The Silence of Summer

Consider this a follow up to my last entry, Where the Hell is Everyone. I don’t know if it’s because it was 97° today. I don’t know if it’s because all of our houses have central air conditioning. I don’t know if it’s because the people who live in my neighborhood are a little older and a little less active. I don’t know if it’s because there aren’t many children in the area. But there is an eerie quiet over my neighborhood to start this summer. A pall if you will.

I know I reminisce and wax nostalgic from time to time. I know many of my readers are cousins and friends and contemporaries who understand my frame of reference, my scope of knowledge and my sense of fairly recent history. I feel unique in many ways with regard to what I know and remember. I was born in 1969 and I have knowledge and memories of five decades. My long memory serves me well and frustrates me at the same time.

In my last blog, I wrote that my neighborhood seemed empty, lifeless. I realize California is in the middle of a drought. I realize it gets hot where I live. But the quiet…it’s downright weird.

I have spent the better part of the past two weekends in the pool, playing music, drinking, swimming (gingerly) and lounging. Aside from a neighbor child’s birthday party recently, I am seemingly the only person outside. I have been taking advantage of the heat and getting in the pool after work. There’s nary a conversation to be overheard.

Tom Skerritt scaring off birds in Steel Magnolias.
Tom Skerritt scaring off birds in Steel Magnolias.

There has been one exception. Last weekend, Friday and Sunday night to be specific, a neighbor lit firecrackers each night – about three packages of blackjacks if I am not mistaken. Apparently my neighbor decided to go all Steel Magnolias Tom Skerritt and scare off the pigeons that have been roosting in their eaves oh some 23 years since their freaking house was built. So, I went all “get off my lawn” and threatened to call the po-po. The firecrackers stopped. They still have pigeons.

This is the extent of the noise in my neighborhood people. That’s it.

I hate air conditioning. I hate it in the car. I hate it in my house. (I do not like it with a mouse). I prefer fresh air. I don’t like being indoors when the weather is pleasant. I don’t even mind extreme heat. With my back injury and subsequent surgery I can’t run for exercise or else I would be outside a helluva lot more.

This is how we stayed cool in the summer in the 1970s.
This is how we stayed cool in the summer in the 1970s.

When I was a kid, you couldn’t keep us inside. Maybe it is the damn video games after all. We’d be out in the six-foot snowdrifts in our snowmobile suits in the winter and running through the neighbor’s sprinklers in the summer. We’d be in our buddy’s or cousin’s pool, we’d be in my backyard playing basketball, we’d be at the park playing baseball, or we’d be riding our bikes or skateboards. If we weren’t on the porch, we’d be in the backyard and folks would be over for hotdogs, hamburgers and beers. Lawn chairs would be unfolded, ice chests would be full and the sounds of children playing and frisbees filled the air.

Does anyone even do picnics anymore? Or do we Californians go to the beach for these activities?

I just don’t know. Maybe I’m wrapped up in my own little world and don’t notice. If that’s the case, great, if not, there’s nothing I can do to about it.

I know some folks around here throw birthday parties for kids and they get together for local sports team championship viewing parties. But nobody is outside. I don’t get it. I don’t understand.

What used to be routine and commonplace has become occasional and infrequent.

Folks used to wash their cars in the driveway, mow their lawns, sunbathe in the backyard and picnic and barbecue and spend the bulk of their time OUTSIDE. Why have we become a society of shut-ins?

Do I even care? Or are these just nostalgic compare and contrast observations of a man pining for his childhood? Hell if I know at this point. Maybe folks in western New York are different than people in Northern California. I wrote last time that I live in a bedroom community. There’s the irony. “Community.”

There doesn’t seem to be much community anymore. Not even a sense or a hint of community. We wave and say “hi” when we do venture outside. We knock on the door on Halloween for trick ‘r treat with our kids. We’ll go to the occasional summer festival or fair. But I can count on one hand how many neighbors with whom I have broke bread.

Again, people here do go outside. They run or walk their dogs. They get in their cars and trucks and SUVs to engage in commerce or attend church. Hell, we may even go somewhere to vote in an election.

As I mentioned, folks don’t sit out front and talk, and now I realize they don’t hang out in their backyards either. The silence of summer is palpable, save one crazy middle-aged man cranking 80s music and partying in his backyard like it’s 1979.

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Staying the Course and Shaking Things Up

So much for that idea. I was going to create a cool graphic with pictures of myself at 236, 221, 215 and 205.8 pounds. But I recently needed hard drive space so I dumped everything to an external hard drive and I don’t have the pictures handy. Next blog.

