo earlier in the week as her own tribute.
In this weird time of social distancing that we’re living in, I’ve been more or less confined alone to my one bedroom apartment in Oakland. When I started seeing the numbers and predictions of what this novel coronavirus was going to do, I knew that this time of social distancing — which for those of us that live alone is hard to distinguish from social isolation — would last awhile. It occurred to me that instead of sitting alone and working remotely in California, maybe I should pick up and head home to work remotely from Minnesota where I could be with my parents and my sister and dog… not to mention a yard and a lot more space than my apartment offers. But I didn’t do it and now it feels like that window has passed.
All of this is to say… the line “Come on home, you don’t have to be alone” from “Summer’s End” hit me hard. The first time I heard it, I burst into tears. And as I’m wont to do when I hear a song that makes me cry, I decided to learn it myself. I’m not a great guitar player — and my guitar is currently missing a string anyway. But I have a tenor ukulele, a three string cigar box guitar that I can pretend is a bass guitar, and a copy of GarageBand on my laptop. And from my travels to New Zealand a year ago, I also have a band name for myself: Doubtful Sound.
(Doubtful is appropriate as I can hear every imperfection, but I’m also too tired to go back and re-record all the tracks.)
Today, we drove from Queenstown to Glenorchy (by way of a fantastic garden) to Paradise… and from Paradise, we walked to Isengard. Or at least, the site where Isengard was filmed. A few times we had to pause for some sheep or some cattle. Such is the kiwi life, apparently.
We’ve arrived in our final destination — Villard de Lans, where Scott and Freddie are going to tie the knot. Evan and Karen and I spent yesterday morning hiking Col Vert, which was deemed by Freddie as “the hardest hike in the area.” (Scott and Freddie had taken their families up it the day before we arrived… we took their grumblings about the difficulty as a challenge.)
We did 700+ meters of elevation change (more or less straight up and then straight down) and 6.9 miles of hiking, according to Karen’s fancy watch. It took us 2 hours to go up, about an hour to go down, and we spent about an hour at the top going “Wow” and eating. I didn’t injure myself or faint, so I win.
Then we climbed down and spent most of the day drinking wine. France is okay.
The bench at the top of Col Vert
The view from the top
Me, sitting on top of the ridge
Taken from 1/3 of the way down, the notch we climbed on top of
Yesterday was a beautiful day for a baseball game… and my friend Jo is a Padres fan, so she organized an outing to AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner took the mound for the Giants, and unlike the last time I saw Bumgarner pitch, he did an outstanding job, holding the visitors from down south to 1 run on 6 hits over 7.2 innings of work. The Giants offense gave him all he’d need in the first on a single, pickoff-throwing-error, sac fly combination followed by a Pablo “Panda” Sandoval homerun.
While Jo was less than pleased with the outcome, I was secretly enjoying watching the local boys do good. After all the Twins games I’ve been watching lately, it was fun to finally cheer for a winner. (The Twins actually managed to win yesterday, but I was too busy watching the Giants to watch that one. I did have the radio streaming on my phone before the Giants game started. Smartphones are magical that way.)
Total Lunar Eclipse seen from the beach just off the Great Highway in San Francisco
One of the advantages of being sick is that I went to bed early on Friday night. As a result, I had no problems getting up at 5:30 and driving out to the beach to see the total lunar eclipse on Saturday morning. It was a pretty awesome sight as the moon was an eerie blood red.
I attempted to photograph it, but even my good camera isn’t that good. I was also doing long exposures without the tripod, so most of my photos turned out blurry… and by the time I really figured out what I was doing, the sun had started to rise behind me. But for those of you in the middle or eastern part of the country that couldn’t see it, here’s the one shot I managed to get that isn’t so bad. I bet that ship under the moon had an awesome view.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about the weather in California, or lack thereof as it were. It’s not really a secret that the first snow of the season is somewhat of an event for me. As we get towards the end of October and I’ve not once thought about even wearing a sweater, it’s starting to hit home that there will be no first snow for me this year. Oh sure, I will go home to Minnesota for the holidays and there will be snow on the ground or I could drive to Tahoe, but that’s not the same. The first snow comes with a smell in the air the day before that puts me in a mood to bake cookies and drink cocoa. It’s how I mark the passage of another year. (It is probably not a coincidence that it tends to happen shortly in advance of my birthday.)
But this year…
This weather thing has already screwed me up a few times. I nearly forgot to plan my trip home for the fair and other Minnesota summer things because it never stopped feeling like spring in San Francisco. Baseball season is ending in a week, and I am not prepared because I see no leaves turning colors. My roommate reminded me about Halloween and I realized that I haven’t even thought about it once… partly because we were talking about it while swimming in an outdoor pool. Last weekend, I caught the intro to the local news and the weather promo was “Later we’ll tell you about how the temperature might change by as much as five to ten degrees next week.” And that was said without irony.
