Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Daycare, abandoned house rules, beach trips.


I went and played golf with a couple coworkers on Friday (it's an acceptable covid activity). The idea was to get a practice round of golf in before our company "tournament" with the hopes of not getting last place for the 6th year in a row.* 

The place we played is up on Columbia boulevard so naturally I had to drive past my old house. It's weird because it still appears like no one is living there. After all these years (about 20 to be specific) it is strange that I am still yet to see anyone actually living in the house. People just keep buying it and not doing anything with it. It's also kind of sad to think that I may have been the last child to grow up in that house. Does that mean that someday I will be the one stuck haunting it? I'm not really sure about the rules for haunted houses but I hope it doesn't come down to the last person to live there before it became abandoned. 

Currently reading the second book in the "southern reach" trilogy. It is some delightfully creepy sci fi about a weird part of the Florida panhandle that has somehow become even weirder than I have to assume the panhandle already is. 

I had a patient tell me the other day that he was anxious and depressed by everything that is going on in the world. I told him that we are all feeling that way to a certain extent and it is totally rational to be worried about what is going to happen next on a national, global and even personal level. He thanked me and said he was worried because he thought it was just him. I thought that was kind of funny, also sad though. I guess he doesn't have someone to regularly ask "hey are you seeing this shit?".  I think he was relieved to have someone tell him "yeah, we are all seeing this shit and it's pretty scary." Of course I didn't use those words. 

The baby moved to a new daycare today, what a trip. It's crazy how attached we became to the caretakers at the last daycare despite it only being two months and us literally only seeing pictures of the staff watching the baby (we only spoke face to face maybe 2 or 3 times). I guess we are projecting how much we care about the baby onto other people, we are assuming that everyone thinks she is the greatest thing to come along in forever. 

We took the baby to the beach for her first two nights away from home. I think it was harder on Melissa than on the baby. She did wake up crying the first night around 11 PM and cried for maybe 1.5 hours. I think it was because when we put her down it was light and by the time she woke up it was dark and a strange place. By night two she was sleeping fine. I also made the mistake of trying to take her "camping" which was really just setting up her pack and play in a tent in the back yard. I slept next to her in a cot. Around 1 AM the family of raccoons that tour the neighborhood every few weeks showed up. I could hear them in the garden. Instinctively, I slapped the wall of the tent to scare them off. Of course, this frightened the baby and she spent the next 2 hours crying. I brought her in after about the first 30 seconds of crying. The remainder of the crying spell took place in her crib in her room. The beach trip and attempted camping night sort of led to a domino effect and ongoing cycle of sleep and lactation stress, which, like the 50,000 other things going on in the world right now are almost completely out of my hands.  

*We didn't get last place. In reality, my contribution was probably not a big part of that but I'll take it. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Haunted mushroom house

 I just finished the book about the haunted house in Mexico. It turns out it was mushrooms the whole time! It was a pretty clever concept. This British family discovers this species of mushrooms that has some ability to let you live forever but you have to feed the mushrooms with people or something. There was some loose sciencey explanations that sounded legit. I was into it.  

The daycare upon our request started the baby back at three naps. Today was the first day it happened and it was great. We aren't really sure why they dropped the naps down to two in the first place. The baby cried in the bathtub last night because she was so tired. Not only is crying in the bathtub sad in its own right, it was also the first time that she was not happy in the bath. It led to a snowball effect of not being able to nurse effectively then not being able to sleep long effectively out of hunger then Melissa having to try and nurse in the night to everyone being tired today. But today was the day with three naps and all has been resolved. What a difference 45 minutes of extra sleep makes. 