Last week was an interesting week as far as exercise and weight fluctuation are concerned. Last Saturday I weighed 206 pounds even. By Tuesday I was up to 209 and getting angry. I weighed in at 205.8 this morning. The only things I can think of are I retained water after running last Saturday because I was probably dehydrated and I ate too much last weekend. I definitely ate lighter this weekend and I spent quite a bit of time in the pool. A DIY wall repair job also kept me moving.

I’ve been trying to remember how I felt the last time I lost weight and weighed what I weigh now. It’s only been three years but I’m having trouble recalling what it felt like. All my friends at the time said exercise would give me more energy. It didn’t. Seems like I was more tired. That part I have figured out. I didn’t change my diet three years ago. What I can tell you about this experience is that I feel better and I have more energy. My chronic back problem is still a pain but internally I feel better, my knees don’t ache like they used to and I have some measure of flexibility back.

As much as the Daniel Craig weight-lifting regimen has been a big help, I am going to switch things up starting tomorrow night and go back to a routine that I used three years ago. I get so much out of the Wednesday leg lifts I have been doing I need to do that more than one night a week. I need to do a core routine every night, not just Monday and Friday.

I have been attacking this weight loss problem one challenge at a time. It’s funny that this journey started with a surgery caused by getting off to a bad start. That unfortunate set of circumstances kick-started this whole thing.  I know I am not there yet, I have close to 16 pounds still to go to reach goal #1 of 190 pounds. But I have started to think about what happens when I get there.

I told my closest coworkers that I can’t wait until I can eat like a normal person again and they practically said in unison that I can never eat like a normal person again. That got me thinking. As difficult as it has been trying to figure out my body, my metabolism and what it takes for me to lose weight, I have no idea what it’s going to take to achieve balance. It’s simple math, right? Burn as many calories as you consume and you’ll stay the same weight.

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. It’ll be a nice problem to have. I would discuss the graphic I was going to make tonight, how different I look, blah, blah, blah. It’s pointless without the images, so I’ll save it for the next entry. It’ll be worth the wait. Not quite as exciting as the next season on Game of Thrones will be, but I hope seeing progress will drive home the point my words have been trying to make for five months.

Unfortunately, this blog is not a fitting follow up the last week’s “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones, but I am more than happy to be the lead-in to tonight’s season finale.

Saying Goodbye to a Furry Friend

RIP Bomber. 1999-2013.
RIP Bomber. 1999-2013.

Fourteen years ago this coming April I had the opportunity to get a kitten. I picked the most rambunctious of the litter. I lived in a tiny apartment, I wasn’t home much during the day, so, a dog wasn’t an option. I’ve had both cats and dogs throughout my life, but I started as a cat person as a young boy.

Being a life-long Oakland Raiders fan, I named the kitten Bomber in honor of QB Daryle Lamonica who was known as the “Mad Bomber.” This destructive little ball of fur became my buddy, my pal and my confidant. Every day I went to work I played “kitten destruction roulette.” What was this little bugger going to destroy next? He tore the insoles out of shoes, chewed through the wires on headphones and wrecked what he could. I wore the battle scars of rough play on my arms. I loved him anyway.

Bomber used to like to find the high ground in the apartment. He perched himself on top of the kitchen cabinets and the wardrobe. You never knew where “death from above” would strike from next.

I was going through a bad time personally and Bomber saw me through it. I talked to him and he seemed to talk back with conversational meows. I’d try to read at bedtime and he’d bat the book out of my hand seeking attention. He’d groove on a good petting until he drooled.

He survived the trip from Ohio to California, he survived a near electrocution (he thought he was the cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and chewed through Christmas light wiring), he survived unintentional water boarding on the drive from our last residence to the current as water dripped on his head during an hour-long drive. And he survived every piece of plastic his dumb ass ate. He was a pampered cat, 15 pounds and change, loved like no other.

Bomber died today. I’m heartbroken.

Some people say their pets are like children. Bomber was a true friend. He knew when something was bothering me, he knew when I needed a foot rub and he knew when to just be a cat. His meow was distinctive, he sounded like he was channeling Edward G. Robinson when he was in certain moods.

He has been a fixture in my world for a third of my life and I miss him already. This week has arguably been one of the worst weeks of my time on Earth. Oh, things could be worse. I’m probably being melodramatic. But, with the prospect of surgery Monday and this happening…

…It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Goodbye Bomber, I love you kitten.