Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Figure It Out

Dogwood, azalea and spring flowers in bloom in Charlotte near the intersection of Mount Holly-Huntersville Road and Westminster Rd

It’s been interesting to see how people and businesses are responding to the forced changes in their lives.  Many people have found ways to adapt.  Some have not.

The owner of a restaurant that Kathy & I frequent when we travel recently posted on Facebook something along the lines of “well, our food doesn’t translate too well to takeout, so we will remain closed for duration of the coronavirus situation.”  So now he just spends time posting photos of his tattoos and sharing articles about how the government is going to have to step up and make loans to all these businesses that are affected by the shutdown.  Meanwhile, two of his neighboring businesses – also very fine restaurants – are offering takeout meals and posting words of thanks to all of their friends that are responding positively to their efforts to provide takeout.  When I read the stuff that the one guy posts, I think, “dude, you need to figure it out!”

On the flip side, I was inspired by a recent article about a Michelin-star chef in NYC who “created a menu that eschews complex, hard-to-deliver items like tuna tostada in favor of homey offerings like chicken — a food he never thought he would serve.”  The article goes on to say that “he has also had to get used to seeing delivery drivers mishandle his carefully assembled dishes. And he has learned to package certain orders in foil containers so the dishes do not have to be removed from their delivery vessels to be heated in the oven.

“Before, we were a Michelin star restaurant where people would have a bunch of mezcals and hang out for a while and spend money,” Mr. Steele said. “Now we’re sending chips and salsa and soup to people.”

This is a guy who has figured it out.

I know that my criticism might seem a little unfair, because this is hard for everyone.  But we see examples everywhere of people figuring it out.  Locally, our local breakfast/lunch diner has setup a drive-up/pick-up service.  They figured it out.  Many other restaurants, including our favorite fine dining restaurant and favorite Italian restaurant, have set up online ordering so you can do “contactless pickup” of their dinners.  They figured it out.  A bartender at one of those restaurants has started preparing mason jars of pre-mixed cocktail ingredients to sell with their takeout orders.  You just have to follow instructions and add your own booze.  She has figured it out.  Our favorite bartender, who just happens to enjoy concocting many of his own mixes, has come up with a line of bottled Old Fashioned mix that he is delivering – reasonably priced – to anyone who asks for it.  I won’t be surprised to see him expand his offerings.  He has figured it out.

No one is coming through this unscathed, and unfortunately a lot of businesses will not survive.  By the time this is over though, we’re all going to need haircuts!  Many of us will be looking forward to that first sit-down meal, wherever it might be.  And we’re surely looking forward to planning and setting off on that first adventure, whether by land, air or sea!  But in the mean time we all need to figure it out, in whatever way works for us.

Willful Ignorance

Atlantic, North Carolina

We’ve read the stories and seen the pictures – hundreds of spring breakers congregating on the beaches and in the bars in Florida.  Partiers fill the bars in Charlotte, New York or other cities on a Saturday night.  A group of runners posts photos of their latest group run, and when someone suggests too much togetherness they shake it off with a “haha, we’re always together anyway so what difference does it make?”

Skagway, Alaska
Skagway, Alaska
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Well, the difference it makes is that those young people are the ones who are getting sick.  A news release from Mecklenburg County Public Health indicated that nearly 50% of the 80 cases (at that time) in the county were people in the 20-39 age group, with another 33% in the 40-59 age group.  Us oldsters – once again – appear to be the wise ones, at 18%.  Huh.

Washington, North Carolina
Dominica

I get that we live in an independent society, but people seem to be more concerned about their personal inconvenience than they do about making sure they don’t get sick or transmit a virus to others.  I stood in line at the liquor store on Saturday, and no one in the line was maintaining the recommended distance.  They were talking and laughing and carrying on, no one seemed to be concerned.  I will give them credit though – they didn’t seem to be complaining and were nice to the clerks!

Friends returning just yesterday from several months in Italy remarked at the stark differences between the airport in Rome and JFK in New York.  New York is currently the epicenter of contagion in the US, and only a fraction of the people were wearing protective gear and no one was maintaining distance.  Granted, some of that may be because we were not/still are not properly prepared with adequate supplies (another contentious subject but not my bone today!), but mostly I think we (as a society) are just selfish and lazy.  Italy has a strong sense of community and is taking it very seriously, and they have still been hit hard.  Cause & effect, choice & consequence.