A guy told me today that I was "drinking the kool aid" at work today by enforcing the company formulary. That term "drinking the kool aid" is getting thrown around a lot lately and the frustrating part is that it seems to be people who themselves are actively being bamboozled. This guy was less so bamboozled than just in the mood to fuss about the fact that he wasn't going to get to keep his overpriced medications* but I have seen a couple posts on the Facebook implying that those of us who are wearing masks and/or hoping for an effective vaccine are "drinking the kool aid." To which I say "shiiiiiiiieeeeet." Of course no irony is lost on the fact that a lot of these people are active participants in the right wing death cult that seems to run entirely on Trump worship and "owning the libs." I do wonder how many of the people referring to the kool aid even know the circumstances of the Johnstown massacre. The death of 900-ish confused people is a weird reference to make regarding someone being convinced of a lie. I watched that Waco mini series on Netflix**  and it was surprisingly sympathetic to the Branch Davidians. I guess it helped me to realize that a lot of these people fall into these predatory circumstances and cults because of their perceived hopelessness regarding their own situations. Why wouldn't they want to follow the guy who promises them everything? I guess I should apply that same sympathy to the Trumpian death cult members too. They are living in a country with the greatest wealth disparities in human history. They aren't wrong to be mad or think that they are being cheated. I guess the problem lies in the fact that some of the people cheating them have convinced them of some grade A lunacy. I suppose that despite being intent on worsening a pandemic and possibly toppling a democracy they need a little compassion too. 

Maybe that's why that Jesus guy they are always misquoting made that statement about how you should "Love thy enemy". Let's be real though, the book of Matthew was probably labeled "fake news" around the time Jesus said "it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

*Which one day, but not today, I would like to argue that the drug companies have bamboozled the American health care system

**Wostly because there were a ton of Boardwalk Empire actors in it

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Uncertain hour

Holy smokes what is even going on lately? 

Federal troops in Portland? Delaying the November election while he tries to sabotage the US postal service? 

I read a book a few months back called "The End is Always Near" it was as gloomy as you would expect. The guy (Dan Carlin?) had some good points about the slow moving process of a societal collapse. Rome wasn't built in a day but apparently it didn't fall in a day either. The democracy became more flawed, it became an empire again, it got his with some plagues and pestilence and even a few environmental disasters (summarizing of course, but between his breakdown of the Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine (if I remember right) they all kind of came down to those things). Anyway, we seem to check a lot of those boxes and it stresses me out. Not to mention nuclear armament. 

The vitriol on Facebook has grown mildly terrifying.  Going on it each day is kind of like looking at a car accident in slow motion but instead of a car it's the country. 

Baby is good. Almost sitting up on her own. Eating solids (which are really purees so I don't know how we count that as solids but I am not holding it against her). 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Wind in the trees

I have been juggling between the White Supremacy and me book and another book called Mexican Gothic. I had to slow down on the white guilt literature because it is a lot to process. It couldn't be my nightly reading for a month straight. Luckily, the book Mexican Gothic is about a 20 something 1950's urban socialite in Mexico city who goes to rescue her cousin from a creepy mansion in the mountains of rural Mexico that happens to be inhabited by some creepy ass racist white people. It gave me a couple legit nightmares the other night, yowsa. But who doesn't love a good nightmare every now and then? I had to move my reading time from right before bed to slightly before bed. Then I try and kill that time with something more lighthearted. Lately it has been this video game where you are a bunch of dwarfs that are mining rock in outer space... which is pretty god damn sweet. I've also been killing some time with the bass. I keep playing with the old rockers at the Gladstone Antique shop on Sundays. We are starting to get a bit of a groove going. I was told recently that the bass and the drummer "drive the bus" when it comes to setting the tempo and keeping the song going. I think that is a fair assessment. I have been working to keep rhythm on bass while also singing harmony/back up vocals. Singing while playing the bass has been a good thing to work on because at this point I recognize that I am probably not going to invest much more energy in getting better at the bass itself. However, it is noticeable how much worse I am at both singing and playing the bass when doing them at the same time. It gave me all the more appreciation for Cassandra in Wayne's world. Obviously she and Crucial Taunt are fictional but I have to assume there is some bad ass singing bass player out there somewhere. Just rocking at kicking ass at the Gasworks.

 In terms of exercise I have hit a bit of a sea change. I went from running to doing these goofy 30 second intervals of weight training followed by 10 seconds of rest. You do 3 sets of 10 and it takes about 21 minutes ("7 minutes to Fit" but three times in row. I swear you are supposed to do it that way but "21 minutes to fit" just didn't have the same ring to it). Anyway, I realized that over the years I had trained my body to run efficiently and use as little energy as possible while running, which is great for running a marathon but not good for trying not to feel like a fat ass. 

The new car (OK OK "certified pre-owned"... it's new to me) had the check engine light come on after owning for a month. I brought it in to the dealership and they fixed it free of charge. However, it took 10 business days to get it fixed (good thing I'm not doing shit except working from home). There was a problem with the waste gate actuator. My first reaction was WTF even is that. Apparently that is something that responds to the amount of exhaust when opening and closing the Turbo valve. Fuck me for owning a car with a Turbo valve I suppose. 