Harvey once told me that he didn’t understand why people from Minnesota complained about the lack of weather. His metaphor was something akin to why a person would ever want to eat a glass sandwich when they could eat steak all the time. Well, Harvey, if all you ever eat is steak, it gets boring. I need my seasons to remind me that life isn’t permanently on pause.
For reasons relating mostly to boredom, I made an absolutely ridiculous pie last week. What you can’t see in the picture is the layer of raspberry and blackberry compote on the bottom. It’s covered by a layer of lime curd whipped with cream and then some pretty delicious Italian meringue, made with the help of a stand mixer. (I’ve hand whipped a meringue once before… I never want to do it again.)
It might not be as pretty as the magazine cover, but it sure was delicious!
Today at work, I made a reference to Doogie Howser, M.D. The research assistants gave me a puzzled look as, apparently, they have never heard of him. This wasn’t even a look of “Oh, I sort of know what you’re talking about,” but of complete ignorance of the boy genius. This appalled my (also 27 year old) officemate and me. We set about surveying the office and determined the exact cutoff for knowing about Neil Patrick Harris’s pre-How I Met Your Mother fame.
For starters, we confirmed with everyone older than or the same age as us that they knew the show. Thus, we concluded that this is one of those cultural phenomenons that most people who were cognizant in the late 80s and early 90s knew. Of our seven research assistant types (recently out of college), all of those who graduated college in 2009 gave us blank stares. (However, one How I Met Your Mother fan wants to Netflix it now.) Of the three who graduated in 2008, two had heard of it and one had not. We contacted the older brother of the one who hadn’t heard of it, and confirmed that he knew of the Doogmeister, thereby removing any bias of her environment growing up and solidifying that this is an age gap thing. But here’s the exciting part — she is exactly one day younger than one of the 2008 grads who does remember watching the show.
Therefore, we conclude that the cutoff for knowing about Doogie Howser, M.D. is February 1, 1986. All those born February 2, 1986 and later have no idea who he was. And some of these people are college graduates.
You can commence feeling old now — I sure do! Edited to add: So, apparently Doogie is on Hulu and I’ve been reminiscing this evening. The conversation summed up at about 1:57 into the second episode of the first season manages to hammer home the point that this show is old from the other direction.
To respond to Sarah B’s complaint that I haven’t posted, here’s the shortened version of what I might have posted about if it had occurred to me.
Hotdish Red — A wine from the Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, MN. For starters, I did not realize Minnesota has a wine region, but apparently they are working on it. Second, I did not know there is a wine specifically made to go with hotdish, but there is!
Fenway Park — I went to my fifth Fenway game (and sixth Red Sox game) of the season. I just posted about it two weeks late. Potentially, this may not even have been my last of the season as I am on call for Thursday should my co-worker’s very pregnant wife go into labor that day (her due date is Friday, so it is not unrealistic to plan for such an occurrence). And it is certainly not my last baseball game of the season as I am flying to Minneapolis this weekend to see the last regular season Twins game in the Metrodome ever. (If they wind up tied with Detroit, this will not be true, which brings me to…)
Minnesota Baseball — The Twins are actually in a pennant race! I spent much of my afternoon checking up on the Twins-Tigers game and was delighted to see that the Twins can beat the Tigers even when Joe Mauer doesn’t get a hit! They’re now only 1 game back of the Tigers, who they are playing again tonight and tomorrow. This means that Sunday’s game has the potential to be interesting, which is not what I expected when I bought the tickets in July.
Pandas — Speaking of things I’ve been checking up on while at work, please go look at the San Diego Zoo Pandacam. The Panda I saw clearly in heat back in April apparently did get pregnant and gave birth on August 5. The little guy is adorable… and the lowered productivity at my office is directly attributable to him (and to asarwate for showing it to me in the first place). He was actually here yesterday and was berated by my co-worker for not delivering this from San Diego. And by “he” I mean asarwate, not the baby panda… although the panda would have been cooler.
At work this week, our high school intern has been attempting to create images of an open and closed black box by using a (very smelly) permanent marker and coloring an old Mac Pro box. When the PI on the presentation who wanted the image wasn’t quite satisfied with the resulting images, I pointed out that I could probably throw something together with Gimp in about an hour… and make it animate. So, if anyone else on the internet is giving a presentation with the phrase “Such and such systems are generally viewed as a black box, but now we are going to open the box,” and wants a silly animation to go with it, have at this one with my complements. (Wait five seconds… it really does animate. Wait another minute and it will close again.)