Charleston, West Virginia
Shelter Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

I live in a neighborhood where the majority of the residents are well into their 70s all the way to their 90s.  And nearly all of them have some kind of health issue that puts them at risk.  And most of them are being sensible and staying put.  We make regular runs to the grocery store, but thankfully we have a fully stocked (except for toilet paper!) grocery store and a Walmart within sight of our neighborhood.  We go early, get out quickly, come home and wash our hands and face.  I’ve been keeping up my morning walks, and rarely see a soul.

Hippies Use Side Door sign in Fernandina Beach, Florida
My Mind Will Be Closed Today sign in Fernandina Beach, Florida
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Sign at a jewelry store in Estes Park, Colorado

For all we wring our hands at the stories in the news and on the internet, we don’t seem to be taking it seriously.  And that’s going to make it harder on the people who have to take care of us when we do get sick.  Those people are taking it seriously now, and we need to listen to them and do the right thing, instead of wondering if we have enough junk food and toilet paper or what’s going to happen to our summer vacation if the school year gets extended.

Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
Please also close the other half of the grid. Thank you. St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles and French West Indies

What’s With All the Emails?

Piglet: W-w-what was that, Pooh?
Winnie the Pooh: [laughs] My tummy rumbled. Now then – come on, let’s go home.
Piglet: But Pooh, do you know the way?
Winnie the Pooh: No, Piglet, but I’ve got twelve pots of honey in my cupboard, and they’ve been calling to my tummy.
Piglet: They have?
Winnie the Pooh: Yes, Piglet. I couldn’t hear them before because Rabbit would talk. I think I know where they’re calling from, so come on. We’ll just follow my tummy.
From “The House at Pooh Corner”

“I couldn’t hear them before because Rabbit would talk.”

I know I’m not the only one, but over the last few weeks I’ve started getting emails from businesses and companies that I haven’t heard from in weeks, months or years.  For some reason all these people feel the need to “say something.”  Sure, for businesses it might be a winery saying that they were closing their tasting room, or the grocery store announcing shortened hours.  But if that’s all there is, that’s all they need to say!  But instead of “We’re Closed” they have to say something like “we care about our customers and understand that in this difficult time blah blah blah.”

I get that a crisis provides a good opportunity to remind customers that they are still around, but I don’t think an email from a spice shop in Blowing Rock that I’m not even sure I’ve been to is going to make me say, “honey, let’s drive up to that cute little spice shop in Blowing Rock and stock up on some of that Adobo seasoning we like.”  On the other hand, there isn’t anything else to do….

It just seems to me like a little bit of piling on.  If you want to send me an email when you open, that would be great, thanks!  But, if you happen to be having trouble with your X-Rite software, we sympathize.  If you happen to be driving through Sanibel, Florida, stop by, even though we’re only doing take out.  But no one is offering to bring me toilet paper….

I feel better now, thanks! 🙂

Oh, the photo is a series of “tree portraits” that I took in Hilton Head a few years ago.  The tree was just outside our condo, and I took multiple photos of it over the course of a week.  These 5 are printed on individual pieces of wood and hang in our bedroom.  My only “installation.” 😉

Finding Our Own Truth

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Kathy & I had friends over last night for a visit and dinner, “social distancing” be darned.  We hugged, shook hands, sat in the same room together.  It was nice.  He is an avid cyclist and nutrition geek, she is a respiratory therapist for a local hospital.  Naturally a lot of our conversation revolved around the coronavirus. Four adults having a mature, intelligent and reasoned discussion.  But four distinct points of view and varying levels of concern because of our respective temperament, background and outlook.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

I won’t get into details of the conversation because it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this post.  But suffice it to say that it reinforced for me how our own perspective influences our response to events.  This isn’t a news flash, but it seems like the larger the crisis the more it drives and exposes these differences.  In many ways our attitudes are driven by where we get our information, if we choose to get information at all.  Sometimes the ‘head in the sand with an occasional peek out’ is a sound approach.  Sometimes we want to take in everything we can, and then filter out the junk and keep what we want.  Usually it ends up being something in between.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

I used to joke that every morning I would get up, turn on CNN, and if they weren’t talking about the end of the world I would get dressed and go to work.  These days, I get up, look at the New York Times and Washington Post websites, and they are (figuratively) talking about the end of the world.  But I get up anyway and go make coffee.  And tea for Kathy.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