A guy came to my door last Friday and scammed the hell out of me. He was selling children's books supposedly. Baggy shirt tucked into slacks, socks and flip flops. There were red flags everywhere yet there I was... writing a check for $60 to buy some child a "My First Words" book in some unnamed city. Also, WTF kind of book cost $60. The baby books we buy the baby are $6 no $60. Anyway, all the more reason for me to emphasize how much of a god damn sucker I am for that stuff. Today a lady knocked at the door and it took all the strength I had not to answer it. Melissa said it looked like she was selling something, I didn't even want to know what because I probably would have bought it. 

I got off work early yesterday and took a short nap from 3:30 to 4 PM. I woke up to a nice breeze blowing through the house and hearing Melissa and the baby downstairs. I sat for probably five minutes listening to the wind rustle leaves in the maple trees outside our bedroom window. At that moment everything felt right and at peace. I was so happy that I felt guilty. Right now there is a stark contrast between what is happening to me and what is happening to most the country. In terms of my own life I could not ask for more. At times I am overcome with this weird bittersweet guilt in recognizing that our daughter has everything she needs and wants (if we can figure out what she wants) and that for the most part I am in the same situation. I cannot speak for Melissa but everything seems to be going pretty well for her too. Our jobs seem stable, we own a home, we have enough spare income that we can spend frivolously on whatever the new toy or food or car or tool or whatever it is that we decide that we need. At the same time, the homeless encampments on Powell grow larger by the day. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying from the covid crisis. The institutions of democracy are crumbling before our eyes (the CDC ordered to stop collecting coronavirus data by the white house, for real?). Systemic racism had been brought to the forefront of the American psyche and yet I worry that the focus is already fading (The code switch podcast calling white people on treating it like a fad may have been more right than I wanted to believe when they were making the claim 3 weeks ago. I think my skepticism and mild offense would be labeled as white fragility). When I was younger, and poorer, and more idealistic I was better able to grapple with some of these disparities between my life and those who had less. Partially because I was unaware of how good I had it but also because I believed that I would somehow be able to be a part of the change for the better.   In the Peace Corps, you were surrounded by hardship despite you yourself having comprehensive medical care and a monthly stipend that was 3x what most people around you were making for their hard work. It sort of feels like that right now, except during the Peace corps you could at least tell yourself that you were part of the solution and not part of the problem. Today in America, I can't even convince myself of that. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

4th of July/Elder Coronials

This weekend was one of the first times we left the house as a family in a while. The pandemic has a way of keeping you at home I guess. We went to my buddy's house who happens to have a big enough yard that three families (9 of us total with kids) were able to hang out at a safe distance. The house also had an outdoor toilet, true luxury.

 It was interesting to see how quickly the children had adjusted to wearing masks, they fiddled with them less than we did as adults. Sienna is still too little to wear one but I joked that maybe she can wear a hand me down mask when the 2 year old grows out of hers (the other family had already given us several boxes of other hand me downs).

 It turns out that when you have a kid you don't really need to buy anything. People are thrilled to be getting rid of their boxes of baby stuff that their child has grown out of. Yet... somehow we still ended up buying an ungodly amount of clothes and toys despite getting an ungodly amount as hand me downs. Luckily, we saw another couple later in the day who is about to have a baby so we were able to shlep some of our 0-3 month baby gear on them too. 

Sienna hit 6 months on the 4th. Everything seems to be going so fast and yet standing still at the same time. I am left to wonder how many of her formative years will be living with the pandemic. How she will learn to read facial cues when our faces our covered? Maybe she will learn to smile with her eyes like people keep talking about (but I still can't really see,  is it just squinting?). How will she feel about giving a hug when it's considered an unnecessary risk by all of the adults and family interacting around her? How will she feel about going to daycare everyday when her mom and dad stay home because it's safer? All of these measures are for good reasons but create a strange new world for us to live in. As a small child in this time, it may be that the strange new world is just the way it will have always been for as long as they can remember. 

Someday, they may call her generation "the coronials" because they will be the first to grow up after this pandemic. And someday maybe she will have to explain to someone: "well, techinically I am not a coronial because the cut off date is March 2020 when the economy shut down." Or maybe she will be the oldest coronial? I wonder what music, movies and/or video games they will use to define which generation you belong to. For us it was Nirvana going to Gen X and Pokemon going to Millennial (I happened to enjoy both so have happily adopted the label Xenial. Although someone pointed out that coming up with your own special version of being a millenial is the most millenial thing you can do. "Whatever, that's just like your opinion man" - The big Lebowski goes to Gen X without question). 

There was a stand up on Netflix last year by a comedian claiming to be an "Elder Millenial." She turned out to be exactly Melissa's and my age. We have always found it fun/annoying to get lumped in with people ~13 years younger than us. It often surprises griping baby boomer coworkers to inform them that actually we are millennials and that they really just want to gripe about young people (because, you know, that's what old people do). So maybe someday she will be doing the same. Informing some clueless, elderly gen X-er that she is an elder coronial.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Self reflection 1 of Many

During the peace corps I would occasionally have visitors. My mom came down to visit one week and we took a tour around the country. The bus system was "an authentic experience" but also incredibly slow and hot. So we rented a car instead. 

On one of the last nights we were driving in Santo Domingo and got pulled over by the Policia Nacional.

The officer only spoke Spanish and my mother only speaks English. He asked her if he knew why he pulled us over and I interpreted. He explained in Spanish that the reason was that we changed lanes in an intersection three lights back. He had followed us all this way and decided to pull us over. Keep in mind that in the Dominican Republic there are little if any enforced traffic laws. 

My response to him was something along the lines of "That's total bullshit, you pulled us over because we're white." The officer appeared entertained to hear my response but was also caught off guard. While it was true that a common game for the police in the capital was to pull over tourists and milk them for a bit of cash, the office did not appear to be accustomed to the tourists speaking Spanish and calling him out on it. 

The officer was very prompt in letting us off with a warning. 

At the time I thought to myself; "Wow! Here this guy was being racist and I called him out on it and he backed down. Look at us fighting racism!" 

However, in recent weeks I have forced myself to reexamine many situations through a different lens.  

Recently learning about the profound depth of white privilege, I see that the fact that I could even call the officer on his bullshit was a privilege. A black man or woman in the United States certainly could not simply say to a police officer "That's bullshit, you pulled me over because I'm black." We have literally seen men murdered for less in recent years. 

In that moment, that officers apparatus of racism was like a water pistol and the systemic racism that I had supporting me was like a machine gun.

I have been reading a book recently that encourages self reflection on various topics surrounding the systemic racism and this was my reflection on white privilege. 

- Side note: The squirt gun quantity of racism in the DR is only towards white people. There is plenty of terrible and profound racism towards people with darker skin. Most of the racism is directed towards Haitians who tend to have a darker complexion when compared to Dominicans. On the day I met my wife, I went as an interpreter while her medical group toured the local hospital. In the hospital there was a Haitian man with a huge gash down his face and his forehead. He said that a Dominican man had entered his home in the night with a machete to send a message that Haitians were not welcome in his town. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

First Father's day

This weekend was the first one! 

Melissa got me the bearenstain bears book about the dad bear being great. A scented candle (we have been trying to locate a candle that matches a specific one that we found in a home goods 4 years ago - "smokey afternoon"), and a metal guitar pick that says "I couldn't pick a better dad." Sadly the metal pick is waaaaay to thick to be used on a guitar or bass guitar. Apparently it is more of a keepsake guitar pick.  It terms of the day; I got in some breakfast (we were going to try for Fressen but their phones were down(?)) so Melissa made avocado toast with egg instead, went for a 4.47 mile run, played bass with the old guys down in Gladstone, and had some red meat for dinner. All around a pretty good day. 

Unrelated, I noted that the new plug-in hybrid when turned to ECO PRO mode ends up using the battery to keep the tachometer down to 1500 RPMs versus just using the battery alone while on the freeway. Cool science bro. I think the idea is that with the electric motors over a certain speed you lose to much efficiency and end up squandering the charge of the battery. The Honda definitely ate up electricity when we were going over 60 miles per hour (which did not happen that often) 

Multnomah county finally came out of lockdown on Friday. Went to Bryant's for some beer (we all had to bring our own). 

One of the zucchini plants in back has spider mites (maybe?) and so it was just quarantined to the front yard.