I recently compared the media, meant to include all sources of information – internet, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – to walking into a large grocery store.  Everything in that store is something that someone wants or needs.  But not all of us visit the pet food aisle, or greeting cards or (not us!) the wine section.  Most of us visit the dairy section, the frozen food section, the canned goods section, and the meat case.  More of us should visit the produce section, but unfortunately most of us head for the junk food.  We have to choose, and the choice can be hard.  What we buy is influenced by advertising, long held habits and beliefs (like loving or hating spinach or Brussels sprouts), family preferences and diet.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Every section of the store represents a source of nutrition.  The quality of that nutrition varies widely from one department to another, but our individual choices determine what goes into our cart.  And what goes into our cart affects our diet, which in turn determines our quality of life.  The same thing applies to the media.  Everything we put into our “information cart” affects our attitudes and outlook, which in turn determines our mental outlook. It determines our truth.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

It seems weird to equate groceries to information, but I think the parallels are valid and relevant.  Just like we all have our own diets, we also all have our own truth.  The cross section in the room last night was ultimately a very narrow one compared with the rest of society as a whole.  But it illustrated to me how we all need to take responsibility for the flow of information into our lives, try to find the items that best suit us, and decide what to put into our cart based on our needs and priorities.

Biscayne National Park near Homestead, Florida

Kathy & I have adopted the mantra “day-to day, week-to-week and month-to-month.”  Take care of the immediate, think about next week but only worry about next month if you have to.  Today at least I feel like we are still on the outside looking in.  Like sitting on the beach in the sunshine but knowing that there’s a tsunami headed our way.  Our stylist (actually Kathy’s stylist but the person who cuts my hair) called this morning to say that she was closing after Saturday, and would we like to come in today.  And we said yes, because who knows what tomorrow or next week will bring.  We’re stocked up on food but will still go to the store to buy fresh stuff for as long as we can.  I’m cleaning camera gear and stacking up photography books to read.  And when the weather warms up, I’ll pressure wash the porch furniture and get ready for summer.  All of our travel plans are on hold and we’re keeping our heads down as much as we can.  Gas is below $2 a gallon but there’s nowhere to go!  Our retirement accounts have lost thousands, but we’re healthy and far from broke.  That’s my current truth.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Good Quote

Sunset at Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

He said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl

I came across this quote several years ago in a shop in Bryson City, NC.  It might even be the same shop where I found the frog, I don’t remember.

The Gift Rock

The Gift Rock

The road to our neighborhood leads past a shopping center before ending at a traffic circle.  The entrance to our neighborhood as well as a fitness center feeds from the traffic circle.

The Traffic Circle with Rock

About once a month, an inattentive truck driver misses the entrance to the Wal-Mart, doesn’t notice the “No Trucks” sign and ends up in the traffic circle.  The traffic circle was not meant to accommodate semi trucks, but that doesn’t seem to deter the drivers.  What they should do at that point is back up the 100 or so yards and turn into the Wal-Mart entrance, and sometimes they do.  But more often than not overconfidence prevails and they try to swing their rig around the circle.  When that happens, they invariably snag one of the boulders that was placed around the circle specifically to deter such activity.  The rocks usually end up right at the curb, but sometimes they get drug out into the road.

The Traffic Circle with Rock

This most recent time, someone helpfully placed construction tape around the rock as a warning to drivers.  Then someone came along and added some Christmas bows.  The rock is too heavy to move, so it will sit there until someone hires a contractor to move it back.  In the mean time, we have a Gift Rock!

Where the trucks are supposed to go!

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

The first trash day after Christmas is always interesting, sometimes to see who got what, and sometimes to see who got how much!  It looks like someone had a good haul this year.

I hope no one pays much attention to our recycling bin, as it is usually full of empty wine bottles.  You can always tell when ours goes into the truck by all the crashing glass! 😉

The Morning After (Christmas)

Foggy walk around the neighborhood on a winter morning

I woke up this morning, looked out the window and said “oooh, fog!” and not just in my head! 😉

While many of my neighbors (at least those who were awake) were planted in front of the tube with the Weather Channel telling them about the awful weather somewhere they aren’t, I went out and made photos.  I’m finding that it is quite interesting what you come across when you have a camera with you.  And I’m working on having a camera with me more often.